There is probably no other firearm as ubiquitous as the famed 1911. With over a hundred years of service history, there has never been a point that it was not a popular choice. It may not be as common with the modern shooter as the Glock or S&W but there are many dedicated followers who choose this firearm.
There are some specific methods of carry that are better for the 1911 than others and some holster styles that make carrying it easier. With this firearm more than others, you need to make a good decision. We will get into a few very nice holsters but before we do, let's look at a few things you may want to think on.
Table of Contents
- Which Carry Method is Best for a 1911?
- How to Choose 1911 Holster?
- Best 1911 Holster on the Market Review
- Best 1911 OWB Holsters
- Best 1911 IWB Holsters
- Best 1911 Shoulder Holsters
- Other Carry Positions
Which Carry Method is Best for a 1911?
Carry method is a personal choice but with the size and weight of a 1911, there are a few methods that are more popular and overall better. Carry with what works for you but if you are new, here are some methods you may want to consider more.
Anything that puts the gun on your hip is a great choice. This could be IWB or OWB. If you have a commander or other 4 inch or smaller pistol, appendix can be a good option.
The shoulder holster has remained a popular choice for the 1911 as well.
How to Choose 1911 Holster?
With the 1911, there are tons of holsters available in many different styles and materials. Below are some of the finer points to think on before you bite the bullet.
One problem many people fall into with the 1911 is getting a cheap holster. These are often made of soft nylon and are not up to the task. For a 1911 you need a serious holster.
Leather is always a great choice for a holster. It holds your pistol firmly and helps with retention of your firearm if you are in a scuffle. It can be a little slower to draw from.
Kydex and other hard plastics are good choices as well. They are faster to draw from but offer less retention in most cases. These are among the most popular options.
There are a few simple points to consider when choosing a holster to make sure it provides you with a safe carry situation.
You want a holster that covers your trigger completely at a minimum. This prevents anything from getting into the trigger guard and causing an accident you really don’t want.
An addition to this, you want what covers your trigger to be rigid enough that it can not be pressed into the trigger. Leather and Kydex are perfect for this.
With the 1911 and its safety, you want a holster that does not inadvertently push the safety to an off position. This can create a very dangerous situation.
For a clean draw, carry angle is very important. This is often referred to as the cant of a holster. This will change depending on your carry position.
For appendix, the appropriate angle is usually considered vertical, making it very easy. For most other carry positions, most holsters will be made for a clean draw.
Where it becomes subjective is with any hip carry position. The FBI tends to prefer between 15 and 20 degrees. Most holsters have at least a 10-degree cant. Some holsters will have no cant at all for a vertical draw.
Figuring out which works best for you may take some trial and error but anywhere between 10 and 15 degrees is a good starting point.
The size of your pistol will dictate how you carry and what holster works best for you. A full-size pistol is not a good choice for ankle carry for example. The 1911 is a rather heavy pistol so take into consideration how you will carry that pistol realistically.
The smaller models like the Commander can be carried in any location. It’s the larger pistols that can get a little tricky.
If you carry on your waist, invest in a good belt that is intended to hold a pistol. The belts you get at a clothing store are far too flimsy for the task. Make sure you get something up to the task. It will improve your draw, comfort, and the lifetime of your belt.
Get a holster specific to your pistol. There are a few exceptions to this but often universal holsters are a universally bad idea. They offer less in the way of safety, security, and comfort as well as ruin your draw stroke.
Don’t count on a single holster for your pistol. Holsters wear rather quickly if used a lot. Some holster styles wear faster than others. Hybrid holsters are notorious for this. This doesn’t mean your holster is bad, just that it will need replacing more often.
Best 1911 Holster on the Market Review
With all of the possible carry options, it would be difficult to say which holsters are best overall. What holster works best for you can depend on many factors. Instead we will provide you with a good cross section of holsters of many types and the best options for each.
