Ultimate CCW Guide - Best Concealed Carry Holsters for 2023
Fan Favorite Holsters
WHAT IS A GUN HOLSTER AND HOW DOES A GUN HOLSTER WORK?
A gun holster is a small case usually made of leather and fixed on a belt or a strap. The main purpose of a gun holster is to contain your handgun when you’re not using it as well as to offer your firearm extra protection during everyday carry.
The way gun holsters work is quite simple. Depending on the selected carry style, your gun holster is attached to the respective part of your body. In case of belt holsters, these are attached to a gun belt and there’s several ways of attachment such as belt loops, belt clips, or holster paddles.
Once your gun holster is properly fastened to the given part of your body, all you have to do is to insert your gun in the holster and you’re ready to start carrying your gun. If you need to use your firearm (let’s hope that won’t happen all that often), you simply take it out, or in other words, you draw your gun from the holster. If you’ve stopped using your gun, you should put it back inside the holster, or to use proper terms, it’s time to re-holster your firearm.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF GUN HOLSTERS?
Gun holsters differ based on a number of parameters as well as the intended use. The two basic groups of handgun holsters are concealed carry gun holsters and open carry gun holsters.
Just like the name suggests, concealed carry holsters are mainly meant for everyday concealed carry and they can be only carried in the states allowing for concealed carry. They’re called concealed because you usually hide them (or conceal) under a layer of clothing. Concealed carry holsters are the best choice for self-defense and can be used by the general shooting public (however, there are still states where concealed carry is illegal).
Opposite to CCW holsters are gun holsters for open carry. Unlike concealed gun holsters, open carry holsters usually aren’t concealed or their concealment is more complicated. While they offer quicker and more immediate access to your firearm, open carry holsters are illegal in some states and they are most commonly utilized by Law Enforcement, Military, or Security personnel.
Gun holsters also differ in the way they’re built. Gun holsters that are molded on a particular firearm (or its replica) are called custom gun holsters. Such gun holsters are not universal and can usually only be used with the handgun they’re made for (at best they can be used with the guns that match the basic specs of the firearm they’re meant for).
There are also universal gun holsters for pistols. Even though these aren’t molded just for one particular gun, they usually only take in handguns of a certain length and fit. Gun holsters with universal fit are usually cheaper and they offer more flexibility, but they don’t offer a perfect, glove-like fit, which is a feature a really good gun holster should boast.
Gun holsters can also be divided according to the material they are made of. The oldest types of gun holsters were made of leather, but leather gun holsters enjoy a lot of popularity even these days, mainly due to the high level of comfort they offer. Kydex gun holsters are made of a plastic material and they represent the most modern holster category. Nylon gun holsters are usually the least expensive choice and they often come with a universal or semi-universal fit. Last but not least, hybrid gun holsters are a blend of two or more holster materials and are a great choice for those who can’t decide which holster material to choose.
Holsters also differ depending on what type of handgun they’re intended for. The two basic categories of handgun holsters are revolver holsters and holsters for semi-automatic pistols, the best examples being 1911 holsters (in case of holsters for hammer-fired pistols), or Glock holsters (when it comes to holsters for striker-fired guns). As most modern handguns can be upgraded by the means of aftermarket accessories, there’s also a need for red dot holsters, laser and light bearing holsters, and holsters for guns with red dot and light attachments.
WHAT ARE THE BEST GUN HOLSTERS
The section above should give you a rough idea of what the best gun holster is like. The best gun holsters always take into account all of the important parameters of your handgun. In other words, the best carry solutions are always custom molded for your gun. As such holsters are always built on a blue gun that matches the specs of your firearm, they grant your gun a perfect fit.
Other than molding techniques used, it’s quite difficult to say what the best gun holsters are. Just like handguns, a firearm holster should be chosen based on one's carry needs and personal preference. Simply put, a gun holster that works well for you doesn’t have to be the best choice for someone else. This is the reason why you should always select your new holster based on the function you want it to fulfill or the intended use.
