Sidearm Carry 101: An Overview of Common Holster Options

Sidearm CarryAre 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
Seth Belt

Seth Belt

Seth grew up in Southern Arizona before joining the U.S. Navy. While serving in the Navy, Seth was an anti-narcotics operator and an anti-submarine operator for 5 years. He was lucky enough to travel to many of the Central and South American countries, as well as visiting many South East Asian nations and islands. One of Seth’s greatest joys from his time in the Navy was teaching new Sailors firearms education and safety. After leaving the Navy in 2010, Seth returned to Arizona and had a rough time learning how to be a civilian again, often working jobs that could barely pay the bills. After going to school, Seth became an Emergency Medical Technician in the Phoenix Valley, where he now lives with his wife and son.His areas of knowledge cover military, firearms, and emergency medicine.
Seth Belt
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5 thoughts on “Sidearm Carry 101: An Overview of Common Holster Options

  1. uuuummmmm Have you ever carried open or otherwise?? This article was laughable, I have a drop leg I wear as my open carry option I’m not worried about a “grabber” I have very good situational awareness. I have tried both under arm and belt holsters and since the human body is set up so your hand if standing goes to mid upper thigh a dropleg is the FASTEST way to carry your sidearm. I would like to point out our dear departed friends the old world cowboy who wore their guns low slung and tied down a MIRACLE OF FAST DRAW TECH. They realized it was a very natural way to carry their guns. So when you say AL LA navy seal your being a bit of a stereotypical jerk more like a pro gun ban guy then a pro gun guy. Offending a large contingent of readers is not a healthy way to go. I could keep going with more and more insights into this poorly written travesty but I have better things to do like shooting spent shotgun casings with my .357 mag from the draw out of my drop leg.

  2. Thank you for reading and your inputs. What was written is not based on stereotypical old west movies or on the concept of fast draw competitions. It’s based on extensive combat training and experiance. When walking or standing, your hand may rest at upper mid thigh, but how often is it really there when you are carry objects, paying for goods, looking at items, etc…? Now, if drop leg carry works for you, by all means, carry that way. As the article says, play with options and use what works best for you.

  3. lol drop leg holsters don’t make you look high speed, much like most “high speed gear” in fact I’ve work with a handful of SF teams as well as a MARSOC team, and the only time i have seen someone actually use them is when they have too much stuff on their kit. (or when some pog trying to look cool when they are at a green bean coffee shop at KAF or some big fob…) not to mention unless your side arm is on the front of your kit your going to have the same difficulty fighting off a “grabber”. Speaking of which, the purse has to be the worst idea, ever. lets say a purse snatcher takes your purse, bam a criminal now has your firearm because you didn’t secure your stuff, or your at a store paying for your stuff, someone sees the gun, has a panic attack, bam.. brandishing a firearm, kid gets into your purse when you put it down, bam kid has a gun now (it makes me wonder why it is easier for you to draw from a purse and not a drop leg..) as much as i don’t like leg/thigh holsters when your shooting on a knee, it is pretty fast of a draw, honestly the fastest for me, let your rifle hang in front of you or rest on the knee that is up and your pistol is right there to grab.
    Also, not to nitpick, but your article about “several carry holsters” consist of 6..of the most popular ones, Three came to my mind instantly wondering why they went here (pocket holsters, ankle, and ones you attach to a vest) not to mention numerous vehicle holsters or other holsters that might be impractical but yet might appeal to someones interest.

  4. YOU also neglected to go over side arm draw, or cross draw which also thanks to our friends from the old west NOT navy seals is known to be one of the quicker ways to get your sidearm into action. What works best for one person may not in fact work well for someone else, that is a fair point. which is why I was expecting to find an article the covered most of your options for carry and their pro’s and cons as well as your experienced take on how to make each option work best for you, which is NOT what I found in your article. I also carry a dessert eagle on a chest mount horizontally. I have used every form of carry you have gone over. Furthermore I have made my own custom carry rigs and I think you should have focused more on how to utilize each form of carry to help people find their optimal carry option.

  5. This is by no means an exhaustive list of holster types, but rather a 500+/- word article to inform people just getting into carrying a firearm on some of their options. I was able to cover 6 of some of the most common carry methods with a few of their pros and cons. I appreciate the input, as there are some valid point brought up, such as the risk of a purse snatcher getting a gun. With that said, as the article says, play with different setups and find what works for you. I have drop legs, belt line, shoulder, IWB, vest mounted, and vehicle mounted carry options for what is needed that day because there is no perfect solution, and this article isn’t designed to suggest one. Rather, this article is designed to get people who have not had the chance to train with SF teams or shoot competitions into the game with a BASIC understanding of a few of the options with a few of the pros and cons of those options. Perhaps, one of the next few articles will cover issues beyond the beginner level or focus more on the tactics of using certain holster types. A pop-up sometimes appears on the bottom right of the screen that allows readers to suggest topics that they want to read about. By using this, articles geared towards current readers becomes a stronger possibility. Thanks to all who have read any of the articles posted and for making comments. Without input, improvments are seldom made and the articles that are desired have less of a chance of being written.

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