IWB vs. OWB Holster

IWB vs. OWB Holster

There’s so many different concealed carry holsters out there and navigating the market can be tough. Finding the perfect concealed carry holster is a feat, but we can narrow it down by talking about the two most popular styles of holsters: IWB holster and OWB holster.

I’m sure you’ve already heard of these before, even if you’re new to the firearm community. Basically, an IWB holster is a Inside the Waistband holster which will sit between the waistband of your pants and your body. This is typically the most popular type of waistband holsters when it comes to concealed carry. An OWB holster is just the opposite: Outside the Waistband holster. This gun holster is another popular method for concealment.

Both of these types of holsters can come in any material. You can get a Kydex holster, a leather holster, or even a nylon holster. There’s plenty of options available these days.

Both of these types have their strengths and weaknesses. In all reality, the best concealed carry holster is highly subjective; something that works for your buddy might not work for you. This is where you need to know your personal shooting needs when it comes to finding the perfect holster fit for you. So, let’s talk about that sets each type of carry position holster apart.

What’s an IWB Holster?

What's an iwb holster

An IWB holster, or inside the waistband holster, is a type of pistol holster that is most commonly used for concealed carry. When using an IWB carry holster, the pistol will sit between you and the waistband of your pants. This type of holster will be inside of your pants and will most likely attach to your belt.

The conceal carry IWB is normally attached with a couple of loops or one or two clips. The clips will go over the top of the belt and clip to the bottom of it, effectively holding the holster in place. A loop system will have holes where the belt can be threaded through the holster to secure it.

However, there are some handgun holsters that can be attached without using a belt. Typically, these types of IWB holsters tend to cause some extra sagging on one section of your waistband, which is something to keep in mind if concealment is a priority for you.

Why Should I Use It?

There’s many advantages to using an IWB holster. What you consider to be an advantage will have to come from your personal preferences and priorities; everyone is different.

First off, an IWB is much easier to use for a conceal carry weapon. The reason being is because the holster is inside of your waistband, tucking the handgun away. Usually, only the grip of your gun will be visible. The rest of the firearm and IWB holster will completely disappear under the fabric of your pants. And, because of the IWB holster’s placement, you can just cover the rest of your firearm with your shirt or jacket.

IWB holsters are also very secure. Since they usually attach by some clips or loops, that means they’ll have 2 contact points on your gun belt and another contact with your body. This way, the firearm will be held on by some sort of physical connection as well as friction from being pressed up against your body.

If you find the perfect place for your belt holster, you won’t even know it’s there! A well placed IWB holster will remain in the same place as you move around all day, and you’ll effectively forget that you’re even wearing it.

IWB holsters are also very versatile. You can move the carry position to whatever you want. Whether that’s appendix carry, hip, or even back, you can pick which is most comfortable for you. You can also move the holster easily because of the simple way that it attaches to your gun belt and turn it into something like an appendix carry holster.

Benefits and Limitations of IWB Holsters

IWB holsters come with several advantages that make them a preferred choice for concealed carry enthusiasts.

A. Benefits

  1. Superior Concealment: The main advantage of an IWB holster is its ability to provide excellent concealment. The holster sits inside the waistband, making it easier to hide the firearm under clothing. This feature is particularly beneficial for those who want to maintain a low profile while carrying.
  2. Comfort: IWB holsters are known for their comfort, especially when compared to other holster types. With the holster positioned between the body and the pants, it distributes the weight of the firearm more evenly, reducing the likelihood of discomfort during extended periods of wear.
  3. Accessibility: Another benefit of IWB holsters is that they offer quick and easy access to the firearm. The holster’s position allows for a smooth draw, enabling the gun owner to respond swiftly in self-defense situations.

