Best AIWB Holster Options: Reviewed
When it comes to choosing an inside the waistband (IWB) appendix holster (AIWB) for concealed carry, there are many different things you must take into consideration. Various materials are available, prices vary with quality and popularity, and there are mission/wardrobe factors to account for. Should you get the cheapest? Kydex, leather, nylon, or a hybrid? I there something else to be factored in? What is the best AIWB holster, and what makes it the best?
Well, in this article, I’m going to show you what I believe are the best appendix holsters on the market and even help break down what you should be looking for when purchasing one.
Top AIWB Holster Rundown
- Craft Clip IWB
- Tier 1 Axis Elite
- ShapeShift AIWB
- Galco Scout 3.0
- PHLster Floodlight
- Dara Slick Side
- We the People AIWB
- Bianchi Professional
Best Appendix Carry Holsters
Our Top AIWB holster picks
1. Author’s choice
Craft Holsters Clip AIWB Rig
2. Tactical Choice
Tier 1 Concealed Axis Elite
3. Most comfortable
Alien Gear ShapeShift Appendix Carry
4. Most adjustable
Galco Scout 3.0
5. PHLster Floodlight
6. Best Concealable RDS
Dara Holsters Slick Side
7. Best WML+RDS Combo
We The People IWB Red Dot Light Holster
8. Best Basic Design
Bianchi Professional IWB
AIWB Holster Reviews
Anyone can say they market the best appendix holsters you’ll ever see. And there are a number of companies who actually offer really great options. However, if you’re like me, you don’t really want to buy a pig in a bag, right? That’s why I’ll take you through several different kydex and leather appendix holsters and share my personal experience with each.
I won’t tell you to buy this particular rig or that one, but hopefully my likes and dislikes will inform and help you decide what your next go-for CCW appendix holster should be.
#1 Craft Holsters Clip IWB Rig : Author’s Choice
Craft Holsters Clip IWB Rig
A classy, well-built leather holster for appendix carry by Craft Holsters
Craft Holsters Review
Let’s start with what’s recently become my favorite AIWB holster – Craft Holsters’ AIWB Clip Holster. To be honest, I’d never heard much about the brand. But when I saw my friend rocking one of their shoulder rigs a couple months back, I decided I needed a holster that’s not only functional (concealment & access) but also stylish, comfortable, and traditional-looking.
That’s really what this leather appendix holster is all about.
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box. Craft Holsters presentation is just remarkable, especially if you’re an old school kind of a guy. The holster was neatly packed inside a bag and cushioned with straw-like material. It also came with a leaflet mentioning a bunch of benefits the company offers to their return customers such as a 10% discount on any subsequent orders, which is a great plus if you decide (just like me) that you like their holsters. I got a bit worried when I saw they also included a guide on leather holster break-in, though, as most of my holsters never required any break-in work.
However, all my worries were soon rendered unimportant as the holster simply fit my P365 like a glove from the get-go. It’s true I had to put in a bit of effort to latch the safety strap when I put my pistol inside, but I guess that’s sort of expected with fresh leather holsters. After I played with it for a while, it now works perfectly fine and I have no trouble whatsoever drawing and re-holstering my gun. If you’ve never had a thumb break holster, there’s no reason to worry as you’ll quickly learn to (dis)engage it. Moreover, as it’s reinforced with steel, it prevents the holster’s opening from collapsing over time of use.
What I love about the holster is the clip on design as I can simply slip it without having to take my belt off. There’s just one attachment point the holster comes with, which I was at first a bit hesitant about as a good holster needs to be well-balanced. However, the clip is wide enough to offer as much balance as you need and the holster as well as my SIG stay in the same place even at more abrupt movements.
All in all, if you’re a fan of leather, impeccable craftsmanship, and concealed carry, this AIWB holster by Craft holsters is a must-try. And despite the fact leather has never been associated with tactical use, the holster is now available in light-bearing and red dot variations too.
Pros and Cons
- Convenient- Easy to use clip-on design
- Ubiquitous- Molded for over 2,000 gun models.
