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Best Tactical Shotgun Options And Buyer’s Guide (2022)

Here are the best tactical shotgun options for home and personal defense, plus the definitive guide on the weapons system.

Updated 5/31/2022

The tactical shotgun still has a place in self-defense, even though its popularity has been supplanted by the meteoric rise of the AR-15. Really, the shotgun exists outside of the basic self-defense arena, which is dominated by the handgun. Because of its legendary reputation and brute power, the shotgun is more of an offensive weapon. It has been used in warfare since the invention of the powder which powers it, and the military is not usually in a defensive mission.

Tactical-Shotgun-Skills-NothingFancy
A tactical shotgun need not be fancy.

The shotgun is also the most versatile weapon out there. While it’s not always the best for every purpose, it can serve nearly every purpose requiring a firearm. For home and property defense, at close to moderate range, it is hard to beat the right type of shotgun. Also, a tactical shotgun may be legally obtained more easily than a handgun (as in Canada or Australia). But before we look at the best in class of this type of gun, let’s get into what actually makes a tactical shotgun.

Already know all this stuff? You can JUMP AHEAD to our picks for the best tactical shotguns.

What Is A Tactical Shotgun?

Table of Contents

Size
Gauge
Capacity
Pump-Action Vs Semi-Auto Shotguns
Tactical Weaponlights
Sights
Ammunition Selection
Shell Length
Recoil
Less-Lethal Rounds?
Tactical Shotgun Myths
Best Tactical Shotgun Options

A tactical shotgun can take several forms (there is no hard and fast definition), and also serve as a multi-role tool, especially if one lives on a farm or ranch, where it can serve animal control duties as well. Traditionally a standard hunting shotgun is used for this purpose, such as a Remington 870 Wingmaster, loaded with hunting loads, since the concept of a tactical shotgun is relatively new. While a weapon like this can suffice, there are some better shotgun configurations to work with.

Size

Yes, size does matter, but sometimes the biggest isn’t the best for everyone. A shotgun can be too heavy, kick too much, or penetrate too much. Some people can handle it and some can’t. Also, abilities change over time, for better or worse. That said, let’s talk size.

Like a law enforcement or military shotgun, the tactical shotgun should have a short barrel, 18.5 inches is the shortest civilian-legal length (outside of shotgun-style firearms, such as the Mossberg 590 Shockwave). Making it more agile, the shorter barrel keeps the gun maneuverable in close confines—such as a house.

Gauge

The gauge of choice for the tactical shotgun is almost universally the 12 gauge, but other gauges can work as well. The 20 is not a 12, but being on the receiving end of a load of 20 gauge buckshot or slug will certainly ruin your day. There is the added side benefit of being much more user-friendly than a 12 gauge for smaller-framed members of your family. A 20 gauge tactical shotgun is a great idea from the standpoint of maneuverability since, in home defense situations, you may use your shotgun to check the interior of your home.

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Tactical shotguns can be customized to your needs and applications.

Capacity

Reloading in the middle of a gunfight is something no one relishes. Most standard Remington 870s or Mossberg 500s have a magazine capacity of four to six rounds (three and six in box magazine fed versions), which really should be enough. If you want a larger magazine capacity, that’s fine, but realize that the extra weight forward of an extended magazine tube slows down your swing and makes the weapon decidedly muzzle-heavy, as well as just heavy in general.

Pump-Action Vs Semi-Auto Shotguns

While there are some outliers, tactical shotguns come in two styles—pump-action and semi-automatic. Personally, I prefer semi-automatic shotguns—especially for hunting—given their quickness and ease of use, however, each action has its pros and cons.

The great advantage of pump-action shotguns is their versatility and affordability. No matter what you load into a pump—be it high wall, low wall, etc.—it will run it. This is a great advantage when you take the tactical shotgun out of a strictly defensive role. And they’re cheap to get into, often running $500 or less. Heck, the legendary Mossberg 500 can be had around $300 to $400. This means nearly any shooter can arm themselves well.

As for cons, pump-actions open the door to human error—in particular short-stroking in which the pump isn’t completely actuated and fails to cycle. Not good. Furthermore, they are slower shot to shot than a semi-auto.

We’ve established the semi-auto in most shooters’ hands is the faster option, however, there’s another advantage. Gas-operated shotguns also generate less recoil, which makes them less punishing in practice and improves their shot-to-shot accuracy.