Best 1911 OWB Holsters
1.) Galco Combat Master
Whether you want to open carry or conceal with a jacket, the Combat Master is easily one of the best OWB holsters ever made for the 1911 pistol. The design of this holster was developed to support the weight of the 1911 before being adapted to other pistols. This gives it the maximum level of support you need.
With double stitched, full grain leather it holds up amazingly well and has great retention even without a strap. It coves in such a way that getting a full grip on your pistol is possible while not compromising the holster’s ability to hold such a heavy gun.
This is a holster that has been used by police, military, and civilians for almost 30 years to great effect. It will fit your Colt, Springfield, or Kimber 1911 or just about any other standard 5 inch model without issue. Made in right or left handed. For the money, this is the best OWB ever made.
2.) Galco Speed Paddle
If you want something a little more high-speed but with that classic leather look, the Speed Paddle by Galco is a great bet. This is a favored style for competition for those who don’t like the Kydex for such a classic gun design.
Much of this holster evolved from Galco’s Combat Master but it has been scaled down to allow for a quick draw and more supported wear. The addition of the paddle allows for a lighter belt to be worn while still giving support to the pistol.
The body of the holster is still the double-stitched leather used on other Galco holsters but with the addition of a poly paddle. Unlike a conventional Galco holster, this one is somewhat adjustable for retention. The leather still has a firm hold but for concealed carry, you can loosen things up a bit for quicker access should you need it.
3.) 1791 Gunleather
When it comes to just a beautiful and solid leather holster, it's hard to beat some of the designs by 1791. Their holsters are stunning and innovative to still use such a classic material. The molding is a little less detailed than with some other brands but that hardly matters in most cases.
Unlike some holsters, 1791 uses a single stitch. While this does make the holster less durable in the long run, it allows them to keep a slightly slimmer fit for the holster. It looks clean and tidy with a single line. Especially with this holster which has an attached mag pouch.
The combo holster by 1791 has that same 1911 cant that has been popular since the 1970s. This greatly improves the draw stroke and makes getting the longer barrel out of the holster quicker. This is great in a tactical situation but can also be handy for hunting or any other time you want to have that gun out quickly.
4.) Comp-Tac International
Comp-Tac made some serious waves when they were innovating the hybrid holster but that has since died away with people preferring a sold Kydex holster in many cases. If you are after Kydex for your 1911, the International is the way to go!
With a classic paddle design, the International is fast with a great positive click when the gun is properly seated. You can get a variety of attachment and mounting options from Comp-Tac to improve this holster for your specific needs. This is a great option for competition use when speed counts.
You can get this holster in right or left handed and for a full-size, compact, or commander profile 1911. You can also get it for about any other pistol ever made. It is an all-around solid option with great retention overall and a quick draw when you need it. Comp-Tac may have lost some popularity but they still make an astounding holster!
Best 1911 IWB Holsters
1.) Alien Gear ShapeShift 4.0
To start off on a tactical high-note, the ShapeShift holsters by Alien Gear are exceedingly popular and very effective when it comes to concealed carry of any firearm. When you are looking at a pistol the size of a 1911, you need this technology if you want to keep your pistol hidden.
With everything adjustable, you get a custom fit making their already comfortable design even more comfortable. Though they have shrunk the footprint of their rugged holster base, it is still large enough to support a heavy pistol. And, since it isn’t leather, their composite base doesn’t wear nearly as fast.
This holster is also compatible with all of Alien Gear’s Shapeshift options should you want to diversify a little. They are USA Made and have one of the best warranties around. This is an all-around solid option for an IWB holster.
2.) Concealment Express Officers Model
Chances are if you are going to conceal a 1911, it's going to be a smaller model like an officers 3.5 inch. For those, a standard Kydex holster works great and the Kydex offered by Concealment Express is simply top notch! Satisfaction 100% guaranteed!
This is not one of those cheap kydex holsters but one that uses thicker .08” kydex for a superior hold on the weapon. Not only is retention better but the thicker Kydex causes less wear and will last far longer. Even with enhanced ruggedness, this holster sill comes in under 3 ounces total.