If you carry for personal protection or self-defense, then you should get a gun holster for concealed carry. Among the best CCW solutions are inside the waistband gun holsters (often called IWB holsters), appendix holsters, or even belly band holsters. As these are attached from the inside of your waistband, it’s very difficult for others to tell that you actually carry a piece.
On the other hand, if you don’t need to conceal your gun or your job requires you to carry a handgun and it’s obvious to everyone you have a gun on you, then open carry holsters are your best choice as these are usually more comfortable and offer much quicker access to your handgun. The best holster options for open carry are outside the waistband holsters (referred to as OWB), drop-leg holsters, duty holsters and shoulder holsters.
WHAT IS THE BEST HOLSTER MATERIAL?
Just like mentioned above, the main types of holsters based on the material used are the following - leather holsters, kydex holsters, nylon holsters, and hybrid holsters. Each material has got a number of benefits that make it a great choice. However, there’s also some disadvantages a particular holster material comes with.
Here at Craft Holsters, we believe the best gun holsters are made of leather. There’s plenty of advantages leather holsters offer. Not only are they incredibly stylish, leather holsters are very comfortable and they will last you a lifetime. Also, natural retention of leather holsters is very high, especially if they are custom molded on a replica of your handgun. The high carry comfort, natural retention, and ease of concealment are the main reasons why the best holsters for concealed carry are made of leather.
Another great benefit is that leather holsters are handmade and often made employing traditional leathercraft techniques. This gives them a unique feel and helps remind the carrier of the good old days. On top of that, nothing beats the smell of a leather holster that’s just been finished and delivered to your doorstep. Even though these holsters are a traditional way of carrying a handgun, leather holsters are modern even nowadays and they are a great match even for the latest carry guns or tactical firearms.
There’s situations when leather might not be the best choice, though. While leather’s natural retention and draw resistance is quite high, Kydex holsters are often equipped with various tension devices, which means many of them are built to pass even the strictest retention tests. That’s why kydex is the best holster material for those whose job requires them to carry a Retention III holster.
ARE LEATHER HOLSTERS MORE COMFORTABLE THAN OTHER MATERIALS?
As far as comfort goes, nothing beats leather holsters. Even though most leather holsters feel a bit rigid at first, their tightness eventually wears off. Leather holsters are comfortable mainly because of the way they contour your body, especially those carried inside the waistband. Over a couple of weeks of use, a leather holster loses its rigidness while maintaining a perfect shape, which means it gets a bit softer. If properly constructed, leather holsters are more comfortable than holsters made of other materials.
FEATURES OF LEATHER GUN HOLSTERS
- High carry comfort
- Molded exactly for your gun
- Shaped to fit the specifics of your gun
- Little signs of wear even after years
- High natural retention
- Glove-like fit that lasts a lifetime
- Available for over 2,200 gun models
- In mahogany and black colors
- A great choice for right- and left-handed shooters
- Suitable for open & concealed carry
- Old World craftsmanship with modern touch
- More durable than other materials
- Great fit for valuable handguns
- Entirely handmade and hand-engraved
- Double-stitched for increased durability
- Backed up by Lifetime Warranty
- Other benefits of leather holsters
HOW DO YOU WEAR A GUN HOLSTER?
Originally, a gun holster was designed to be firmly attached to a gun belt. Gun belt holsters are most frequently attached via belt loops or belt slots and there are usually two attachment points a particular belt holster comes with. Such a way of attachment results in great stability of the holster on the belt. More modern ways of attaching a belt holster to a gun belt are holster belt clips and gun holster paddles. While these methods are much quicker (such attachment systems don’t require you to take your belt off when mounting a gun belt holster), they might not be as stable as traditional belt slots and belt loops, especially in case of bigger handguns.
As there’s nowadays many more options than just belt holsters, there’s also many other ways to wear a gun holster. Shoulder gun holsters usually come attached to a shoulder harness or shoulder holster system. To learn how to wear a shoulder holster properly, check out this Shoulder Holster Guide. Chest holsters are worn almost the same way as shoulder holsters. You can learn more about how to wear a chest holster in our quick Guide to Chest Holsters.
