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Updated Apr 14, 2023 11:31 AM
If it’s true that for every pot there’s a lid, then it stands to reason that for every handgun there exists a holster. Whether you have a revolver or semi-automatic, there is a perfect holster for it. It might seem a bit like the quest for the Holy Grail due to the various makes, models, and styles of the current holster market. But with the right questions and close attention to detail, you can find the best holster for your sidearm.
Holsters have come a long way since the Wild West days, often portrayed on the Silver Screen with a leather bullet belt and six-gun sheath worn on the hip of an unshaven chap-shod cowboy. Leather holsters still exist, but modern materials like Kydex, a moldable synthetic polymer, and Cordura nylon have emerged in recent years. So, what is out there for housing that Smith, Mossberg, Glock, or Old School 1911? Let’s take a look at the best holsters on the market.
How We Picked the Best Holsters
I’ve said it before in this review, but it’s worth saying again. A holster, particularly one designed and worn in the name of EDC and protection, is as independent and individual a decision as is the home you buy or the vehicle you purchase. Your holster must meet most, if not all the criteria listed in the things to consider before making a purchase.
I also took several other factors into account when making my picks, including evaluating the retention systems in each holster. In addition, I looked at and ranked each of the following before coming up with my selections:
- Build: At first glance, does the holster appear to be well-built? I mean let’s face it; some things just look cheap, flimsy, unreliable, not well thought out. I looked for holsters that were built to last, with quality retention systems.
- Design: Like build quality, some items are just better designed than others. If it’s an adjustable holster, such as a strapped chest or shoulder rig, is it truly adjustable to the point where it now fits as it should? Is any hardware, like retention adjustments, easy to access and modify, if needed? To put it simply, does it work as intended, or do I have to tweak the holster before I can belt it on?
- Fit and comfort: If I’m going to wear anything, it has to fit, and be comfortable enough I can wear it for as long as the situation warrants, without having to constantly stop and adjust.
- Durability: I take care of all my outdoor gear to the best extent possible. However, I don’t handle it with kid gloves, and I want it to hold up to the rigors of day-to-day use. Will it stand up to what I put it through, and emerge relatively unscathed?
- Ease of concealment: I will occasionally open carry, depending on the situation. But, when I want concealment, I want concealment. And I had this in mind as I reviewed each of the holsters.
- Confidence level: I need to feel confident that in the unlikely event I find it necessary to use my pistol that I can deploy it in an efficient manner. In other words, does that holster allow for rapid draw as well as secure carry?
- Price: The so-called perfect holster does you no good if it’s well beyond your wallet. Here, I’ve attempted to run the gamut from low to high, while focusing on those mid-range dollar amounts.
Best Holsters: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Relentless Tactical Ultimate 3-Slot
- Highest quality leather construction
- Open muzzle design
- Versatile in application/carry method
- Made in the US
- Three slot design allows for variety of carry styles
- Incredibly comfortable, even while seated
- Matched “Ultimate Gun Belt”
- Unparalleled customer support and service
- Quality leather does call for periodic upkeep
- Some break-in time required
Although my EDC swings between Mossberg’s MC1sc and their latest MC2c, I will on occasion carry an Auto-Ordinance Thompson Custom 1911. And when I do decide to carry that larger frame pistol, I want a holster that will hold it securely yet comfortably and allow me immediate and efficient access to said pistol. That’s where Relentless’ Ultimate 3-Slot holster comes into play.
The 3-slot design allows for a variety of different carry styles and locations: butt-forward cross draw, strong side hip, or behind-the-hip. Outwardly, she’s not a fancy piece but obviously well-made; thick but not overly bulky and cumbersome. Still, the 3-Slot carries a 42-ounce semi-auto like my AOTC without a hitch yet keeps the 1911 confidently accessible. Team the 3-Slot with Relentless’ Ultimate Gun Belt, which, by the way, I wear with or without a sidearm, and you have the perfect combination.
Best for Concealed Carry: Clinger Holsters’ IWB/OWB Hinge
- Kydex construction is strong, easy-to-clean, and lightweight
- Easily customized to suit most carry needs
- Audible ‘click’ retention
- Almost infinitely adjustable
- Package allows both IWB and OWB carry styles
- Slim and easily concealable
- Excellent value
- Assembly and adjustment do take a bit of time to perfect
- Hardware requires periodic inspection and tightening
I had mixed feelings when I first started working with Clinger’s Hinge holster. Maybe I’m not the sharpest tool in the proverbial shed, but I had a difficult time figuring out what went where. Eventually, with the help of YouTube, I got it figured out. Today, now that she’s fully adjusted and right where I want her, I couldn’t be happier.
For right around $100, you get a rugged holster that can be fitted to your needs. With the included hardware, the Hinge can be worn either IWB or OWB, depending on your preference. The Kydex is durable and easy to maintain. I appreciate the audible CLICK when the pistol is fully seated. The Hinge is slim, scarcely thicker than the MC1sc is wide, so concealment isn’t a huge issue. But a light over-shirt or jacket does simplify matters. The points of attachment, front and rear, allow the Hinge to wrap around my hip, holding it securely while minimizing any sort of print.
