AFTER TUBS AND TUBS OF HOLSTERS TESTED, HERE ARE THE BEST CONCEALED CARRY HOLSTERS
Finding the right concealed carry holster can be a real struggle and when you’re new to CCW it can feel totally overwhelming. Thankfully, we got your six. After testing way too many holsters, here are the best CCW holsters we’ve used.
But first, some quick education about holsters and what you need to know when looking for the right one.
WHAT YOU NEED FROM A HOLSTER
Safety is the end goal of using a holster. From protecting the trigger to keeping it secured to your person, a holster is there to protect you and the people around you. Without this everything else is moot.
Retention is part of keeping you safe but it’s also a tactical necessity. Allowing you to live your life and not lose your gun is key, as is preventing your weapon from being easily taken from you. Good retention can come in a few flavors, but for CCW it normally takes the form of friction and a tight-fitting holster.
Comfort might seem like a weak requirement, but I’ll put it up there with the top 3. If your holster sucks to carry, you won’t carry. If you’re not carrying… what is the point of all this? A gun (and holster) that you carry every day is infinitely better than a gun/holster that you carry sometimes.
Concealable is always a concern but this more has to do with what gun you choose than the holster. That said, a good holster can make a compact gun disappear or a full-size gun very hard to spot.
Draw comes from good training and a good holster. A great holster will adjust a little and let you place your weapon in the perfect position to get a good master grip on it and draw smoothly without flagging yourself. However, this can be trained around a little.
Re-holstering isn’t high on the list of must-haves but it’s nice to have. Generally, re-holstering is going to happen during training. If you’re spending hours doing draw reps, the ability to get your gun back in the holster without fumbling with it for 15 seconds every time will add up.
HOW TO CHOOSE A CCW HOLSTER
Kydex Vs. Leather Vs. Hybrid
There are really only three materials that you need to think about when it comes to holsters. Kydex, leather, and a hybrid between the two.
For decades the standard was leather. Leather is comfy, it forms to your gun over time, and it’s easy to work with. But it also doesn’t breathe making you sweat more. It doesn’t hold its shape well when you are trying to reholster. And it can stretch or deform over time. It also just doesn’t play well with things like optics or lights. Plus, retention normally sucks unless there’s a thumb strap.
Kydex is much newer and has taken the holster world by storm. Kydex is the brand name for a thermoplastic made by Sekisui SPI. It’s fairly cheap, easy to work with, molds to whatever shape you need, is lightweight, rigid, durable, and comes in a ton of sizes. Basically, a wonderful material for things like holsters or scabbards.
Hybrid designs simply combine Kydex and leather. Normally using a leather backer for comfort against your skin and a Kydex shell to actually hold the gun.
Everything has pros and cons, try some out and find what you like. For starting out, I strongly recommend Kydex.
How/Where On Your Body You Carry
IWB stands for, In Waistband, this places the gun between you and your belt. This is by far the most common method of concealed carry since it’s secure, hidden, and not hard to do for most body types. Where you carry IWB can make a difference. I carry just a little bit in front of my strong side hip. Some people carry at or behind their hip, some in the small of their back. All of it is IWB, just different flavors.
AIWB means Appendix In Waistband and while technically a flavor of IWB, AIWB needs a different style of holster to do well. If you’re not sure, AIWB means it sits in front of your appendix or basically just to the side and above your groin. Yes, this means your CCW will be pointed at your… special parts. For a lot of people, this is an instant turn-off. AIWB also requires a more fit body type, but if you can carry like this and want to, it offers advantages in draw speed, comfort, and the ability to draw with either hand if required.
Shoulder holsters are not very common these days because the rigs aren’t amazing. If you’ve ever seen Miami Vice or almost any other cop show in the 80s, you’ve likely seen someone using a shoulder holster. Useful for people wearing suits or who sit in cars a lot, but have issues.
Belly band holsters are popular mostly for women, but guys have been embracing them lately also. Effectively a wrap that goes around your belly, these don’t rely on belts or pants and can be used with all sorts of clothing options – most notably yoga pants, dresses, gym shorts, etc. If you have the right body type for it these are great.
