Over the past several decades, concealed carry has evolved from a fringe craft practiced by few to a mainstream pursuit among many. There are over twenty million carry permits now issued in the United States. Naturally, advancements in firearms and supporting technology have come with such advancement in the market. One of the most influential factors in making concealed carry more practical for more people is the advancement in holster technology. It is, indeed, a kydex world in the holster market, although leather still has many fans as well.
One of the innovations that kydex has propelled is the advent and wide adoption of what can be referred to as “minimalist” holsters. These holsters are typified by kydex shells that often cover only the trigger guard of the gun, or perhaps the trigger guard and only part of the frame and slide. These holsters, therefore, offer a minimal footprint in the waistband. Kydex has made this a reality, as the stiff material makes it possible to have a holster that does not completely enclose the gun. Some of these holsters have no belt clip apparatus and are designed only to act as a shield over the trigger guard. Some are slightly larger and designed to mount the gun to the belt.
The question begs, is there anything beneficial to this holster type? Experimentation with such holsters has led me to consider them beneficial for certain, perhaps non-traditional, ways of carrying or storing a handgun. However, there are notable limitations with these designs pertaining to concealed carry on the body.
Benefits of Minimalist Holsters
To begin, let’s analyze some benefits offered by these minimalist holster designs. First, the minimal design is small and takes up less room. This can factor into concealment, although the design features of good holsters, such as wedges or wings, actually aid in concealment for belt carry, so the fact that minimalist holsters are simply small in footprint may not be an advantage for some carry methods, though may be an advantage for certain non-traditional carry modes.
Second, these minimalist holsters can serve well for storing a gun at the ready, rather than carrying the gun. For example, covering the trigger guard is important to make a striker-fired gun safer to store in a compartment, such as a vehicle console. Such minimalist holsters can foster this safety with minimal size.
Third, and perhaps most important, minimalist holsters can make it faster and easier for the carrier to divorce from the gun. Here, I refer to covert carry in prohibited environments where getting caught with the gun would lead to severe consequences. So, this is probably not terribly applicable to the armed citizen within the United States. Certain military or intelligence operators may find this more significant to their lifestyle. A minimalist holster allows for the gun and holster to be immediately removed from the body and perhaps thrown down a storm drain in the event of an impending discovery of the weapon. Again, perhaps not terribly relevant to the audience, but this is indeed a possible role for minimalist holsters in some circles or professions.
Limitations of Minimalist Holsters
For the concealed carrier who carries legally within the United States, minimalist holsters present more limitations than benefits for on-body concealed carry.
To begin, the holster design is most often imperative to the ability to conceal the gun for most carry modes. As an example, carrying a pistol in the increasingly popular appendix position requires a dedicated holster with certain design features to make the gun conceal. Typically, a wedge at the base of the holster, or a wing that forces the grip of the gun into the body with belt pressure, or the combination of both features, is a requirement for people to adequately conceal a handgun in this body position. A minimalist holster that only covers the trigger guard will not provide any such concealment advantage. Even though a minimalist holster appears much smaller in footprint, a full-size holster that is designed with these features will conceal the gun better than the minimalist holster does.
A second limitation of such minimalist holsters is that they do not hold the gun in a consistent orientation on the beltline. It is imperative to obtain a solid grip on the gun to produce it from concealment quickly. A solid holster that holds the gun in the same position and location all the time is necessary to be able to draw efficiently. Minimalist designs, generally, do not provide this consistently.
Finally, a minimalist holster does not provide safe and efficient re-holstering, which can be an important capability during a violent encounter. Being able to put your concealed gun away safely and quickly might be needed in the aftermath of a shooting. Also, a good holster can serve as an aid to single-hand manipulation of the gun in the event that one of your hands is incapacitated or not available. The gun can be put back in the holster for a reload or other tasks, and this option is not available with a minimalist design.
Therefore, in closing, consider what you actually need from a minimalist holster. There are certain roles that they fill well, but for typical, concealed, on-body carry, most people are better served with a traditional holster.