Aside from choosing a concealed carry weapon, one of the most important decisions you will make is which holster you will use to carry that firearm. While the best concealed carry holster is the one that works best for you, there are a few specific things you need to consider. After all, not all holsters are created equal.
Some holsters are better suited to concealed carry than others. However, with thousands of options to choose from, discerning which ones will work can be a difficult task.
If you’re feeling lost and don’t know where to start, don’t worry. We're here to help. In this article, we’ll look at the qualities that make a holster ideal for concealed carry. We’ll also cover different types of holsters to help you discreetly carry your sidearm. And before we’re finished, we’ll share a few of our favorite models.
If you do not have time for the details, here are our top picks for concealed carry holsters:
- 1Alien Gear ShapeShift Paddle Holster - Best OWB Holster for Concealed Carry
- 2Crossbreed Holsters MiniTuck - Best IWB Holster for Concealed Carry
- 3Blackhawk ARC - Best Appendix Carry Holster
- 4DeSantis Sky Cop - Best Cross Draw Holster for Concealed Carry
- 5Galco Miami Classic Shoulder System - Best Shoulder Holster for Concealed Carry
- 6ComfortTac Ultimate Holster - Best Belly Band Holster for Concealed Carry
- 7DeSantis Die Hard Ankle Rig - Best Ankle Holster for Concealed Carry
- 8Allen Spiderweb Holster - Best Pocket Holster for Concealed Carry
- 9Concealment Express IWB Holster - Best Kydex Holster for Concealed Carry
- 10Relentless Tactical Defender - Best Leather Holster for Concealed Carry
Table of Contents
- The Importance of a Proper Concealed Carry Holster
- What Makes a Great Concealed Carry Holster?
- Kydex Vs. Leather Holsters for Concealed Carry
- A Word About Retention
- The Best Concealed Carry Holster Styles
- Best Concealed Carry Holster Brands
- Best Concealed Carry Holster on the Market Reviews
- 1 Alien Gear ShapeShift Paddle Holster - Best OWB Holster for Concealed Carry
- 2 Crossbreed Holsters MiniTuck - Best IWB Holster for Concealed Carry
- 3 Blackhawk ARC - Best Appendix Carry Holster
- 4 DeSantis Sky Cop - Best Cross Draw Holster for Concealed Carry
- 5 Galco Miami Classic Shoulder System - Best Shoulder Holster for Concealed Carry
- 6 ComfortTac Ultimate Holster - Best Belly Band Holster for Concealed Carry
- 7 DeSantis Die Hard Ankle Rig - Best Ankle Holster for Concealed Carry
- 8 Allen Spiderweb Holster - Best Pocket Holster for Concealed Carry
- 9 Concealment Express IWB Holster - Best Kydex Holster for Concealed Carry
- 10 Relentless Tactical Defender - Best Leather Holster for Concealed Carry
- Best CCW Holsters by Firearms
- Final Thoughts
The Importance of a Proper Concealed Carry Holster
Your holster is more than a handy way to tote around a gun. A concealed carry holster actually has a pretty complex job. It needs to do several things well to be effective. Here is a quick rundown of the many tasks a good concealed holster needs to master.
Your concealed carry holster should do more than simply hold your sidearm. It also needs to hold that weapon securely.
A good holster will secure your weapon while you go about all the motions of your day. With the proper holster, you shouldn’t need to worry about your firearm slipping from its place of concealment when you bend over, jog up the stairs, or reach for some spare change. Once you put your firearm into your holster, it should stay there until you remove it.
Safety is the main reason most people choose to carry a firearm. You should trust that your sidearm can be used to protect you and those around you if you encounter a serious threat.
Guns are dangerous weapons and should definitely be treated with respect. Stuffing a firearm into a holster that doesn’t also help protect you from the weapon is downright careless and irresponsible.
A good concealed carry holster will provide ample protection for your trigger to help prevent accidental discharge. The design should also allow you to draw the weapon without snagging or engaging the trigger.
Protecting Your Firearm
While you count on your firearm to protect you, you should also be able to count on your holster to protect your firearm. A quality holster will protect your sidearm from weather, sweat, dirt, dust, and general wear and tear. The right holster will help ensure your firearm works reliably if you ever need it in a real self-defense situation.