Ankle holster used to be for backup guns only and… still should be. But some people use it as their only holster option. I don’t recommend it, but it exists.
Pocket holsters are literally what they sound like and are made for very small guns and kind of large pockets. If you wear skinny jeans, these aren’t for you.
OWB means Outside Waistband, basically what you think of when you think of open carrying – having the holster on the outside of your pants. It can be concealed if you wear the right jacket, but it’s harder to do.
Off-Body is never a method I recommend for carrying unless you’re entirely out of other options. I admit I’ve done it before for special circumstances, but it isn’t what I recommend for EDC. This is what it sounds like, carrying your CCW, not on your person such as in a backpack, purse, or something of that nature. Personally, I would count fanny packs as off-body also.
BEST CONCEALED CARRY HOLSTERS
- Best IWB – Kydex: Dara Holsters
- Best IWB – Hybrid: Versacarry
- Best IWB – Leather: Wright Leather Works Cruiser
- Best IWB – Universal: Phlster Floodlight
- Best AIWB: Tier 1 AXIS Elite Concealed
- Best OWB – Kydex: Safariland
- Best OWB – Leather: Galco Combat Master
- Best Belly Band: Crossbreed Modular Belly Band
- Best Pocket: Versacarry Adjustable Pocket Holster
- Best Shoulder: Versacarry
- Best Fanny Pack: 5.11 LV6 Waist Pack 2.0
- Best Ankle: Crossbreed Ankle Holster
BEST IWB HOLSTERS
With a wide range of options in Kydex, Dara Holsters has something for everyone. J clips, belt clips, optic cuts, lights, and lasers, you can find just about everything you want without much effort.
A lot of holster brands have options, but what I like about Dara is that it keeps its holsters fairly simple.
It’s Kydex, it’s well made, there isn’t much else there. A lot of holsters are going to cost triple digits but most of Dara’s offerings are around $50-80 each. That might not be cheap, but a tool that your life might depend on shouldn’t be cheap.
I carried a Dara for almost 2 years, and I strongly recommend them.
When it comes to most hybrid holsters I’m actually not a huge fan, mostly because “hybrid” just means a leather back and a Kydex front. Versacarry bucks that trend and makes its holsters truly integrated.
Versacarry still has a leather back and Kydex front option, but it also has IWB hybrid holsters that wrap the Kydex in leather, that combine types of leather, or some combination of those.
For comfort these feel really nice. The holsters also give you a solid platform to draw from and re-holster into. Plus, the company has several styles to help find what you like.
While its light-bearing options aren’t extensive, Versacarry does at least offer optic cuts.
Wright Leather Works Cruiser
For pure leather, I really dig Wright Leather Works Cruiser. The leather is great quality, the holsters are well made, and everything stands up well to the natural abuse of EDC use.
Leather isn’t my top pick for a holster since I normally carry a gun with optics and a light, but for my little gun, a leather holster can feel just right – especially in the cooler months.
If you’re really interested in making your holster stand out and look amazing, take a look at the company’s Signature Collection. The holsters aren’t a cheap upsell, but look awesome.
My current EDC holster for my Glock 19 Gen 3 with a Modlite PL350 is a Phlster Floodlight.
Why? Because finding a CCW holster for a PL350 is almost impossible.
That said, after being forced to use it – I really like it.
The Floodlight isn’t like most holsters where it needs to be built for one type of gun, instead, the Floodlight fits almost all full-size and compact semi-auto pistols and uses the light as the method of retention.
This means I get some wear marks on my light, but it also allows me to carry a wide range of pistols without having to get a new holster.
It fits well in my belt, it’s comfy enough, and it’s really good at retention that I can adjust if needed.
I like my Floodlight so much that I bought a second one to use for OWB carry on my competition belt.
