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Principles of Concealed Carry: Holster Selection Fundamentals

Principles of Concealed Carry: Holster Selection Fundamentals

With any major purchase, you probably do some kind of research before you break out the credit card - think your car, house, and expensive electronics. You first have to decide the ultimate goal of the product and the characteristics it must have to achieve it. The same is true for choosing your holster. 

Before we dive into holster types and materials, let’s take a look at the key fundamentals of a holster: concealment, access, retention and comfort.


The primary function of your holster or other device used to carry your pistol is to conceal it on your person. Concealment means that a reasonably observant person would have little or no suspicion that you are carrying a pistol. In many situations, it is just as bad for a person to suspect you are carrying a gun as it is for that person to know you are carrying.


You must be able to get to your gun immediately when you need it. There are two components to access.These are physically grasping the firearm and being able to remove it from the holster or other carry device. 

Whatever carry mode you choose, you must be able to access and present your firearm as quickly as possible. 

There is often a tradeoff between concealment and accessibility. Holsters and other concealed carry devices offering the greatest concealment often do not afford optimum access and vice versa. 

As you will come to determine, an example of a holster that provides high concealment, yet does not afford the ability to draw very quickly would be an ankle holster. On the contrary, a holster that can provide immediate access, yet is not very concealable would be a crossdraw holster.

Keep in mind that the selection of any particular carry device is usually a compromise between concealment and access. The relative importance of each will be a primary consideration for the gun owner.


Your holster or other carry device should be able to retain its grip on your pistol. Consider activities such as running, jumping or any other strenuous activities. It should also retain if you sit, bend over, fall to the ground or end up grappling with an assailant. You should also consider retention in the event an attacker attempts to take your gun from you. 

The best form of retention is accomplished with snug-fitting holsters that are molded to a specific gun (friction fit) or held in place by spring tension. 

Although retention straps or devices that must be manually manipulated to remove your firearm from the device may afford a higher level of retention, they must be unfastened prior to the draw. This represents another step that must be performed under stress, which may slow your presentation. 

Ultimately, a properly made holster that is snugly fitted to the pistol usually allows a draw in one direction only, making removal by an assailant more difficult. Hip holsters with a forward tilt (“FBI cant”) make it harder for an assailant to remove the gun from behind. 

Fitted holsters often provide the individual a good level of retention with the ability to perform a fast presentation, unimpeded by straps that must be unfastened. Keep in mind that some carry devices, such as holster purses and fanny packs, almost always employ some sort of hook and loop retaining straps to secure and position the gun inside the device.


Finally, the often most overlooked factor in choosing a carry device is comfort. If your carry device is not comfortable, you are more likely to leave your gun at home. In addition, you may reveal the fact that you are carrying a gun if you are frequently readjusting its position and scratching where it irritates you.

An uncomfortable holster or other carry device often indicates that something is not quite right. The gun may be too heavy, the belt is too thin or tight or the holster may not position the gun in a manner that affords the most comfort.

Choosing appropriate equipment will contribute to comfortable carry for extended periods. Consider the belt you choose for a hip holster. It should be a “gun belt” or a heavy, wide belt that fits the holster belt openings tightly. If you choose a shoulder holster, consider wide, smooth cross straps. Be sure to choose a holster that has rounded edges where it contacts the body.

Many holster manufacturers offer a “body shield” on their holsters. This is a process in which the holster material that lies against the body rises to the height of the gun, so safeties, sights and otherwise steel or plastic edges are not rubbing your body while you are carrying.

Unfortunately, experimentation with different types and brands of carry devices may be the only way to find the one that is right for you. Also be mindful that some combinations, such as a heavy, large-framed pistol worn in a belt holster by a small person may never afford complete comfort.

Like the holster seen in the picture above? Get it from the NRAStore!

***For safety, all pistol carry devices should cover the trigger while it is in the holster. This would prevent the inadvertent pulling of the trigger during presentation and prevent any other object, such as fabric of a shirt or blouse snagging and pulling the trigger.
Concealed Carry Holster

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