If you have been into firearms or have been carrying a firearm for any length of time you probably have a drawer full of old holsters. It happens to all of us. So what is the best way to avoid throwing money away on extra holsters that you wont use again? Make a good selection the first time!
First, think carefully about how you want to carry. Think abut your lifestyle and what type of concealment would be the most usefull across the board. For most people the strong side under the arm seems to work the best. It provides good accessability, even while seated and the natural drape of the shirt or jacket will help conceal the weapon. Small of the back or shoulder holsters are generally special application holsters that work in limited situations. The main drawback to the small of the back is not only does it make the gun extremely hard to reach while seated but if you get into a struggle and go to the ground and land on it you are going to be a hurting unit.
Ankle holsters are great ways to conceal for very small guns. Having the extra weight on your foot makes some differences but with time you get used to the weight and wear. If you do choose the ankle route, make sure you get one for your opposite ankle. You reach down and across to draw.
As for types of holsters, there are several materials and styles. For the sake of simplicity lets say you have picked a strong side belt holster. You can find a dozen different ways to carry your weapon there, belt slide, inside the pants, paddle and they can be made out of anything from leather, nylon or plastic. Now there are advantages and disadvantages to each of them.
Belt slides are the most common and popular since they allow you to move the holster to the front and rear, and distribute the weight evenly around the side. Inside the pants are really good for concealment but they require your pants to be a size larger to accomodate the width of the weapon. If they aren’t a size too big it squeezes you and becomes uncomfortable very quickly. Paddles are quick to get on and off but they do stick out a bit farther and put all the weight on one point.
Now leather has been the standard for many years but the kydex is coming on strong and taking a significant portion of the market share. Leather stretches but can be brought back into shape by getting it damp and throwing it in the dryer. A bad dye job can also cause corrosion on the finish and leave dye on the finish of the gun. So buy a GOOD leather holster and not a cheap one from a gunshow. Nylon does not stretch when done properly and does not wear the finish of your firearm but for some reason does not seem to be very popular. Kydex is tough, does not stretch but it does wear on the surface of your gun where the holster come in contact with the firearm. New kydex holsters also allow for a wide variety of mounting options.
As for belts, a good pistol belt is worth its weight in gold. The best way to see if a belt has the rigidity to hold your holster well is to try and fold it in half lengthwise. If the belt can be folded in half so that the top and bottom edges touch it is probably not going to be stiff enough to not sag or stretch. So get a stiff one!
I hope this short primer gets you thinking before you spend a bunch of money on several holsters. Keep in mind good gear is expensive with most belt and holster sets running between $125-175. It seems like a lot but you will be glad you spent the money. Buy once, cry once.