Best Shoulder: Uncle Mike’s Pro-Pak Vertical
- Nylon construction is durable; requires minimal maintenance
- Integrated mag pouch
- Customizable hook and loop adjustment system
- Open muzzle design
- Good choice for the budget-minded
- Precise fit/adjustments possible within limits
- Left and right buttoned tie-downs
- Thumb break offers peace of mind
- Neck ‘collar’ unpadded; scratchy and uncomfortable
- Shoulder padding thin
I’ll be honest. At first, I wanted a shoulder rig for the very reason I said not to get a shoulder rig, and that’s because it looks cool—which it does. However, after wearing Uncle Mike’s Pro-Pak with my MC1sc for over a year now, I can say that if you’re looking for a way to carry without the pistol being in your way but remaining quickly accessible, this is the way to do it.
For about $60 online, it’s tough to go wrong here. However, I would consider this an entry-level shoulder rig for any number of reasons. One, and as much as I try to fit this rig to my body, there’s still what I consider to be somewhat excessive swing or slop when twisting, turning, or bending. The dual tie-downs do help a bit with this, though. And the brace is a little rough on the back of my neck; something a little post-purchase padding, courtesy of my talented seamstress wife, will remedy.
That said, the Pro-Pak remains a good choice, especially for hunters. I carried a scoped Ruger Security Six .357 Magnum in a Pro-Pak for several seasons while deer hunting and found it more than fit my needs in that regard.
Best Chest: Crossbreed Holsters’ Chest Rig
- Substantial build, but weighs only a pound
- Fully adjustable 1.5” straps
- Secure all-metal quick release buckle
- Multiple points of retention
- Comfortable leather chest backer; breathable suede rear backer
- Provides accessibility without interference with activities
- Incredibly comfortable
- Can be easily and quickly custom fit
- Heavy duty hardware and attachments
- Metal buckle can be persnickety about locking securely
Around my home in southwest Washington, my deer and elk hunting involves time spent in the same playground as is occupied by black bear, mountain lions, and, if I travel away, wolves and potentially grizzlies. I don’t fear these but do hold a healthy respect for these big predators – which is why I carry a 1911 .45ACP when I’m afield. Call it a warm and fuzzy feeling.
The problem in the past has been packing an almost three-pound handgun comfortably and accessibly. Well, Crossbreed has solved that issue, thanks to their Chest Rig. The rig puts my 1911 out of the way, but in reach while holding it securely. And it’s comfortable; not too heavy on my left shoulder and just about perfect in the center of my chest. The straps are wide, which contribute to the comfort level. But they are not so wide that they, along with the rear backer, cause me to sweat underneath.
Best Non-Traditional CCW Holster: Sneaky Pete
- Kydex insert makes for a smooth, silent draw
- Beautiful leather construction; heavy duty hardware
- Available with belt loops or quick-release clips
- Rugged double stitching
- Magnet style closure
- Carry concealed in plain sight, unassuming holster
- Beautiful in appearance
- Integrated knife/pen/penlight pouches on either side
- Strong side or cross draw applicable
- Large size can be bulky
- Efficient access and deployment takes practice
I’ll admit. I didn’t quite know what to think about Sneaky Pete’s unique holster at first, but it’s growing on me. The intent here with this non-traditional holster is accessibility without being obvious. My Sneaky Pete is the Brown Leather ‘Freedom’ Series; however, there’s a bunch to choose from. These include denim and ballistic nylon models, complete with a long list of logo options, colors, prints, emblems. Nearly anything you could possibly want.
Truth be told, she looks like a cellphone pouch. Most folks won’t think otherwise, thus cementing the ‘hide in plain sight’ theory. I wasn’t sure about the magnet-based closure system, but it seems to hold the lid down plenty tight, without being awkward. Strong side or butt-forward cross draw; either one works with the Sneaky Pete, but there is going to be some dry-fire practice involved in order to perfect the lid flip…reach…draw sequence.
Best IWB: CYA Supply Company
- Boltaron construction approximates Kydex, but less expensive
- Adjustable retention pressure and cant
- Audible “click” retention
- All stainless steel hardware; tough nylon belt clip
- Slim profile
- Easily adjustable with include Allen wrench
- Low maintenance material
- Secure retention
- Bare bones and basic
- Extended sweat guard can be a bit ‘pokey’
Not everything that’s good has to cost an arm and a leg. You know, like gasoline or diesel fuel. And quality doesn’t have to mean complicated nor intricate, either. Simple can, and often does, work just fine. And that’s where CYA Supply Company’s IWB holster comes into play.
Price point? Right around $40. No, she’s not the Ferrari of IWB holsters, but, with a little getting used to, this one works just fine without emptying your wallet. Part of that’s due to the material, Boltaron, used to build these holsters. Boltaron is similar yet less expensive than the better-known Kydex. It’s incredibly thin, too; just .08” in this model. This contributes to this IWB’s slim profile and corresponding level of comfort when worn.
