Inside the Waistband (IWB) carry is one of the most popular options for concealed carry. Inside the waistband is exactly what it sounds like. Carrying in this fashion puts your holster inside your pants (trousers, shorts, whatever) for improved concealment. To do so, you’ll need the best IWB holster model for your preferred weapon and lifestyle.
You certainly shouldn’t just slip a gun into your waistband and call it good, though a poor-quality holster wouldn’t be much better.
There are thousands of options available, as any quick Google search will reveal. That makes it easy to get one, but not necessarily to find the right one. Concealed carry is a serious businessthat shouldn’t be approached haphazardly. You need a safe and effective holster that’s capable of day-in, day-out use.
In this article we’ll look at some options and discuss why they’re included in the list.
Why carry IWB? Well, simply put, it’s the most effective means to conceal a firearm while keeping it accessible. Inside the waistband utilities your pants to cover the vast majority of the gun with nothing more than a shirt to cover the grip. IWB is putting the concealed in concealed carry. This isn’t to say you can conceal a handgun effectively with an OWB holster, just that all things being equal, IWB concealed carry holsters are more circumspect.
The larger the gun, the more efficient IWB is. Anyone can carry a P365 OWB, but it’s a lot harder to carry a Glock 17 OWB and keep it concealed. You toss a Glock 17 in an IWB rig, and it’s easy to conceal, easy to access, and with the right holster, it’s quite comfortable.
IWB and AIWB
When we talk about IWB, we are talking about traditional IWB with a holster tucked onto the strong side of the body and AIWB. AIWB stands for Appendix In the Waistband carry. Appendix carry positions the weapon in the front of your body where your appendix is.
AIWB has become an incredibly popular means to carry a firearm and offers numerous advantages. It’s quicker to draw from, makes it easier to avoid printing, and adds no bulk to your sides. IWB can be traditionally easier to access when sitting, and to me, it is a bit more comfortable.
I’m not going to debate the two, but I do want to inform you fine folks that we will include holsters that work both for IWB and AIWB.
Best IWB Holsters
Best Overall IWB Holster
Best IWBH for Micro Compacts
Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker
Best w/ Thumb Break Retention
Falco Holsters A106 Falcon
Best MRDS Compatible Rig
Henry’s Holsters Spark
Best Leather IWB Rig
Galco Royal Guard
Best for Compacts & Full-Size
Best Universal IWB Rig
Best Minimalist Holster
Raven VanGuard 2
Best IWB Holsters
- Tenicor Certum
- Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker
- Falco Holsters A106 Falcon
- Henry’s Holsters Spark
- Galco Royal Guard
- Raven Concealment Eidolon
- Phlster Floodlight
- RCS Gear VanGuard
Best Holster Reviews
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing an IWB holster, such as the type of gun you will be carrying, the type of clothing you will be wearing, and your personal preferences. Below, we will take a look at the reviews of the best IWB holsters on the market, and give you some things to consider when making your decision.
Tenicor Certum Review
Tenicor Certum, another weird name for a great holster. At least Tenicor lets you know how to pronounce Certum and even what it means. Names don’t matter much if the holster doesn’t work, but the Certum works extremely well. This polymer IWB rig is a foldover design constructed for various popular pistols, including Glocks, SIGs, Walthers, and many more. The Certum packs plenty of adjustments too.
Users have the ability to adjust nearly an inch of ride height and 30 degrees of cant. It’s easy to adapt the Certume for IWB or AIWB. Attaching wedges, wings, and claws isn’t difficult, and the holster is set up to accommodate whatever you need for a comfortable carry experience. You can swap the metal clips for soft loops and utilize a tuckable design on demand.
Tenicor profiles the holster near the trigger guard and sweat guard to ensure you can get a good, positive grip on the gun as you draw it. It’s critical to scoring an accurate first shot, drawing safely, and maintaining control of the gun. The Trucise fit ensures each holster is molded perfectly to the gun. This also increases safety, your ability to draw, and retention. It’s a very capable holster with tons of great features and excellent adjustments.
Tenicor Certum Pros and Cons
- Tons of Adjustment
- Made for A Variety of Guns
- Easy to customize
Tenicor Certum Deals
Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker Review
The Phlster Floodlight is my favorite big gun holster, and the Dark Star gear Hitchhiker is my favorite little gun holster. The Hitchhiker fits the Glock 42, 43, 43X, 48, the S&W Shield, the P365, P365XL, and other similar small guns. The Hitchhiker is a polymer holster that’s molded to the gun you intend to carry.
I adore this gun because it allows for a high degree of access to my little firearm. You’ll notice the holster seems long for such a small gun. However, that’s purposeful. The extra length allows for a full firing grip and keeps the pistol stable. That extra-length cantilevers the gun inward for better access without compromising concealment. Additionally, it increases comfort by pushing the muzzle lower on the pelvis and reduces hot spots.
