What is a Gun Holster?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A gun holster is an accessory which is designed to allow someone to wear a gun on his or her body. Firearms holsters have a range of applications, including tactical, military, and law enforcement uses, and there are a number of different styles and designs. Many companies sell gun holsters, including sports goods companies, law enforcement suppliers, and military contractors.

Gun holsters hold pistols and other types of firearms.
Gun holsters hold pistols and other types of firearms.

The key purpose of a holster is to create a convenient carrying container for a firearm which leaves the user's hands free and the gun accessible. The holster protects the gun from perspiration and weather, while also protecting the wearer from accidental discharge and other issues. Depending on the function of the holster, the design may be intended for quick draw, allowing the user to quickly access a firearm, or it may have safety features which make the gun more difficult to remove from the holster.

Police officers typically wear duty holsters, which are classically worn on the belt or across the shoulders. These holsters are usually clearly visible, with a design which meshes with the uniform of the police officer, and they tend to have safety features which make the gun more difficult to access. Some members of law enforcement may wear conceal carry holsters, which are designed to hide a gun so that it is not visible on the body. Backup weapons are often carried in conceal carry holsters, and plainclothes law enforcement officers tend to keep their guns concealed for safety.

Members of the military and tactical teams wear tactical gun holsters, which are meant for rapid deployment. Tactical holsters can be worn on various areas of the body. People who utilize guns in sports may also wear holsters of various designs. Coordinating ammunition holsters are also available from many gun holster manufacturers.

Shoulder, ankle, hip, chesty, belly and drop-leg holster designs are all available. When purchasing a gun holster, people usually ensure that the holster will fit the gun, and that the holster can be adjusted to fit securely and comfortably on the body. Other concerns may include the construction material, which may be leather, Kevlar®, plastic, or nylon, along with aesthetic considerations about whether or not the holster will blend appropriately with a uniform.

Similar holster designs can be used to carry tasers, nightsticks, and other law enforcement and crowd control tools. A gun holster is usually worn on the wearer's strong side, and it may have special features which make it easy to distinguish between the gun holster and the holster for another tool to make sure that the user really does intend to draw his or her gun. For example, a gun holster might have a different texture, or a specialized snap, so that a police officer doesn't draw a gun by accident when he or she really wants a less lethal tool.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Markerrag -- Things are a little more complicated than that, but you are heading in the right direction.

The thing about a holster is that it is a highly subjective purchase. One that works great for a friend of yours might not work well for you. Do you like a cross draw holster or a conventional one? Prefer to have it on your right and left?

Believe it or not, such questions are best answered by trying out some holsters for yourself and grabbing the one that works best. Getting some advice is good, but hands on experience is what is necessary to help you make the best choice for you.


In states that have concealed carry laws, civilians can tote pistols in concealed holsters. The consumer will find out in a hurry there are a slew of those things available. How can a consumer pick the best one? Consult with a store that specializes in such things or with the instructor that taught your concealed carry class.

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