When I first started shooting, I didn’t give much thought to the holsters I wore. Mind you, I was an 11-year-old girl, and the biggest problem I had was whether or not my hair was straight and my shirt was purple. However, during the last 16 years, I have come to learn and appreciate the intricacies of how holsters are made and what a great holster can do for you. What I have learned is purely my experience and opinion. Hopefully some of this information will save you time and is valuable to you, too.
Fit: The first thing I look for in my competition holster is a great fit. I want the holster to fit my firearm as exactly as possible, so that the draw is easy and I don’t have to worry about it catching on excess material. To know if the holster you are looking at will be a good fit, I suggest trying to find a holster that is made for your gun’s specific make and model. Some holsters are “universal” or made for a variety of firearms, but it has been my experience that a holster made for 10 different firearms does not necessarily fit any of them well.
Adjustable Retention: Because I compete in a variety of different shooting sports, having adjustable retention is a must for me. When I compete in 3-Gun, I need to run and move a lot, so I tighten down the retention. When I shoot Steel Challenge, I need a fast draw, so I loosen the retention. Having a holster that allows me to make adjustments quickly and easily is very important.
Comfortable materials and construction: The absolute most important factor when it comes to my concealed-carry holster is that it is comfortable to wear. The biggest factor in having a comfortable holster is having it constructed of the correct material. If I am carrying an inside-the-waistband holster, I like it to have leather backing, because that is more comfortable against my skin. I prefer the hardware to be covered so it doesn’t chafe, and I prefer that the Kydex have nice rounded corners, so it doesn’t scratch during the draw.
Adjustable retention: I know I have already mentioned this in the competition holster section, but I must reiterate the need for adjustable retention for concealed-carry holsters, because it is equally important for different reasons. The adjustable retention is important for a concealed-carry holster, because it is absolutely key that you are able to draw your firearm, if needed, with no problems. It also is important that the firearm stays in the holster safely and securely during everyday movements. When I buy a concealed carry holster, I want a form of adjustment that is exact, like a screw or nut, because adjusting the Kydex with a heating element like a heat gun or hairdryer is a little too complicated for me.
A great return policy: As much advice as I can give on what works for me or what I like, the honest truth is that unless you try it on yourself and wear it around, you won’t know which holster works well for you. If you are going to purchase a concealed-carry holster, look for a company that offers free returns. This will allow you to try and test the product, and not end up with a box full of holsters when you are done.
Cowboy Action holsters
Most of you reading the column probably aren’t Cowboy Action Shooters, but if you are, I am going to throw in a little paragraph for you! Cowboy Action holsters tend to be very different from their modern counterparts, because they are made almost exclusively of leather. This throws a little kink into the mix, because leather wears much faster and requires more care than other materials.
When looking for a Cowboy Action rig, I suggest looking for one that offers some type of lining to the leather. This will help the leather hold its shape over time and last longer. I also suggest storing your leather without firearms. This will keep your pistols from rusting, and it will allow the leather to “shrink” and stay tighter longer.
I admit that I am biased, but Mernickle makes great Cowboy Action holsters, has decades of experience and he is a super nice guy!
Holsters are a surprisingly important part of owning and using firearms. Don’t take them for granted because you may find out that the smallest thing can make the biggest different. Good luck finding great holsters!