Open carry holsters are generally seen on police officers, defense personnel, or shooters at a shooting range. Some people like to use them when they go hunting. Most firearm owners prefer to carry concealed to prevent themselves from offending anyone or creating panic. But there still is a large community of firearm owners who support and use open carry holsters.
Here we’ll be talking specifically about open carry. We will compare it to concealed carry and outline the pros and cons. We will also learn about the factors to consider when buying an open carry holster. Furthermore, we have handpicked and reviewed the best open carry holsters on the U.S market, to help you with your purchase.
So brace yourselves, and keep reading !
Note: Please check your local open carry laws and the laws of any state you might travel to while carrying, before purchasing an open carry holster. Some states allow open carry, while others have strict laws about it.
Best Open Carry Holsters Comparison Chart
UTG Deluxe Commando Belt Holster
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DTOM Premium Leather Universal IWB or OWB
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BLACKHAWK! SERPA Level 3 Auto Lock Duty Holster
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Comp-Tac International Holster
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BLACKHAWK!! SERPA Level 3 Tactical Holster
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CYA Supply Co. IWB Left Handed Holster
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Deluxe Universal Horizontal Shoulder Holster
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Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry - Which is Best?
The community that supports and uses firearms, along with the general public, and the government often express strong opinions on this topic. A large part of the community supports concealed carry, whereas others favor open carry. However, open carry holsters are still an extremely important part of shooting competitions and law enforcement.
Both carry options have their pros and cons. Back in the day, when gun laws were less stringent, whether to carry open or concealed was more of a personal choice, rather than a topic of debate.
But with growing security threats, and the current socio-political scenario, the topic has become extremely debatable.
To compare the two, we will analyze their pros and cons based upon certain basic and important factors:
A holster’s ability to facilitate a quick draw, can mean the difference between life and death in certain scenarios. It is a known fact that open carry holsters have quicker draw times compared to concealed carry holsters.
This difference can be a fraction of time in the case of AIWB (Appendix Inside Waistband) holsters, but there is still a difference.
Open carry holsters are also a necessity for shooting competitions, where draw times really matter.
Certain situations require you to conceal your firearm. Concealment also offers an element of surprise to shock your attacker in a self-defense situation.
Open carry holsters offer limited concealment as they require you to put on a jacket or coat to be concealed.
Thus, open carry is not always an option when it comes to concealment, though a quick draw is still obtainable from under a jacket.
It is said that open carry holsters have an upper hand in the comfort area. This is subjective due to the variety of holsters and body types.
Concealed carry holsters can be uncomfortable while sitting, driving, playing or running. Guns with larger barrels may dig into your pelvis.
Open carry holsters, on the other hand stay put with a modicum of space between your body and the holster.
However, when using an open carry holster, you may have problems reaching into your pockets or carrying a large backpack or purse over your shoulder.
Open carry holsters keep the firearm open and at a small distance from your body. This puts them in a position to be stolen, or in worst cases, it can be pulled out by someone intending to turn the weapon on you.
Open carry holsters with good locking mechanisms can still be a good choice. Concealed carry holsters eliminate this problem almost completely.
Open carry holsters offer modular features like interchangeable padding, holsters, and other adjustments options to enhance your experience and usage.
Concealed carry holsters, however offer limited space for customization due to the tightness of their carry position.
Considerations When Buying an Open Carry Holster
There are a few aspects to consider before buying an open carry holster. Some of these aspects are applicable to every type of holster you buy, whereas some pertain solely to open carry holsters.
First and foremost look for some sort of retention mechanism in any open carry holster.
Many open carry holsters rely on tension, size, and the elasticity of the material to provide retention.
A quality active or passive retention system is a must for open carry holsters. It prevents your weapon from falling out or getting stolen.
Look for retention mechanisms like thumb straps, locks, snap buttons or screws.
Consider what carry position suits you best and choose an appropriate holster for that purpose. Open carry holsters are not limited to OWB types.
Some people like to carry different kinds of holsters on different occasions. So you must carefully assess the type of holster you desire before buying one.