B. Limitations

  1. Potential Printing: While IWB holsters excel in concealment, there is still a slight risk of printing. Printing occurs when the outline or shape of the firearm becomes visible through clothing. It is crucial to choose the right clothing style and size to minimize the chances of printing.
  2. Slightly Reduced Draw Speed: Compared to OWB holsters, drawing from an IWB holster may require a fraction more time due to the need to lift clothing out of the way. However, with practice and familiarity, this slight delay can be minimized.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an IWB Holster

Selecting the right IWB holster is essential to ensure a secure and comfortable carry experience. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

  1. Firearm Compatibility: Ensure that the holster is designed specifically for your firearm model. It should provide a snug fit to secure the firearm and prevent unnecessary movement.
  2. Material and Construction: Holsters are made from various materials such as Kydex, leather, or hybrid combinations. Each material offers different benefits in terms of durability, retention, and comfort. Consider your personal preferences and requirements when choosing the material.
  3. Retention Mechanism: The holster’s retention system keeps the firearm securely in place. Common retention mechanisms include friction, thumb breaks, or adjustable tension screws. Opt for a retention system that offers both security and ease of draw.
  4. Comfort and Adjustability: Look for holsters that have features like adjustable cant (angle), ride height, and belt clips or loops. These adjustable elements allow you to customize the holster’s position and achieve the desired level of comfort and concealment.

Popular IWB Holster Brands and Models

When it comes to IWB holsters, numerous brands and models are available in the market. Here are some of the popular ones:

  1. Alien Gear Cloak Tuck: Known for its versatility and comfort, the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck series offers a range of options to suit different firearm models and user preferences. Their holsters are often praised for their adjustable cant and retention system.
  2. CrossBreed Supertuck: The CrossBreed Supertuck holsters are well-regarded for their comfort and high-quality craftsmanship. They feature a leather backing and a Kydex shell for durability and retention.
  3. StealthGearUSA VentCore: StealthGearUSA holsters stand out for their breathability and moisture-wicking properties. They utilize a VentCore platform that promotes airflow, keeping the user comfortable even in hot weather conditions.
  4. Galco KingTuk: Galco KingTuk holsters offer a combination of comfort and stability. They feature a hybrid design with a leather backing and a Kydex shell, providing excellent retention and a comfortable fit.

What’s an OWB Holster?

What's an OWB Holster?

An OWB holster is the opposite of an IWB. An outside the waistband holster is one that rests on the outside of your pants. It won’t be touching your skin nor will it be on the inside of your pants. While it might sound counter-intuitive, this holster is also popular when it comes to concealed carry. This is also an option for open carry as well.

There’s two common ways that an OWB holster will attach to your belt. The first is something called a paddle attachment. The paddle attachment is usually a flat piece of a hard material, like Kydex, that will extend over the belt to hold the gun holster in place. The second is called a pancake holster. This style of attachment has two holes that are present on either side of the holster. This is where the belt is threaded through the holster and secures it to the carrier.

Why Should I Use It?

It might seem like a completely different design, but the OWB is pretty similar to the IWB. It’s got the same simple design but just for the outside of your pants instead of the inside.

Because of this feature, this tends to make an OWB holster much more comfortable. This type of holster just straps onto your belt on your hip and will rest outside of your pants. That way, you won’t have to deal with any pants sizing issues or the firearm digging into your skin.

This will also allow you to draw and reach your firearm faster. You don’t have to reach inside your waistband to try and fumble with the grip of your pistol, but rather just reach, grab, aim, and shoot. An OWB carry is much more efficient when it comes to drawing and firing.

Benefits and Limitations of OWB Holsters

OWB holsters provide several advantages and drawbacks, which are important to consider before making a selection.


  1. Accessibility: OWB holsters allow for quick and easy access to the firearm. The grip remains exposed, enabling a smooth and efficient draw, making them particularly suitable for open carry or situations requiring fast response times.
  2. Comfort: With the firearm positioned on the outside of the waistband, OWB holsters often offer enhanced comfort compared to IWB alternatives. They distribute the weight of the firearm more evenly, reducing discomfort during extended periods of wear.
  3. Better Air Circulation: Since OWB holsters are not tucked inside clothing, they allow for better airflow, preventing excessive sweating and discomfort.


  1. Concealability: OWB holsters are generally more challenging to conceal compared to IWB options. The position of the holster on the outside of the waistband can make it more visible under clothing, limiting their suitability for concealed carry in certain situations.
  2. Potential Printing: OWB holsters may cause printing, which refers to the visible outline or bulge of the firearm through clothing. This can compromise concealment efforts and draw unwanted attention.
  3. Limited Retention Options: While OWB holsters offer retention mechanisms, they may not provide the same level of security as holsters specifically designed for open carry. Consider the level of retention required based on your carrying needs and preferences.

