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November 06, 2003


You can't keep carrying it around in your pocket. What concealed carry holster is right for you?

So you've taken the safety courses. You've gone to the range religiously until your skill is honed to a keen edge. You've suffered through the background test, the endless wait while the bureacracy decides if you're trustworthy. Now you're the proud recipient of a Concealed Carry Permit. You're ready to join the ranks of those that care for the safety of themselves and others, and you're about to go out in public with the means to defend against violent criminal attack.

I'm glad you're here. But now that you can carry concealed, how are you going to do it?

Most gunfighters have very strong opinions about the model and caliber of handgun that they consider necessary for defense. They're almost as emotional when it comes to the gunleather they use to haul around their shootin' irons. Ask someone with experience for advice and they'll fill your ear with the only holster and carry method that will work.

My take on it is that everyone is different. One size doesn't fit all. You're going to have to go out there and make your own decision as to what's right for you.

But there are a few things I can do to keep you from making false starts. I might even save you some money. Heck, everyone likes that!

Something Borrowed
Everybody I've ever met who carries concealed has a bunch of holsters rattling around the closet back home. Every one of them tried a few different ways to lug the gun around before settling on the one method that worked best for them. If you should be lucky enough to know someone like that, ask them about their cast offs. They probably will sell them to you cheap.

Another point on this topic is gun stores. Most of them have some old holsters that they'll sell at bargain basement prices. Before buying new, take some time to call some of the local shops and see if they have a "Bargain Bin" you can root around in. It's certainly worth your time.

Leather or Plastic
Ask the people who carry all the time what they use and most will say that they prefer leather. This mainly due to the fact that it does a superior job of protecting your gun, and it lasts much longer than nylon holsters.

But it's expensive. Usually twice as expensive as nylon. Might as well save the cash and try out various nylon rigs first, and then decide if you want leather later.

One of the largest manufacturers of holsters made from nylon and a formed plastic called "kydex" holsters is Uncle Mike's. They have a truly impressive selection to choose from. I'd suggest that you browse through the online catalog just to see what options are available.

Now let's examine the different types of holsters available.

Belly Bands
This type of holster has become popular over the past few years, mainly due to the fact that it provides decent concealement without forcing someone to buy clothes that are a different size. If the rig is fancy enough, you can even carry several extra items along with your gun. You can even wear it under a business suit without too much trouble. Sort of like one of those money belts.

The problem is one of accessibility. Work on your fast draw? Don't make me laugh! Usually you have to untuck your shirt or unbutton it or something before you can draw your weapon. Really, really slow.

Ankle Holsters
These rigs provide really good concealment for small guns, but they're rather uncomfortable. And by "uncomfortable" I mean "friggin' torture".

It's not that they're painful. It's just that it takes a great deal of patience to get used to having this heavy weight strapped to one foot. Take a step with one on and your foot swings out in front of you with a great deal of force. It either feels like your limping or that you're kicking a field goal. Still, it's an option, particularly if you happen to live in a state with liberal enough gun laws so a holdout gun isn't illegal.

Fanny Pack Holsters
These are a pretty good idea. They provide places for extra items like wallet, keys, extra ammo, cough drops, stuff like that. And you can just strap it on over your regular clothes and go to town. The only problem is that it's the first thing that the crooks want to steal. If they should suspect that you have a gun, they'll do just about anything to keep you from reaching in there. Still, it's a good all-around system.

In the same vein are purses with gun compartments, but they can be costly. This idea has even spawned various luggage and equipment cases with handgun compartments. (Click on the last link and check out the belt buckle with the combination lock built in. Heh.)

None of these are bad ideas, but you can probably just empty out an interior pocket of your standard purses and equipmet cases and use that. Save some money.

Belt Holsters
There's a reason why this is the most popular style of holster. It offers reasonable concealement, quick access in an emergency, control and comfort. Just scroll around on this page and see if anything strikes your fancy.

Inside the Pants Holster
Pretty similar to a belt holster, except it rides inside against your underwear (and you do want to wear some underwear if you use this type of holster). This provides most of the advantages of a belt hoster (quick accessibility and control), but the gun is better concealed at the expense of comfort. Perfect if you want to leave the jacket at home and go about your day with an untucked T-shirt, but the gun can pinch some fat or jab you in the ribs if you're not careful when sitting down. It'a also a real pain to get at the gun if you're in your car with the seatbelt on. But, on the plus side, it seems to be the favorite of off-duty police officers.

If this sounds right for you, then buy pants that are 2 inches larger than those you normally buy. Use an all-leather belt, and avoid those ultra-thin ones that are all the rage with yuppie business suits.

Shoulder Holsters
Just like everything else in life, these have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that it's a comfortable way to carry your gun, no matter if you're walking around or sitting down somewhere. It also holds the gun out of the way when you're using your hands. The disadvantages are that it's tough to conceal unless you're wearing a coat or business suit jacket. If you can't imagine going anywhere without the pin stripes on then this might be just the ticket.

Anyway, remember my advice. Try a few different systems until you find the one you're most comfortable with.

Posted by James Rummel