The Guardian Broadcast

"Providing Concealed Carry & Armed Self-Defense Wisdom."

A podcast by Patrick Kilchermann, founder of the Concealed Carry University.


"A Paradigm Shift in Understanding (and searching for) Concealment Holsters"


If there are over 3,000 models of pistols from the last 120 years, there must be over 50,000 different holster models - with new ones appearing every day. How do you navigate that? How can you be made aware when the next big breakthrough is made?

The Guardian BroadcastPatrick Kilchermann
00:00 / 01:04

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Hello and welcome to the Guardian Broadcast, I'm your host and founder of this Concealed Carry University, Patrick Kilchermann. 


It could be due to the time of year, but I've been getting quite a bit more questions lately about holsters and holster selection than normal.  So, this week, I want to offer a quick and short paradigm shift with regard to concealment holsters.


Alright, the fact is that holster selection in particular can one of the more stressful or irritating aspects of concealed carry.


If you’ve been carrying concealed for many years, it's easy to second-guess your decision and wonder if there is a new invention or a "latest and greatest" holster out there that would make the way you carry concealed more comfortable or more concealable or more accessible. It doesn’t help that every new holster IS essentially marketed with those exact promises, and it also doesn’t help that every renowned trainer seems to develop a cult following who mimics his or her every decision, ready to criticize anyone who dares to do something differently.


On the other hand, if you're brand-new to concealed carry it's unbelievably difficult to even know where to begin. Most gun stores these days have walls and entire aisles dedicated to holsters; dozens of different types and styles for each kind of pistol.  Where do you start? And most importantly – when do you stop? Because there are so many, you could literally buy and try a brand-new holster every week for the rest of your life and you would still never try all of them. So again… where do you start, and when do you stop… 


Well, let me let you off the hook a little bit here today.


The first important point I want to inject is that there is no perfect holster, in the same way that there is no perfect gun. If you've gone through my "Essential Guide for Handgun Owners", you are well acquainted with the perspective on handguns that while there are "bare minimum" thresholds, everything beyond that is a trade-off… some kind of compromise. As the size decreases, you lose effectiveness. As the size increases, you lose comfort and concealability, and on and on through all 15 characteristics of handgun evaluations. Well, it is a very similar situation with holsters. There is no perfect holster, so the quest for finding the holster that is best for you can generally stop the moment you find one that lets you carry the gun that you want in the position that you want to carry it.


But what about that – what about carry positions? 


Well, I have a few things I would like to inject.


First, I would recommend that you move away from viewing carry positions as hard and fast positions on the body where a gun can be carried that you have to choose between.  It's not like that – one message I tried to convey in the "Complete Concealed Carry Guide" is that all carry positions really are simply a dynamic flow from one to the other. There are no guidelines for any of the positions, and there are no hard and fast rules where one carry position stops and the next one begins. For example, there are no written or official criteria for what makes an AIWB holster an AIWB holster. There is no official consensus on when a strong side hip holster becomes a behind-the-hip holster. In reality, all carry positions are vague points that roughly describe how carrying on one part of the body is different than carrying a little bit further away.

Everything we know to be true about carry positions was invented by someone who dared to experiment. It’s all still very much up in the air, and there are no rules. There certainly isn’t a ‘best’ position – there are only positions that allow you with your mobility and your body type to access the gun YOU carry in the body positions that YOU tend to be in for most of YOUR day. Nobody else has a body and life exactly like yours, and so what works great for other people has very little to do with what will work best for you.


Second, I want to inject a note on the order in which we decide on a holster.


Many people tend to begin their concealed carry journey by choosing a weapon, and then they begin looking at holsters. This is a disordered way to go about solving the challenge of carrying a handgun concealed. 


