July 2014

Outside-the-Waistband Holsters, Part II: Crossdraw, Paddle, SOB

When we got a request for an OWB test, we went to work. This month, we examine three variations of this style.

As we noted in Part I last month, the outside-the-waistband holster has many advantages, including speed and security. Some will wear a high-riding OWB and a pulled-out sports shirt and have the same concealment with the OWB as the IWB but with greater comfort. While we believe the IWB has advantages when maximum concealment is needed, there are times when the OWB can be concealed. If you can do that, you are ahead of the game in speed and comfort.

In this two-part installment begun in the June 2014 issue, we covered more than 20 holsters of the OWB type, including specialized alternatives to the IWB. As always, we gauged them on a few important attributes. The handgun cannot shift in the holster. The holster cannot sag on the belt, so it must be properly fitted to the belt. The holster must be tight against the body for concealed carry, but it cannot give you a punch in the kidney when you hit a speed bump in the road or step off of a curb. The gun must present the proper grip angle for a rapid presentation from concealment. The trigger guard must be covered. The holster must be sturdily made of good materials.

Last month, we looked at pancake-design holsters, giving two of them Best Buy awards: the Wright Leather Works Predator Pancake Holster, $88, and the D. M. Bullard Leather Combat model, $85. Other Grade A pancake models in various natural materials included the K.L. Null Holsters Super Speed Scabbard, $135; the CB’s Leather Works Pancake, $115; the Milt Sparks 60TK, $105; K Bar J Leather, $250; Legends In Leather Justice, $395; the D. M. Bullard Bodyguard, $85; the Side Guard Holsters Slide, $75; the Ted Blocker Holsters G1, $89; and the Desbiens GunleatherCovert OWB, $105. Kydex holsters that earned Grade A rankings included the LHS Holsters Falcon, $70; the Statureman Custom Holster, $70; and zZz Custom Works Standard Holster, $69.

CROSSDRAW HOLSTERS
The crossdraw has many advantages. Among these is the ability to keep the pistol butt ready for presentation even when seated or driving. We feel that the crossdraw is superior to the various specialized driving holsters, although the Null Vampire has much to recommend it. The crossdraw is brilliantly fast into action if properly understood, but hopeless or dangerous if not. The crossdraw presentation is best executed by moving the holster side of the body toward the target and bringing the hand down and scooping the pistol out of the holster as the support hand meets the strong hand. This allows the shooter to draw into the target rather than across the target with the conventional draw. The crossdraw isn’t for everyone, but it is well worth considering for those who are often in a vehicle or while seated at work.

Wild Bills Concealment Fusion Paddle, $60
This is a true hybrid, a fusion of leather and Kydex. The Kydex backing is a design that seems secure in daily use while retaining the easy-on-and-off advantage of the paddle. For those who travel and sometimes must leave the gun and holster in the vehicle, the paddle is attractive, although those who cannot tolerate an IWB may not tolerate the paddle either. The fusion is as good as any paddle, but offers a superior draw. The ride is higher than some, and the gun isn’t angled as far from the body. The finish on this holster cannot be ordered. It simply turns out this way sometimes. An advantage of the Wild Bill’s line is that the holsters are often found at gun shows, so you may pick and choose the finish and the individual holster, something not often possible with custom or semi-custom wares.
Gun Tests Grade: A, Best Buy

Tauris Holsters Cowhide, $125
The Tauris holsters are crafted by former deputy chief of police Michael P Taurisano. Our inspection showed the holster to be made of professional-grade materials. The salient feature is the stiffening welt that fosters retention, but which does not restrain a sharp draw. This feature makes for a good balance of speed and retention, in our opinion. The holster isn’t going to allow the handle to tip forward and spill the gun. The sharkskin holster illustrated has the advantage of extreme scuff resistance and long wear at about $250 dollars. Few holsters can carry the 4-inch-barrel Combat Magnum chunk of Yankee steel comfortably, but the Tauris holster does the job.
Gun Tests Grade: A

