If you already have a general idea on which inside the waistband (IWB) holster you want then check out our analysis of the best IWB holsters. If you do not have a general idea, we understand and that is why we made this inside waistband (IWB) holster buyer’s guide. This guide gives you a list of all the features and benefits you should compare before making your final purchase for an IWB holster.
However, before we even start showing you what to look for in an IWB holster, you must be sure the IWB carry method is suitable for you. That is why we created this decision-making chart for you. It covers the some factors that go into deciding if IWB carrying is right for you. Now that you are certain you want a IWB holster let us move onto the guide.
IWB Holster Buyers Guide
The Two Basic Styles of IWB Holsters
Normally IWB holsters are broken down into two different styles.
A pancake holster is made with two pieces of the same material with the gun sandwiched between them. The pancake-style takes up less room when carrying but is typically less comfortable. It can also print more
Hybrid holsters feature a durable plastic retention shell mated to a cloth or other soft material base that goes against your body. The shell secures the gun in place while the base creates a barrier for minimal discomfort between the rig and your skin. However, the disadvantage of this style is the space it takes up.
The Most common IWB holster materials are:
- Leather: Leather provides a more comfortable fit and protects your gun well from the elements. Typically they have relatively good trigger protection, but this may decrease with time. Leather holsters have less potential to scratch your pistol, while holsters, over time, can build up dirt and grim that will wear on the finish of your firearm. However, with time it softens and loses its retention. This can result in your firearm not being secured in the Holster. There is also a break-in period with most leather holsters.
- Nylon: A silk-like synthetic plastic, Nylon holsters are typically softer. Like leather, Nylon holsters have less potential to scratch your gun, while holsters, over time, can build up dirt and grim that will wear on the finish of your firearm. They also make it hard to perform one-hand reholstering. They also provide less trigger protection for your pistol.
- Kydex: Kydex is a very durable plastic material that is cheap to make. It is easy to take sheets of Kydex and shape it how you want. Most holsters on the market are Kydex. With a Kydex holster, you get excellent trigger protection for your pistol, and it should be easy to draw from. The Holster will last for a long time and not lose its shape like leather or Nylon holsters when you draw your firearm. Compared to leather holsters, Kydex holsters will also keep better retention if it has quality screws holding the Holster together over time. These holsters are impact-resistant, scratch-resistant, and waterproof. Or in other words, it protects your gun well. Point blank Kydex makes a simple, reasonably durable holster. The downside of a Kydex holster is that it can be less comfortable and more brittle than other durable materials for your pistol’s Holster.
- Boltaron: Boltaron is considered one of the best durable plastic materials. It essentially has the same features as Kydex holsters but is less brittle. Meaning these holsters usually are more durable than even Kydex holsters. They can also be more comfortable, but you will typically pay more for one than a Kydex holster for your pistol.
- Synthetic Polymers: Synthetic Polymer holsters usually are just as strong and durable as Kydex and Boltaron. They also are impact-resistant, scratch-resistant, and waterproof. However, they typically provide an even “closer” fit to your firearm than Kydex or Boltaron. This results in better trigger protection and better retention of your gun.
Common Key Factors to Look at for an IWB Holster
The holster can endure being worn daily. Many holsters must be broken in, and the last thing you want is needing a new holster just after you have broken in your current one.
No matter how “great” people claim, a holster is, if it is not comfortable to wear, then you will not use it. One way many AIWB holsters keep comfort a top priority is by adding a cant feature to the holster.
Another critical issue many people overlook is if the bottom of the holster is not rounded off. This an important feature to an IWB holster, because without it you may have a decrease in range of motion while wearing the rig.
The holster should protect against scratches, theft, drops, and if something hits the holster. However, most importantly is it should protect you and those around you against accidental discharge. A very useful way manufacturers avoid this issue is by engineering a trigger guard into the holster
This allows you to determine the carry angle of your pistol while it is in the holster. Why is this important? Because it will improve how comfortable the rig is while you wear it. It also permits better concealment and has the potential of giving you a quicker draw time because the pistol grip is right where you want it
Holsters with adjustable height allows you to determine how low or high a holster will ride on your waistline. Common issues related to the ride height of a holster (that can be fixed if a holster’s height is adjustable):
- Printing: If holster and gun are printing then most of the time holster is riding too high
- Comfort: A ride height that is too low or high can make it to where the holster and pistol are digging into you.
- Grip: If you have trouble getting a good grip on the gun, then the holster is riding too low most of the time.
Since most IWB holsters do not have a retention strap, the adjustable retention of a holster is a great feature. You get to control how “tightly the holster” holds onto your gun. As a result, you keep the holster snug, but not too snug that it is hard to unholster your firearm.
No matter how much you can adjust a holster or what accessories come with it, poorly design holsters are tough to conceal. Without concealment, IWB holsters are a waste of time. Nobody carries an IWB holster because they like the way it feels.
If it is not comfortable, you will not wear it plain and simple. The holster should not restrict movement and should stay in place while being worn moving around while wearing.
Ease of Use
A holster should be comfortable, easy to adjust, put on, take off, and re-holster. If it is not, we will put money on it ends up in a drawer in your gun room. The most essential area a holster needs to be easy to use is drawing your firearm. Sure, you need to practice to make sure this is second nature to you, but if a holster is challenging to draw from, it could add seconds to your draw time. Seconds that you might not have…..
