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Why Do You Need a Quality 1911 Holster?
If you’ve never carried a gun, you don’t know the pain of choosing the wrong holster. It’s a terrible drag on your hip that will often poke and prod your body, rub parts of you raw, and, at the end of the day, removing it will be a massive relief.
A proper 1911 is a steel gun, which means it is a heavy gun. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does create a need for a high-quality holster.
You need a holster that is capable of supporting a heavy handgun like the 1911. A 45 ACP holster must be formidable. A good, high-quality holster won’t cause that type of pain.
A good high-quality holster will do its job supporting the gun and should protect you from the gun and vice versa. What I mean is the gun shouldn’t poke or prod you, and you shouldn’t be sweating all over the gun.
One of the most important factors when choosing a holster is fit. The holster needs to be fitted for the gun. A quality holster will protect the gun as much as it carries the weapon.
A holster serves as a shield from most dust and debris. More than that, a well-fitted and designed holster will protect the weapon’s outward finish from damage.
Holsters are designed to do different things overall, but in that context, all holsters should be supportive and well made. A holster should last you years and years before you need to replace it.
There is no reason you should swap holsters once a year unless you just want to. I’ve had holsters for years, and I adore each and every one of them.
How to Choose a 1911 Holster
Choosing a 1911 holster starts with one simple question: “What are you looking to do with it?” This is critical because different purposes have different requirements.
A duty holster, like those used by the police and military, is a lot different than a holster for concealed carry. The same can be said for competition holsters, light-bearing holsters, and even hunting holsters.
You have to actively pursue the purpose of the holster when shopping. Trying to make one holster do it all is usually a fool’s errand.
Pursue your holster with a purpose. A concealed carry holster should keep the gun tight to the body. A duty holster should be secure with a retention device but quick to access.
A comp holster places speed above all, and a hunting holster positions the gun for easy access in all positions.
IWB vs. OWB
The 1911 itself is a big gun, a heavy gun, but it’s also a relatively thin gun. This somewhat odd combination of features makes it a great candidate for both IWB and OWB carry.
Is one better than the other? Not necessarily, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at both of these types of 1911 concealed holsters.
IWB 1911 Holsters
IWB, or inside the waistband, carry is a great way to conceal a gun. It pops into your waistline, and the majority of the gun is concealed by your pants.
All your shirt or jacket has to cover is the grip of the gun. An IWB 1911 holster is an ultra-low-profile way to carry your gun. The downside is often comfort.
Many people find IWB to be uncomfortable since the gun is held so close to the body, with hardly anything between you and the gun. IWB requires a well-made holster.
Also, with the gun held so tight to the body, it can be difficult to draw the gun due to lack of clearance between the gun and your body.
OWB 1911 Holsters
OWB, or outside the waistband, carry is a very comfortable way to carry a gun.
With the gun outside of your pants, you have an extra layer to protect you from it and the holster. OWB is also very easy to draw from in a multitude of positions. There is more clearance between you and the gun.
OWB is naturally harder to conceal than IWB, especially for smaller shooters. OWB carry requires a high holster that holds the gun tight to the body or a longer cover garment to conceal the weapon fully.
Another big consideration is the selection of the material the holster is made out of. Off the bat, I would rarely suggest nylon. The only nylon I would suggest is the Bianchi Accumold series because it is purpose-molded to the gun versus a generic fit.
The two materials that often rule the holster industry are leather and polymers. By polymers I mean there are a variety of different ones that work. Kydex, bolatron, glass-filled nylon, etc. And leather is, of course, leather.
Leather will wear faster than polymer. It tends to deform, bend, and can eventually become useless. Admittedly, high-quality leather work can last a lot longer than average grade leather.
If you go leather, spend the extra money with a company with a respectable reputation for leather holster making.
Polymer is the most modern style of holster and one that will last forever.
Polymer holsters tend to last longer and resist the elements much better than leather. Polymer tends to be thinner and the lightest of materials. Most polymer holsters are also modular and can be used with different attachments to wear the holster in different ways.
Concealment and Retention
I like to say that concealed means concealed in the defensive firearms classes I teach. What I mean is you should do your best to conceal the gun in every way possible.
This includes reducing printing, preventing accidental exposure, and choosing the right holster. You want the gun held tight to the body, and this aids in avoiding odd lumps that are a dead giveaway you are carrying a gun.
This is why IWB is such a popular form of concealed carry. Concealing a 1911 can be tricky if it’s a full-sized government model. You have to strive to find the right holster, carry position, and attire to make it work.
