How To Choose The Best Concealed Carry Holster

What is the best concealed carry holster for you

Just Like Most Things In Life, The Answer To "How to Choose the Best Concealed Carry Holster" Is Without A Doubt... It Depends.

Seriously, asking, “What is the best concealed carry holster?,” is similar to asking, “What is the best car, tool brand, or shoe?” There are a whole bunch of factors that play into what is “best” for your specific use-case. Since you most likely found this article by Googling the question, I’m going to assume you may be a new gun owner, wanting to learn more about concealed carry, or are considering a new holster purchase.

If you’re a pro and already know the basics, feel free to use the table of contents and jump around to whatever aspects interest you. You can open the table of contents at any time by hitting the blue button in the bottom left of your screen. If you’re inexperienced with firearms and holsters, including all the ins & outs of safely carrying a gun concealed, this article is specifically for you.

Some folks in the guns and tactics community can get pretty passionate about firearms subjects and accessory brands. This passion can come across as condescending or arrogant at times; but for the most part, gun owners are generally great people. We just get heated when someone “in power” says some truly nonsensical BS about guns. Our responses can come across as offensive to people who just don’t know what they don’t know.

My goal is to educate and empower law-abiding citizens. Just assume that any language you come across here that could offend you is actually meant for that neighbor you don’t really like. I don’t want to belittle or insult you in any way on something you haven’t had the opportunity to learn yet, so please don’t take anything in this article personally. When I say something is “stupid,” “dumb,” or something similar, I’ll explain the reasons I have behind that conclusion.

Always ask “why?” questions – not just for holsters and such, but for everything. Why is this option better than that option? Why does someone prefer this brand over that brand? Why is this “stupid” and that isn’t? If you ask someone “why” questions and they can’t give a legitimate answer, it’s a red flag that they are not very knowledgeable on the subject or that they may be trying to make a quick buck, especially regarding online resources these days. In either case, I would recommend seeking additional advice elsewhere, at least until you can further determine what is legit and what actually isn’t.

Who Qualifies What is "Best"?

One important thing to keep in mind while you’re on the hunt for the best concealed carry holster is that blogs, reviews, and articles on Google are typically written to maximize profits, just as much if not more, than provide quality advice to the consumer. If you read the top lists for brands across multiple sites, you’ll often see several brands repeated.

This can either be because the item or brand (etc) is a legitimately great option or because the brand happens to pay an affiliate commission. This is true for just about anything you’re researching, not just concealed carry holsters. The thing is, really great brands that don’t have affiliate programs are often completely left off of “Best Concealed Carry Holster” lists, simply because there is no financial incentive for the author or “influencer” to mention them.

At The Warrior Solution, we find value in doing things differently from the status quo, and we are not out to make a quick buck. As much as those bucks would be helpful in the short term, it wouldn’t benefit us or anyone else in the long run. It’s better and more important to us to provide quality information and be a positive resource that can offer good solutions over time.

While I have my own preferences, please know that my preferences may not be ideal for you. Always seek out more than one source of information before making a decision. Ultimately, you are the one who is going to be responsible for carrying your gun. I applaud you for taking the time to research the best concealed carry holster for yourself.

Holsters Are NOT Created Equal

Example of a terrible holster and a good Kydex holster

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of holster brands in the world. Some are awesome, and some are absolute dumpster fires. Never buy any holster from Uncle Mike’s, Proud Right Wingers, Sticky Holsters, or Urban Carry. Also, stay away from the “Zerobulk” from Versa Carry.

Tier 1 Concealed, T.REX ARMS, TXC, and several similar brands don’t have affiliate programs that I’m aware of. They also don’t sell to vendors like Brownells, Sportsman’s Guide, Sportsman’s Wearhouse, GRITR, etc, so they are very often not mentioned on lists like this one. That’s a disservice to you, as someone who may not be familiar with all the brand options, when you’re just getting into the world of concealed carry gear. In my opinion, choosing to say one brand is better than another, purely based on the possibility of getting an affiliate commission, is not a good way to serve people, especially with something as deadly serious as concealed carrying a firearm.

We sell several of the brands we will be covering in this post, including Alien Gear Holsters, Blackpoint Tactical, Bravo Concealment, Crucial Concealment, and Safariland. We are also affiliated with Alien Gear Holsters, Crossbreed Holsters, CYA Supply Co., and We The People Holsters. I have not personally put my hands on any holsters from T.REX ARMS or T1C; but from what I’ve seen, read, and heard from lots of their customers, they are rock-solid brands that are definitely worth considering.

The Best "Made In USA" Holster Brands

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the best holster brands, but it definitely includes the top options, in my opinion. Buying a holster from any of these brands is a great choice. If you don’t see a brand on this list, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad choice, just read on to learn what to look for in a quality holster. After reading, you’ll be able to spot good holster options versus bad ones.  

The brands in this section are based in the U.S. and make their holsters in the U.S. (Safariland also manufactures in Canada and Mexico.) In addition, CYA Supply, Tier 1 Concealed, and We The People Holsters are Veteran-Owned. There may be additional Veteran-Owned companies in this list. I’m not 100% sure, so if you know for a fact that one of the others is also Veteran-Owned, please let me know, and I will update this list. 

The Basic Rules of Firearm Safety

rear view of man aiming gun at target in shooting range

Before we dive deep into holsters, let’s quickly review the four basic rules of firearm safety:

  1. Always treat all guns as if they are loaded.
  2. Keep your trigger finger straight and off the trigger, until you are ready to fire.
  3. Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  4. Know your target and what is behind your target.

