IWB vs OWB Holsters: Comparing Concealed Carry Options

IWB vs OWB Holsters Pros Cons

When picking between IWB and OWB holsters, it’s really quite simple.

Do you want your holster to sit inside your waistband, or outside your waistband?  

Here’s my 10-second breakdown of the entire topic: 

– IWB (Inside-The-Waistband) holsters are better for concealed carry. But they’re less comfortable, and your draw speed is slower. 

– OWB (Outside-The-Waistband) holsters are more comfortable and give you quicker draw speed. But they’re not that good for concealed carry, as you have to cover them up with a long-ish jacket to make it work.

Keep reading for a deeper breakdown, including the pros & cons. 

Ready? Let’s get started…

1. Advantages of IWB Holsters


The IWB holster is ideal for concealment since it allows you to tuck your gun away inside your waistband. By tucking your firearm inside your waistband, you can effectively hide it from view while still maintaining easy access when needed.


Because IWB holsters sit directly against your body, they’re usually less comfortable than OWB holsters. With that being said, there are IWB holster options (hybrid holsters) that feature soft materials or padding that help minimize any discomfort caused by carrying a gun all day long. Additionally, some models allow for adjustments, such as cant angle and ride height so you can find the perfect fit for maximum comfort.


  • Clothing Options: With an IWB holster, you have more flexibility in choosing what clothes to wear as it does not require additional cover garments like OWB options might need. You do need to avoid tight clothing, though, as that will result in your gun showing or “printing” through the clothing. 
  • Holster Positions: You can position your IWB holster anywhere along your waistline according to personal preference or situational requirements – appendix carry, strong side hip carry or cross-carry are all possible with most designs. Appendix carry is the most comfortable option for most people. See also the pros & cons of IWB vs AIWB carry


IWB holsters typically provide a higher level of retention compared to their OWB counterparts. The pressure exerted by your waistband and belt helps keep the firearm securely in place, reducing the risk of accidental dislodging or theft. Many IWB holsters also feature adjustable retention systems that allow you to customize how tightly your gun is held within the holster.

Legal Considerations

In some jurisdictions, concealed carry laws dictate that firearms must be completely hidden from view when carried in public spaces. It’s difficult to keep an OWB holster hidden from sight 100% of the time, so carrying an IWB holster is highly recommended with those legislations.

So, that’s the summary of the IWB holster benefits. There are also some drawbacks to consider as well, the next heading will discuss these disadvantages in more detail.

Key Takeaway: 


IWB holsters provide superior concealment, comfort, versatility and security compared to OWB holsters. They offer more clothing options, holster positions and grip accessibility while ensuring compliance with concealed carry laws in some jurisdictions. 

2. Disadvantages of IWB Holsters

Potential Discomfort and Limited Mobility

The most common complaint about IWB holsters is the potential discomfort caused by having a gun pressed against your body throughout the day. The potential for irritability and perspiration may be amplified if your skin is delicate or you tend to sweat profusely when wearing an IWB holster. Additionally, wearing an IWB holster might limit your range of motion when bending or sitting down due to its positioning on your waistline. 

Difficult Access Under Stress

In high-stress situations such as self-defense encounters, quick and easy access to your firearm is crucial. However, drawing from an IWB holster can be more challenging than from an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster, especially if you’re wearing multiple layers of clothing or need to reach across your body for cross-draw.

Tighter Clothing Requirements

  • Cover garment: To effectively conceal a weapon in an IWB holster, you’ll typically need a cover garment like a loose shirt or jacket that’s long enough not only to hide the grip but also prevent printing – when the outline of the gun becomes visible through fabric.
  • Larger pants size: Since the IWB holster sits inside your waistband, you may need to buy pants one or two sizes larger than usual to accommodate both the gun and the holster comfortably.

Reduced Firearm Options

IWB holsters are generally better suited for smaller firearms due to their concealed nature. If you prefer carrying a full-sized handgun or have multiple guns in your collection, an OWB holster might be more versatile and accommodating for various models and sizes.

In summary, while IWB holsters offer many advantages for concealed carry purposes, they also come with some drawbacks that could affect your comfort, accessibility under stress, wardrobe requirements, and versatility in terms of firearm choices. 

IWB holsters have some drawbacks, but overall they are a great choice for concealed carry. OWB holsters also offer their own advantages and should be considered when making the decision on which holster to use.

Key Takeaway: 


IWB holsters offer benefits for concealed carry, but they also have drawbacks such as discomfort and limited mobility, difficult access under stress, tighter clothing requirements, reduced firearm options, and possible wear on clothing and firearm finish. It’s important to consider these factors when deciding between an IWB or OWB holster.

