Handgun Holsters

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By Cory Rigby | SCHEELS Precision Shooting Expert

Holster selection is an important part of the gun buying and owning process. Your firearm will most likely be stored in 3 places: the gun safe, the range bag and a holster. You will only directly interact with the firearm while it is in the holster. This makes the selection of a holster very important.  If you select and properly fit the holster to your firearm, rest assured the firearm will ride both safely and securely. Selecting and fitting the right holster is imperative to being able to access and safely produce the firearm in a timely manner. This is important to both the competitive shooter as well as the self defense minded gun owner.

When selecting a holster, one of the most important parts of the process is determining the needed level of retention. Retention is how the holster will “hold onto” the firearm. With that in mind, when selling a holster the first question I like to ask is, “What kind of activities will a person be doing while wearing the holster?” Answers can range from long term rigorous activities, like hunting and mountain biking, short term access driven competition or everyday activities like grocery shopping. Each of these gun owners will be best served by a different type of holster, based on retention level.

The two most common levels of retention are level one, which is a passive retention system, and level two, which pairs a passive retention with a user activated form of retention.

A holster with level one passive retention would appeal to a person who needs to be able to draw or produce their firearm very quickly. Holsters of this style generally rely upon friction to keep the firearm holstered. Some level one retention holsters do have a tension screw, which is designed to allow the user an adjustable tension on the firearm. These holsters are used by many guns owners including hunters, concealed carriers and competitive shooters. Quick access during moderate activity is the norm for this style of holster.

A level two holster is used when a person is engaging in strenuous activities. This form of holster requires the user to not only overcome friction, but some sort of device or restraint holding the firearm in place. Examples would be a snap, buckle or a push to release mechanism. Active retention systems insure your firearm will stay put during strenuous activities like horseback riding, running or competitions where difficult obstacles will be encountered.

Once you have determined the required level of retention you should determine where and how they will position their firearm. This will help the salesperson determine the best type of holster for you. The most common types of holsters are hip, inside the waistband, shoulder, pocket and purse.

Hip Holster: This is the most common holster available. These holsters are attached to a belt or pant and ride on the user’s hip. This is a great choice for people who do not need to conceal their firearm but may need it quickly.

Inside the Waistband (IWB): An excellent choice for people who want to conceal their firearm. This is a very versatile offering as there are multiple effective locations a person can position this holster depending on how they dress for the day. This holster generally requires the user to wear a belt.

Shoulder Holster: This traditional holster places the firearm just below the armpit and braces the weight of the firearm on the user’s shoulders. This is a good option for people who want to concealed carry under a coat or spend much of their time in a seated position. Another benefit to this method of carry is that most modern shoulder holster systems use extra magazines to balance the weight of the firearm. This feature provides the user with a handy reload, should they need it. Users who are very active should be aware that this method of carry will allow the holstered firearm to move during rigorous activity.

Pocket Holster: This is a simple holster more aptly described as a cover. This style of holster is intended for people wanting to carry “micro size” firearms in their pockets or purse. The idea of this holster is to break up the outline of the firearm while protecting its operating systems from unintentional use.

Purse Holster: This is becoming a very popular platform for women to conceal their firearms throughout the day. The big advantage is the user does not have to change how they carry based upon what they are wearing.  Holsters are concealed in special pockets built into specifically designed purses that allow for quick access, while keeping the user’s firearm out of sight.

With the above information in mind, you should be ready to purchase a holster. Before you head to the store, be sure to grab your firearm, make sure it’s unloaded and bring it along! This will ensure the proper fit and allows you to test drive the holster in the store. If it is not possible to bring the firearm, make sure to note your firearm’s make, model, barrel length and caliber. This information will allow our experienced sellers to offer you an appropriate holster. Proper fit of the firearm is important for the holster to work as designed. Never purchase a holster that is not designed for your firearm. Poor fit can compromise not only comfort and the life of the holster, but more importantly it can compromise your safety.

When purchasing your holster, don’t forget to purchase some boxes of your favorite practice ammo. One of the most important parts of ensuring the holster selected will work well for you is practice. The firearm owner should practice exactly how they intend to use their holster. Start with the gun empty and develop a routine method for producing the firearm. This will insure the holster is working as designed and also build the owner’s confidence in proper use of the holster and firearm combination.