Can someone forcibly take your gun? Learn how defensible each holster is now!

defensible holster

How Defensible is Your Holster?

If you carry a pistol, either for work or personal protection, one of your top priorities should always be maintaining physical control over your firearm. After all, if you are not in control of your firearm, someone less responsible (or law-abiding) could be.

In part, this involves ensuring that your holster fits both you and the weapon properly, because an ill-fitting holster can allow your weapon to fall out during common physical activities such as bending over, running, or jumping. It also requires you to secure your firearms in an area that you control access to when they are not in use, such as a safe.

Weapons Retention

However, when carrying a firearm, the concept of weapons retention comes into play. Weapons retention is the practice of maintaining control of your weapon during a physical confrontation. This can include attempts by one or more hostile persons to grab your firearm from its holster without provocation, take your gun in the middle of a struggle, or grab your weapon after you have drawn it.

Weapons retention is a critical skill to have, and it must be practiced to ensure that you can respond appropriately when the occasion arises. Failure to practice good weapons retention can result in your assailant gaining control of your weapon, which will not end well for you or your loved ones.

Proper weapons retention starts with situational awareness – knowing what is going on around you. There is nothing worse than being blindsided by a potential threat because you have little time to process what is happening, let alone react appropriately. Being aware of your surroundings gives you a major advantage when carrying a firearm because it enables you to identify and avoid most potential threats, and react appropriately to those you cannot avoid.

Carrying your firearm concealed also provides you with a great advantage over potential threats because they will not know that you are armed. Open carry, while great for hiking and outdoor activity, is not ideal in an urban environment. When your firearm is on display in a holster, it identifies you as a target to hostile persons, and can leave you open to unprovoked gun grabs when you are distracted or not paying attention to your surroundings.

Guns should be heard and not seen – in other words, the only time anyone should know that you are carrying a weapon is when you draw it to engage an active threat. Carrying concealed significantly reduces the potential for unprovoked gun grabs, and gives you a much-needed element of surprise if you have to defend yourself.

So, you are wearing a properly-fitted holster and practicing good situational awareness if you get into an altercation, weapons retention training will help you maintain control of your firearm if someone tries to take it from you. Holsters with built-in weapon retention safeties can significantly increase your ability to maintain control of your firearm during a struggle.

How defensible your holster is will depend on the direction from which the assailant is attacking you. For example, if your assailant is in front of you, carrying an appendix, cross-draw, or shoulder holster will place that weapon within grabbing distance of that threat. Conversely, if your attacker is coming at you from behind, they will be within range of your gun if it is in a hip or small-of-back holster.

In this article, we will look at how defensible each type of holster is from the standpoint of directional attacks – from the front, rear, and sides – while also considering your ability to defend yourself during the struggle.

Shoulder Holsters

A shoulder holster is carried under your support arm, with the grip facing forward. The biggest benefit of a shoulder holster is that it is one of the only holsters that place your weapon above the waistline. It hides very well under a jacket, with minimal printing.

The best use case for a holster is for people who drive frequently, either for business or pleasure. Shoulder holsters help avoid the tangle of the seat-belt if you need to defend yourself from a hostile situation while in your vehicle, such as a carjacking.

While easy to conceal, this type of holster does have a few distinct disadvantages from a weapons retention perspective. The first is that you must reach across your body in order to draw your weapon. When doing so, an assailant in front of you could grab your arm and pin it against your chest – this would both prevent you from drawing your weapon, and immobilize one of your arms, making it harder for you to defend yourself.

The second disadvantage is that when being attacked from the front, the grip of your weapon is facing away from you, towards your assailant. This position makes it easier for your attacker to get their hands on your gun’s grip and draw it from the holster. From the sides and rear, the holster is not easily accessed by an assailant, but having to reach across your body in order to draw also limits that arm’s ability to block attacks.

Defensive Rating:

  • Front: 2/5
  • Sides: 3/5
  • Rear: 4/5

Ideal Usage: When driving or sitting for extended periods of time.

Hip Holster

A hip holster is typically attached to the user’s belt, and worn on their dominant side. For right-handed shooters, this is between the 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock positions, often above and just in front of the right buttock; left-handed shooters should wear it between the 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, or the exact opposite.

Hip holster
Holsters worn on the hip are considered the most defensible in an attack

While no holster is completely defensible, the hip holster provides you with the most control over your firearm when defending yourself from frontal and side assaults, while remaining relatively defensible from the rear. It is also comfortable for all-around carry, including both standing and sitting for long periods of time.

Hip holsters are considered the most defensible from a front or side attack because you can apply downward pressure on your holster with your primary hand to prevent someone from grabbing it, while defending yourself with your other hand. This is also true for appendix holsters, but not to the same degree.

Hip holsters are most vulnerable from a rear or dominant side attack, but are still in a position where your dominant hand will have leverage enough to keep it in the holster if someone grabs at it from those directions. If you find yourself in this position, you can clamp down on the firearm as described above, and then rotate 90 degrees so that the firearm is facing away from your attacker, making it harder for them to draw it.

Defensive Rating:

  • Front: 5/5
  • Sides: 5/5
  • Rear: 4/5

Ideal Usage: Everyday carry.

