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Concealed Carry Holsters for Women: What Are the Options and Which is Best?

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Concealed Carry Holsters for Women: What Are the Options and Which is Best?

Whether you’ve recently acquired your first firearm, or you’re looking to upgrade your carry system, you’ve probably noticed there’s an overwhelming amount of options for women’s holsters.

When it comes to gun holsters for women, in particular, the choice is very personal. Every woman has a different body shape, wears different clothing, and lives a different lifestyle. What works for one woman, definitely won’t work for another, and that’s okay!

Concealed carry holsters for women include everything from belly bands, to thigh holsters, to traditional waistband holsters and beyond. Whether you like to carry on-body, off-body, or want your holster built right into your clothes, there’s a design for you.

But not all holsters are created equal. Countless styles are being marketed toward the female shooter, but which of these actually works, and what other options are out there?

In this article, we’ll break down all the different types of holsters on the market, talk about what to look for in an effective holster, as well as how to choose the right one for yourself.

Let’s jump in!

What Makes a Good Holster?

Before we get into the different types of concealed carry holsters for women, we need to go over a few critical things to look for in a safe, high-quality holster.

Safety:

First things first: whatever holster you choose needs to have an adequate trigger guard. Once your gun is holstered, you should not be able to see or touch your trigger at all. If there’s room for a foreign object to make its way to the trigger, find a new holster!

Another critical safety factor in a holster is proper retention. Retention is what keeps your gun from falling out of your holster, and affects how easy or difficult it is to draw. A holster without retention should immediately be passed up, as it puts you at risk of injury, having your gun slip out, or someone grabbing it from you.

Safety - Handgun displayed inside a Vedder holster

Comfort and Concealment:

A holster should also be both concealable and comfortable. If it pinches, rubs, or presses on you in an annoying or painful way, you won’t want to wear it. And that kind of defeats the point of “everyday” carry, right? Make sure to find one that fits comfortably and easily hides beneath your clothing without printing (showing through your clothes).

Adjustability:

One of the biggest things that makes a holster comfy or not is its adjustability. Because everyone is shaped differently and wears different clothing, a women’s holster, in particular, should have as many adjustable features as possible.

The most common adjustable components of a holster are ride height and cant. Ride height refers to how high or low your gun and holster sit on your hips, and being able to adjust that allows you to move your setup to a spot that works for you. Cant is simply the angle at which your holster is tilted, so you can adjust until your gun is easy to draw and conceal.

Strong Clip:

Next, if your holster has a clip, you want to make sure it’s made from a high-quality metal that will hold up over time. Metal clips are also easier to conceal than plastic ones, as they tend to be more sleek and low-profile.

Durable Material:

Finally, a durable, safe material is a must-have. You’ll want to make sure the holster is made from a material that will hold its shape when you draw your gun, so that reholstering will be a safe and effortless process.

You’ll also want to ensure the material will be both long-lasting and comfortable, which is why Kydex is one of the most popular options on the market. It’s durable, easy to clean, and comfortable against your skin.

Leather is another comfortable option. If you want the best of both worlds, you can always go with a hybrid holster that has the comfort of a leather backing and the security of a Kydex shell.

Now, on to the various types of women’s holsters for concealed carry.

Types of Holsters for Women

Type of Holsters for women - Woman wearing OWB kydex holster from Vedder Holsters

If you’ve spent much time looking at holsters, you already know there are countless options to choose from. There are perhaps even more women’s holster options than men’s – but do they all meet the standards of safety, comfort, and concealment required to be effective?

Keep on scrolling to learn about all the different types of holsters for women, and find out which ones are recommended, and which ones just… aren’t.

Waistband Holster: IWB and OWB

The most popular type of holster, and generally considered the best concealed carry holster for women and men alike, is a waistband holster.

There are two types of waistband holsters: inside the waistband (IWB) and outside the waistband (OWB). While these two terms are pretty self-explanatory, let’s take a look at the specifics of each one.

An inside the waistband holster sits, you guessed it, inside the waistband of your pants. These holsters typically have a clip that fastens to your belt, while the gun and holster sit between your pants and body.

IWB holsters are the most popular for concealed carry for a couple of reasons. They’re accessible, safe, and customizable. Anyone can successfully conceal them, and they’re reasonably comfortable as well. Not only that, but you can choose which position along your waistband you want to carry in, which is great for people (ahem, women) who tend to mix up their wardrobe a lot or carry in a variety of settings.

OWB holsters are essentially the same as IWB holsters, except that they sit on the outside of your waistband. These holsters have a clip or loops that fasten to a belt, with the gun and holster exposed on the outside of your pants.

These holsters are often used for open carry, but can be used for concealed carry with the use of a cover garment like a jacket, flannel, or cardigan. They’re an exceptionally comfortable option, as there is zero contact between the gun and your skin. They’re also very accessible when it comes to drawing, though they are slightly more difficult to conceal and can’t be carried in as many positions as an IWB holster.

If you’re interested in learning more about the difference between IWB and OWB, and which one might be right for you, check out our article: “ OWB vs. IWB: Which is Best for Concealed Carry?” If you want to browse the different styles of IWB and OWB holsters, you can do so on Vedder’s Gun Holsters page.