Like most Kydex holsters, you can adjust the Concealment Express to different cants and retention with a simple screw. It holds well but this style can seem a little floppy with heavier pistols. There is almost no chance of it coming off when you draw but it may feel a little weak.
3.) Relentless Tactical Defender
For those who want leather in an IWB, options are a little rarer. This is especially true if you want something quality that is going to last. Relentless Tactical has done one of the better jobs in this market with their Defender series.
Though normally a holster that had a little tighter fit would be good, with an IWB too tight with the added pressure of the belt can be a problem. This has led to a somewhat less molded holster that still retains well but without causing your pistol to stick on the draw.
Relentless uses hard bull-hide leather which is super tough. Though it only has a single stitch line, with the tougher leather, its unlikely to go anywhere. If it does, Relentless offers a lifetime guarantee. This is common with Kydex but almost unheard of with leather.
4.) FoxX Holsters Tuckable
If you are a fan of the hybrid design, those are available in classic leather and Kydex. Overall, these tend to be the most comfortable holsters out there. The one offered by FoxX is definitely one that fits well and won’t cause any rubbing issues.
Using a single panel of thick 9-ounce leather and a strong, thick kydex, the FoxX has great retention and better than average longevity for a hybrid holster. You can adjust the depth of concealment as well as the cant of the holster but retention is set from the factory.
Though this holster does have some weak points overall, it is a great hybrid holster and costs a fraction of what most holsters cost. It's also ready to ship right when you order it. No 7 week lead time on this model!
Best 1911 Shoulder Holsters
1.) Galco Miami Classic
Though the shoulder holster fell out of fashion in the early 90s, this throwback keeps it as trendy as it can be. This is the same model used by federal agents, law enforcement, and many 80s TV icons. Why? Because it's effective and looks amazing!
Like everything made by Galco, this is top grain leather with outstanding molding and stitching. The fit is perfect and with the molded leather snap, your pistol isn’t going anywhere. Durability on these holsters is simply amazing, the one I have was made in the late 1980s and with a little care, it's over 30 years old and still usable.
The thin leather straps are adjustable and the offside of the holster has a dual mag pouch. This was the go-to carry option for many people. This particular model carries horizontally with a slight cant upwards for a faster draw.
2.) Galco Vertical Holster
Where the Miami classic carries a gun lengthwise, their vertical holster positions the gun right under the armpit and down the side. While this is a slower draw, the pistol is more easily concealed and retention is far better. These were preferred more by civilians than police but they are highly effective.
The construction is similar to any other Galco holster will full grain leather, expert molding, and quality stitching. The molding on this holster is a little looser to accommodate a different draw stroke. You have a snap which can be a little different to undo and the pistol comes out somewhat sideways.
The opposite side of the holster is balanced by a vertical mag pouch with two mags held in place by snap closures. This is a solid system that will keep your mags in place but can be harder to access. Of the two Galco holsters, this is the better for a heavy firearm that needs good concealment. The other is more practical and faster.
3.) Desantis New York Undercover
If you need a shoulder holster for deep concealment, you want to start with the right pistol. Instead of a full-sized 1911, you want to go with a commander sized model. If that is the case, the Desantis New York is probably the should holster for you!
Much like any great holster, you need top-grain leather to start off with. This leather should be molded, and the Desantis is expertly molded. Probably the best-molded holster produced in a shoulder holster setup. This gives it outstanding retention that is only complimented by the rear snap.
This is a horizontal carry holster which works great with the smaller format of the Commander sized pistols. The opposite side has the standard two mag pouches carried vertically and closed with snaps. Unlike the Galco, these are actually fairly easy to get to when you need them. All around, this is a well made and well-designed holster setup.