The Hitchhiker comes with a metal central clip, but you can swap the clip out for loops or other clip options if you so choose. This holster works perfectly for IWB and AIWB. You can add a Dark wing to the holster for AIWB carry, or remove it for standard IWB carry. It’s quite thin and very comfortable for carrying a small gun in a deep concealment position.
I rock a red dot on my P365 XL, and the Hitchhiker accommodates it without argument. It’s a modern choice for modern guns.
Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker Pros and Cons
- Super Comfortable
- Easy to Access
- No light Option (C’mon, I love my TLR 7 SUB)
Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker Deals
Falco Holsters A106 Falcon Review
I’ve been using Falco holsters for a while now, and I have to say that I’m really impressed with their products. The A106 Falcon is a great holster for concealment carrying.
One of the things I like about Falco, when you goto their website you can visually see exactly what you’re getting as you fully customize your purchase. From wearing position – canted or straight on the hip, to leather color, stitching color and edge color – it’s fully customizable.
The A106 Falcon is made from high-quality materials, and it’s extremely comfortable to wear. It’s also very easy to adjust, so you can get the perfect fit for your body type. The Falco team really knows their stuff when it comes to holsters!
The A106 Falcon is the perfect option for those who are looking for a great concealment holster. It’s comfortable, well-made, and easy to adjust. I highly recommend it!
A106 Falcon Pros and Cons
- Customized by a skilled craftsmen
- Design your own holster
- Because it’s leather, you need to break-it-in
A106 Falcon Deals
Henry’s Holsters Spark Review
Henry’s Holsters is a great little company that produces an awesome line of well-made holsters, with the Spark being an awesome rig for IWB or AIWB carry. The Spark moniker comes to be because the holster accommodates a weapon light. Specifically, you can choose a Spark that fits your TLR 1, TLR 7, or Surefire X300 series. Additionally, the holster is made for Glock and FN series pistols.
The Spark takes minimalism to new levels, and a minimalist light-bearing holster is quite handy. You can utilize pull-through button loops made from Super-Flex webbing. Carriers can also use Griphook tuckable overlooks if they so choose. Additionally, these loops and hooks can be adjusted for ride height and cant to make the holster fit you and your carry method.
Henry Holsters installs what they call a Concealment Kick on the back of the holster. This pushes the muzzle tip away from the body and rotates the grip towards the user’s body. Now the gun and holster are easier to conceal and easier to draw. Outside of a light, we have an open bottom that accommodates compensators as well as micro red dots.
Henry’s Holsters Spark Pros and Cons
- Easy To Conceal
- Easy to Draw From
- Only fits a small number of guns
Henry’s Holsters Spark Deals
Galco Royal Guard
You have to be really picky when it comes to choosing a leather rig, especially for IWB carry. The Galco Royal Guard is perfect for picky people. This isn’t an AIWB rig and should be used for strong side carry. As a leather holster, it is extremely comfortable and soft against the body. The comfort leather provides is tough to beat, and it’s a big reason why people still choose leather in the age of kydex.
A big problem with leather holsters is that the holsters collapse when the gun is drawn. With the Galco Royal Guard, this isn’t an issue, and the rigid design and metal reinforced mouth prevents the holster from collapsing. As such, reholstering is extremely easy to do and very safe to do. The rough side of the leather faces outbound and helps prevent the holster from moving inside the pants.
The Royal Guard utilizes a set of belt loops that ensure security when attached. We also get a butt-forward cant for enhanced concealment and a faster draw. Drawing is also easy due to the smoothed out gun pocket that allows the gun to glide out smoothly. Finally, to round out comfort, a full-length sweat guard protects both you and the gun.
Galco Royal Guard Pros and Cons
- Extremely comfortable
- Made for Tons of Different Guns
- Does not Collapse
- Not customizable
Galco Royal Guard Deals
Best for Compacts & Full-Size Raven Concealment Eidolon
Raven Concealment Eidolon Review
Raven Concealment makes one helluva good IWB rig, but don’t ask me how to say Eidolon. The Eidolon provides you a dedicated IWB or AIWB holster for daily carry. It’s a polymer shell-based holster that holds each shell precisely to each gun. This improves retention, safety, concealment, and your ability to rapidly draw the weapon. The Raven Concealment Eidolon uses an innovative adjustable retention system that lets the user tweak the retention to their needs.
This adjustable retention can be handy because people live different lives and do different things. Someone doing manual labor might want tighter retention because they are climbing, lifting heavy things, and generally moving fast and doing hard work. That same level of retention isn’t necessary for someone in an office or driving a car for a living.