Instead, we should first be deciding what types of scenarios we want to survive and thrive in. Are they limited to defensive, reactive style situations where we are blindsided by an attack?  Or are you more interested in carrying in an offensive or proactive role where you not only could survive a blindsided attack, but where you could also be effective in a more serious engagement? Sorting out your desires as a Guardian is an epic task, when factoring in what sorts of attack you are most likely to face given your age, fitness level, where you live, where you commute to and through, and on and on. But it’s a task we all do, whether we’re intentional about it or not.


And without a doubt, this first question we ask ourselves is very important, because most of the gear designed specifically for offensive or proactive carry is totally unnecessary for somebody only looking to carry defensively – and most of the gear designed specifically for defensive carry is utterly useless and detrimental in a proactive or offensive situation. 


For example, I carry a GLOCK 17 – a pistol that holds 18 rounds, and I carry two spare magazines. Statistically, even in the rare event that I am attacked, there’s an extremely good chance that 49 of these 52 rounds are wasted. Wasted space on my person, wasted discomfort and effort in carrying. And yet I still do, because of the level of personal combat effectiveness that I am striving for. Your goals are almost certainly not the same as mine, so you have to never let yourself even entertain the idea of comparing yourself to me. Your decision must match your goals which must match your lifestyle.


  Once you make that decision for yourself – your goals as a Guardian, THEN you can decide and choose your gun, and THEN you can settle on how quickly you need to be able to access your gun, and THEN you can settle on the types of body positions that you need to be able to access your gun from. Do you see what I'm doing here? You need to make sure that your lifestyle and desire as a Guardian drive your tools you choose and the manner in which you carry those tools. You cannot let your tool drive your effectiveness as a guardian like so many concealed carriers do, and you certainly can't start at the bottom and let your holster drive what kind of gun you can carry or the manner in which you carry it. And yet, most people do. They choose a gun and holster combo, and without knowing it they’ve defined exactly when and where they will be effective, and when and where they will be ineffective. The problem? They aren’t aware at all of the consequences of their choices, so they will walk around unprepared for situations that they want to be prepared for.


But you are doing it correctly. You first decide what kind of Guardian you want to be. Then you educate yourself on what that takes, through a program like my Complete Concealed Carry Guide, where we define the statistically most-likely attack. Then you decide what kind of pistol and access time will be required to WIN against an attack like that. Then you look at the carry positions that make it possible to hide and access the gun you now know you need to carry. THEN you look for a holster that allows you to carry the gun you chose in the position you realize you need to use. This is the proper order.


Finally, I want to leave you with one more slightly bitter observation, which is the reality that nearly all holsters and carry positions are in some ways making compromises between four different factors:


How comfortable they are to wear, how concealable they are with a minimum amount of clothing, how accessible they are from a multitude of body positions and activities, and the speed from which you can access your gun from these holsters and carry position combinations. 


In general, but not always, the closer you get to absolute perfection in any of these four categories, the further away from the others you get.


For example, the fastest position to draw from would be AIWB or 3 o’clock hip outside the waistband in a very rigid holster. However these are of course difficult to conceal, and because they don’t give much, they aren’t that comfortable. So, we move inside the waistband. A bit more concealed, but slower to access. Then we soften up our holster material so that it sways and rolls with our body a bit better. We loosen up our belts a bit. Again: more comfort, more concealment – but slower to access, and that gun may not be exactly where you expect it every single time.


Sometimes, we have to disregard the waistband altogether and move to deeper concealment. Accessibility and draw speed further decrease.


And on, and on, and on we go.


In conclusion, we can alleviate ourselves from the endless, restless quest to find the perfect holster by remembering what we’ve talked about today. There certainly are ‘best in class’ holsters, but there are no miracle holsters. And understanding all of this is sort of like an antidote for the discontent that the veteran feels, or the uncertainty that a newbie feels.


So rather than trying to find the perfect holster, simply resign yourself to finding the first holster that is good enough. And once you find it, provided it supports and does not take away from your mission as a Guardian and your ability to carry the gun that you want, just settle on that holster and get to work with the rest of your training. 


Your body will adjust. Give it a few weeks.