What is an IWB Holster Anyway?
An IWB holsters or, Inside the waistband holster, is a firearm holder that allows you to comfortably wear your weapon on your waist, inside your waistband.
Inside the waistband holsters have a smaller silhouette than outer waistband holders, and will enable you to conceal carry effectively should you choose or legally be able to.
OWB vs. IWB vs. AIWB vs. Shoulder Holster
Before we spend the time debating which inside the waistband holsters are the best, we should define what exactly an IWB is and how it differs from the other popular variations in circulation today.
Today we will focus on the most popular holsters: Over-the-waistband, inside-the-waistband, inside-the-waistband-appendix, and shoulder holsters.
While these holsters listed are the most popular, we should note that there are a plethora of other options, such as ankle holsters, that can fulfill specific niche carry needs you may have.
While there are many variations and high-tech variations these days, -for the laymen, Over-the-waistband (OWB) holsters all sit like the old traditional cowboy style belt holsters -minus the exaggerated hang of the belt.
Various leather OWB holsters you can buy today differ little from the holsters made and sold over a hundred years ago. On the other end of the spectrum, a good number of them have advanced safety mechanisms that help you retain the weapon should someone grab for it -but don’t slow down your draw.
Wearing around over-the-waistband holsters can take a little getting used to, but no more so than wearing a thicker wallet in a new pocket. The only real downside is that your firearm is displayed to the world and may not provide you the best tactical advantage in a live shooter or criminal situation.
Inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters will typically be less bulky and more streamlined (fewer safety snaps and tabs) to than their over-the-waistband cousins. The lack of safety features is generally figured to be off-set by the fact that people are not supposed to be readily aware of the presence of the weapon.
Drawing a weapon inside your waistband and underneath a shirt requires much more training and practice to do correctly -but can be much more tactically advantageous.
Just like the outer-wear holsters, inside the waistband holsters can take a little getting used to, but the good ones are well designed to sit relatively comfortably against your body.
While inside the waistband holsters are incredibly popular for concealed carry users, they can still be used as open carry holsters by tucking your shirt (or jacket) behind the gun.
Inside-the-waistband-appendix (IWBA) holsters are made to sit in the front of your torso, along your abdomen (typically near your appendix, hence the name). If you are facing forwards, this would be the 1 o’clock position, or just slightly off-center to the right.
A weapon resting at the front of your body is more natural when trying to retain and protect while in the holster. It is less likely for you to be snuck up on from the angle which an IWBA holster sits, and you can immediately have both hands in play.
A weapon resting at the front of your waist is also considered more comfortable by many concealed carry users and is easier to access while driving.
IWBA holsters are also often referred to as Appendix-inside-the-waistband (AIWB) holsters. These terms are interchangeable.
Shoulder Holsters aren’t merely for looking good in mafia movies; they have actual practical uses as well. These holsters are worn in the lower armpit or upper rib area and are secured by shoulder straps.
Shoulder holsters are a traditional favorite amongst personal protection details (bodyguards) since they can remain nearly completely unseen when worn under a jacket -useful in nice outfits that don’t allow durable belts.
Shoulder holsters also allow your weapon to be easily accessed while in a vehicle or sitting position.
Many who find wearing holsters at the waist uncomfortable will opt for shoulder holsters.
What Are the Advantages to IWB holsters?
We covered this a bit previously, but for the sake of this article’s topic, it’s worth summarizing here.
Inside-the-waistband, IWB, holsters, and their close cousins, the IWBA holsters provide a series of advantages to the wearer.
- Allow you to wear your firearm within your waistband relatively comfortably, and safely.
- Allow you to conceal carry discreetly and effectively, meaning the bad guys won’t know you have a weapon until you are drawing it on them.
- Come in a large variety of styles and makes that allow you to get exactly what you want and need for a practical self-defense carry.
What Are the Disadvantages to IWB holsters?
- Many places don’t allow concealed carry without a difficult to get a license or permit, forcing you to use this holster as a close-sitting OWB holster.
- It requires practice to learn to draw your weapon from an inside the waistband position properly. You must practice with shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, etc.
Holster Materials: Leather vs. Kydex IWB Holsters
So, when deciding on a holster, should one go with leather holsters or the Kydex ones? The answer to this question will ultimately come down to your personal needs and preferences, but there are some key points to consider.
- Leather holsters are traditionally considered the more comfortable since the material conforms to your body over time better. Similar to how a baseball glove gets shaped by being used.
- Leather holsters are more expensive, come fewer variations, and require care.
- Synthetic materials used are tough, stiff, and offer a very effective draw (no stick at all).