We can all agree that an IWB holster’s clip(s) is a vital feature. However, I will take this a step further and say a holster’s clip(s) is its Achilles’ Heel. If the holster has a clip that will not keep the holster in place or will not clip to a belt, or is not durable, then the holster is basically worthless, and you will not use it.
Most IWB holsters are not ambidextrous; if you are left-handed, ensure you get a left-handed configuration for the holster you choose.
Accommodate the Holster & Gun
We are close to pulling the trigger (get it?!) on purchasing an IWB holster, but there are a few things we still need to think about. One of them is the size of the gun you are using and the size of the holster you are looking to purchase.
([Width of the gun at the greatest point × 3.14 × 2] + [Height of the gun × 3]) × 2
Use the simple formula above to help you determine how big the holster with the gun (rig) will be.We recommend you determine which holster you want and build your outfit around your rig (holster and gun), the activities you will be doing while carrying, and which carry position you will use. If you cannot build your outfit around your rig, then use the formula above to find a rig that will go with your desired outfit if possible.
The rule of thumb is an IWB holster with a a gun holstered adds an inch or two to the waistline. If you wear tighter pants you may need to size up as it may be uncomfortable, and noticeable
Keep Holster from Sliding Around
You holster needs to stay in place when you move around. If the holster slides around it may make you uncomfortable. To help prevent holsters from sliding you may want to look at holsters with these designs.
- Metal clips
- Spring-type clips
- Buy a holster with a Velcro belt
- Place a leather spacer between the holster and belt loop to keep it in place.
Here are the different carry position for IWB holsters. People often refer to the clock position when they mention these. For a more in-depth review for each position click the link above. The list below are the most common IWB carry positions. Just make sure you pick out the most comfortable position for you.
- 2 o’clock: forward of the hip
- 3 o’clock: directly on the hip
- 4 o’clock: between hips and kidneys
- 5 o’clock: kidney carry
- 6 o clock: small of the back position
Find the Right Position For You
The position you carry in is almost always determined through trial in error. This makes it a difficult factor to use when deciding on which holster to purchase; however, here are some general rules that you can use to estimate which position you would carry in. You can use this knowledge to help you decide on the right holster for you.
It is said that the 3 o’clock position is best as it’s more natural and doesn’t dig into your leg. It gives you easier access to the pistol. If you prefer comfort, look into the 4 o’clock position.
Body types also affect the position of the holster. For bulkier people the 5 o’clock position might be better. Check out the infographic below for bigger people and how they might carry.
Once you purchase a holster, test the position you want to carry in by sitting down. If you feel the holster digging into your side, then reposition it.
Tips & Information for After You Purchase an IWB Holster
Conceal the Holster
The best way to conceal the IWB holster is to wear a jacket or loosely fitted shirt. These two clothing items and others that are loose won’t outline the holster.
How to Sit with an IWB Holster
If your holster is positioned incorrectly, it can be uncomfortable to sit. If you place your holster behind the point of the hip the bending action may be parallel to the holster.
Remember that the holster must be concealed when you sit. You can ensure it is concealed by:
- Tucking in your shirt so it doesn’t lift up when you sit up or down
- Button up your jacket or shirt to prevent it from sweeping open and exposing the gun
- Wear a belt to keep your waistline straight
What Is a Tuckable IWB Holster?
Some of the Most Common Carrying Methods
It is a good idea for you to understand other carry methods as well. Below are some common carry methods.
Outside the Waistband (OWB)
The holster attaches to your belt or the outside of your pants. This carry method is very comfortable and easy to maneuver. With the proper wardrobe, it can also be used for conceal carrying. One major issue with this method is the potential for the gun to be stolen.
IWB holsters are easier to hide because you tuck it underneath your pants and inside your shirt. This type attaches to your belt with J-hooks, clips, and loops.
Although its concealable nature is a huge advantage it can also be its downfall. It takes longer to reach for the gun.
The pocket holster fits inside your pants pocket and keeps the gun upright for an easier draw. This type is also easily concealable when you wear a jacket.
An assailant will think you’re reaching for something in your pocket and won’t expect the gun.
The shoulder holster is practical for someone who has back problems because the weight is distributed to the upper body. The straps loop around your shoulders and the holster sits by your sides (between your body and arms).
Shoulder holsters are easy to wear, and gun access is quick. This is one of the more comfortable methods to carry in, especially if sitting for long periods. The main drawback is that your gun has the potential to be pointed at other people while it is holstered.
This type of holster looks exactly like a normal fanny pack. The casual look makes it unsuspecting and it blends into your wardrobe better. The fanny pack’s material protects the gun from external elements such as rain.
This method has a lot of potential. For example, this could be an excellent method if you are working out while carrying. It might not be the most stylish method, though…
If your wardrobe does not allow you to carry on your body, for example, a long dress, or you would like to carry a second weapon on you, then the ankle carry method comes into play.
It can be challenging to get to your firearm quickly carrying in this method, so be sure to train a lot if you decide to use it.
It can be nerve-racking buying any new holster. IWB holsters are no exception to this rule. We know we almost have a mental breakdown every year trying to buy Grandma one for Christmas (she is not easy to buy for). Yet, our guide was developed to give you the most critical information you need in a simplified format so you can make the right purchase. Let us know what you think below, and check out our information on the best IWB holsters!