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  • All About Outside the Waistband Holsters

    4 min read

    There are so many holster styles available, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Which one should you choose?  Well, a good place to start is a well-built outside the waistband holster.

    This may not be the holster you are looking at when it comes to concealed carry, especially if you are a female, but outside the waistband holsters or OWB have their purpose.

    Why OWB?

    When you are first learning to draw from a holster, which is more than just grabbing the firearm and pulling it out, an OWB provides a solid base while learning.  It gives you a chance to understand about retention, trigger safety and gun fit.  Also, since you are going to be taking classes, it is good to know that almost all basic handgun classes that utilize a holster require that holster to be an outside the waistband, on your strong side hip kind of holster.  A good quality OWB is also a solid choice if you live in a state that allows open carry.  So they are a good investment that you will be using as you improve your handgun skills.


    There are several kinds of materials used to make OWB holsters, such as Kydex, leather, and nylon. 

    Kydex:  Probably the most common type of material for an OWB is Kydex.  Kydex is a rigid plastic that a holster maker can heat and mold to fit all the frame details of your particular handgun.  A good Kydex holster generally has screws as part of the construction that you can use to adjust handgun retention.  If you have difficulty drawing the gun from your holster, you make it looser.  Or, if your gun will slip out of the holster if you turn it upside down, you can tighten it a bit.  Since a Kydex holster is a piece of rigid plastic, it will not fold in on itself after you have drawn your gun, making it easier to holster your handgun without trying to hold it with your other hand. (Two-in-One Holster pictured)

    Leather: Leather is another material for outside the waistband holsters.  Sometimes a new leather holster will be very snug and will break in and become easier to draw from with wear, just like a pair of good leather shoes.  And some leather holsters are very rigid, similar to Kydex rather than pliable.  But, some leather holsters are soft and will consequently collapse in on themselves after you draw your handgun.  This might make it a bit trickier to holster your handgun safely. (Floral OWB Holsterpictured)

    Nylon: Nylon holsters are generally a less expensive option.  Many instructors will not allow students to use a nylon holster in a class because they can be rather flimsy and often do not have any form of retention because they are essentially a pocket that fits on your waistband.  However, some of them do have retention straps that fasten over the back of the handgun to enhance their safety. 


    There are several different types of styles of OWB holsters that refer to how you wear them, such as a paddle holster or a belt holster. 

    Adjustable OWB Holster - PaddlePaddle: A paddle holster has a large flat piece, usually plastic that slides over the waistband of your pants and rests against your body, between your pants and your side.  Some people wear these successfully without a belt at all, but that depends on how sturdy your pants are.  Using a belt with the paddle holster makes it very stable. (Adjustable OWB Holster pictured)

    Loops: There are other holsters with loops that allow a belt to thread through.  In the case of the belt holster, the material of the belt itself becomes important.  A flimsy belt or a belt that is too thin will not hold a belt holster, plus the firearm with a loaded magazine.  So the belt must be made of a sturdy material in order to hold the gun and allow for the distribution of weight of the firearm making it not only safer but a bit more comfortable to wear. (Thrasos OWB Holster pictured)


    Cant refers to the angle of the firearm on your hip.  There are basically two different possible cants when referring to an OWB worn on the strong side hip, a neutral cant or vertical cant and a forward cant, also referred to as positive cant or FBI cant. 

    Neutral Cant: The neutral cant is the holster in a straight vertical position on the hip, holding the firearm in a straight up and down position. 

    Forward Cant: The forward cant rotates the grip of the firearm to a position that is about 20 degrees off the vertical line.  With this cant the grip is more forward, while the muzzles points back just a bit rather than straight at the ground as with the neutral cant. 

    While the neutral cant is popular in classes, out on the range and in an open carry situation, the forward cant usually makes concealment a little easier if you are choosing to conceal carry with an outside the waistband holster.

    There is much to think about when learning about and purchasing holsters for your firearms.  While you may not wear your OWB all the time, it is a good piece of equipment to have when you need it.


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