Best Concealed Carry Holsters [2018 Hands-On Tested]

What’s the best holster for the money?

After buying your gun…deciding on which holster you’re going to buy is one of the most important decisions you can make.

There are a lot of different kinds and styles of holsters on the market right now.  Sadly, many of them are not ideal for concealed carry. 

Lots of Holsters, Boondock Saints
Lots of Holsters, Boondock Saints

But no worries…we’ll clear up what makes a good holster, the types of carrying (inside waistband, ankle, etc), and personal recommendations for each type.

Best Concealed Carry Holsters

  1. Best OWB: Alien Gear Cloak Mod
  2. Best IWB: Crossbreed Supertuck
  3. Best IWB (Value): Concealment Express
  4. Best IWB (Unique): Urban Carry G2
  5. Best Bellyband: Crossbreed Belly Band
  6. Best Ankle: Sticky Holster
  7. Best Shoulder: Galco
  8. Best Gun Belt: Relentless CCW

*UPDATED* 2018: More holsters and personal experiences.

Table of Contents

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Why Is It So Necessary to Have a Good Holster?

Let’s think about some of the things the holster is supposed to do:

  • Protect and hold the firearm.
  • Prevent discharge.
  • Provide quick access.
  • Prevent theft or loss.

So, maybe instead of the original question, we should ask things like: What goes into a great concealed carry holster?

First and foremost is the concept of safety.  You’ve likely heard the safety rules by now, but in case you haven’t, here they are:

  1. Treat every weapon like it’s loaded.
  2. Don’t point your gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
  4. Know your target and what’s beyond it.

They’re all particularly important but for right now, let’s concentrate solely on number three…keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.

Good Trigger Discipline Glock 17
Good Trigger Discipline Glock 17

I want to expand on it even more and say that nothing should touch the trigger, to include clothing or any part of the holster itself.  Your trigger could get caught, pulled, and cause a discharge.

That’s a bad oopsie…

Trust me when I say the last thing you’re ever going to want is for your gun to go off unintentionally.  And, guns have gone off when being holstered because something got caught and pulled the trigger.

Therefore, it is super important that you learn how to safely re-holster your handgun to make certain you know how to do it.   And take your time…believe it or not…nobody has ever won a gunfight by speed-holstering.

The bottom line is to always make sure your gun’s path is clear of any foreign objects (including your own finger) before you put your gun in its holster.

Before we move on, let’s recap:

  • Choosing the right holster is important.
  • A good holster protects the firearm, prevents discharge, provides quick access, and prevents theft.
  • When you holster your gun, you need to pay special attention to what is by the trigger, to make sure nothing snags on it causing a discharge.
  • Learn how to, and practice, holstering your gun so you get good at it.

Now let’s move onto some holster details.

What Makes a Great Concealed Carry Holster

As I stated earlier, there are a lot of different kinds and styles on the market.  But a lot of them are not ideal for concealed carry because they are dangerous.

When you pick out a holster, make sure it has the following:

  • Total trigger coverage
  • Sturdy material
  • Good retention
  • Good concealability
  • Handgun protection
  • Skin/body protection
  • Positive grip

Let’s take a closer look at these requirements…

Trigger and Material

There are a lot of holsters on the market where the trigger is not covered or is covered by a flimsy material.

So that you’re as safe as possible, it’s best to have a holster that is made of a sturdy material that covers the trigger.  You want to do all you can to prevent the possibility of a discharge.

A good example of a sturdy material could be Kydex or leather.  Both do an excellent job of protecting the trigger.  

Kydex Sheets
Kydex Sheets

Kydex is basically nothing more than a polymer composite material formed to the shape of your gun with a bunch of properties that help it do its job.

Some holsters will have both materials in the form of a Kydex shell on top of a leather backing.  

Crossbreed Super Tuck with XDs
Crossbreed Super Tuck with XDs

There are countless companies making good-quality holsters out of this material.  You can’t go wrong here.

Good Retention

Another way of saying retention is that your gun needs to “stay put.”

A good test…if you stick your gun in your holster, and turn it upside down, will it fall out?

If it comes out, the retention of it needs to be adjusted (usually via a screw) or you need a different method of carrying.

It needs to be strong enough that it keeps your firearm in place until you tug it out on purpose.

Concealability

Unless you’re carrying openly, you’ll want your firearm in a discreet position where it cannot be seen.

