The phrase “It’s a good holster” is something I have heard time and time again. We see it regularly stated in conversations, magazines, forums, blogs, and countless videos across the internet, but what does that even mean? Surely if it’s good, then obviously, it does what it is supposed to do. How do we, as consumers and concealed carriers, have any idea as to what is good?
For Military and Law Enforcement, there are specific standards in place to determine whether or not a holster is worthy of being deployed in the field. These standards exist because that holster can potentially save one’s life. Granted, most non-Military/LE individuals understand that those in a professional capacity have different needs. They are facing danger head-on. It’s their job. So, where does that leave the everyday person who is solely carrying a firearm for self-defense? To answer that question, we need to look at what a concealment holster should accomplish, not if it’s “good.”
At this point, it’s quite obvious that the number one box on the checklist of features is that a concealment holster needs to be concealed. Aside from personal firearm choice, the holster also plays a pivotal role in the concealment of said firearm. Also, regardless of your carry position, the holster should have features that accommodate each individual carry position. It would be foolish to think an ankle holster would suffice for inside the waistband carry. Conversely, it would be foolish to think a light-bearing appendix carry holster could do well in the pocket. The major, obvious differences between such holsters are size and the attachments used to carry concealed in various positions on the body.
Arguably, the most common method of carrying a concealed pistol is inside the waistband (IWB) carry. For the sake of keeping this brief, IWB carry is what will be focused on. This places the holster exactly where anyone would imagine, inside the waistband of your trousers. The holster must accommodate the pistol in such a manner that it allows for the individual to carry between their trousers and body without compromising concealment. Unless you’re wearing oversize pants, this could create an issue depending on the thickness of the holster, which will mostly be dictated by the firearm choice. However, other factors contribute to holster thickness. This is where material choices, attachments, and the overall design of the holster come into play.
Selecting a “good” holster
So let’s assume an individual has chosen the most popular concealed carry pistol and wants to carry it inside the waistband. They now hop on the world wide web and see thousands of options out there. They may be looking at leather because it’s more traditional, but leather can be quite thick in order to retain its shape. Then they begin seeing choices for synthetic materials, such as kydex, boltaron and injected molded holsters. These materials can be quite thin while retaining the rigidity necessary to maintain the shape of the firearm. They are also available at a lower cost because materials are inexpensive, and with kydex, the thermoforming process is also inexpensive and quite effective. This allows the holster “shell” to have a much lower overall footprint. If this individual is much like anyone else new to concealed carry, they likely stumbled across one of the many kydex options available, but now they need to select how they intend to actually attach the holster to their attire.
Attachments & Modularity
The vast sea of attachments can leave a new individual frustrated and overwhelmed. Every single option has its pros and cons. If you’re wearing a belt, you will ideally attach the holster to the belt. If you’re not wearing a belt, now you need to secure it to your clothing or attach it to your body.
Belt attachments for Inside the Waistband Carry
Soft Loops – Rubber or Biothane Webbing straps with button snaps are used to secure the holster by looping onto itself around the belt. It’s not as common to see pure rubber soft loops these days, as Biothane Webbing is less prone to cracking over time.
Overhooks – Commonly referred to as clips, over hooks typically fold over the top of the belt and hook under the bottom of the belt, allowing for easy attaching and removal of the holster. These are offered in a variety of styles and shapes. Most commonly, Grip Hooks and Raven Concealment Systems Overhooks are used.
FOMI (Fold Over Mold Injected) Clips – A common polymer single-side clip with a small lip on the bottom of the clip to hook under the belt. These utilize the holster body itself to wedge the belt between the holster and FOMI clip. They are very inexpensive and a common choice for holster makers, albeit being quite fragile and not very secure.
Steel Clips – Similar to overhooks and FOMI clips, these attachments are made of spring steel. Currently, the most popular steel clips are manufactured by Discreet Carry Concepts and have been proven to be quite strong by instructors such as Craig Douglas of ShivWorks.
Holster attachments designed specifically for greater concealment and comfort
Wings and Claws – No, not parts of a bird. Wings and Claws are the terms used for a leveraging device attached near the trigger guard, which forces the entire holster to rotate the grip of the firearm closer to your body. Some holster makers mold the wing into the holster body, although not very common.
Wedges – Simply put, a wedge is a mass, typically created from foam, that is wedged near the bottom of the holster, towards the muzzle, which forces everything above your belt line closer to your body. It is a much more common practice for holster makers to mold a wedge into the holster body. For those with a knack for DIY projects, yoga blocks shaped and sanded with adhesive-backed velcro are a good way to test out what works for your specific body shape.
PHLster Enigma – This is somewhat of a unique item in that it’s not a new concept but the first of its kind to offer the ability to attach nearly any firearm holster that has the correct two-hole pattern. The PHLster Enigma is a faceplate and belt system that allows the user to carry their firearm without attaching it to their trousers at all. This is especially useful for individuals wearing attire that doesn’t require a belt, such as a dress or running shorts. The Enigma is its own can of worms, and the list of Enigma-specific attachments grows almost daily.
In conclusion, the answer is… for you to decide.
In general, the statement “it works for me” is essentially worthless to anyone other than that specific individual. It’s akin to making the statement, “this holster is good.” There was no explanation as to what makes it good and why it works for that individual. There is no right answer on what is going to be optimal for a single individual. The best holsters on the market are the best because they allow the user to configure them as needed. Unless you’re willing to spend hundreds, if not thousands, on various holsters to find a solution, ask what makes it good rather than asking what is good.