So you all know that there is a vast selection of holsters available on the market today. So many in fact, that it is hard to decide which holster you actually need, and which one will work the best for you. Let me tell you, I went through this same thing when I first started to carry a firearm concealed (about three years ago). I was under the impression that I had to carry a tiny gun in an inside the waistband holster, which some of you know, that was a bad path to start roaming down, given the only handgun I had was a Glock 22.
I searched and searched, read and read, and went through so many product reviews my head was spinning with confusion. I would stop by site “A” and the author would state that a leather inside the waist band holster was the only way to go. Site “B” would state that the Serpa holster was the only way to go and that you have to have an active retention system in order to carry properly. Needless to say, I ended up purchasing a vast array of holsters in order to learn for myself, which in the end is part of the reason I am writing this article.
The start of my holster journey was hitting the Inside the Waistband (IWB) category. I stopped by a local gun shop and browsed at their selection (as you know not all gun shops have the latest and greatest products when it comes to holsters). I stumbled upon a nice leather IWB holster, with a little plastic belt clip that was only about $8.00. “What a bargain!” I took this holster home and immediately realized why it was so cheap… this holster was awkwardly thick, it didn’t clip to the belt properly and it seemingly wasn’t made for any normal gun shape. Queue my first holster mistake.
As I threw my failed IWB attempt to the side, I continued my search. This led me back to the internet, searching discount sites, eBay and other holster retailers for that perfect holster. Unfortunately for me the search logistics placed an ad for the Versa Carry on the right side of my browser. Queue in mistake number two. I looked into this holster and (due to my lack of knowledge and experience) purchased it. Hell, it was only $15 so what’s the real harm right? I get this thing in the mail and immediately try it out.
A little back story on this holster in case you are unsure as to what I am referring to. This is an IWB holster that is made to be as minimalist as possible, and also ambi. The basic design is a flat plastic flap (the trigger protector) attached to another plastic rod, which leads down to a plastic red hook “thingy”. Sounds weird but it makes sense if you have seen this thing. The “thingy” is made to be inserted into the barrel… that is the method of retention… you insert an obstruction into the barrel. So when I try this thing out, it is damn near impossible to get it into the barrel, the red “thingy” leaves plastic residue in the barrel, and when you draw, your pants damn near slice you in half because the gun doesn’t want to come away from the holster. #FAIL.
Obviously this Versa Carry gets thrown to the side once again. This led me to one of my better purchases, and to the holster that I carried and “trained” with for a while. This holster is the Galco M7X Matrix. I was online reading reviews and it they all seemed to be positive so I took the plunge and purchased it for $30, I believe. This holster is basically a leathery trigger guard cover that is OWB, and leaves the front part of the slide completely exposed. Regardless, this holster actually worked for me, it held the gun really close to the body, it was easy to draw from, and it was concealable, even though I was a new CCW permit holder and I was terrified of printing. I used this holster for quite a while, maybe a month or so.
At this point I’m really getting into self-defense and concealed carry. I am starting to do more research on training, techniques, laws, and anything to further educate myself. Remember, I wasn’t always a huge gun nut, as a matter of fact, three years ago I was just a guy who liked guns and didn’t really think about carrying one, and I definitely wasn’t working in the firearms industry. This point in my journey was actually the most enlightening experience I have had in my firearms career. I stumbled across the Magpul Dynamics Art of the Dynamic Handgun DVD and my whole life changed. I get it, a lot of you scoff at the idea of using DVD’s for training, but you have to remember I wasn’t training at the time, I was just trying to learn anything I could, and I didn’t really ever hear about the big names in the industry until this DVD.
I must have watched Chris Costa and Travis Haley spit knowledge 10 times over before I caught the most important tid bit I ever learned. So you know, at this time, my holster selection is terrible and I am definitely in need of something a hell of a lot better… queue in Travis Haley, “This is a raven holster”. These words spoken in that DVD were complete game changers for me. I paused the video, ran to my computer and looked up “raven holster”. Boom! The first search result led me to Raven Concealment Systems, which to my amaze are made right here in Ohio… double whammy! I figured if Costa and Haley are using these holsters, I should be too.
At this point I saved up my coins (damn these things are expensive when you are used to buying trash for holsters), and placed an order. My holster of choice was the Raven Concealment Systems Phantom for a Glock 22. This holster was a huge turning point for me, it changed my carry style, it got me confident to train, it allowed me to carry comfortably and securely, and it is still my go to brand to this day.
Raven Concealment was the complete turning point for me, my “ah ha” moment, and the moment I found the brand that works for me. I am in the mindset that if you find something that works, there is no need to change, hence why every holster I actively use is a Raven Concealment Systems holster.
This isn’t an advertisement for Raven though, I wish they would pay me, but they don’t, I don’t even get free stuff from them to review… *sigh*. The reason I bring this up is I went through a long and perilous journey to find a good holster (I left out a lot of the other garbage holsters I purchased as for the sake of brevity). I spent so much money it was ridiculous, and if I would have just spent the $90 right off the bat, I would have saved twice as much in the end.
