A holster is what holds a handgun, and can be thought of as a combination between a gun accessory and a piece of clothing. Holsters are essential to safely and effectively carry a handgun. The purpose of a holster is to hold a handgun such that the handgun is safely out of the way when it is not needed, yet available quickly if the user needs to draw and fire the handgun. These are somewhat competing goals, yet a good holster will accomplish them both.
Why a holster is necessary
The goal of securely holding the handgun is of paramount importance. People who forego a holster and tuck a handgun into their waistband or pocket often shoot themselves or others. That is because, without a holster, the handgun is free to bounce and shift around, which can lead to it being dropped or otherwise lost. Without a holster, items such as pocket contents can also end up causing the trigger to be pulled unintentionally, resulting in negligent discharge of the gun. Carrying a handgun in a waistband or pocket is negligent.
The goal of having the handgun available quickly when needed is also met by a good holster. Since the holster holds the handgun in place, the user knows right where to reach for the handgun when it is needed. Were there not a holster, the handgun could flop around in a pocket or shift in a waistband, such that the user has to spend valuable time locating their handgun.
There are many different styles of holsters available. The right holster for each person will depend upon a variety of factors that include the type of handgun they are carrying, their clothing, and the unique considerations(s) they may face. The most common holster types are as follows:
In Waist Band (IWB): A holster that attaches to the wearer using belt loops and/or clips to the pants, and holds the handgun inside the waist band of the pants. This is probably the most common concealed carry style holster.
Outside Waist Band (OWB): A holster that attaches to the wearer using belt loops and/or clips to the pants, and holds the handgun outside of the waist band. This is the style of holster that most people associate with the police.
Shoulder Holster: A holster that attaches over a user’s shoulders such that the handgun is held near the wearer’s ribs. This style tends to work best when the wearer has a suit jacket or sports coat.
Lower abdomen holster: The lower abdomen holster (my preferred carry style) places the handgun above the user’s pelvis, between their underwear and pants. It tends to provide great concealment (at least for typical men’s clothing) but a slower draw speed.
Purse holster: A holster that is built in to a purse, by way of a special gun compartment in the purse or a holster that attaches to the purse. This is a common concealed carry method for women.
Considerations when selecting a holster
As to the type of handgun, whether the person is carrying a pistol or a revolver will greatly influence holster choice, as the different sizes and shapes of handguns dictate that there is very little overlap in holsters for those different types of handguns. Indeed many of the best holsters are specific to the handgun make and model, so holster availability is closely tied to the type of gun selected.
Clothing also plays a big role in selecting a holster. Many holsters require a belt, and so people wearing clothing without a belt cannot employ such holsters. In general, women’s clothing tends to make holster selection more difficult, as women’s clothing in general tends to be closer fitting which makes concealment of the handgun and holster more difficult. As an example, a person wearing a suit jacket or sports has just about the easiest task when it comes to concealing a handgun, as just about any holster will work to hold and conceal the handgun. A woman wearing a close fitting dress can have a much more difficult time with concealing a pistol and holster (although there are always options that will work).
The threats and other considerations a person faces will also influence their holster decisions. For example, a holster build in to a purse would not be the most ideal choice for a woman who generally puts her purse down for large parts of the day. An ankle holster would not be the best choice for a person who has a physical disability that makes it difficult for them to bend down and reach a handgun stored near their ankles.
Closing thoughts on holsters
Handguns needs holsters, and it is foolish and dangerous to carry a handgun that is not properly secured. The right holster for each person will depend upon a variety of factors, as well as personal preference that is something that no one but the wearer of the holster can fully determine. For that reason I recommend that those who are new to concealed carry try a few different holsters to see what works best for them in terms of concealability, comfort, draw speed, etc. I also recommend trying to carry the same handgun, in the same holster, in the same place, at all times when carrying since precious seconds can be lost in a self defense situation if a person has to try and remember where their holster/handgun is located on a given day.