Additionally, IWB carry methods like appendix have become very popular in recent years. This positions the gun in front of your body over your appendix, a place that avoids awkward lumps and makes it blend in with the body fairly well.
OWB holsters need to be specialized for concealment and not duty. OWB holsters can be designed to cling tight to the body and to reduce bulk as much as possible. These holsters will use an inward cant or bend to make themselves near invisible.
Retention is the way the holster clings to the gun and can be either active or passive. Concealed carry holsters are mostly passive retention.
This means they utilize an internal design feature to keep the gun in place. This is often friction-based and works well for concealed carry.
Passive retention ensures the user can draw the weapon quickly and without restraint. Since the weapon is concealed, there is very little chance of someone trying to take it.
Holsters designed for duty or hunting or open carry should have an active retention device. This device requires the user to press, pull, or unlock something to retrieve the gun.
These holsters prevent an unauthorized user from trying to take the gun.
I mentioned fit briefly above, but I wanted to elaborate on what fit means and why it is important. I will never carry a holster that is not fitted for my gun.
A holster needs to be molded or sewn or whatever to the gun it intends to carry. Generic nylon holsters are an automatic no-go for me. The holster needs to be fitted to the gun for a reason.
First off, it’s safer. I know the trigger is protected and nothing foreign can get in there. Second, it is a must for passive retention. If the gun isn’t molded to the holster there is no way a friction fit will work.
Also, if the gun isn’t fitted to the holster it will likely move as you go about your day. If it’s moving, you are damaging the gun’s finish, and it might not be in the right area when it’s time to draw the gun.
If you take only one thing away from this entire article, it’s buy a fitted 1911 holster.
The Top 1911 Holster Brands
If I was looking for a leather 1911 holster it, would likely be from Galco. Galco has been making leather holsters for decades. From OWB designs to quality shoulder rigs, Galco does it all.
They do make some kydex holsters in their Triton series, but their leather models are some of the best examples of high-quality leather holsters.
Galco holsters focus more on civilian use and concealed carry. That being said, holsters like the Miami shoulder rig are quite popular with some police officers.
Galco’s leather holsters are great OWB concealment designs as well as soft IWB holsters. The 1911 is a very classic gun that oozes historic appeal, and I love the idea of housing a classic gun in a classic leather holster.
Galco makes great holsters, and on top of that, they also provide an outstanding warranty. A valid reason to return a holster can be as simple as, “It doesn’t work for me.”
While quality leather is their main appeal, you can’t deny the awesomeness of some of their exotic line. This includes alligator, ostrich, stingray, and shark-hide holsters.
They also produce high-grade leather holsters that accept light attachments, which is quite rare in the holster world.
Safariland is a true do-it-all company. They produce holsters for absolutely everyone. They just secured the contract for the new SIG M17 and M18 holsters for the military and sit on the duty belts of law enforcement worldwide.
On top of that, they produce tons of holsters aimed at the civilian concealed carry and self-defense market. Safariland makes any kind of holster you could ever want for your 1911.
This includes OWB leather and kydex holsters, as well as appendix, standard, and hybrid IWB holsters. They make them all with varying retention devices and styles. Safariland is well known for its very high-quality holsters at a very affordable price range.
The sheer multitude of holsters they make guarantees you’ll find the right one for you. This includes light-bearing models as well.
Many Safariland holsters feature a universal attachment system that allows you to convert your gun into a belt loop, paddle, or even drop-leg design. This gives you a degree of modularity that’s hard to beat.
Safariland backs their holsters with an outstanding warranty, and they have an amazing reputation in every part of the market they enter.
Whenever someone asks me about Bravo Concealment, I always say they are like a good burger joint. Their menu is small, but they have perfect it.
At the same time, their products are affordable, functional, and just plain rock. Bravo Concealment produces only a few different lines of holsters, and they produce OWB and IWB lines for the 1911.
Bravo Concealment is all about designing the latest and greatest in polymer holsters exclusively for the concealed carry market. They only produce kydex holsters, and for the 1911, they produce holsters for 5-inch and 4.25-inch models with and without rails.
They only produce one OWB and IWB holster for 1911s. This isn’t a bad thing when you realize how well made and how affordable their holsters are.
The OWB model is one of my personal favorites, and I own multiple models for multiple guns. The IWB model, known as the Torsion, is one of the most concealable and comfortable IWB holsters on the market.
Their menu is very limited, but Bravo Concealment makes some outstanding firearm holsters, and their range is hard to beat.
Bravo Concealment produces versatile mounts, including belt, pancake, and paddle mounts, and their IWB holster can be used for appendix, strongside, and small-of-back carry.