There's never been a better time to start carrying your firearm - options for carrying concealed used to be very limited, but those times have changed!
Today, there are several "alternative" ways to carry your firearm, including many types of holsters that don't fit into the traditional Outside the Waistband (OWB) or Inside the Waistband (IWB) categories. Some options like ankle holsters and shoulder holsters have been around for quite some time, while others, such as bra holsters and corset holsters, are relatively new to the world of concealed carry.
Obviously, the latter holsters are designed with women in mind and their rise in popularity can readily be attributed to the increase in the number of women who are actively getting their license to carry a concealed handgun.
Thinking of trying an alternative carry holster? Here's list of the most popular options:
If you have ever watched a police show or crime drama on television, you have likely seen the shoulder holster. Normally made largely of leather, the shoulder holster is a holster attached to a shoulder belt, usually in a figure eight type configuration worn over both shoulders with the firearm on the non-dominant side. There are other configurations as well as providing many options for the wearer. The holster can be worn over a shirt but underneath a suit coat or jacket.
The benefit of a shoulder holster, especially for law enforcement, is that because it is not worn around the belt, it is more comfortable to wear, especially for someone that has a desk job or works from their car. Also, the shoulder holster can conceal a larger handgun. Deployment of the handgun requires a cross draw. The downside of such a setup is that it does require the use of outerwear which may not be desirable in locations that have hot summer weather.
There are holsters on the market now that attach to a bra for the female who wants to conceal carry. Two of the more popular locations for the holster to attach to the bra is in the front and center right over the sternum and over to the non-dominant side under the arm. These holsters are usually made of Kydex or other stiff plastic with suede or leather straps that have sturdy one way snaps to keep the holster secure. The bra itself also acts to stabilize and secure the holster. To draw the firearm from the front and center style holster requires the user to lift their shirt and pull straight down, snapping the firearm from the holster.
For the underarm style holster, the user would usually reach down the neck of the shirt to deploy the handgun. While this type of holster may sound uncomfortable, most women, once they learn to properly wear the holster, find that it is very comfortable. However, this does depend a bit on individual body styles and size.
Firearm size also makes a difference with these types of holsters, as a full-size handgun would likely be too heavy and too large to conceal. Bra holsters can be worn under many different types of tops and shirts, from tank tops to business blouses.
A corset holster is exactly as it sounds, a corset meant to be worn under a shirt or blouse, with holster pockets included made from a thick elastic. The corset holster fits tight to the wearer’s body, making concealment easy to achieve. The holster pockets provide maximum coverage on most micro and compact firearms. Some women are able to carry a full-size firearm in them, especially when wearing a jacket or coat.
As it is made for women, most corset holsters also have the added benefit of body-shaping. As with the bra holster, the comfort of the corset holster depends on the body shape and size of the user wearing it, but most women can find a corset holster that fits them comfortably. The downside of the corset holster is that some may find it a little warm, especially in hot climates. A real benefit of the corset holster is that the user can use the same corset holster with multiple handguns.
The belly band holster is worn around the waist undershirt and pants or shirt and skirt. A belly band provides some options as far as either wearing high on the waist or lower on the hips. It is constructed in much the same way as the corset holster with stretchy but sturdy pockets that hold the firearm close to the body. In some of the belly band style holsters, there are multiple pockets, so in addition to holding a firearm, the wearer also has a place for additional magazines or perhaps a money clip.
Like the corset holster, the bellyband is best suited for a micro or compact carry firearm, but the same belly band will accommodate different handguns. Many of the belly band style holsters include a retention strap to further secure the firearm
Another recent addition to the alternative holster choices is clothing that also functions as a holster. Concealed carriers can choose from tank tops, compression shorts, and leggings that include a special built-in holster. These types of holsters are especially attractive to women on the go who do not wish to wear jeans or slacks all the time.
The compression shorts or leggings allow women to carry their handgun concealed with they go for a walk or a run - situations where women can be particularly vulnerable if not armed. These options come in a wide variety of sizes to allow a good fit for most women.
Women who wear dresses, in particular, enjoy a thigh holster. Some of these holsters are basically a wide elastic band with a holster pocket that fits securely on the thigh. However, there are some that include garter-type straps for increased stability. These holsters are also designed for smaller handguns. They do allow the wearer multiple options with regard to the location of the handgun. It can be worn with the firearm on the outside of the thigh, though most actually find the firearm more concealable if worn on the inside of the thigh.
Ankle holsters are not new. Law enforcement officers frequently wear ankle holsters to hide a backup firearm if needed. Like the thigh holster, the ankle holster is normally made of an elastic type material with a holster pocket for a small handgun. In some cases, the holster and handgun can be worn inside of a boot, making it super concealable. Ankle holsters are not gun specific so a single holster can accommodate several different types of firearms. These may not be the first choice for concealed carry because the firearm is further from your hand. A downside is that the weight of the firearm can be a bit uncomfortable and there is a slightly higher risk of accidentally exposing the firearm if the pants leg should ride up when sitting.
As with any other type of holster, it's important to familiarize yourself with the holster you choose and practice with it so you can become proficient.
To practice, put an unloaded firearm in your holster of choice and carry it around the house. Practice sitting, standing, reaching or any other movement that might be part of your routine. Bend over, go to the restroom; does the handgun shift, slide out or otherwise feel unsecure? Can you enter and exit your vehicle with ease and can you buckle your seatbelt? Check the quality of construction. If it is the corset or the belly band or another type of elastic pocket holster, are the seams strong and the fasteners secure?
Next, with an unloaded firearm, practice accessing and presenting or drawing your handgun. Drawing a handgun from the elastic pocket of a corset holster is different than drawing from an IWB or OWB holster - you need to practice it to become proficient at it. Do not wait until you need it to defend your life to discover that you are unable to deploy it efficiently and safely.