There’s other types of gun holsters and it’s safe to say how to properly wear a holster depends or how to wear a holster correctly always on the holster type you decide to choose. The rule of thumb is you always carry a holster firmly attached to the part of the body it’s designed to be worn on. In other words, you wear a belly band holster on your belly, you wear a drop leg holster on your thing and an ankle holster is worn attached to your ankle or close under your knee.
WHAT ARE THE BEST GUN HOLSTERS FOR CONCEALED CARRY?
When it comes to concealed carry, the best gun holsters are those that offer easy and convenient concealment. As concealed carry holsters are usually attached from the inside of one’s pants or worn under a protective layer of clothing, the best concealed carry gun holsters must also be comfortable to wear during everyday activities such as work, driving or household chores.
IWB gun holsters and appendix gun holsters are usually the best holster types for everyday concealed carry. Attached from the inside and covered by clothes, no one will ever notice you carry a handgun in such a holster. Most frequently, CCW gun holsters are attached by the means of a holster clip or belt loops, which makes mounting and dismounting rather quick and convenient. A great example of such a holster is this IWB Holster with steel clip, which not only conceals your handgun well, but it also meets other requirements of a great concealed carry gun holster such as high carry comfort, great holster retention, and easy access to your firearm.
As you almost always carry a concealed gun holster under your clothes, it’s important the selected CCW holster provides enough comfort and helps protect your skin from abrasion as well as the finish of your handgun from moisture caused by sweating. That’s the reason why the best gun holsters for concealed carry are made of leather. Concealed carry without a holster might not be illegal, but it’s always advised to have a holster for concealed carry to avoid any problems or even personal injuries.
WHAT ARE THE BEST GUN HOLSTERS FOR OPEN CARRY?
As open carry gun holsters are most commonly carried atop your clothes or attached in a way that everyone can see you’re carrying a gun and holster, they mainly have to retain your gun well. If your pistol isn’t carried in a custom open carry holster, it will be loose and others will easily be able to snatch it away from you. For this reason, you should always consider a custom molded leather open carry holster as the way it’s molded ensures a perfect, glove-like fit and very high natural retention.
There are also open carry holsters with a thumb break strap or other tension devices, which help to secure your pistol inside the holster even more. Thumb break open carry holster might deliver a slightly lower draw speed, but it’s very safe and if it comes with additional tension devices, it might even pass Retention Level III gun holster tests.
The best open carry holster must not only offer enough retention and security, it must also offer an instant access to your firearm and high draw speed. Last but not least, the best gun holsters for open carry are comfortable to wear and a great example of the best open carry holster is this Open Top Holster - Panther, which is a great open carry OWB holster with a slimline design and low profile. Such a construction means this is also the best open carry holster for concealed carry.
When choosing between a holster for open carry or concealed carry, make sure your decision is also based on your state’s concealed carry legislation. While it might not be illegal to open carry in one state, it might not be legal to concealed carry in another.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMFORTABLE GUN HOLSTER?
The most comfortable gun holster feels comfortable at all times, not just when you’re idly standing by. Your holster needs to be comfortable when you’re at ease, either sitting or leaning against the wall, but it should be comfortable to wear even at the most abrupt movements.
Holster comfort isn’t just about the way your holster feels when attached to your body. A comfortable gun holster also has to provide a convenient draw and reholstering angle. Such a construction grants the holster both a high draw speed and prevents any shoulder pain upon draw. For those suffering from shoulder pains in the dominant arm, cross draw holsters are the most comfortable gun holster option. These are also the most comfortable gun holsters for drivers or anyone with a sedentary job.
The most comfortable holster for your gun should also boast great balance. The group of holsters that offer all of the above and are also comfortable to wear while providing enough concealment are leather shoulder holsters>. If you don’t require much concealment from your holster, then most comfortable gun holsters are without the doubt OWB leather gun holsters.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GUN HOLSTERS
Construction-wise, a gun holster is composed of several parts. The main holster part consists of the front and back stitched together. These two parts compose what’s called a gun holster shell, primarily meant to protect your gun when it’s not being used.
