August 8, 2023

The Evolution of Competition Holsters – From Classic to Modern Designs

By riaces

A quality holster is more than just an attractive belt hanger. It should secure your weapon rock solid.

The Original Holsters

In the earliest days of competition holsters, designs were fundamental. Leather pouches that hung on a belt were popular. As law enforcement officers and settlers moved to the frontier, saddle makers began making holsters that were closer in design to the firearms being carried. The first of these was called pommel bag holsters. They had a small pouch attached to the back skirt to hold a revolver.

The next holster to evolve was the “Mexican Loop.” It had wide skirts with slots cut in them for the cartridge gun belt to slide through. The holster body was closely contoured to the shape of the handgun, a design feature that influenced the later “California Pattern” or “Slim Jim” holsters.

Another popular holster was the flap holster which had an elongated back that folded over the pistol to restrain it. This holster could withstand the roughest riding on horseback and was ideal for situations where a quick draw wasn’t necessary, such as during military encounters.

The Classic Holsters

Most competitors know the classic outside waistband (OWB) belt holster. They can be worn on the solid side or the back, with a belt clip, belt loop, or snap for attachment.

IWB holsters that clip to the belt and allow the weapon to be carried inside the pants are also common. Other types include an appendix inside the waistband (AIWB) and below waistband holsters.

Holsters must offer protection and secure handgun retention while allowing quick access. Choosing the right balance of speed and security is critical for competition shooters, as a slow draw can result in poor performance.

Generally, premium leather or quality synthetic materials make competition holsters. Exceptional products are available from reputable brands. These holsters are designed to last a lifetime and are highly durable. They are also lightweight for ease of carrying and re-holstering. They are typically molded to fit the pistol perfectly.

The Modern Holsters

While the leather holster is still popular, polymer holsters are gaining popularity among competitive shooters and other enthusiasts. Unlike leather, which relies on friction to retain a handgun, injection-molded polymers like kydex competition holster use a mechanical lock as a clip or snap that secures the gun and can be released with the flick of a button.

Modern competition holsters are designed to meet the demands of action shooting events. They usually feature a lower ride height to allow quicker draw times and can be adjusted with dual retention screws for fine-tuning.

Many are made for duty-level guns and equipped with a red-dot compatible light or a slide-mounted miniature red-dot optic. Other features include a sweat guard and passive retention, reducing the risk of accidental discharges. They can also accommodate a variety of firearms with varying barrel lengths.

The New Holsters

Injection-molded polymer holsters, including kydex, quickly became popular as alternatives to leather. They are comfortable, secure, and allow a quick draw. Some have a mechanical lock, usually on the front of the trigger guard, that requires the shooter to tug at it to release the gun from the holster.

Until recently, most competition holsters were made of leather. While leather is comfortable, it doesn’t breathe, so it can cause you to sweat more during a shooting match or training session. It also can stretch or deform over time.