I just finished up an advanced concealment class. As part of the class we went through a holster lecture. I have several different holsters from different manufactures optimized for daily concealed carry. Not all holsters are created equal for sure, poor quality remains after the high of a good deal.
Show and Tell
I make it a point to go through as many different holsters during class as well as provide feedback on their signature. The prime direction of concealed carry is keeping your signature as low as possible so understanding holsters is critical. For it to be a good holster it needs to meet a minimum of characteristics and features ideally suited for concealed carry. We break these characteristics and benefits into three categories; mission critical, essential and enhancing. Many times consumers are easily swayed by advertising regarding characteristics of mission essential and enhancing. Most haven’t taken the time to define these characteristics and features so manufactures have no reason to do so either.
Failure, it is always an option
Mission critical is defined by me as failing to meet this requirement has a high probability of mission failure. In this case, the mission is securely carrying a firearm in the most discrete manner possible. The first characteristic in this category is the holster must retain the pistol. It should secure the pistol during light to moderate activity. Your pistol does no good if it is not on your body when you need it the most. A good test is to gently shake it over a bed or pillow. If during this evaluation you see the pistol fall free then the retention of your holster is questionable and you should consider this a red flag.
The next mission critical characteristic is it should protect the trigger at all times when holstered. I won’t even look at a holster if it doesn’t do an outstanding job protecting the trigger. When we say unauthorized access we are not only referencing our trigger finger, but any foreign object or debris. Probably the biggest culprit here is the holster body itself, should the mouth of the holster become too worn it may fold inside the holster body allowing it to contact the trigger. Carrying a striker fired pistol close to your body and it should be pretty obvious why this is so important.
Not so Fast
The next mission critical characteristic is the holster needs to secure the pistol on your body. Whatever the holster’s interface it should stay in the same position during your daily activities and it certainly shouldn’t free itself from your body unless that is your intention. Even the slightest movement forward or rearward can cause a delay in your drawstroke as you fish for your firing grip. Pay particular attention to features that describe themselves as quick or convenient, not what you should be looking for when you want to secure an item. The biggest culprits here are clips and I strongly suggest if you rely on clips to rely on two of them. Using a single clip works well in a training environment, but the moment things get physical it is a poor combination.
Get a Grip
The holster body should allow for a firing grip while still holstered. If you can’t get a firing grip while it is holstered then it isn’t going to get any better as your draw the pistol. You are usually in a reactionary mode so time will not be on your side, don’t make it worse with a holster that prevents obtaining a good firing grip. This includes aggressive cants or ride heights that while increase the concealment factor come with the price of less access. Everything in the concealment game will be a combination of access to conceal-ability, nothing is free.
These mission critical characteristics make up the minimum when selecting a good every day carry holster. Additional features may seem important, but now hopefully less important in the big picture.