Accessories - Holsters

Best Holsters for Handgun Retention, Part 1

January 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Handgun retention is serious business for uniformed police officers who, as a matter of course, practice open carry. Special holsters with retention beyond a tight fit are mandated in most precincts, yet the list of police officers killed with their own guns sadly continues to grow. So what does this mean for civilians who openly carry their firearms? On January 1, 2016 the state of Texas will join the list of states no longer requiring concealed-handgun license holders to carry their weapons concealed. How many Texas CHL holders will immediately change their habits from stealth carry to out-in-the-open carry remains to be seen. Gun Tests doesn’t get into how people carry and use their legally owned firearms, but we recognize that some legal gun owners will want to open carry, which creates two issues the shooter has to deal with in advance. Mainly, the gun owner must maintain control of a carry firearm while still having fast access to it.

Best Holsters for Handgun Retention, Part 2

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

In the first part of this feature last month, we noted that handgun retention for those who practice open carry is a prime consideration. Civilians, in particular, who plan to openly carry their firearms — such as our Texas readers were able to do for the first time on January 1, 2016 — must now be concerned with the safety considerations of out-in-the-open carry. We recognize that some legal gun owners will want to open carry, so the gun owner must maintain control of a carry firearm while still having fast access to it.

Snubbies, Holsters, Rifles and A Cartridge Shortage

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

I’m a long-time customer and would like to get three or more comparisons of 357 Magnum lightweight snub-nose revolvers. The index shows the captioned rifle being reviewed in November. When I go online for past reviews, I only find a 2007 review, and it was not from November, as stated in magazine. The Blackhawk GripBreak 421903BK holster seems like just the ticket for this coming year for those of us who are predisposed to reject Kydex and plastic holsters for reasons of them being ugly and inelegant. Problem is, no one has the GripBreaks. Check your Schmidt-Rubin for a possible Christmas present. Remove the buttplate and see if there is anything under it. Many original owners wrote a personal note or ID and hid it under the plate.

Shoulder Holsters: We Test Four Pricey Rigs Head to Head

October 2013 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

When it comes to handgun concealment, perhaps the most colorful configuration is the shoulder holster. Shoulder holsters are not as popular in the real world as they are in old detective movies, but that has as much to do with contemporary style as it does with the cost of a good rig, especially when compared to a Kydex belt holster. People simply do not wear sport coats as much as they used to. But shoulder holsters do provide superior access when seated at a desk or behind the wheel of a car.

To learn more about shoulder holsters, we purchased four different models from the company that offers more designs than any other maker. Galco International ( began making gun leather in the late 1960s as the Famous Jackass Leather Company in Chicago, Illinois. Their most famous product was a shoulder holster referred to as the Jackass Rig worn by Don Johnson in the second season of the 1980s hit show Miami Vice. Later, Johnson’s character, Detective James “Sonny” Crockett, was fit with a new model from Galco, the Miami Classic. It was covered by a summer-weight sport jacket and sparked a trend in men’s fashion that some of us would like to forget.

To carry our full-size Springfield Armory 1911 45, we chose the $200 VHS vertical carry shoulder system with a vertical drop dual magazine pouch. To house our Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 9mm compact, we picked the $195 Miami Classic II with dual magazine pouch, offering horizontal open top access. For our Caspian 1911 Commander we bought a $165 Jackass Rig, also with a vertical drop dual magazine pouch. This design offered abbreviated coverage of the pistol’s top end but greater diagonal adjustment for the holster than the Miami Classic. For our Sig Sauer P239 we tested a $93 Classic Lite shoulder system with single vertical drop magazine pouch fashioned from center cut steer hide with a natural finish. The Classic Lite is the least expensive shoulder system that Galco makes.

Belt Slide Holsters — A Viable Choice For Concealed Carry?

August 2013 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

The belt-slide holster design is basically a sleeve of material through which the carrier pushes the muzzle of the handgun, leaving the nose of the sidearm and the grip uncovered and the middle of the gun secured by the sleeve, aka the slide. Many criticize the design because it doesn’t protect the muzzle or front sight, the gun can be pushed up when the user sits, the gun can be noisy when it hits against chairs or other hard objects, and the carry arm can be unsecure if the slide isn’t snug on the frame and slide.

