Small-of-Back Holsters: We Test a Handful of SOB Types

There were some major downsides in implementing safe and effective carry with this style of gun-carrying sheath. We go into the pros and cons, offer some insights, and come back with a couple we’d try.

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A Gun Tests reader recently asked us to look at small-of-the-back holsters, often referred to as SOB, and sometimes referred to as MOB, or middle-of-the-back holsters. We had one rater who really likes the SOB and has used it for years. Another condemned the type. Between commendation and condemnation, we hoped to find a compromise on this niche holster.

One of our raters came up with a history of the SOB, as far as he is able to determine. When armed security in Europe began carrying serious armament during the first wave of terrorist events, concealment was an issue. Airport security wore blazers similar to other staff. A standard belt holster protruded past the hemline of the jacket. The inside-the-waistband (ITW) holster is often difficult to acclimate to, especially for those carrying the firearm only at work. The SOB was developed to offer belt carry with concealment nearly as effective as an ITW holster. The SOB became popular to an extent and was used by many who did not need the type or used it inappropriately because it looked cool. When properly used in the niche it was designed for, we feel the SOB type is useful.

During the test, we made several observations, and the recommendations that have grown from these observations should be adhered to. They include:

  • The holster should never be worn over the spine, but should instead be worn off to one side of the spine. This isn’t difficult with the new breed of SOB types tested.
  • Drawing from the center of the back with palm in or palm out is difficult to execute safely. It is almost guaranteed you will sweep your lower back during the draw.
  • Compared to a well-designed standard outside-the-waistband-type (OWB) holster, the SOB draw is very slow.

With many of us seated during the work day or a large portion of the time spent driving, the SOB is last on the list. It is a terrible chore to attempt to draw from the SOB when seated, worse than with a standard OWB or IWB. As we tested these holsters, we discovered that the standard SOB requires a longer arm motion, or even a rotating movement in the wrist. This is a pretty difficult move, especially for older shooters.

So, where do we go from there? The answer is stretching the definition of the SOB a bit. Most of the holsters tested here are modern variants that address the problems inherent with the SOB. Evolution is a good thing with personal defense gear. Here’s what we found:

 

Bullard Leather Mfg. Striker, $140

The Bullard Leather Striker is well made, well stitched, and offers a good fit. The draw angle is ideal.

Available at BullardLeather.com, the company took the harsh tilt of the SOB and made it a 25-degree tilt and invented the Bodyguard. They tell us this is the best-selling holster they have. The Striker is an outgrowth of the Bodyguard. At present, holsters with magazine pouches are very popular. This example is supplied with an integral magazine pouch and is labeled the Striker. For most uses, we would prefer the less expensive Bodyguard. While we prefer a weak-side magazine pouch, for those who wish to strap on the holster/magazine pouch combination, this holster makes a lot of sense. We ordered the Striker for a Commander-size 1911 handgun. The Bullard design accomplishes what the SOB holster does, but without the severe angle. The holster rides high enough for easy concealment under a light jacket. The draw is acceptable. We really like this holster. The rater owning the Striker likes this setup better than ordering a spare magazine carrier.

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

 

Don Hume Leathergoods D.A.H. Belt Holster, $78.20

When placed above the hip, the Don Hume Leathergoods DAH offers a good draw, with the draw turning into the target when properly executed.

On the DonHume.com site, we ordered the D.A.H. for a Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special 2-inch-barrel revolver. The holster is an interesting design, with three belt loops for use as an SOB holster or as a high-ride strong-side holster. When worn in the small-of-the-back configuration just behind the hip, the holster offered a reasonably fast draw. The snubnose 38 Special doesn’t take up a lot of belt space. The holster angle is decent, and the D.A.H. makes a viable holster. However, when worn in the strong-side attitude, the D.A.H. was not as secure. The grip frame is handle heavy in the Smith & Wesson, and the holster tilts too much. We would not use the holster as a strong-side choice. With the belt loops in the SOB position, the holster works well.

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

 

Tagua Gunleather 4-in-1 Thumb Release Holster, $47.90

The Tagua 4-in-1 is a traditional or original type exhibiting the shortcomings inherent in the SOB holster. The Tagua holster features dual belt slots for versatile positioning on the belt. Laying perpendicular to the belt line, the Tagua holster represents a difficult draw angle.

On TaguaGunleather.com, we ordered this holster for one of the most common concealed-carry handguns, the Glock 19 9mm, but actually used the very similar Shadow Systems MR920 pistol for the test. The sole left-handed rater used this holster. We won’t underrate the versatility of this 4-in-1 holster. As an IWB, it is credible. As a strong side, it is okay as well. As a “middle of the back” holster, as described on the website, this item presented all of the drawbacks of the SOB type. As an SOB, the draw angle is taxing — one of the raters, with a stiff shoulder from age, could not draw the pistol at all. The holster is uncomfortable when seated. We think the holster is definitely old school and an old design, and in this case, that isn’t a good thing. If you are using a four-way as an SOB, be certain to remove the steel belt clip intended for IWB carry or it will snag like mad. We would not buy this holster.

GUN TESTS GRADE: C

 

Wright Leather Works LLC Bronco, $105

The Wright Leatherworks Bronco Small of the Back holster features well
designed wings that distribute the weight of the firearm out along the belt.

On WrightLeatherWorks.com, this holster can be seen as similar in concept and construction to a pancake holster. The Bronco features a modification to the original SOB design. The cant is raised, with the gun butt up and accessible at 20 degrees, rather than perpendicular to the belt line. This makes all of the difference in draw angle and comfort. The result is the muzzle resting at approximately the same place as it would with an old-school SOB but with the angle of the grip raised. The long grip of the CZ 75 we ordered the Bronco to fit is ideal for this carry. The draw is sharp and comfortable.

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

 

Advanced Performance Shooting ASOB, $58.99

We really liked the Advanced Performance Shooting ASOB. The draw angle is good, and the holster is comfortable to wear for long periods.

The Almost Small of the Back holster was designed to address the shortcomings of the SOB, a common thread among custom makers. This holster, however, is molded in Kydex, the only holster of this material tested. The ASOB was ordered for the Glock 19 9mm handgun. The ASOB rides high above the belt. The slight portion of the muzzle of the handgun riding below the belt is less than with a standard strong-side belt holster. Rigid Kydex material keeps the pistol secure. We like the belt attachment and the draw angle. In fact, the draw angle is superior to many standard OWB holsters. The maker has done a great job with this design. We are not certain a similar concept would work well with leather. The ASOB holster offers a sharp draw. During movement the holster was secure. It is all we may ask. It is available from AdvancedPerformanceShooting.com.

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

 

Falco Small of BackHolster, $75

The Falco design was among the favorites of the raters. The holster featured excellent stitching, fit, and finish.

Available on CraftHolsters.com, the Falco holster offers surprising workmanship for the price. The final fit and finish are excellent, the tanning is very even. Molding to the individual firearm, in this case the CZ 75B, was good. A reinforced holstering welt is added. The spine is double stitched, rare in this price range. The holster also features a retention screw. This holster represents a second generation of SOB-type holsters. Considerable effort has been expended to maintain the concealability of the original while improving the draw. The Falco succeeds.

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

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