The tradeoff, semi-autos are the more expensive option. Not across the board, there are solid affordable semis out there, but most options run $500 and north. Pick one up with an Italian accent, such as a Berretta, well you’re talking a definite champagne tab.

Additionally, semi-auto shotguns are sometimes picky about loads. Too light and it won’t cycle, which leaves you with a pretty intricate single-shot. Some of this has been cured in recent years with innovations such as Remington’s Versa Max and Savage’s Dual Regulating Inline Valve, but it’s a facet you’ll need to pay attention to when you go out shopping.

Tactical Weaponlights

There are several ways of attaching a tactical light which don’t necessarily require the use of a Picatinny rail, commonly found on the AR-15 system, which more and more tactical shotgun manufacturers are starting to add. There is the option of using a light-bearing forend such as the one offered by Surefire. These forend units, which are model-specific for pump or semi-auto, replace the original forend on the weapon and hold the tactical light and operation switches. The switches allow for thumb operation by both right- and left-handed users. There are models available in LED or incandescent bulb systems, with the LED versions far outnumbering incandescent versions. The LED is going to stand up to shotgun recoil much better than any incandescent bulb, and the lumen power is now right up there with the formerly dominant xenon incandescent systems.

Surefire-Light
Surefire’s Dedicated Shotgun Forend provides 600 lumens of illumination.

In addition to dedicated forend mounts, there are universal mounting systems available that can be affixed to the magazine tube to hold your light system of choice. These, however, usually require the use of a light that has an external wire leading to a pressure switch adhered to the forend by Velcro. This wire can catch on things. This may not be the best system available, but it is less expensive than the Surefire system and, since we are talking defense here and not dynamic entry on a SWAT team, the external wire mounting might not be an issue.

Sights

A single bead works okay for ranges of 15 to 20 yards when using buckshot on a full-size silhouette target. But for accurate fire, you are missing out on the precision capability of the weapon when you use a bead-sighted shotgun.

Shotguns can be very accurate with slugs and shots if you equip them properly and train with them. Remington’s rifle sights mounted on their shotgun are excellent, but ghost ring rear sights and red-dot optics can bring the system to another level.

XSDotSight-Tactical-Shotgun-Skills-6
A tritium front sight, such as this XS Dot, can enhance a tactical shotgun’s low-light capabilities, but has limitations.

Ammunition Selection

Load selection for your tactical shotgun will depend on where you reside, or rather, what type of structure you reside in. Interior construction and location may even determine if a shotgun is a viable home and self-defense option. If you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls, or even a house or trailer with this type of construction, the shotgun may be totally out of the question due to over-penetration risk.

Shot-Size

Birdshot

These are the shot on the upper part of the chart. Essentially, there are dozens to hundreds of these loaded into a shell, meant to increase your chances at hitting an airborne target on the move. Yes, they’ll put a two-legged threat down, however, they are not the optimal choice. The shot loses velocity quickly, can have poor penetration qualities and in most circumstances isn’t advisable for personal defense.

Buckshot

These are the shot on the lower part of the above chart. The pellets range in size from .24 inch to .36 inch and as their name implies were originally used to harvest deer. They still fill this role, but are generally the go-to option for tactical applications. Typically, 00—also known as “double aught”—is the most common, with a shell pitching nine pellets approximately the size of a 9mm or .38 Special bullet. The one concern tied to buckshot, particularly at the “aught” end of things is over-penetration—something to keep in mind if you envision the tactical shotgun as a home-defense tool.

Slugs

Again, the slug finds its genesis in hunting season and presently is the most used load for those who hunt medium to large game with a shotgun. The advantage of slugs, they extend the effective range of a shotgun and have absolutely devastating terminal ballistics. Weighting 1 ounce, slugs also do a job on drywall and other permeable barriers, a facet worthing considering.

Read Also: Styles Of Shotgun Slugs

Shell Length

Next comes shell length. The most commonly-used shell lengths, regardless of gauge, are 2-1/2 (.410 gauge only) to 2-3/4 (20 and 12 gauges) inches. These shells, depending on powder charge and shot type, are adequate for most any shotgun duties that the particular bore is capable of handling, from clay targets to deer, or larger close-range game when slugs are used. Magnums can be overkill both on the giving and the receiving end in most defensive encounters.