Despite these worries, belt-slide holsters are among the most popular holster types. Some view them as convenient for range use and carrying the handgun to the range and back and little more. Others feel that the belt-slide holster is a good choice for concealed carry. As is often the case, the rule is that the belt slide only works if you use a good example. The thin suede-leather or fabric types just do not make the grade except for range use and even then, they do not properly present the handgun for any type of draw angle. The draw angle is derived from the necessary gap between the handle of the handgun and holster and the torso as well. The handle of the handgun must be presented in such as way that the hand may grasp the grip and draw into the target. If the holster does not allow a fast presentation, then the handgun must be partially drawn with the fingertips to facilitate a draw. This is slow and fumble prone.

The belt slide was once almost universal among trainers, as they found it an excellent holster for general range use. They ended up using it for concealment under a light shirt or vest. There are a number of impressions of the belt slide that are not always accurate. It has been noted that the belt slide may be worn without the gun and it doesn’t look like a holster. We fail to see the advantage of wearing a holster without a gun, recognized or not, but rather see a disadvantage. If anyone does recognize the belt slide as a holster, then they will quickly realize you are not armed. The better type of belt-slide holster is clearly molded to the outline of a gun. It is unmistakably a holster, not a tobacco pouch.

As noted above, a persistent criticism of the belt slide is that with the muzzle and much of the slide exposed, the handgun may be levered out of the holster if the muzzle contacts a chair when the user sits. If any holster meets the edge of the chair, the holster will be levered up against the body. If a long-barrel handgun is used in a belt slide, there is some chance of the gun being pushed up, but it depends upon the retention involved. The handgun may be levered out if the handle meets the chair as well as the muzzle meeting the chair. You really need to be aware you are wearing a gun!

As for the balance of speed and retention, the speed of the type cannot be disputed; it was the retention that worried us. The belt-slide holsters tested proved to be very fast on the draw. The better examples featured good retention for a minimum of leather. For use under a light jacket with a short-barrel handgun, these holsters have merit. The problem of positioning the handle away from the body to allow a good sharp draw is solved to an extent by some of the holsters, and the draw angle makes for good speed in others.

Gun Tests recently compared several of belt-slide designs to assess whether they are secure enough for us to recommend for everyday carry, and whether their minimalist form offers any advantages in comfort over other styles. We consider them piece by piece below:

Inside-The-Waistband Holsters: Kydex, Leather, & Hybrid Styles

July 2013 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

A reader recently asked if we could do a test of IWB holsters and come up with the best balance of speed, retention, and access between Kydex, leather, and hybrid types — a tall order. But the South Carolina test team was eager to put these holsters to the test because most of us carry a concealed handgun on a daily basis and have a personal stake in the program. The holsters were worn for a minimum of a week and tested by drawing for at least fifty repetitions. We looked at a number of considerations to come up with what we liked the best and what we believe will work the best for most people. But as we found out, everyone is different. Before you choose a holster, knowing how you will wear it is important. By placing a triple-checked unloaded handgun in your waistband (or better yet, a Rings or ASP fake gun), practicing the draw from standing, seated, and driving positions, you will obtain a better idea of the right holster position for your needs. As an example, some users do not have enough rotation in their shoulder for the FBI tilt in the small of the back, and others are too thin for near-the-hip carry. Drop is related to how the holster rides in relation to the belt, above or below the belt. Most makers offer a choice in how deep in the pants the holster rides. For our consideration, we deemed access and retention to be the most important points. The shooter must be able to consistently reach the handgun and draw it correctly and quickly. This must be true for a spot on the belt just behind the hip and a sharp draw from the kidney position as well. Of course, the holster must retain the handgun, and the handgun must be in the same position every time the user draws the gun. You should be able to jump up and land hard on your feet without dislodging the handgun. Holstering the handgun with one hand after drawing is also important and was given considerable weight during the test program. Comfort is subjective, but quality isn’t subjective when something comes apart, so quality and durability are serious concerns. Is the holster well made? Does it fit the individual handgun correctly? Will the holster last through years of daily carry and practice sessions? The quality of mounting hardware is also important. With holsters offered with loops or snaps for both OWB and IWB carry, the holsters have to be considered as a system. The mounting hardware cannot break easily and it must fit correctly. Also, it is no secret that Kydex is harder on a handgun’s finish than waxed leather. Bottom line, if you use your handgun and practice often, there will be finish degradation. The carry handgun isn’t a safe queen, so degrading the finish cannot be an overwhelming consideration. Just the same, since Kydex retains the handgun by friction on certain points, finish wear is evident. Leather holsters also tend to wear the muzzle, so this wasn’t a deal breaker.

