When considering concealed carry for handguns, there are several options to consider for how to holster that self defense tool. In this article series, I’ll introduce some of the more common methods with some of their associated advantages and disadvantages beginning with in-the-waistband holsters.
Advantages: fits many different styles of pistols, large and small, highly concealable style, requires least amount of wardrobe adjustment to accommodate.
Disadvantages: draw is less accessible than outside-the-waistband, not an option with a dress or skirt or bottom with an elastic waistband.
IWB concealed carry holsters are often composed of leather, nylon (or other fabric), Kydex, or a hybrid of kydex and leather. Leather is comfortable against the skin, and can be dried to fit a specific firearm, or simply a style of firearm. Nylon/fabric holsters are affordable, comfortable, and is easy to fit a variety of different types of firearms. Kydex provides excellent retention (some kydex holsters are retention-adjustable) and can be custom fit for specific firearm types, or produced to fit a style of handgun.
IWB carry offers a highly concealable option that fits most body types for many situations and clothing (as long as that outfit includes belted bottoms). Some examples include Crossbreed (a leather/kydex hybrid), Uncle Mike’s (adjustable-retention kydex), or DeSantis (leather), among many others. There are also many custom holster makers that can tailor fit a concealed carry holster to suit a specific firearm and individual body specs – for a price.
A problem females, more so than males, encounter with this style of holster has to deal with fashion and the advent of slim, low-rise jeans. Holsters designed to wear within the waistband, by definition, must fit on the inside of one’s pants. For individuals with tight-fitting bottoms, these holsters are more likely to print.
One thing that can help this is by purchasing one size larger than usual to make room for the holster. Another issue with low-rise jeans is that, because they sit lower on the waist than other pant styles, there is less room to hide the holster (from top to bottom). It may fit comfortably while upright, but, in the seated position, even with a belted holster, there is a tendency for the holster to pop out of the waistband, sometimes entirely.
In this reviewer’s experience, this is more of a problem with smaller pistols because they sit closer to top of the waistband. Wearing pants with a higher waist, or carrying a larger pistol minimizes this risk, although, with a larger pistol, concealing printing is more of a challenge.
When considering concealed carry IWB holsters for women, the female form must also be taken into account: we have curves. The majority of holsters this reviewer has come across were not designed with the shape of a female’s hip, waist, and back in mind. The holsters are often too straight in these areas and so do not sit as snug or secure.
Leather holsters, or hybrids with a leather backing have an advantage in this realm because, over time, the leather softens and begins to fit to the body. Because of the flexibility of the material, fabric holsters present less of this issue with fit, however, they often don’t have the same kind of retention the other options do. Kydex is the least form-fitting of the four holster types introduced in this article, but it has the greatest retention.
Carrying IWB may be an easy way to concealed carry a firearm, but females in particular would be advised to consider how a particular holster will suit their clothing. Most pants will accommodate the extra bulk of a holstered pistol, as long as there’s enough space in the waistband, and the wearer uses a belt to slip through the holster to help disperse the pistol’s weight.
However, there are some materials, namely leather and nylon, that are better suited to fit the female form. Choice of pant style in relation to gun size can also impact how successfully a holster can be concealed.
Overall, it is hard to match the convenience of an IWB concealed carry holster for ease of concealment and fit for a wide degree of firearms. Ultimately, though, only you can decide what will suit your concealed carry needs best.
How do you concealed carry?