I’ll be honest. I might never be a devotee of IWB carry, preferring OWB or a shoulder rig to something worn between me and my pants. However, if you’re looking to give a lightweight, strong, compact, and affordable IWB unit a try, CYA Supply might be a good jumping off point.
Best OWB: Crossbreed Holsters’ DropSlide
- Leather/Kydex hybrid
- Slots accommodate 1.5” to 1.75” belts
- Heavy duty attachment hardware
- Four leather/4 Kydex combinations available
- Lower more comfortable drop/ride
- Incredibly solid build
- Six riveted attachment points – leather to Kydex
- Full inch (1”) of leather extension prevents barrel/body/clothing contact
- Audible albeit soft “click” retention
- Leather does require maintenance and break-in (body molding) period
What caught my attention almost immediately upon strapping Crossbreed’s DropSlide onto my side was how snugly it fit against my hip: A practically unheard of out-of-the-box winner. It felt as though it offered 100 percent points of contact, and that’s a definite plus as this model will house my 42-ounce 1911. It is tight, but not uncomfortably tight. The slightly lower ride is nice, seeing as I sport a 32” reach but am what some call high-waisted, so that extra inch of drop — as compared with the company’s original SnapSlide — definitely makes a difference.
Leather is nice. Warm, comfortable, and looks good. Kydex, on the other hand, is cold, but offers a virtually maintenance-free holster. Hybrids, like the DropSlide, present the best of both worlds: comfort, durability, lower level of care, and beauty. You’d expect to pay a C-Note, minimum, for quality and design like the DropSlide. However, many models list at half that.
What to Consider When Choosing a Holster
As is the case with many purchases, both big and small, it’s important you put some serious thought into buying that first holster. How are you going to use it? Do you want something simple, or a bit more elaborate? And what about construction material? There’s a lot to think about; fortunately, much of the decision as to ‘what holster’ revolves around common sense.
How do you intend on using the holster? I carry an Auto-Ordinance 1911 while hunting, but I pack it in a different holster, than if I were to carry the weapon either open or concealed. My everyday carry (EDC) pistol is a Mossberg MC1sc and I use a holster quite differently from the chest carry option I employ with the 1911. So, how do you intend on using the handgun housed in the holster of choice?
If you need help making up your mind, review our concealed carry guide. Our list of concealed carry handguns and handguns for outdoorsmen are also excellent resources.
When I talk about style, I’m speaking of the type of holster, such as a shoulder rig. From there, you can break it down further. There are holsters meant to be worn outside the waistband (OWB), or inside the waistband (IWB). Elastic belly bands that incorporate a holster and magazine pouch. There are even covert, unassuming holsters that appear to be something else, like a cell phone carrier for instance. The options here are many.
Where would you like to carry the firearm? With a large frame handgun that I want to keep ready like my 1911, it’s a chest rig. For the more compact MC1sc, my right hip outside, and the MC2c, a vertical shoulder holster under my left arm. But there are other possible carry locations, too: ankle, belly, lower thigh, appendix area, even in your back pocket.
Essentially, there are three options when it comes to the material from which the holster is constructed. Leather is very traditional and looks great. However, leather does require a break-in period before it molds to the shape of your handgun and the draw becomes smooth. Inexpensive, nylon is also quite durable, but can be somewhat sloppy in terms of pistol retention. It can also harbor moisture and debris. Holsters made of Kydex, a tough hard plastic-esque material, are molded specifically to fit a make/model of handgun and are very easy to maintain. However, as they are rigid, Kydex holsters can be uncomfortable, especially when seated.
Holster price points are all over the proverbial board, ranging from mid-teens for universal fit nylon holds to hundreds of dollars for a custom fit, handcrafted works of wearable art.
Looking to maintain your handgun? Check out the roundup of the best gun cleaning kits and top gun oils. And for secure storage when not in use, review our list of best gun safes.
Q: What is the best material for a gun holster?
Like so many aspects concerning holsters, the construction material is one of personal preference. Each of the three major materials — leather, nylon, or Kydex — have their pros and cons as briefly listed above. But in the long run, it all boils down to how roughly you’re going to use the holster, how you plan to maintain it, and what feels good when you carry that weapon. If you are very tough on gear, opt for Kydex. But if comfort is more important, it’s hard to beat leather.
Q: What should I look for in a holster?
All holsters need to securely hold a firearm and allow for a rapid draw. To ensure this happens, look for a mounting system that will keep the firearm at the ready in a position you are comfortable with, such as inside the waistband. Then, choose models built with quality materials that will protect your pistol and hold up to daily use. Also, ensure that the retention system operates smoothly so you can draw easily when needed.
Q: Can you sit with an IWB holster?
Yes, you can sit with an IWB holster, you just need to position it correctly. For most folks, tucking the holster in behind the strong side hip will do the trick. But feel free to experiment with positions until you find the one that works best for you.
Final Thoughts on the Best Holsters
There are hundreds upon hundreds of holster choices involving variables such as design, style, concealment level, physical carry location, construction material, and price point. Holsters are similar to new vehicles; you should test drive several before making the decision as to which one is right for you. Any of the choices listed here are a good starting point to finding the best holster for your sidearm.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.