A “no clip” holster is one that has no apparatus for securing to the belt. While ankle and pocket holsters obviously do not secure to a belt, the no clip holsters under discussion here are the variety that are designed for in-the-waistband carry. These holsters rely on friction to stay in place. These designs utilize tacky materials that cling to fabric, thus securing them between the pants and shirt or skin on the user.
These holsters are used by many with good success but there are also many concealed carriers that consider them a potentially hazardous design. What is the truth? If you have no experience with this breed of holster and would like to know if they are useful or a liability I will share my experience with you as I have utilized them for a long time for certain applications.
To begin with, there are two brands that dominate this particular product type, although there are more now emerging on the scene, but these two industry leaders are Remora Holsters and Sticky Holsters. Remora was the first of the two. Sticky Holsters is newer but now seems to be equally widespread and available. Both brands make good holsters and good magazine carriers. I have used both. I have a preference for Sticky Holsters because I have found that they seem to cling to fabric better thus offering better retention, in my opinion.
With that said, if utilized properly, which we will discuss further, both are good. Remora does hold one advantage, in my experience, and that is the material used seems to hold up to long-term wear better. Remora and Sticky are the only two brands I can speak to directly and I have used both extensively. However, these holsters must be used correctly or there can be issues.
The Theory and the Reality of No Clip Holsters
The idea that seems to be perpetuated by many concerning no clip holsters is that they are very convenient to wear in any clothing as they do not require a belt. This generality is where the potential issues comes in. Technically it is true that Remora and Sticky holsters do not need a belt to actually attach to, but these holsters do indeed need adequate tension to stay in place: tension which I have found tends to be best offered by a belt. In my experience with these holsters I have found that if worn with a belt tightened to the same amount of tension you would normally use while carrying a traditional in-the-waistband holster they work great and will not move even under vigorous activity. If, however, these holsters are used without a belt, just shoved in a pair of pants, the possibility of the gun/holster combo falling out is significant.
I have found that a small and light gun can ride in a no clip holster without a belt if the pants themselves are significantly tight. However, using a heavier gun in a pair of average or loose fitting pants is a prescription for a dropped gun. While the idea of the no clip holster appeals to many who see the advantage as having no need for a belt I would strongly recommend careful consideration and experimentation. A lot of people have had their gun/holster combo tumble to the ground while walking around in public because their clothing provided inadequate tension for the holster. Not good. If you want to ensure good retention while using a no clip holster then I strongly suggest still using a belt.
The Advantages of No Clip Holsters
So, if you still need a belt, or at least a significantly tight waistband, why would you use a no clip holster? There are, in my experience, three major advantages offered by the no clip holster:
1. The no clip holster is the most convenient and fastest holster to use when you need to take your gun off and on your body throughout the day. Since there are no clips or loops to fasten to a belt the no clip holster is fast and easy. You simply tuck it into the waistline where you carry it.
2. Clipless holsters like the Remora and Sticky are extremely comfortable, especially when combined with a lightweight handgun. The material used is soft and pliable and conforms to the firearm. This is a much softer and more natural fit against your body than is anything made out of kydex or leather.
3. The concealment is excellent. Since the holster is very thin it adds little bulk to the gun and since there is no clip apparatus there is even less to print through a shirt.
The Negatives of No Clip Holsters
There are several significant disadvantages to no clip holsters that need to be considered carefully:
1. The holster does not attach to the belt so this means you must be more mindful that you are wearing a gun. If you go to a public restroom and unbuckle your pants and forget about your gun in a no clip holster the gun is going to hit the ground.
2. Re-holstering is problematic. These holsters are made out of soft material that collapses after the gun is drawn. Therefore, re-holstering is slower and more difficult. In fact, the only way to re-holster safely is to remove the holster from the waistband, insert the gun, and put the whole rig back in the waistband.
3. Once again, retention is dependent on the tightness of the belt or waistband of the pants, so there is more likelihood of the gun falling out if tightness is inadequate compared to a traditional holster.
In closing I will offer this, which is strictly my opinion, so take it as such: If you are a beginner that is new to concealed carry I generally suggest a traditional holster over a no clip holster. I think the use of a no clip holster demands a more experienced consciousness of the gun on your body. However, if you are more experienced and you are an individual that is always cognizant of the gun on you, I think no clip holsters have some advantages worth leveraging, depending on your needs. I personally use no clip holsters for my smaller guns, in particular my small revolvers. I carry my larger autoloaders in kydex holsters but some people use no clip holsters with good success with even larger and heavy guns.
I like the no clip holsters for the versatility they offer when I am restricted to carrying a small gun. For example, when at the beach on vacation I carry a small frame revolver in a Sticky holster. These work great as pocket holsters as well, so when I am dressed in little more than shorts I have the gun in my pocket, and when I am out in the evening I put the gun/holster combo in my waistband so that the gun is in my usual carry position. This sort of versatility is where no clip holsters shine. Overall I think they are a good thing if used correctly, with adequate tension, and if you do it right you will probably like this option.