Off Body/Purse Carry

“Off body” is any form of carry that is not on your physical self. This includes carrying in a purse, backpack, fanny pack, briefcase, or other tote/bag.

Many women, in particular, find this option alluring. After all, most of us already carry some sort of bag on a daily basis, and it’s just easier than having to squeeze a firearm under your clothing. However, there are some major downsides to off-body carry, and most experts advise against it.

While this is the most comfortable and convenient way to conceal carry, it’s also the most dangerous. First, your pistol is significantly harder and slower to access. And when seconds count, that can mean the difference between life and death.

You also have to consider that if your bag gets stolen, your gun goes with it. It’s also a lot harder to regulate who may access your purse and get a hold of your firearm. If you have kids, this can be especially scary.

If you are going to purse carry, make sure that you either invest in a quality concealed carry purse that has a built-in holster and a dedicated compartment. Or, fasten a proper holster, like a pocket holster, into your bag so you have proper retention and your gun isn't bouncing around all day.

To learn more about the ins and outs of purse carry, and whether it’s the right choice for you, read “ Off Body Carry: Pros and Cons.”

Off body purse carry - Pocket Holster from Vedder Holsters

Pocket Holster

Another lesser-known concealed carry holster is the pocket holster. These are specifically designed so you can easily conceal a smaller pistol in the front pocket of your pants, or even in a jacket or vest.

If you’re a woman who actually has reasonably-sized pant pockets (who are you?), this could be a comfortable choice for you. They’re typically recommended for anyone who doesn’t want to carry on their waistline but still wants their weapon close to their body.

Something many people don’t know about pocket holsters is that t hey’re also a great solution for off-body carry. The Pocket Locker holster, in particular, comes with eyelets designed to string para cord through so it can be tied to the inside of your purse or backpack, making off body carry a safer and more viable option.

If you want some additional reading on how pocket holsters work and whether they’re a good fit for you, check out our article “ Why You Should Carry A Pocket Holster.”

Belly Band

The belly band is one of the most popular concealed carry holsters for women, simply because of how versatile and comfortable they are.

A belly band is a heavy-duty elastic strap that wraps around your midsection. They can be carried either very high on the abdomen just below your breasts, right in the middle over your bellybutton, or very low on your hips, depending on what you’re wearing and what feels comfortable.

This type of holster is one of the most comfortable options available and is easy to conceal under a variety of clothing – from that cute sundress to the spandex you wear to the grocery store.

Belly bands often come with multiple slots so you can carry more than just your gun, like a spare magazine, a credit card, or whatever else you like to keep on your person.

If you decide to go this route, it’s important that you choose a high-quality belly band made from thick, durable elastic. After all, you’re relying on that material to keep your weapon securely in place, and you don’t want to skimp!

Bra Holster

Ah, the bra holster. A very alluring option for women from A to D.

If you aren’t familiar, a bra holster is exactly what you’d think: a holster that attaches to your bra where your gun can be concealed by your bosom. It’s exclusively a holster for women, and it’s pretty darn effective.

Most bra holsters are fastened to the middle of your brazier, with the gun tucked slightly behind your underwire and flat against your body. Then your breasts do work to keep the pistol completely concealed. If you have to draw your weapon, all you have to do is lift your shirt and draw to the side.

The more you’ve got going on up there, the easier it will be to conceal your gun. That being said, even women on the smaller side can make this holster work. You may just have to carry a smaller pistol, which is probably what you’d want to do anyway to avoid wrecking your undergarments.

The main issue with bra holsters is the potential to flag your non-shooting arm when you go to draw. This can be mitigated with lots of practice, but it’s still a concern, especially for newer shooters.

Woman wearing a IWB Kydex Holster from Vedder Holsters

Ankle Holster

Another common carry style is the ankle holster.

These little holsters are designed to be strapped around your ankle, and some even come with a calf support and/or some extra padding for added comfort.

While this is arguably one of the most comfortable and easy-to-conceal carry options depending on your wardrobe (think boot cut jeans or maxi skirts), these holsters aren’t always the best choice in terms of practicality.

Ankle holsters are impossible to draw from while standing, and especially when running. You’ll have to do some pretty impressive acrobatics to access your pistol if you’re trying to flee from danger.

Because they can also be rather uncomfortable if you tend to walk around much of the day, these holsters are really more suited for people who sit most of the time or who want to carry a backup weapon.

Shoulder Holster

Shoulder holsters, sometimes known by their less elegant name, “underarm holsters,” are designed to wrap around your shoulders, and sometimes your midsection as well, placing your pistol on the side of your torso just under your armpit.

There are plenty of shoulder holster designs out there. Some of them hold your gun vertically, others horizontally, and there are even those that are designed specifically for women.

Shoulder holsters tend to be a fairly comfortable way to carry, and keep your gun accessible as well. They’re great for every body type, but have a few downsides as well.

These don’t always make the best holster for beginners, as it does require a bit of a learning curve to correctly fit and learn to draw from. If you’re not careful, you can easily flag those nearby while drawing from a shoulder holster.

