Firearm holsters come in many shapes, materials, levels of retention and sizes. There are three basic holster categories; duty holsters, concealment and sporting type. The type of holster used depends on the varying circumstances in which they are used.
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Uniformed security and police officers who carry their guns openly generally use what is called a retention holster. These type of holsters incorporate a level or levels of retention. Straps or flaps that hold the firearm in place and prevent the officer from being disarmed are most common. Duty holsters are available with varying levels of retention (i.e. Level I, Level II, Level III). A higher level of retention makes it more difficult for someone to remove the firearm from your holster.
Concealment holster are made to be easily worn out of sight. They are generally compact, lightweight and designed to be worn under clothing. The belt and paddle holster are among the most common concealment holster. Other concealment holster options include the shoulder holster, ankle holster, belly band, fanny pack, pocket holster and many variations of each.
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1. Shoulder Holsters
Rating: 4.1 / 5.0
Shoulder holsters generally consist of two straps connected in a manner similar to a backpack with the actual holster mounted to a strap on the right or the left side. The holster is usually mounted under the arm of your weak hand and your ammo carrier and/or handcuffs on the opposite side of the holster. To draw your weapon you need to reach across the front of your body with your strong hand. Shoulder holsters are generally constructed of leather or nylon type material. Some manufacturers of shoulder holsters include Galco, Safari land, Blackhawk, Gould & Goodrich, Fobus and Uncle Mike's.
Glorified in movies and on television, the shoulder holster is still a useful special purpose concealment rig. There are some people who routinely carry a shoulder holster and for whom the shoulder holster makes the most sense for. There are many more for whom, in certain times and places and under certain conditions, the shoulder holster is a special purpose item.
The shoulder holster offers a number of specialized advantages including not having to wear a belt, firearm can be drawn in a quick and inconspicuous manner and it takes the weapons weight off of your hip. The shoulder holster is also practical if your assignment requires you to be in a seated position. Started from a seated position, it can be difficult to draw your weapon out of a standard belt holster, particularly if you're strapped in place by safety belts. This is why so many police, military pilots and bodyguards use shoulder holsters while on duty.
2. Ankle Holsters
Rating: 3.8 / 5.0
Ankle holsters can be awkward to wear and feel cumbersome at times. Having that extra weight on one leg can take some getting used to. They are generally used with a small calibur weapon and worn on the inside leg of your weak side. Like the shoulder rig the ankle holster has its own specialized purposes and offers its own advantages like not having to wear a belt and taking weight off your hip.
Ankle holsters come in several different materials including leather, nylon and molded plastic. A calf strap is sometimes an option. The calf strap helps to stabilize the holster on your leg. A few well known ankle holster manufacturers are Fobus, Galco, Bianchi, Gould & Goodrich and Safari land.
The ankle holster is sometimes utilized by law enforcement officers for a back up weapon while on duty. While off duty the ankle holster serves its purpose as being a highly concealable holster for their firearm. Ankle holsters are great for those hot summer days when you just want to wear a t-shirt or choose to tuck your shirt in.
3. Belt and Paddle Concealment Holsters
Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
Concealment belt holsters come in a variety of shapes and size. The most popular is what is often referred to as the pancake holster. The pancake holster is attached to your belt with loops in the back of the holster. It is generally carried on the hip of your strong side and features a thumb retention strap. This is probably the safest way to carry your gun. Many law enforcement agencies require officers to carry their weapon this way while off duty.
Another type of concealment belt holster is the small-of-the-back holster. this holster is also attached to your belt using loops in the holster, but it is designed to be worn on the rear of your belt. The holster is well concealed in the small of your back. The disadvantage of this holster is that sitting can be uncomfortable.
Cross draw holster belt holsters offer another, yet less common concealment option. They are worn on your weak side. You need to reach across your body with your strong hand to draw your weapon. The disadvantage of this is that when drawing your firearm you are potentially putting many people in your line of fire.
4. Paddle holsters
Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
Paddle holsters generally look the same and feature the same options as concealment belt holsters. The difference is that paddle holsters do not attach to your belt. Rather they use a paddle on the back of the holster which you slide between your body and your pants. Paddle holsters are easy to put on and off because you do not need to remove your belt. The main disadvantage is that they are less secure being that they are not attached to your belt with a loop system. Some paddles holsters feature a locking mechanism on the paddle which grabs the underside of your belt. This is a little safer but still not as secure as a pancake style belt holster.
5. Duty Holsters
Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
Duty holsters are generally used by uniformed personnel such as police officers, security guards and soldiers. A duty holster is worn openly on a specially designed gun belt sometimes referred to as a Sam Brown belt. Duty holsters are sometimes worn on the thigh of the leg. This type of duty holster is known as a tactical holster. Tactical duty holsters are common among military personnel and police SWAT officers. It is common for Military personnel to use MOLLE compatible holsters. MOLLE is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. This method of attachment has become somewhat of a standard for all quality modular military gear. Duty holsters are available in a variety of finishes including leather, Kydex® and nylon.
Since the duty holster is worn openly, weapon retention is a critical factor. Duty holsters are available in different retention levels. (Level I, level II, level II, level IIII) Retention levels are security features involved in protecting your firearm from being taken out of your duty holster. The higher the level of retention, the more secure your gun will be. The down side to security retention features is that they reduce the speed at which you can draw your gun. An example of a retention level would be a strap which holds the firearm in place and requires you to disengage it before you can draw your weapon. Many examples can be found at Cops Plus or Galls.
Duty holsters are available in a variety of materials including leather, laminate. Kydex® and nylon. They are offered in basket weave, plain and gloss finish. The department or agency in charge will often decide on which finish officers should wear. Gloss finish is generally used for special details such as parades. Some popular makers of duty holsters are Blackhawk, Safari land, Bianchi and Backwater to name a few.