What are the best concealed carry holsters?
Ah, a million options for concealed carry holsters and you have to pick just one (or maybe a couple of options). The number of holster options for concealed carry have exploded over the last decade — in part due to the now almost 20 million American CCW holders, having grown 34% since 2016.
Rest assured — this guide will tackle a variety of options of high-quality holsters and help define what to look for when selecting the perfect fit for on-body carry.
If you take nothing else away from reading this article, remember this: what works for your friends and family may not be what works best for you. Read that again. Only you will be able to find out what works best for your needs. So, let’s dive in!
Quick List: The 10 Best Concealed Carry Holsters:
CrossBreed Holsters designed the dropslide holster for easy access to the grip when drawing your pistol. This holster is designed for use outside the waistband and is an option for open carry. These holsters are made from Kydex and are custom fitted to your specific gun model. When ordering, be sure to choose the gun model and right hand or left-hand draw. The belt required to carry this holster needs to be a 1 ¼” or 1 ½” belt.
Can Can Sport Belt Holster
Can Can Concealment makes some of the best belly band holsters on the market. The Classic Sport Belt Stealth holster is designed for use by men and women. This belly band will fit revolvers under 6.5 inches in total length as well as single or double stack semi-automatic pistols. It is designed to allow for a left-hand draw or right-hand draw. There are extra pockets on this band to hold a cell phone, small wallets, and backup magazines for your gun of choice. These belly bands are also made in America.
Alien Gear Shapeshift Holster
- Custom-molded IWB Appendix holster for perfect fit, secure carry and perfect performance while...
- Adjustable Retention: Without any additional tools, fully adjust the retention to get the sweet spot...
- Conceal in Comfort: Reduced footprint while the soft neoprene backing is flexible to move and shift...
Alien Gear is known for making many concealed carry holsters. This model is for IWB concealed carry and is made specifically for the Springfield XDM Compact 9/40. This holster is designed for appendix carry with its neoprene base that lays on the body to keep the gun from chafing the skin.
The Shapeshift design was made so the carrier can easily swap out their current holster for a different carry configuration such as shoulder or a belt slide. The Alien Gear clock tuck IWB is an additional option that may be comfortable for you.
The Blackhawk! Nylon Horizontal Shoulder Holster is designed to fit any 4.5 – 5-inch large semi-automatic pistol. The setup is ambidextrous so you can adjust the gun to your right or left side depending on your dominant shooting hand. To keep your gun from flopping around, a strap was made to loop around your belt as a mounting point from your shoulder to your hip to keep the gun steady.
Safariland 578 OWB Holster
Safariland makes some of the sturdiest holsters around due to their work with the military and LEOs. This OWB holster is set up for right-handed shooters and for use only with the M&P Shield 9mm, .40 cal, or 45. The holster is made from a nylon blend material that tolerates extreme high or low-temperature conditions. This holster is mounted to a paddle design which is easy to tuck into the inside of your pants and supported with your belt in between.
Galco Ankle Band Holster
- Made using the finest materials
- Used by Law Enforcement, Military, and citizens alike
- Tested for durability and quality
This Galco Ankle Band Holster is for use with a Glock 26, Ruger LCP, or Walther PPK. When checking out, be sure to choose right or left hand. This holster features a Velcro strap that goes over the back of your grip once the gun is inside the holster. The material is neoprene allows the holster to breathe and wick moisture away.
Galco Classic Shoulder Holster
- Premium steerhide holster and magazine carrier
- Silhouetted design accommodates multiple barrel/slide lengths (some will protrude beyond the...
- Horizontal double magazine carrier with open front
The Miami Classic Shoulder Holster is designed to fit models from 1911s to full-size Glocks. This shoulder holster has two spare magazine pouches built so you can be ready for a gunfight. This is one of the more unique shoulder holsters made completely out of leather connected with Galco’s trademark Flexalon swivel backplate.
This belly band works with an actual Sticky Holster so be sure to purchase both the band and holster for your specific firearm. The band is modular so you can rotate it to mount the pistol where you want it on your waist. This band features extra pockets to store backup magazines, folding knives, a cell phone, and more.
Universal Ankle Holster
- Designed in the USA - Homeland security starts at home and this ankle holster is an American product...
- Faster than reloading - Popping in another magazine is nice. Having a backup weapon that’s already...
- Easy to take care of, takes care of you - This ankle holster for smooth, comfortable neoprene will...
This universal ankle holster is a compact gun holster that fits most small models such as a Glock 43 or 42, Smith and Wesson’s Shield model, and even the Ruger LCP handgun.
