Surprisingly, a lot of people who carry a gun give their holster little thought. The holster that you use to carry a handgun on the body is as important a consideration as the gun itself. The holster is a vital component in your ability to safely carry and efficiently deploy the gun. Based on the variety of poor quality holsters that are mass-produced, and based on the selections made by students new to shooting that I regularly observe, I can tell you that many holsters on the market are unsafe, inefficient, or both. Most people who carry a gun never truly test their holster for performance.
There are a number of factors to consider when selecting a holster to determine safety, ruggedness, and performance. Keep in mind that this discussion is limited to Belt-worn holsters, not pocket, ankle, or other methods of carry. To test these aspects of your holster, be sure to do so with an unloaded gun in a secure environment. Here is a list of eight questions to ask yourself when evaluating a holster:
1. Does the Holster Cover the Trigger Guard?
A holster must cover the trigger of the handgun and do so securely. This is necessary, and there can’t be any compromise here. Nylon holsters are a no-go for belt use. A proper belt holster needs to be made of kydex or leather and needs to be custom-shaped to the exact gun model. Belt holsters need to be made of rigid materials formed to the exact gun, and they need to cover the trigger guard so that nothing can inadvertently enter the holster and press the trigger.
2. Does the Holster Sufficiently Retain the Gun?
A carry holster made for concealment does not need to have active retention, but it should have adequate passive retention. Most kydex holsters have a mechanism of retaining the gun through pressure placed on the trigger guard or somewhere else on the gun’s frame or slide. A leather holster will not have such a distinct retention click, but it should still hold your handgun in place with authority. You should test the retention of the holster through vigorous activity. Does the gun stay in place if you roll on the ground, jump, sprint, climb, etc…? Even if you are not very active physically, if you find yourself in a fight you will be in a physically demanding event and a holster must retain the gun under any such activity.
3. Does the Holster Stay Securely Affixed to the Belt?
Even if a holster retains the gun, if it does not stay affixed to the belt under vigorous activity it is of little use. Once again, can you roll, jump, climb, and run with the gun on your person without the holster coming out of your waistband? Also, can you draw the gun without the entire holster coming out with it?
4. Does the Holster Snag on Cover Garments?
This is an issue that few recognize and I believe it is a testament to the fact that few concealed carriers spend time working on their draw stroke. I have found that a huge percentage of holster designs have belt clips or other features that will snag the cover garment when it is being drawn away. I have found many holster designs to have belt clips that will trap a closed front garment when it is being drawn up to facilitate access to the gun, and even some that will snatch an open-front garment as it is being swept away. This is not only inefficient but is extremely dangerous. A snagged garment can tangle up your gun while you are drawing it, leading to a dropped gun or a negligent discharge. Be sure to test your holster with the actual shirts you will wear to ensure this is not an issue.
5. Can the Holster Malfunction and Inhibit the Draw?
This is a possibility most do not consider. Some holster designs wear out to the point of impeding the draw of the gun, sometimes even to the point of trapping it within the holster. Some hybrid designs that use an all-leather backer have been known to do this when the leather softens to the point of deformation. Test your holster to be sure that this won’t become an issue and avoid the designs that are notorious for this.
6. Does the Holster Facilitate a Good Grip?
A good holster design should allow you to get a fully formed grip when the gun is still in the holster. If you can only form a proper grip on the gun once it is removed from the holster, you will never be able to develop a fast and safe draw stroke. Be sure that the holster does not hinder your ability to get a full grip on the gun.
7. Does the Holster Hold up to Vigorous Activity?
A lot of people will scoff at this since they do not pursue an active lifestyle, to begin with, but I would suggest that you should ensure that your gear is up to the fight. Will your holster break if you simply fall onto the ground, or bang against a wall? A fragile holster is a liability and getting a bit hard on it to test the durability may be worth your time.
8. Does the Holster Provide a Consistent Position?
Again, an often-neglected consideration. A holster should maintain a stable position throughout the day and not shift around on the belt line. Does the holster tip forward or backward so that the grip of the gun is not consistently in the same location? If so, you will be hard pressed to obtain a fast and consistent draw stroke. Be sure that your holster keeps the gun in a stable position so that the grip is in exactly the same location, all of the time.
Take these eight points into consideration and be sure that your chosen belt holster passes your assessment. Quality gear is an essential part of concealed carry, and the holster is vitally important to safely carry and an efficient draw stroke.