Just about every day, I get a call or e-mail from a reader going something like this: “Hey Roy, I just bought a Ruger LC9 (or other handgun). Can you tell me what holster I should buy?” The answer is: No, I can’t. It’d be like you asking me what shoes you should buy. I’d have no idea. A comfortable holster is like a pair of shoes — a very subjective, personal thing. A carry method fitting my own 170-pound frame, might not work on your 115- or 260-pound self. The type of gun (all-steel or lightweight?), the type of build you have, what you’ll be doing (duty gun? off-duty? trail pistol?) even the weather, all dictate the kind of holster you might look at. And, maybe a gun-bag, pack, case or other such thing might make better sense. In all honesty, it’s a genuine pain to actually carry a handgun on your belt in a holster all day, every day. Even the lightweight ones get heavy, prod you, make you have to keep your jacket on all the time and generally cramp your style.
Clint Smith is famous for saying, “A handgun should be comforting, not comfortable” — and he’s exactly right. I’ve carried guns for going on 40 years now, and I’ll be the first to tell you I cheat all the time when it comes to trying to stay comfy. I’ve tried about every holster style possible, guns of all shapes and sizes, packs, bags, goodies and widgets, and basically nothing is 100 percent. Some methods are comfortable, or at least tolerable for a time, then the weather changes, and you have to rethink things again.
For me, the only thing seeming to be consistent are small guns like J-frame S&W revolvers and small autos (like a Kimber Solo I carry) in a pocket holster or ankle rig. The ankle rig is exclusively one from Renegade, made of “surgical” elastic (there are others like it now). I’ve worn them for over 25 years and have never lost a gun out of one, and you can wear one every waking hour with no discomfort. I also wear suspenders from Duluth Trading company (a unique side-clip style) to help hold things up. Am I fashionable? Not usually, but my gun is secure and the suspenders help me to not be lazy and leave my gun at home.
If I do wear a belt holster, I tend toward simple belt-slide type rigs, usually with snaps so you can snap them on or off your belt easily. I also really like the new ultra-minimalist style, as epitomized by the Low Profile Belt Slide holster by Gould & Goodrich (see Carry Options, July/Aug 2013) or a similar one by Bianchi. It is essentially a simple flap of leather with two belt cuts in it. Your own belt is the “back” panel of the holster. It’s adaptable to just about any semi-auto, and when you take your gun out and stow it, the holster looks like a simple leather piece and most people would have no idea what it is.
Inside the waistband holsters seem to work for many people, especially slender people, and there are some very good new designs around. Keep in mind you generally need to buy pants one or two inches larger around the waist. Ditto for your belt. I’ve experimented with the new N82 models (see Gunnysack in this issue) and Versacarry rigs, and find them both workable — for me.
Pocket holsters need to be sorta’ “sticky” on the outside so when you draw your gun, the holster stays in your pocket. But even that’s not 100 percent so I practice drawing and sort of “wiping” the holster off with my off-hand as I draw. Just don’t cross your hand with the muzzle when you do it. Pocket holsters are handy since you can put your hand on a firing grip on the gun, in your pocket, if something seems amiss. Like the old saying goes, the fastest draw is one starting with the gun in your hand.
The CCW Breakaways pants are a real innovation and I wear them at times. They have a built-in simple pouch system allowing you to basically custom tailor the fit to your gun. I can actually carry a Kahr P45, Officer’s ACP 1911 or similar medium-sized auto perfectly comfortably, and the draw is very fast and sure. Their website explains it all well.
Packs and bags are good ideas, but you need to remember the gun is off your body. If you lose the pack you lose your gun (and reload, which you carry, right?). Companies like Maxpedition wrote the book on these “gun-packs” but now dozens of companies have joined the rush and everything from big “messenger” bags to small personal totes can be found with gun compartments. The draw tends to be slow and a bit fumbly-fingered, but at least you have a gun with you.
If you’re set on a standard belt holster, especially if you’re carrying a full-sized gun, be prepared to buy several before you get one you like. But don’t buy those $12 nylon rigs. They are shapeless, wear out fast and are often generic fits. If you have a $600 gun, buy a decent $100 holster. Then buy one or two more. Any old gun-guy has a big box of holsters. You will too. I just can’t carry the big, heavy guns anymore, like some people do. Or at least they say they do. I guess I’m just a whiner in my old age, and hate to be uncomfortable. Lightweight for me, thank you very much.
If you have questions about specific rigs you’re looking at, feel free to reach out. We likely have experience with the gear, or the maker. Do some research on your own, decide what method of carry seems right for you, then explore models in that category. But, be prepared to buy plenty of holsters. Besides, you will likely need to feed that growing box you have in your closet, anyway. For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/product-index and click on the company name.
By Roy Huntington