The Cornered Cat
A Better Holster, Part Five

Over the past week or so, we have been talking about what makes a “good” holster — and what makes one holster “better” than another. To catch up, click here for the series introduction. Then go on to read Part One, and Part Two, and Part Three, and Part Four.

As we’ve already discussed, the first thing that might make a good holster better is when it performs one of the three basic requirements in a more consistent, more reliable, or more durable form. So far, we have discussed ways that one holster might be better than another at protecting the trigger (so that it does not move even when something brushes against the outside of the holster) and at holding the gun securely. We also briefly discussed the importance of the holster helping the user get to the gun quickly and reliably when it’s needed.

Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper into that last point before we move on to other things. Ready?

“A good holster allows the user to access the gun when they need it.”

Keeping with the theme of  holsters that do things better than the bare minimum, a “better”  holster will let us get to the gun faster or more reliably in a wider variety of circumstances. We can measure how quickly the draw happens on a calm day at the range, and yes — faster is generally better. But being able to draw the gun in a wide variety of circumstances can matter too. This means being able to get the gun out one-handed, while moving, and maybe while jammed into some odd position by circumstances. Flexibility is key here.

A huge number of elements can play into how quickly we can get the gun out, and some of them have very little to do with the holster itself. Outer clothing, for instance. Wearing six layers of clothes is bound to slow down a person’s access to the firearm, no matter how efficient the holster design might otherwise be. There are also personal factors, such as shoulder flexibility and overall body shape, that affect how easily the user can reach the gun. We can talk about some of those issues another day, maybe. Right now we’re just talking about the holster itself.

Some of the factors that affect speed of access include the following:

  • The shape of the holster mouth and how sturdy it is.
  • The depth and angle at which the holster holds the gun.
  • How tightly the gun fits in the holster.
  • How the holster is attached to the user.
  • Where the holster rides on the body — or if it does.

Lots more, too. But that’s certainly enough to get started.

When looking at the shape of the holster mouth, remember that it’s always easier and more reliable to draw the gun safely when you’re able to get a complete, solid grip on it while it is still inside the holster.

A solid grip means that your thumb and fingers all go exactly where they belong, just as if you were holding the gun outside the holster. The web between your thumb and forefinger should hit the top part of the grip (the tang). Your thumb should wrap completely around the grip and find its place snugly against the side of the gun. Your trigger finger should stay straight alongside the frame, above the trigger guard. And your other fingers, including your middle finger, should land correctly on the grip so you will not have to adjust your hand in any way after the gun comes out of the holster.

That’s the ideal.

Not every “good” holster meets this ideal, but the further away from the ideal your holster or carry product is, the harder it will be to safely and reliably access the gun when you need it. So when looking for a “better” holster, look for one that will let you get a complete, solid grip on the gun while the gun is still inside the holster.

There are many popular holsters that don’t meet this ideal, by the way. Hybrid holsters with soft leather backs are especially notorious for making it difficult to get your thumb wrapped into place with the gun still inside the holster. Sometimes that can be fixed with a “combat cut” — that is, removing some of the leather backing to get it out of the way of your hand. Unfortunately, that often creates other problems with the soft back flopping over and getting in the way when it’s time to holster the gun.

Other holsters and carry products run into trouble by letting the gun ride so deeply in the pouch that it’s hard to get your hand on the grip in a hurry. One of my favorite belly bands (Pistol Wear) can have this problem, because it has such a nice deep pocket. It’s easily fixed by wrapping a Maxpedition Universal around the gun before putting it in the holster’s pocket. This adds a little extra trigger protection while holding the gun at your own ideal angle and depth — turning a “good” holster into a “better” one.

Other holsters might slow the user down by holding the gun too firmly. Brand new leather holsters often have this problem, which is why holster makers recommend users break in the holster before wearing it. Kydex and plastic holsters often have tension screws that let you adjust the fit. Be aware, though, that the best Kydex products already fit the gun properly and do not often come with tension screws.

Holsters attached to the user’s body — think belt, belly band, and bra holsters — will almost always allow faster access than holsters that might be across the room when you need them. When looking at off-body holster options, look for those that encourage the user to maintain control of the holster and gun at all times. A purse that’s worn cross-body, for example, is much less likely to be set down and forgotten than one carried with a simple shoulder strap.

Even so, a holster that attaches securely to the user’s body will always be a bit faster than one that can flop around and move. This is one reason a purse holster, even when worn cross-body, will always be slower than a belt holster. If the holster moves around on you, it will take you a little longer to find the gun and get it out.

Purses also tend to require the shooter to use two hands to get the gun out, and often make it difficult to access the gun with the non-dominant hand alone when that’s what is needed. There are ways around this with good training, but it’s still an important factor to keep in mind.

Holsters can be worn nearly anywhere on the human body. But there’s a reason most holsters put the gun somewhere around the waistline; that’s because most people find this location easiest to access from a bunch of different postures. When the gun is on or near the waist, you can draw while standing, sitting, kneeling, lying down, crouched behind something, running or otherwise moving. If the gun is on the waist and in front of the hip, you may be able to draw even when entangled with an attacker who has knocked you to the ground. But when the gun is on an ankle, your options get a bit more limited.

All of these factors, and more, go into how quickly and easily a holster allows you to draw the gun when it’s needed.

Tomorrow: Other than improving upon the three non-negotiables, what other factors can make one holster “better” than another?


Can’t wait for the next post in this series? Want the bottom line right now? Sure, here it is:

  • A good holster protects the trigger, holds the gun securely, and allows the user to access the gun when they need it. (These are the non-negotiable, bare minimum things a holster must do. A holster or carry product that does not do these things is not a good holster, no matter how much it costs or who recommends it.)
  • A better holster does one or all of these things better than the bare minimum.

But the details matter, too. Tune in tomorrow!

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