This holster is ambidextrous so lefties are in luck. The neoprene holster offers a lot of comfort because the material is moisture-wicking and dries quickly. The most important thing to note about this ankle holster is the additional support from the strap above the actual holster. This allows for the gun to stay upright and be supported from higher up on the leg. Best part? BlitzShot makes this holster in the good ole US of A.
Talon Tuckable IWB Holster
- Hides pistol comfortably inside the pants with the shirt tucked in
- Custom molded to specific model pistols
- Designed and made in the USA by law enforcement professionals
Talon Holsters are American made with Hermann Oak American steer hide leather. The Talon Concealed Carry Tuckable IWB Leather Holster model fits the Beretta Nano 9mm. Be sure to choose right or left hand at checkout. This IWB holster is fitted with an external clip made tight to the holster for excellent concealed carry.
On-body or off-body carry
While most people are familiar with the concept of on-body carry — when a gun is physically attached to your person — there are actually two main types of concealed carry; on-body and off-body. In general, on-body is the best option for most circumstances, as the firearm is always with you when out and about.
If you need your firearm it will be available directly, not left in a glove box or stripped off you by a thief. While on-body is preferred, it can intimidate new shooters — there’s something about a loaded gun being directly attached to their person that can stoke fear of printing or accidents.
There are certainly some clothing limitations when carrying on-body, but once you have some time and experience carrying you’ll learn that even the most casual clothing can be used to effectively conceal a firearm.
Off-body carry is certainly possible, and there are situations when on-body carry is simply not going to be possible. In those situations, off-body carry can be an option, but in the event of a crisis situation, you’ll be much more able to respond with your firearm within reach.
There’s a lot to learn when it comes to carrying a firearm; learning how to handle a gun and shoot effectively, safe storage and proper firearm maintenance, and simply overcoming this new sensation of having a loaded gun on your person everywhere you go.
Picking a carry method is no easier, as there are thousands of holster options and an endless stream of opinions on the best carry method. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of “try before you buy” scenarios so understanding the carry options and what to look for in a high-quality, comfortable concealment holster is critical to carrying with confidence.
Rule number 1: the holster must be safe to use. This is the single most important consideration when dealing with firearms Do not buy a holster that does not cover the trigger or the trigger guard.
While exceedingly rare, accidental discharges when carrying a firearm on your body can be very dangerous. Ensuring the holster does not expose the trigger and prevents access to it is key as anything lodged between the trigger guard and trigger — with enough weight to pull the trigger rearward — can fire a round unintentionally.
The gun should also be secure enough in the holster to avoid falling out or moving out of place when carrying.
If you carry daily, the holster’s material should provide the right balance of comfort and durability. If the material fits your comfort level, but is less than reasonably durable, the holster can wear prematurely — reducing the reliability of the hold on the gun, and forcing you to purchase multiple holsters over the years. If the holster isn’t comfortable to wear, well, you won’t wear it — defeating the purpose.
Leather holsters grab firmly onto the gun, giving you a very secure fit. They can be extremely comfortable and durable for some time but eventually can be stretched beyond viability from sweat, use, and Father Time. Pairing a super durable material (like Kydex) with leather, on the other hand, gives you maximum comfort and unbeatable durability in one package.
It’s very common to research and purchase what you think is the perfect holster, only to get it home and discover that it doesn’t fit nearly as well as you’d hoped. Anyone who’s carried for a few years has a drawer full of holsters that were perfect on paper, but failed the day-to-day reality. If you purchase a holster that doesn’t work for you, just return it and buy another.
There are simply too many great holsters out there to suffer necessarily.
The goal of concealed carry is to pair effective concealment with quick access to your firearm, and new shooters in particular, when concerned with preventing printing, can forget that the need to quickly draw and defend themselves is the primary purpose of carrying a firearm. If any aspect of the holster prevents you from grabbing your gun with a proper grip, that is a sign of poor fit.
This requires you to think through how you will retrieve the gun should you need to, which requires practice. Once you’re clear on how you want to carry, you need to practice the act of reaching for, and retrieving, your gun.
Muscle memory paired with a holster that makes it easy to get the right grip on the gun is critical to effective self-defense.
Retention is what keeps the gun in the holster. Without proper holster retention your gun will jostle around when on the move — at a minimum causing the firearm to be out of position should you reach for it and at worst causing the gun to fall out.
One easy test of holster retention is to holster an empty gun and tip the holster upside down. With a few shakes you’ll quickly see if there’s enough retention to keep your gun in place
The point legally carrying a concealed weapon is to conceal that fact. There’s a reason CCW pistols are small — you don’t want to advertise that you’re carrying. For many people the idea that the person standing next to them is carrying a loaded pistol may induce fear or panic, and causing a scene is certainly counter productive. Much like strong fences make good neighbors, a well concealed pistol keeps everyone quiet.
