If you’re like me, you’ve got a box of holsters somewhere, stuffed with the good, bad, and ugly of leather, kydex, and, yes, even nylon or Cordura holsters. I could probably buy a nice handgun with the money I’ve spent on holsters I don’t use.
A lot of people see a holster that looks cool, then try to find a reason for it. In fact, people do that with handguns, rifles, cars, houses, women…but I digress. You should start with your current and potential future needs and work from there.
If you’re looking to carry a concealed weapon, but you also want to train with that weapon in a handgun or carbine course, I highly recommend the Raven Concealment Phantom.
Here’s one of my Kimber 1911s in a Raven Phantom. This holster is modular, meaning you can swap the attachment methods for inside or outside waistband carry. This way, you could use it OWB in a course that doesn’t allow IWB holsters, but switch to IWB when carrying concealed, thereby maintaining familiarity with location and draw characteristics after training has built up muscle memory.
It’s very comfortable and conceals very well. The RCS folks are always updating and changing things, they aren’t just content to allow their product to rest on its well-deserved laurels. They’ve got excellent customer service to boot. If your pistol has an accessory rail, they probably have a holster that will work with your pistol and your choice of weaponlights.
I’ve also used Comp-Tac MTAC holsters with varying degrees of success – their warranty is only a year long, and I’ve found that the RCS holsters conceal better and allow better access to the firearm. Retention is also far better with the Phantom.
Dedicated OWB Retention Holsters
Some people need retention. Some people don’t need retention. Some people don’t need it but want it anyway. If you carry concealed most of the time, you should try to practice with what you carry. If you really need a holster that offers good retention, such as for duty use, military use, or civilian open carry, you have a few very good options.
I am a fan of the Blackhawk Serpa. It’s the only Blackhawk product that I like. I was issued one, as was the rest of my platoon, and we used them almost exclusively. After seeing a Safariland dump an M9 out the door of a Humvee, I turned in my Safariland 6004 for a drop leg Serpa. I use the side of my finger to release the retention lock, and this places my finger high on the frame of the pistol. It is, in my opinion, an intuitive design. Many others disagree with me (based on “unwanted retention” and negligent discharge issues), and I urge you to read the opinions of both sides before making a decision. Blackhawk has made changes to the holster since initial criticism in 2005/2006 – make sure you check the date of whatever you read.
We spent a year in the desert and encountered no stuck pistols and no Marine had a negligent discharge. I have gone so far as to throw my Beretta M9/Serpa in the dirt, step on it, bury it, pack dirt in every which way I can, and had no problems drawing the pistol. I’m aware of only one training school which doesn’t allow the use of the Serpa – and I have a low opinion of that school’s cadre, but take my opinion and theirs for what you paid for it. Here’s my Beretta after the aforementioned abuse.
If you want an OWB option with a weapon mounted light, the only option, in my opinion, is the Safariland which allows the use of a light. Blackhawk offers a light that works with the Serpa design, or at least Serpa holsters meant for use with the Blackhawk light, but I will describe said light in only scatological terms. I use a Safariland 6285 for my Glock 34 and Surefire X300, which reside on my “go-to belt”. Both these holster designs are rather bulky and not intended for concealed carry, despite what Blackhawk claims.
Here’s the Safariland for use with an attached light – this is a drop leg holster, and I much prefer belt or chest mounted holsters for essentially all uses – but you get an idea of what it looks like. To me, drop leg holsters add unnecessary bulk, are uncomfortable when temperatures rise, aren’t very steady, and are also more expensive than belt holsters.