If you are a bigger guy (or gal), you have probably come to the conclusion that not all holsters work well for all people. Perhaps you have purchased a holster intending to carry your sidearm with it, only to discover that it is simply not comfortable for you to wear. Or maybe you have read reviews online that steer you away from a specific type of holster because it is difficult to draw from with your body’s unique frame. You are not alone in this discovery – tens of thousands of people have this exact same difficulty. This guide is intended to help you select a holster that fits you properly, regardless of your body type.
Challenges with Selecting a Holster for Larger Guys
One of the biggest challenges for bigger guys is lateral movement with the dominant arm. If you have a larger chest, it may be difficult to reach across it to draw your pistol in a shoulder holster. This is especially true of shoulder holsters that position the pistol vertically against your body with the barrel facing downward, as they are typically directly under your non-dominant armpit. Many large-framed people find it challenging to grasp the handle and facilitate a draw without exaggerated movement. While shoulder holsters that are kept horizontally against the body with the barrel facing rearward are slightly less cumbersome, they present the same sort of challenges for people with large chests.
Consequently, it may be preferable to skip the shoulder holster entirely. However, if you really want a shoulder holster in spite of this challenge, an alternative might be to find a jacket with a concealed holster built in. These types of jackets tend to position the pistol vertically, but closer to your dominant side by several inches. This brings the pistol nearer to your dominant hand, and allows you to draw without overextending your arm across your chest.
If you have a larger midsection, you will run into challenges with several different types of holsters. With cross-draw holsters you will likely experience a similar issue as described above with the shoulder holster due to the cross-body movement required in order for you to draw the weapon. While it isn’t always a problem for people with a moderate gut, if you have a girthy midsection, you might find the pistol’s grip is a bit difficult to reach. You may also find that the pistol’s grip may dig slightly into your belly.
Appendix holsters may also be uncomfortable for people with larger midsections to carry, and for some of the same reasons as stated above. Appendix holsters position the pistol on your belt at roughly the one o’clock position, so there is no lateral arm movement required. This may work perfectly fine for you when you are standing or walking around, but as soon as you sit down, you may get an unpleasant surprise as the pistol’s grip and rear of the slide stab into your midsection.
Unfortunately, these holster types don’t have many comfortable alternatives. You may find a concealed carry jacket with a concealed holster that is lower toward your belt, positioning the weapon similarly to a cross-draw. However, these types of holsters still require lateral arm movement to facilitate a draw, so they may not work well for you. Ultimately, larger-framed persons may choose to steer clear of appendix and cross-draw holsters entirely.
Small of the back holsters present the same challenge as shoulder holsters for larger persons – specifically, lateral arm movement. The big difference with a small of the back holster is that your dominant arm must cross behind your body in order for you to draw the weapon. People who have a wider midsection may find rearward cross-body arm movement to be challenging. While you can certainly reposition a small of the back holster so that it is closer to your dominant side, you may still find drawing the weapon to be a difficult exercise.
Ankle holsters present a different challenge to bigger guys than all of these other holsters – bending down to draw. Ankle holsters are most often carried on the instep of the non-dominant foot. Drawing an ankle holster can be done in a number of different ways, but the most common is to drop to one knee (as though you are tying your shoe), pull up the pant leg with your support hand, and draw the pistol with your dominant hand. While having a little extra girth won’t prevent you from drawing an ankle holster, some particularly heavyset people may find the task to be hard on their knees.
So What Holsters Usually Work Best for Big Guys?
The one type of holster that is universally comfortable for all shapes and sizes of people is the strong-side hip holster. This type of holster is designed to be carried between the three o’clock and five o’clock positions, or just above the rear of the right hip. This type of holster is accessible without lateral movement of the dominant arm, and it is also the most defensible holster from a weapons retention standpoint. It allows the dominant hand to either draw the weapon, or maintain downward pressure on the pistol grip to keep the weapon holstered, while the non-dominant hand can be used to strike an assailant or block their attack.
Concealed carry models of strong-side hip holsters are typically designed for “inside the waistband” (IWB) carry – this conceals the majority of the weapon inside the pants, with just the grip and rear of the slide visible above the belt. IWB carry may not be the most comfortable option depending on your size – people with larger midsections might find the grip and rear of the slid dig into their side. If this is the case for you, an “outside the waistband” (OWB) holster would be a better option. While the weapon is entirely visible on your belt, wearing an untucked button-down shirt can typically hide your OWB holster quite easily. Check out our guide on selecting a concealed carry holster for more information on concealed carry.
How to Find What Holster will Work Best for YOU
Ultimately, the best way for you as a bigger guy to determine which holster will work best is to have a realistic understanding of your dominant arm’s range of motion. To test this, start by unloading your firearm completely. To facilitate a complete and thorough unload, do the following:
- Hold the revolver so that it is pointed in a safe direction.
- Keep your trigger finger indexed against the frame of the revolver, below the cylinder and above the trigger.
- Eject the cylinder from the firearm.
- Remove all bullets from the cylinder.
- Visually and physically inspect the cylinder to confirm that it is clear of all ammunition.
- Close the cylinder.
- Hold the pistol so that it is pointed in a safe direction.
- Keep your trigger finger indexed against the frame of the pistol, below the slide and above the trigger.
- Remove the magazine from the pistol grip.
- Rack the slide to eject any ammunition that might be in the chamber.
- Rack the slide three more times, because you can never be too careful when ensuring your weapon is completely unloaded. If more ammunition is ejected when you continue to rack the slide, then you clearly skipped a step and failed to remove the magazine.
- Lock the slide to the rear.
- Visually and physically inspect the chamber and magazine well to ensure that no magazine is present and no ammunition is chambered.
- Release the slide.
Now that your sidearm is completely unloaded, place the firearm against your body in each position that a holster would normally carry it.
- For a shoulder holster, place it under your non-dominant arm, a few inches below the armpit. Hold it in place by squeezing the pistol against your body with your non-dominant arm and elbow.
- For a cross-draw holster, place it against your belt at the eleven o’clock on your non-dominant side, with the grip facing your dominant side. Hold it in place with your support hand
- For an appendix holster, place it against your belt at the one o’clock position, with the grip facing your non-dominant side. As it may be difficult to hold in place with your non-dominant hand, you can also stick it into your waistband to hold it in place.
- For a small of the back holster, slide the firearm into your waistband at the base of your spine, with the grip facing your dominant side.
- For an ankle holster, drop to one knee, with your non-dominant foot in front of you. Hold the firearm in place against your non-dominant foot’s instep with your non-dominant hand.
- For a strong-side hip holster, slide the firearm into your waistband between the three o’clock and five o’clock positions.
For each of these holster types, once your empty firearm is in position, attempt to draw it, both while standing and sitting. For the ankle holster, simply try to kneel, draw the weapon, and stand back up again. If you find that you are unable to reach the weapon, or are struggling to complete the draw for a certain type of holster, then it would be best to avoid purchasing that type of holster. Once you have a thorough understanding of your body’s range of motion, selecting a holster becomes a simple matter of determining what you can carry comfortably and conceal well.
Have any tips or tricks that work well for you? We would love to hear them!