Paddle vs. Belt Holster – What’s the Difference & Why it Matters

| Last Updated: December 22, 2020

Both paddle and belt holsters are widely used means of carrying handguns. But like any other product, each of them has their pros and cons. Here, we’ll discuss in detail the function of these holsters, and the properties an ideal one must possess.

We will also learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as the best situations to use them. Finally, the article will also outline the general considerations of choosing a holster, regardless of the style.

What is a Paddle Holster?

Alien Gear Cloak Mod OWB Holster (Source)

A paddle holster features a wide concave-shaped piece of metal/plastic/leather which works as the backing of the holster and is used to mount the entire setup on the waistband. One part of paddle itself is pushed inside the waistband of the pants so the holster stays OWB (outside the waistband).

The paddle uses a spring based clip mechanism, along with friction, to stay in place. This prevents the holster from getting pulled up when the handgun is drawn.

Paddle holsters are mostly used by law enforcement officers or at the shooting range. That’s because paddle holsters keep the firearm away from the hip, which ensures a firm grip and the drawing movement is quick and hurdle-free. Paddle holsters are probably the fastest holsters to draw. Hence, they are widely used in law enforcement and shooting competitions.

What is a Belt Holster?

Blade-Tech Total Eclipse Ambidextrous Holster (Source)

As the name suggests, belt holsters are worn over the belt and feature single or multiple belt loops for the belt to pass through. Belt holsters are generally made from leather, although Kydex models are also available on the market. Belt holsters have a minimalist type of design and are pretty easy to carry, as well as conceal.

Belt holsters also offer better security and protection to the firearm as they stay attached to the belt and can only be detached by undoing it. A belt holster can be worn at multiple positions on the waistband and offers a quick draw. The design and function of belt holsters are fairly simple, plus most of them only have passive retention.  

Paddle Holsters vs. Belt Holsters: Which is Best? 

Alien Gear Paddle vs. Belt Holster (Source)

After learning about the design and features of both paddle and belt holsters, we will now move on to the comparison between these two. Each of these is widely used across the world, but like an M4 cannot be used in place of a Colt 1911, similarly, a paddle holster cannot be used in place of a belt holster and vice versa.

Both paddle and belt holsters are mostly used OWB, but a paddle holster has an edge over belt holsters. Paddle holsters are a bit inclined away from the body, which offers a good grip over the weapon, conclusively providing a quick draw. Apart from that, a paddle holster is easy to wear and quick to detach, which makes it exceptionally useful for defense field agents, and probably anyone who wants a quick transition.

On the other hand, belt holsters have limited functions, but are more secure compared to paddle ones. Belt holsters are exceptional for both CCW and EDC because they have a very low profile and come in handy when using a wide paddle holster is not feasible.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Paddle Holsters

Here, we will look into some of the advantages and disadvantages a paddle holster offers.


  • Quick Detachment: The most important and useful advantage a paddle holster offers is quick detachment. You can easily remove the holster from your waistband and set it aside. This comes in handy when you have to switch between holsters, sit at the office, or drive. 
  • Carry Position: Since paddle holsters are only tucked inside the waistband, you have the option to slide and wear it at your desired carry position. You don’t have to undo your belt or pants to change the position of the holster.
  • Modular Design: Most paddle holsters have a modular design, meaning that you can detach the paddle to replace the holster with a belt loop or clip.
  • Adjustable Design: Paddle holsters offer adjustment for cant and retention which makes them more versatile to use. Plus, the ride height of a paddle holster can also be adjusted according to your convenience and clothing.
  • Better Grip: The concave-shaped paddle inclines the holster a bit outwards and away from the body, which creates ample space to move your arm and grip the weapon firmly.
  • Doesn’t Require A Belt: Wearing a belt is not a compulsion for using a paddle holster. You can simply tuck it over your waistband and you’re good to go.


