Great, you have selected your Concealed Carry (CC) gun and decided on your method of carry. Recognizing that your carry method is very much personal preference, let’s assume you have recently lost some weight and have decided that In-the-Waistband (IWB) carry is the one you now prefer. Okay, I admit that this example represents the case of someone I intimately know. First, put away that $20. Harriet Tubman bill and keep in mind that this very important accessory may very well be directly linked to your survival or your life. You should not skimp on the the quality and price of your holster, as with your carry gun and belt. Quality and price are inexplicably linked for a holster and you usually get what you pay for. Accept that you will have to fork over probably at least $50. to $100. for this life-enhancing supplemental tool. So now what specifically do you want in your IWB holster? What are your preferred features and the key factors to consider? There are very many types of IWB holsters (hundreds) available in the market now, including kydex, kydex and leather hybrids, injection-molded plastics, suede, carbon fiber, nylon, etc. So I want to share with you a summary of some of the criteria and factors I discuss in my new Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials book for assessing holsters. Then for this article, I will apply them to my review and evaluation of two different IWB holsters, provided by Tactical Intent Group, a nationwide retailer of holsters and other tactical and survival equipment out of Lexington, KY. They offer CrossBreed, Gearcraft, and several other holster brands. I want to thank them for providing the two different IWB holsters made by the separate manufacturers and I will strive to be objective and unbiased in my analysis and comparison. My genuine intent is to help you with your IWB or any carry holster decision.
Remember to not put the cart before the horse. In other words, it is very important to specify your personal preferences and requirements up front and then afterwards objectively evaluate your IWB holsters against what you have pre-determined. Quite a few start by saying I don’t want to spend over “X” amount for my IWB holster. I recognize some of us are strapped for funds now, but usually the specification is a low-dollar amount, like say $40. and without regard to necessary performance needs. Maybe waiting until more funds are available to purchase a quality holster that meets our pre-determined requirements and needs would be best? Several at first give a very heavy priority and consideration to the price alone of the holster before even thinking about any other feature or factor more directly related to saving their life and the performance and function of the holster. Caution: Objectively define all your criteria, requirements and preferences up front and then carefully evaluate each factor against each possible holster choice.
I want to briefly describe each of the two IWB holster options provided and then give you my criteria, ideas, and evaluations for each, followed by my recommendation or not to purchase either. I certainly do not have all the answers for IWB holsters and what works for me may not work for you. You may have different criteria, preferences, and considerations and that is fine. Your personal decision according to your factors and priorities.
The above image shows a CrossBreed Hybrid IWB holster that is tuckable. Some think an IWB holster is synonymous with a holster that is tuckable and fits inside your pants. But, an IWB is not necessarily “tuckable” by design and both tuckable and non-tuckable versions have their own benefits and limitations. You can purchase tuckable and non-tuckable IWB holsters. A tuckable holster does have space between the holster’s clip and the front of the holster, so you can carry and conceal your handgun with your shirt “tucked” into the vacant space between the front of the holster and its belt clips. With a tuckable holster, your handgun and holster are entirely covered by your shirt which is tucked in the space behind the visible clips over your belt. There are also various types of clips, devices, or hooks available for IWB holsters. Some concealed carriers overlook these features, but they may be viable options for you to consider. Several holsters have tuckable IWB versions that are otherwise identical to the standard IWB non-tuckable versions.
Below, I give you my 10 criteria and considerations. Later, I will compare the two IWB holsters separately to each criterion using a 10-point scale to evaluate each one. I will give two ratings for each criterion, one with a “G” and one with a “C”, so you will know which rating applies to which holster. So, for example, you might see for the same third criterion two different ratings representing the rating for each of the separate holsters, so a C10 and also a G9 rating for the same criterion. This represents the rating for the 2 holsters for that one criterion. For each factor, a “10” rating is the best, a “0” the worst, and a “5” a mid-level rating. When I present my ratings, “C” represents CrossBreed (C) and “G” represents Gearcraft (G). Here are my 10 Criteria for Selecting a Holster, not in any order:
1. QUALITY MADE: What is the material and is the holster constructed with quality workmanship? Is the leather of premium quality? What weights are the leather and kydex? Will they stand up to your use, wear and tear, and is it appropriate for your use without impairing performance and mechanical function? What is its thickness and durability? Are the rivets, clips, grommets, snaps, buckles, rings, and metal parts strong, rustproof, steel, and quality made? Does it have a sweat shield or skin guard? Is it a reputable company? What type of warranty or guarantee does it have? Consider the holster’s weight and bulk. Is the holster designed to minimize the amount of leather needed to hold and protect the gun, to enhance draw, and reduce weight and bulk of the holster.
2. ALL DAY COMFORT: How comfortable is this holster during each of the different physical positions; walking, bending, sitting, standing, and twisting? Can you wear it while driving? Can you wear it for the entire day comfortably and not even know that you are wearing it?