Concealability has a lot to do with body shape and clothing choice. If your state doesn’t permit open carry, your concealed carry holster has to enable concealment. The concealability of a gun can change from standing to sitting, or when bending down to pick something up.
One of the best ways to explore a new concealed carry holster’s concealability is to spend some time trying to get them to fail. Jump around, sit down, bend over, and perform everyday functions to see if your gun prints or juts out of the holster. Ultimately, you want to ensure it stays concealed with the variety of movements you’ll make every day.
If you don’t wear rigid pants or a belt regularly, appendix carry may not be for you, but deep pant pockets work well for pocket holster carry. If you wear a kilt regularly, IWB holsters will most likely not be your concealed carry holster of choice.
For some, this may be a wake-up call. Your clothing has to support your concealed carry needs and if nothing in your current wardrobe will work it may be time to consider the kinds of clothing options that will provide appropriate support.
Holsters Types & Carry Options
Inside the waistband holsters are most common as they can be worn for an appendix carry or anywhere on your waist that is comfortable and concealable.
IWB holsters are most effective when supported by sturdy pants and a thick, rigid belt to keep the gun in position. When considering IWB options, a hybrid holster which pairs a hard material such as Kydex is on the outside, with leather or neoprene the inside can be hard to beat.
Outside the waistband holsters are popular for open carry, but will work well in colder climates where paired with a jacket to conceal them. OWB hosters may be a challenge to conceal without exterior layers, but do provide fantastic access. OWB holsters are commonly threaded through a belt at the waistline or use a paddle design that tucks inside the pants. A sturdy belt will be needed to bear the weight of the gun.
Belly Band Holsters
Belly band holsters wrap around the midsection of the body with a wide nylon strap and Velcro closure. Most belly bands will have a built-in nylon holster — many times as simple as a pocket in the band itself.
When it comes to concealability belly band holsters are pretty hard to beat, especially when carrying smaller, compact pistols. They’re generally not built for specific firearms, and given the holster is often made from the same elastic material as the band you get less retention than other options, but they’re very comfortable and particularly approachable for new CCW permit holders.
Belly bands also often have smaller peripheral pockets for spare magazines, knives, and other concealable items, such as money and other valuables when traveling. These holsters are self-supporting so there’s no need to wear a specific pair of pants or belt, and you can get the fit exactly right with a little trial and error.
Shoulder holsters use an over-shoulder harness to support the holster, and are familiar to anyone who’s seen a detective flick or two. These offer a lot of adjustability, so you can get the fit just right. The most common configuration has the barrel pointing to the rear, and positioned just under the arm, though large-frame revolver shoulder holsters position the gun barrel down towards the ground to better distribute the gun’s weight and prevent the gun from printing by protruding out the back.
A shoulder holster is a decent option for both open and concealed carry, especially for those that prefer to support the weight of the gun using their torso. If carrying concealed, a jacket that zips in the front will be a necessity for quick access while also providing concealment.
Ankle holsters are very popular — both for smaller primary pistols and backup firearms such as a revolver — which fit easily at the ankle and are light enough to be worn all day without discomfort.
While they can limit wardrobe options (you have to have pants that are both long enough to cover and roomy enough not to print), most bystanders won’t expect a firearm at the ankle, so they’ve very effective for concealment. We compiled a list of our top ankle holsters if you want to go deep on them.
When paired with boots, long pants, or (for the ladies) a long dress can easily offer sufficient concealment and ready access.
One note on ankle holsters: using an ankle holster will require you to reach down and possibly bend over to draw the gun. In a dangerous situation it’s critical to keep your eyes on the threat, so bending at the knee (rather than hip) will allow you to keep your head up while lifting the pant leg and drawing without breaking eye contact.
This, of course, requires practice to build the muscle memory to draw safely and quickly, but ankle holsters are a completely viable and effective carry option.
Carrying a firearm is an inherently personal decision, and when it comes to the right holster the choice is yours and yours alone. If given the opportunity to try before you buy or demo other’s holsters, say yes! You may find different options work better for specific wardrobes, seasons, or guns you own, so variety and practice will ensure you get the most of our every carry option.
- SSRN, John R. Lott, Rujun Wang, Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States, September 21, 2020
- Google Books, Brad Fitzpatrick, Shooter’s Bible Guide to Concealed Carry, 2nd Edition, January 15, 2019
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