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AIWB/IWB Holster Classifications

I get a few emails a week asking about various holster companies and designs for AIWB and IWB carry, which prompted me to sit down and start typing out a very long winded explanation of various holsters and what they do and not do.  I am not going to post it all at once as it is very lengthy and most people will probably not sit through that PhD thesis level explanation as to why and what.  What I am going to do is post snippets of it and link to them in my Articles page under its own section.  The first piece I wanted to post is about various AIWB/IWB Holster Classifications.  What do I mean by classifications?  In my opinion there are holsters which are broken down into several categories based on features, manufacturing and overall application concept.  I want to define them so people know where they stand in terms of holsters and what type of application they fit into.  Those responsible CCW citizens or LEO's (on or off duty) who carry a firearm every single day and have the right mindset to backup their actions understand that a good holster is worth its weight in platinum.  Your life literally depends on it, so why would you skimp on features or concealment for comfort?

Images below will be googled off the web and not mine in any way nor do I express ownership of them in anyway.

Below Hobby Grade - I do not want to call it entry level as there are a few decent hobby grade holsters out there which are good, holsters like the Uncle Mike's pictured above are the epitome of of a bad idea.  Zero retention offered, in fact the only retention is the pressure from the belt against the holster pushing it against your body.  Technically speaking you could discharge the pistol while still in the holster if in a fight or fall in the woods, talk about an embarrassing situation.  When you see people with these types of holsters they not only do not understand concealed carry or how holsters work but they are borderline dangerous to themselves and others around them.  You should speak up and probably send them a link to this post.  This holster is designed to be the cheapest possible item to produce and sell.  Not something you want to trust your life with.  The "clip" if you can call it that here is horrible and will not hold your holster in your pants, it is not designed to anyway.  This is the same category holsters like the Bulldog ambi belt holster fall into, there is a reason a lot of the open carry types go to these holsters, it is not because they are highly trained.

Hobby Grade - These are the holsters that are $20-$40 range, basically any kydex fold over holster which is made in a standard press by placing a pistol in a press between kydex.  Not expensive to do, not time consuming, and usually comes with a really crappy plastic "clip" of some kind.  These holsters usually are the best bang for buck for many kydex makers as they cost generally under $5 to make and they can sell them for $20-$40 range or like the above pictured "Galco" branded holster sells for $60-$70.  The clip attachment varies but is usually a derivative of a standard plastic clip, which will fail at the first sign of physical confrontation, they fall out of waistbands easily and this is easily understood by doing ten minutes of fairly active combatives/FoF with live people.  There are some other design elements which are completely missing like rear sight protection and while some offer open bottom ends, they do so by complete accident and not purpose.  These "AIWB / IWB" holsters are also completely devoid of features which would allow both AIWB and IWB to be done effectively.  AIWB and IWB holsters should be slightly different and the holsters need to be adjustable and customization in order to fit those ends, these are not.  Some will add pull the dot double belt loops to these, good option to include but they are still very short on features and very high on hobby scale.

Still in the hobby grade category are hybrid holsters which have a combo of kydex-type material and leather, or something soft, which is mated with the kydex.  These are usually worn in the 4-5:30 o'clock position and are primarily comfort-centric holsters, these run from $70 to $130 in some places depending on level of customization.  Basically someone decided that the standard fold over kydex holster was not enough for comfort and made a half mold the same way, added expensive leather or something of that nature to it and then added cost for customization.  You still get the same really crappy level of retention as the standard fold over kydex holsters above, with a much larger package, with very similar crappy belt attachments.

A concealed carry holster should be concealment-centric and if it just happens to be comfortable, awesome, but its first job is to be concealable, second job is to be as fast at deployment as possible, third is repeatable retention and reholstering, fourth is comfort if you even can count that, except for most people comfort is #1.  This is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous.  The argument for these holsters is that you can conceal them very well behind your A-line and they are comfortable.  You give up a huge speed advantage with these types of holsters and when you begin your draw you project it like crazy.  I had an MTAC minotaur for a short period and it was horribly built, and very, very slow.  So bad that I had emailed MTAC about the issues and suggestions to fix, they never responded.  These are not serious holsters for serious CCW citizens.

Hobby Grade Plus - This is the gray area where some holsters are purpose built for a specific task or carry method but they fall extremely short on a lot of fronts, usually because the people designing them do not actually carry pistols concealed in that method daily and if they do they do not understand the proper concepts of application for such holsters.  Holsters like the G-code incog, which I reviewed, twice, are a prime example of purpose built holsters missing a lot of very much required key elements which were replaced for customization, highly marketable, aesthetically pleasing things.  The clips do not work, they are not designed to work in a real life confrontation, but are designed around comfort.  The "tactical fuzz" in the particular situation is designed for looks and is not useful in any way.  Front sight is exposed, rear sight is exposed and conceals like crap.  Was not designed to work well in any particular configuration but marketed well for AIWB carry along with the additional magazine with prints like crazy as well.  On paper this was probably a great idea, and it was executed in a good way in terms of number of production but there is no added value in any of the core features and too many determent's.

The modern interpretation of the incog is the trex sidecar, which has a lot of issues going on.  If you remove the marketing hype and instagram-celeb status, you will see a very large holster which adds a magazine to your center line, attached via plastic clips which will definitely make the holster unhinge during a physical confrontation.  You are vastly more likely to get into a physical confrontation before shooting as you are during one, this holster adds a magazine to the front which absolutely does not need to be there and as such allows for it to be rolled completely over itself.  This is a complete no go.  The only factor this holster has over the incog is that it is a lot faster but in a non-real world way, as it is designed for a two handed draw.  If you practice only to draw two handed you will quickly learn the issues of that particular method when training with anyone who understands combatives and physical confrontation - neither of which the makers of the incog, sidecar or any of these similar holsters do.  Furthermore, having a magazine next to your holster so you can get better times on drills does not in any way translate to better victory odds in a pistol fight.  I covered this in my The Carry Reload article.  Reloads are not of a primary concern for carry and while you should carry a reload it should be in a pocket or pouch somewhere secondary, there is no tangible, documented, scientifically quantifiable reason to carry a reload in these positions unless you want to look cool and run unrealistic times for instagram.

I will be posted more the upper tiers of these classifications later on, maybe even explaining certain aspects of them.  If you have questions or opinions, reply or email, and we can have a conversation about it.