3. CONCEALMENT: Does the holster perform as required for the effective concealed carry purpose? How well does the holster hide the handgun during every-day body motions, like walking, bending, sitting, standing, twisting, reaching, etc.? Imagine wearing the holster during these different movements. Is there a cant and angle adjustment for the holster, to provide better concealment and comfort?
4. ADAPTABILITY & FIT: Can this holster be used for different handguns… or with a Laser sight or light? How versatile is it? The safety features of a holster very much require that the holster be engineered and designed to FIT each specific manufacture and model of handgun. Are there modifications available or additions that adapt to other handguns? Is the holster cant adjustable? What are the approximate costs of these adaptations, if any? Is the shooter’s gun properly fitted for this holster. Does the handgun insert so deep in the holster that the gun grips cannot be properly accessed? Does the gun jam so tight into the holster that it takes two hands to draw it or can you draw the gun easily with one hand? Can you grip the handgun securely without parts of the holster interfering, when accessing it from deep concealment?
4. PRICE: What is its total price relative to other options available now in the market? Do you get any special features, options, warranties, guarantees, repair service, or additions that are worth something? Can you return it without any questions and within what time period? Will they repair or replace it for free? Do you get what you pay for?
5. SAFETY: How well does the holster provide protection to the handgun during insertion into or removal from the holster or while being carried that will:
- prevent accidental trigger movement;
- prevent accidental disengagement of the safety mechanism;
- prevent forward or rearward movement of the hammer?
6. EASE OF REHOLSTERING & ACCESS: Can you reach your handgun quickly in an emergency or while sitting in your vehicle? A rigid holster will allow a handgun to be returned to it using only one hand, while a flexible one may collapse after the gun is drawn, requiring the use of both hands to reholster. How easy is it to access your weapon and use the holster while walking, bending, sitting, standing, twisting, etc.?
7. EASE OF PUTTING ON & TAKING OFF: Can you simply and easily put the holster on and take it off? Consider if you will be putting this holster on and taking it off throughout the day and under what conditions. Must it be removed for taking care of personal needs in public restrooms? If so, can you do it safely and easily?
8. ACCOMMODATIONS: Can you wear both open or closed cover garments with the holster? Do you have to wear special clothing or make accommodations in dress or draw when wearing and using this holster? Is a cover vest or larger trousers required to hide the holster and handgun?
9. RETENTION: Does the holster retain and secure the handgun adequately? Is the holster snug when fitted on a gun belt for a consistent and fast draw and to reduce draw resistance. Is the gun tight & secure in the holster? A holster designed with solid retention will help prevent a gun from being removed from the holster by another. Is the retention level adjustable?
My Evaluation of the CrossBreed & Gearcraft IWB Holsters
Briefly, I have listed my 10 Criteria and then beside each factor given my rating for each holster. “C” represents the CrossBreed holster and “G” the Gearcraft holster. My final buy or not buy Recommendation is given at the end. Remember, these are just my opinions.
1. QUALITY MADE: C10 – G10
The C holster is a classic hybrid combining premium leather with tough kydex. The thickness is just right for strength and durability and the quality leather is very comfortable. It is very well made and it is noticeable from the cowhide leather to the steel clips and corrosion-protected coating hardware. The kydex was thin, but hard and durable. I liked the tuckable feature of the C holster, so I could easily tuck my shirt behind the clips for deep concealment. The G holster is a different type of IWB and given its purpose met my need to be able to quickly slip on my CC gun by quickly putting it on my belt. Although the kydex for the G was injection molded, was 1.75″ thick, and was durable and made well, it did not appear to be as strong as C was. Also, the G was not quite as comfortable, as you would expect, compared to the C holster with its leather component.
2. ALL DAY COMFORT: C10 – G9
I gave them both a thorough test for about a week each with everyday routine wear. The C’s leather was very comfortable and the back spread out enough to contact my body to help its flexibility. The C’s sweat-proof leather helped comfort and the holster’s combat-cut at the top by the gun’s backstrap helped me to quickly grip the gun from deep concealment. By contrats, the G’s small design allowed for overall comfort and helped it to ride smoothly with changes in my body positions. I found both to be more than satisfactory in comfort when bending over, walking, sitting, crawling under things, lifting, and exercising. Although, the C was more comfortable, given its leather. After only a day or so, I honestly did not know either holster was there. Tactical Intent’s website says that it “allows customers to return any item within 30 days of purchase that is new, still in the box, and never been opened, but the customer will be charged a 15% restocking fee and will be required to pay all shipping fees.”