Phlster has come out with a Gen 2 of the Floodlight, but I haven’t tried it out yet. All reports seem to point to it being an improved version of the Floodlight I already like, so I’m looking forward to giving it a shot.
BEST AIWB HOLSTERS
Tier 1 AXIS Elite Concealed
Looking fairly simple on the outside, the AXIS Elite Tier 1 Concealed has some great tech built into the design.
First off you get a holster and a magazine holder in one unit, but the two parts are connected via elastic cording that makes the Axis Elite more flexible and comfortable to wear.
At each end of the holster are wedges to push against the back of your belt and keep the holster closer to your body. This makes you print less and makes it easier to move around while wearing.
Available in a wide range of colors, for a lot of firearm models, as well as light-bearing options for almost all of the major lights on the market, it is also designed for use with optics – this adds up to a lot of holster for the money and a fantastic AIWB option.
This one might be a little weird to get used to as an idea, but the Phlster Enigmais fantastically comfortable to wear and has a huge advantage over the rest of the market. Instead of hooking on to your belt, the Enigma uses its own belt system to wrap around you independently.
Want to carry while wearing scrubs? The Enigma is great for that. Gym shorts? No problem. Yoga pants? Can do.
Not being forced into wearing a steel-cored belt to hold your weapon up is a huge advantage for a lot of people and opens up a ton of clothing options that just don’t exist with other systems.
Downside is that this takes a little more setup and a little more testing out to get feeling perfect, but once you do it works really well.
BEST OWB HOLSTERS
One of the best and best-known holster brands in the world, Safariland needs no introduction for most people. For everyone else, these are the guys that almost all tier-one special forces units use worldwide. It’s also the brand that is by far most chosen by LEO across the nation.
Not only is Safariland at the forefront of innovation in a lot of ways, its product just works amazingly well.
These aren’t cheap and aren’t normally super low profile, but if you want maximum safety and retention – you can’t beat it.
Safariland offers some more CCW-friendly models but the options are still a little bulky. For OWB carry that isn’t a huge deal since you really shouldn’t even consider OWB unless you’re open carrying or will have a large jacket to cover your weapon.
Galco Combat Master
One of the godfathers of leather holsters, the Galco Combat Master is simple, straightforward, and super comfy to wear.
An all-leather design this holster will take a little time to break in but once it does you will totally forget it is there until you need it.
Leather is amazing for comfort and looks great, but it does take some more care and is less durable overall than Kydex options.
That said, you can count on Galco to make a high-quality holster that will last you years and years to come.
BEST BELLY BAND HOLSTERS
Crossbreed Modular Belly Band
The Crossbreed Modular Belly Band is pretty simple but works really well. It might look like a giant elastic band and a holster with some Velcro but that’s only because… well, it is.
There really isn’t a lot of fancy anything about this holster, it just works. You wrap it around you, place the holster where you want it, and go about your day. Nothing weird and nothing complex.
The nice thing is that it’s a fairly inexpensive option and is great for people with the body type and desire to use a belly band.
Something I’ve never been crazy about when it comes to belly bands though is many aren’t the most accessible method of carrying. Bands work, but actually drawing your gun can be a little strange.
Many a time I’ve seen people on the range training with their belly bands just to get on the clock and basically take their shirt off while drawing their gun.
Is that a big deal? Not really, you can always put it back on before the cops show up. But it might feel weird to train with.
I’ll admit that I’m not a belly band guy and the only reason I know this option exists is because of a friend who actually carries with a belly band. For her, the Tactica Belly Bandwas a breath of fresh air and a major improvement in design. Kind of.
While this is also basically a large band with a holster, it’s made a little differently – but the small things count for a lot.
A normal belly band requires you to draw your weapon basically straight up, the Tactica Belly Band turns that on its side. Literally.
The holster is attached to the band instead of the band just wrapping around the holster. This lets Tactica turn the holster so that it’s close to horizontal against your center line. By turning it you get much easier access to your gun and don’t have to pull your shirt nearly as high to get a grip on the weapon.
