The full-sized 1911-style .45 ACP pistol is widely used for both self-defense and competitive shooting, and there are dizzying numbers of holsters used to carry it in everyday situations or on the range. But after extensive winnowing down of dozens of holsters, we’ve found some models have design features that make sense to us.
Among the many holsters available today we have come to like seven different models in particular, and below we describe briefly why these units stand out, in our opinion. Some of the designs, such as the Safariland 011, Bianchi’s PDQ, and the Hoffners Speed Pro, are unique. The others are based on designs closely related to traditional styles that have been reproduced and refined for years. Though we normally cover both good and bad products head to head, in this case we instead concentrate on ones we think are worth buying, rather than detailing the faults of products that don’t make the grade.
In our opinion, the seven holsters we’ve assembled in this article should be all the leather and plastic you’ll ever need to carry the 1911 or its variants.
This $60 holster is an excellent choice for those of us who spend a lot of time seated. From a desk or a car seat, the open face facilitates a quick draw. While cross draw is a popular option for drivers, once you leave the car you may long for the familiar strong-side carry position. The PDQ offers the best of both options, in our opinion.
Retention is by the trigger guard as well as by a thumb break snap. The belt slot is 2 inches wide but is versatile and works with many belt sizes. A plastic skeleton sandwiched by high-grade leather maintains the shape of the holster. There is no adjustment for angle (cant), but the belt channel is contoured to the corner of the hip. Women with thin waists and large hips may find this ride a little high. Slender, long-bodied shooters could make this holster their first choice. The leather and stitchwork is absolutely first-rate. Available only in brown (cowhide), Bianchi has worked the leather until it almost gooey.
The CYA (Cover Your Auto), $50.95, is a classic design meant to be worn on the belt at the small of the back. Available in black only, this is a thin, hard-shelled cowhide holster without lining. The mouth of the holster is reinforced and retention is by natural friction that can be increased by tightening a single tension screw. Some people prefer not to have the gun so far behind them for fear of the weapon “printing” their backside. However, small-of-the-back (SOB) carry has always been popular with women who have a natural hollow in the small of the back in which to conceal a gun. In this case, SOB carry is ideal.
GALCO International’s Ladies Training Holster
This $130 product is meant for the shooting range, whether it be a practical match or tactical training. The polymer belt loop introduces an approximately 30-degree outward cant that overcomes the typical indentation of the midriff. Smooth leather inside and out hold the gun with a pair of tension screws to the rear. This is a hard-shelled holster with an internal skeleton that is laminated with premium saddle leather, stitched and sealed. Drawing the gun quickly requires a straight upward motion. This model is available in brown only and is extremely durable.
Don Hume H721 and H726 No.10-5
Pancake holsters will always be popular because they hold the weapon close to the body but still offer a fast draw.
Don Hume’s H721, $40.10, is an open-top design with 1.75-inch belt loops that extend upward to shield the wearer’s body from the thumb safety or the edge of the slide. This is a thin leather holster that has been hardened, so it maintains its shape for easy re-holstering. Retention is sure thanks to a deep set, and the ride is medium to low with a comfortable muzzle-back cant. We found adding a quick twist of the muzzle made re-holstering easier. It’s available in black or brown with plain or basketweave finish.
Hume’s H726 No.10-5, $47.80, carries the pistol a little higher than the H721. To speed up the draw even when seated, this holster features an open-front design. To enhance stability, there are additional layers of leather front and rear and a thumb-break snap to fit over the slide. This particular model works well with all sizes of 1911s, from the Springfield V10 to a full sized 5-inch Colt. Available in black or brown, plain finish.
Hoffners Speed Pro
This $65 unit can be used for concealment or competition. Retention is adjustable with an additional hold that fills the trigger guard, putting the trigger safely out of reach. The Speed Pro is extremely fast, light, and anchors firmly to the belt. Admittedly, the trade-off is that polymer tends to be hard on blued finishes, but the versatility and speed of this holster is undeniable.
This is the most expensive model in this group, ranging from $170 to $218 depending on finish (the most expensive is the basket weave design). That it is the least versatile of our choices pales in comparison to its ability to perform its intended function in competition. Designed for wide-open Practical Shooting, we doubt there will ever be a faster holster.
The 011 is adjustable for height, cant, angle to the body, and will accommodate barrel lengths all the way out to 8 inches. Retention on the stock unit is by the trigger guard. This model comes with two inserts to choose from that fit either the steel 1911 frame or the polymer STI/SVI series pistols. However, we felt that the unit needed further support for some active games because the pistol rests loosely on the holster frame and against the muzzle loop. For an additional $40 we added a platform by Arredondo Accessories that includes a reversible platform featuring a muzzle plug on each side for either .38 Super/9MM or .45 ACP/.40 S&W. With the Arredondo platform installed the hold is rock solid.