Most gun owners put hours of in-depth research into choosing their handgun. While most shooters understand their firearm is a valuable tool worthy of careful consideration, they often choose a holster to carry it as a flippant afterthought.
As the interface between your weapon and your body, your holster is a critical piece of gear. You could have the most expensive and effective weapon on the face of the planet, but if your holster fails, especially during a dangerous encounter, you might as well be wandering the world weaponless.
Choosing the right holster is just as important as choosing the right handgun. There are literally thousands of holsters on the market. Some of them are pure gold, while others aren’t worth their weight in laundry lint. The trick is knowing what to look for.
There are too many variables for there to be a single model perfect for every person and every situation. However, there are four key aspects that apply to the quality of the holster regardless of your weapon, carry style, or personal preferences. Here are four crucial factors to consider. These key aspects will help you sort the wheat from the chaff.
Your holster’s primary job is to hold your weapon until you need to draw it. If your holster can’t do this reliably, it belongs in the “chaff” (or “laundry lint”) pile.
Most self-defense situations are highly physical. Carrying a handgun doesn’t guarantee you will be able to eliminate a threat before it becomes a hand-to-hand situation.
Fighting for your life can be a vigorous activity, and your holster needs to reliably hold onto your weapon when your body is moving, whether that means running for your life or fighting for it.
A quality holster will use friction, straps, molding, retention screws, or some combination of these to keep your handgun in the holster.
However, keeping your weapon inside the holster is only one half of the retention equation.
A good holster must also stay attached to your person. No one wants the entire holster to fall off when tussling with an assailant. Even worse, you don’t want your holster to slip off during casual conversation. A handgun hitting the floor doesn’t usually leave a positive impression.
Some holsters stay put on your person better than others. Different holster designs use paddles, loops, clips, hooks, and even quick attach mounting systems to keep them securely in place.
Another thing your holster must do well is protect your trigger. Guns don’t magically fire by themselves. The only way a modern handgun can discharge a projectile is for the trigger to be moved rearward while the weapon is loaded. (There may be very rare exceptions to this rule. However, if it happens to you, you seriously need to buy some lottery tickets. Not because you’re lucky, but because you’ve beaten the odds.)
A quality holster will add extra trigger protection from fingers, snags, and foreign objects while you move and go about your business. The best holsters will even provide trigger protection while you are drawing your weapon and establishing a firm shooting grip.
Remember, your holster is the interface between your weapon and your body. Although comfort might not seem that important, if your holster is comfortable, you’re more likely to wear it. Again, the best way to test the comfort level of any holster is to give it a test drive. If that isn’t possible, spend some time sorting through customer reviews. A comfortable holster should have plenty of positive feedback.
Even though your weapon will spend most of its life in your holster, drawing your weapon is where the rubber meets the road. Ultimately, your holster needs to allow you to get your weapon smoothly, safely, and quickly into the game if you ever need it.
A good holster will provide consistent weapon orientation when you’re sitting, standing, or running. When your weapon is always positioned for easy draw, you should be able to draw it without looking at your holster.
Although we’ve already mentioned the importance of weapon retention, you also don’t want to have to fight with your holster to draw your weapon. The trick is to find a balance between retention and accessibility.
The best way to figure out what balance works best for you, is to test drive some holsters. While this isn’t always practical, especially in this day and age of online shopping and doorstep delivery, the best way to tell if a holster will work for you is to wear it.
An open, friction retention holster is sufficient for most gun owners (especially if you plan to carry your weapon concealed). However, if you carry your handgun while jogging, rock climbing, or doing random handstands in public, you may need some extra retention features to keep your weapon secure. Just be sure you can easily disengage any retention device during your natural drawing motion.
You also want a holster that allows you to easily re-holster your weapon. Reholstering can sometimes be more difficult than drawing, especially when you’re under the influence of a stress-induced adrenaline dump. To make things easier, choose a holster with a mouth that remains open and rigid, even when the weapon isn’t in its usual place.
The previous characteristics apply no matter which type of holster you choose. Specific qualities like material, carry position, and level of concealment are all personal matters. Obviously a holster for concealed carry will have different qualities from one designed for open or duty carry. However, no matter which holster design you opt for, look for one that meets the four basic criteria of effective weapon retention, trigger protection, comfort, and consistent weapon presentation.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a quality holster. Your holster is the one piece of equipment that could make or break your access to your weapon in a self-defense situation. Choose poorly and it could cost you your life.
This isn’t the place you want to try to save a buck. Quality holsters (like quality firearms) don’t come cheap. The holster’s price tag shouldn’t be the ultimate deciding factor in your purchase. Choose quality over cost every time, and always keep in mind the four key qualities to look for in a a handgun holster.