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IWB Holster Buyers Guide

This buyer’s guide gives you a list of all the features you must compare before making your final purchase.


There are two styles of IWB holsters that are classified by the design. These are universal which allows you to position it anywhere on your body.

Pancake Holster

A pancake holster is made with two pieces of material with the gun sandwiched between them. This style has two or more clip slots for you to slide your belt.

You place the holster in your pants and the clips over the waistband where you can slide the belt.

Hybrid Holster

The holster features a durable plastic retention shell mated to a cloth or other retention shell.

 The shell secures the gun in place and creates a barrier between it and your skin to minimalize discomfort. The material around the outer shell creates a padded type feel for the holster to rest comfortably on your side.


Condition refers to the appropriate manner in which you can carry the gun in the holster. This is known as Condition of Readiness, of which there are five:

  • Condition Zero: A round in the chamber, the hammer is cocked, and the safety is off
  • Condition One: This is known as “cocked and locked,” A round in the chamber and the hammer is cocked
  • Condition Two: A round is in the chamber and the hammer is down
  • Condition Three: The chamber is empty, and the hammer is down
  • Condition Four: The chamber is empty, the hammer is down, and there is no magazine in the chamber

 Condition four is the only state where there is no magazine inserted.


There are two general IWB holster materials:

  • Leather: Leather provides comfort. With time it softens and loses its retention for a more comfortable fit
  • Durable plastics: Injected molded nylon, Kydex and Boltaron are considered the best durable plastic materials. These materials are generally used when the holster is molded to a specific gun model

 The shared characteristic of these materials is that is doesn’t collapse or change shape when the gun is drawn. The gun slides back into the holster seamlessly without any resistance.


The handling refers to the carry position of the holster. People often refer to the clock position when they mention handling:

  • 2 o’clock: forward of the hip
  • 3 o’clock: directly on the hip
  • 4 o’clock: between hips and kidneys
  • 5 o’clock: kidney carry
  •  6 o clock: small of the back position


The size of the holster and your pants need to match for a comfortable fit. There is a simple formula that helps you determine how big the holster will be.

([Width of the gun at the greatest point × 3.14 × 2] + [Height of the gun × 3]) × 2

Now that you know the size of the holster you must also consider where you tend to carry it. Some carry positions of the gun also affect the size of the holster.

If placed on the sides it’ll be a tighter fit. The 6 o’clock position is more flexible and offers a greater gap in the waistband.

These two scenarios show that you need a bigger or smaller holster depending on where you plan to carry it.

IWB Holster FAQ’s

What Kind of Holster Should I Get?

Before you purchase a holster, you should understand the different kinds. Based on these descriptions you can determine which one you feel is comfortable to wear.

The Belt Holster 

This is the most common type. The holster attaches to your belt via a clip paddle. The paddle slides over your pants’ waistband and sits between your pants and your body. The clip secures it in place when you move.

Alternatively, other belt holster designs have slots for you to run your belt through. This design is more reliable as the holster is fixed.

The second option is safer because the belt looped through the holster makes it difficult for an assailant to remove it.

Inside the Waistband Holder (IWB)

IWB holsters are easier to hide because you tuck it underneath your pants and inside your shirt. This type attaches to your belt with J-hooks, clips, and loops.

Although its concealable nature is a huge advantage it can also be its downfall. It takes longer to reach for the gun.

Pocket Holster 

The pocket holster fits inside your pants pocket and keeps the gun upright for an easier draw. This type is also easily concealable when you wear a jacket.

An assailant will think you’re reaching for something in your pocket and won’t expect the gun.

Shoulder Holster 

The shoulder holster is practical for someone who has back problems because the weight is distributed to the upper body.

The straps loop around your shoulders and the holster sits by your sides (between your body and arms).

The shoulder holster is easy to wear, and gun access is quick.

Fanny Pack 

This type of holster looks exactly like a normal fanny pack. The casual look makes it unsuspecting and it blends into your wardrobe better. The fanny pack’s material protects the gun from external elements such as rain.

Ankle Holster

When you find it difficult to conceal the other holsters when the ankle type is for you. People hardly take notice of others’ ankles which boosts the concealable aspect to it.

The holster is small and fits well around any ankle. When you wear loose fitting pants people won’t see any bulge.

How to Wear an IWB Holster

Wearing an IWB holster is straightforward; it boils down to comfort and position.

Accommodate the Holster

How do your pants fit you? Are they loose, or tight fitting? The IWB holster adds an inch or two to the waistline.

If you wear tighter pants you may need to size up as it may be uncomfortable.

Find the Right Position 

It is said that the 3 o’clock position is best as it’s more natural and doesn’t dig into your leg. It gives you easier access to the pistol.

If you prefer comfort, then choose the 4 o’clock position.

Body types also affect the position of the holster. For bulkier people the 5 o’clock position is better.

Test the position by sitting down. If you feel the holster digging into your side, then reposition it.

Conceal the Holster 

The best way to conceal the IWB holster is to wear a jacket or loosely fitted shirt. These two clothing items and others that are loose won’t outline the holster.

Related: IWB Carry Positions

How to Sit with an IWB Holster

If your holster is positioned incorrectly, it can be uncomfortable to sit. If you place your holster behind the point of the hip the bending action may be parallel to the holster.

Remember that the holster must be concealed when you sit. You can ensure it is concealed by:

  • Tucking in your shirt so it doesn’t lift up when you sit up or down
  • Button up your jacket or shirt to prevent it from sweeping open and exposing the gun
  •  Wear a belt to keep your waistline straight

What Is a Tuckable IWB Holster?

A tuckable IWB holster is designed to be worn inside the waistband of your pants. There is a clip that fastens the holster to your belt, which allows you to tuck your shirt over it.

How to Keep Holster from Sliding on the Belt?

You holster needs to be in place when you move around. If the holster slides the new position may make you uncomfortable.

Make sure the belt fits perfectly in the holster loop. The holster will slide if its loops are 1.5’’ and the belt is a thin 1’’.

Find a holster with these designs as they are best at keeping them in place.

  • Metal clips
  • Spring-type clips
  • Buy a holster with a Velcro belt
  • Place a leather spacer between the holster and belt loop to keep it in place.

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