Leather IWB Holsters: We Say LCL’s Savannah Is a Best Buy

March 2013 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Most shooters needing a concealed-carry holster look to the inside-the-waistband holster. The IWB has the advantage of concealing the major part of the pistol inside the pants. With the IWB, you need only conceal the handle of the pistol with a covering garment. An IWB must be comfortable to work well, as the acclimation is more difficult than with other types of holsters. The holster must not collapse after the pistol is drawn, allowing the pistol to be reholstered. In this review we tested seven holsters from five makers. All are molded for the 1911 Commander size pistol. We included single loops, dual loops, and a J-hook belt attachment. We tested each holster with one hundred draws each, and at least a day of concealed carry by individual raters. Break in is one consideration and so is speed. The criteria are stringent but also personal to your situation. The level of comfort must be in sync with the lifestyle. How often will you remove the holster during the day? Will it be buckled on for the duration of the day or sometimes taken off? The safety of the holster cannot be compromised. The holster must pass the jump test, in which you jump up and down and let your weight hit the floor without dislodging the pistol. (Please do this drill only with a triple-checked unloaded handgun.) Accessibility is another option. Tuckables are popular, but they do not have the brilliant speed of a properly designed conventional high-quality leather holster. Finally, comfort is an important consideration. A handgun on the side is more comforting than comfortable, and an acclimation period is necessary for all of us when we begin carrying a handgun, but the holster should protect both the body from sharp edges and the handgun from perspiration. Often, first-class gear will have a waiting period of 20 to 24 weeks. The High Noon holster was in stock, and the Wild Bill holster can be found hanging on a rack at most gun shows. Brownells usually has Milt Sparks Summer Special holsters in stock for the Glock and 1911 at $94.11. Based on the availability of the Milt Sparks holster at Brownells, the Summer Special is a good buy. If you have a common pistol such as the 1911 or the Glock, then Barber and Liberty will probably have a popular model ready to ship. But in some cases, expect a wait, which means you may have to purchase a cheap off-the-rack holster in the meantime. We have told you what you are getting with these holsters. What you are getting is good quality leather that should serve you well for personal defense. Here are the opinions of our testers who wore, drew from, and carried guns in these holsters:

Multi-Use Holsters: Can One Leather Choice Do Two Jobs?

January 2011 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Here at Gun Tests we do not often address intangibles. We measure performance in a logical manner. We test firearms, devices, and ammunition in a repeatable and verifiable manner. We do so in order to produce a level playing field for products. This is a credible standard for comparison. Just the same, sometimes a concept is worth a hard look. This month we are addressing the concept and execution of holsters that are designed to fill more than one mission. We have explored the concept and found that, at least in the case of some of the holsters tested, the concept is viable. We wondered, is it possible to have a holster that fulfills several different jobs. Or would we find the truth of the adage, "jack of all trades—and master of none," and learn that a certain holster style is suited only to a single style of deployment? There have been numerous multi-function holsters advertised to fill more than one mission. We chose to cover six holsters that have been advertised as multiple-role holsters. These range from more-or-less standard holsters with extra belt loops to a holster with multi-directional belt loops. But inquisitive GT readers (you know who you are) will challenge: Why compromise at all? Why not simply choose a single holster for each mission? Realistically, who wants to have to swap rigs to move from car to office to restaurant, especially for those of us living in a true four-season climate? If one holster can work inside the waistband (IWB) for concealment, as a strong-side belt scabbard offering real speed and comfort, and as a cross-draw holster for those who are seated or driving most of the day, that would indeed be a valuable piece of kit. Also, with quality custom leather and Kydex holsters approaching $100 dollars or more, it is important that we make a good choice. Our test products were the Ted Blocker X 16, $97; Tauris Double Shift, $160; K&D Holsters’ Thunderbird Defender, $95; Raven Concealment Systems Phantom, $90 (which includes an optional $20 loop kit); Simply Rugged Tribute, $95; (which includes $10 for IWB loops); and the Classic Old West Styles Four Way Holster, $38. To start, we examined these units with an eye toward assessing the use of good materials, professional surface finish, and tight, durable stitching. How well the holsters function in the field is another matter, so we tested these holsters on the body extensively. Several team members wore a rig for at least a week each, then traded off holsters to various raters. We also drew handguns from them and shot targets at a range. In particular, we focused on cant and rake during our field and shooting assessments. Cant is the angle of the holster away from the body. Rake is the angle of the muzzle. If the muzzle is pointed to the rear or spine of the holster, it’s is a "rear rake" design. Almost all holsters are a rear rake design. A very few are a neutral cant, useful for the most part with compact handguns. The forward rake holster is most often seen as a competition holster for very tall shooters. A forward rake would expose the butt to printing on the garments and would be unsuitable in a concealed-carry holster. At the end of the field and range work, we compiled the tester’s pro-and-con comments during a roundtable discussion. To avoid a lackluster "jack of all trades, master of none" nomination, the holsters had to receive an A grade in one of their design missions and at least a B grade in the second. In other words, a strong-side holster that could be carried as an IWB needed an A grade as a strong side and a B grade as an IWB to pass.

