What Makes a Good Open Carry Holster?
Jan 18, 2017
Is There A Best Open Carry Holster?
There is not one definite, perfect open carry holster for every demographic and every scenario. The real answer to this question relies instead on the individual open carrier. Aside from whether or not a holster will effectively hold a specific handgun, other factors come into play — like holster accessibility, retention, materials and size. Individual preferences and holster reliability are integral when determining whether or not an open carry holster is “good” or “bad.”
An OWB Holster Needs To Get The Job Done
Disregarding flashy whizbang features or hype, the OWB holster has to function. It’s simple. The holster is a utilitarian tool and it has to serve the individual. With that said, one has to weigh their preferences and body type against the correct holster choice and placement. If a holster is stored outside the waistband, it has to be securely attached to the body. Many have belt loops to fasten it to the waist. Others clip to the belt.
Whether or not one is chosen over the other (and at what position on the belt it’s placed) depends on body type, mobility and what someone’s day-to-day routine will consist of.
Once the holster is attached firmly and closely to the body, one has to think of where it will positioned. If it’s on the waist, there are several popular placements measured in the way a clock is.
- The three o’clock position is on the side of the body on the hip.
- The four and five o’clock position are just behind the hip.
- Shoulder Holsters
- Drop Leg Holster
- Ankle Holsters
- Belly Band Holsters
- Crossdraw Holsters
Those are just a few examples. Based on placement, the holster may need to be “canted” for accessibility.
Canting is a function many holsters incorporate. It’s the degree in which the holster is tilted forward or backward to maximize accessibility. A holster at three o’clock will often be positioned straight and narrow. Once the holster is placed near the back, it will often be canted forward to varying degrees. If it’s on the front of the waist, often called appendix carry, it may either be straight or slightly canted backward. Essentially, think about what actions and maneuvering will be required when open carrying and match the holster to that function. When it best serves the individual is when it’s the best type of open carry holster. Just one example of this: an open carrier with a larger belly driving with an OWB holster at the two o’clock position may find that their weapon uncomfortably juts into their stomach.
There Are Several Types Of Outside The Waistband Holsters
Luckily, the firearms community has matched multiple types of holsters to multiple functionalities. A few options:
Decide where on the body a holster would best suit individual needs. Some prefer the accessibility of a shoulder holster. Some dislike the weight of a firearm on their ankle when using an ankle holster. There are pros and cons to every option. Find what works best for you.
Some clothing companies make items like compression shirts that feature pocketed areas for the firearm — although, their efficacy is sometimes called into question. This is because a holster needs to have a certain level of retention and trigger guard coverage to ensure safety and ward against negligent discharge, which happens when a gun fires ammunition unexpectedly because the handgun owner didn’t secure the weapon appropriately.
Retention, which is classified in increasing levels, is the measurement of how securely a firearm is stored in a holster. There are some options that use only friction and tension to hold a firearm within the holster, which is called passive retention. Increasing levels of retention feature mechanisms like a strap on the top of the holster holding the weapon in place, which must then be actively disengaged to access the firearm. The higher the retention, the more likely the weapon will stay in the holster if impacted or accessed by others.
So, at this point, the gun owner has considered their body type, where the holster should be placed and how intensely the holster will hold the handgun within it. Holster materials and fit matter as well. Some prefer classic leather holsters, especially after they break in and contour more appropriately to the weapon.
Others prefer thermoplastics like kydex or boltaron that are sheets of heavy-duty plastic melted to fit the exact make and model of the weapon (leather holsters may also be shaped to the specific firearm) and attached to a hybrid of materials. These can either be flexible plastic with cushion added, leather backers or otherwise. Often retention is achieved through molding the materials to the specific make and model of the weapon and then applying tension, friction and/or other mechanisms. It’s a multi-faceted system, and there are several options available out there.
The best option is the one that feels the most natural and best serves the individual.
The Open Carry Holster Needs To Serve The Individual’s Lifestyle
How and where the open carry holster secures a firearm the body matters, sure, but different environments and actions may affect how effective the holster is for some folks. A sedentary desk job may affect one’s decision to place their handgun elsewhere on their body apart from their waist. Someone working construction might not prefer the ankle holster.
If one is trying to determine which holster will work best, they need to consider what they will be doing while carrying their chosen pistol or revolver. Surroundings and day-to-day routine will affect holster choice just as much as body type and material preference.
There is a common issue called the “holster drawer.” Many firearms owners will cycle through multiple types of holsters based on shifting need and preference. It’s not always a bad thing, but it can often be a graveyard of prior decisions and their subsequent upgrades. Before starting your own holster drawer, consider first the characteristics that will necessitate any given open carry holster.
Like many things in life, holster choice is a unique combination of personal preference and need.
About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter in his final year of studying public relations and apparel at the University of Idaho.