IWB, or Inside the WaistBand, holsters offer a better level of concealment than does OWB, otherwise known as Outside the WaistBand (more on this in a minute).

And, as far as IWB holsters are concerned, generally speaking, appendix IWB offers the most concealment.

Think of appendix carry as starting directly in front of your belly button and ending on your pelvic bone.

Appendix Carry Example
Appendix Carry Example

Keep in mind, it depends on body type, and my body is different than yours.  What conceals better for me, may not be a good option for you.

The best thing to do is to play around with it a bit, to find a balance between comfort and concealment.

Protection

Your holster needs to protect you and your gun.

Some of the harder materials can cause rub marks on its finish over time, so keep that in mind too.

Total Coverage from JM4
Total Coverage from JM4

At the same time, some of the stiffer holsters may rub your skin the wrong way.  While not generally that big of a deal… if it isn’t comfortable, would you carry it every day?

As a bonus while on this topic, holsters can also damage clothing if you choose the wrong type.  

Holster Wear
Holster Wear, Hidden Defense

I’ve used metal clips on holsters before that eventually wore holes into my shirts.  Plastic clips, while not as strong, do their job quite well and are gentler on clothing than their metal counterparts.

Grip

This is very important.  

If your holster doesn’t afford you the ability to have a FULL combat grip on your gun when it is drawn, you need a different holster.  Meaning you’ve got a high grip, can deactivate safeties and can shoot one-handed.

You should be able to draw and fire, from any position, to include directly off-body if an attacker is on top of you.  I’d even suggest a holster/position where you can reach with your weak hand as well.

Again, because it bears repeating…if your holster doesn’t allow a full combat grip, get a new one.

Different Types of Holsters

There are a few different types of holsters out there for men and women:

  • IWB
  • OWB
  • Belly Band
  • Ankle
  • Shoulder
  • Those designed specifically for women, which I know nothing about…but good thing one of our writers does.

Let’s tackle each of these, along with their benefits.

IWB

Aliengear Cloak Tuck 3.0 with XD Mod 2
Aliengear Cloak Tuck 3.0 with XD Mod 2

Otherwise known as Inside the Waist Band, these holsters are great for concealing a gun.

They go in between your pants and your underwear and they are excellent because they keep the gun so very close to your body.

Aliengear Holster, High Grip
Alien Gear Holster

Because it is so close to you, people won’t notice it as much as some of the other options on this list.  They also don’t “print” as much as some of the others do.

Printing is when the outline of the firearm/holster can be seen on the shirt.  

This is bad because the point of carrying a concealed gun is to hide the fact that it’s there.

Seated with Aliengear
Seated with Alien Gear

One of the drawbacks to carrying like this is that it’s harder to get that positive combat grip from the draw. It’s possible, but you’ll have to practice that much more to get it right.

OWB

OWB Paddle Style by Blackhawk
OWB Paddle Style by Blackhawk

OWB, or Outside the Waist Band is when the gun/holster rests on the outside of your pants.  

It is usually anchored to you by the belt, though some of them may attach differently.

This method of carrying is less concealable and tends to print more often than IWB.  It is also a very comfortable method of carrying because there generally isn’t anything poking you in the side.

Bravo Concealment, Hands at Side
OWB Holster

Finally, it affords a better grip on the draw because it sits further off the skin allowing you to get your entire hand on it in the right position.

But you will have to wear a decently large shirt or even jacket to conceal your gun.

Belly Band Holsters

These are pretty self-explanatory…it’s a band that goes around your belly.  For those times when you’re not wearing a belt…

Brave Response Holster
Brave Response Holster

Make sure to choose one that completely covers the trigger and remember that you might get a little sweaty under there.

Shoulder

Shoulder holsters generally wrap around the shoulder.  The part that actually holds the gun usually sits on your support side’s rib cage.  

007 Shoulder Holster
007 Shoulder Holster

The support side is the hand that you don’t squeeze the trigger with.  It helps to stabilize, or support, the strong hand. The strong hand is the one you do squeeze the trigger with.

This method of carrying a concealed gun is great for people who wear a jacket and is also commonly employed by undercover and off-duty police officers.

But it’s not all looking cool…

  • The guns tend to fall out much more likely than other holsters
  • You’re muzzling the person behind you
  • When you unholster it’s easy to sweep a couple people in front of you too
  • Your shirts will get gross sweat marks from the holster
  • When you take off your jacket the gun is no longer concealed

Ankle

This method of carrying a concealed gun is great for deep concealment, or for times when a backup gun is needed.

