Retention and Concealed Carry

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.31.55 PMWith the enormous increase in individuals practicing concealed carry today, a direct result of high crime rates during the 70’s and 80’s leading many states to pass pro-concealed carry laws,  there is no shortage of holster options to choose from.  If a gun can be hidden anywhere on the body, there is a holster made to accommodate it.  (I give you the bra holster for the ladies.)

One of the most popular forms of concealed carry has become the inside the waistband, also known as IWB.  Essentially, an IWB holster is secured to a person’s belt and sits between the person’s body and their pants, instead of outside.  Because of this, a traditional retention device is not needed.

Many people take their cues from law enforcement or the military when it comes to deciding which equipment they will use.  This is not necessarily a bad idea, but in the case of concealed carry, it may not be relevant, as most military and law enforcement personnel don’t employ concealed carry techniques or equipment.  (This is to say that while on duty, traditional holsters are employed on the outside of their uniforms.)

Most police departments encourage their officers to carry off duty because cops are never really off duty.  Because of this, and because most duty weapons are too big to conceal comfortably, most departments require their officers to qualify with an “off duty” weapon and require them to carry off duty department approved equipment.  And because most departments have not yet caught up with the current concealed carry standards, they require the same type of retention with an officer’s off duty holster as they do with his on duty gear.  Apples and oranges.

I’m writing this article for the benefit of those of you who do take your cue from the standards set by most law enforcement departments.  In doing so, you look for the same kind of retention in a concealed carry holster that most departments demand that their officers employ.  Because you do, you are missing out on the benefit of some very good gear because it does not comport with that of your local PD.  (I’m also writing this for the benefit of department managers who aren’t up to speed yet on the latest trends in concealed carry gear.)

A retention system on an open carry holster, like those utilized by the police, is absolutely critical because the gun is literally out there in the open and at risk of being taken by a bad guy, or of falling out of the holster.  When it comes to a holster worn inside the waistband, this isn’t an issue.  If the bad guy doesn’t know it’s there because he cannot see it, he can’t take it.

Most good quality IWB holsters are made specifically for an individual firearms dimensions, and because they are, the gun is held in place via friction.  If you were to hold the holster upside down with the gun in it, it should not fall out if it has the right fit and is made correctly.  Not technically a retention device, but it does serve to keep the gun secure from bouncing out of the holster.

Next, because it is worn between the body and the pants and belt, the firearm and holster are secure, again due to friction.  Essentially the firearm is secured without the need for a retention device.  And because the device isn’t necessary when carried IWB, it will only serve to slow down the deployment of the weapon in an emergency situation.

The other factor that adds to an IWB holsters ability to keep the firearm secure is that clothing will be worn over top of the rig.  This clothing will serve to act as a barrier between the bad guys hands, and your firearm.  It also acts as a barrier between your hands and the firearm, but it’s a fair trade in my opinion to ensure that the weapon is secure.

I carry every day almost exclusively IWB and have never had any issues with the gun falling out or almost falling out because the holsters I use are of sufficient quality to retain the weapon in place.  While many tactics employed by law enforcement can be used by the general public, the mandate of a retention device on a concealed carry holster isn’t one of them.  Eventually management will come around, but for now they are unfortunately living two decades in the past.  But isn’t that typical for government at all levels?

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

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