A Gun Digest reader asks, “I’m taking my first concealed weapons class with a small frame 9mm pistol. Can you recommend a specific holster to get started?”
This is a great question. I can point you in a general direction, but holster selection is like success in the dating game: highly subjective and dependent on many factors. So don’t be surprised if you end up shopping around some.
Let’s start with our focus on four things: (1) leather, (2) belt mount, (3) high ride, and (4) thumb snap. Several excellent manufacturers (Bianchi, Galco, De Santis) offer models with all four of these features.
There are good reasons to consider these four elements when making a holster purchase. When you start carrying concealed regularly—and you should carry more days than not if you are truly serious—don’t be surprised if you feel awkward, uncomfortable, and self-conscious. These are common and perfectly contextual reactions. Flow with them. They will pass with experience, but do take them into consideration in first holster (and gun) choice.
I recommend leather because it conforms over time to your use.
I suggest an integral security strap that releases with a thumb snap, because it is typical for new shooters to worry about the gun somehow becoming dislodged and falling out of the holster. The strap is mostly psychological, but it is comforting for most new users I chat with.
“High ride” relates to belt mount, and means that the gun should ride with half of its weight even with or above the belt loops. This tucks the mass of the gun just below the ribs, for many people a much more comfortable carry position when seated.
Women may find lower carry more comfortable. Because females tend to have shorter torsos, and broader hips than men they are often advised to choose a low-ride holster to keep the handgun from poking into their rib cage. But with a small frame revolver—my recommendation for most women—the curved grip still rides well in a high ride design because of the shorter barrel. Rule of thumb: low ride favors standing, high ride favors sitting.
Choosing between outside-the-waistband (OWB) and inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster position is also highly subjective. After many years of leather OWB, I went “minimal,” and used a soft neoprene IWB with my Model 60 or my SIG 239, .40 caliber. This was so comfortable a carry method I would actually forget I had the gun on. The tactical problem is that if you have to pull your gun to deter an attack, it is near impossible to re-holster it easily because the neoprene collapses. With your handgun out, if you’re a cop and have a badge to “windmill” when fellow officers arrive, you’re in good shape. For the average citizen without a badge to show and an un-holstered weapon, prepare to come under close scrutiny and be subject to some rather dramatic language.
I really like the OWB Kydex-type holsters, except that I can’t find one that fits my Ruger SR9C (my current “little buddy”) with laser designator. As a general rule, IWB seems more comfortable and OWB seems more tactical. If you carry every day in a high risk environment I would say go OWB. However, if you carry “just in case,” try IWB.
One additional tip: Be sure to check out the articles and blogs at gundigest.com, and feel free to post questions there. I’m sure many of our readers will have other good opinions.
It is a big understatement to say that properly drawing or presenting your handgun from concealed carry is of critical importance for effectively using it to defend your life.
The handgun draw is one of the most important aspects of self defense, and can mean the difference between life and death. Drawing a handgun takes a certain amount of practiced skill, as there are several chances for a self-inflicted wound, or for shooting someone else. Misapplication of the techniques can be very dangerous. Statistics confirm that most accidents or negligent discharges happen while the user is drawing and re-holstering a handgun. Safety is very important during all of the steps in drawing your handgun.
I recommend isolating each distinct step of the basic draw process and practicing the related techniques using an empty gun. In particular, the “clearing” step is of vital importance because the whole draw process is precipitated by quickly and efficiently accessing the handgun. The steps in the draw process are basically the same whether you are presenting your handgun from an OWB holster or an IWB holster, but different steps and techniques are involved for draws from a purse, fanny pack, briefcase, or pocket.
Your goal when faced with the need to access your firearm is to present your handgun as quickly, smoothly, consistently, and automatically as possible, using muscle memory learned while executing each distinct step of the draw process efficiently and properly.
Important note: This does not mean that you must fire the gun automatically upon presentation. Certainly, a valid threat must exist. Nor does it mean that you should always practice the draw quickly. As I demonstrate in my firearms classes, you should start slowly, practicing the presentation process by focusing on each distinct step and precise techniques, then gradually speed it up. Of course, this process takes much practice and the shooter should not expect to master this safely without considerable repetitions over time.
In a future article, I’ll explain how the draw process is influenced by whether point, instinctive, flash-sight, or aimed shooting is used, and best practices for presenting your firearm from different holster configurations.