- Bending the cheaper Kydex holsters in the same spot over and over again will eventually weaken the structural integrity.
- Kydex holsters require nearly no care outside of the joints or swivels for retention mechanisms.
A Look at Hybrid Holsters
Hybrid holsters are a somewhat new creation that combines stiff synthetic materials with leather. The conventional set-up for these holsters is a solid Kydex outer wall and a softer leather interior wall. The hybrid holster allows a gun to be drawn quickly and smoothly, while still giving you a more comfortable leather wall resting against your body through the day.
A Review of the 15 Best IWB Holsters on the Market
1. The Overall Best IWBA Appendix Holster: Tulster IWB Profile Holsters.
The top inside the waistband holsters, or appendix-inside-the-waistband (AIWB) holsters, easily purchasable on the market today are going to have to be the Tulster IWB Profile Holsters.
The Tulster IWB Profile Holster is well-designed as a sleek, small, and utterly concealable IWBA holster with an answer for many of the traditional small-holster drawbacks. Adjustable retention with a visceral pop and a higher grip for magazine release while in the holster are helpful, and perhaps the most noticeable aspects.
Your weapon feels snug and safe, a rare feat and the adjustable cant means that it feels awesome for an IWPA holster -and will for almost all body types.
If you have a wider belt, you can simply wrap the 1.5″ quick clip for the 1.75″ variation. There are also soft loop alternatives to the quick clips and many color variations for the holster.
In the end, if you talking pure comfort and functionality in a complete, fairly priced packaged -today’s holster choice is going to the Tulster IWB Profile Holsters.
- Small but feels very secure, thanks to the adjustable retention system. Has a nice, noticeable “click.”
- The quick clip makes putting on and taking of this small holster fast and easy.
- The adjustable cant from 0-30 degrees gives you a lot of room to get comfortable with it and find the correct draw angle.
- Full sweat shield to aid in reholstering and keeping clothing out of the way.
2. Best IWB Hybrid Style Holster: Alien Gear Holsters Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster
Our favorite for the hybrid holster category is going to go to the Alien Gear Holsters Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster. This hybrid holster is a composition of three different materials and delivers a fantastic all-around everyday carry holster.
The materials are structured in such a way to allow you to maximize flexibility and comfort while still offering a stable drawing platform, solid retention, and impressive durability. Leather, neoprene, and Kydex used to optimize the positives of each and minimize their negatives.
The three-layer laminate is structured to give a pleasant feeling of balance, which is more relevant to the comfort of the holster than I had previously realized. Compared to other similar products, this weight distribution is what makes it truly stand out.
If I needed a new holster for a mid-size or larger handgun, the Alien Gear Holsters Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster would be at the top of my list.
- Supports over 100 different firearms.
- Easy to switch between various configurations and adjust the retention.
- The adjustable cant.
- Excellent balance and comfort.
- A unique mixture of materials used to great effect.
3. Best Value Priced IWBs: Concealed Carrier AND The Defender
There is a tie here for the top budget synthetic holster, and the top budget leather holster. For this category, the options were rated solely on price, comfort, and usability -with the amount being the most relevant.
Concealed Carrier (TM) Universal IWB Holster
If you got around twenty dollars, and need a simple, comfortable IWB holster that you can just throw on, then the Concealed Carrier (TM) Universal IWB Holster is perhaps your best option. Made from breathable “surgical grade neoprene,” this holster is incredibly lightweight and soft while still being sturdy enough to do the job.
The draw is surprisingly smooth for a soft holster, and the metal clip that backs it is clearly high-grade and successfully anchors the piece. It is only through good design that something this lightweight and low cost could work so well.
The Defender by Relentless Tactical
Relentless Tactical’s The Defender Leather IWB Holster For S&W M&P Shield is simple and very effective. No frills, bells or whistles, this is just a leather inside-the-waistband holster done correctly and being sold at a great price. If you are looking to get the most bang for your buck, and still sport a nice leather piece, this one definitely worth consideration.
4. Best IWB (Kydex): Raven Concealment Eidolon Holster
The top IWB (Kydex) holster for right now is going to the Raven Concealment Eidolon Holster. This sleek, small holster sits very comfortably in the appendix carry and maintains a smooth and reliable draw.
The Eidolon from Raven Concealment Systems is based around a simple shell, but one that is ideally made to fit your weapon and secure it against your body perfectly. It is small, but also has the option for additional attachments and additions so you can customize a bit to fit your everyday carry needs.
The adjustable retention is a proprietary design that keeps the weapon secured around the trigger, allowing for a more secure and crisper draw. This compensates for a lot of issues other retention adjustment hosters have with a pull or sticky draw feel.
