Handgun Holster Buyer's Guide

Ever since handguns were invented, people have searched for ways to carry them that are safer, more efficient and more secure than just stuffing a gun’s barrel into a belt or waistband. Today there are countless ways to take advantage of handgun portability. Choosing the right holster for your needs is a daunting task – but it needn’t be.

If you intend to carry a handgun, there are basic questions to ask yourself. How long do I intend to carry the firearm? Will I carry it all day as a concealed handgun, or will I have it on for a few hours during a cowboy-action shoot? Do I need "fast-draw" capability to draw and fire my sidearm with great speed, or do I simply want to have access to the handgun should a situation develop where I might need to defend myself? Be familiar with the kind of handgun you intend to carry, specifically whether it will be a large or compact firearm for security or a large revolver for hunting. Once these factors are known, the decision-making process gets a little easier.

holsterFor cowboy-action shooting or re-enacting Western gunfights with blanks, there are two types of holsters to consider. There is the traditional gunbelt six-shooter type, and the crossdraw type. The former is worn over, and in addition to, any belt used with pants. It usually has leather cords to hold the holster against your leg, and it sometimes comes with a matching belt that has cartridge loops built-in.

holsterCrossdraws usually fasten to the belt that holds your pants up. They’re worn at the waist near the front of the hip on the opposite side from the hand you draw with. Some would say that the traditional style offers a slight speed advantage in fast-draw competition, and that it makes "fanning" shots from the hip easier. The crossdraw offers comfort, concealability under a duster or long coat and can be easier to draw when riding on horseback.

For concealability and access to a firearm for self-defense without need for fast-draw capability, consider an ankle, pocket or a fanny pack holster. Ankle holsters conceal lightweight semiautomatic handguns and revolvers well as long as they are small, but don’t skimp. There are cheap elastic models sure to leave you disappointed because they lose their elasticity over time, slip down your leg or even toss your gun out when you run or walk too fast.

holsterCabela’s carries some excellent ankle holsters that will hold the firearm securely in place as you walk or run because they have a restraining snap or strap to keep it in place. You’ll need time to access a handgun in an ankle holster, but it can be a good option for certain concealed-carry situations. Fanny pack holsters offer faster access to a handgun than ankle holsters. They’re an excellent choice for joggers, recreational walkers or concealed carry in public places because they look like any other fanny pack.

Finally, pocket holsters work for very small and lightweight handguns. Be sure you get a model with inside-the-pocket gripping power. Those would be models with special exteriors or fasteners to ensure that your holster stays in the pocket when you draw your firearm. The advantage of pocket holsters is that they allow fast access to your gun. The downside is that, unless you have rather large pockets, it may be obvious that you’re concealing something and the butt of your gun could be visible to someone standing behind you.

The next category of concealed firearm holsters includes those that usually require a jacket, over shirt or long-tailed shirt to hide your gun. In this group are the shoulder, belt-worn, paddle and the inside-the-waistband holsters.

Most shoulder holsters are of the crossdraw variety. This means that the gun rides in a holster under your left arm if you’re right-handed. It is oriented so that the gun is either pointing downward or pointing behind you.

Galco Silhouette HolsterCrossdraw shoulder holsters often include magazine pouches on the side of the harness opposite the firearm. Extreme care should be taken if you select this kind of holster. You don’t want to accidentally fire your weapon while it’s aimed behind you during a draw. But with practice and discipline these holsters can be very effective – especially when carrying larger semiautomatic firearms.

Belt-worn holsters have a place for you to slide your belt through. This kind of holster is among the most secure and is inherently safe because it causes the firearm to be aimed in a downward direction until the last moment of the draw when it’s brought up and aimed. It provides fast access to your gun as well. Disadvantages include snagging the holster on arms of furniture when sitting down and having to remove at least a portion of your belt to remove the firearm and holster.

Michael’s of Oregon Kydex HolsterPaddle holsters offer many of the advantages of a belt-worn model, but can be removed without having to take off a part of your belt. If you choose a paddle holster, be sure your belt or waistband is snug enough to retain the holster during your draw or you may draw the gun and holster together. This usually is not a problem with a good belt, especially wider ones.

Galco Stow-N-GoInside-the-pants holsters use your pants to conceal most of the holster and handgun, and an untucked shirt or jacket can be used to hide the rest. Like the paddle holster, you can decide exactly where you want your sidearm worn without consideration for belt-loop positions. You will, however, have to remember that you’re wearing it when you sit down so as not to cause discomfort.

Scoped Bandolier HolsterFor hunters using heavy revolvers, forget about holstering them on your pants, or you’ll be waddling around the woods with them around your ankles. Bandolier holsters are ideal for large Rugers or S&W 500 and 460 revolvers topped with optics. The gun rides comfortably on your chest and abdomen, allowing for convenient carry and freedom of movement.

Gun Carry Options for Women

Ladies’ fashion isn’t always favorable to carrying a concealed firearm. Holsters that fit securely inside a man’s waistband do not equate to comfortable wear on a woman’s waist. Now that more women have entered the firearms community, more choices are now available for both on-body holsters and concealed-carry handbags. Ankle and inside-the-waistband holsters are available in slimmer profiles to suit a woman’s silhouette and varied clothing options. Other ladies’ holster options include:

  • Bra holster - Firearm is secured underneath the bust at the bra’s center.
  • Tank top holster - Side pockets store firearm, a good choice for women who prefer to carry above the waist.
  • Garter holster - Firearm is stored inside a garter around the thigh with a band attaching it to the waist. Can be worn under a dress or skirt or over pants for open carry.
  • Corset holster - This style doubles as shapewear as well as a kidney-carry style option. 

HolsterCabela’s offers a variety of off-body carry options such as handbags and purses. These accessories have hidden compartments for compact handguns and feature high-quality, durable construction. Your sidearm is always quickly accessible and the challenge of concealing it on your person is eliminated. Concealed-carry handbag options include:

  • Handbags
  • Totes
  • Fanny Packs
  • Clutches
  • Crossbody handbags

Gun Mate Tactical HolsterFinally, for unconcealed carry of revolvers or semiautomatic handguns, you can go with a standard belt-worn holster model or a tactical setup that carries your sidearm on your thigh at the same level as your hand. These adjust so that your pistol can be carried in an optimal position for fast-draw situations. Many law enforcement and military units prefer this kind of holster, and it’s equally effective for anyone practicing open carry (where legal).

A wide variety of holsters can be purchased from Cabela’s on this Internet site. Simply enter the word "holster" in the search bar at the top of this page. You also can find a large selection of holsters in our catalogs. Or, you can stop into one of our retail stores and have one of our professional outfitters recommend a holster based on your needs and the kind of handgun you intend to carry.