The moral of the story is the “new and improved” advertising lingo is never worth it. As I said, I tried a myriad of novelty holsters and they all suck. It wasn’t until I got to the normal standard OWB holster that everything changed for me. Mind you I have actually changed my carry position (at times) to appendix, but you get the idea, and yup, same brand. If you have made though the lengthy wordage above here, congratulations, you have made it to what I require in a holster. I mostly carry appendix when I am out and about, and I carry OWB when I am at work… these requirement fit the bill for each carry position.
First, the holster has to be made of kydex (or any other form of heat molded plastic). I am not a fan of leather (except for my Savoy Leather custom holster, of course), because they are always much harder to use, they are horribly tight, require a break-in period, and never fit at a normal angle. Kydex holds the gun tight but not too tight, and it hardly ever wears out, not to mention is holds its shape which is one of the most important aspects, especially when working one-handed.
Second, the holster has to have a low body shield. I know, I know, the high body shield is more comfortable on the skin, not for me. I actually like to have the metal of the gun touching me, it is sort of a reminder that it’s there. Also, if you have ever had your gun drawn, and tried to bend over you will soon realize why I like a low body shield… you get the El Shish Kabob from that high shield.
Third, the holster has to be at a cant between 0 and 15 degrees, preferably 0 degrees to be honest. I can’t stand when the holster is canted so far you can barely angle your wrist to grab the gun. Zero to ten degrees is perfect for me, and having the gun upright does not take away from concealability at all, just wear a man sized shirt and you will be fine.
Fourth, the holster edges have to be smooth, and rounded. When you have a cover garment on, the last thing you want is your clothes snagging on the holster, especially when you really need to get that gun out, quick, fast and in a hurry.
Fifth, the holster has to be closed bottomed. I like when the kydex surrounds the muzzle and light of the gun, and leaves only a little slit for the debris and water to escape. I feel if the bottom of the holster is open you can accidentally push up on the muzzle when readjusting causing it to fall out of the holster, if you leave your WML on, it shines through like the sun, and if anything is sticking out of the bottom of the holster, chances are I am going to bump it into something and bang it all up, and now my fancy new fiber optic front sight is broken and on the floor.
Sixth, the holster has to have good belt loops. I prefer the Raven 1.75” style loops. They are an open backed loop that allows the belt to slide through with ease. There are other loops that I have tried that utilize a rectangular piece of injection molded plastic, and they are a pain to loop through. As for appendix carry, I prefer the soft loops with the “pull the dot” system, or the 1.75” quick clip that many manufacturers offer. I’m sure the over hooks work great, I’m just not a fan of them.
Seventh, is talking about retention. I really don’t like holsters that are too tight, to be honest I prefer them to be a little loose. I’m not a huge fan of having to violently pull at the gun to get it out of the holster. My Raven holster is actually quite loose, and even though I can send it back to get remolded, I feel no need to bother. Also, I have never had a gun fly out of a holster when I was running around, so having the holster be able to hold a gun when it is upside down and shaken means nothing to me.
Eighth, the holster has to be molded low enough to allow easy access to the undercut in my trigger guard. Having a holster that is cut too high impedes on gripping ability, and we all know you get one chance to grab that gun from the holster, better make it easier on yourself.
Ninth, the holster has to have good mold quality. Here I am not talking about retention, but rather the mold quality around your body, which applies mostly to OWB holsters. You can have a nice piece of kydex, that meets all of the other requirements, but if the holster isn’t molded to contour to your hip, the concealability drastically decreases and pretty much makes the holster useless unless you are on the range wearing a bunch of gear. Then what is the point of using it, if it is only an open carry rig, and you mostly carry concealed? Another aspect that relates to this point is, the holster must stay in place along the axis of the belt. I like the ability to be able to move the holster forward and back if I need to get into a pocket, but I do not like when the holster can effortlessly move side to side on the belt. If you get knocked on the ground and the holster moves rearward, your draw stroke changes and you might not be able to find the gun as easily, especially if you are used to grabbing the same spot every time.
My final requirement is ride height. This aspect is closely related to number eight, but it isn’t the same. Ride height is one of the main reasons why I like Raven Concealment. The loops are offset in height (the belt threads through at a lower point than where the loops screw into the holster… confusing I know). Holsters that use the rectangular injection molded loops, cause the ride height to be either too high, or too low depending on where you attach the loops to the holster. I have tried holsters that are too top heavy, they print like the dickens, and some that are so low, they completely block off your front pocket.
In the end, these are only my opinions, and rather drawn out opinions at that. I know I seem like a Raven Concealment fanboy, and I truly am. Raven was the first holster I found that worked perfectly for me, and I have no need to change. Heck, the Eidolon was such a success, other companies started to copy its concept. I believe if companies are copying another product, just go straight to the original (much like the companies that copy Glock). I have received many a holster to review over the years, and most of them are pretty good, I am just really picky when it comes to holsters. If you are curious as to what other holsters I have reviewed, stop by my YouTube channel (youtube.com/idavemoore) and look through my posts. Remember, these requirements are dedicated to concealed carry, I know a lot of you will not agree with me if you carry on duty in a law enforcement or military capacity… that would bring about a completely different list, in some aspects.