IWB vs. OWB: Find Out What Works for You

There are dozens of ways to carry a firearm – often, the choice starts with deciding whether you want to carry yours inside the waistband (IWB) or outside the waistband (OWB). 

You can concealed carry either way, but there are other factors to consider if you want to make the right choice. No matter where you carry, you should be able to draw your gun from its holster and fire it without having to change your grip. 

Get our top tips for choosing between an IWB and OWB holster.

Inside the Waistband

Carrying inside the waistband, or IWB, is one of the easiest ways to keep your gun concealed. IWB is typically the right choice if you're wearing well-fitting clothing because your clothes help break up the gun's profile. Both the holster and the gun are inside your waistband, and the holster is attached to your tactical belt.

You can holster your firearm on your hip, or you can kidney or appendix carry – whatever is most practical and comfortable for you. Many people find appendix carry to be the most convenient and the easiest way to access the gun, but this is a matter of preference and depends on what works best for you. 

Holsters for IWB Carry

When you carry your gun inside your waistband, you need to use a holster – otherwise, it's just not secure enough to be safe. Here's what you should look for in an IWB holster:

  • Leather, plastic or nylon construction for durability
  • Dual clips for your gun belt that spread the weight over a larger area
  • Adjustable height and cant

Outside the Waistband

OWB holsters, like the ThumbDrive® Holster for the Glock 19 or 23, are ideal for open carrying and for carrying concealed when you're wearing a jacket or loose clothing. OWB holsters can occupy the same positions that IWB holsters do, and like IWB holsters, they require a good gun belt. 

Holster for OWB Carry

There are three main types of OWB holsters – pancake, paddle and belt slide holsters. Choose the one that feels right to you:

  • Pancake holsters feature two pieces of material attached together, and the firearm goes between them. 
  • Paddle holsters are made from a solid back with the holster attached to it, and the paddle is outfitted with clips for the belt. 
  • Belt slide holsters let you slide your belt right through the holster, just like the name implies.

Other Holster Options

For many people, it's best to explore several different options before choosing a holster. Here are a few kinds of holsters you can check out to determine which type of carry is right for you:

  • 5.11 Tactical® Holster Pouch. This pouch uses the 5.11 TacTec System™ and features a quick, reliable hook-and-loop fastener.
  • TacTec Holster 2.0. The TacTec Holster is completely customizable, and it's compatible with 5.11 bags and packs.
  • LBE Compact Holster. The LBE Compact Holster is MOLLE and 5.11 SlickStick® compatible and features a hook-and-loop fastener reducer strap.

In many cases, you can use a holster belt adapter to attach your holster to a 1.25-inch belt without worrying about stability.

For most people, the decision to carry IWB or OWB is largely based on personal preference. As long as you can draw and fire effectively without changing your grip, you can choose whatever is most comfortable.

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