4.) UTG Deluxe Universal
The previous holsters cover most of the options in shoulder holsters but there is one more thing that can be improved upon, comfort. While this is a universal holster and normally, they are not a good option, this works fairly well as the nylon is quite thick and the holster has a strong retention snap.
While I would encourage any of the other holsters first, the added padding of the thick nylon shoulder braces on this holster are far more comfortable if you have shoulder problems. They more effectively spread the weight across a larger area.
It may seem like the small weight of a pistol would be a non-issue, even the three pounds that you would normally be supporting can add up over the hours you are carrying. This mitigates that issue. It’s also incredibly cheap if you are wanting to try a shoulder holster without the big investment.
Other Carry Positions
While the above positions are the most common and generally most successful carry methods for a 1911, there are a few other methods used that can have varying levels of success depending on what size your 1911 is. Frequently, you will want to choose something other than the standard 5” model with these methods.
Appendix 1911 Holster – Alien Gear Shapeshift Appendix
Much like the shapeshift IWB, the appendix model is a very good and very comfortable holster that carries well and holds a pistol securely. It is a little thicker than some appendix models but this allows the holster to be modular. You could get this holster and with the attachments exchanged, turn it into an IWB, OWB, or most other designs.
All ShapeShift holsters use the same neoprene composite backing which is both comfortable and durable. The outside is a thicker Kydex shell that is very well molded and holds the pistol securely. The clip system uses the same kydex and grips well as long as you have a belt. Not a great choice for just a waistband.
It comes with a lifetime guarantee as well as a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. This is as good as you get in the holster world. Most likely you are never going to need either.
Ankle Holster – Galco Ankle Glove
The Ankle Glove by Galco has long been regarded as the most comfortable ankle holster around. It can be a little loose fitting on some people. Still, the sheepskin keeps a decent grip as long as your pistol is not too heavy. And, since it's made for a 3” 1911, that shouldn’t be a problem.
This is a steerhide holster that is quite well molded and does what it should. Just like any Galco. It holds the gun very well which is an important consideration for an ankle holster and this is complemented by the thumb break strap.
If you want an ankle holster for your 1911 and you have an appropriately sized pistol, you aren’t likely to find any better and none more comfortable. Galco always seems to get it right. That is why they have so many features on this list.
Belly Band Holster - ComfortTac Ultimate Belly Band
Most belly band holsters are universal and that creates some problems like improper fit for your pistol and lack of safety due to soft material over the trigger guard. ComfortTac has found a way to make a belly band that is universal but solves most of those issues.
Part of the success of this holster is that it is made to be worn low on the waist so your belt or waistband helps with retention. The pocket is shaped well enough to the pistol to keep it in place without moving around. The final problem of the weak trigger protection is solved by the retention strap.
By using an oversized leather pad on both sides of the retention snap, you have a shield that covers the trigger guard. Because of these features, this is the only belly band I will recommend. The fact that it has accessory pouches and a nice, padded belt are extras that are worthy of note.
Drop Leg Holster – Safariland SLS
Where the other holsters need a smaller pistol, the drop leg is made for bigger guns with a full sized frame and good ammo capacity. In this realm, the Safariland has always been the elite holster though many don’t ever try it due to a higher cost.
This is a shame as this really is the best drop thigh holster on the market. The holster itself is very rugged and durable and is backed on a padded frame that holds it securely to the leg during the draw stroke. This allows you to have a fast, clean draw every time.
The straps and buckles are oversized for strength and longevity. The retention strap holds everything in place and every part of the holster is adjustable. This is the cleanest draw you are likely to get from a drop leg and that is one reason it's among the only such holsters to be used by a national military.
The 1911 is one of those firearms that every true gun lover should own. If you own it, you may as well carry it. Due to weight and size, getting the right holster is perhaps more important with the 1911 than any other pistol on the market today.
Just be cautious if you have one of the non-standard 1911s like the Para. These sometimes have a little trouble with standard 1911 holsters. You can usually check with a manufacturer who should have one with the appropriate measurements for your gun.