There is a 2-3/4-inch magnum load (same velocity, slightly heavier payload) but it is not commonly encountered. Beyond that is the 3-inch magnum round. A round is generally considered a “magnum” charge for the given gauge when it provides longer range, more power, a heavier payload, and/or, you guessed it, more recoil. For example, the standard 2-1/2-inch 12 gauge shell loaded with 00 Buckshot holds nine pellets. In the 3-inch magnum load, it packs 12 pellets and begins to become unpleasant to shoot.

Recoil

Speaking of recoil, here is a chart comparing recoil energy for various 20 and 12 gauge loads and how they compare. For load selection, this may help some of you who are a little overzealous with the “biggest is the best” mindset. Yep, you can handle the big loads for a few shots, but not for long-term practice, and you must practice with the rounds, or their direct equivalent, that you plan on keeping in your weapon.

Recoil-in-ftlbs

This is kind of a “beating” chart — it shows what kind of beating you will take based on gun weight and load. To understand foot-pounds, the measure of free recoil energy, we will use this definition: one foot-pound is a unit of work equal to the work done by a force of one pound acting through a distance of one foot in the direction of the force. In other words, one foot-pound is the amount of energy required to move a one-pound object (not including calculations of friction) a distance of one foot. 12.5 foot-pounds of energy is the amount of energy required to move a 12.5 pound object one foot and so on.

12.5 has always been given as the standard amount of free recoil energy for the 12 gauge, but, as you can see, when you change gauge, payload and shell length, you boost the amount of foot-pound recoil energy. The other factor involved in felt recoil in this list is the weight of the gun. What is not included in these calculations is action type, which is important, since a gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun (such as the Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun) has reduced recoil over that of a pump or double in most cases.

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Benelli M4 tactical shotgun outfitted with ATI furniture.

Okay then, how much of a thumping do you want to take on the butt end of your defensive weapon system? How much can you take, while still being proficient and not developing a horrible flinch? How effective will your shots be? A 3 or 3-1/2 inch magnum in a six-pound shotgun for home defense in suburbia or Midwest rural areas? No. While traversing or living in grizzly country in Alaska? Sure, no problem, but in my house or on my property — no way. I want my shot to hit the first time, every time. I don’t want stray pellets or slugs endangering others. I don’t want a flinch developing. And maybe most importantly, I want to have fun shooting my guns.

Less-Lethal Rounds?

Even if you buy some of the new rubber pellet or bean bag “less-lethal” 12 gauge rounds, similar to law enforcement less-lethal rounds that are available to civilians, you can still kill or maim someone at close range, especially if you hit them in the head or throat. We now use the term “less-lethal” to describe intermediate weapons in law enforcement rather than “non-lethal” for precisely this reason. People can die due to any type of force being applied to them, so nothing is considered non-lethal in terms of force application.

If you can’t stomach the use of deadly force to preserve your own life, then maybe you can be prepared to use it in order to save your family. But if you feel you couldn’t take a life to save even your own family then you shouldn’t be using a lethal force weapon for defense to begin with. Instead, consider using a civilian C3 Taser or pepper spray.

Now that we have what makes up the tactical shotgun, let’s dispel some of the myths that revolve around the weapons system.

Tactical Shotgun Myths

Myth #1: The tactical shotgun is an “alley cleaner.” Fire one shot at a group of people and they all go down. Well, at least in the movies. Shot pellets in most choke configurations spread at a rate of one inch for every yard traveled. Seven yards is the standard assumed distance in interpersonal firearms combat. A seven-inch hole at that range means that you can miss your target or its vitals if you don’t aim. Remember that seven inches is an average for all shotgun barrels and ammo types. Depending on our choke and load, many combinations will shoot even tighter than that.

Myth #2: The tactical shotgun is easy to use and fire. In an old police training film from the late 1960s, the instructor, with his best John Wayne/Clint Eastwood attitude, says, “The shotgun doesn’t need to be aimed. With the shotgun, you can whirl, fire and blow the guy away.” This statement sounds cool, but now brings a laugh from police cadets when they see the tape. The fact is, you can’t go out and buy one of these wonder weapons, load it, and leave it in a corner or close at hand ready to go without practicing with it. The tactical shotgun requires work to master, and it is not for the recoil sensitive, at least in its 12 gauge configuration. You cannot fear or dread this weapon. You have to embrace it and make it an extension of yourself — zen-like but true. If you are using a shotgun for self-defense, you must be able to hit the target you are facing without endangering others.