C. Factors to Consider When Choosing an OWB Holster

Selecting the right OWB holster involves considering several crucial factors to ensure a proper fit and satisfactory performance. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  1. Firearm Compatibility: Ensure that the OWB holster is compatible with your specific firearm make and model. Different holsters are designed to accommodate different firearms, and a proper fit is essential for safety and functionality.
  2. Material and Construction: Consider the material and construction quality of the holster. High-quality materials like leather or Kydex offer durability and longevity, while proper construction ensures a secure and reliable fit.
  3. Retention Mechanisms: Evaluate the retention options available with the OWB holster. Look for features like adjustable retention screws, thumb breaks, or other retention mechanisms that provide the desired level of security for your firearm.
  4. Comfort and Concealment Features: Assess the holster’s comfort features, such as adjustable cant, padding, or sweat guards. Additionally, consider concealment features like adjustable ride height or pancake-style design if concealment is a priority.
  5. User Reviews and Recommendations: Research user reviews and seek recommendations from trusted sources to gain insights into the performance, reliability, and user experience of different OWB holsters.

D. Popular OWB Holster Brands and Models

The market offers a wide range of OWB holsters from various reputable brands. Here are a few popular options worth considering:

  1. Safariland ALS: Known for their innovative retention systems, Safariland ALS holsters provide excellent security and a quick, intuitive draw.
  2. Blackhawk SERPA: The Blackhawk SERPA holsters offer a unique locking mechanism and are widely recognized for their retention capabilities and versatility.
  3. Galco Combat Master: Galco Combat Master holsters are meticulously crafted from premium leather, providing a combination of comfort, durability, and a classic look.
  4. Blade-Tech Signature Series: Blade-Tech Signature Series holsters are precision-molded for specific firearm models, ensuring a secure fit and enhanced performance.
  5. CrossBreed Supertuck: While primarily known for their IWB holsters, CrossBreed also offers OWB options like the Supertuck, which provides excellent concealment and comfort.

Comparing IWB and OWB Holsters

Comparison Factors IWB Holsters OWB Holsters
Concealability High concealment Lower concealment
Comfort Generally comfortable May be less comfortable
Accessibility Slightly slower draw speed Faster draw speed
Clothing Compatibility Versatile, works with various clothing options May require specific clothing for better coverage
Printing and Visibility Minimal printing and visibility Higher chance of printing or visibility
Training and Familiarity Requires practice for efficient draw Requires practice for efficient draw
Holster Retention Good retention Good retention
Adjustability Limited adjustability More adjustability options
Durability Generally durable Generally durable
Pricing and Availability Wide range of options available Wide range of options available
Legal Considerations Depends on local regulations Depends on local regulations

Note: This table provides a brief comparison of IWB and OWB holsters based on various factors. It’s important to consider individual preferences, local laws, and personal requirements when selecting a holster for concealed carry.

Holsters play a crucial role in concealed carry, providing a safe and accessible way to carry a firearm. When it comes to choosing the right holster, two popular options are Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) and Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) holsters. Both have their advantages and considerations. In this article, we will compare IWB and OWB holsters, taking into account factors such as concealment, comfort, draw speed, accessibility, retention, security, concealed carry considerations, personal preference, body type, and how to choose the right holster for your needs.

I. Concealment and Comfort


When it comes to concealment, IWB holsters have an edge over OWB holsters. IWB holsters are tucked inside the waistband, making them less visible and providing better concealment under clothing. They hug the body closely, reducing the chances of printing or exposing the firearm.


In terms of comfort, personal preference plays a significant role. Some individuals find IWB holsters more comfortable due to the holster being placed inside the waistband, against the body. On the other hand, OWB holsters sit on the outside of the waistband, which can be more comfortable for individuals who prefer not to have anything pressing against their body.

II. Draw Speed and Accessibility

Draw Speed

When it comes to draw speed, OWB holsters generally have an advantage. With the holster positioned outside the waistband, the draw motion is more natural and faster. This makes OWB holsters a preferred choice for competitive shooters and individuals who prioritize quick access to their firearm.


