There are many concealed carry holsters to choose from, and the first decision you'll need to make is IWB vs. OWB. Both styles help keep your gun in place and protect your trigger guard, but there are some differences in concealability, comfort, and more. Which one is right for you?
While IWB concealed carry may seem more logical (after all, the gun is already partly concealed inside your pants!), you can actually use either IWB or OWB for concealed carry. The key is in getting the holster that matches your gun, your body, and your lifestyle. Let's take a closer look at both inside the waistband holsters and outside the waistband holsters to help you determine which one is best for you.
What Is an IWB Holster?
As the name implies, inside the waistband holsters are worn inside your pants. The handle of the gun is exposed above your belt and can be covered by your shirt, while the holster itself is attached to your pants via clips over your belt. There are IWB designs that allow you to tuck in your shirt, as well, though it pays to consider that you make it somewhat harder to access your gun by doing so.
Pros and Cons of IWB Holsters
- Concealment: It's easier to conceal an IWB since the holster is mostly inside your pants, though you may need to wear a larger pants size to accommodate the extra bulk. Otherwise, your pants may fit more tightly than you'd like.
- Carry Options: Though an IWB is typically a strong side carry, it's also suitable for low back and appendix carry.
- Greater Stability: The IWB is attached to your belt and pressed against your body, which helps keep it in place throughout the day.
- Comfort Level: Because the IWB holster is positioned directly against your skin, it can dig in and cause some discomfort, or even leave a scratch or a rash. If you're new to IWB concealed carry, part of that discomfort may just be the process of getting used to carrying a gun. Still, it's good to try a few different options and see what works best for you. Some IWBs are definitely more comfortable than others, and it's important to remember that comfortable concealed carry is a matter of getting the right gun for you, matching it to the right style of holster, and pairing it all with the right clothing. As an alternative, the versatile belly band holster keeps your gun secure and close to your body for a thorough concealed carry without having the holster tucked under your pants, which may be more comfortable for some wearers.
- Not Ideal for Larger Guns: IWBs are best for small or medium-sized guns. Many people find a large gun uncomfortable to carry with an IWB holster.
What Is an OWB Holster?
Outside the waistband holsters come in different styles. Pancake holsters are easier to conceal, as they feature two pieces of material on either side of the gun that allow you to keep the holster close to your body, while paddle holsters have a solid back that clips to your belt. Belt slide holsters are exactly that: they have two openings for your belt to slide through. The one you choose may depend upon the size and weight of your gun and whether you're choosing your OWB for concealed carry or open carry.
Pros and Cons of OWB Holsters
- Comfort Level: While you can certainly find comfortable IWB holsters, especially as you grow accustomed to carrying, OWB holsters are typically more comfortable from the get-go because they're positioned outside the pants rather than against your skin.
- Access: With practice, it should be easy for you to draw your gun whether you're wearing an IWB or an OWB. Still, an OWB is naturally more accessible.
- Suitable for Larger Guns: While large guns may feel too bulky against your body with an IWB, they fit better with an OWB holster.
- Harder to Conceal: Since the holster is outside your pants, it sticks out farther from your body and you'll probably need more than a t-shirt to conceal it, depending upon your body type and the size of the gun. You might have to wear a vest, blazer, coat, or sweatshirt. If you regularly wear these concealment clothes, are looking for open carry, or aren't as concerned about full concealment, this might not be a concern for you.
- Less Stability: A belt slide holster, for example, could slide along your belt before it's stopped by the next belt loop, which can create a delay if you go to draw your gun and it's not positioned exactly where you thought it was.
IWB vs. OWB: Which Should You Choose?
You'll want to consider your body type, what activities you do on a daily basis, and the level of concealment you need. Above all, your holster should protect the trigger, secure the gun against your body so it's not bouncing around as you live your life, and make it easy to draw your gun. After that, you can experiment with different styles to find the holster that fits your gun and is comfortable to wear.
If full concealment is your primary concern, then you'll probably want to start with IWB holsters. If you have a large gun or you're concerned about comfort, an OWB holster could be a better fit for you. At ComfortTac, we have several inside the waistband and outside the waistband holsters for you to choose from, as well as belly band holsters, fanny pack holsters, ankle holsters, and more. Our company was founded to meet the need for holsters that offer greater comfort and concealability, and every one of our IWB and OWB holsters for concealed carry is designed with that in mind.
In the end, IWB vs. OWB isn't a question of which holster is best. It's about which one is best for you in a particular situation, which may mean having one of each to meet your needs on a given day.