IWB Holsters: Kramer Leather Tans The Hide Of Competitors

July 2009 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

It seems every other week some manufacturer introduces a new pistol offering the latest in technology and sexy new styling, all in an easily-concealable package. Gun enthusiasts like us are drawn to these guns, but reality usually smacks us in the face as we drive home with our newest addition to our firearm family. "How am I gonna carry this thing?" we ask. Unfortunately, our lack of planning usually results in a pile of holsters in a corner, as we attempt to find one that fits correctly. This month we’ll take a look at four inside-the-waistband holsters that offer a variety of wearing options. Two of the holsters, the Kramer #3 Inside The Waistband Horsehide ($132) and the TT GunLeather Slim IWB Holster ($85) are molded from leather to fit a specific firearm. The Crossbreed SuperTuck Deluxe ($65) uses a unique combination of dye-cut leather and molded Kydex, and the Smart Carry Standard Model ($48) has a patented design incorporating denim and a waterproof membrane sewn together in an apron-type arrangement.

Ankle-Holster Carry Choices: We Think Ruger’s LCR is A-OK

June 2009 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

If you’ve never carried a handgun in an ankle holster, consider this. If such carry is rare or unpopular, then it will likely prove unexpected as well, increasing the element of surprise— which is always a good thing when it comes to self defense. In this test we will look at three small revolvers that are suitable for ankle carry as well as other methods of deeper concealment. The revolver is a time-proven device, but making them small and light can present new challenges. The three revolvers are Smith & Wesson’s $600 Model 442 No. 162810, the $430 Charter Arms On Duty No 53810, and Ruger’s new $525 LCR, No. 5401. Each gun was chambered for 38 Special only, and thanks to the use of lightweight materials offered an unloaded weight of less than 1 pound. Maximum capacity was 5 rounds. To test our revolvers we fired from support at the nominal distance of 10 yards. One of the challenges of firing a short-barreled revolver from a rest is that once you’ve wrapped the snub-nosed revolver in your hands, there is not much gun left exposed for support. In addition, you have to be careful not to block off the cylinder gap. This is the area between the forward edge of the chamber and the entrance to the barrel, referred to as the forcing cone. As the bullet "crosses the break," gases are emitted that often carry unburned powder. In addition, if cylinder to bore alignment is not correct, debris can be sheared from the bullet as it enters the forcing cone. To prevent being splashed by debris we chose to use a flat, pillow-style bag, (sold as the Elbow Bag) from These bags were tightly filled but lightweight, so shipping on top of the $20 price was nominal. Best of all, they were covered with an abrasion-resistant material. Our tests were performed outdoors at American Shooting Centers ( where the benches offered a vertical stop against which we could brace our support. Once seated, we rested our hands plus a radius of the trigger guard atop the bags. The Charter revolver was the only gun that could also be fired single action, so we tried that too. But the accuracy chart reflects the measurement of five-shot groups fired double-action only. Although ammunition was scarce, we were able to find what we needed at ASC’s Pro Shop, (281-556-8086). For test ammunition we fired inexpensive 158-grain lead roundnosed ammunition from MagTech, remanufactured 125-grain jacketed hollowpoints from Black Hills Ammunition, and the latest high-velocity law-enforcement rounds from Speer. They were the +P 125-grain Gold Dot LE hollowpoints sold in 50-round boxes. Let’s find out how they performed.