Myth #3: The tactical shotgun is an infallible “stopping weapon,” guaranteed to take down the largest attacker with ease. Many people think that if you hit the bad guy with a shotgun round, it’s gonna kill him instantly and blow him six feet backwards to boot. Well, no. Remember, your shot pattern may be no more than an inch wide when it hits the intended threatening target and can easily miss the vitals, which would fail to stop a determined opponent. Shotguns can fail to stop the aggressor — it’s happened. This also means that a shotgun hit is not always fatal. Many people survive. Sure, it’s way better than a handgun in a fight, and usually a better choice, it just isn’t guaranteed. Nothing is.

In Summery, What You Want In A Tactical Shotgun:

  • 18-inch barrel
  • Chambered 12-gauge or 20-gauge
  • Mininum of 4+1 round capacity
  • Sights or optic
  • Ability to change out chokes
  • repitable manufacture and a quality build that doesn’t require aftermarket upgrads

Now that we have a handle on the platform, what makes it up and what it can and can’t do, let’s check out the best tactical shotguns currently available.

Best Tactical Shotgun Options

Mossberg 590A1 Tactical

Mossberg 590

Given the foggy future of the Remington 870, the 500 Series is the undisputed king of the pump-action hill. Not that many shooters didn’t already have it there previously. The smoothbore is battle-tested, having filled enumerable military and law-enforcement roles, and is as dependable as a well-trained dog. Not always the case, nowadays all of Mossberg’s tactical models are 590—special-purpose models of the original 500. Of the off-the-shelf sections, the 590A1 comes with everything you could want, from ghost-ring rear sight to 6+1 capacity. Its heavy-walled barrel takes a lot of abuse, giving you the peace of mind the 590 won’t flop under testing conditions. Additionally, there are 11 variations of the shotgun with some excellent features some might find better fit their needs. Best of all, nearly anybody can afford to get into one of the best tactical shotguns ever conceived. MSRP: Starting at $683

Stoeger M3000 Freedom Series Defense

Stoeger M3000

Turkish shotguns, in many cases, have a deservedly shaky reputation. The decided exception being Stoeger, which under the ownership of Benelli has become synonymous with affordable quality. When it comes to semi-auto tactical shotguns that description fits the M3000 Freedom Series to a tee. Inertia driven (there is an explanation here about the mechanism), the gun is light and agile, plus clean running. We’ll confess, it’ll thump a bit more with heavy loads compared to a gas gun, but you’ll find inertia’s run faster. Not a bad tradeoff. You won’t want for firepower either, with the gun coming with an 7+1 capacity standard. Ghost ring rear sight, blade front sight, adjustable length of pull, optional Weaver scope base—the M3000 has a lot of positives. There’s a nit to pick, however, the gun has a fixed cylinder choke. No big shakes if the aim is a strictly defensive gun, but hems its versatility if your aim is more at a survival tool. MSRP: $669

Kalashnikov USA KS-12

KS12

The Kalashnikov is a proven platform for shotguns. They have been appreciated and used by law enforcement, military, civilian sports shooters and hunters since they were first introduced in the early 1990s. While they were still being imported, the Russian-made Molot Vepr-12 was the established king of 12-gauge tactical AKs but was sanctioned from import in 2017. If you can still find a Vepr for a decent price, that’s the real one to hunt for on the secondhand market. As far as newly produced and available AK shotguns go, the current best choice is KUSA’s KS-12. Offering better build quality and higher average customer satisfaction than the Chinese or Turkish versions, the KS-12 is an American-made Saiga-12 clone that comes in the gun’s ideal configuration straight from the box. Whether your 12-gauge needs are for home-defense, SHTF or 3-gun competition, the KS-12 has all of the AK’s best features to offer in a shotgun platform. It reliably cycles with a variety of loads and is fed by detachable 10-round box magazines. It comes ready to mount optics and muzzle brakes, and the KS-12TSFS variant also includes a folding stock, making this a true tactical option. MSRP: $856.80