Both IWB and OWB holsters can provide adequate accessibility depending on the design and placement. IWB holsters can be easily accessed by lifting the clothing, while OWB holsters offer a clear path for a quick and unrestricted draw. Personal preference and training can also influence the perceived accessibility of each type of holster.

III. Retention and Security


Both IWB and OWB holsters come in a variety of retention levels, ranging from passive retention to active Retention Systems. Passive retention holsters rely on friction or tension to hold the firearm in place, while active retention holsters incorporate additional mechanisms such as thumb breaks or retention hoods. The level of retention required depends on individual preferences and the intended use of the holster.


In terms of security, OWB holsters offer better coverage and a more secure hold due to their design. They generally provide a higher level of weapon security, reducing the chances of accidental firearm loss or unauthorized access. However, with the right holster and proper training, IWB holsters can also provide adequate security.

IV. Concealed Carry Considerations

Clothing Compatibility

The choice between IWB and OWB holsters can be influenced by clothing options. IWB holsters tend to work better with looser or longer clothing that can adequately conceal the firearm and holster combination. OWB holsters are more adaptable to a wider range of clothing styles, including jackets, vests, or dedicated concealment garments.

H2: Climate and Body Type

Climate and body type are important considerations when choosing a holster. In warmer climates, where lighter clothing is worn, IWB holsters can provide better concealment and comfort. Body type also plays a role, as individuals with a slimmer frame might find IWB holsters more suitable, while those with a larger build may prefer OWB holsters for better weight distribution.

V. Choosing the Right Holster for Your Needs

Evaluating Carrying Preferences and Lifestyle

To choose the right holster, it’s essential to evaluate your carrying preferences and lifestyle. Consider factors such as the desired level of concealment, comfort, and accessibility based on your daily routine, activities, and personal comfort.

Assessing Firearm Compatibility and Size

Another crucial factor is assessing firearm compatibility and size. Ensure that the holster you choose is compatible with your specific firearm model and accommodates its size, barrel length, and accessories.

Considering Clothing Options and Concealment Requirements

Take into account your clothing options and concealment requirements. Determine the types of clothing you regularly wear and the level of concealment you need to maintain. This will help guide your decision between IWB and OWB holsters.

Seeking Professional Advice and Trying Holsters

It’s advisable to seek professional advice from experienced firearms instructors or holster experts. They can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on your specific needs and circumstances. Additionally, trying out different holsters before making a final decision can help you assess their comfort, concealment, and overall suitability.

Making an Informed Decision

Choosing the right holster is a personal decision. Consider all the factors discussed above, weigh your priorities, and make an informed decision based on what works best for you in terms of concealment, comfort, accessibility, retention, and overall functionality.


When comparing IWB and OWB holsters, there are several factors to consider, including concealment, comfort, draw speed, accessibility, retention, security, concealed carry considerations, personal preference, body type, and lifestyle. Each type has its own advantages and considerations, so it’s crucial to choose the one that aligns with your specific needs and priorities. By evaluating your preferences, seeking professional advice, and trying out different holsters, you can make an informed decision and find the perfect holster that meets your requirements.


Q1: Which type of holster provides better concealment? A1: IWB holsters generally provide better concealment due to their position inside the waistband and close proximity to the body.

Q2: Are OWB holsters faster for drawing the firearm? A2: Yes, OWB holsters are generally faster for drawing the firearm due to their external placement and natural draw motion.

Q3: Do IWB holsters offer adequate security? A3: Yes, with the right holster and proper training, IWB holsters can provide adequate security.

Q4: Can body type influence the choice between IWB and OWB holsters? A4: Yes, body type can influence the choice between IWB and OWB holsters. Individuals with a slimmer frame may find IWB holsters more suitable, while those with a larger build may prefer OWB holsters for better weight distribution.

Q5: How can I choose the right holster for my needs? A5: To choose the right holster, evaluate your carrying preferences and lifestyle, assess firearm compatibility and size, consider clothing options and concealment requirements, seek professional advice, and try different holsters to make an informed decision.





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