The 5 Best Inside-the-waistband (IWB) Concealed Carry Holsters
Tom McHale 04.02.15
I’m a holster geek. You know what they say—the first step to dealing with a personal problem is to admit that you have one. I’ve been collecting concealed carry holsters for years in search of the perfect carry solutions for various guns and lifestyles and am now the proud owner of somewhere north of 250 holsters. That’s a lot, considering the most I’ve ever worn at one time (as an experiment) was 11.
As the owner of a Y chromosome, I’ve settled on inside-the-waistband carry as my daily default. Sure there are times when my required dress or activity requires different carry methods, but if I have the choice, I’ll pick inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry. It’s easy to conceal even a large gun and the fact that my gun and its holster are in my pants give me emotional comfort that I won’t lose my gun. Physical comfort? Well, not so much. Many XX-chromosome owners I know also like IWB for concealed carry, but it’s harder for ladies to use that as a daily default simply because of the variety of women’s attire options. Guys pretty much always wear pants—hopefully. Girls have more to worry about. When women have to dress up and put on a long dress, IWB isn’t a really great option. When guys have to dress up, guess what? We’re probably still wearing pants, so IWB still works.
So, as not to leave anyone out, we’ll cover best of alternative carry methods in future articles, but for now, let’s start with inside-the-waistband/IWB holsters. Here are the five I nominate for my best of list.
1. Galco KingTuk
While neither CrossBreed nor Galco invented the idea of marrying large amounts of leather support with a Kydex shell to hold a gun, I have to give the nod to Galco for their quality implementation of the hybrid design.
The Galco KingTuk offers a huge leather panel that separates you from your hard and uncomfortable gun, and a Kydex gun pocket for smooth and quick draws. With the KingTuk, you’ll find a lot of attention to detail—it’s just beautifully made. Another one of those details is the included combat cut, which allows you to get a proper grip while the gun is still completely holstered.
I live next to a swamp, and the summer conditions are slightly warm here. By slightly warm I mean the fires of hell have nothing on us. And that’s exactly where the KingTuk’s attention to detail shines. The quality and finish of the leather means that it lasts. While the ccw holster has molded to my body shape, it’s still as sturdy as the day it came out of the box. That’s saying a lot as I carry three fairly large and heavy guns in different KingTuks—a government 1911, a Sig P229, and Sig P226.
2. N82 Tactical
This one shocked me. I walked past the display a couple of SHOT Shows ago, and quite frankly, gave it a ho-hum reaction when I saw the design from a distance. But being the diligent researcher I am, I stopped at the booth and talked to one of the Nates present. That’s the genesis of the company name, by the way—Nate Squared. Two Nates run the place. Nate One proceeded to enlighten me on the reasons for, and construction of, the N82 Tactical design.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the soft back panel covers the entire outline of your gun, so it is between the often abrasive grip of your gun and your soft body parts. The next thing you’ll notice is that it’s really, really soft, meaning comfortable.
The body side of the panel is made from soft suede. N82 Tactical chose suede for several reasons. It’s a natural material, so it allows your skin to breathe and feel cool—even in hot and humid climates. Another reason for the suede lining is that it has a friction coefficient. Since the whole suede area has some “grip,” it serves to spread the weight of the gun over a broader area. Sandwiched in the middle is a layer of neoprene, you know, the stuff they make those sexy wetsuits from. This neoprene creates a moisture barrier between your sweaty waist area and your expensive gun. The outer layer is leather. This provides structure, stability and a safe backing for your gun whether it be steel or polymer.
The standard N82 Tactical holster uses an elastic gun pocket. The pressure of that, combined with the pressure from your belt and pants, makes an effective retention solution. They also offer a hard polymer holster with positive retention if you’re especially active.
I carry a Springfield Armory XD-S in this frequently, and it’s about the most comfortable holster I’ve ever worn. The design does just fine with larger guns, too.
3. Galco Royal Guard, with honorable mention to Don Hume PCCH
Galco’s Royal Guard takes an inside-out approach to carrying a gun inside the waistband. The rough side of the leather is on the outside of the holster pocket while the inside is smooth. The rough exterior finish helps stabilize the holster using mild friction against your clothes. The smooth interior allows for form-fitting retention, an effortless draw, and easy reholstering.
For IWB holsters, I really prefer open-top designs as retention is generally not a concern. I just find them easier and quicker on the draw. The newest Royal Guard remains open-top, but adds an extended sweat guard to protect both the gun and your soft midsection. This feature is especially important if you carry something like a 1911-style pistol with a safety lever on the inside!
Since the design is similar, I’m including the Don Hume PCCH as an honorable mention. Made of thin leather, this is a low-bulk IWB holster. It does not have a reinforced top for one-handed reholstering, but it’s a super-comfortable design. I carry the full-size Beretta 92FS in one with great success.
4. Mitch Rosen Workman
The original design of the Mitch Rosen Workman is credited to Dave Workman—an award-winning outdoor journalist, former NRA board member, and writer for the Seattle Gun Rights Examiner.
The Workman is an all-leather, but tuckable holster. The portion of leather mount that shows outside the belt includes a snap loop that can be used for keys or whatever else you like. The idea is to use that leather strap for something, so you are hiding the holster mount in plain sight. Very clever.
The Workman excels for small- and medium-sized revolvers, but is great for medium auto pistols as well. It’s not inexpensive—the Workman’s construction and materials are first-rate.
5. Comp-Tac CTAC
Don’t let the name fool you. Comp-Tac holsters are not just for competition! While it’s not the first holster produced by Comp-Tac, I consider the CTAC to be one of the classics produced by this company. The CTAC is a Kydex holster available for dozens of full-size to compact semiautos, and plenty of revolvers.
The most interesting thing about the CTAC design is its insane configurability. The Kydex body is supported by two “wings” that extend from the front and back. These wings support the belt attachments and serve to distribute the weight of the gun over a broader area. Each belt attachment is adjustable vertically independent of the other. The user can raise the whole assembly, lower the whole rig, cant the holster to the front, or tilt it backwards.
The belt attachments present a whole new series of choices. At last count, three different types of belt mounts are available—most in either black or brown. The most interesting belt attachment is the Comp-Tac V Clip, which uses velcro to attach to the inside of the belt. This offers maximum concealability as the clip is entirely behind your belt.
This was hard. Very hard. I wrote an entire book about the best concealed carry holsters, so narrowing down my favorite five was gut wrenching. You might also notice that I deliberately chose a number of different IWB styles. Variety is the spice of life, right? I’m sticking with my choices. 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.