IWB vs. OWB: Editor's Opinion

April 12, 2017
"Concealed" is supposed to mean CONCEALED... but how? IWB? OWB? What about security? What about comfort? Here's a few thoughts...

Yep; before I even started typing I could envision the readers who said (out loud), “Editor’s opinion about holsters?  Who the F is he to offer an opinion on holsters? He’s a writer for Christ’s sake… he’s not even an everyday gun toter.”  So, before I delve into my thoughts on In The Waistband (IWB) vs. On The Waistband (OWB), let me offer up some minor credentials. I’m a military service veteran with 7 years of service and a law enforcement veteran with over 30 years of service. I’m a firearms instructor (for 23 years now) and HAVE had to draw my weapon in lethal force situations. I carry a gun every day, day in and day out, any time I leave my house. I am well acquainted with a variety of handguns starting with J- and K-frame revolvers (from “back in the day”) and extending through semi-autos of every size and from most major manufacturers.  Physically, I’m an average guy who is neither fat nor skinny and who wears plain clothes far more often than I ever wear a uniform anymore. Now… can we discuss IWB versus OWB, pros, cons, comfort, etc?

I have to admit to never having been a fan of IWB. Even in my days when I WAS skinny, I just never felt like the gun was properly secured unless that holster had a thumbstrap or some other type of retention device. While the largest strength of IWB is certainly that it better conceals the weapon, especially on those summer days when you’re wearing nothing but a t-shirt over your shorts anyway, if it’s not comfortable to wear for a twelve to fourteen and sometimes sixteen hour day, what’s the point? I understand that “concealed” means “not visible in any way to bystanders,” I’d honestly rather have some minimal printing rather than a raw spot in my skin from the rub, my underwear pushed down by the holster and enough dead (or not) skin in the gun that I need to clean it every night before bed.

What is comfortable, however, is entirely subjective. What I find uncomfortable, thousands of other gun-toters consider very comfortable. I know a whole selection of qualified and accomplished shooters who carry daily and their absolute preference is for an IWB holster on a wide supple platform carrying the gun in the “four o’clock” position (just behind the right hip). I’m happy for them and they hide their guns well.  I’m still not a fan.

This past January I went to Vegas for SHOT Show and found myself carrying a Glock 42 .380ACP in a soft suede DeSantis IWB holster in the “appendix carry” position – which would be anywhere between the twelve o’clock (belt buckle) and three o’clock position on the waist. I got used to it but still never truly found it comfortable. I just kept waiting for the gun to be pushed up and out of the holster every time I sat down. After a week of carrying it that way, though, I did finally get used to it and I began to consider the possibility of carrying my Glock 43 that way when I got home. I just needed to find a suitable holster.

But… with summer on its way and spring temperatures already reaching into the 80sF, I had to start considering other carry methods for my Glock 43.  I WAS carrying a Ruger LCP .380ACP in my pocket during the summer months but I no longer have that option. The G43, although slightly larger, is a better choice (in my opinion) for defensive carry anyway. My usual mode of carry for the G43 during the fall and winter months was in that four o’clock position, on the waistband, in a DeSantis or Blackhawk holster with a couple spare magazines behind my other hip (that’d be eight o’clock position, right?). Spring is here. Temps are climbing. I’m tired of wearing super baggy t-shirts that are two sizes too big so I can easily hide the gun. Plus, I hate wearing a tank top under the t-shirt (because layering in the heat sucks) but I equally hate having the gun directly against my skin.  What to do… what to do?

I have tried the Alien Gear holster line (Cloak Tuck 2) but, again, I’m not a fan of the wide platform. While it’s stable and reasonably comfortable, inevitably it pushes my t-shirt up and my underwear down and I end up having to go adjust it every hour in the nearest restroom. That is needless weapon handling that should be avoided… so I avoid it.

Then I had a lightbulb come on over my head: “back in the day,” I used to carry a Government Model 1911… a full size .45ACP in my waistband at the small of my back using a leather holster that had a single spring steel clip to hold it at waist level. In today’s holster market, there is a plethora of hard-bodied IWB holsters with a single clip – although most of them use plastic or carbon-fiber clips now. I sought out and purchased a kydex IWB holster to fit the G43. It’s a molded kydex holster with a tension adjustment screw (like almost every other holster in the world) and a single heavy plastic belt clip that is adjustable fifteen degrees for cant.  That’s not a LOT of adjustment but since many hard-bodied IWB holsters have NO adjustment, ANY adjustment is good.

For the past few days (as I type this) I tried out that IWB carried in the appendix position. Even with the hard body of it and the clip to hold it securely in place – and truth be told, the thing never moved – I still felt like I was just waiting for it to fall out of my pants when I sat down.  Then, after a sufficient amount of coffee and a few minutes of “free thinking,” I realized that nothing says I have to carry that IWB holster in the appendix position. What a novel thought, right?

So… as of today: the IWB holster in the four o’clock position will be my test platform. I fully recognize and want to take advantage of the IWB platform for better concealing my weapon, but I need to do something different to alleviate the problem of perceived lack of security in the appendix position. I’ll keep you up to date on how this goes…

About the Author

Lt. Frank Borelli (ret), Editorial Director | Editorial Director

Lt. Frank Borelli is the Editorial Director for the Officer Media Group. Frank brings 20+ years of writing and editing experience in addition to 40 years of law enforcement operations, administration and training experience to the team.

Frank has had numerous books published which are available on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other major retail outlets.

If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email at [email protected].

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