- Configurations- Available in WML and RDS variants
- Quality- Old world, traditional craftsmanshipo
- Resistant- It might require some break-in.
- Retention- It won’t pass higher level retention tests.
Craft AIWB Clip Holster Gun Deals
#2 Tier 1 Concealment Axis Elite : Top Tactical
Tier 1 Concealment Axis Elite
A well built AIWB holster with pouch for an extra mag aboard.
Tier 1 Concealed Review
As much as I love my Craft Holster, my preferred appendix carry material will always be Kydex. Why? Well, I simply grew so fond of the every satisfying clicking sound when holstering my pistols. And I’m quite convinced the Axis Elite, an AIWB kydex holster and mag pouch combo by Tier 1 Concealed, rightfully deserves one of the top spots on today’s list.
To start with, the holster is surprisingly slim and for a 2 in 1 rig and I had absolutely no issue concealing it without any noticeable imprint. As I usually wear no tank top, I also truly appreciate the plastic sweat guard featured on both the holster and mag holder. And just like is the case with most plastic holsters, you’ll experience a very smooth and quick draw and intuitive reholstering.
What I’m not that enthusiastic about, though, is the restricted pool of handguns this rig can be built for. As it comes with a clip holder, it’s understandable why it’s only available for semi-autos, but c’mon, not everyone is a Glock or S&W fanboy and I’d surely appreciate the holster’s availability for some of the less mainstream carry guns. However, most of the trending tactical EDC options are listed and the holster will take in any of these even when equipped with all sorts of handgun optics of height sights.
The main reason I like Tier 1 is that they let me customize my rig to my liking. And you can do the same. Not only can you select the holster’s color, but they’ll also let you choose the style of the belt clips (did I mention how easy mounting this rig is?), wedge style, or shock cord color. On top of that, if you carry extended mags, the Axis Elite can accommodate too. Unfortunately, if you opt for all the available upgrades, the default MSRP of $135.99 climbs by nearly a hundred bucks.
Tier 1 Concealed Holster Pros and Cons
- Slim- Has a sleek, streamlined profile
- Reloads- Let’s you carry a spare magazine
- Configured- For optics and WMLs
- Pricy- Fully customized rig is expensive
- Limited- Only available for certain semi-autos
Teir 1 Concealed Axis Elite Holster Gun Deals
#3 Alien Gear ShapeShift Appendix Carry : Most Comfortable
Alien Gear ShapeShift Appendix Carry
A comfy hybrid appendix carry option for a variety of handguns.
Alien Gear Shapeshift Review
Talking about the best holsters for appendix carry, one can’t omit Alien Gear Holsters and their ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster. The first thing I love about this holster is the belt clip that’s wide enough to deliver exceptional balance on the belt. Now this might not sound as a ground-breaking feature, but I can’t tell you how many inside-the-waistband holsters I’ve bought over the years ended up in my holster drawer just because they tended to wiggle a lot due to balance issues.
If you don’t like the feel of plastic against your body (and no wonder), you’ll also appreciate the comfort delivered by the breathable perforated neoprene platform the holster sits on. The level of comfort the foam base offers, though, comes at the price of concealment as it makes the entire rig quite bulky, leaving a bit of imprint (especially if you’re packing a donut belly like I do). However, I didn’t mind the slight rigidness and bulkiness of the holster all that much as it’s compensated by the lightweight design, making it one of the most comfortable concealed carry holsters I use on a day to day basis.
Are you a fan of Alien Gear? Then you’ll be pleased to find out this AIWB holster is fully compatible with their ShapeShift Modular Holster System. No bells ringing? Well, in short, it pretty much means that you can quickly and without much effort swap out the holster for a different carry config, including strong-side IWB, shoulder, or OWB holsters. What I love most about Alien’s holsters is the “Alien Skin” material and highly customizable passive retention, both ensuring your pistol stays put at all times. Also, the ShapeShift AIWB is a great budget choice as it comes at $62.88.
