The first 13 articles in this series may be found here:
Having worked through the decision to be armed and having accepted the responsibility for the protection of self and loved ones, the next step is the choice of an appropriate cartridge and handgun. Everything in this Gun Ownership Primer series has led to this point. Now comes a surprisingly difficult matter: choosing how to carry the handgun.
Virtually all long-time gun owners that actually carry their handguns have a box–or boxes–full of holsters, magazine pouches, and related gadgets that have been tried and put aside for something new, something more comfortable, lighter, or simply better. It’s part of the process, and part of the fun, and it’s absolutely necessary. Regardless of the good intentions and advice of others, it’s difficult to know what will work for you until you’ve had the chance to try it.
What should guide one’s choice of a holster? What will be comfortable, concealable, and most importantly, what you will actually wear every day. A holster that looks great but just doesn’t fit your body or life will be of little use. There are several primary categories of holsters useful for concealed carry, but much depends on the individual–not only their preferences but their anatomy–their lifestyle, the climate, and their weapon. Generally, those living in predominantly hot climates have fewer choices than those who live in cold climates as coats and jackets can effectively cover a wider variety of weapon/holster combinations than a shirt. Shoulder holsters, for example, while looking sexy on James Bond, are generally not a great choice in hot climates. As it is best to carry only one gun, it is best to always carry it in the same holster.
Keep in mind too that when concealment is the primary concern, speed must necessarily take second place. Our contemporary gunslingers—uniformed police officers—wear their handguns on their hips. Many use security (AKA: “anti-snatch”) holsters that make it difficult for bad guys to simply pull their handguns straight up and out of their holsters. Such holsters commonly require the user to perform one additional step between releasing the thumbsnap and drawing the weapon, such as thrusting the rear sight forward (releasing an internal retention device) before being able to withdraw the weapon. Of necessity, this slows the draw, but it’s a reasonable balance between safety and speed, which is always a concern for uniformed officers.
While a patrol officer, I put aside fifteen minutes every day on our indoor range before my shift began to practice basic drawing and presentation drills. Because of this daily practice, I was consistently faster—much faster—than my fellow officers, none of who did the same practice (most cops are not gun people). As a detective, I did the same thing, but even though my concealed carry holster held the weapon in place only through friction—I did not have to release a thumbsnap or engage in any other contortions—I was measurably slower on the draw due to the necessity of clearing the drawing path of a sport coat during the presentation (as in drawing and aiming the handgun–weapon presentation).
While on duty, I never buttoned my sport coat, which if buttoned would have slowed the draw even more and would have more obviously “imprinted” the gun against the fabric of the sport coat. The same was true off duty where my choice of holster—primarily pancake or inside the waistband—made my handgun even more concealable, but slightly slower on the draw. Regardless of the cold, I always left my jacket or coat unbuttoned. As cold bothers me little or not at all, this was not a problem, but it surely can be for many people.
Here are the primary options:
BELT HOLSTERS: These come in a variety of materials–primarily polymer, nylon or leather–and styles, and attach to a belt by means of various clips, slots or paddles. Among them, the widely used “pancake” holsters hold the weapon close to the body, but are marginally slower to draw than holsters that are not so body-hugging.
This leather model from Gould and Goodrich, available through Midway USA for about $50 has three slots that allow some adjustment of carry angle on the belt. Notice that the leather is carefully molded to the shape of the handgun. The primary drawback with any leather holster is that when the gun is drawn, the holster tends to collapse–particularly any holster that has been worn for some time–making it difficult to reholster one-handed.
Here is a simple polymer holster and mag pouch available directly from Glock (under $15.00 each) and other sources. The holster has a built in friction retention device and holds the weapon very closely to the body. The small plastic bars in the belt slots may be cut out for a variety of belt widths, to slightly adjust the carry angle, or to slightly alter the height of the gun or magazine on the belt. Unlike leather holsters, polymer holsters remain open when the gun is drawn, making holstering the weapon easy. While these particular holsters and mag pouches might more or less fit some other handguns and magazines, they are designed specifically for Glocks. It’s easy to spend far more money, but these simple devices work very well for very little money.
Fobus makes a line of inexpensive, very rugged and effective polymer holsters that allow easy adjustment of the angle of the holster on the hip. This model is a paddle type (about $30.00) that makes it easy to place and remove without having to undo the belt. Like the Glock holsters, it has a molded in retention device that securely holds the gun in the holster. Fobus also makes a line of “roto” paddle holsters that allow the angle of the holster on the belt to be adjusted.
This is a Fobus paddle type magazine holder. All Fobus products are lightweight and virtually indestructible.
Keep in mind that handguns with added aftermarket accessories, such as higher profile sights, laser sights, flashlights, etc. will not fit standard holsters. They are designed for standard handgun models configured as they leave the factory. However, laser manufacturers such as Crimson Trace markets holsters by various manufacturers that will fit handguns equipped with their lasers, and some holster manufacturers, such as Safariland, make tactical holsters that accommodate lights and lasers as well.
NOTE: A simple trick that will help to condition and ease the draw with leather and polymer holsters is treating their interiors with silicon spray. For polymer holsters, it will help to overcome the inherent friction of molded-in retention devices, but will not allow the handgun to accidentally separate from the holster.
Generally, all belt-type holsters require a substantial leather or nylon belt to keep them in place and to keep the weight of the handgun from pulling the holster outward from the body. By substantial, I mean something wider, thicker and stiffer than belts whose primary purpose is making a fashion statement. Absent a substantial belt, one can always pull a belt very tightly to achieve something of the same effect, but that does tend to turn one’s upper body red.
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