The holster comes with a set of tuckable clips that can be adjusted for ride height or cant. The holster shell allows you to attach various accessories, including wings, different belt clips or loops, and wedge for enhanced concealment. You can tailor it for AIWB or IWB carry, fit it and forget it. The Raven Concealment Eidolon is compatible with most threaded barrels, any height sights, and most mini red dot optics. I think the Eidolon is best used with a compact pistol like the Glock 19.
Raven Concealment Pros and Cons
- Works with Red Dots
- Glocks only
Raven Concealment Deals
Best Universal Phlster Floodlight
Phlster Floodlight Review
The Phlster Floodlight is a quality universal holster that defies expectations. Calling it a universal holster isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more quasi-universal and functions only with automatic handguns of full to compact size and utilizing a Streamlight TLR1/2 or a Surefire X300U weapon light.
Phlster bases the retention and the fit around the light and around the adjustability of the holster. The end-user can adjust the slide fit with a simple shock cord to ensure the fit is nice and tight. The Floodlight allows you to pack a light, as well as all the other modern accessories shooters love. The Floodlight allows you to rock optics, suppressor height sights, and most compensators.
Additionally, this has to be one of the most adjustable holsters ever created. It’s super easy to swap out belt loops for clips and beyond. You can change the ride height and cant with ease, and the installed wing makes these comfortable and accessible. If you want to carry a big gun IWB, then the Phlster Floodlight is the way to go.
It’s ambidextrous, extremely comfortable, and offers excellent retention, is safe to carry with, and seemingly difficult to break while doing normal holster things.
Phlster Floodlight Pros and Cons
- Customizable and Adjustable
- Fits all Modern Accessories
- Only accommodates compact and full-sized guns
Phlster Floodlight Deals
Best Minimalist Holster RCS VanGuard Minimalist Holster
RCS VanGuard “Trigger Guard” Rig
Here’s a holster that is the direct opposite of the PHLster lineup (and our second from Raven Concealment Systems).
There are many holsters that claim to be “minimalist”, and many of them are. None that I’m aware of quite deserve that title as much as Raven’s VanGuard 2 (and 3, etc.) minimalist holster. It’s low profile, lightweight, and effective – everything you’d want such a holster to be.
It won’t be the right choice for everyone, however, because it is so minimalist.
The VanGuard provides retention by fastening onto and providing pressure against the trigger guard. Not everyone will be comfortable using a holster like this, particularly when you consider the recommended way of (not) reholstering. RCS gear advises against reholstering in the traditional way. Their instructions very clearly say you should remove the VanGuard from your belt and reattach it to the weapon before tucking it back away. That’s not a one-handed activity, obviously, and it’s much slower that way, but that’s a reasonable trade-off for such a low profile method of carry.
If you’re okay with those things, this is an excellent choice for effective concealment. Even with the strut and clip or soft loop used to attach it to your belt, the VanGuard has just a fraction of the bulk of other more traditional Kydex holster designs. You trade some padding and sweat guard action for that benefit, but I’m okay with that.
It’s about the closest thing there is to the feeling of carrying a gun without a holster at all.
VanGuard Pros and Cons
- Truly minimalist
- Incredibly lightweight
- Proven in the field
- Cannot holster traditionally
- Cannot holster one-handed
- No sweat guard or comfort allowances
Holster Principles – Buyers Guide
Worry not, gun owner. Determining your best concealed carry isn’t impossible, nor should it be stressful. It should be a considered decision, though.
The holsters listed above are well made and perfect for concealed carry. But if you don’t like those options, fear not. Below I’ve listed what I think are the most important points when choosing a holster for IWB, or well, any style or well, any style, from pocket holsters to off-body CCW packs and purses.
One thing to be aware of: don’t be blindly brand loyal. Be wary of someone else who is. This is true if you’re looking at Raven Concealment, Tenicor, or one of the others I’ve mentioned. It is equally true if you’re interested in something else.
Whether you’re interested in a Sticky Holster, Alien Gear rig, Concealment Express holster, or Relentless Tactical option, try to weigh all the pros and cons. Look at as many reviews as you can, not just mine. Look at as many reviews as you can, not just mine…and don’t skimp on what you spend for your “gun belt”, even if it’s not technically a gun belt.
One thing to keep in mind as you go through the considerations I’ve listed below is how they apply to a type of holster. There are more waistband holster options than the popular IWB/OWB styles, including Small of Back (SOB). Some people will prefer pocket carry or an ankle holster; others a shoulder holster. All of these (arguably) have a place, they are decidely niche (especially a shoulder rig). Make your choice practically – a pocket holster isn’t a great choice if you keep you pockets full of crap. An ankle rig doesn’t lend itself well to access at all, much less with larger firearms.