Ted Blocker Holsters X 16, $97
The X 16 is a classic crossdraw with a neutral draw angle. When properly worn, the X 16 snugs in close just forward of the hip. This holster works well even with the blocky Glock pistol. Concealment is good as the belt loop brings the gun in close to the body. The holstering welt is a good feature, and the X 16 is thin enough for good concealment. While useful as a strong-side holster, we prefer the X 16 as a good crossdraw. We tested this holster with the Glock Model 37 and also the 1911. The 1911 holster is ten years old and still usable, although the tension screw has some verdigris. The X 17 is an alternative that features a thumb break. The X 17 lists for $99.
Gun Tests Grade: A

Barber Leather Works Crossdraw, $110
This is among the first crossdraw designs from this maker, a combination of a pancake and crossdraw in appearance. If you wish, the holster could be used to carry a back up to a strong-side 45-caliber pistol, and the backup would be accessible to either hand. Simply learn to twist the wrist a bit, and you may draw with the non-dominant hand from a crossdraw. This holster has good retention and real speed after a modest break in period.

Gun Tests Grade: A

Jeffrey Custom Leather BTP, $125
The acronym for this holster means Better Than a Paddle. The holster’s primary design feature is a long leather flap that goes over the belt, while the holster body goes under the belt. There is a strong and well-designed snap on the holster that keeps the flap secure. Unlike the paddle, which relies upon friction for stability, the BTP features a snap mechanism. As such, it falls into the class of easy-on-and-easy-off holsters. The BTP is offered with a crossdraw option. As an alternative to the paddle, we like the BTP. As a crossdraw, it comes off well. However, we feel that the conventional crossdraw is more secure. If you cannot tolerate either an IWB or a paddle in the trousers, this is a good pick. If compared to the other crossdraw holsters, the BTP rates a B. If compared to the paddle holsters in last month’s review, it rates an A.
For border stamping, add $20; for basket-weave stamping, add $35.
Gun Tests Grade: A (Paddle)
Gun Tests Grade: B (Crossdraw)

JM Holsters Paddle, $150
This is an all-leather paddle, an anachronism to some largely due to the expense in fabricating such a piece. The once-popular flapjack holster was also all leather, but not in the class with the JM design, we believe. This holster features a cordovan and antique mahogany finish and is sealed against moisture. It is saddle stitched rather than cross stitched. The design brings the gun in closer to the body than is usually possible with a conventional paddle. This is the most comfortable of paddle holsters we tested. The primary advantage over any other is that there is a strap that secures the holster to the belt. You may wish to ignore this strap and have a paddle as secure as any other or use the snap and have far superior retention. We think this is a good design, although it’s pricey.
Gun Tests Grade: A

Pistol Packaging Inc. Mag-Jic Holster, $39
This is a flapjack-style holster similar in outline to the BTP but which uses a strong magnet rather than a snap. We were skeptical about a magnetized holster strap, but the thing is hellish strong. This is a great holster, as advertised, for attaching the holster and gun to a desk or something of that nature in the home, although we would prefer a tighter fit in that application. And that is the bottom line. This is a holster that isn’t molded for individual handguns, but rather small, medium, and large variations. Some will fit pretty tightly and others not. As a range holster or perhaps as a magnetic clip on for a desk or vehicle, where legal, it is OK. But not for concealed carry, in our estimation.
Gun Tests Grade: C

SMALL OF THE BACK HOLSTERS

Wright Leatherworks Dutch Small of the Back, $65
The SOB holster was designed to allow the concealment of a service-size pistol under a short blazer. The only means of doing so was to invert the holster across the belt. The result is a holster that demands a bent wrist and a slow draw. The risk of injury to the back is very real with some versions, but less with the Wright version when worn properly. This is as good an SOB holster as there is, and some prefer the type, although they are a minority. The drawback of the bent wrist is real, but on the other hand, the holster allows better access when seated, if the draw is practiced. We admit none of our raters was a real SOB fan nor were we skilled in its implementation. This is a well-executed SOB, but our team didn’t like it.
Gun Tests Grade: B

Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers. GT