IWB vs OWB | Comfort vs Easier Concealment

IWB vs OWB | Comfort vs Easier Concealment

Most people carry with an inside the waistband or outside the waistband holster, or IWB vs. OWB. Appendix carry, before anyone starts, is just an IWB holster moved to the front. In the old days, they called it “belly” carrying and hence, a “belly gun.”

For the newbie, it’s a good idea to understand the ins and outs of both carry methods.

Anyhow, both carry methods are viable for daily concealed carry but involve some tradeoffs. Neither is better or best. In the real world, it’s more that each involves some “if-thens” that you have to learn to live with.

IWB Concealed Carry

IWB Holster

So, IWB concealed carry is placing a pistol inside a holster that you put inside the waistband of your pants. Most have something that attaches them to your belt, such as clips or possibly loops depending on the design. Holster goes in, you fasten your belt, and away you go.

The benefit is that concealment is easier. You can cover up the gun and holster with as little as an untucked t-shirt, though some people – depending on the gun, their body shape and the clothes they wear – may need a bit more layering to pull it off completely.

Most people carry with an IWB holster for those reasons. It’s the easiest way to conceal a pistol reliably.

Where it can fall short is a couple of areas. First, some people find it uncomfortable, depending on the gun and holster used. Hard kydex against bare skin is not always pleasant, depending again on the person, where you place the pistol and so on.

Some people get around this by wearing an undershirt. Others opt for a holster that’s more comfortable to carry with. The hybrid holster style, such as those by Crossbreed or Alien Gear Holsters, are quite popular for this application due to the hard polymer retention shell (and secure fitment of the pistol) but the softer holster base, making daily carry more tenable.

Another drawback is draw time. Clearing the cover garment takes additional time during the draw stroke, especially if you wear your shirt tucked.

OWB Carry Has Challenges Too

OWB Holster

Some people try to solve the comfort problem by carrying with an OWB holster, which you wear on the outside of the waistband. It is more comfortable to carry in this manner, and access can be fast. But it isn’t as simple as you’d think if you’re concealing the holster.

However, wearing an undershirt or finding a holster with the right design may be necessary for the utmost in comfort.

The first step is finding the right holster. For concealed carry, you have to select the right holster. For OWB concealment, the holster must put the holster high on the waist and tight to the body, so a cover garment can easily conceal it.

The placement also matters. What you’ll notice is that the holster prints considerably in some positions but not as much in others. Since the gun and holster aren’t covered in any way by the trousers, they do stick out a little more.

The trick is finding the right gun and holster that conceal easily, though how the gun and holster sits on you makes a difference. Some people can cover up a Glock 19 or a Commander frame with as little as an untucked button-up shirt. Other people basically need a jacket to cover up anything.

In short, being able to carry concealed every day with an OWB holster depends heavily on the right combination of gun, holster, and attire. Adding a jacket makes things easier, but can be less tenable depending on the climate in the area you live in.

That said, OWB carry can be incredibly comfortable if you can get all the factors in balance.

Training Is Crucial

Regardless of which carry method you select, training is crucial. You need to practice with the carry method that you use daily.

This matters as just hitting a bullseye is different than shooting from the holster. You have to practice clearing the cover garment, drawing, acquiring a sight picture, and shooting. To be able to save your own life or that of someone else, you need to be able to perform the entire chain of actions smoothly, reliably, and in fast-enough time.

This is where dry-fire practice can be unbelievably helpful, as you can practice the motions without having to pay for range time or drive anywhere. Add a snap cap or laser training cartridge, and hone trigger technique in the bargain.

Some people find they vastly prefer one over the other. Some people find they can do both. My preference is to pick one and stick with it. Practice with the gun and gear you carry with, and that way there’s less that’s apt to go wrong.

But you need to figure out what works for you.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for Alien Gear Holsters, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. He also contributes a bi-weekly column for Daily Caller. In his free time, Sam enjoys camping, hunting and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.
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