Covered Trigger Guard
Under no circumstances should you choose and use an open carry holster which does not fully cover the trigger guard.
Covering the trigger guard is necessary to prevent accidental discharge of the firearm. This is essential for your safety, as well as the safety of others.
A good open carry holster must be adjustable. Adjustable features include the retention, cant (carry angle), and mounting platform. Greater room for adjustments ensures better versatility and efficacy of the holster.
Once properly adjusted it will be comfortable in nearly any circumstance. An ambidextrous open carry holster can also be a good choice, however not necessary.
Review of the Best Open Carry Holsters
Now we're going to switch gears and take a look at some of our favorite open carry holsters. But don't worry, we'll explain why we think each model is unique and outline some pros and cons for each. Let's see what holsters made our list.
1. Best Open Carry Holster: UTG Deluxe Commando Belt Holster
The Commando Belt Holster from UTG deluxe is a very simple, inexpensive and comfortable holster for open carry. The holster features a polyester body which is smooth on your firearm and protects you from cuts or bruises.
The retention is secured by a premium quality quick-release buckle snap attached to an adjustable strap. It also features an adjustable hook-and-loop lock belt strap to use with a variety of gun belts.
Additionally, the holster has a pouch on its top which can be used to carry an extra magazine (or two in some cases).
The holster fits most medium sized handguns, particularly 9mm frames. The holster covers the trigger very well, thus also preventing accidental discharge.
The UTG Commando Belt Holster is the best holster on this list. It is lightweight, low-priced, offers great quality and a secure retention.
This holster is ideal for carrying mid-sized handguns which are useful for nearly every purpose. Its design also offers limited levels of concealment.
Adjustable belt loop will firmly attach to your belts. Good for everyday carry and adventures.
2. Best Open Carry Holster Runner-up: DTOM Premium Leather Universal IWB or OWB
The DTOM holster features a minimalist design, and can accommodate handguns of any size with ease. It features a premium leather body which will last and also easily conforms to the shape of your body.
The holster features a metal clip, as well as belt slits, meaning it can be worn both IWB and OWB. Additionally, the clip is removable, and the holster is adjustable to slide onto your belt.
The leather body is covered by a synthetic nylon lining which will wear out with time. The holster is ambidextrous and covers the trigger guard well. Its design offers an FBI cant.
The only drawback is the exposed barrel slide, which is susceptible to wear. This gun does not have a locking mechanism for retention.
The DTOM holster has been designed from premium leather which provides comfort and will last.
It has a minimalist, lightweight design, and is also ambidextrous. It can be used both IWB and OWB, which is a plus.
The only, and most disappointing, drawback is the lack of a retention lock which is a must for open carry holsters. The slide is also always visible, which exposes it to wear. Overall, this is a good holster for range use.
3. Best Open Carry Holster Second Runner-up: Alien Gear Cloak Mod OWB paddle holster
The Alien Gear Cloak Mod is a thermoplastic-based OWB holster featuring a modular design.
It can be used as a paddle holster or attached to your belt, whichever suits you best. The holster fits nice and close to the body. It has a robust retention mechanism which can be adjusted.
The cant can also be adjusted and has an open mouth for easy draw and reholstering. Furthermore, the company offers a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty for this product, regardless of damage type.
This holster from Alien Gear is more of a tactical accessory. It has proper adjustment for retention and cant, and the modular mounting base makes it even more desirable. The holster is tough and sits close to the body. This is a good choice for range use, hunting, and everyday carry.
4. Best Retention Holster for Open Carry: BLACKHAWK! SERPA Level 3 Auto Lock Duty Holster
This Level 3 retention holster from Blackhawk is an exceptional choice for law enforcement officers and people in adventure sports. The holster has a full Kydex body and covers the entire slide length of your weapon.
The holster comes with a belt loop and a paddle platform which makes it perfect for open carry.
The holster also features a sleek cut-down body also suited to concealed carry. The level 3 retention is the result of the additional thumb lever making open carry even more secure.
