Many studies have been done which have proved without a shadow of a doubt that most CCW licensees no longer carry a handgun on their person 6 months after receiving their carry permit. Most of the people who fall into these categories have had very real concerns about their person safety and also would tell you that they think they should be carrying their piston each and every day.

The main reason that people stop carrying is because they simply did not think very far past the initial hurdles of getting the permit and selecting a handgun. Not a lot of thought is given to holster choice and even less is given to any type of "real-world" firearms training once the state-required range time is completed.

We'll leave the issue of consistent practice and periodic training for another day, but let us go ahead and go over the different types of holsters available to those looking to consistently carry a gun for protection.

Hip Holsters

Many people spend several hundred dollars buying a gun, then buy a generic holster that for it at a gun shop for a mere pittance. This is akin to buying a Corvette and equipping it with the cheapest tires possible. Not a good idea. A good gun requires a good holster. If it's a belt holster then it requires a good gun belt. You also need a good magazine pouch to carry additional ammunition.

Hip Holster

Hip Holster

There are a lot of good holster manufacturers that come highly recommended. Galco and Bianchi are the two most well-known mass-production companies and their products can be found on the shelves of most gun stores. Custom holsters such as those offered by Milt Sparks and Alessi have to be special-ordered and often have an associated wait time. Most shooters will agree that the best holsters are still made of leather but companies such af Fobus and Safariland and others are producing models made of Kydex and other polymers that have been gaining and enthusiastic following in their own right. Most leather holsters as well as most quality Kydex holsters are molded to the shape of the firearm they are matched to. Nylon weave holsters are often much cheaper but I have yet to find any serious shooter who carries for self defense that uses one. There's probably a reason for that. Enough said.

Most hip-holsters can be divided into two main categories: the IWB Holster and the Belt Holster.

Currently, the vast majority of the carrying public feel that a holster which is housed inside the waistband (IWB Holster) such as the Milt Sparks Versa Max 2 or the Lou Alessi PCH is the ultimate in concealment for those looking to carry a full-sized gun.

Most good IWB holsters will incorporate a stitched-in piece strip of steel which serves to keep the mouth of the holster open when the gun is withdrawn. A holster without this feature will tend to collapse in on itself making it difficult if not impossible to reholster the pistol with one hand.

A medium sized handgun can be easily hidden with an IWB holster under a short jacket, vest, or loose shirt. In summer weather, a T-shirt with an unbuttoned sports shirt over it will conceal an inside-the-pants rig quite successfully. The gun is less likely to be seen inside the waistband, say on a windy day or if the shooter is running, than if it is carried in a regular belt holster. This is because the only part of the gun exposed is the butt. Remember that when wearing a gun inside the waistband, you'll need to buy your trousers and jeans a bit larger in the waist. You could also consider this a good time to go on a diet in order to adjust your waistline down instead of your waistband up.

That is not to say that a Belt Holster, worn outside the pants or skirt, is not a good carry. It is excellent in cooler locales or during the late fall months and throughout the winter when wearing a jacket is the norm. A good belt holster is probably half a second faster on the draw than an IWB holster. Unfortunately, most of those who carry a handgun do not get any type of consistent practice anyway, so their time to draw and sight-in is considerably slower than it need be which means that there is little difference for them whether they go with an IWB or belt holster.

Some belt holsters will feature a thumb break retention strap that makes it more difficult for someone to take the pistol from you when you are not looking. Others incorporate a tension screw that can be adjusted to hold the gun more securely. It is usually best, if buying a belt holster, to get one that has one of these two features to ensure that the gun stays secure when running, bending over, or during other types of physical exertion. Those using an IWB holster tend not to need these extra features as both the belt and waistband add enough pressure to keep the handgun secure.

Types of Hip Holsters

Two other popular styles of hip holsters that have been well received are the paddle holster and the scabbard or slide.

Paddle holsters differentiate themselves from the standard belt holster in that they are made to be easily removed without fiddling with snaps. This is accomplished by the incorporation of one ore more types of spring clips that clasp the belt or trouser waistband and keep the holster in place in order to prevent it from being drawn when the gun is.This comes in handy when you want to put the holster in the glove box when you have to enter a building, like a courthouse, where guns are prohibited.

It's best to be forewarned that some companies that make paddle holsters are not very good at what they do. Holsters from these companies have the bad habit of not staying put when the gun is drawn...a very serious problem indeed. These types of holsters are easily avoided though if you do some research before buying and read a few holster reviews first.

The last of the hip holsters is the Scabbard (also known as a slide). They tend to cover the trigger guard, the adjacent part of the slide and little else. The full grip of the handgun as well as the muzzle is exposed. Some police officers are fond of these holster styles but they don't tend to work well for civilian CCW carriers. If you are going to carry your gun outside your belt it is best to get one that will cover the muzzle completely. Why? Because anytime the muzzle of the gun comes in contact with another surface (such as the seat of your car as you sit down) you run the risk that it will be pushed up and out of the holster. Not a pleasant thought, is it? Also, if you accidentally expose a holster that fully wraps around your gun and someone sees it, they may thing it's a cell phone case or something similar. That probably won't be the case if they see the powder-stained muzzle of your .45 sticking out from under your shirt.

Finally, it's important to remember that your holster doesn't stand alone, it works as a part of a system. A lot of shooters forget that choosing the proper belt is just as important as choosing a proper holster. Strangely enough, many people will simply use the same four or five belts that they have on hand from JCPenny. These types of belts, which we'll call 'fashion belts', are not in any way made for the concealed carry shooter in mind. A fashion belt is designed simply to keep the standards pair of slacks or khakis in proper position. A gun belt does that as well as support the weight of your gun, holsters, and spare ammo. A thin belt will hang awkwardly when matched to a full-sized handgun and will actually cut into your skin like cheese wire, making life very uncomfortable. A good gun belt will always be 1 1/4" wide minimum and will be of thick enough construction to support your gun rig properly. These types of gun belts are not cheep. Some, such as those made by the Alessi Holster Company, cost as much as some of their holsters.

When matched with a good gun belt, the hip holster is pretty much the top choice for the civilian looking to carry a handgun. Simplicity is matched with consistent performance in this this classic design. A standard hip holster is not for everyone though which is why in our next article, we'll start going into the details the different types of alternative carry holsters.