The downside to this is that you need to crank the screws down well to make sure that it’s tightly held in place. Since there is no active retention to this design, you need friction to hold it in place.
Cranking down the retention screws makes for a harder draw, but in the heat of the moment, you won’t even notice.
BEST POCKET HOLSTERS
Versacarry Adjustable Pocket Holster
While most pocket holsters are designed around “men’s jean’s front pockets” not all of us actually wear jeans 100% of the time. Come to think of it, I honestly can’t remember the last time I wore jeans. Maybe the Obama years? Bush?
For people like me, a pocket holster designed for jeans doesn’t always work. That’s where the Versacarry Adjustable Pocket Holster comes in handy and gets my vote as being the best.
Made from leather and super comfy to slip in your pocket, this holster isn’t a one-size-fits-all design. Instead, it comes with several small Kydex wings that adjust to change the size of the holster.
Not the part that holds your gun, but the rest of it so that it actually fits and fills your pocket to give you a good hold.
This isn’t quick changing for a new type of pants every day, but it’s not hard to switch either. If you are wearing a range of pant styles, these holsters are cheap enough to get multiple and not hurt too bad.
Lacking the awesome adjustment of the Versacarry, Vedder Pocket Locker has some other design elements that are pretty awesome.
First, it’s all Kydex so if it doesn’t fit your pockets… you can trim it a little with a good pair of scissors.
But far more importantly the Pocket Locker is much more like a real holster, it has retention (optional), you can get it cut for optics, but best of all you can order it with a slight curve.
The retention is a thumb shelf that helps hold the gun better and helps give you something to press against when drawing, very nice.
Optics cuts are self-explanatory, if you carry a gun with an optic – get the holster cut for it.
The curve is a little strange but low-key awesome. Instead of a straight piece of Kydex in your pocket that kind of prints, the curve fits your leg shape more naturally and helps the holster blend into place.
BEST SHOULDER HOLSTERS
For a long time, THE gold standard in shoulder holsters was Galco (it’s still my second choice) but for my money, Versacarry is the new winner.
Why? Basically, because it offers optic cut options and Galco doesn’t.
Something that I’m not crazy about when it comes to shoulder holsters is the design is almost universally behind the times. People want to carry with optics, we want to carry with weapon lights, but nearly all shoulder carry systems simply won’t let you.
That’s crap. This isn’t the 80’s anymore, let us have attachments.
While Versacarry still doesn’t offer a shoulder holster with a WML fitting, it does at least offer optic cuts now.
The leather is super comfy, it’s easy to size, and shoulder holsters just look… banging. Like, come on, these things look awesome.
Embrace your modern-day Miami Vice and get you a shoulder holster with a red dot optic pistol.
Galco Gun Leather
When you picture a shoulder holster in your head, you probably think of the Galco Miami Classic IIbecause it is the classic option.
It’s still a great holster, the leather is amazing, the quality is insane, and it looks amazing – but you have to admit that it’s kind of expensive and you’re limited to stock pistols and nothing else. No optics, no weapon lights. Just a gun.
For a lot of people, this is what they need, and getting the brand that perfected it makes sense. For me, I’m not crazy about it.
BEST FANNY PACK HOLSTERS
Fanny packs are making a big comeback in the CCW world and they don’t all make you look like a middle-aged Dad at Disneyland. Designed with looks in mind and with loads of features, we take a close look at them in the Best CCW Fanny Pack roundup.
While maybe not technically holsters on their own, they do support holsters. We recommend using a holster inside of the fanny pack to hold the gun and keep it safer. My top picks are the Vertx MPH Full and MPH Sub. Velcro fit-any holsters that can attach to the inside of most CCW bags.
5.11 LV6 Waist Pack 2.0
Not limited to just being a CCW back, the LV6 can do a lot. From attaching to 5.11 backpacks as a general pouch to working as a sling bag or fanny pack, you have options to pick from.
I’ve used it from a CCW back, dog walking bag, and even as a competition bag for InRangeTV’s Handgun Brutality 2023.