However, it requires a bit of extra practice to use this holster with efficacy.
The Blackhawk open carry holster has a modular design and offers level 3 retention for a secure carry. The holster protects the firearm perfectly and the material can withstand any inflicted damage. Perfect for law enforcement officers, hunting trips, and range use.
5. Best Kydex Open Carry Holster: Comp-Tac International Holster
The Comp-Tac international holster is a versatile open carry holster perfect for shooting competitions, as well as everyday carry.
The holster features a modular mounting system which combines a belt holster, belt drop offset holster, paddle holster, and paddle drop offset holster into one.
The Kydex based holster also offers an adjustable retention and cant mechanism to offer different mounting positions. Each of the mounts can be adjusted according to your personal requirements.
The ride height of the the holster is adjustable when mounted with attachments, so it can be customized to fit every person.
The Comp-Tac International is USPSA legal for both genders in all configurations. However, some restrictions apply of IDPA.
The Comp-Tac international holster has versatile features to suit the needs of every individual user. The holster is fully adjustable and is perfect for use in competitions like 3-guns. The price range is apt but might be of concern some people.
6. Best Open Carry Thigh Holster: BLACKHAWK!! SERPA Level 3 Tactical Holster
Shifting from waistbands, let’s focus on other types of open carry holsters. This open carry thigh rig is comprised of a Kydex holster and a polymer base, which attaches to four straps with lock buckles.
Two straps wrap around your thighs, whereas the other two attach to your belt. The holster has an adjustable level 3 retention, with an audible click locking system.
Thigh holsters are generally used by defense personnel in the field. However, you can also use it at the range, or when hunting.
The holster fits most 9mm frames perfectly. You can refer to the chart to find your ideal fit.
Thigh holsters are not very popular among common citizens and firearm enthusiasts, and are generally used only by defense personnel.
This thigh holster offers an adjustable fit and a reliable retention. Works out to be a good carry option while you’re out in the woods camping, hiking, or hunting. However, it might catch on things as you move, so be careful.
7. Best Everyday Open Carry Holster: CYA Supply Co. IWB Left Handed Holster
You’re probably thinking, what’s an IWB holster doing on this list? An IWB holster can also be used for open carry. Especially when worn over a tucked-in shirt or T-shirt.
This IWB holster from CYA Supply Co. is intended for left handed shooters only. The holster is made from Bolatron (similar to Kydex) and features an adjustable retention and cant mechanism.
It has a full length sweat guard to protect your clothes and skin. The holster uses a metal clip to attach to your waistband or belt, and can also be concealed when necessary.
This IWB holster from CYA offers an easy switch between concealed and open carry. These kind of holsters are good when moving around in very crowded places, or while working at the office.
8. Best Open Carry Shoulder Holster: Deluxe Universal Horizontal Shoulder Holster
Finally comes the much loved and classy horizontal shoulder holster. This shoulder holster from UTG is probably the most unique and the best on the market.
Firstly, it has a modular holster that is interchangeable on either side using buckle locks. Thus making this holster universal for lefties and righties. All the straps in this shoulder holster are adjustable for length too.
The retention is guarded by a Velcro-reinforced snap lock to keep the weapon secure. The cant of the holster can also be adjusted by changing the position of buckle locks.
The holster has a couple of mag pouches on one side with inverted heads, so your magazine drops itself without you having to pull it out.
The mag pouch can also be replaced with a second holster for double carry. The holster has shoulder pads, making it even more comfortable to use.
This shoulder holster is extremely comfortable in normal to cold weather due to its padded design. The holster can switch sides and has an adjustable cant.
Extra mag pouches and the capability to add a second holster is also unique. The extremely low price makes it an exceptional deal.
Open carry holsters are a good choice for law enforcement officers, defense personnel and competitive shooters, due to their quick draw times.
Some models of open carry holsters can be partially concealed, while some cannot. A good open carry holster must be comfortable, have a good lock/retention mechanism, and should not interfere with daily tasks.