3. Advantages of OWB Holsters

When considering the best holster for personal protection, it is important to consider the advantages of an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster. In this section, we’ll explore the benefits of using an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster.

Easier Access and Faster Draw Time

One significant advantage of OWB holsters is that they provide easier access to your firearm compared to IWB holsters. With an OWB setup, your gun sits on the outside of your pants or belt, making it quicker and more natural for you to draw in high-pressure situations. This ease-of-access can be crucial in self-defense scenarios where every second counts.

Better Comfort While Carrying

Many people find that carrying their firearms with an OWB holster is more comfortable than using an IWB option. Since the gun isn’t pressed against your body when carried outside-the-waistband, there’s less chance for irritation or discomfort during extended periods of wear.

Versatility in Firearm Choices

An additional benefit offered by OWB holsters is their versatility when it comes to accommodating various types and sizes of firearms. Whether you prefer a compact pistol like a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 9mm, or something larger like a full-sized Glock 17 Gen5, chances are there’s an appropriate OWB holster available for your chosen weapon.

Ease-of-use When Reholstering Your Firearm:

  • OWB holsters make it easier to reholster your firearm after use, thanks to their more open design and less constrictive fit. This can be especially beneficial for those who participate in competitive shooting events or train regularly at the range.

Durability and Longevity

OWB holsters are usually made from thicker plastic than IWB holsters (they don’t need to be as slim as possible, since they’re not going to be inside of your waistband). 

Customization Options

Finally, OWB holsters provide the added advantage of being highly customizable with a wide range of adjustable retention systems and personalized designs. There is more freedom here than with IWB holsters, since they’re limited by their thin and minimalist construction usually.

In summary, some key benefits offered by OWB holsters include faster draw times due to easier access; increased comfort during extended periods of wear; versatility when accommodating different firearms; ease-of-use when reholstering; durability, and extensive customization options available on today’s market.

Overall, OWB holsters offer a number of advantages for gun owners looking to carry their firearms. However, it is important to consider both IWB and OWB holsters when deciding which type of holster best suits your needs.

Key Takeaway: 


OWB holsters offer several advantages over IWB options, including easier access and faster draw times, increased comfort during extended wear, versatility in accommodating different firearms, ease-of-use when reholstering after use, durability provided by high-quality materials used in construction and extensive customization options available on the market.

4. Disadvantages of OWB Holsters

While outside-the-waistband (OWB) holsters offer several advantages, they also come with their fair share of drawbacks that may make them less suitable for certain situations and users. In this section, we will discuss some common disadvantages associated with OWB holsters.

Poor Concealment

The most significant disadvantage of using an OWB holster for concealed carry is its poor concealment compared to IWB options. Since the firearm is worn externally, it can be difficult to keep concealed without wearing bulky or loose garments. This issue becomes even more pronounced if you have a larger gun or live in an area with warmer weather where lighter clothing is necessary.

Incompatibility With Some Clothing Options

Another downside to OWB holsters is that they may not work well with all types of clothing. For example, wearing a suit jacket or blazer might hinder access to your firearm when carried in an OWB holster since the garment could cover the weapon entirely. Additionally, tighter-fitting shirts and pants can make drawing from an OWB holster difficult due to restricted movement around the grip.

Potential Legal Issues

In some jurisdictions, carrying a concealed weapon requires strict adherence to specific regulations regarding how visible your firearm should be while being carried (state laws vary significantly). Using an OWB holster increases the risk that you may inadvertently expose your gun during everyday activities like bending over or reaching up high – which could lead to legal trouble if your firearm becomes visible.

Less Comfortable for Some Users

While many users find OWB holsters more comfortable than IWB options, others may disagree. The comfort of an OWB holster can vary depending on the firearm’s size and weight, the material and design of the holster, as well as how it is worn. Additionally, some people might feel that their firearm is less secure in an OWB holster compared to one that sits inside their waistband.

Key Takeaway: 


OWB holsters offer advantages such as faster draw times and increased comfort, but they also have drawbacks like poor concealment capabilities, compatibility issues with certain clothing styles, potential legal concerns related to visibility requirements in some jurisdictions; limited customization options; and varying levels of comfort depending on individual preferences. It’s important to consider these pros and cons when deciding whether an OWB holster is suitable for concealed carry.

5. Comparing IWB and OWB Holsters

When deciding between an IWB (Inside-the-Waistband) and an OWB (Outside-the-Waistband) holster, it’s essential to consider the various factors that will affect your concealed carry experience. In order to make a more informed decision, let us examine the similarities and differences between IWB and OWB holsters.