- Available in both a bodyside sweat guard and a “combat cut” variation.
- Incredibly comfortable, yet secure.
- A unique retention system allows for smooth removal of the gun.
5. Best IWB (Unique): ClipDraw Gun Clip
The ClipDraw Gun Clip is not technically a holster, but it does function in a similar way and is incredibly versatile for what it is. The clip itself mounts to your firearm and then allows your gun to be placed relatively securely in multiple different positions.
Without any extra material or fabrics, this may just be the most discreet way to carry your firearm. The ability to put this clip anywhere (within reason) on your weapon means you use it to place your gun almost anywhere you need it.
- Unique mounting ability.
- Place your weapon anywhere.
- No extra material, carry very discreetly.
6. Best IWB Holster for Athletic Shorts: The Sticky Holster MD-1
The Sticky Holsters MD-1 s a surprisingly lovely feeling holster, for something that feels nothing like a holster. The sticky holster is made from thin and durable materials that adhere to your clothing and your weapon in such a way that it allows it to be both a secure inside-the-waistband holster and an incredibly comfortable one.
If you want something sleek, smooth, and wearable in basketball shorts, this holster is an excellent addition to your collection. Other sticky holder variations tend to lose adherence over the day, but this piece stays stuck and secure.
In addition to making it feel like your gun merely is floating on your hip, this sticky holster still allows the weapon to be drawn quickly. It can also be placed almost anywhere as it even sticks to your skin, making it a uniquely versatile.
- Adheres to almost anything.
- Feels great and takes up very little extra space.
- Really secure for a sticky holster, and is worth a shot if you are skeptical.
7. The Best IWB Holster for a Big or Fat Person: LIRISY XL Belly Band Holster
Now the LIRISY XL Belly Band Holster can either work great or not really at all depending on the type of belly we are talking about. But, if a traditional holster isn’t comfortable due to your size, this is going to be your next option to consider.
The Lirisy belly band holster is ambidextrous and fits a wide range of weapons and people meaning you won’t be needing to look for a different holster if your weight fluctuates. The fabric itself is a high-quality porous neoprene that allows your skin to breathe and prevents sweat buildup.
Another great thing about this band, and what makes it a good buy for gun owners is that it allows you to concealed carry all over your torso. You can quickly move this band from the small of your back to the waist and even the shoulder area.
If you haven’t tried it, first move your traditional holster to your back hip area, or the five 0’clock position. Often this back area allows a bit more comfort for the heavyset.
- It can be used in the carry position you prefer.
- Very versatile and breathable, allowing max comfort.
- An excellent backup holster due to the various options it gives you.
If your girth makes softer elastic belly band untenable, then shoulder holsters might be worth a try.
8. The Best IWB Holster for a 1911: Maxx Carry Leather Gun Holster
The Maxx Carry IWB Leather Gun Holster is a cowhide leather holster with a suede interior and full-length sweat guard made to be kind to both the exterior of you and your gun. This holster sits securely, is easy to conceal, and fits the 1911 perfectly.
This another no-frills, good at what it does leather holster. Coincidentally, it is also around the same price as our suggested value-buy leather holster listed earlier.
While this holster may not have many of the frills and features of other options, it also has fewer pieces that can fail or break down when you need them most. You can always rely on this Maxx Carry in a pinch -and when you are talking about life-saving equipment that is amongst the greatest compliments, you can give.
For .45 owners, the leather also gives a nice classic feel hawking back the Americana roots of the weapon. Very little on earth feels as good as carrying around a 1911 in an American Cowhide leather holster.
9. The Best IWB Appendix Holster for the Glock 19: Pawia Leather Gun Holster
The Pawia Leather Gun Holster is another cowhide leather holster that sits securely, is easy to conceal, and just so happens to fit the Glock 19 in question perfectly.
Like all of the other top options on this list, this Pawia leather holster combines comfort with reliability and doesn’t sacrifice the smoothness of the draw. The holster can sit easily anywhere inside your hip.
This holster won’t compete with the features of models that cost over $100, but for what you are paying, it is arguably the top IWPA Glock 19 holster for your dollar.
Functionality aside, for the price, this is also simply a great looking piece of leather.
- Small frame conforms to the Glock 19 very well.
- Though thin, it provides a high level of comfort when inside-the-waistband.
- Very attractive holster.
- Good draw for such a lightweight holster.
10. The Best IWB Appendix Holster for the Glock 43: The Amberide
The Amberide IWB is our favorite option when you want to carry the Glock 43 with supreme confidence. The ride height and waistband holster safeguards make the weapon feel very secure, and the Kydex exterior isn’t too noticeable versus a leather equivalent.
