The time has come; you've obtained your concealed carry (CCW) permit. It's time to holster up. Selecting the correct holster is as important as choosing the firearm. This means spending time on the range, researching holsters and enlisting the help of professionals.
Just like the options for carry pistols, there are a myriad of holsters available. Fear not, BLACKHAWK! has you covered on all fronts.
Selecting the Right One
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a holster. Some of these factors include: the size of the gun, your build and body shape. Similar to purchasing a pair of jeans, what works or conceals firearms well for one shooter may not work for another. The first step is to determine how you want to carry it.
The most obvious method is carrying it holstered on your hip. If you're right handed, you'll want to carry it on your right hip. It doesn't end there, though. You can have your holster positioned directly on your side at the 3 o'clock position or you can have it farther back in the 4- or 5 o'clock position. Also, determine if you want to carry it outside the waistband (OWB) or inside the waistband (IWB). If you opt to carry it IWB, you have yet another option to position the pistol in the appendix inside the waistband (AIWB). In this position, the pistol is holstered in front, to the left or right of your midline.
Professional shooter Jessie Duff recommends IWB for the most concealable option. "It's a little harder to conceal something hanging outside your waistband with just a T-shirt," said Duff. "As a woman, my clothes tend to be a little tighter. That's something to consider when I get dressed in the morning and want to carry."
Keep It Hip
Some choose to carry pistols on their hip or OWB. For many shooters, it is the most comfortable style of carry, but it can be the most challenging to conceal, so holster selection is crucial.
When looking for an OWB holster, ensure that it can be completely concealed by an outer garment such as a jacket or large shirt. Your holster/pistol combination must not only be concealable, it must also be rapidly accessible. A popular style for OWB carry is the pancake holster. These tend to ride higher on the hip but close to the body, which makes them concealable and secure, and allows the wearer excellent access to their firearm.
The BLACKHAWK! Leather 3-Slot Pancake Holster is a prime example of a classic design that works for many. The Italian leather is hand-finished and attractive. It is worn on your belt and can be positioned anywhere on your hip. It also features a thumb break, which keeps your pistol securely in place when snapped closed. Be sure you train sufficiently with this holster, learning to unsnap the thumb break as you draw.
When paired with the right size pistol, IWB holsters provide the best overall concealment. The holster resides within the waistband of the wearer and a clip slides over the belt to hold it in place. A quality IWB holster will allow you to wear your pistol with less clothing to cover it. Depending on your build, you may be able to wear it while wearing no more than a T-shirt to conceal it. Another advantage of IWB holsters is that you can comfortably wear it behind, in front of or directly at your hip. Wherever you decide to wear it, it should be in the same location on your body every time. Be sure to practice with it in that position at the range. Muscle memory will guide you to where you've drawn from consistently. If you are constantly changing carry locations, you may not know where to find the pistol under stress.
The disadvantage of IWB holsters is that they can sometimes be bulky, making them cumbersome and causing you to adjust. Movements like this can draw unwanted attention. Be sure that your IWB holster is comfortable and secured well to your belt. IWB carry can sometimes be slower to draw from, depending on how you are dressed.
Companies like BLACKHAWK! offer several different types of IWB holsters that are sure to fit your needs.
Leather Inside-the-Pants with Clip
This IWB holster is made from the same Italian leather as the BLACKHAWK! Pancake Holster. It features attractive stitching that complements its appearance. Good looks are fine, but functionality is paramount. The Leather Inside-the-Pants holster is firm but flexible. It features a sturdy metal belt clip to keep it in place. Due to its leather construction, it may be bulkier on your person, but it's comfortable. The leather is wet molded and hand boned to a specific handgun for a tight fit. They come preset for left- or right-handed shooters. Be sure to get the appropriate one for you.
The BLACKHAWK! A.R.C. (Appendix Reversible Carry) is made of injection-molded polymer. It's strong yet soft and flexible. As the name implies, the A.R.C. is reversible and fully ambidextrous. To reverse, simply unscrew the adjustable belt clip and place it on the opposite side of the holster. The A.R.C. comes with two adjustable belt clips that allow you to adjust the holster for how high it rides and for cant, which is the angle at which the pistol sits. The clips are able to accommodate different belt widths.
I wore the A.R.C. appendix style with a full-size pistol all day and found it comfortable. I've carried appendix exclusively for many years, usually with a small triggerguard type of clip. The problem is that these clip-type holsters don't allow you to reholster very easily, so it can be difficult to train with it. The pistol is also exposed to your body's moisture and is against your skin. The A.R.C. made me reconsider my carry holster choice. It's minimalistic, and your pistol will stay put in the holster due to the adjustable retention detent.
BLACKHAWK! has outdone themselves with the release of their new TecGrip IWB and inside the pocket holsters. TecGrip is a new material that is "grippy," allowing you to carry your pistol IWB without a belt clip. This material stays securely in place between your waistband and body. Right- or left-hand carry is possible, and you can position the holster anywhere on your waist. The pocket version allows you to carry smaller pistols safely without fear of the trigger contacting anything. The beauty of pocket pistols is their diminutive size, but they still need some sort of holster for safe carry. The TecGrip pocket holster is perfect.
From competition to concealed carrying, Duff has spent years finding the right holster for the job. She uses TecGrip as her everyday carry holster. "It's one of those products you think, Why hasn't someone made this before?" Duff said. "It's the most low-profile IWB you can get and is still extremely comfortable. You don't have any Kydex or hard leather poking you. It's basically just slipping the gun inside the waistband."
The TecGrip holster features closed-cell foam between the TecGrip material and inner lining that doesn't absorb moisture so your firearm's finish will be safe even if it's holstered all day. Sizing of the TecGrip holster is fairly non-specific, which means you should be able to find one for any pistol you decide to carry.
There are many ways to carry concealed. Find what works best for you and then practice live-fire and dry-fire drills to ensure that you are proficient.