Beretta 1301 Tactical

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While it doesn’t get the credit of other Italian tactical shotguns, the 1301 is an unassailable system. It should be, Beretta has been turning out shotgun since before America was a country. This is apparent in the little things the company includes on the 12-gauge, from an adjustable length of pull to a rounded loading port (no mutilating your thumb on reloads). The scattergun is versatile too, able to digest light load, heavy loads and everything in between. This is thanks to Beretta’s BLINK gas operating system that’s designed to digest almost every off-the-shelf load. To boot, it’s fast—the company claims the fastest, but I don’t have split times to plead their case. The ergonomics of the gun are traditional but very comfortable and intuitive. And the controls are well proportioned, making manipulating the gun easy. Personally, I would have liked better than 5+1 capacity, but with all its other assets that’s far from a deal-breaker. MSRP: $1,429

Benelli M4

Benelli M4
1200

If you’re after a truly battle-hardened option, this is it. With users from U.S. Marine Corps to the SAS, and other pros, the M4 certainly has the resume of “best tactical shotgun”. But what makes it so special? More than anything, it’s ARGO (Auto Regulating Gas Operated) system. Basically, the gun was specially designed for the Marines, who had trepidations about adopting a semi-auto. Thus, Benelli whipped up the ARGO, which improves reliability by taking gasses further up the barrel than normal. Essentially, it’s cleaner gas, that reduces fouling. It can digest thousands of rounds between cleanings. And it’ll keep fighting through swamp mud or an arctic freeze. Pretty nice assets. Furthermore, it’s simpler and lighter than most gas systems. But is it worth its top-shelf price? Depends. If your answer is, I need something to survive the end of the world, then yes. But if it’s, I need to defend hearth and home, it might be overkill. MSRP: Starting at $2,099

Remington 870

870-Marine

An oldie, but a goodie. When it comes to pump-action shotguns, there are few more classic, trusted and reliable options than the legendary 870. Its twin action-bar design set the standard for unfailing cycling and the gun itself is all but bulletproof. And affordable. Basic 870 models, such as the Express, are still found in the $350 range. While Remington had turned out several tactical models in the past, most are gone from their present catalog since the company’s sale in the fall of 2020. The only exceptions are the Home Defense and Marine Magnum models. The Marine comes off as a bit more attractive package as a tactical option, given its sling attachments and tough nickel plating on metal parts. Conversely, it’s a fairly plain-Jane option, with no optics mount, bead front sight and plain synthetic stock. Still, it will get the job done. MSRP: $859.99

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Gun Digest Book of Tactical Shotguns. Elwood Shelton and Adam Borisenko contributed to this post.

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Concealed Carry

Customization and Concealment: How to Modify Holsters for Perfect Fit

example-concealed-carry-shot-against-white

Finding the right holster for your firearm is essential for comfortable and secure concealed carry. However, off-the-shelf holsters may not always provide the perfect fit for your specific needs and preferences. In this guide, we’ll explore the art of holster customization, offering tips and techniques to modify holsters for a personalized fit that ensures both comfort and concealment.

Understanding Your Needs: Identifying Areas for Improvement

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Before diving into holster customization, take some time to evaluate your priorities when it comes to concealed carry. Consider factors such as comfort, concealability, retention, and accessibility. Determine whether your current holster meets your needs in these areas or if there are specific areas for improvement.

Examine your existing holster for any discomfort or issues that may arise during daily carry. Common pain points include pressure points, sharp edges, or inadequate retention. Take note of these areas as they will guide your customization efforts to improve overall comfort and functionality.

Holster Modification Techniques: Tips for Customization

One of the most common methods for holster customization is heat gun molding. This technique involves using a heat gun to soften the holster material, typically Kydex or polymer, and then molding it to fit your firearm more closely. Be cautious not to overheat the material, as it can lead to warping or damage.

If your holster lacks sufficient retention or is too tight, consider adjusting the retention screws or adding retention devices such as adjustable tension screws or retention straps. Experiment with different settings until you find the right balance between retention and ease of draw.

To address discomfort caused by pressure points or sharp edges, consider adding padding or cushioning to your holster. Options include foam padding, adhesive-backed fabric, or leather lining. Apply padding strategically to areas that come into contact with your body to improve overall comfort during extended carry.

Concealment Enhancements: Tips for Discreet Carry

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Adjusting the cant and ride height of your holster can significantly impact concealment and comfort. Experiment with different cant angles and ride heights to find the optimal position for your body type and carry preference. A slight forward or reverse cant can help improve concealment and draw efficiency.

