September 15, 2022

A tactical holster doesn’t focus on concealment. Instead, tactical holsters address concerns about accessibility during tactical maneuvers. Learn how a tactical holster differs from a normal holster and see if you need to add a tactical holster to your gear.

Carrying a Secondary Firearm

The tactical holster is built for combat situations and gets the most use from members of law enforcement and the military, but armed citizens can use them, too. Tactical holsters carry handguns meant for use as secondary firearms. Whereas the primary firearm in a tactical maneuver is typically a carbine, the secondary firearm is usually a handgun.

In combat, you would use your primary weapon first and foremost. But if your weapon gets damaged, lost, runs out of ammunition, malfunctions, or you otherwise can’t access it, you need a secondary firearm. The tactical holster keeps your secondary firearm accessible and ready.

Clear Your Belt

Another way a tactical holster differs from a normal holster is in how it addresses the wearer’s needs for carrying extra gear. Tactical holsters are typically thigh holsters, which means that your tactical holster frees up space on your belt. When you wear a thigh holster, you can leave your belt clear or use it to hold other equipment.

People completing a tactical maneuver carry a lot of gear, typically including tactical clothing, body armor, pouches, ammo, magazines, their primary and secondary weapons, and the sling for the rifle and holster for the handgun. Clearing the belt can make it easier to carry these items and keep the secondary firearm accessible.

When it comes to general holsters, most people don’t need to prioritize clearing space on their belts for the sake of carrying gear. In most everyday carry situations, people prioritize carrying their weapon discreetly and choose a holster that can help them avoid detection.

The Tactical Draw: Smooth Weapons Transitioning

You must practice weapon transitioning if you need to use your tactical holster to carry a secondary weapon. A smooth transition involves safely putting the primary weapon aside and reaching for and using the secondary weapon. If you can use your primary weapon again and it works correctly, you’ll need to know how to transition smoothly back to it.

Follow the guidance of your instructor to learn the proper technique for you. Practicing at the range will require you to work through a simulation of your primary weapon failing, necessitating the use of your secondary weapon. You can practice using your primary weapon, having it fail, then transitioning to using your secondary weapon. Also, ensure that you practice examining your primary weapon as if the threat is not returning fire.

If you can use your primary weapon, you’ll holster the secondary firearm and attend to your carbine. After fixing the problem, bring your carbine to a fire-ready position and respond to the threat.

The CCW Draw

If you have a CCW holster, while you don’t have to manage weapons transitioning, you’ll still want to make precise and efficient movements. Carrying your gun in a consistent position will help your muscle memory align with where your weapon is, but if you move your carrying position, practice drawing from there, too.

The unique thing about concealed carry is that you’ll always have to safely move your concealment away from the weapon when you draw. Practice sweeping your concealment clothing away from your gun with your support hand, so your firearm doesn’t get tangled in the fabric.

Thigh Rig Comfort Considerations

Whereas common gun holsters can be placed about anywhere, tactical gun holsters are typically thigh holsters. The biggest pro for a police officer, military member, or sportsman wearing a thigh holster is that it puts the firearm at the right level for your hand to grab quickly. A hip holster requires you to raise your hand to access the weapon, then lift it further to draw it. This process takes longer and might be difficult in an active fight or close quarters.

Another benefit of the thigh holster is that you can access your weapon with your non-dominant hand if your arm gets injured. And shifting the weight distribution to your thigh decreases the weight on your waist and can relieve your back or hips. This is especially beneficial if you’re carrying over a prolonged period.

But like any carrying position, a thigh holster is not always comfortable. The thigh holster might feel uncomfortable if you’re driving, jumping over an obstruction such as a fence, or in a ground fight.

While over the thigh is a common position for a tactical holster, you can also choose from other positions, such as a chest rig or belt holster. Your preferred carry position will depend on your situation. The only wrong carrying positions are the ones that don’t work for you, and the only correct positions are the ones that do.

CCW Position Considerations

There are many concealed carry positions, but a common location along the waistband. You want to carry your weapon comfortably and keep it accessible.

  • Inside the Waistband (IWB) – in this position it’s difficult to draw your weapon while seated, and there’s a chance an assailant might disarm you from behind
  • Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) – You carry close to your belt buckle in this position. It’s easy to access this firearm, and it can be easier to defend yourself since you don’t telegraph your movements. But, depending on your body type, this might not be a comfortable position since the gun's grip can push into your stomach, and the firearm's length might cause the gun to apply pressure on your groin or thigh area when you bend or sit.

While outside the waistband (OWB) can be the most comfortable position because you don’t have the gun between your body and your clothes, this is most suited for open carry. Test whether a long jacket or a bulky garment, like a sweatshirt, can conceal your weapon.


Retention is the ability of the holster to hold a gun in place. If the firearm is loose, it can make it difficult to draw your weapon, or the firearm can fall out. And an assailant can also grab an unsecured gun from its holster.

For many concealed carry holsters, friction is the primary means of retention. A holster that precisely fits the gun can prevent the pistol from jumping out. A retention strap over the hammer or back of the slide is another way to keep a firearm in the holster.

Elite Survival System’s CR Secure Auto-Locking Retention Holster is an excellent example of a retention holster. The injection-molded holster has a patented locking system between the holster body and the user that minimizes the chance of unauthorized access.

Elite Survival System’s tactical gun holsters help prepare you for high-stakes situations. Our high-performance holsters keep your gun in place and facilitate an efficient draw. And when you holster your firearm, you can carry it comfortably. Check out our selection of tactical gun holsters today.

How Does a Tactical Holster Differ From a Normal Holster?

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