It’s an indisputable reality: Significantly more women are buying and shooting firearms today than just a few short years ago. And while many women are purchasing their first handguns, it’s not only about handguns.
According to a 2014 NSSF study, women spend approximately 50 percent of the cost of a single firearm again on accessories such as eye and ear protection, range bags and holsters. In fact, one-quarter of accessories purchased by women are reported to be holsters.
So, which holsters are women buying?
Companies large and small have responded to the increase in women buying guns by altering existing products and also creating new ones designed specifically for women. This approach has resulted in some good holsters—but it’s also spawned an invading force of unsafe and flat-out dangerous gear.
Just because something is made for women, it doesn’t mean it’s something you can or should use; and just because it’s called a “holster,” it doesn’t mean it’s a safe means of securing your firearm.
Numerous factors come into play when selecting a holster. But a few key details stand out.
One of the first features frequently sacrificed on the altar of fashion is also one of the most important: quality. Firearms are tools, but they’re tools designed for lethality. Logic dictates that the holster you select to carry your gun should be well made. It should be tough enough to withstand the rigors of daily life—which includes twisting, sitting, sweat, dirt and more—and extensive use. Stitches must be tight and made using heavy-duty materials; frame-molded curves and lines must be exact; and belt loops must be properly sized.
Far too many poorly made holsters have found their way onto the market. Stitching might be crooked or so weak that it pops at inopportune moments, and clips fall off or break entirely. Also, some holsters that are supposedly frame-molded designs are being made with only a vague resemblance to the frames of guns they’re sold to fit. At first glance, they might seem fine, but they’re often exposed as blatantly worthless with minimal use.
Clearly, quality should be at the top of your list for both your gun and your holster.
Retention, which refers to how securely the holster in question holds a gun, comes in multiple levels and two basic types: passive and active (passive methods include adjustable screws and friction, while active methods include thumb breaks). There are pros and cons to various levels of retention, because the greater the level of retention, the more time-consuming it becomes to draw your gun. This is one reason practice is vital. But practice will only get you through the steps just so fast, so choose wisely.
If you’re thinking that carrying concealed somehow negates the need for retention, you’re wrong. While your need might not be as strong as that of a law enforcement officer, you do need it. Unfortunately, many holsters being marketed to women offer little to no retention. One wrong move, and your gun falls to the ground; one wrong move, and the gun slips into an unsafe position. Your holster should hold your gun safely and securely while allowing for rapid presentation.
Proper function covers a variety of issues. For example, is re-holstering possible, or does drawing your gun result in a collapsed or otherwise useless holster? Can material bunch inside the trigger guard? Does the holster stay solidly in place? Does the angle or positioning mean you’re constantly sweeping yourself or a passerby with a loaded gun? Quality and retention might top the list, but they’re only the beginning.
Competitive shooter and range owner Annette Evans believes that “many alternative carry methods marketed to women make too many compromises against safety and accessibility in the name of fashion and perceived convenience. Carrying a gun doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or require a new wardrobe of baggy clothes. There are quality products that work for women—whether or not they’re marketed in pink or lace—that allow us to protect the trigger guard of our guns, securely hold them and get them out when we need them.”
WHEN YOUR LIFE IS THE POTENTIAL COST, THERE IS NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE, NO ROOM FOR HALF MEASURES AND NO ROOM FOR FASHION OVER FUNCTION.
When it comes down to it, serious shooters want the same things, regardless of gender. We want well-made, reliable holsters capable of performing safely. Most shooters have a box (or closet) of discarded holsters telling the story of their evolution as gun owners. And, of course, most have multiple holsters to fulfill needs such as concealed carry, open carry, hunting and different types of clothing.
However many holsters you own for whatever uses and whatever materials they’re made from, one thing remains clear: A holster is not the item to compromise on.
Your gun should go boom! when you pull the trigger and strike targets with accuracy and precision, and your holster should hold your gun firmly in place, secure and ready. When your life is the potential cost, there is no room for compromise, no room for half measures and no room for fashion over function.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.