A. Concealment

The primary advantage of IWB holsters is their superior concealment capabilities compared to OWB holsters. Positioning the firearm inside your waistband, only a tiny fragment of the grip is perceptible above the beltline, making it simpler to disguise beneath attire. On the other hand, OWB holsters position the entire gun outside your pants or skirt which may require longer shirts or jackets for effective concealment.

B. Comfort

Comfort is subjective, but many users find that OWB holsters provide better comfort than IWB options due to less direct contact with their body and fewer pressure points from tight belts or waistbands required for secure retention in IWB setups. However, some people prefer IWB designs because they keep firearms closer to their body centerline for improved balance during daily activities.

C. Draw Speed & Accessibility

In general terms, draw speed tends to be faster with OWB holsters, as there are fewer layers of clothing to navigate when accessing your firearm. However, this advantage can be mitigated by proper training and practice with an IWB holster. Additionally, OWB holsters may provide better accessibility for those with limited mobility or flexibility who might struggle to reach their firearm in an IWB setup.

D. Adaptability & Versatility

Both IWB and OWB holsters offer various attachment options, such as belt loops, clips, or paddles that allow users to customize the position and angle of their carry setup. Some models even feature interchangeable parts for switching between IWB and OWB configurations, providing maximum versatility for different situations or wardrobe choices.

E. Training Considerations

If you participate in firearms training courses or competitive shooting events where drawing from concealment is required, choosing a holster type consistent with your daily carry method is crucial for building muscle memory and honing skills applicable to real-world scenarios. In these cases, selecting either an IWB or OWB holster based on your preferred concealed carry style will help ensure consistency between practice sessions and actual use.

In summary, the choice between an IWB vs. OWB holster ultimately comes down to personal preference regarding factors like concealment capabilities, comfort levels during extended wear periods, draw speed requirements under stress conditions (e.g., self-defense), adaptability across multiple activities (e.g., work vs leisure), and compatibility with specific training goals (e.g., competition shooting).

In conclusion, IWB and OWB holsters both have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. Ultimately, being cognizant of the distinctions between IWB and OWB holsters can enable you to make a knowledgeable decision when picking out your holster. Moving on to the next heading, let’s explore some of the potential drawbacks associated with using OWB holsters.

Key Takeaway: 


Comparing IWB and OWB holsters, it’s important to consider factors such as concealment, comfort, draw speed and accessibility, adaptability and versatility. While IWB holsters offer superior concealment capabilities compared to OWB holsters, some users find that OWB options provide better comfort due to less direct contact with their body. Ultimately the choice between an IWB vs. OWB holster comes down to personal preference regarding various factors including compatibility with specific training goals.

FAQs in Relation to IWB vs OWB Holsters

Does FBI Issue IWB or OWB holsters?

The FBI issues the Safariland 7390 7TS ALS Mid-Ride Level I Retention Duty Holster for their agents. This OWB (Outside-the-Waistband) holster is designed to provide a secure and comfortable fit while allowing quick access to the firearm. The Safariland 7390 is compatible with Glock handguns, which are standard-issue firearms for most FBI agents.

Are OWB Holsters Good for Concealed Carry?

OWB holsters can be used effectively for concealed carry, but they may not be as discreet as IWB (Inside-the-Waistband) holsters. With proper clothing choices like loose shirts or jackets, an OWB holster can still offer adequate concealment. However, it’s essential to consider factors such as body type and personal comfort when choosing between OWB and IWB options.

What Are the Advantages of IWB Holsters?

IWB holsters offer several advantages including better concealment due to being worn inside the waistband, reduced printing on clothing, increased security by keeping your firearm close to your body, and easier access in certain situations such as sitting down. These benefits make them a popular choice among those who prioritize concealed carry.

What Is the Difference Between an IWB and OWB Holster?

The primary difference between IWB (Inside-the-Waistband) and OWB (Outside-the-Waistband) holsters lies in their placement on your body. An IWB holster is worn inside the waistband, providing better concealment, while an OWB holster is attached to your belt or pants outside the waistline, offering easier access and potentially more comfort during extended wear.


Choosing between IWB and OWB holsters is a personal preference that depends on various factors such as comfort, concealment, accessibility, and clothing. IWB holsters offer better concealment and security while OWB holsters provide faster access and more comfortable carry. Nevertheless, both holsters have their own pros and cons that should be taken into account before settling on a choice.

In conclusion, the choice between IWB holsters and OWB holsters comes down to your individual needs. Consider your lifestyle, body type, firearm size, wardrobe choices, level of training, or experience with firearms when choosing which one suits you best.

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