Most people reading this column are already holders of a concealed carry permit, or are considering getting one. I’ll bet you went back and forth about which gun to buy for concealed carry. Or guns, in my case: I have five that I carry on and off. No, not all at once; don’t be silly.
We test our carry firearms (or should) to see which ammunition performs the best in our particular carry weapon. But the one thing that we rarely put much thought into is the holster. Those of you that have been carrying concealed for a while probably have a box of holsters in your closet, just like I do.
I wrote a fishing column a few years ago about how anglers will spend tens of thousands on a boat, thousands on rods and reels, then buy the cheapest landing net we can find. Holsters are no different. A cheap holster may work for a while, but it could fail when you need it most.
The first thing you need to ensure is that the gun fits the holster. Here’s a tip: Take the gun with you. It also helps to know the make and model of your gun. You would be surprised at how many people walk into the gun shop and say, “I need a holster for my 9mm.” Well, what make and model is it? You just asked me for tires for your Chevy. Chevy makes Corvettes, Suburbans and Aveos. One size does not fit all.
You want the gun to fit tight enough that it can’t fall out, but not so tight that it’s hard for you to draw. Some holsters have adjustment screws to change that, some do not. Some rely on a strap to keep the gun in the holster, some rely on fitment of the gun. But you do need to make sure that it keeps the gun secure during daily activities.
That includes going to the bathroom, people. There’s nothing more embarrassing than your gun falling onto the floor (or someplace much worse) during a potty break.
The next thing to consider is how you are going to carry: Inside the waistband, outside the waistband, appendix, small of back, underarm, ankle — and women have even more options. Carry method will determine what type of holster you want. There are some holsters that will cover several ways to carry at once, and I’ll discuss a particular one later.
Your method of carry can be determined by a few different things. Your body shape can be a factor. Sometimes a skinny guy can conceal a larger gun and holster than a fatter guy. Sometimes it’s vice-versa, depending on what you wear and your carry style.
If you wear shorts every day, an ankle holster doesn’t make sense. If you sit a lot, appendix carry may not be for you. If you’re a suit-and-tie guy, an ankle holster or underarm holster may be a better solution for you. It’s hard to access a firearm from under a tucked-in shirt.
One of the final things to consider is the material the holster is made of. Do you want nylon, leather, plastic or synthetic fiber? Remember, we are in Florida, so you may want to consider sweat mitigation. Sweat is essentially salt water, and salt water is bad for guns.
Are you the type that doesn’t want scratches on your gun? Then stay away from plastic and polymer holsters. They will eventually wear away the finish on your gun. Leather will too, but it takes a lot longer.
The one thing I didn’t mention is price. If price is a consideration, then you need to ask yourself one question: How much is your life worth? In that light, it’s pretty easy to justify a holster that fits better and is more comfortable but costs a few dollars more.
I have settled on a holster that I love. It is the Alien Gear ShapeShift Core Carry Pack. It’s a $100 holster, but it’s the last one I’ll ever buy. It is not your run-of-the-mill holster. The modular design means I can switch out components and carry four different ways: Appendix, inside the waistband, outside the waistband and small of the back. It even came with a hard mount for a vehicle, which is screwed into the kick panel below my truck’s steering wheel.
The holster is comfortable to wear, which is more important than you might think. A lot of folks with carry permits don’t carry (at least not every day) because they have an uncomfortable holster. What good is a gun if you don’t have it? And it’s secure, with two option for retention: An adjustment screw, or a finger release that you have to depress to remove the gun from the holster.
But what if I buy a new gun? Well, all I have to buy is a new shell for that particular gun from Alien Gear. That runs about $40. I can still use all the components from the original package. Plus, now I don’t have to dig through that box of holsters in the closet. That alone might be worth the price.
Capt. Cayle Wills is a salesman and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or Cayle@HigherPowerOutfitters.com.