Access to Your Firearm
Your concealed carry holster should allow you easy access to your weapon, even if you need to draw it from deep concealment. Although you want your holster to hold your firearm securely, it should come out easily when you need it. Too much retention can be just as dangerous as too little.
A good holster will also help position your firearm in a way that initiates a proper grip and an easy draw. This position will be different for different people. The trick is to find what works best for you.
Your concealed carry holster needs to be comfortable. Your gun will spend most of its time riding in your holster. If wearing that holster is uncomfortable, you will be much less likely to wear it. Since a weapon on your person is better than one you left at home, finding a concealed carry holster that isn’t a pain to wear is crucial to successful concealed carry.
What Makes a Great Concealed Carry Holster?
Those of us who conceal carry expect a lot from our holsters. In addition to the requirements we outlined above, the right concealed carry holster will do the following:
Kydex Vs. Leather Holsters for Concealed Carry
Most modern holsters are made from either high-tech Kydex or traditional leather.
Kydex is a modern thermoplastic resin. This easy-to-mold composite material is strong, durable, completely waterproof, and requires very little maintenance. At most, you may need to wipe the exterior with a damp cloth from time to time.
Kydex is pretty rigid, which means it holds its form over time without stretching, tightening, or deforming. This quality increases the holster’s durability and ensures your weapon retention doesn’t degrade with use. However, because Kydex is hard and doesn’t bend, it can be uncomfortable, especially when you wear it directly against your skin.
Kydex holsters are molded to fit specific firearms, so you need to be sure you purchase the right design for your preferred EDC weapon.
Leather is the traditional holster material. Sidearms have been carried in tanned animal hide for as long as people have carried sidearms.
Leather is typically considerably more comfortable than Kydex. Not only is leather softer and more flexible, it will also mold to your body with use. Most leather holsters have a “break in” period which softens the leather and increases its comfort levels.
Leather holsters are usually more expensive than synthetic Kydex. Exposure to moisture and sweat can damage the leather, sometimes causing deformation and loss of retention. Leather holsters require a little extra care to ensure they last.
Hybrid holsters use both leather and Kydex elements in an attempt to provide the best of both worlds. Although design features vary, most hybrid holsters feature a soft, comfortable leather backing and a molded Kydex “pocket” designed to protect your pistol.
A Word About Retention
Holster retention is what keeps your gun secure in its holster. Proper retention is important because it allows you to go about your daily activities without worrying about losing your sidearm.
Your concealed carry holster also needs to keep your firearm secure when you encounter something outside of normal. You don’t want your gun to go skittering dangerously if you accidentally fall down the stairs or slip on a wet floor.
Your holster’s retention also helps keep your weapon out of the hands of other people. If you end up in a tussle with a “bad guy”, your holster should hold onto your weapon until you pull it from its place to defend yourself. That retention will also keep your loaded firearm out of the hands of curious children, either your own or someone else's.
However, too much retention can be just as dangerous as too little. Excessive retention could hinder your ability to draw your weapon when you need it most.
So how much retention do you need? There isn’t an easy answer to that question. However, understanding how retention works can help you make an informed decision before you commit to a concealed carry holster.
Most modern concealed carry holsters provide retention usually in one of two ways (or sometimes a combination of both).
Holsters that provide active retention rely on some sort of mechanism to lock the weapon securely into place. The mechanism must be activated before you can draw your weapon. These holsters usually require pushing a button or unsnapping a strap to release the firearm from the holster.
Because active retention holsters require an additional step before you can draw the weapon, it can add valuable seconds to your draw speed.
Holsters that feature passive retention usually rely on tension or friction to hold the weapon securely inside the holster. One of the major benefits of using a passive retention holster is there is no need to manipulate any sort of mechanism to access your weapon. Instead, the draw itself frees the weapon from the holster.
With fewer steps or barriers to drawing your firearm, passive retention holsters provide easy accessibility. The drawback is that it can also be easier for someone else to release the gun from the holster.
What Type of Retention Do I Need?
It really depends on what makes you feel most comfortable. However, If you are discreetly concealing a handgun under your clothing, the possibility of someone attempting to disarm you is relatively small.