Alien Gear Shapeshift: Pros and Cons
- Dual charging- Uses a standard or side charging handle
- Buffer system- It’s designed and built specifically for 9mm
- Competition proven- Lots of people shooting for their livelihood prefer it
- High brow- This thing ain’t cheap
- Hard to find- There are times you can’t find one available
Alien Gear Shapeshift AIWB Rig Gun Deals
#4 Galco Scout IWB Holster : Most Adjustable
Galco Scout IWB Holster
A simple, leather IWB holster for a wide range of pistols.
Galco Scout 3.0 Review
Despite the fact that Galco’s Scout 3.0 is the first steerhide leather holster in the so-called “rough-out” design I’ve carried, shortly after I’ve unboxed it, I noticed a number of features that made me include it on this list. First and foremost, the holster possesses something most other appendix holsters don’t – fully adjustable cant. This makes it more versatile than most appendix holsters, which are traditionally carried in the 1 or 11 o’clock belt position. At the same time, it sort of lets you adjust it for either strong-side or even cross-draw carry, making it one of the most versatile holsters on the market.
Regarding versatility, the holster can be easily converted for either right or left-hand use. Now you might be asking what use is that, but if you’re like me and can shoot with both hands or want to find out what position of the holster on the belt fits you best, you’ll definitely cherish this feature. Just like most other holsters I’ve tested, the Scout 3.0 also mounts through a clip. However, what sets the rig apart is that it comes with two different tuckable clips. The first is called a UniClip, and it goes over the belt. The second is the so-called Ultimate Stealth clip, which features a hook that attaches directly to your trousers or under the belt, delivering the ultimate concealment experience.
Another thing I like about this appendix rig is the previously mentioned “rough-out” construction. In layman’s terms, the leather is rough on the outside but super sleek on the inside. Such design results in both enhanced stability in the waistband and little to no friction when pulling your gun out. My only concern is that there might be almost no draw resistance over months of use, which, combined with the open-top design, could result in a rather unpleasant experience.
But let’s not jinx it.
Last but not least, as the holster’s opening is reinforced with an extra layer of leather, I’m sure it’ll withstand the test of time and last you for quite a while.
Galco Scout 3.0 Pros and Cons
- Adjustable- Change both cant and draw angle
- ambidextrous- Righty/lefty
- Options- Various ways to attach.
- Soft sides- It’s not as rigid as I’d like it to be.
Galco 3.0 IWB Gun Deals
#5 Phlster Floodlight : Most Versatile
A reversible IWB/AIWB holster that fits according to a WML’s geometry.
PHLster Floodlight Review
Unlike other holsters on the list, the Floodlight by PHLster is meant exclusively for appendix carry of pistols equipped with selected tac lights. At first, I was quite reserved about the holster’s semi-universal fit, but I quickly realized it goes hand in hand with a number of benefits. Most importantly, if your arsenal includes several service-grade semi-autos, it should fit most of them (but make sure to check out the holster’s fit list, available on PHLster’s website).
This means you no longer have to look for a new holster for each of your guns. However, make sure you select the correct light when ordering. This holster’s quasi-universal fit is based on the geometry of that specific WML. That’s an excellent way to cross-handgun a single holster, but it leads me to what I don’t like about it – it’s only available for three light models (though from a production perspective, I understand why).
To be honest, when I saw the holster on their website, it looked a bit cheap. My perception changed when I laid hands on the rig, and I can tell you there’s no reason to worry; the holster is very well-made and perfectly worth the $128 it cost me. The product pictures simply don’t do the holster enough justice … something PHLster might want to look into. Talking about construction, the two shells the holster is made of are connected through a shock cord, which can be used to adjust the retention and draw resistance of the slide part. This comes in very handy if you want to use it for a number of quite differently sized handguns (Glock 17 and Beretta 92, in my case).
Another thing I like about the Floodlight is that I can use it for strong-side IWB carry, which is useful mainly when you’re in a situation when appendix carry is not the best choice (more on that later). And if you’re not a fan of clip attachments, I’ve got great news for you; the holster also comes with a set of evenly spread soft belt loops.
