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What holster do I need to buy?

What Holster do I need to buy? This is one of the most common questions I get. I almost always ask, for what type of situation? This produces a funny look.

I like to think of a holster like clothing for your firearm. You don't wear shorts and a t-shirt to a wedding. I would not wear a duty belt setup for my concealed carry because everyone would see it. You have to select the right holster for the places and activities that you will be engaged in and clothing that you are wearing.

Lets break it down. Most holsters will fall into two categories. Duty and Every Day / Concealed Carry.

Most people are familiar with Duty style holsters. They see them regularly on the duty belts of Law Enforcement Officers across the United States. These holsters are robust and attach directly to belt.

Most provide Active Retention. That means there is a device or mechanisms that is part of the holster design that must be deactivated in order for the weapon to be drawn from the holster. The amount of retention (security) that a holster is classified in levels:

Level One- has Passive Retention only. Examples of this are Friction Holsters. This holster is a tight fit and that contact creates friction that requires force to remove it from the holster. The material that your holster is made of really plays a factor in the quality of this holster.

Level Two- has Active Retention in addition to Passive Retention. This holster has the tight fit and some type of mechanism must be deactivated in order for the firearm to be drawn from the holster. Examples of this are the classic thumb break, hammer loop, or a trigger guard lock.

Level Three: has two Active Retention devices and Passive Retention of the holster. These holster are most common for Law Enforcement.

Level Four: has three Active Retention devices and Passive Retention of the holster.

The Duty holster is used most often by Law Enforcement, Military, and some competition shooters that are involved in strenuous activities.

Holster construction material has evolved over the past 30 years. Most holsters were constructed of leather materials up until about the year 2000. This is when Kydex started to become a popular material to build holsters with. Kydex is a hard plastic type material that can be heated and formed to each individual firearm.

The Every Day / Concealed Carry holster is what most people need. They fall into several categories. Holsters are generally classified by the style of carry: Outside the Waist Band (OWB), Inside the Waistband (IWB), Appendix Inside the Waist Band. (AIWB), and Specialized Carry (ankle, shoulder, etc.).

OWB holsters are worn on a belt usually on the firing side hip or slightly slightly behind. This is often described by using the clock method (8 - 9 O'clock for left side and 3-4 O'clock for right side). The Weapon is concealed using some type of cover garment like a jacket, shirt, or vest.

IWB holsters are worn inside the waist band and are attached either to a belt or waist line of the garment via a clip or straps. This type of holster has about half of the firearm inside of the pants which helps with concealability. This holster can be worn where the user chooses on the waist band. most often the weapon is worn between 8 to 4 O'clock on the body. The weapon is tight against the body and helps smooth the outline of the weapon so you don't " Print".

Printing is showing the outline of the weapon under your cover garment to the extent that someone could detect your firearm.

AIWB holsters are worn inside the waist band and more toward the centerline of the body. This is usually described as 11-1 O'clock.

Some holster like the Safariland GLS holster above, afford you the ability to carry it AIWB or just IWB dependent on your choice of where you want to place the firearm. AIWB has started to become one of the most popular forms of carry with development of holsters designed for comfort and concealability for that style of carry.

This is a dedicated AIWB holster from Tier One Concealed.

Before we discuss the next type of holster, I really want to discuss what makes a good holster. A holster must be able to secure your firearm and completely cover the trigger guard of the pistol in order to prevent fingers or object from operating the trigger. This is where Kydex becomes the superior material with a high quality leather coming in second. The hardness of the Kydex prevents the material from collapsing and allowing a bulge in the material from activating the trigger. Leather will wear over time and become softer. High quality holster makers recognize this and go through extra efforts to mitigate this materials flaw with their designs. You will pay for this design work and experience. If you buy a cheap leather holster you are NOT getting this consideration. Nylon and cloth holsters fail in this category also.

Your holster must be able to secure your firearm to your body. Cheap clips and straps must be avoided at all costs.

You must be able to reholster your firearm. This means once I draw my holster, the holster should remain ridged enough that I should be able to put my firearm away with one hand. The holster should not collapse requiring me to use my support hand to open the material in order to insert the firearm.

Specialized Carry options are out there and are only limited by the imagination of the designer. Two or the most popular are the Belly Band and Phlster Enigma, They are highly effective but require some experience and experimentation to work effectively.

The Belly Band is popular with women that don't often wear pants with a belt or waistband capable of supporting the weight of a firearm.

The Belly Band is concealed under the wearers shirt. One of the issues is the material it is made of. Most often it is constructed of an elastic type material. Obviously, this material is very soft and stretchy to conform tightly to the body. It does not solely protect the trigger guard. I advocate the insertion of a Kydex holster with Velcro on the back to secure the Kydex to the Belly Band.

The Phlster Enigma is probably the most comfortable holster I have. It is worn AIWB. The unique design of this holster allows the wearer to use this holster with a wide variety of clothing.

The Enigma provides its own belt to be worn under your clothing to support the weight of the firearm and holster. Phlster has a Facebook page dedicated to tips and trick to the wear and concealment of this holster.

What is the answer to the original question, "What holster do I need to buy"? You need to buy a holster that will fit the situation in which you are carrying a firearm and how you want to carry it. It needs to come from a respected manufacture (see recommended list below). It should be made of high quality materials. You need to determine the level of retention that you need. The holster must secure your firearm safely and prevent the trigger from being accidently activated. You need a holster that is comfortable in your method of carry. If it hurts you, you will not wear it. The holster must allow for rapid access of the firearm.

Contingency Tactical recommends the following companies for holsters:


Phlster Holsters: www.

Tier 1 Concealed:

Unity Tactical CLUTCH Belt (Belly Band): or


In summary, your car is not a holster. Off body carry can become an issue if your need your firearm in an emergency. Select a holster that fits your needs and use it. If you need help making a selection, please reach out to Contingency Tactical with a short email or schedule a consultation.

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