If you work in law enforcement (or some other career where you regularly encounter problematic individuals) or are regularly around curious children, the added security of an active retention holster could save someone’s life. That life could actually be your own.
The Best Concealed Carry Holster Styles
Not every CCW holder has the same needs. Thankfully, there are plenty of holster styles to choose from. Here is a quick run-down of the most popular styles for concealed carry.
An OWB (or outside the waistband) holster attaches your weapon to the outside of your pants. Some OWB models feature a wide paddle that slips inside of the waistband, leaving the main part of the holster that contains the weapon hanging outside of your pants. OtherOWB designs attach to a belt either by clipping it in place or by sliding the belt through a slot on the back of the holster.
Wearing a weapon in an OWB holster is one of the most comfortable carry methods, because the holster doesn’t dig into your skin. You also don’t have to worry about stuffing the bulk of your sidearm (and the holster) inside of your pants, which some people find plenty uncomfortable.
OWB holsters facilitate a quick draw. Most versions provide a clear presentation of your grip so you can easily wrap your hand around it and draw without excessive fumbling.
The main drawback to an OWB holster is that they can be fairly difficult to conceal. Because the holster and your weapon sit outside of your pants, you may need to add a coat, jacket, or some other exterior layer to effectively conceal your weapon.
Many OWB holsters are pretty bulky, which can cause you to bump your weapon against furniture or other objects in your environment. OWB holsters can also be difficult to work around when strapping on a seat belt.
OWB holsters are a good option for full-size handguns like the Glock 19 or Ruger SR 1911. Just be aware that the size of these weapons in an OWB holster can make it pretty hard to effectively conceal them.
An IWB (in the waistband) holster is the most popular type of holster used for concealed carry. As the name implies, the best IWB holster lets you carry your sidearm inside your pants. Most IWB holsters attach either directly to your pants or to a belt using loops or clips.
IWB holsters hold the weapon tight against your body, helping to reduce the profile and minimize printing through your clothing. This makes it much easier to effectively conceal your firearm.
However, IWB holsters do have some disadvantages. Drawing a weapon that is tucked inside your pants can prove difficult, especially if you are wearing tight or bulky clothing. They can also be problematic for inexperienced shooters. You will want to practice your draw until you can smooth out the rough spots.
IWB holsters can also be uncomfortable, especially during the hot summer months or when you are exercising.
Sub-compact pistols and IWB holsters make a good match. If your preferred sidearm is a Glock 17, Glock 27, Springfield XDS, or Sig P320, an IWB holster may be the perfect option for you.
Appendix Carry Holster
When you carry your handgun on your waist positioned between your navel and your hip, this is often referred to as appendix carry. Sometimes referred to as the 2 o’clock position, it places your weapon near the spot where your appendix is located (hence the name).
Appendix carry holsters are usually some form of IWB with certain features that make them well-suited for this carry position.
Appendix carry holsters make it easy to conceal your weapon as this position allows the natural drape of an untucked shirt to hide your firearm. It is also easy to access your firearm from this position. You can also easily tuck an appendix holster into your waistband with minimal finagling, making them the perfect on-the-go carry option.
Although appendix carry has been gaining popularity in recent years, it still has plenty of critics. There are some safety concerns with appendix carry because the muzzle rests on your leg (or against other, more intimate parts of your anatomy). While an accidental discharge from this position would be catastrophic, the risks are dramatically reduced when you use a quality holster that properly secures the trigger guard.
Carrying in this position can be uncomfortable as it can leave the backside of the gun digging into your midsection, especially when you’re sitting down.
Cross Draw Holster
A cross draw holster is really any IWB or OWB holster with a special cant (or angle) that allows you to easily draw the weapon from your non-dominant side. Like appendix carry, a cross draw holster positions your gun between your navel and your hip. However, cross draw places the weapon on the opposite side of the navel with the grip sitting closer to your shooting hand.
This position offers the same advantages as appendix carry but eliminates the potentially dangerous muzzle sweep.
Once a stylish and popular way for law enforcement personnel to carry a sidearm, shoulder holsters have largely fallen out of favor. However, many shooters still prefer these classic holsters for carrying their EDC weapon.
