As long as there have been firearms, there has been a need for a way to carry them comfortably while keeping them accessible—hence, the holster. Early flintlock pistols often had some type of hook attached to them that allowed the user to slip it onto a belt, but there is evidence of holsters dating back to the 16th century. These holsters were usually fashioned out of some type of fabric and were usually highly decorated.
By the 19th century, newer holster designs were created to accommodate the quickly evolving firearm industry. For its durability and prevalence, leather became the number one choice of material to make shoulder holsters, belt holsters and saddle holsters.
Today, you will find an even wider and ever expanding market of firearm holsters made in a variety of styles and materials. Whether you’re looking for concealed carry holsters, hunting holsters or duty holsters, you’ll find everything online at Hinterland Outfitters, including all of the most popular holster brands such as:
- Don Hume
- Uncle Mikes
- And many more
Firearm Specific vs. Mil-Spec
While browsing various holsters, you’ll often see phrases like “mil-spec” or “firearm specific,” and it’s helpful to know more about what exactly these mean.
Mil-spec stands for “military specifications,” meaning that the holster is made to military standards. If a holster is mil-spec, then it usually means it will handle any mil-spec firearm. Now, there can certainly be some that don’t fit as well as others, but for the most part, they tend to be universally snug.
A firearm specific holster is one made for a specific brand and model. These holsters tend to be better for concealed carry because they offer a more true-to-form fit, whereas mil-spec or non-firearm specific holsters will be a bit bulkier to accommodate for a variety of firearms.
Here is a breakdown of the various types of holsters to give you a better idea of what you might be looking for:
- Duty Holsters: A duty holster is a holster that is able to accommodate duty-sized firearms and larger pistols. Outside waistband (OWB) holsters, shoulder holsters and leg holsters make great duty holsters because they are able to accommodate larger pistols without being cumbersome.
- Tactical & Military Holsters: Most tactical and military holsters are made from a high-grade polymer, Kydex, or nylon, and are meant to accommodate duty-sized weapons. These holsters are usually produced in camouflage to match the wearer’s uniform, and they are highly durable, providing great protection from the elements. Most military and service personnel use leg rigs, also referred to as thigh rigs and drop leg holsters.
- Concealment Holsters: A concealment holster is one that allows the user to safely holster a firearm away from plain sight or view. They are designed to be lightweight and unobtrusive and are mostly made for subcompact and compact handguns. Often these holsters are inside waistband (IWB) holsters, shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, pocket holsters and bellybands. An OWB holster can qualify as concealment when wearing a baggy shirt or large jacket.
- Sporting Holsters: These casual holsters are made for shooting sports and hunting. Often they are nylon or leather, and can handle a variety of different model firearms.
- Hunting Holsters: Hunting holsters can be pretty unique as they allow for larger handguns and allow for telescopic scopes. These holsters are often slung around the shoulder. The ease of access isn’t as necessary because the gun is usually unholstered before drawn.
Depending on what type of handgun you have, or how you plan to use it, there is a holster style made for you. Here are the various wear styles, so you can figure out the one that will work best for you:
- Outside Waistband (OWD): Also referred to as a belt holster, OWB holsters are the oldest style of holster, dating back to the early 19th century. These holsters are situated on the waistline and to the outside of the belt, and are often praised as the most comfortable form of carry for any size firearm. These holsters are common with military and service personnel, as well as people utilizing open carry. OWB holsters can be concealed beneath a long jacket or untucked shirt.
- Inside Waistband (IWB): Similar to OWB holsters, IWB holsters clip or attach to the belt and secure the firearm on the inside of the pants, further concealing it from view. Variant designs of these holsters can be worn on the front, side or rear of the waistband, and some allow for a shirt to be tucked over the holster. When buying an IWB holster, consider purchasing one that is a fitted holster or firearm specific—a more snug fit will be much more comfortable.
- Ankle: Ankle holsters, also known as boot holsters, allow the user to conceal a small handgun or backup weapon beneath the pant leg along the ankle. These are often used by law enforcement for a backup weapon because the draw is much slower. There are, however, complaints that the firearm bounces around a lot when running.
- Chest: Chest holsters are highly versatile and can easily be attached to modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE) vests, as well as other chest carriers. These holsters are easier to draw from a seated position or from inside a vehicle.
- Pocket: Pocket holsters are one of the most comfortable ways to carry a concealed firearm, but they are only made for pocket pistols, such as a small 9mm or a .380 ACP. Pocket holsters are further divided into two categories: front pocket and back pocket. Front pocket holsters are extremely comfortable and allow the user to conveniently have their hand ready to draw without looking like they have a firearm. Back pocket holsters often resemble the shape of a wallet and tend to be the more concealed of the two; however, some people complain about discomfort while sitting.
- Competition: Competition holsters are highly adjustable sporting holsters that hold the firearm in a precise position and allow it to be instantly released when activated.
- Shoulder: First pioneered in the Old West, shoulder holsters have been around for a while, and their convenience and comfortability continue to make them a popular choice among military and security personal, law enforcement and other gun enthusiasts. Shoulder holsters comfortably distribute the weight across the shoulders and upper body, and they are excellent for concealing duty-sized firearms and large pistols. Similar to chest holsters, shoulder holsters make drawing a gun from a sitting position or inside a vehicle much easier. Shouolder holsters are also popularly used with large frame revolvers that have longer barrels.
- Drop Leg: The drop leg holster, also known as a leg rig or thigh rig, is quickly becoming one of the most popular holsters among military and law enforcement because of comfort and easy access. The pistol rests perfectly where a hand naturally rests and can accommodate any size pistol or duty weapon. One drawback is that the leg carry is difficult to conceal.
Traditionally, holsters were made from fabric or leather, but just as there is a vast number of holster styles, there are many different materials used by manufacturers to make the holsters we see today. Leather is still a popular, classic choice, but contemporary holsters are also made from high-grade polymers and nylon.
- Polymer: High-grade polymers and molded plastics are some of the most common materials you’ll see with holsters. Most mil-spec holsters and holsters used by law enforcement are made from Kydex due to their weatherproof durability and low cost.
- Leather: A throwback to the days of yore, leather holsters are probably the most expensive, but they offer a great classic look and feel as well as being reliable and fairly long-lasting.
- Nylon: Ballistic nylon holsters tend to be the most economical, and are used across the board from sporting to hunting to law enforcement and military.
Once you’ve chosen the right holster, there are a number of ways you can further accessorize it to suit your needs.
- Belt: When it comes to your holster, the belt may be the second most important piece of the equation. You’ll want a sturdy belt to attach your holster to. Additionally, there are belt loop platforms and paddle platforms that allow you to more comfortably attach a concealed holster.
- Magazine Pouches: There are magazine pouches for just about every type of holster that attaches to a belt or strap, and allow you to carry backup ammunition within easy reach.
- Shell Carriers: There are shell belts and shell carriers that attach to belts to provide easy access to backup shotshells.
- Speedloader Pouches: Speedloader pouches provide a secure place to hold excess revolver rounds, and are mostly available in nylon and leather options.
Buy Holsters from Hinterland Outfitters
Finding the right holster doesn’t have to be a difficult task. At Hinterland Outfitters, we pride ourselves on having the best selection of firearm holsters at the best possible prices. Whether you’re looking for concealed carry holsters, sporting holster or hunting holsters, you won’t find a better online source. Contact us today to speak with one of our friendly customer service representatives, who will help you choose the perfect holster.