Difference Between OWB and IWB Leather Holsters

OWB/IWB holsters and other holster styles

Guide for new shooters to learn the difference between types of holsters

OWB – Outside The Waistband Holster– An OWB holster allows the wearer to carry the holstered firearm on the outside of their waistband. An OWB holster is most commonly referred to as “Open Carry”.  An open carry holster is preferred by shooters who wish to have an unobstructed draw, meaning they will not have to untuck or move/adjust their clothing to be able to grip the firearm and smoothly draw the firearm from the holster.

OWB Leather Holster

IWB – Inside The Waistband Holster – An IWB holster allows the wearer to carry the holstered firearm inside their waistband, is most commonly referred to as “Concealed Carry”. A concealed carry holster is preferred by shooters who want to hide the fact that they are carrying a firearm. Unlike open carry holsters, concealed carry holsters are often obstructed by clothing and require the wearer to remove/adjust/untuck their shirt before securely gripping the firearm and smoothly drawing the firearm from the holster.

IWB leather holster

Difference Between OWB and IWB Leather Holsters

-       Pancake – Made from two pieces of leather that are stacked like pancakes, one on top of another.

OWB leather holster

-       Avenger/scabbard – Made from 1 piece of leather that is folded back on itself.

IWB leather holster

-       Small of back (SOB) – A holster that is intended for the wearer to carry in the small of their back, between 5 and 7pm. Usually a SOB holster is designed so that the barrel runs parallel to the belt, which allows the grip to be positioned to allow the wearer to draw the firearm.

Small of back holster 

Unique features –

o   Belt Fed/Belt Slide Holsters – The wearer must unbuckle their belt to slide the holster on. Belt slide holsters are most popular for open carry and generally are more comfortable than IWB holsters.  They are often easier to draw from and to securely re-holster.

Belt slide holster

o   Clip – The wearer relies on one or more metal clips to carry the holster on their belt. While favored over belt slide holsters for it’s convenience, clip holsters sometimes are not as securely positioned. Metal clips can bend or snap or move, which becomes a problem when you find yourself in a high stress circumstance that requires all of your motor skills and focus to draw your firearm.  

Leather holster with clips

o   Belt snap – The wearer relies on snaps to attach the holster to the belt. Generally, a piece of leather is added to the holster that functions as a loop once the leather strap is snapped around the belt. Some snap holsters are designed to snap in either direction, giving the wearer the option of concealing the firearm inside the waistband or openly carrying the holster outside the waistband.

IWB holster with strap

o   Paddle Holster – The wearer relies on a body shaped paddle to carry the holster.

Paddle holster

o   Thumb break – The wearer relies on a metal reinforced snap that is fixed to a strap that covers the firearms slide/hammer. A thumb break creates an additional layer of security that does not drastically complicate drawing the firearm from the holster. The reinforced thumb break is designed to allow your thumb to break away the retention strap from the firearm, enabling the wearer to disengage the snap with a flick of their thumb.

holster with thumb break

o   Sweat shield/guard –A sweat shield is a piece of leather that prevents the firearm’s slide/hammer from touching your skin, and is common for OWB & IWB holsters. The sweat shield adds comfort and reduces the amount of sweat that is transferred from your skin to the firearm.

holster with sweat guard

o   Cross draw Holster – Is a holster that is poisoned on the shooters non-dominant hand. If you are right handed, a cross draw holster will sit on your left hip, enabling you to draw the firearm from across your body.

o   Ankle Holster – An ankle holster is a holster that is positioned on the wearers ankle.

o   Shoulder Holster – The wearer relies on a harness/strap to carry the holstered firearm under their arms. The harness/strap rests on the wearer’s shoulders, while the holster sits underneath their armpit area. Shoulder holsters are often made for a cross draw, allowing the wearer to draw the firearm from across their body.

o   Pocket Holster – The wearer utilizes a small leather holster that is concealed inside their pant pockets.


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