In this case, there is no printing unless you’re wearing tight pants.

Nobody will know you’ve got a gun on you unless you pull your pant leg up and show them.

Ankle Holster from Uncle Mike
Ankle Holster from Uncle Mike

The drawbacks to this method, are that your gun can be hard to get to, and it can be uncomfortable to the point that it can pull your leg hair out and rub your skin unless you wrap it around a boot.

Without any further ado, let’s get to some specific examples!

Best OWB Holsters

Alien Gear

Value Pick
Alien Gear Cloak Slide

Alien Gear Cloak Slide

The Alien Gear Cloak Slide is my personal pick for an outside the waistband holster.  Reason being…it is very versatile and affordable.

Alien Gear Cloak Slide
Alien Gear Cloak Slide

Plus, the 30-day “Test Drive” offer and lifetime warranty is great.  It attaches to a belt by way of two belt loops but has a slightly larger profile due to its leather backer when compared to pure Kydex holsters.

Alien Gear Cloak Slide, Back
Alien Gear Cloak Slide, Back

A newer paddle version is the Alien Gear Cloak Mod ($50) where you can easily switch out your holster from pants to dashboard to a table without taking off your belt.

Upgrade Pick
Alien Gear Cloak Mod

Alien Gear Cloak Mod

Prices accurate at time of writing

Tagua

Extra Retention
Tagua Leather OWB Holster

Tagua Leather OWB Holster

This is a leather constructed holster ($40) that adds the thumb break for added firearm retention.  This draw is a bit different from other holsters because there is an extra step.

Tagua Holster
Tagua Holster

It’s a good option, just make sure you practice with it.

Tagua Holster, Note the Thumb Break
Tagua Holster, Note the Thumb Break

Safariland

Editor's Choice
Safariland OWB Holsters

Safariland OWB Holsters

Eric’s favorite no-nonsense OWB holster brand ($40).  Great for carrying or for competition use.  Tons of models so you’ll be sure to find your pistol, hand, and flashlight combination.

Backing allows the use of a paddle or other belt attachment systems (Tek-Lok, etc).

Best IWB Holsters

Crossbreed Holsters

Editor's Choice
Crossbreed IWB Holsters

Crossbreed IWB Holsters

The Crossbreed Supertuck Deluxe is currently Eric’s favorite (review coming soon) since it’s super comfy with the leather backing (don’t worry it comes in black too) and allows for a full grip.

The combat cut is slightly less comfy since the grip is more exposed, but it’s what I prefer since I get a nice “high” draw where the web of my hand perfectly meets the beavertail of the pistol.

And for smaller guns that you plan on appendix carrying…yea they have those too.

Crossbreed Appendix Carry Holster
Crossbreed Appendix Carry Holster

Alien Gear

Value Pick
Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0

Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 ($45) is a great IWB holster.

Again, the lifetime warranty plus 30-day no questions asked trial period can’t be beaten.  Plus, they are comfortable with the neoprene backing.

Aliengear Cloak Tuck 3.0 with XD Mod 2
Aliengear Cloak Tuck 3.0 with XD Mod 2

Check out our full review where the holster survived months of use and a multi-day CCW course.

ITTS Tactical CCW Course with Alien Gear
ITTS Tactical CCW Course with Alien Gear

Readers' Ratings

4.95/5 (151)

Your Rating?

Comptac Holsters

Also Great
Comptac Holsters

Comptac Holsters

Another perennial favorite online and also in CCW courses is the Comptac MTAC Holster ($80).  My buddy swears by these and he used it to great success in our latest course.

Concealment Express

Light & Effective
Concealment Express Holsters

Concealment Express Holsters

Looking for something AIWB that’s super light (less than 3 oz) yet effective and still comfortable.  Check out Concealment Express.  We also did a full review on them and all their styles and attachment options.

Concealment Express Attachment Options
Concealment Express Attachment Options

Urban Carry G2

Most Unique
Urban Carry G2

Urban Carry G2

Prices accurate at time of writing

A fairly new holster that almost deserves to be in its own category since it melds IWB & OWB…the Urban Carry G2 ($65) offers some distinct advantages over other holsters.

Urban Carry G2
Urban Carry G2

It allows for carrying with your shirt tucked in…plus even if it prints a little it shows up as something in your pocket.  However, one negative include having to have your belt a little looser since your gun sits underneath.