PHLSter Floodlight Pros and Cons
- Feels good- Better than what you see in the pics.
- Reasonably priced- Won’t break the bank.
- Quasi-universal- Fits most guns (with the same light)
- Light-limited- Great design, but unfortunately only for a few lights/
PHLster Floodlight Gun Deals
#6 Dara Slickside IWB Holster : Most Concealable RDS
Dara Slickside IWB Holster
A good IWB holster with a sleek profile. Easy to conceal.
Dara Holsters Review
I’m not saying red dots are an absolute must, but as I’ve been lately testing some of the hottest optics-ready carry guns, I needed a solid red dot holster for appendix carry. That’s why I decided to try out Dara’s Slick Side AIWB Holster. Just like the rest of their rigs, this one also accommodates a red dot, RMR, or reflex sight attached to one of the models it can be made for. But what I actually like most about it is that the holster is true to its name and is indeed rather slick-looking.
But as holsters aren’t about looks and appearance, let’s focus on more important matters. The holster comes with a very slim and narrow profile, meaning it fulfills its primary function – super easy concealment. This is mainly achieved by the clip placement, which has been moved to the side to decrease the holster’s bulkiness (a great idea I must say). I’ve seen holsters like that before, but never had one, so it took me a while to realize there’s another benefit resulting from such construction – if you attach the clip to the same place you’d attach other holsters with clips in the central position, your pistol is a tad closer to you and slightly more accessible.
Just like with the rest of these, I tried using it for strong-side IWB carry, but for one reason or another, it didn’t really work for me and I find the holster much more balanced when used for its primary purpose – appendix carry. There’s one more thing I like about it. Even though it’s cut out for optics, the kydex shell still fully covers the entire trigger guard as well as the mag release button without pushing on it. This appendix kydex holster by Dara is available for roughly 150 different gun models and for the quality it delivers, it comes at surprisingly a low MSRP.
Dara Slickside Pros and Cons
- Inexpensive- Best budget option.
- RDS 👍- Red dot friendly.
- Sleek- Ultra slimline design.
- Limited- Not as versatile as other holsters.
Dara Slick Side IWB Gun Deals
#7 We the People WML/RDS IWB Rig : Best WML + RDS Combo
We the People WML/RDS IWB Rig
The name says it all. Carry IWB or AIWB with an RDS and a WML (and lots of acronyms).
We The People Kydex AIWB Review
The final Kydex AIWB holster that made it onto my list was made by the good folk at We The People Holsters. While it doesn’t bear any particular name, it’s a holster meant for appendix, strong-side IWB carry. However, like with most rigs on the list, it works better when used as an appendix holster. I had mine made for the G34 equipped with a light and red dot, and I’m quite pleased with what the holster offers.
First and foremost, despite the fact it’s a light-bearing and optics-friendly holster, its design is very, very basic. Now, this isn’t a negative, really, as the simpler a holster looks, the simpler it usually is to conceal it, which is what WTP holsters are all about. What’s not basic about this appendix carry holster, though, is its functionality. This AIWB lets you adjust the retention level, ride height, cant, and even placement on the belt. Furthermore, the holster comes with a full sweat guard, protecting your skin from abrasion and your pistol from moisture.
While the holster can’t really be customized in any major way, you can opt for a custom color or, better said, texture. For example, you can go for the Gadsden Flag, which is great, but it’s just laserwork. It doesn’t really make my heart beat faster.
We the People IWB Holster Pros and Cons
- Plain Jane- Simple but functional design.
- Takes it all- Both WML and RDS compatible.
- Affordable- Least expensive on the list.
- Lackluster- Nothing really makes it stand out from the crowd.
We the People IWB RDS/Light Holster Gun Deals
#8 Bianchi Professional IWB : Best Basic Design
Bianchi Professional IWB
A simple leather IWB holster that allows for the immediate acquisition of a good master grip.
Bianchi Professional Review
Now that I think about it, exploring appendix holsters made me fond of leather. Let’s wrap this up with another full-grain cowhide holster. This one is called Professional, and it’s made by Bianchi, a brand made in Mexico and is now marketed by Safariland. Though this leather AIWB holster looks like it could be made by my dad in his backyard shed, it stays true to its name. It has a really professional touch.
