If you own a gun, you probably have a holster; and if you carry a gun you definitely need to have a holster of some kind. Why? Partly to protect the gun, but even more to protect you! I know, I know, Grandpa used to talk about how in addition to walking bare foot through the snow up hill both ways to get to and from school when he was also talks about how they never used holsters in his day; they'd just stick it in a pocket or in their waist band and forget about it. Tell me, did you ever wonder why Grandpa only had 3 toes on his foot and a deep grove in his back side? If he had used a holster he wouldn't have those oddities. Why? Well let's look at it, shall we?
The first thing a holster does is encloses the gun in a protective sleeve, especially (if it's designed right) the trigger. Think of all the things you routinely put in your pocket. There's keys, loose change, pens and or pencils, maybe a pocket knife, possibly a bit of twine or wire you snipped off something you were working on and shoved in your pocket without even thinking about it, and so on and so forth. The list of things that end up in pockets are endless, and each and every one of those things could get tangled up with the trigger on your gun. What happens then? BOOM!!! That's what happens, and you're being rushed to the hospital to stop the bleeding from a bullet hole in your thigh or knee! Okay you say, I'll just make sure that I don't put anything in the same pocket as my gun, problem solved. Yeah, right. You know what else is found in pockets? Lint. Dust. Dirt. Sand. All matter of things guaranteed to get in the works of your gun and gum the damn thing up just when you need it the most. Nor is sticking your gun in the waist band of your pants really any better. Do you have a draw string on your jacket or hoodie? How about inside the waist band of your pants? Sweats and many brands of cargo shorts have them. Believe it or not, there are documented cases of cops being shot by their own guns because the department issued jacket they were wearing had a draw string that got caught in the trigger of their standard issue side arm! So a holster that covers the trigger in such a way that nothing can get in there and get caught in the trigger is the first must, and I at least would much rather the holster cover the entire barrel as well; though I'll admit that there are a few holsters that pass every other test that don't.
The second thing a good holster will do for you is retain the gun where it has been put. Again, there are all too many documented cases of people putting their hands in the pockets and the pistol comes falling out when they take their hands back out of their pockets even though they didn't mean for the pistol to come out. There are just as many cases where someone had to bend over, maybe to get something off the bottom shelf at a store, and the pistol they had stuck in their waist band sans holster came tumbling out.
Okay, okay, you say, I'll buy a damned holster. There, that one, yeah the one for $19.95, I'll buy that one. Well, it's a start, but I'm not sure it's all that much better. What happens if the thug you encounter decides to start grappling with you for some reason. Will your holster still keep your gun where you put it then? If it's the cheapest one on your gun store shelf, I'd almost be willing to bet it won't. I've been to a few Kenpo training seminars where the instructor had us put on various holsters and place a training gun in them (for those of you who aren't familiar with them, they're made of hard rubber and are the exact size and shape of some of the more popular guns out there, usually molded in a bright color such as blue, red, or orange so that they won't be mistaken for a real gun). We'd then do various spontaneous drills to see for ourselves just how easy it is for your gun to be jarred out of a poorly designed holster, and believe me, the last thing you want in a life and death struggle is to suddenly find out that your gun is not where you thought it was! That is a recipe for disaster if I ever heard one.
Okay you say, well what about that nylon one with the retaining strap that goes across the back of the gun to keep it in the holster? Well, I reckon it's better than nothing; after all, if you train with it regularly then unsnapping the restraining strap probably won't slow you down by more than 10 seconds or so. Still I'd rather not spend that 10 seconds or so unsnapping a safety strap that wouldn't really be needed if you just went for a better holster in the first place. In fact, if I'm going to be honest, I have a couple of holsters, both nylon and leather, that have restraining straps on them; but if the truth be know I really don't like any of them. I know many police officers are required to use those style of holsters, but a uniformed police officer is carrying his or her side arm openly where a bad guy can see it and maybe try to take it from them. According to more than one cop I know, the whole reason for the restraining strap on their holsters is to give them a few seconds to respond if anyone does try to take their weapon away from them. If on the other hand, you're carrying concealed, then your attacker most likely doesn't even know you have it so they aren't going to be trying to take it away from you until you've already drawn your gun.
So what do I recommend for a good holster? First, look for one that is molded and designed for your gun specifically; and covers the trigger. This most often means that it will be made of leather or a material like kydex, and yes, it also means that it's going to cost more. Sorry, but as so often in life, you get what you pay for. Another feature that I like that is most often seen in holsters made of kydex or some other hard material is a tension adjustment screw that allows you to adjust just how tightly the holster will hold on to your gun. If you can get a holster with this feature, adjust it so that you can draw with just a minor amount of resistance, then try to shake your unloaded gun out of the holster. If it falls out, taken the screw a bit more until your gun stays in it no matter how you shake it but you can still draw the gun reasonably easily. If your gun shop will allow you, try and see how it feels to draw your gun and also how easy it is to reholster it. After all, drawing your gun and shooting your assailant is only the first half of the equation; you still need to get you and your loved ones out of there and that is not that easy to do if you still have a gun in your hand. Even if you're all alone with no one else to worry about, you don't really want to be standing around with a gun in your hand when the police arrive at the scene unless you have no other choice. If it takes two hands to reholster your gun, you should probably choose a different holster. Next, look at how the holster stays where you want to put it. If you're going for pocket carry, does the holster stay in you pocket when you draw your pistol? Or are you left with it still hanging off the end of your gun as you're trying to aim and shoot? If it's inside the waist band or belt carry, how does it stay there? One of my favorites is part nylon, part kydex, and part fabric that acts almost like velcro in that it almost sticks to the fabric of your pants so that it won't come out unless you specifically take it out. Needless to say, this one is designed for inside the waist band carry. If you're going to go for belt carry, you mainly have a choice of paddle (a piece shaped almost like a ping pong paddle that's designed to go between your belt and your pants or inside your waist band), belt clips, or belt loops. Personally I prefer belt loops, but which ever you choose, make sure the attachment feature is well designed and strong enough to with stand some abuse. After all, you really don't want them to break and let your gun fall to the floor when you're at the checkout counter! And finally, if you're wanting it for concealed carry, how well does it conceal? Does it blend right in to your normal way of dressing, or does it stick out like a sore thumb? A holster can meet every single other criteria I've given you, but if everyone and their half blind grandmother can spot it through your clothing then it really doesn't do you much good now, does it. Finally, ask questions. Ask lots and lots of questions. Ask them of your gun store owner, ask them of your gun loving brother-in-law, ask them of the cop on the corner. As that rather stupid sounding old adage goes, there's no such thing as a stupid question. Like wise, there's no such thing as too many questions either. Your holster and you are going to be together for a long time. You owe it to yourself to get a good one.