Adjustable retention pressure and a customizable cant mean that whether you are wearing it inside the waistband near the appendix, hip, or the small of your back, it will feel secure and will be easily accessible in the draw you are comfortable with.
Carrying the Glock 43 inside the waistband has a lot of options, and many will likely fill specific niches better. Still, the Amberide IWB is the perfect combination of durability, usability, and price to make it beat out the competition
- Very adjustable.
- Low cost.
- Feels fine on the hip.
11. The Best IWB Appendix Holster for the Glock 26: The Galco KT224B Kingtuk
The Galco KT224B Kingtuk is a napa Leather and Kydex hybrid holster made to excel in speed, comfort, and versatility.
The backplate and sweat guard is made from quality saddle leather so they feel great being worn all day, while the holster pocket is Kydex lined to keep the draw feeling snappy and crisp. The larger backing area and double clips reduce the chances of corners pushing into you and allows you to wear the holster in a way that doesn’t adversely affect your draw.
All in all, this is one of the elite overall Glock choices (fits a Glock 17,19,22,23,26,27,31,32, and 33) in terms of overall comfort and draw (the most relevant factors) but to be fair it is over triple the price of other decent options. In the end, you have to ask yourself, is self-defense where you really want to be cutting corners to save some money.
- Fits a huge assortment of Glocks.
- Sits very comfortably for an inside-the-waistband holster.
- The hybrid design allows you to feel leather, but draw on Kydex.
12. The Best Tactical IWB Carry Holster: Raven Concealment Systems TLR-1 Full Shield OWB Holster
The Alien Gear ShapeShift Appendix Holster is our favorite for the top overall tactical choice. Really any of the Alien Gear products on this list are of a comparable quality depending on your purpose and gun, but this one is the best example of what they do so well.
These are custom-molded to your weapon of choice specifically for inside-the-waistband Appendix carry, allowing the perfect fit with your gun. The holster itself is interchangeable with other Alien Gear pieces giving you modular customizability. Between your skin and this sturdy, durable holster is a layer of soft sweat-wicking neoprene.
All in all the custom fitting, flexible options, and overall great feel means that you can wear this holster all day on the job without excessive discomfort, set it up for the tasks you have at hand, and you can be sure it’ll be where you need it to be when the moment calls.
Shout out to this magazine inclusive tactical choice as well.
- It’s very comfortable and secure.
- Soft backing, but a solid quick draw.
- It can be added to and modified to fit other drawing positions via other Alien Gear Products -all of which are of great quality.
13. Best CCW Alternative to an IWB Holster: Concealed Carrier Ankle Holster
The Concealed Carrier Ankle Holster is one of the most popular and well-designed alternatives to the products we have focused on in this article. This ankle piece doesn’t slip or jostle around, as so many other ankle holsters do.
The Concealed Carrier is secured by a soft double strapped neoprene that conforms tightly to your leg but is breathable. This double-strap set-up allows you to move much more freely and quickly without the risk of dropping your pistol.
Unlike other ankle designs, the pistol itself is sitting inside a Kydex pocket with quick push retention. While this makes the whole design a bit larger than most concealed carry favorites, it makes up for it in high-functionality.
- A rare, complete, hybrid ankle holster.
- Incredibly secure for an ankle design.
- It gives you a whole other level of versatility and lethality.
14. The Best IWB Cross Draw Holster
I stated earlier in this article that I saw no reason for you to cross-draw, well, that was a lie. A good reason for one to cross-draw is that they are better using it or are simply more comfortable with it. The better your draw feels to you, the more you can rely on it when the adrenaline hits.
Another good reason is if you are driving. The Active Pro Gear Driving Crossdraw fills that niche perfectly.
This unique piece allows you to carry your gun comfortably while driving and still be able to draw it if need be quick -it is also designed not to interfere with your seatbelt.
The Active Pro Gear Driving Crossdraw is made from a waterproof closed-cell foam padding so it won’t be abrasive for a long haul. The rugged Cordura nylon helps it stay stiff and durable and allows for a quicker draw than the softer fabric would.
- Comfortable cross-draw made for driving but can be used anywhere.
- A quick-release thumb break to secure your weapon.
- Removable and equipable without removing your belt.
15. Most Comfortable IWB Holster: 6 Position Ambidextrous Concealment Pancake Holster
As the name of the 6 Position Ambidextrous Concealment Pancake Holster suggests, this product allows you a large array of positions -so you can place it exactly where you need it to be.