Be ruthlessly pragmatic.
Safety always takes the number one spot when it comes to firearms. An unsafe holster can easily cause an ND, cause retention issues, and similar issues that compromise your safety with the firearm.
First, ensure your handgun properly fits the holsters. Holsters shouldn’t be open sacks of leather or nylon. Holsters should be molded to properly encase the firearm without allowing it to move back and forth or left to right in the holster. If the fit isn’t correct, you are more likely to reduce retention, and you open up the possibility of something accessing your trigger.
Speaking of triggers, the second factor of safety in holsters is ensuring your trigger is encompassed by the holster. It should not be exposed to the world around you. An exposed trigger is much easier to be accidentally pulled and fired. It’s a great way to get a case of holes in your leg.
Access is the ability to retrieve your firearm. The best concealed carry holster is one that allows for a good initial grip that will then translate to a proper grip when the weapon is drawn. Access should also allow you to draw your weapon quickly and safely.
With IWB holsters, you want to ensure you can assume a proper grip and that there is enough space between the grip and the belt for an initial grip. This is the foundation of your draw. The holster should retain the firearm during normal day-to-day movements but should not create any overt difficulty in drawing the firearm.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you also want a holster that allows you to safely re-holster the gun. Some holsters close when you draw your weapon, and re-holstering is nearly impossible.
The word retention has been spoken several times throughout this article. Principles of good retention include a properly molded holster that fits your firearm. As an IWB rig, you aren’t going to need an active retention device, but you want the holster to stay put. At least until you need it in your hand.
The fit should be slightly tight and will hold the firearm surely. It shouldn’t bounce around while carried, and if it slips as you climb into a vehicle, sit down, or bend over, then it’s time to change holsters. I also advise holsters that completely encase the gun and do not allow the bottom portion of the slide to poke out. Oftentimes the open bottom will encourage the gun to be accidentally bumped out of the holster.
You’ve chosen an IWB holster for its concealment, so it makes sense that you choose an IWB holster that can actually, effectively conceal your firearm. This often requires a keen eye that targets a high-quality option that blends in with the body. A block of chunky, thick polymer (like some of the worst Kydex IWB) aren’t going to be close to low profile unless you’re wearing a significant overgarment.
The same could be said for bags of nylon and sacks of leather. Find a holster that will ride the perfect height for your body to effectively conceal the gun. Also, thinner can be better, and the addition of claw devices and wings also help a fair bit.
Obviously, no one wants a holster that will just fall apart on them. If you get a crappy holster, then it could fail during just daily carry, and if it can fail during daily carry, will it fail in a fight?
It’s tough to look at a holster online and tell if it’s durable or not, but there are some dead giveaways.
First, if it’s made from loose leather or some form of floppy nylon, that’s a dead giveaway it’s not well made. Next, if it has a cheap plastic FOMI clip, then be prepared for that clip to break. If the holster costs 15 bucks, well, be prepared for it to suck as well.
Sadly, the best means to choose a durable holster is to look at the price. Well-made polymer and leather holsters cost a fair bit for a reason. These holsters won’t just hold up for day-to-day carry, but for the training, you should be getting at the range.
IWB rigs typically require a little fine-tuning from the end-user. I won’t say this is a complete necessity, but it’s worth considering, especially for AIWB carry. Being able to adjust height, cant, and swap to different clip styles can be quite valuable for access, comfort, and concealment. I made my Phlster Floodlight fit me perfectly because it offers so many different adjustment options.
Holster Material Selection
Kydex holsters? Hybrid holsters? Leather holsters?
When it comes to holster selection, there are only two materials that matter, leather and the various polymer types. Even leather can be tricky, and a nylon holster is advisable only in very specific (and limited) circumstances. You need well-done and well-made leather holsters that provide proper fit to your firearm. A Kydex holster doesn’t escape the crappy rig clause either.
Completely avoid soft nylon and neoprene. Soft holsters just suck. Avoid them at all costs. These holsters are unsafe for serious use, and there is a reason they only cost 15 dollars on Amazon. Holsters like these are unsafe and suck for concealed carry. They also suck for access and durability.
Be very careful with hybrid holster options: some of them are good. Some are decidedly not good.
Concealed Carry On
Picking the right IWB holster will make a huge difference in your ability to carry your firearm. A well-made holster is a buy once cry once affair. A good holster will last nearly forever, and it should be purchased with a degree of seriousness behind it. If you’re willing to spend five hundred bucks on a gun, then be willing to spend a fifth of that on a good holster. Be smart, choose a quality product, carry daily, and train hard.
Additional CCW Reading:
- Characteristics of the Armed Individual (US Secret Service Guide)
- Things to know before you carry concealed (USCCA)
- Concealed Carry Tips: Printing (or not)
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023