Shoulder holsters are alsorather difficult to conceal under most clothing, especially the tighter-fitting clothing women often wear. If you’re going to carry a shoulder holster, be prepared to wear a cover garment to keep everything under wraps.

Thigh Holster

You’ve probably seen your share of thigh holsters in action movies, where the heroine effortlessly whips out a Glock from under her satin cocktail gown to take out the bad guys. But how tactically sound are these holsters in real life?

If you do your research to find a quality thigh holster, it can be a decent addition to your carry collection. These holsters are most commonly made from spandex with a rubber lining to keep it all in place, and a small pocket to secure your weapon.

These holsters are a pretty good option if you plan to carry in a dress or skirt, and are pretty adjustable in that you can move their position on your thigh. You will have to do your due diligence to find one that fits snugly enough to your thigh to keep it from riding down as you walk, though.

Thigh holsters aren’t necessarily the most comfortable option, either, as they may cause some pinching or chafing to your skin. But if you’re only wearing it for a short period, it might work alright for you.

For a more secure and comfortable thigh carry option, you may want to go with a pair of compression holster shorts. But we’ll get into those in the next section.

Concealment Clothing

Another popular holster for women is concealment clothing.

These garments are designed with built-in holsters that allow you to carry on-body without the use of a separate holster. There are countless options to choose from, including leggings, undergarments, tank tops, compression shorts, jackets, and even corsets… pretty much anything you could think of.

While concealment clothing is generally pretty comfortable and convenient, there are some major downsides. These garments are often lacking the retention and trigger guard of a proper holster, making them a less safe option for concealed carry.

Concealed carry leggings, in particular, are a very popular choice among women. Unfortunately, the built-in “holster” in these leggings are usually no more than a glorified spandex pocket, and open you up to the possibility of your weapon falling out (that would be a bad day).

If you really want to conceal carry in leggings, and who doesn’t, you can always l ook for concealed carry leggings that have thick belt loops instead of elastic pockets, so you can wear a proper gun belt and holster. It’s a much safer option, and is just as comfortable as any other pair.

How to Choose the Right Holster For You

While we wish it was so easy, there is no one perfect concealed carry setup that works for everyone. Every woman who carries will have to assess her needs and lifestyle to decide what’s best for her. All of our carry systems look different, which we think is pretty cool!

To help point you in the right direction, there are a few important factors to consider when it comes to choosing a women’s concealed carry holster.

As always, safety first. Think about the activities you do in your day to day, and who you might be carrying around. If you’re a mom, this is especially important, as you want to be sure whatever holster you use will keep your weapon out of reach of your little ones.

Next, body type plays a huge role in whether or not a holster will work for you – which is especially true for the ladies out there. Luckily, as women, our natural curves actually give us an advantage when it comes to concealing a firearm. But they can also pose a challenge with certain carry styles.

This is one of the many reasons an IWB or OWB holster makes a great gun holster for women. These are some of the most adjustable and versatile options on the market, so whether you’re thin or curvy, you can find a position and angle that fits your unique shape.

The way you like to dress is another consideration when selecting a holster. If you tend to wear leggings or skirts that don’t have belt loops, a holster like a belly band might be the best choice. If you’re a jeans kinda girl, on the waistband might work better.

Because women’s clothing can be so diverse, you may even find that you need more than one holster so that you can carry no matter what you’re wearing. For example, you may need an IWB holster for your day-to-day work clothes, and a thigh holster to wear under your Sunday best.

The gun you carry will, of course, also be a factor in the holster you choose. For instance, if you carry a Glock 19, you may not want to use an ankle holster, which is better suited for smaller pistols.

No matter what kind of holster you decide to start with, be prepared to give yourself some time to adjust. It can take anywhere from two days to a week to get your new holster in just the right spot, and for you to get used to carrying it. So try it out for a few days, and if it’s just not working, try another position or holster!

Choosing the right holster - EDC items laying on a Vedder Holsters EDC Tray

Summary

No matter what your lifestyle or preferences, there’s a great holster out there for you. Now that you know all about the different types of concealed carry holsters for women, it’s time to start the fun part: shopping for some new gear.

For inspiration, tips, and suggestions from other women who carry, join us in our Women of Vedder community on Facebook. Our group offers support, resources, and exclusive content for women interested in concealed carry and self-defense, and shooters of all experience levels are welcome!

If you’re looking for a new IWB, OWB, or pocket carry holster, visit our  Holsters by Gun Model page for Kydex holsters that are custom-made for your weapon of choice.

Interested in items beyond holsters? Check out our  Resources Page for links to recommended products like lights, lasers, first aid, maintenance, and more, and browse our selection of belts, apparel, and accessories at our website, vedderholsters.com.

To stay up-to-date on all the latest Vedder Holsters content and offerings, check out our blog and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And be sure to visit our sister company, GeoGrit, for all of your American-made minimalist wallet needs.

Mikayla Blair

After launching her career as an award-winning journalist in the American Southwest, Mikayla Blair joined the Vedder Holsters team as a content writer in 2021. She writes about all things guns, holsters, and concealed carry, and is especially passionate about women's self-defense.

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