3. CONCEALMENT: C10 – G10
Both holsters fit my SW Shield 9mm Ported gun very well and concealed them nicely, as that is the holster model I specified be sent. But, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a few of my other guns also fit both holsters fairly well, covered the trigger, and hid them, e.g Sig Sauer 938, Ruger LC9S, and Springfield XDS-4. However, I want to caution that the holsters are not made to custom fit these other guns and so I would not recommend you carry them in these holsters designed for a different gun, the Shield. They do make these holsters for several other guns. It is not worth the risk of a gun falling out or a trigger being exposed, etc. While wearing my camp shirts and t-shirts, my body motions, like walking, bending, sitting, standing, twisting, reaching, etc. were not detectable according to my wife. Both holsters worked for concealment. Both holsters had adjustments for better concealment and comfort? The C holster molded to the curve of my body after about 2 days and helped its concealment, as did its tuckability.
4. ADAPTABILITY & FIT: C10 – G9
C’s leather and kydex hybrid holster was very adaptable and its leather helped it fit so very well, like it was customized for my body. The G was not as adaptable and did not have the leather for better fit and comfort.
5. PRICE: C8 – G9
While price is not a major variable to me, it is a consideration and somewhat of a quality indicator. G’s price of $54.99 with free shipping was a very fair and competitive price. C’s price of $78.70 was higher, but there were quality workmanship advantages and other nice features to help justify the higher price. There are some lesser-priced comparable options available at this time. So, it depends on your requirements and priorities. Other similar hybrid rigs I found ranged from $59. to over $100. Some had horsehide and others had premium leathers and thicknesses.
6. SAFETY: C10 – G9
These holsters provided more than adequate safety protection for the handgun and trigger when presenting/drawing and removing the gun in and out of the holster. Your carry gun’s trigger must be protected and free from negligent discharge or movement of the hammer, especially when the gun is drawn and re-holstered. Your personal safety is greatly affected by what gun you use, how the trigger is protected, how you holster it, and the trigger protection offered by the holster. Both of these holsters exceeded the requirements by design. These holsters are designed appropriately to permit sufficient hand grasp of the gun when it was holstered so the hand grip would not have to be modified. C’s combat cut enhanced the safe grip of the gun when accessing it. I was able to keep my trigger finger straight along the outside of the holsters easily and to grip the gun quickly and correctly to prevent negligent discharges, accidental trigger movement, and without accidental disengagement of the safety or hammer movement. Since I view paddle holsters as not being as secure as belt holsters, both rated well here.
7. EASE OF REHOLSTERING & ACCESS: C9 – G9
With both holsters, it was easy to reach and draw my handgun quickly and to re-holster it without looking or using two-hands, even though I do not frequently use an IWB holster. There should not be an access problem in an emergency or even when sitting in an automobile. The C holster was adjustable for ride depth and cant. The G holster is sufficiently rigid to allow a handgun to be returned to it using only one hand.
8. EASE OF PUTTING ON & TAKING OFF: C9 – G9
Okay, I know to best put on most IWB holsters you have to drop your drawers to properly position the holster inside your pants, get the right location and cant, etc. It just takes more time to put on the C than it does the G, because of their design and size. Nothing against either holster. It is my issue and I am working on it. Doing this safely is important. My wife likes the ease of clipping on and removing the G, since she seldom wears a belt.
9. ACCOMMODATIONS: C10 – G10
Without a doubt, you can wear both open and closed cover garments with either holster and not have a concealment or operational problem? There is no design problem that would prevent using any type of coat, shirt, sweater, zippered jacket, or any garment with either holster. I did not need any special clothing or extra accommodations in dress or draw when using the holsters? I did find that buying my pants a size larger did help with concealment, comfort, and my peace of mind in using it in every way. Just my idiosyncrasies, no problem.
10. RETENTION: C9 – G9
The holsters did retain my SW Shield 9mm carry handgun adequately? The pressure of my body pushing against the holsters actually tightened up the retention and made my gun more secure in both holsters when I wore them. When I held both holsters upside down with my Shield 9mm in place (both holsters were designed for this particular gun), it did not fall out of either holster. But, when I tried this with the C holster with my Sig 938, Ruger LC9S, and Springfield XDs, all 3 guns fell out of the C holster. When I tried this upside down test with the G holster, my Sig 938 fell out, but the Ruger LC9S and Springfield XDs did not. However, the XDs did not fit the G holster very well at all and should not be used with it or even the C. So, the bottom line lesson is to ONLY use the holster designed and cusomized for your particular carry gun. You do not want to lose your gun when moving or take any chances in a stressful, life-or-death situation that you could be without your gun. Also, remember that a high quality gun belt can really help with retention and several carry issues. My book has my gun belt selection criteria and process for helping you decide on the proper gun belt for carry.
1. CrossBreed SuperTuck Hybrid Leather-Kydex IWB Holster for SW Shield 9mm
Total Points: 95 points out of 100 possible = 95% = Recommended.
2. Gearcraft IWB Kydex Holster for SW Shield 9mm
Total Points: 93 points out of 100 possible = 93% = Recommended.
I hope my process and this review has saved you some time to help identify your own criteria and to evaluate your individual preferred factors for selecting the best holster for your purpose, needs and priorities.
Photos by author.
Contact Tactical Intent Group:
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.