Although many gun owners find a shoulder holster an uncomfortable way to carry a handgun, these rigs provide welcome balance and support for heavier, full-size pistols and revolvers. Because the weight of the weapon is evenly distributed over a larger area of the body, a good shoulder rig can actually make carrying heftier firearms surprisingly comfortable, especially when you need to carry them for extended periods.
A shoulder rig can also be a major asset if you spend a lot of time driving, as your seatbelt will not get in the way of accessing your firearm.
It can be a bit tricky to properly conceal a full-size handgun in a shoulder rig. You’ll definitely need the help of a heavy jacket or loose-fitting suit coat.
Good shoulder holsters can also be pretty expensive. However, if you want to carry in a shoulder rig, you won’t want to pinch too many pennies. Cheap shoulder holsters are insanely uncomfortable.
Belly Band Holster
A belly band holster is a piece of stretchy material that wraps around your midsection and features pockets for holding your firearm and extra magazines. Because the elastic nature of these holsters pulls your handgun tight against your body, they are a great option when you need deep concealment.
Many women love using a belly band for concealed carry because these holsters work with almost any clothing option. You don’t need a belt or even a sturdy waistband for this holster. It simply wraps around your body and straps in place with Velcro.
These versatile holsters allow you to position your firearm anywhere on your torso, including your waist, hip, armpit, and the small of your back. A quality belly band even makes a great option for jogging, biking, or other strenuous physical activities.
However, belly bands do have some drawbacks. Drawing your firearm from a belly band isn’t exactly a quick-draw affair. Re-holstering your weapon can also be a nightmare.
Although ankle holsters don’t provide the best accessibility, they are a great way to carry a back-up weapon you can use in case your primary firearm fails.
Ankle carry has far more drawbacks than it has advantages. Ankle holsters are uncomfortable, difficult to draw from, and can expose your sidearm to dirt, dust, and grime. However, if this is the only workable way to carry a self-defense gun, then it is definitely better than going unarmed.
Ankle holsters are best suited for carrying small j frame revolvers or micro pistols like the Ruger LCP or Sig P365.
If you have a tiny pocket pistol, it’s very tempting to just slip it in your pocket and go. After all, the name suggests you should carry it in your pocket. However, just stuffing a handgun in your pocket, no matter how small the weapon may be, is dangerous and irresponsible. If you plan to carry a firearm in your pocket, you should always use a quality pocket holster.
Pocket holsters provide extra safety for pocket carry by keeping the trigger covered. Some versions also help keep your pistol properly positioned inside your pocket for an easy draw. A good holster will also help break up the outline of your pistol to prevent printing through your clothing.
Don’t expect to stuff a full-size pistol in your pants pocket. Pocket holsters are designed for small, lightweight pistols.
You will need to carefully consider your clothing choices if you plan to pocket carry. You’ll want to wear clothing with ample pocket space. Tight pants make it hard to conceal your weapon and can interfere with your draw.
Best Concealed Carry Holster Brands
Just like optics, there are a ton of companies making holsters these days. It almost seems like a new holster company pops up every minute. However, some companies do a much better job of designing functional, high-quality holsters for concealed carry than others.
We’ve compiled this list of some of the most reputable holster manufacturers in the industry. While this list is by no means exhaustive, every company on it consistently produces some of the best quality holsters money can buy.
Alien Gear Holsters
Alien Gear specializes in high-quality Kydex and hybrid holsters, and all of their products are proudly designed and manufactured in the USA. All Alien Gear holsters feature extra safety features, including fully wrapped trigger guard areas and adjustable retention. Alien Gear even lets you test drive any of their products for a full 30 days before you commit.
DeSantis Gunhide, Inc.
An American, family-owned company, DeSantis has been making beautiful, high-quality leather holsters for almost 50 years. Owner, Gene DeSantis started sewing holsters by hand at his kitchen table in 1972. Today, the company is one of the largest holster manufacturers in the world. DeSantis has high standards of craftsmanship, and their leather holsters are so beautiful, you will be tempted to show them off rather than use them for concealment.