Consider adding concealment wings or clips to your holster to enhance concealment and stability. These accessories attach to the holster and help distribute weight more evenly, reducing printing and improving overall comfort. Choose options with adjustable angles and tension to customize the fit to your body shape and clothing style.

For added safety and concealment, consider modifying your holster to provide enhanced trigger guard coverage. This can help prevent accidental trigger access while ensuring a smooth and consistent drawstroke. Add-on trigger guard extensions or molded-in trigger guard covers are available for many holster models and can be easily installed.

Customizing your holster allows you to tailor it to your unique needs and preferences, ensuring a comfortable and secure carry experience. By identifying areas for improvement, exploring modification techniques, and enhancing concealment features, you can create a holster that fits you perfectly and provides reliable performance day in and day out. Remember to take your time, experiment with different adjustments, and prioritize safety throughout the customization process. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can transform your holster into the ideal companion for concealed carry.

Has this guide helped you to pick a holster? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Gear

Holster Materials Demystified: Leather vs. Kydex vs. Hybrid Options

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Choosing the right holster material is crucial for effective and comfortable concealed carry. Each material, whether it be leather, Kydex, or a hybrid of several materials, offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. This guide will help you understand the differences between these materials, aiding you in making an informed decision based on durability, comfort, maintenance, and functionality.

Leather Holsters: Traditional Comfort and Elegance

detail-9mm-pistol-holstered-policetype-holster

Leather has been used in holster manufacturing for centuries due to its durability and the unique way it conforms to the firearm and the wearer’s body over time. A well-made leather holster can last for many years if properly cared for. Leather’s natural give ensures that it doesn’t scratch or dent your firearm, protecting the finish over long periods.

One of the primary advantages of leather is its comfort. Leather holsters tend to be more flexible than Kydex, which allows them to mold to the body’s contours, providing a personalized fit after a break-in period. Aesthetically, leather also has a classic look that appeals to many gun owners who appreciate its traditional appearance and craftsmanship.

The main drawback of leather is its higher maintenance requirements. Leather needs to be regularly cleaned and conditioned to prevent drying out or cracking. It is also less resistant to moisture compared to synthetic materials, which can be a consideration in wet climates or for everyday carry.

Kydex Holsters: Modern, Durable, and Low Maintenance

Kydex is a lightweight, thermoplastic material that is both durable and maintenance-free. Unlike leather, Kydex does not warp, crack, or require regular conditioning. It is highly resistant to moisture, making it an excellent choice for humid environments or active individuals who might sweat during carry.

Kydex holsters offer a firm, secure fit that doesn’t change over time, which means consistent retention and a reliable draw every time. These holsters are generally designed to offer an audible click when the gun is properly holstered, providing additional security feedback. Kydex is also easier to clean; usually, a simple wipe-down is all that’s required to keep it in good condition.

The primary disadvantage of Kydex is that it can be less comfortable for extended wear, especially directly against the skin, as it does not conform to the body the same way leather does. Additionally, the rigid nature of Kydex can sometimes cause wear on the finish of the firearm with repeated drawing and holstering.

Hybrid Holsters: Combining the Best of Both Worlds

Hybrid holsters are designed to offer the best features of both leather and Kydex. Typically, these holsters use a backing of leather (or sometimes a breathable synthetic fabric) that rests against the body, providing the comfort and flexibility of leather, coupled with a Kydex shell that holds the firearm. This combination ensures that the holster is comfortable against the skin while maintaining the structural integrity and easy re-holstering benefits of Kydex.

The leather backing of a hybrid holster conforms to the body, similar to a full leather holster, improving comfort for daily wear. The rigid Kydex shell keeps the gun securely in place and allows for smooth, consistent drawing and reholstering without the holster collapsing.

While hybrid holsters attempt to offer the best of both materials, they may also inherit some disadvantages. The leather component may still require maintenance, and the overall bulk might be greater than a single-material holster. Additionally, depending on the design, the sweat protection for the firearm might not be as robust as with a full Kydex design.

Choosing the Right Material for Your Needs

When selecting a holster, consider your personal needs, daily activities, and the environments in which you will be carrying. Leather offers a traditional, comfortable fit at the expense of greater care and potentially less durability under extreme conditions. Kydex provides excellent security and low maintenance but may sacrifice comfort. Hybrid holsters balance these factors but check that the design fits your specific requirements and comfort preferences.

