Handgun Holsters: Using One in Real Life

You may have a certain holster type in mind, but is it really the best choice for you? Check these real-life-threat scenarios before you plunk down your money.

While an inside-the-waistband holster like this Galco KingTuk would normally be covered with an outer shirt or jacket, it’s still quickly and easily accessible with one hand.
While an inside-the-waistband holster like this Galco KingTuk would normally be covered with an outer shirt or jacket, it’s still quickly and easily accessible with one hand.author photo

In Part 1 of our series on holsters, we explored different types of holsters that correspond to various methods of concealed carry. While it's great that enterprising designers have invented all sorts of concealed carry solutions, it's up to you to understand the very real tradeoffs—and risks—between various methods of concealed carry. Why? It's simple:

The most dangerous thing about selecting a holster is the risk of choosing a false sense of security.

Allow me to explain. Having a gun on your person in no way guarantees that it will help protect you. That depends on other things. It depends on your level of training and practice. It depends on the situational awareness skills you’ve developed through conscious effort. It depends on the skill and motivation of the person or people threatening you. It also depends on the type of carry method you choose.

So you have to look at the your choice of holster and carry method as a giant math equation that weighs risk and return. Don’t worry, just because I said “math,” we’re going to keep things simple—no fractions or long division, I promise! While there are a million variables we could discuss, let's choose just two so I can illustrate the point.

A pocket holster like this Recluse Holsters model offers both good concealment and reasonably good access from a standing position.
A pocket holster like this Recluse Holsters model offers both good concealment and reasonably good access from a standing position.author photo

You’re Concealing a Gun…But You Need Quick Access To It

Concealment and ease of access are both important factors when selecting a holster. Generally speaking, they’re inversely related. The more “concealed” a holster is, the harder it is to access your gun quickly and easily. If a holster is not concealed at all, for example riding on your belt, outside of your clothes, and just behind your shooting hand, access is about as fast as you can hope for. Make sense?

Now, let’s add in consideration for types of threats you might encounter. To illustrate the point, let’s assume you’re using a super concealable, but harder to access carry method. Maybe you’re using an undershirt holster so your gun is safely tucked away under your support side arm and covered with a tucked-in and buttoned shirt. Or perhaps you carry your handgun in a specially designed purse. Now consider these self-defense scenarios and visualize how useful your concealed carry gun might be.

You’re walking down the street at night. Suddenly, a really evil dude jumps from behind a parked van and grabs you by the throat. This guy appeared from a distance of about two feet and had hands on you almost instantly. How useful was your holster choice in getting your gun into action in time to make a difference in your defense?

You’re at work. From somewhere down the hall, you hear what sound like gunshots. How useful was your holster in getting your gun into action in time to make a difference in your defense?

An example of an outside-the-waistband holster, the Galco Side Snap Scabbard.
An example of an outside-the-waistband holster, the Galco Side Snap Scabbard.author photo

You’re about to start your car. Suddenly, a crowbar crashes through the driver side window and someone reaches in to grab you. Your gun is safely tucked away in your concealment purse, which is sitting on the back seat. How useful was your holster in getting your gun into action in time to make a difference in your defense?

I raise these hypothetical situations to encourage you to think about a couple of things.

Having a gun somewhere on your person, or in your gear, provides no guarantee that it will be useful in all self-defense situations. In only one of the situations above did you have enough advance warning to draw a deeply concealed gun. You may not be able to access your gun from concealment quickly enough, or with only one hand, especially from a well-hidden location inside of your clothing, briefcase or purse.

An easily accessible method of carry, like right on your belt in an outside-the-waistband or inside-the-waistband holster, will be more likely to help you in a larger number of self-defense situations. The less time and effort it takes to reach your gun, the more likely you are to be able to access it in quickly developing scenarios. By design, your gun is located inches from your strong hand. It’s in a natural position for immediate access. You can (normally) reach it with one hand, so if you’re fighting someone off with the other, you’re not necessarily out of business. And, the gun is also under your direct control at all times. So in a perfect world, where we could choose our work environments and dress code all the time, we’d all be well off carrying with a good belt holster.

Bag carry methods offer perfect concealment, but at a price. Usually it requires two hands to access your gun, and the bag may not be on your person at all times.
Bag carry methods offer perfect concealment, but at a price. Usually it requires two hands to access your gun, and the bag may not be on your person at all times.author photo

On the other hand, a deeper concealment method of concealed carry will reduce the odds of anyone knowing you have a gun, but limit the number of scenarios where your gun might be useful. If your gun is buried underneath clothing, it going to take you more time and effort to get to it, and it might even require use of both hands. If you have warning of a threat, you have time to access your gun. If a threat is instantaneous, you probably will not.

Ladies have it particularly tough. It's easy for guys to say things like "anything other than belt holster is wrong and unsafe and dangerous and stupid, and, and, and…" That's because our wardrobe is pretty much the same each and every day. We wear pants (or shorts) and a shirt. That makes belt carry really easy. If you need to wear a dress, for whatever reason, belt carry just won't work for you. While purse carry has many drawbacks (it's not ALWAYS under your control, it takes two hands to draw, and your purse can be taken from you) I understand why it's so popular. Fortunately, enterprising women who carry have invented all sorts of solutions.

The bottom line is that all carry methods are NOT equal. Carrying a gun never, ever means that you will be able to use that gun in your defense. However, your lifestyle and daily activities may demand that you sacrifice accessibility for concealment. You may deliberately choose to sacrifice speed of drawing your gun, knowingly opening yourself up to more types of potential threats.

While convenient, a purse holster also requires two actions to draw, opening the compartment and then removing the gun.
While convenient, a purse holster also requires two actions to draw, opening the compartment and then removing the gun.author photo

Here an example: Suppose you work in a location where carrying a gun is not illegal, but definitely frowned upon by management. You have two choices. You either don’t carry a gun, or you do carry and assume the risk and consequences of it being spotted. To minimize the risk of being “outed,” you might consider a deep concealment method, knowing that it may help protect you from some types of threats, but not all. Even so, that may be a better option for you as compared to not having your gun at all.

Put another way, if you categorized all the types of potential threats you might encounter, any given carry method will “help” with a certain percentage of those threat scenarios. A deep concealment method that requires two hands to draw will provide benefit from a lower percentage of scenarios. A readily accessible, but more exposed method of carry will help you address a higher percentage of scenario types. Like most things in life, there’s no clear choice. Think of the effectiveness of different carry methods as a sliding scale of concealment and effectiveness, with the former going up as the latter goes down.

No one can make these types of risk-return decisions for you. The important thing is to be honest with yourself about what you are gaining and what you are risking. As long as you make an informed and thoughtful decision that weighs concealment versus access, you’re not subjecting yourself to a false sense of security.

A belly hand like this one wraps around the waist or torso and is completely covered by clothing. Concealment is excellent—just be aware that access is more difficult.
A belly hand like this one wraps around the waist or torso and is completely covered by clothing. Concealment is excellent—just be aware that access is more difficult.author photo

So, before you start shopping for holsters, you need to carefully consider some of the factors we’ve discussed here. Once you decide on the right method of carry for your particular needs, then you can start the process of finding the right holster.

Now refer back to part one in the series and re-evaluate carry methods that caught your attention. As you consider each, think of your lifestyle, your daily environment and activities, and the risks and benefits of each style based on those factors.

You can’t get much better access to a handgun than what’s provided by an outside-the-waistband holster.
You can’t get much better access to a handgun than what’s provided by an outside-the-waistband holster.author photo