CrossBreed Holsters, LLC
Specializing in hybrid holsters, CrossBreed's main goal is to create unique, functional holsters by incorporating the best features of other designs and tossing less-than-perfect elements. This approach has resulted in some of the most functional concealment holsters on the planet.
It’s easy to think the company’s name is a reference to their hybrid designs. However, owner Mark Craighead readily admits that CrossBreed is a reference to his savior Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made on the cross.
CrossBreed offers a two-week, try-it-free guarantee and a lifetime warranty on most of their products. They also have some of the best customer service in the industry.
Galco International, LTD
Originally known as “The Famous Jackass Leather Company,” Galco has an almost stubborn dedication to quality and customer service. The company garnered global attention when their Jackass Shoulder Rig was regularly featured on the popular 80s TV show, Miami Vice.
Galco products have stormed enemy lines with US military pilots and infantrymen. They are also a favorite brand for law enforcement, and they have a huge fan club of armed civilians that spans the globe.
Best Concealed Carry Holster on the Market Reviews
1 Alien Gear ShapeShift Paddle Holster - Best OWB Holster for Concealed Carry
Although some OWB holsters can be hard to conceal, this one from Alien Gear has a sleek design and an attractive appearance that makes concealment easier than ever.
This OWB holster is also compatible with Alien Gear’s popular ShapeShift Modular Holster System. This allows you to easily shift from one carry method to another as your needs change.
The paddle attachment on the ShapeSHift OWB is incredibly durable and easily and securely hooks to your waistband. It also features a retention lip that holds the paddle firmly in place. Both the cant and retention are fully adjustable for ease of draw and maximum comfort.
2 Crossbreed Holsters MiniTuck - Best IWB Holster for Concealed Carry
This CrossBreed MiniTuck is one of the best-selling IWB holsters on the planet, and it’s easy to see why. With a slim, low-ride profile, this holster is absolutely perfect for concealed carry. It virtually vanishes under almost any shirt, whether you prefer to tuck in the hem or not.
Like all CrossBreed holsters, the MiniTuck features a soft backing made from premium cowhide leather and a mounted Kydex pocket that provides a safe, durable spot for your firearm.
The MiniTuck features a secure, dual clip design that helps distribute the weight of your weapon over a larger area. This longer design helps prevent your sidearm from sagging your pants, even when you aren’t wearing a belt. The construction is admittedly bulky, which could be a major turn-off for small-framed gun owners.
3 Blackhawk ARC - Best Appendix Carry Holster
The Blackhawk ARC (an acronym for “appendix reversible carry”) is specifically engineered for comfortable appendix carry. It features a super slim profile and an ergonomic design that helps alleviate some of the discomfort often associated with this carry position.
A sturdy and durable IWB holster, the ARC can be used by both right- and left-handed shooters. It comes with two different belt clips that can be swapped out to match the width of your belt. You can also adjust the holster’s cant, ride height, and retention to customize your carry and optimize comfort.
The ARC has an open-top design that works well with practically any style sights. It also features a special front sight channel that provides a smooth, unhindered draw.
4 DeSantis Sky Cop - Best Cross Draw Holster for Concealed Carry
Designed specifically for cross draw, the DeSantis Sky Cop is situated at the perfect height and angle for full-size pistols. Made from premium saddle leather, the Sky Cop offers an attractive option for cross draw fans.
Although this holster is designed to fit large frame auto loaders and small frame revolvers, it is surprisingly easy to conceal for an OWB holster.
The Sky Cop features an adjustable tension device for added security. We only wish the cant and carry height were also adjustable. However, the quality is awesome, and the angle and design should work for most shooters.
5 Galco Miami Classic Shoulder System - Best Shoulder Holster for Concealed Carry
Galco’s Miami Classic may be the most famous shoulder holster on the face of the planet. Although many companies have attempted to imitate the Miami Classic, this is a direct descendant of the original shoulder system released by Galco’s forerunner, The Famous Jackass Leather Company, in the early 1970s.
Comfortable and perfectly balanced, this shoulder rig is perfect for full-size, large caliber handguns.
The Miami Classic is crafted from premium center-cut steer hide. All components of the rig are fully adjustable for a perfect fit. All four points of the harness move independently, providing complete freedom of movement. You can also customize the draw angle to suit your personal preferences. .
