IWB or OWB: Which is the Best Holster For Concealed Carry?

Concealed carry has numerous questions that must be addressed to be effective and meet the important criteria of ease of access to your handgun. Two of the important questions are: Do you wear Inside the Waistband (IWB) or Outside the Waistband (OWB), and secondly, which holster provides the most comfort and ease of access to your handgun.

Naturally, there are several other issues that you must address when concealed carrying such as cover clothing, belt, and size of the handgun. However, how you wear your handgun and what holster you chose both play a vital roles in many aspects of concealed carry.

Prior to discussing the pros and cons of the above-mentioned topics, it is important that we review the reasons and practicality of why you are wearing a firearm. There are three very important criteria you must consider when wearing a firearm. First, it is a tool that you may need instantaneously and with minimal effort. With that in mind, you must be able to withdraw your handgun effortlessly. And thirdly, if you draw your handgun, then it must be easy to reholster the handgun safely.

All of these factors are influenced by how you are wearing and concealing your firearm. Thus, your holster is a vital part of meeting the expectations of the criteria listed above.

Also read: Ten Tips Everyone Should Know Before Carrying Concealed

Best SHTF HolsterLet’s begin with, how do you wish to carry? This is a huge question based on numerous factors such as laws in the location where you are carrying, why are you carrying, weather, and the activity you are planning while wearing. Several factors must be taken into consideration when wearing your handgun.

Local laws play a role in deciding how you are going to conceal your firearm. For example, in some states, open and conceal carry is legal. Thus, being highly concerned about concealment is not so much an issue. On the other hand, some states have strict concealment laws and maintaining concealment at all times is critical. So when making the decision on “How to concealed carry” the local laws must be the determining factor to making that call.

Why are you carrying? The answer is simple, in case you encounter a situation that requires you to draw your firearm. In most of those situations, you wish to use all you can to your advantage. There are five attributes you can use to your advantage in a bad situation: Situational Awareness, Stealth, Distance, Darkness and Speed. Taking these elements into consideration is one of the decisions making factors when deciding How to Carry and What Holster.

Weather is one of the major factors affecting how you are going to carry and concealment. For example, if it is winter and you are in an area where jackets and sweaters are needed then concealment becomes easier. However, as the weather warms and you are wearing shorts and tee shirts, concealment and holster stability become more concerning. So weather plays an instrumental role in determining How you are going to carry and What Holster is going to meet those needs.

Concealed Carry LawThe activity you are participating in plays an additional role in deciding How to carry and What Holster. Naturally, if you are only going to the mall or grocery store, then it is less likely you will be concerned with concealment and holster security. On the other hand, if you are going bike riding, running, walk in the park then it is reasonable to be more concerned about concealment and holster security.

With all these considerations in mind let’s talk about: is IWB or OWB the best way to concealed carry?

There are numerous advantages of IWB concealed carry. The best way to present them is by bullet points.

The advantages of IWB carry are:

  • The holster and handgun are held close to your body
  • The holster is more secure and stable
  • The holster and handgun are less bulky, thus more concealable
  • Less clothing or cover garments are needed
  • Less likely to get caught on things such as seat belts
  • It is less likely anyone will see the holster and handgun if inadvertently exposed
  • The holster can be more easily adjusted to allow you to access it
  • There are more locations such as appendix or even 6:00 (middle of your back) you can wear IWB

The disadvantages of IWB carry are:

  • You must have pants that allow you to wear IWB
  • The holster can be uncomfortable if not worn correctly
  • It is more adaptable for compact and sub compact handguns
  • You have less access to increased levels of retention such as thumb brakes

Best Pistol HolsterThe advantages of OWB carry:

  • It can be easier to access your handgun
  • Larger selection and styles of holsters
  • Can wear a larger assortment of handguns, such as full size
  • Can make it easier to wear an extra magazine

The disadvantages of OWB  carry:

  • Can be bulky and harder to conceal
  • May need to wear more cover clothing
  • Can interfere with seat belts and get caught on things
  • Can be less secure to your body that IWB

So now we must decide which type of holster is best for concealed carry. This is the key to concealed carry. If you do not have an excellent holster that fits you and your handgun well, then you will be constantly adjusting it and uncomfortable.

Also Read: Survival Gear Review: Craft Leather Pancake Holster

Kydex holsters have really set the standard for IWB carry. There are so many advantages of Kydex holsters when IWB concealed carry. A list of advantages:

  • Provides consistent and repeatable draw effort. This is incredibly important when practicing, wearing different attire, and being comfortable with managing your handgun
  • Stays secure, will not move if running crawling on the ground, changing positions
  • Does not collapse when the handgun is removed, thus making reholstering safe and easy
  • Is easily removed if needed and replaced
  • Easy to draw from and reduces the need for additional levels of retention
  • Easy to feel secured retention when reholstering
  • Highly durable
  • Easy to adjust cant – and in some cases – the height of the holster attachment to your belt.

Best Survival HandgunOWB holsters allow for more flexibility in the materials they are made from. Kydex holsters are equally and well proven with OWB concealed carry. Leather holsters can be equally comfortable and effective. Listed below are some key points to choosing an OWB holster for concealed carry:

  • There is less concern about the holster collapsing when the handgun is removed
  • You have a larger assortment of holster attachments to your belt
  • You can have added levels of retention that can be more easily managed with OWB holsters
  • A wider range of material may be selected for OWB holsters

So there is a lot to think about when choosing your method of carrying a handgun and the holster you select. It is not something you should take lightly, as you have read in the article there are many key factors that are very important when choosing a holster and determining your method of carry. One final note, when choosing a holster make sure you choose a holster maker with a strong commitment to quality, an excellent reputation for customer service and wide range of products. There are lots of holster makers out there and you are buying something that you may need in a life and death situation so you want the best and a holster you can count on.

All Photos by Drew and Doc Montana

Written by Dan C

Dan is a life long experienced and avid firearm enthusiast, hunter and outdoorsman. For ten years, Dan functioned as the team leader of a critical care medical team that conducted world-wide medical evacuations. He participated in over 300 medical missions worldwide at times in very remote and hostile environments, including Haiti, Nicaragua, the Middle East, Russia, and South America. Read his full interview here. Read more of Dan's articles.