OWB Holster Styles

Outside the Waistband (OWB) holsters come in a few variations.  Some use clips or paddles to attach the holster to the top edge of one’s pants, others make use of belt slots in which a belt can be ran through.  We are going to cover 3 of the top styles.

custom tooled OWB holster for CZ P07
Paddle Holster

Paddle holsters are a great choice if one frequently needs to remove their holster (going in and out of places that don’t allow firearms).  It simply slips over the top edge of the waistband.  Paddles are sometimes made from Kydex (as pictured) or made from leather as well.  Depending on the type of paddle, some are setup so the cant can be adjusted.  More about holster cant below.

Avenger Holster

Avenger holsters require a belt to use them.  Avenger holsters have two belt slots, but only one is visible to others.  Avenger holsters are a nice choice is one wants to minimize the amount of belt space used by a holster.  Since the second belt slot is on the back of the holster instead of in front, it takes up less room on the belt.

If one is not having to remove their holster / firearm, this may be a better option than the paddle holster.  The holster is more secure and cannot be removed unless the belt is removed.

Notice in the picture the back belt loop is integrated into the decorative (lighter color) strip that runs around the top outside portion of the holster.  This has an added benefit of helping retain the opening of the holster for easy re-holstering of the firearm.

Pancake Holster

Pancake holsters typically have 2 belt slots that are visible to others while it is being worn.  The advantage of a pancake holster is that it spreads out the weight for heavier guns; large revolvers and other full size semi-automatic firearms.

Pancake holsters require a belt to be worn.  Most belt slots are sized for 1.5″ belts, but can be customized for larger or smaller belts.  Since the belt runs through the holster, these are fairly secure and can only be removed by taking off the belt.

Holster Construction

Holster Construction Techniques

Not all leather holsters are created equal.  When looking at a holster or discussing a custom holster with a builder, there are some things that you want included to ensure the holster will last a lifetime.  

It all starts with the selection of leather being used.  There are a couple of tanneries in the United States that produce great quality veg-tan leather; Wickett & Craig and Hermann Oak.  There are also import leathers from various suppliers.  Quality of the raw materials is important.  Ask your maker where their leather comes from.  It seems that the US tanners produce a much higher quality product than the imports.

Inside Liner

Some builders use a single layer of leather, smooth on the outside, rough on the inside.  This type can be a functional holster, but the rough interior can absorb or wick away the oils on the firearm.  If a single layer of leather is used, it must be of a heavier weight to withstand the daily carrying of a firearm.  Else, it may begin to become misshapen; allowing the firearm to get loose in the holster.

Lined holsters are typically lined with veg tan leather.  Sometimes the interior and exterior pieces of leather are the same thickness, say two pieces of 5-6 oz. leather equaling 10-12 oz total thickness.  Sometimes the exterior piece is 8-9 oz., with a 3-4 oz. interior piece as a liner.  Most well-built holsters will use a total thickness of 10-12 oz.

…the rough interior can absorb or wick away the oils on the firearm.

…or can be tooled with various patterns, giving it a unique look.

Retention Panel

The retention panel is an extra piece of leather added to the outside of the holster around the top opening to help retain the shape of the opening.  The panel can be left as plain leather, or can be tooled with various patterns, giving it a unique look.

A good retention panel will typically be of the same thickness as a single layer of the holster leather.  It is usually stitched onto the outer layer prior to the inner layer being attached so the threads on the inside of the holster are not visible.

Burnished Edges

There is nothing quite like a smooth edge on a leather piece, except maybe the scent of the leather itself.  A good burnished edge will make the edge look like a single piece of leather, instead of the multiple layers.  There are several techniques and compounds to create a beautiful burnished edge.  All have the same result; a glassy smooth edge that is super slick.

A good burnished edge will make the edge look like a single piece of leather…

…protecting it from getting snagged on stuff.

Suppressed Stitching

Suppressed or recessed stitching is vitally important, especially if one has a tendency to rub or bump against things while wearing a holster.  Recessed stitching allows the stitching to be below the surface level of the leather, protecting it from getting snagged on stuff.

Whether the piece is hand or machine stitched, this can be accomplished.  A simple way to do this is to cut a groove line in the leather prior to stitching.  Once the item is stitched up, a stitching wheel can be ran over the stitches to countersink the thread into the leather.

Holster Cant

Holster cant is the angle at which the holster sits relative to vertical.  A holstered firearm that has the barrel straight up and down is considered zero degrees cant.  Typical strong side (when the firearm is on the same side hip one will be drawing from) cants range anywhere from 15-20 degrees.

Weak side carry, or cross draw style holsters will have a negative cant.  When having your custom holster built, make sure to specify the cant angle, or have the maker show you examples of the different cants so you can decide what is best for you.