New Handguns at SHOT Las Vegas 2016

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

At the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Gun Tests staffers ran across many dozens of new products that we’re working to include in future tests. Following are some of the handguns, handgun ammunition, and handgun accessories we were interested in. Next month we’ll look at new long guns and new options for them.

Hot-Weather Carry: Talon IWB, Ted Blocker S18 Are Best Buys

July 2014 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

There are many types of holsters and carry modes for concealed carry. Most work okay when a jacket or other covering garment is worn over the rig, but they don’t work as well during hot weather, when only a pulled-out sport shirt or even a T-shirt may be worn. Also, when a T-shirt isn’t worn between the holster and the body in hot weather, some rigs are terribly uncomfortable and become a chafing nuisance rather than a trusted friend. While concealment and access are the primary concerns for the CHL holder, few of us are able to afford disposable clothing, so wear and tear are also important considerations. When the weather is hot and humid, we either have to go to greater lengths in selecting our concealment gear or carry a light and possibly ineffective handgun. But a better choice is to examine the best holster technology. For hot-weather carry, we have to factor in a number of considerations, such as perspiration reaching the handgun, chafing, hiding blocky gun profiles, and, of course, presentation and reholstering issues. To find out which products worked for carrying a 38 Special or 9mm handgun in hot, humid weather, we got a selection of both holsters and carry systems, comparing their usefulness for carrying guns with the minimal weight and profile while still offering acceptable speed and retention. We should point out that we rated these hot-weather rigs head to head for this specific use. We did not compare them to traditional holsters that may have a better draw angle or offer more speed.

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

June 2014 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

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.

Fingers on the Triggers

June 2014 - Gun Tests Magazine

Re “22 Target Pistols: Model 41 Versus Supermatic Citation 10X,” June 2014 Love the magazine, but was terribly disappointed that page 10 shows two pistols with the shooter’s finger on the trigger. I carefully read the caption to see if you were trying to illustrate something about finger placement, but found nothing. Neither photo appears to show a shooter prepared to shoot. —Tess Ailshire on Facebook [IMGCAP(1)] My mistake — I moved the two images of the bullseye pistols to the start page and cut the caption because it was too long. Thanks for pointing that out. Here’s the missing text: “In hand, the 10X (left) felt familiar to those who train with a 1911 — the trigger span was what they expected. The Model 41, right, was a natural pointer, but some felt the grips did not fit their hands properly. For some shooters, the trigger finger touched the side of the shoe.” Sorry about that. — Todd Woodard I own a High Standard Trophy made in Houston and a S&W Model 41. I purchased the Trophy new and the Model 41 used, much as your article suggested. I have owned both for years and for some time was an avid Bullseye shooter in North Carolina. The High Standard is very accurate and so is the Model 41. I gave up using the High Standard because mine became very unreliable. I shoot standard-velocity CCI ammo and never load the magazines with more than five rounds. It has been serviced by the factory several times, but continues to have feeding and jamming problems that cannot be cleared up. The Model 41 has never had a problem in all the years I’ve used it. In Bullseye circles in my area, the High Standard name has been jokingly referred to as “low standard.” — Ed in Greensboro, NC The article on 22 target pistols refers to “partridge” sights twice. The correct name for that sight is “Patridge,” named after E. E. Patridge who developed the sight around 1892. — David W. S. Mason Great magazine! However, I note the common misspelling of E. E. Patridge’s name in Mr. Sadowksi’s article in the June 2014 issue. Adding the extra “r” to Patridge has become so common as to be arguably as acceptable as “Derringer” for Deringer. Perpetuating this oversight does a disservice to these inventors. I hunted in an area of Vermont where the locals referred to grouse loads as “catidges fer patidges.” If we spelled the two inventors’ names correctly, we could sent the extra “r” characters to New England where they are needed. — Jack Moisuk Richardson, Texas Actually, it was four times. This time, I double-checked the pages as they were uploaded to the printer, to ensure a final spell-check doesn’t “fix” them wrongly. We regret the error. — tw