Able to hold up to about a Glock 17-sized gun, I packed it down with a SIG P320 Compact, Shalotek Slide, Vortex Defender-CCW red dot, Wilson Combat Grip, and three SIG 21-round magazines for competition.
For EDC and dog walking, I normally throw in a SIG P365 MACRO with a spare 20-round mag, a small IFAK with a CAT-7, dog treats, poop bag, collapsing water dish, and a few other odds and ends.
Wide belt straps keep it comfy to wear even when loaded down with over 100 rounds of ammo.
The downside is that this isn’t totally optimized for CCW. The make pocket isn’t super easy to open and the angle the gun sits isn’t as perfect as it could be. I solved this with a small paracord lanyard on the zipper to open it easier.
Overall, for only $42, I really like this for EDC.
Longtucky Supply Hybrid Fanny Pack
Although not really designed for CCW, the Longtucky Supply Hybrid fanny pack is so versatile that it earns a place on this list. Designed more for competition shooting long NRL, PRS, and even 3-Gun, this pack can hold 2 .308 AICS magazines, a TQ, Kestrel, cleaning supplies, and more.
For a more CCW role, 4 pistol mags and a Glock 19 with optic fit with ease.
Because this bag stands out a little more, I wouldn’t call it perfect for CCW or EDC. Personally, I use mine mostly for NRL: Hunter and PRS matches. I also have a “Get Home” set up that has a pistol plus a ton of extras like IFAK, local map, batteries, and lots of ammo. It’s low-profile enough to not stand out, but has the extra space I need to really load up.
I’ve put mine through hell over the last year and I highly recommend it.
BEST ANKLE HOLSTERS
Crossbreed Ankle Holster
I like Crossbreed’s Ankle Holsterbecause of basically one simple addition that I think really makes ankle holsters a lot easier and more comfortable to wear – a calf strap. Calf brace? Calf garter? I’m not sure what it should be called, but it wraps around your calf to help hold the weight of the ankle holster and that’s noice.
Most ankle holsters wrap around your ankle and just sit there. I’ve worn more than a few and I hate most of them. Either the back is sticky so that it doesn’t slide and it feels weird at best or you have to wrap it so tight it can almost double as a tourniquet.
Crossbreed’s design wraps around your ankle, but then also has a strap that wraps around your calf muscle also. This helps transfer some of the weight and gives the holster something it can actually hang off of to prevent from it dropping too low on your ankle.
This makes putting it on a little more annoying since you either need to do it before you put on pants or you need to hike your pant leg way, way up, but that is a minor issue for such a good design.
Side note, if you have very small calves… stop skipping leg day.
Alien Gear ShapeShift
One of my first holsters ever was from Alien Gear, but that was a long time ago. The Alien Gear ShapeShift is a huge improvement over the first one I bought and has a lot of interesting tech going into it.
Part of a multilayer design that lets you use most of the same parts across a wide range of Alien Gear holster systems, the ShapeShift is a great ankle carry option.
I recommend wearing it over a sock if you can for comfort, but the holster isn’t bad even against bare skin. It stays in place fairly well and gives you a real hard point to holster your weapon.
Something that sets it apart is the fact that the neoprene Alien Gear uses is so very breathable and doesn’t feel gross when you sweat.
Downside? The ShapeShift is kind of bulky. You don’t need cargos or bell bottoms to use it, but since the fashion these days leans more towards skinnier pant leg cuts, you might want to think about that before buying.
Finding the right holster for yourself is a totally personal choice. It’s also going to take some trial and error.
It can get expensive buying new holsters to try out, so make sure you keep receipts and take advantage of returns when you can. Also, make sure to not damage your new holster before you’re sure you want to keep it.
Now that you’ve made it to the end of this article, you’ll be better equipped to judge the holsters that you see. Good luck!
Ready for more? Take a look at these:
- PHLster Summit Holster Review
- Galco Avenger Holster Review
- No Look? No Way! Looking Your Pistol Into The Holster
- Modern Holsters: Carrying Into The Future