Sidearm Carry 101: An Overview of Common Holster Options

Are you new to owning a sidearm, and wondering how you should carry it? With so many holster choices and carry options, it can seem impossible to pick one. Here is a brief overview of six common carry methods. You’ll have to try them out to find which work best for you in different situations, and as you become more familiar with carrying your weapon, you can move on to more specialized carry options.

Open Carry

If open carry, there are several holster types than one can choose from.

  • Shoulder holsters look cool and are easy to draw from; however, they are obvious to people around you and are easily blocked. These are best used driving long distances and when there is a reasonable expectation that you will have to fire from inside the vehicle. They are also good to easily switch from open to concealed carry by simply putting on or removing a jacket.

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  • Drop leg holsters look high speed and a la Navy Seal, but they increase draw time and decrease the ability to defend from a grabber. They do allow you to draw your weapon easily and smoothly when wearing some type of vest, however.
  • The third common option would be belt line carry. This method places the weapon in a natural draw position and is the easiest of the open carries to defend from a grabber. It is also the most uncomfortable when sitting down.

Concealed Carry

Concealed carry is more of a question of where you place a holster than what type you use, though there are several holster types for this as well.

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  • Inside the Waist Band (IWB) is the most common. Some must have the shirt draped over the weapon while others can have the shirt tucked in while still leaving the weapon concealed. Often times, IWB holsters are uncomfortable with full size firearms or sitting, but they allow fast access.
  • Some choose to carry off of the body by placing the weapon in a purse, fanny pack, or other bag. This is the most comfortable and allows you to easily remove the weapon without having to expose it to others. This is usually one of the harder setups to draw from, and the bag increases the potential of accidentally leaving the weapon behind if the bag gets forgotten.
  • If you are moving away from waist band carry, my favorite holster type would be an under shirt with a built in holster, like the 11 holster shirt. Any overshirt can conceal the weapon, it is comfortable, and provides endless dress options. It can be difficult to draw from however, depending on the type of overshirt. This can be made easier by wearing an overshirt with easy open buttons, like the Tru-Spec concealment shirt.

Chances are, you will end up with several open carry and concealed carry holsters to accommodate every situation. Play around with some options and see what fits best. Try on a friend’s holsters, play with different carry locations, and find what feels and fits best for you.

Important things to look for in a holster:

  1. Always get holsters that are designed for your specific firearm to reduce the chances of accidental drops and holster shifting.
  2. A holster must cover the entire trigger to protect from accidental discharge. That could be bad.
  3. A holster should be made with quality materials and craftsmanship to avoid damage to the weapon or premature breakdown of the holster.


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