Appendix Holster

The Appendix holster places the pistol in front of your body on your belt between the 12 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions for right-handed shooters (or 10 o’clock and 12 o’clock for lefties). This type of holster is a bit more defensible than a shoulder holster because your arm does not have to reach across your body in order to draw. However, users of this holster are at risk of their gun hand getting grabbed mid-draw by an assailant, preventing them from clearing the holster and removing the ability of the dominant hand to be used in self-defense.

As with the hip holster, a 90-degree twist will keep your weapon facing away from the assailant if they are attacking from the front or your dominant side. From rear attacks, the appendix holster is very defensible because it is inaccessible to your assailant. Appendix holsters are best suited for people who spend a lot of time on their feet. For people who sit regularly and for long periods of time, the appendix holster is not recommended because it is not as comfortable when bending at the waist.

Defensive Rating:

  • Front: 4/5
  • Sides: 4/5
  • Rear: 5/5

Ideal Usage: When you will be on your feet for a prolonged period of time, with few opportunities to sit.

Cross-Draw Holster

The Cross-Draw holster is carried on the shooter’s belt, on their non-dominant side, with the butt of the pistol facing forward. This style of holster is often seen in western movies. The main benefit of a cross-draw holster is ease of draw with your dominant hand from a seated position, or with your support hand if your dominant hand is immobilized. Many people

crossdraw holster
Crossdraw holsters are popularized in western style holsters.

who have had shoulder surgeries and cannot reach back to draw from a hip holster opt to use a cross-draw holster instead because it is easier to draw from. However, the cross-draw shares some of the same disadvantages as the shoulder holster.

As with the shoulder holster, you must reach your dominant hand across your body in order to grip the weapon, leaving your dominant hand vulnerable to being pinned to your body by an assailant attacking from the front. Also, like a shoulder holster, the butt of the firearm is facing an assailant attacking from the front, making it easier for them to grab.

Cross-draw holsters are reasonably more defensible from the rear and side than from frontal assaults, but with your dominant hand reaching across your body, you do leave yourself open to attack on your dominant side.

Defensive Rating:

  • Front: 2/5
  • Sides: 3/5
  • Rear: 4/5

Ideal Usage: When driving or sitting for extended periods of time.

Small-of-the-Back Holster

With a small-of-the-back holster, the pistol is seated in the middle of your lower back, and is heavily canted in the direction of your dominant side with the butt of the pistol facing upwards. This style of holster has many benefits, including ease of concealment with minimal printing. Small-of-the-back holsters work well for everyday carry, and are certainly very defensible from the front and sides. However, as with any holster, they do have some drawbacks.

Since it is like a hip holster, but fixed at the 6 o’clock position, your dominant hand will need to extend behind your back in order to draw the weapon. Consequently, when drawing in a confined space, your attacker could force your back to a wall, making it difficult for you to draw, or pinning your arm behind your back entirely. If you are pushed or fall down and land on your back, the impact of landing on the gun could cause spinal trauma. In an attack from the rear, your dominant hand will have difficulty maintaining control over the weapon and keeping it in its holster.

Finally, because of the weapon’s position, the user may experience some discomfort when sitting or driving for extended periods of time.

Defensive Rating:

  • Front: 4/5
  • Sides: 4/5
  • Rear: 3/5

Ideal Usage: Everyday carry that doesn’t involve confined spaces or sitting for extended periods of time.

Ankle Holster

The ankle holster typically sits on the inside of the non-dominant ankle, or the outside of the dominant ankle. Most people prefer the inside of the non-dominant ankle because it is easy to draw when down on one knee, such as when tying a shoelace, and printing is much less visible from this position. However, the ankle holster is unusual because it is not easily accessible to anyone, including the user.

Most assailants will not realize you are carrying a gun in an ankle holster, leaving surprise on your side. However, dropping to one knee in order to draw an ankle gun while struggling with a determined attacker is difficult to do under the best of circumstances, and leaves major parts of your body (such as your head) virtually defenseless.

Conversely, bringing the non-dominant knee up so that you can draw without crouching leaves you standing on one leg and unable to balance. In other words, the ankle gun is great when you have warning that a threat is imminent – for example, you hear gunshots, scan the area, and see someone brandishing a firearm – but for close-quarters defensive situations like a mugging, you may not be able to draw it before the fight is over.

Defensive Rating:

  • Front: 4/5
  • Sides: 4/5
  • Rear: 4/5

Ideal Usage: Everyday carry for threats with some advanced warning (i.e. audible gunshots in your area)

In summary

The hip holster holds the strongest advantage against a frontal assault, followed closely by the appendix holster. Shoulder and cross-draw holsters are both weak against an attack from the front, but reasonably defensible from the rear, and easily accessible from a seated position. Small-of-the-back holsters are defensible from the front and sides, but very weak from the rear, and in a position that can cause serious bodily harm if you fall and land on it. Ankle holsters are fairly concealable and easily defensible, but difficult to access for anyone, including the user.

People who spend a lot of time sitting down or driving should consider shoulder or cross-draw holsters, whereas people who spend a lot of time on their feet may prefer appendix or hip holsters. The hip holster is comfortable for all-around carry while being reasonably defensible from all sides.

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