Types of Holsters for Concealed Carry 

After you make the decision to concealed carry, your next step is finding the perfect way to do it. There are several types of holsters for concealed carry, and this guide outlines them all.

Here are the most common types of concealed carry holsters we’ll cover:

  • Shoulder holsters
  • Inside the waistband, or IWB, holsters
  • Pocket holsters
  • Ankle holsters

Safety Hack: Most experts say you should never concealed carry without a holster. A quality concealed gun holster keeps your gun secure and positioned exactly where you expect it to be, and it prevents anything from getting in the trigger well and discharging the firearm.

Holster Terminology You Should Know

If you’re looking for the best concealed carry holster, especially if this is your first time buying one, start by getting familiar with these terms:

  • Appendix carry. Appendix carry refers to carrying your gun in front of your body, to the side of your belly button (near your appendix).
  • Cant. The cant is the angle at which the gun sits, measured in degrees.
  • Cross-draw. A cross-draw holster is one you wear on your support side. Meaning, you have to cross over your body to draw it.
  • Printing. Printing is the term that describes the outline a gun can make when you’re trying to carry concealed (and failing).
  • Rake. Rake is another term for the gun’s angle in the holster, also measured in degrees.
  • Retention. Retention is the level at which the holster secures the gun. You’ll see Level I, Level II and Level III – the higher level of retention, the harder it is to release the gun from its holster. (Most CCW holsters are Level 1 for quick release in an emergency.)
  • Ride. Ride is where the holster attaches to your belt, relative to the trigger.
  • Small of the back. Small-of-the-back or SOB holsters attach at your spine or just to the side of it.
  • Strong side. Your strong side is your dominant side. If you’re a right-handed firer, your right side is your strong side.
  • Support side. Also called your weak side, your support side is the opposite of your strong side. If you’re a right-handed firer, your left side is your support side.

Shoulder Holsters

A shoulder holster lets you carry your firearm on your side, beneath your armpit. These types of holsters usually carry a spare magazine on the opposite side of the gun, and you can easily conceal them under a jacket or coat. You can also buy a V-neck holster shirt or sleeveless holster shirt that lets you carry concealed in a casual or off-duty environment.

Inside the Waistband Holsters

An inside the waistband holster – commonly called an IWB holster – clips to your belt. The gun’s grip rides above your waistband, while the rest of the gun stays concealed in your pants. A good example of an IWB holster is the ThumbDrive® Holster for Glock 17 and 22 models.

Pocket Holsters

An inside-the-pocket holster is typically a holster pouch that has adjustable locking straps. Pocket holsters are designed for small guns, and their primary purpose is to cover the trigger and keep your gun from printing.

Ankle Holsters

Ankle holsters wrap around your ankle with elastic or hook-and-loop fasteners. They can be tough to conceal if your pants are snug, and they can be difficult to reach in a sticky situation. It’s also tough to run safely when you’re wearing an ankle holster. Usually, an ankle holster is best used as a backup.

You have a range of concealed carry holster options and finding the right one is mostly about personal preference. Head over to your local 5.11 to test out a few and see what feels right. Whatever type of CCW holster you ultimately choose, it’s incredibly important to practice, practice, and then practice some more so you get comfortable wearing it and can be as effective as possible in an emergency.

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