An Intro to Gun Holsters [Quick Guide]

An Intro to Gun Holsters [Quick Guide]

Feb 4th 2021

A gun holster is a useful tool, and while one can make up a part of a display, knowing how to use one effectively is critical for any gun owner who would practice carrying a firearm, either open or concealed.

At Sarco, Inc., we provide a large variety of different pistol holsters and other accessories like gun slings that make carrying a firearm more practical. Here are some preliminary considerations to make.

Open Carry or Concealed Carry

The first thing to think about is whether you want to carry concealed or openly. Every state has its own laws on the matter, so before you carry openly or concealed, ensure that you have the proper permits where applicable.

The design of a holster will also impact its practicality for how you want to carry the firearm in question. For example, many concealed carry holsters are designed with slim lines so that they will not print the firearm. Conversely, some high-quality open carry holsters are meant to be displayed and are elaborately decorated, so shop wisely.

Where and How Will You Carry?

In addition to the matter of open vs. concealed carry, you’ll have to take a step back and evaluate where you want the firearm to ride on your body. These are some of the most common types of holsters there are, and the style of carry for which they are designed.

Inside Waistband (IWB) and Outside Waistband Holsters (OWB) - Inside and outside waistband holsters may be the most common holsters out there, and they’re just what they sound like. There are many styles of them, but all of them fit somewhere along your hip or inside or outside of your belt. The iconic image of a cowboy with a revolver holstered on his belt - that’s outside waistband carry in a belt sheath.

Generally, IWB holsters are designed as concealment holsters and OWB holsters are intended for open carry. Both of these holsters also tend to ride comfortably and give you convenient, if not quick, access to your firearm.

Underarm Carry (Shoulder Holsters) - Underarm carry, which is sometimes referred to as cross draw because the firearm must “cross” your body as you draw it, is another popular form of concealed carry.

Some shoulder holsters are comfortable and provide a lot of support, while at the same time giving you great ability to conceal your firearm. Also, given the way they ride, they are the only practical method for some full-size revolvers and large handguns.

Cross Draw - Cross draw is another popular method for carrying a firearm, and there are many purpose-built cross draw holsters available. Though underarm carry is sometimes referred to as cross draw, there are other styles.

A cross draw holster is typically positioned on the other side of your body from your dominant hand and positions the firearm with the grip in an angled-forward attitude. This makes it easy to access and comfortable to wear.

Other Methods - In addition to these more prevalent methods for carry, there are also many more, including carrying in a belly band holsters (sometimes considered IWB), carrying across the small of the back (sometimes called cross draw), ankle carry and thigh carry.


The material from which a gun holster is made is another important consideration to make. Holster material will impact its practicality, its durability, how comfortable the design is, and much more. Generally speaking, the two main categories of materials from which holsters are made are leather and different synthetics.

Leather - Once upon a time, leather was the only practical material from which holsters were routinely made. It is tough, durable, and becomes more comfortable over time. Another good thing about leather is that even very heavy, wet formed leather will accommodate the gun it carries better over time, offering a very security fit.

Leather also has a very classy appearance, which makes it popular among some collectors. The downside of leather is that it needs a lot of maintenance in order to stay in good working order. Oil, water, weather and wear can all damage leather, so it’s important to be fastidious with care, cleaning and maintenance of a leather holster.

Synthetics (Nylon, Kydex or others) - While leather is still a popular material for handgun holsters, more and more of them are being made from synthetics. Among these, some of the more popular materials are Kydex and nylon, both of which have a lot of value.

They can be precision molded to a firearm to afford an excellent fit; they are impervious to water, resistant to the elements and to wear, and require basically no maintenance at all.

They don’t look like leather and they might not be as comfortable, but don’t dismiss them outright.

Call Us to Learn More

Still looking for a gun holster that fits your needs? Need help identifying a left handed holster for your favorite revolver? Take a look through our collection of holsters, including 1911 holsters, and give us a call if you need more help!