If we are honest, this isn’t the most comfortable holster on the list, many on here are custom-fitted and lined with suede -but what this pancake variation does allow is the ability to use one holster however you want. This means that no matter what you are wearing, you can find a way to be reasonably comfortable wearing your weapon.
- Huge versatility.
- Good secure feel.
- Velcro retention strap.
The Inside-the-Waistband IWB Holster FAQ
● Do I need a left or right IWB holster?
Simply put, you will want a holster that allows you to draw your firearm quickly with your dominant hand.
If you are right-handed, you will want a holster that rests your weapon on your right hip or appendix. If you are left-handed, you will want a holster that rests your gun on your left hip or appendix.
There is no practical reason that I know of for cross-drawing other than with very specialized training and reasons. When wearing a shoulder holster, the firearm should rest on the opposite armpit or rib area. Drawing a shoulder holster is near impossible to do gracefully with the same side hand.
● How do I measure a belt for IWB Carry?
While this will vary a bit depending on the holster you decide on, a general rule of thumb is an increase of 2 belt sizes to accommodate a weapon. Measure out your belt size and increase it by a size or two, and you should be fine.
I prefer a snugger fit than a looser one. I like to use belts that utilize friction in the buckle rather than holes or notches. Friction buckles allow you to adjust to perfect size with or without the holster.
The same goes for pants. If you are wearing a waist size 36, then 38 will fit your needs well.
● Why Is There No Concealment Express Holsters on this List?
Usually, this isn’t something worth mentioning, but many Concealment Express holsters were the second choice for this list. The Concealment Express IWB KYDEX Holster is a great buy and worthy of any top ten, or maybe top five list, especially for appendix carry options. Still, it simply isn’t the “best” in any one category -arguably. If you feel a Concealment Express holster more suitably fits your needs, there is a good chance it does.
● How Should I Sit When Wearing a Holster?
If you are wearing your holster correctly, you shouldn’t have to change your sitting posture dramatically. You want a holster that works with the mechanics of your body.
If you are trying to find more comfort when wearing an inside-the-waistband holster, than leather alternatives are the way to go, in many cases, the barrel length is going to dictate your overall comfort. A holster really cannot do much to make a 5-inch barrel unnoticeable.
● What About Trigger Guards and Belt Clips?
While trigger guards and belt clips can be important, we thought it was important to focus on a single product category at a time. We will have articles on trigger guards and belt clips soon.
● What’s the most comfortable IWB holster?
While the most comfortable inside-the-waistband holster will always be a matter of personal opinion and body type, some of the options we reviewed in this article were noticeably easier to wear around for a day. What these products all had in common was that they were adjustable in how they sat on the body and properly allocated the more giving materials.
If we had to pick one general-purpose holster that is likely very comfortable for most people than it would be The Defender Leather IWB Holster by Relentless Tactical or other sleek, modern, leather equivalents.
● What’s the best Kydex IWB holster?
Again, you will need to wear a few to find the type that suits your body shape and draw style. Kydex is stiffer than leather so the window for discomfort is greater, so be extra cautious when blind buying one.
Compact Kydex products made for concealed carry are often made to have lower profiles and more rounded edges. This is a great example of a Kydex holster you should find comfortable.
● Are Kydex IWB holsters comfortable?
This is more or less answered in the previous question. Kydex is typically not considered as comfortable as leather or hybrid options. Still, with a little research and smart buying, it is possible to land yourself a Kydex holster that feels great.
● Are IWB holsters safe?
As long as you are utilizing the properly sized firearm in the holster and following correct firearm safety procedures, inside-the-waistband options are perfectly safe. Thousands of professionals out there have worn IWB for decades without incident. Almost every mishap you may find where an inside-the-waistband holster was present can be attributed to improper firearm handling or maintenance.
It may seem like a cop-out to say that the ultimate out there holster is up to you to decide, but it really is. The type of firearm you will utilize, the activities you will be conducting while wearing it, and your body type will all dictate what is optimal for you.
A firearm is a very personal tool, and the ways in which you carry it and draw it will depend greatly on you.
We can say that smaller, leather options are generally more comfortable but contain fewer “features” that you may want. Kydex pockets are stiffer and more durable. Outside of these universal truths, you will have to make a personal decision at some point.
Brian Belko is a freelance writer and blogger. His primary areas of focus include the outdoors and shooting sports. In addition to his freelance work, Brian also writes for Wide Open Spaces and is on the Pro Staff at Military Hunting and Fishing. When he isn’t busy writing, Brian enjoys fishing farm ponds for bass and hitting the spring woods during turkey season.