Holsters, Holsters, Holsters

Are you trying to figure out what holster is best for you? Like the handgun you picked, what holster you will use is a personal choice.

There are several material options and several attachment options for the holsters. Below I will be going over these material options, the attachment options, and the type of options. 

Material Types

  1. Kydex. Kydex is a plastic like material that is very rigid and durable. Kydex holsters are typically made of 1 or 2 sheets of kydex that are .80″, some companies may use thinner or thicker. This material requires little maintenance, only an occasional wipe down.
    Best in: All climates
  2. Leather. Leather is leather and the quality varies from company to company. Formed leather holsters will last a while, however, they do require maintenance. Leather conditioner, ensuring they are clean, and that they haven’t become soft.
    Best in: Cold climates   |   Bad in: Warm climates
  3. Nylon. Nylon is a softer holster material that doesn’t get formed to specific guns. These holsters tend to be the cheapest and require no maintenance. This holster material is highly disposable and is seldom recommended.
    Best in: Cold climates  |  Bad in: Warm climates
  4. Hybrid. Hybrid holsters are a combination of any of the above materials and some others (including mesh). The outer shell is almost always kydex. The maintenance will vary depending on the materials used.
    Each combination of hybrid holster will be better for different climates.

    Examples of hybrid holsters:
    White Hat HolstersBlack Arch Holsters

    TacCat’s Opinion: For striker fired guns, I would only recommend using kydex. The sturdiness and retention of the material completely prevents the trigger from being manipulated from foreign objects. The ease of maintenance also removes the chance of missing a soft point (like with leather or nylon) and having a negligent discharge like this Gentleman did.

    I would use a formed leather holster for a hammer fired gun in the winter, but not any other time. It will make it a little more comfortable in the winter, but in the summer, it can absorb moisture. In time it can get an odor to it.

    I wouldn’t use a nylon holster, period. There are some proprietary materials like the Sticky holster and Remora’s soft shell holsters that I have and do use. Aside from those soft shell, specifically nylon holsters, leave too much room for accidents.

    Hybrid holsters… depending on the materials used I would use them with striker fired guns and hammer fired guns. Everyone’s comfort level will be different, however, so you will have to form your own opinion.

    The important things: Make sure that the holster covers the entire trigger guard and that the trigger cannot be manipulated.

Attachment Options

Before getting started, it’s important to note that there are a lot more options than just these. The five above seem to be the most common though.

1. FOMI. The FOMI clip is what you will see come standard on a LOT of IWB holsters. Many have experienced this attachment option wanting to slide around on their belt. I have found it to not be the most secure option on the market.
Used for: IWB Holsters  |  Belt: Required

2. Belt Loops. There are a few different belt loop options out on the market, all of them are used for OWB holsters. These attachment options are very secure. I have found if you place the first loop in front of a belt loop on your pants that it won’t slide around at all.
Used for: OWB holsters  |  Belt: Required

3. Holster Loops. Holster loops are arguably the most secure attachment option for IWB holsters, but are also used for some OWB holsters. These loops close with authority and can be difficult to open. The inside of the loops are made to the same width as your belt; the holster isn’t going to move unless you want it to.
Used for: OWB and IWB holsters  |  Belt: Required

4. J Clips. J Clips come in a variety of sizes. Some are thicker, some are thinner, and some are more adjustable. These attachment options are midway between the FOMI clip and holster loops. The holster isn’t going to want to move around, but they do make it easier to take the holster off. The thinner version (commonly called raven clips) are thinner and have a lower profile to them. The thicker version is slightly more secure, but at the sacrifice of having a larger profile.
Used for: IWB Holsters  |  Belt: Required

5. Paddle. The paddle attachment is used for OWB holsters. There are mixed opinions on how secure this attachment option is. For civilian use it shouldn’t pose any issues though.
Used for: OWB holsters  |  Belt: Not required, but recommended

TacCat’s Opinion:  For IWB use, I love the security of the holster loops, but I prefer the some variants of the J-Clips. They’re secure and easy to use. I absolutely hate the FOMI clip though.

For OWB use I will only use the belt loops as shown. They are extremely secure and there’s no chance of them coming unclasped (like with OWB holster loops). And compared to the paddle there’s no way for the holster to be torn off your body.


Above you will see some of the locking options for OWB holsters.

1. SERPA. A lot of people hate the SERPA style lock and a lot of people love it. You have the civilian version and the duty version, the duty version costs about twice as much.
Pros: Easy to use lock, secures the gun well.
Cons: Snow, sand, and dirt have been known to lock-up the locking mechanism. Some say the lock’s location can cause negligent discharges. Other’s say it’s a training issue.

2. Thumbstrap. The thumbstrap is the most common locking mechanism for leather holsters. When you go to draw a gun, your thumb disengages the clasp on the holster (body side) allowing you to get the gun out. Like with the SERPA lock, some people love it, some people hate it.
Pros: Easy to disengage
Cons: Can be difficult to get a good firing grip on the gun depending on where the strap rests.

3. Holster Hood. The holster hood is something that seems to be kind of new on the market and is used only with kydex holsters (so far that I’ve seen). The hood wraps around the back of the gun to secure it. In order to release it to push down on the lever (body side) with your thumb. After the hood swings forward and you’re able to draw the firearm.
Pros: Secures your weapon well, easy to use.
Cons: Incorrect draw stroke could impede the lock from disengaging.

Carry Options:

  1. OWB. OWB or Outside the Waistband holsters ride on the outside of your waistline and in front of your belt. These can be used for both open carry and concealed carry (jacket/shirt over it).
  2. IWB. IWB or Inside the Waistband holsters ride on the inside of your waistline and behind your belt. These are used for concealed carry.
  3. Ankle Holsters. Ankle holsters are primarily used for concealed back-up guns. Per the name, this holster goes on your ankle.
  4. Shoulder Holsters. You have two types of shoulder holster, vertical and horizontal. I recommend vertical shoulder holsters from a safety stand point. These holsters are used for both concealed and open carry.


AIWB or Appendix Inside the Waistband is a location to carry, you guessed it, your IWB holster. This isn’t a new method of carry and has been done for decades.

Above you will see two new attachment options on the market that make this mode of carry a lot more comfortable.

Claw. The claw pushes against your pants to push the grip more towards to belly. This conceals the gun more and makes carrying AIWB more comfortable. It also secures the gun more.

Wedge. The wedge is a piece of foam or other material that gets attached to the bottom of the holster (near the muzzle) on the side that touches your body. This pushes the grip further against your body and increases comfort. The wedge can be cut down to a size that works better for you.

Thank you for reading this part of the First Time Buyer’s Guide to Handguns! Be sure to check out the other parts linked below!

Part 0: Stuff You Should Know Before Buying

Part 1: Handgun Actions Explained

Part 2: Handgun Frames Explained

Part 3: Handgun Calibers Explained 

Part 4: Handgun Holsters Explained (Currently On)

Part 5: Stuff You Should Know After Buying