Ultimately, the best holster material depends on your unique situation and preferences. Testing different materials and types can provide firsthand experience and help you make the best choice for your concealed carry needs.

Do you have a preferred material for your holsters? Why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Concealed Carry

Concealed Carry Essentials: Choosing the Right Holster for Your Firearm

detail-9mm-pistol-holstered-policetype-holster

When it comes to concealed carry, choosing the right holster is as crucial as selecting the firearm itself. A good holster not only secures your weapon but also ensures comfort, accessibility, and concealment. Whether you’re a seasoned carrier or new to the world of concealed carry, understanding the different types of holsters and what makes them suitable for certain situations can help you make the right choice for your needs.

Understanding Holster Types

Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) Holsters

IWB holsters are one of the most popular choices for concealed carry because they offer excellent concealment. Positioned inside the wearer’s pants, these holsters sit just behind the hip or at the appendix position. They are designed to conceal the gun effectively beneath a lightly draped shirt or jacket, making them ideal for those who wear casual or business attire regularly. The key is to find an IWB holster made from a comfortable material that minimizes discomfort against the skin.

Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) Holsters

While OWB holsters are less concealable than their IWB counterparts, they are often more comfortable for extended wear, especially if you spend a lot of time seated, such as driving or working at a desk. These holsters sit on the outside of the pants, held close to the body by a belt. OWB is a preferred choice for open carry, duty carry, or when using larger frame pistols that are harder to conceal inside the waistband.

Pocket Holsters

For those preferring to carry smaller handguns, pocket holsters are a viable option. These holsters protect the firearm from debris and lint while ensuring that it stays upright and accessible in your pocket. The holster’s design also masks the shape of the gun, helping to prevent ‘printing’ (when the outline of the gun is visible through clothing), thus maintaining concealment.

Material Matters: Selecting the Right Fabric

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Leather Holsters

Leather is a traditional choice that combines durability with comfort. Over time, leather holsters can mold to the shape of your gun and body, offering a custom fit. However, leather requires maintenance to keep it supple and functional, and it might not perform as well in very wet conditions.

Kydex and Other Synthetics

Kydex, a type of thermoplastic, is a popular alternative to leather due to its robustness and low maintenance. Holsters made from Kydex are resistant to water and sweat, making them suitable for humid climates. They also retain their shape over time, which facilitates quicker re-holstering. However, they might be less comfortable against the skin than leather and can wear the finish of your firearm faster.

Hybrid Holsters

Hybrid holsters combine materials, usually leather or a soft fabric backing with a synthetic shell. This design aims to offer the best of both worlds: comfort from the backing material and durability and easy access from the synthetic shell. These are particularly popular among those who carry daily as they balance comfort and functionality.

Fit and Comfort: Ensuring a Proper Holster

Custom Fit

It’s crucial that your holster fits your firearm snugly. A good fit prevents the gun from shifting, falling, or being difficult to draw. Most holsters are built for specific models, which means a one-size-fits-all approach might not be the best when it comes to holsters.

Comfort

Comfort is key, especially if you plan to carry your gun daily. A comfortable holster should distribute the weight of the gun evenly without chafing. Padding can be crucial, particularly for IWB carriers. Test different holsters to see how they feel when sitting, walking, or bending.

Retention and Accessibility

Good retention keeps the gun securely holstered but allows for quick drawing when necessary. Some holsters offer adjustable retention screws to tighten or loosen the hold on your firearm. Moreover, ensure the holster does not obstruct your grip; when drawing, you should be able to get a full grip on the handle.

Concealment and Practical Considerations

Pistol in the holster.

Concealment

Choose a holster that keeps your firearm out of sight but within reach. The best concealed carry holster offers a balance between accessibility, comfort, and invisibility. Consider your daily activities and the type of clothing you wear when selecting a holster for optimal concealment.

Practical Considerations

Lastly, consider other practical aspects such as the ease of holstering and unholstering, the holster’s profile (does it add too much bulk?), and its compatibility with your wardrobe. Some holsters, especially those designed for deeper concealment, may require practice to achieve a smooth and quick draw.

Choosing the right holster is a personal journey and often a matter of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to test different types, materials, and positions until you find the perfect combination that offers safety, comfort, and confidence in your ability to carry concealed effectively.

Do you have any tips for people looking for holsters? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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