What I like about the holster is that it rides at an angle that ensures a proper firing grip upon draw. The holster’s construction, though, comes with a downfall; the mag release button is completely exposed. To be fair, that’s also the case with most other leather holsters I tried, but that doesn’t make it ideal.
The holster is composed of full-grain leather; its backside is lined with suede, preventing the holster from moving around when you move abruptly. In addition, it features the biggest sweat guard I’ve seen yet in an appendix holster. That makes it one of the most comfortable AIWB rigs out there.
Bianchi lets you choose from three different finishes, from which the “weathered tan” looks the best and I really enjoy the worn out effect it gives off. Out of all the leather options I recently tried, I still like the one by Craft Holsters the best, but if you’re not friends with thumb breaks or don’t need too much retention for your carry purposes, then this one will do just fine. The only problem I see with these is that it’s available for a very restricted pool of semi-autos and just for very few revolvers.
Bianchi Professional Pros and Cons
- Comfortable- Won’t chafe you as you go through your day.
- Finishment- Protects your weapon from carry damage.
- Full grip- Allows a good grip as you begin the drawstroke.
- Vulnerable- Don’t expect much retention with this one.
- Exposed- The mag release button will be exposed on most semi-autos.
Bianchi Professional IWB Holster Gun Deals
AIWB Buyers Guide
Holster Principles – Buyers Guide:
I hope my experience with the holsters above has helped you find your new rig for appendix carry. However, if you feel like you want to explore the world of concealed carry some more and perhaps check out some other brands that haven’t made it onto the list, be my guest. Just keep in mind that there’s a number of things to consider before you buy your new appendix holster (these also apply to most other carry styles, so if you’re not after AIWBs, I’d still read on).
Safety comes first. Yea, it does sound like a cliche, but come on, why do you carry? I bet it’s primarily because you want to stay safe. So why not keep safety in mind when selecting your holster too?
I believe the safest holsters are those that are always molded on the replica of your firearm, in other words, those that provide a custom, glove-like fit. If your holster is made like that, its natural retention is quite high and your firearm will be at no risk of falling out of the holster and anyone who tries will have a hard time snatching it away from you.
Also, make sure that the holster you’re about to buy completely covers the trigger (I believe you don’t need me to talk about accidental discharge and health risks it might cause). I also recommend you to make sure your intended purchase comes custom molded for all the safeties on your pistol as well as for the mag release button (the last thing you want is a holster pressing on the clip release, trust me).
Construction & Draw Speed
Generally said, it takes much less time to draw your gun from an open-top holster. Opposite to these are so-called closed-top holsters, which come with a strap attached to the holster’s opening (the side of the holster where the butt of your pistol is). If there’s no strap (by many called a thumb break or latch), nothing gets in your way when accessing and drawing your pistol, and the same goes for eventual reholstering. Also, holsters with a slightly forward-leaning cant often referred to as FBI cant, ensure you’ll be quicker at drawing; your pistol sits in the holster at a much more favorable angle. Holsters canted like this are an excellent choice not only for Law Enforcement members but also for dynamic shooting competitions.
While thumb-break holsters are slower to draw from, the strap increases the safety of your firearm when holstered and they also prevent your pistol from being easily snatched away from you. I’d recommend these mainly for the type of carry that makes it impossible to keep an eye on your gun (such as small of the back or shoulder carry) or if you frequently engage in abrupt movements.
Concealment, Comfort, Access
Now you came to check out the best appendix holsters hoping to learn which one to get, right? Well then, you surely know what appendix holsters are good for. Not only are they a perfect choice for super-deep concealment, but they also let you quickly access your firearm. However, there are situations when appendix carry isn’t the best choice. If you’re like me and have a set of well-nurtured muffin tops, the butt of your pistol will be sticking in your gut (a very unpleasant experience if you need to duck, bend over, etc.). I’d say appendix holsters are one of the least comfortable carry choices (even though some definitely deliver more comfort than most).