Apart from the front and back, each holster also features a top and bottom end. The top part of the holster is called a holster opening. In case of open-top holsters, the top of the holster is completely open and there’s no tension device you have to undo before you draw or re-holster your firearm. A great example of such a holster is this Open Top Belt Holster. Some holsters come with a safety strap attached to the top and they are often called thumb break holsters. If you want to draw your gun from a thumb break holster, you’ll first have to undo the strap’s ends before the draw.
Most concealed carry holsters also feature a sweat guard area. A sweat guard is a portion of material attached to the back side of a holster, near its opening, and its purpose is to protect your skin from abrasion and your gun’s finish from moisture. A gun holster with a sweat guard is often referred to as a sweat guard holster and it’s a great choice especially for everyday concealed carry when carry comfort is paramount.
Some holsters also feature nifty little gadgets called holster tension screws. A holster retention screw is meant to adjust the holster retention as well as holster draw resistance. The best example of such a holster would be this Paddle Holster with Tension Screw.
Another important part of each gun holster is its attachment mechanism. While most gun holsters come with the previously mentioned belt slots or belt loops, there are many holsters that utilize a different attachment system. These holsters feature holster paddles or gun holster clips and their mounting and dismounting is very quick and convenient. This Paddle Holster with Thumb Break features a rotary paddle that not only allows for easy attachment, but also lets you adjust the cant and angle of your holster. An excellent example of a holster with clip is this Open Top IWB Holster with steel clip.
Apart from the holster itself, chest and shoulder holsters often come with a shoulder harness. A shoulder holster harness can be easily adjusted for width and length, meaning you can keep using it even if you put on a couple of pounds over holidays. Most shoulder holsters can also be easily disattached from the harness and used as standard gun belt holsters. The best example of such a holster is this Leather Shoulder Holster System, which can be used for both shoulder and OWB belt carry. While one side of the harness is used to hold the main holster part, the other side features a magazine pouch for spare pistol magazines.
Some gun holsters even feature additional “compartments” that are either molded for your pistol’s attachments or for a spare gun magazine (just like this AIWB Holster with Mag Pouch). Laser and light-bearing gun holsters feature a channel under the pistol’s muzzle which is molded for a gun laser or tactical gun light. Red dot gun holsters come with a cutout in the material used to make the holster, which allows you to use it for a pistol equipped with a red dot sight.
If you want to get a belt holster, then I’d say you’ll also need a proper gun belt. While you can carry a gun holster without a belt, I advise you not to do so if you want to carry safely and with comfort. If you decide for a holster that’s carried attached to a different region of your body than your waistline, you don’t need a gun belt, but it can still come in handy. For example, if you wear a shoulder holster, you can use the belt tie-down straps to attach it to your belt, increasing the stability of your shoulder holster system.
There’s no simple answer to whether it is legal to conceal carry without. While in some jurisdictions, it’s explicitly illegal to conceal carry without a holster, you can freely do so in some other jurisdictions. What’s certain is the fact that it is not safe to conceal carry a handgun without a gun holster. Concealed carry without a holster is referred to as mexican carry and while it’s money-saving (you don’t have to buy a holster), it’s definitely dangerous as you could easily hurt yourself or others. Safety always comes first and there’s no doubt you should always wear a holster when carrying concealed.
Best Gun Holster Accessories
Choose the right accessories below that will enhance your carry. Don't forget that a proper magazine pouch, a belt or a concealed carry bag are always good choices.
A custom magazine/speedloader pouch is your best choice if you want to carry enough spare ammo ... not that there was anything like "enough ammo", right?See Magazine Pouches
A solid and stable gun belt is what you need to prevent your holster and the rest of your EDC from sagging. Get a custom made gun belt now so that you don't need to search for one later on.See Gun Belts
Get yourself a Premium Holsters Care kit so that you can take proper care of your new holster. The kit contains everything you need to make sure your holster will last you a lifetime.See Care Kits
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