6 ComfortTac Ultimate Holster - Best Belly Band Holster for Concealed Carry
The ComfortTac Belly Band is a perfect way to securely and discreetly carry your sidearm. Made from pliable, breathable neoprene, the ComfortTac Belly Band is super comfortable, even on hot, sticky summer days. The material is flexible and won’t pinch or pull the sensitive skin around your midsection during periods of intense physical activity. This makes this holster perfect for jogging, biking, and tactical PT.
The ComfortTac belly band fits both male and female bodies. It also pairs well with just about anything you may have hanging in your closet.
7 DeSantis Die Hard Ankle Rig - Best Ankle Holster for Concealed Carry
Finding a comfortable ankle rig isn’t always an easy task, but the DeSantis Die Hard definitely fits the bill.
This attractive, high-quality holster is crafted from molded top grain saddle leather. For extra comfort, the leather is lined with plush, silky-soft sheepskin.
The holster leather is molded specifically for your handgun and features a smooth, rounded design that prevents your holster from rubbing, making this holster perfect for all-day wear.
The Die Hard straps to your ankle by a breathable, padded neoprene band that provides full freedom of movement. There is even an optional calf-strap to help prevent your ankle holster from sliding or shifting on days when you may be more active.
8 Allen Spiderweb Holster - Best Pocket Holster for Concealed Carry
The Allen Spiderweb holster is ideal for discreet, convenient pocket carry. It fits easily into a jacket pocket or slips perfectly into the front pocket of your favorite jeans or dress slacks.
The Spiderweb Holster features a sticky exterior with a raised web pattern designed to prevent the holster from shifting around inside your pocket. Not only does this tacky web pattern keep your holster secure as you go about your day, it also keeps it firmly in place when you draw your pistol. For a super smooth draw, the holster also features a slick, low-friction interior.
The Allen Spiderweb is available in 12 different sizes, which assures a good fit no matter which weapon you need to slip in your pocket. We think it is a great option for carrying your Glock 23.
9 Concealment Express IWB Holster - Best Kydex Holster for Concealed Carry
One of the best-selling IWB holsters in the United States, this ultra lightweight Kydex holster has plenty to offer. It has a tough, durable design that offers rock solid protection for your weapon. At the same time, it features a comfy, minimalist design that makes it easy to forget you have a holster tucked in your waistband.
Concealment Express added a full-length Sweat Guard for breathable comfort. The Sweat Guard also protects your firearm from corrosive sweat and moisture.
The Concealment Express IWB features adjustable retention so you can achieve the perfect balance of safety and accessibility. You can also personalize the cant to accommodate almost any carry position. A rear sight guard and undercut trigger guard round out the features of this high-quality holster to provide a smooth, unhindered draw whenever you need it.
10 Relentless Tactical Defender - Best Leather Holster for Concealed Carry
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why this leather IWB holster from Relentless Tactical has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings on the internet. Made from premium American bull hide, the Defender is an absolutely gorgeous holster.
You can choose from three stunning color options, including traditional whiskey-barrel brown, classy midnight black, and eye-catching charred oak. These holsters are so handsome it’s a shame they are designed for concealed carry. You will definitely want to show yours off to your friends.
Unlike most of our favorite concealed carry holsters, The Defender IWB is not model specific. Because the leather is not molded to fit the exact dimensions of your firearm, you could potentially carry your 9mm M&P Shield and your.40 caliber Glock 23 in the same holster, although we don’t recommend doing it at the same time.
Best CCW Holsters by Firearms
In addition to effectively accommodating your preferred carry position, you also need a holster that will fit your specific firearm or the other carrying methods. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out our full guides and reviews for more information.
Carrying a concealed firearm is a huge responsibility. For the safety of you and those around you, it is always best to keep your sidearm on your person, not in a purse or backpack. A comfortable holster that offers weapon security is the best way to arm yourself in this modern age.
The bad news? There is no one-size-fits-all best concealed carry holster. Ultimately, each person needs to determine which style will best meet their needs. There is some good news, however. There are plenty of holster options on the market. This means armed citizens in search of a holster can find the perfect holster for any lifestyle, handgun, or wardrobe selection.