If you’re looking for more convenient carry options, get yourself an outside-the-waistband (OWB)holster. Carrying like this is super comfortable as the pistol and holster rarely get in your way. However, rigs carried outside the belt (belt side, cross-draw, middle of the back) are sometimes cumbersome as far as concealment goes. It’s not impossible to conceal an OWB holster, though. Plenty of pancake holsters with a low and slimline profile are available, al designed for high comfort that doesn’t compromise their concealability.
I find shoulder holsters to be the most comfortable choice. While these are difficult to conceal when it’s hot outside, they represent one of the best concealed carry choices come wintertime. If you get an entire shoulder holster system (shoulder holster & counterweight mag or speedloader pouch), it should also grant you superb balance and quick access to both your gun and extra ammo.
Holster Materials & Retention
Based on the list, you might have guessed that I most commonly wear kydex holsters (sometimes pejoratively referred to as plastic, even by me, sorry!), but I’ve recently grown quite fond of leather too. And then there are nylon holsters or so-called soft holsters. Honestly, I’ve never liked these much, but just like any other material, nylon also offers some perks. Last but not least, hybrid holsters have recently become a thing, especially for those who can’t decide on just one particular type of material or want their holster to offer a little bit of everything.
If you’re in need of as much retention as possible, then kydex is the way to go. Just like most kydex AIWB holsters on my list, these let you adjust the retention to your liking and they often feature gadgets that ensure a particular holster will pass Level III retention tests. The possibility to adjust retention and fit also means you’ll do with just one proper kydex rigs for multiple similarly sized handguns, which should be great news for you if you can’t afford or don’t want to buy a new holster for each of your carry pistols.
While kydex rigs are a great choice if you sport tactical attachments such as red dots or lights, they are not your best choice if you carry wheel guns. Sure thing, you can come across revolver kydex rigs, but I simply think they make no sense at all. There’s also something you should avoid doing when it comes to kydex holsters – never leave them on the dashboard when it’s scorching hot outside.
Leather holsters are for those who love traditional craftsmanship, classy looks, and unmatched feel their leather holster delivers. On top of that, if properly molded (just like my AIWB by Craft Holsters), you can be 100% certain your holster will fit like a glove and will boast adequately high natural retention. The problem with these is they can hardly be used by Law Enforcement agencies that require Level III holsters.
A huge benefit of leather holsters is that it’s possible to make them for pretty much every single firearm out there and the best leather holster makers will let you choose from many different designs for hundreds, if not thousands of makes and models. Also, quite recently, a bunch of the very best leather holster producers have been introducing a number of leather solutions for guns with tactical attachments.
A benefit of leather holsters is that they’ll withstand the test of time and might actually last you a lifetime if properly taken care of. The downside is that many of them will require you to perform a slight fit adjustment, or in other words, leather holster break-in. While this is a tedious chore, it’s simply a must if you get let’s say a wet-molded leather holster that will shrink a tad before it gets to you. It’s tedious, yea, but trust me, if you don’t overdo it, break-in of your new leather rig will help you get rid of the initial super tight fit while not making the holster loose enough even after years of constant use.
Now when it comes to nylon and hybrid holsters, I’m not a fan at all, so I won’t talk about them in depth. However, in general, nylon rigs are the most affordable and many times even most comfortable option while hybrid holsters pretty much get you the advantages (but also the problems) of a number of materials you like.
If you wanna carry appendix-style, then make sure you select your new holster from the options above as these simply are the best you can currently get. I’ve already shared my new personal favorite with you, but any of the holsters on the list will bring you a great and, most importantly, safe concealed carry experience. And if you were brave enough to read through the buyer’s guide section, you now know what you should base your shopping decision on. And if you got here by accident and you’ve never tried appendix carry, don’t frown upon it and give it a chance. After all, concealed carry is all about practice and even the weirdest looking or previously untried carry style can result in an ultimate holster experience.
• Learn about 9mm carry ammo options.
March 16, 2023
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