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Preview – Holster Selection

How to Choose the Gun Bucket that’s Right for You

There are thousands of holster options on the market today — hundreds alone for each carry position and material. Choosing a holster is a matter of preference and application, something you should put careful thought into so you can avoid having a box in the back of the closet full of what turned out to be bad purchases. And who isn’t guilty of that crime? Always on the search for the best possible holster, we’ve amassed an impressive collection of runners-up and “this is a joke, right?” models.

Make no mistake, the holster is serious business. It needs to be safe, allow easy access, be comfortable, and protect your firearm from contact with the outside world — all at once. The better it excels at those four things, the better it will serve you. When it’s time to choose a holster, our biggest considerations are material, retention needs, and carry position.

Holsters come in three general materials: leather, Kydex, and nylon/synthetic. There are hybrid holsters comprised of two or more of these materials, but these three are the building blocks from which all holsters spring. Each material has unique attributes that lend themselves to specific types of carry, as well as potential drawbacks. Because a holster shouldn’t be an impulse buy or an uninformed purchase, we want to do as little in the way of trial and error as possible. For those looking for their first holster, considering a switch, or wanting further education on the subject, we’ve narrowed down the specifics here.


Retention Levels
Retention refers to active or passive devices in a holster that prevent its unintentional draw or release. To the point, if you’re going to carry an exposed weapon (i.e., open carry) the holster needs to have some degree of active retention to prevent anyone other than you from accessing it. Weapon retention training is also a very good idea.

If you’re opting for concealed carry, the fact that others don’t know you have a weapon may be sufficient. All holsters offer a basic level of retention via friction, where gravity and the pressure of the holster material on the gun work together to keep the gun in its place, but this is by no means an active level of retention. Levels of retention go from level I, which includes one active security measure (such as a thumb break or finger/thumb release lever), up to level IV (also known as “level ridiculous”). Each level of retention adds another safety device designed to keep your weapon from being taken in a struggle. Level II and III are the most common retention levels, with level II being a good balance between speed and security.

If you need retention, look for a system that works ergonomically with your shooting grip as it is established on the holster. Some materials lend themselves better to a variety of retention devices than others. This author’s favorite remains the Safariland SLS line for open carry.

Material doesn’t seem important, but the holster is quite literally comprised of it — and some materials are better than others for certain jobs. Taking a look at the three common materials, you’ll notice some important differences.

Leather: This is a natural product, with different characteristics than synthetics. Leather arguably feels better as an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster because over time it molds to the body and softens. The leather absorbs moisture and oils from the body, which makes leather softer on the skin, but worse in the long run for the weapon. Also, because leather molds to the body, it also molds to the gun, making a holster for a pistol with a weapon-mounted light (WML) problematic without some sort of hybrid skeleton.

Either inside or outside the waistband, leather generally conceals better than most Kydex holsters because of its ability to mold to the body. However this isn’t without risk — as the leather softens, it will begin to lose retention and can eventually become a safety issue. We recommend that leather holsters be replaced periodically. For active retention, leather is limited to thumb breaks and similar snap-style releases. Hybrid leather holsters, however, offer more choices.


For the rest of this article, click here to purchase: CONCEALMENT

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