Mine just came in so full review coming soon!

Best Belly Band Holster

Brave Response Holster

Best Belly Band Holster
Brave Response Holster

Brave Response Holster

Prices accurate at time of writing

My top choice for a belly band holster is the Brave Response Holster ($70) which is universal for most guns since there’s no hard Kydex shell.  This makes it very comfy too.

Brave Response Holster
Brave Response Holster

Plus it has the added benefit of having three mag pouches already sewn in.  It might be a little hard to reach them since it is on your strong side, but it’s good to know they are there with you.

Crossbreed Holsters

Crossbreed Belly Band
Crossbreed Belly Band

The Crossbreed Belly Band ($70) adds some extra safety with a Kydex gun-specific shell that covers the trigger.  They also have a sewn in magazine/phone/flashlight pouch plus the ability to add in magazine holsters.

Best Ankle Holster

Sticky

For that extra deep concealment ($33).  You can even fit an extra mag or knife next to your gun.

Sticky Holsters Anklebiter

Sticky Holsters Anklebiter

Prices accurate at time of writing

Sticky Ankle Holster
Sticky Ankle Holster

Best Shoulder Holster

Galco

Galco Vertical Shoulder Holster

Galco Vertical Shoulder Holster

Prices accurate at time of writing

For those times ($184) when you’re wearing a suit and tie, but also feel like being prepared.

Being like James Bond ain’t cheap though…

Best Gun Belt

With most of the holsters, you’ll likely get…you’ll need a great gun belt.

One that doesn’t scream “look at me” but is sturdy enough to not flex under the weight of a fully loaded gun and even extra mags.

My favorite is the Relentless CCW belt ($60) which meets all the requirements and hasn’t failed me yet in one year of standard use.

Or check out my full review of 3 of the top belt brands out there.

Best CCW Gun Belts, Thickness
Best CCW Gun Belts, Thickness

Conclusion

No matter which method of concealed carry you choose, you need to practice your draw and re-holster often to make sure you master it.  

As for holsters?  Sometimes it takes trying out a couple to see which one fits and feels the best.

Not yet a concealed carry pro?  Check out 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Concealed Carry.

And how that you’ve gotten the perfect holster and gun…what happens if you have to use it in a defensive shooting?

Check out my review of USCCA’s CCW Insurance which will help you and your family with legal fees and more.  It’s really one of those things you’ll wish you had if things get hairy.

So…what holster did you end up getting?

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Jax
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Jax

I agree that there are so much better holsters than Alien Gear. Not knocking them but I don’t like the material they use for the backer. I much prefer a natural leather. I’ve been carrying the Shield for a few years now (since it came out). I have friends with crossbreeds and I thought that’s what I wanted, but I recently got an Exarchy Holster Patriarch IWB hybrid holster with a horsehide backer. I’m not sure why I waited so long. SO Comfortable. Best Holster I’ve ever owned. Easy to conceal and tuckable. The standard clips are similar to crossbreed… Read more »

justin Otis
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justin Otis

Alien Gear also does great IWB in my opinion. They are comfortable for all day carry as well as easily customize-able for a perfect fit. As for the best gun belt hands down is Bigfoot Gun Belts. They make awesome steel-core belts that are also stylish enough to wear for dress up functions. Both are made in Post Falls, Idaho, which means USA made.

PSF
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PSF

I purchased the JM4 Relic along with the JM4 Belt. So far I am pleased.

Rocky Lemons
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Rocky Lemons

Ty for ur time and opinons

Big D
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Big D

Wow. I’m surprised by this list. Alien Gear as the number one pick? Are you kidding me?! There are so many better holsters on the market that are far better quality with superior fit & finish. G-Code and Bravo Concealment are two that come to mind, just off the top of my head. There are many more, though. I don’t know if I can trust a list that has Alien Gear, holsters known for their hardware breaking, as the top pick. Glad I have more sense than to follow this feeble list blindly. Some of the companies listed are ok… Read more »

Tim Damron
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Tim Damron

I enjoy different opinions on any type of list. If no replies from average users of a product, makes me question the supplied information. A site that would edit any replies because of a difference in the outcome is one I don’t care to read. The outcome of gun/holster type/shooter body type/position of where worn is a variable that leads to a high number of outcomes. Thanks for the article, & thanks for the reply that makes a person rethink the information given.