  • Lack of Security: Since a paddle holster relies only upon friction, it can be pulled out without much effort, which is obviously a disadvantage in close quarter fights where the very first thing your opponent will likely do is to snatch your weapon.
  • Large Size: Paddle Holsters generally have a large size, which makes them uncomfortable while sitting or driving (however the advantage #1 above counters it to some extent). Plus, the larger size also makes it difficult to conceal sometimes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Belt Holsters

Now, lets look into the advantages and disadvantages of a belt holster. 


  • Secure: Belt holsters are extremely secure compared to paddle holsters. Since they have to be slid over the belt, they retain their position and stay firm. The position of the holster can be adjusted with ease and it can be worn at any position around your waist (except for 12 O’Clock).
  • Low-Profile: Belt holsters generally have a minimalist design and a low profile since they sit very close to your waist. The low-profile of these holsters also makes them very easy to conceal and good for everyday carry.
  • Good For Strenuous Activity: Belt holsters are exceptional if you plan to carry out some strenuous activity like hiking, hunting, or running. These holsters also prevent your firearm from snagging onto things.
  • Protects the Weapon: This advantage works only with leather-made belt holsters. They have a protective inner suede lining which protects the weapon from any scratches or damage. Additionally, leather holsters are more durable, long lasting, and can be personalized for appearance.


  • Difficult to Detach: Since belt holsters have to be worn by sliding the belt into the loops, you always have to undo your pants to detach the belt holster. The secure mounting mechanism of the belt holster is itself a disadvantage sometimes. You cannot change a belt holster quickly when needed.
  • Fixed Carry Position: Unlike a paddle holster, you cannot just slide and change the position of the belt holster. This may become a problem if you have to switch between carrying positions.
  • A Belt is Necessary: A belt holster limits your wardrobe to some extent as it essentially requires you to wear a belt.

Other Considerations Regardless of Holster Style

Since you now know about the features and effectiveness of both belt and paddle holsters. There are several other, and more general, considerations for wearing a holster regardless of its style.

  • Proper Gun Belt: Although paddle holsters don’t necessarily require a belt, you should always wear one. A belt not only prevents your pants from sagging, it also acts as a stable platform to mount the holster. The raised contour of the belt will act as a notch to prevent the paddle from getting pulled out. Similarly, for a belt holster, a proper gun belt ensures effectiveness and reliability.
  • Retention: A holster should offer proper retention for the firearm to prevent any accidents. A holster having an adjustable retention mechanism is always a good choice. Plus, any active retention mechanisms like adjustable straps, SERPA, or posi-click locks are also beneficial for the user.
  • Cant: A good holster must have an adjustable cant so you can adjust the draw angle according to your requirements. Several belt holsters don’t offer cant adjustments, which is certainly a drawback. You must always go for a holster which offers adjustable cant.
  • Intended Use: Before choosing a holster, you must understand the situation you are going into. Some situations require you to detach it while some don’t. Additionally, concealment is also a factor when wearing a holster. You must choose a relevant outfit if you intend to carry your holster concealed.
  • Carry Position: Before you use a holster for EDC or CCW, you must ensure which carry position works best for you. Regular practice with your holster will help you discover the most comfortable carry position, and you must abide by it.


Paddle holsters are easy to wear, as well as dismount, when not in use. These holsters offer a great deal of comfort, versatility, and also a quick draw. Paddle holsters are mostly used by law enforcement officers and at the range.

Belt holsters, on the other hand, are somewhat difficult to wear and dismount but are more secure than the paddle holster. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Eventually, your intended use, situation, comfort, and personal discretion are the most important factors to assist you in your decision.  

Ankit Kumar is an engineer turned writer who specializes in topics related to firearms, gun safety and weapon tech. His passion towards enrolling in the Army drifted his interest towards light and heavy firearms. He’s a qualified competitive air rifle shooter and an avid nature lover. His other areas of expertise include survival, prepping and firearms/ammo storage. When he’s not writing, he’s either learning a new skill, trekking or enjoying a long drive.

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