If you’re an aspiring concealed carrier, the more you read and talk to others, the more you’ll discover the myriad of variables available when shopping for a concealment holster. In addition to considering price, quality, and carry style, also consider accessibility, concealment, and comfort.
Accessibility — how quickly you can get to your gun — is far more important than the type of gun you carry. In an emergency situation, you can’t get to your gun too quickly! When shopping for a carry system (gun +holster), look for a combination that gives you rapid, efficient, and instinctive accessibility. That could be an inside-the-waistband (IWB) or an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster positioned on your hip, your center line (a.k.a., “appendix carry”) or your ankle or a shoulder holster. It might also be a pocket carry holster. Or a holster inside a specially-made garment. Some gun experts say retention holsters add time when drawing and add bulk. If you’re trying to conceal, both work against you. Others say the retention is there for a good reason. It prevents the firearm from falling out of the holster if you stumble, are in a car accident, get knocked down, etc.
Most firearm “professionals” and instructors don’t recommend off-body carry (e.g., in a handbag or briefcase) because it isn’t ideal for accessibility (and could be dangerous if your bag is stolen). Most also do not recommend carrying SOB (small of back). That position has your gun as far away from the fight as possible. And when you are seated in your car, not only can it be uncomfortable, but it is completely out of reach. But of course no one knows what is best for you and your particular situation except you!
Not every carry system is suitable for every person, given different body shapes, dress, activity levels, skills, etc. Most people who carry concealed do not have just one carry system; they have two or three and choose the one that best fits their circumstances. For example, when going to the theater or if you are seated behind a desk most of the day, you might want an ankle holster because that makes for an easy draw while sitting. But when you go to the mall or out for a walk or running errands, a belly band holster might be ideal. A plus to the latter is that an attacker is not going to take your gun away from you when it’s concealed under a shirt! The only way you’re going to know what works for you is to try several holsters. And, yes, that might mean buying several and never using a few of them as you conclude what’s best for your particular needs.
A lot of gun people say “concealed means concealed.” In other words, no one should ever be able to tell that you are carrying a gun— especially in places where the general public might freak-out if they suddenly realized you do have a firearm. So choose a carry system that hides your gun without “printing” (revealing itself by making an impression on the cover garment). Again, it’s a process of trial and error to find the carry system(s) that are best for your wardrobe. You may have different clothing for different occasions and each require different carry systems. A scrub-wearing doctor with an ankle holster may switch to an IWB holster when he changes into casual clothes. Women wear dresses, skirts, shorts and pants; all of which may require a different carry system.
If your carry system isn’t comfy to wear, there’s less of a chance you’ll wear it every single day. And you really do want to wear it every single day. How do you know if a carry system will be comfortable all-day, through a range of activities (driving, walking, shopping, working in the backyard, carrying a kid, etc.)? You guessed it again— you have to try it. It might take several holsters and months of trail and error until you are able to wear any outfit while concealing effectively and comfortably. Even if you buy a holster or two and don’t use it much, it’s not money wasted. It is worth the trial and error to get this right. Carrying concealed should be both comforting AND comfortable, not one or the other.