Holsters have been around a long time, almost as long as Cher has been using doilies for costumes. Over centuries of use, innovation has flourished. We’ve come a long way from the times when Scottish warriors carried sharp objects and their Visa debit cards in their sporrans.
Like Moore’s law for microprocessors, which states that computing power doubles every 18 months, holster innovation is also growing at an exponential pace. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen established companies and garage engineers alike develop entirely new ways of carrying a gun everywhere on the body—and I mean everywhere.
Here’s my perspective on the top 10 concealed carry holsters.
Since the Flashbang is accessed by pulling up the shirt, then drawing from the chest area, you can use your own imagination to work out the origin of this holster’s name.
This one works best if you have some form of breasts. Technically you don’t need them, but the holster is designed to mount to a bra, so there’s that.
The holster itself attaches to the center of the bra, and the gun is held in place, oriented horizontally, by a clamshell-molded kydex pocket. To draw, simply grasp the handgun grip and pull straight down—this releases the gun from the clamshell mount.
I can vouch for concealability, but not comfort, as I’m not equipped to use a bra. I’ll rely on the dozens of women I’ve met who swear by this design.
You know how when you get in a really sweet luxury car, the doors make that firm and satisfying “click” instead of “clank” when you close them? That comes from attention to the finer details of product design. If you’re into that sort of quality, then you’ll love the Galco KingTuk IWB Holster.
It’s a hybrid inside-the-waistband design, like others on the market. It features a large leather back panel that goes between your gun and tender body parts. A kydex shell is molded to the contours of your specific gun model. The difference between the KingTuk and others on the market is the quality. If you live in a warmer climate where humidity and sweat are common, you’ll notice that the leather backing holds up over time. You’ll also notice that the kydex shell is made from a thicker material and that someone at Galco took the time to buff and smooth the edges. I carry a full-size (and full-weight) 1911 in one here in the swamp sauna of South Carolina and after more than a year of heavy abuse, it still looks brand-new.
Here’s one that surprised me. I almost passed it by as it looks so simple and, quite frankly, boring. That was almost a big mistake. After taking the time to evaluate the N82 Tactical holsters, I found there’s serious engineering in this one that really makes a difference.
Like hybrid designs, it has a large panel that separates your gun from your body. Rather than a horizontal panel orientation, it’s more of a vertical egg shape. The backing itself is three layers of different materials that accomplish different things. Next to your skin is a suede lining that breathes and provides some friction to help keep the holster stationary. Next is a layer of neoprene. If you’ve seen Jaws or been to Sea World, you’ll know that’s the stuff they use to make wetsuits. This middle layer keeps body moisture and rust-inducing sweat away from your gun. It also keeps stray gun oil or preservatives away from the suede lining and your body. The layer closest to the gun is leather to provide a little cushion and protection for your gun.
This holster is insanely practical and comfortable to boot. I find myself using it quite frequently with a Springfield Armory XD-S.
Oh, by the way—N82 is pronounced “Nate squared,” as a couple of guys named Nate founded the company.
BLACKHAWK! Leather Speed Classic
This one makes the list just for being so darn handy.
Inspired by the classic Berns Martin design, this one is an outside-the-waistband holster designed to carry a J-Frame revolver high and out of the way. It’s made from leather panels with a split in the front held closed by an elastic panel. The gun is secured by pressure from the leather and elastic band. To draw, simply rock the revolver forward against the elastic band and the gun comes right out. It’s brilliantly simple and will help you carry a revolver securely, yet discretely.
William Wallace, otherwise known as Braveheart, popularized the SmartCarry holster design, but back then it was called a sporran and primarily used when wearing kilts. As guns had not yet been invented, historians believe that Wallace carried spare breath mints and a copy of his film rights agreement in his sporran. Now you can carry anything from a .22 plinker to a full-size .45 ACP 1911 in your crotch, thanks to the variety of sizes offered by the SmartCarry holster.
Concealment reigns supreme with this design. It features a patented snag-free pouch which is suspended under your pants, right in the front, by an adjustable strap that circles your waist. The draw is accomplished by reaching into your pants and pulling out your gun.
BLACKHAWK! Leather Check Six
One of the challenges of carrying a larger gun outside-the-waistband is that you need a cover garment long enough to hang well below the muzzle of your gun.
If you want to carry outside the waistband, but don’t want to wear a trench coat as a cover garment, you can take advantage of a heavily-raked holster that tilts the gun aggressively grip forward. This has the secondary effect of raising the muzzle up closer to your belt line.
The Check Six isn’t designed to be a small-of-back holster—the name comes from the importance of “checking your six” while maintaining situational awareness. I like to wear this at the four or five o’clock position. A polo or untucked button-down shirt will conceal even a full-size gun quite nicely.
Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster
No, I don’t have a Don Johnson or Miami Vice fetish, but I do appreciate the times and situations when a good shoulder holster is awesome.
The Galco Miami Classic II has become my preferred method of carry for long drives. When seated in a car and wearing a seat belt, it’s easily accessible from my left side. It rides high enough on the body so that it doesn’t get crunched by my waist when sitting.
It’s the most comfortable and accessible carry method I’ve found for times when you’re seated for long periods of time. You can hang one to four spare magazines on the opposite side to balance out the weight. A sport coat or light jacket will conceal everything quite nicely.
Recluse Pocket Holster
Many pocket holsters meet most of the job requirements. They hold a gun in the correct orientation and protect the trigger. Where most fail is hiding the outline of your gun.
The Recluse designs all have a large flat leather panel that covers the entire front of the gun. This panel is hinged so that when you reach down to draw, the leather panels separate and allow you to grasp the handgun grip properly. They even make a version with an extra-large base for use in a cargo pocket. Neato.
Galco Ankle Glove
As with the Galco KingTuk, the Ankle Glove shines due to its quality of design and construction. The ankle strap is made from wide and thick neoprene for security and comfort. The gun pocket is leather and shaped to your specific gun. The gun pocket is also designed to keep the body of your handgun from pressing into your leg. A snap retention strap keeps things where they’re supposed to be.
If you’re feeling particularly vigorous, you can get an optional calf strap which provides even more support.
The belly band
It’s hard to develop a short list of the best carry methods and leave off the classic belly band holster. In my view, it makes the list due to its flexibility. You can wear it high under a shirt. You can wear it low, so it acts like a universal inside-the-waistband holster. You can wear it anywhere in between.
I prefer the Galco Underwraps Belly Band because it’s the most comfortable and sturdy. It’s got two leather-backed pockets for guns and two elastic pouches for magazines or other gear.
When all else fails, don’t forget the belly band!
Those are my everyday favorites. What say you?
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.
Images by Tom McHale