A primer on personal defense holsters for 24/7 concealed carry
by R.K. Campbell
A generation ago, concealed carry holsters were largely developments of plainclothes cop holsters. Today, the police market is still important but we have a broad choice in holsters. Many of them are very specialized. Others are more versatile, but there are a number of first class holsters for every need.
There are also very poor holsters, including plastic junk model 1,000,000 and Sock Number Three, and there are a few holsters that look as if they were made from leather saw dust from the floor of the more reputable maker. Avoid these. Buy cheap, buy twice! These holsters are of dubious value and prone to breakage. You might as well carry your piece in a paper sack. I study results from the field and also recall notices. Some of it is ugly. Then there are holsters such as those supplied with the Springfield pistols that make good range holsters but which are not necessarily something you wish to rely upon for tactical use.
When we choose a holster, the emphasis is on a balance of retention and speed. Durability, of course, is also important. A uniformed duty holster is worn on the point of the hip, and concealed carry is not an issue. Concealed carry holsters are moved behind the hip over the kidney. When we carry the handgun and holster closer to the body, comfort becomes an issue. A concealed carry handgun should be comforting, not comfortable, but if the holster is a chafing nuisance it will not be carried for long.
There must be some offset from the body. This is especially true if our handgun is one of the modern types with a blocky slide profile. That is one reason I am impressed with the Glock holsters I have used from Dale Fricke, he has actually managed to produce a comfortable Kydex holster for the Glock pistol. The primary types of concealed carry holsters include the strong side scabbard, the pancake, the cross draw and the inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. Different body types will use different types of cant, drop and rake. It is possible to order a holster with the correct draw angle for your body type. Your custom holster maker will discuss your needs with you and you will arrive at the correct measurements.
Customization of the holster centers upon draw angle. While you may order a custom holster in leather, horsehide or even ostrich and alligator exotics, draw angle is the single most important factor. Draw angle is simply the tilt of the handle of the pistol when holstered, usually expressed in degrees. In my preferred carry, the holster is tilted at about 15 degrees, allowing my handgun to be angled sufficiently for good concealment under a covering garment and to be available for a good, sharp draw.
The draw angle should allow the handgun to be drawn into the target. The elbow shoots to the rear and the strong side hand scoops the piece out of the holster. Too severe an angle will impede a locked wrist as you draw. The angle or tilt of the holster may be studied by drawing a 360 degree circle roughly eight inches in circumference on a piece of paper. Place a handgun and holster on the paper and turn it until you find the angle you think is correct. Next use a fake gun or triple-checked unloaded pistol and place it in your waistband. Turn the handgun at various angles and consider the speed and comfort of the draw.
Rake is the angle of the muzzle. A rear rake means the muzzle is behind the handle. Only a very tall individual with a low waist would need a forward rake holster. Drop is the position of the handgun in relation to the belt.
Drop is also referred to as rise or ride, as in high ride. A person with the typical middle age spread may need more drop for concealed carry and also a longer covering garment. Inside-the-waistband holsters differ as well. Some ride deeper for concealed carry under different conditions, others ride higher above the waistband.
When you select a holster, consider the local mores and your lifestyle. You must dress around the handgun. If you wear a suit coat, a strong side belt holster is ideal. A polo short will conceal an inside-the-waistband holster. If you are seated or driving much of the day, a cross draw holster is ideal. The most versatile holster is the strong side belt holster, but it is not the most concealable.
When choosing an IWB holster, the Milt Sparks Summer Special is the holster by which all others are judged. This holster was among the very first inside-the-waistband holsters to offer a reinforced holstering welt, sight track, strong spine and dual belt loops in one holster. The design has been copied many times but never bested. The Summer Special is a great concealment holster that allows carrying a full size service pistol concealed in relative comfort. There are other good designs, including the c5 holster I use often, and I often deploy a strong side belt scabbard as well. There are many choices, and many body types to consider.
When it comes to concealed carry holsters, take care to choose only the best and to be certain that the choices are workmanlike and appropriate to your life style and duties. The life you save may be your own.
Holster sources & websites:
Dale Fricke Holsters
Nick Matthews Holsters
Milt Sparks Holsters
Michael Taurisano, Tauris holsters
Rocking W Holsters
Rick Waltner Holsters
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