These four simple rules serve as the foundation for responsible, safe gun-handling and concealed carry practices. This is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide on how to safely use firearms but rather a reminder about why you need to take gun safety seriously, when you’re researching and buying gear for everyday carry applications.

This image is an example of breaking basically all the rules at once. Notice his finger on the trigger, flagging (pointing at) his other hand, and about to shove this gun into his pocket without a secure holster. DON'T DO THIS!! It's wrong on so many levels.

Rule 1: Always treat all guns as if they are loaded.

Even if you are 100% positive that a gun is unloaded, treat it as if it could fire at any moment. Really, it genuinely does not matter if you, personally, cleared the gun two seconds ago, always treat every gun as if it’s loaded at all times. Always treating every gun as if it’s loaded and ready to fire helps reinforce muzzle awareness and trigger control. It will also help prevent any serious injuries if the gun is actually loaded. You’d be surprised how many times guns were “unloaded” prior to accidents. Some gun stores keep “jars of shame” for live ammo they find in “unloaded” guns from customers.

I thought it was unloaded jar of shame
JAR OF SHAME via Brownells on Twitter

Rule 2: Keep your trigger finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire.

Example of Proper Trigger Finger Discipline with S&W M&P
Example of poor trigger control with a S&W M&P

This one is very simple. Unless you are absolutely sure you are going to fire, either at a practice target or in self-defense, do not put your finger on the trigger unless and until you have made the conscious decision to fire. Said differently and more simply, keep your booger hook off the bang switch until the gun is pointed at your target.

Rule 3: Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

You must always be aware of where the muzzle of your gun is pointing, and make sure it is pointed in a safe direction, usually straight down. Just imagine a super hot laser, shooting out the end of your gun at all times. Anything that laser touches gets destroyed. Thinking of it this way can help train your brain until firearm safety practices are like second nature to you. A good rule of thumb is to keep the muzzle pointed down around a 45° angle, at least. This insures that any accidental discharge (negligent discharge) goes into the ground, rather than into another person, pet, or property. Pointing a gun vertically is technically a safe option, as well – however, what goes up must come down…so generally, I recommend just keeping the gun pointed at the ground.

Rule 4: Be sure of your target, your line of fire, and what is beyond it.

Depending on the caliber and type of firearm you’re shooting, the bullet is traveling anywhere from 700 to 3,000+ feet per second. Something traveling that fast can pass through multiple standard sheetrock interior walls and potentially multiple complete houses. This video by 1ShotTV is an awesome example of bullets passing through multiple walls.

The same over-penetration issue is applicable to soft targets too. In other words, the bullet can easily pass through Mr. Scumbag and into whatever or whomever is directly behind him. You are ultimately responsible for every single round you fire, which is why this rule is important to keep in mind, as well as remembering that bullets can, and most likely will, continue beyond your target.

Following the universal firearms safety rules will help ensure that responsible gun ownership and concealed carry practices are in place. Though accidents can still happen, you may further reduce risks by regularly practicing at the range and always being aware of your surroundings when carrying concealed.

Beyond the Basic Rules of Firearm Safety

There are additional safety factors you’ll need to consider. For example, it’s important to wear ear and eye protection, when you practice shooting. (Of course, this wouldn’t even be a thought in a self-defense situation.) I recommend Pro Ears Silver 22 muffs (made in the USA) or Pro Ears Stealth 28 HTBT earbuds for hearing protection and Oakley M Frames or Kore Essentials Ballistic Recons for eye protection. I also really like my Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs, since I have modified them. If you’re interested in modifying yours too, here’s the article and video I made to show you what I did to get my Howard Leights to be my personal favorite muffs. 

Pro Ears Stealth 28 HTBT

Oakley M Frame Ballistic Eye Pro

Kore Recon Ballistic Sunglasses

Store Your Gun Safely and Securely When Not In Use

Proper storage is essential to responsible gun ownership and concealed carry, especially if there are children in your home. Since their little eyes are always watching you and what you’re doing, if they see your gun, they’ll likely want to interact with it. Far too many children are hurt and killed every year from completely preventable gun-related accidents. Make sure your firearm is always properly secured because you can count on minors finding it at some point, if it’s not stored appropriately.

Unfortunately, throwing your gun in your sock drawer and calling it good doesn’t officially count. Some states have laws in place regarding safe storage and gun ownership. I don’t fully agree with blanket requirements to unload and lock up all guns in the house, but there are good reasons for both sides of the argument. For starters though, definitely find out what the laws are in your state regarding firearms and storage. Again, if you have children, you MUST have a SECURE storage system for your firearm when you aren’t carrying it. At the very least, make sure your firearms are completely unloaded with no ammunition anywhere close to them, if you haven’t yet invested in a properly secured vault.

Side view of cute playful little boy with blond hair in t shirt sitting on pouf near window and gesturing gun at home
Your children probably want to be just like you. Don't make the mistake of leaving a loaded gun where they could access it!

The terms “vault” and “safe” are often exaggerated when companies are referencing portable locking containers for firearms. With the ATF Child Safety Lock Act of 2005, all handguns are required to be sold with some type of lock. Most will come with a simple cable lock, like the red one pictured below. The downside is that these are so easy to get into, they’re basically useless and are really more of a check in the box for “lock” than an actual securing device. While these cheaper kinds of gun locks are too rudimentary for the wrong person to open, a similtaneous downside is the amount of time it takes for you to finagle your firearm out of the contraption if you need it in a hurry.  

The Identilock pictured next to the cable lock is very fast to unlock with your fingerprint; however, it has its own issues – it’s a good concept, but they used a mediocre quality keyway lock…

Realistically, if someone has enough time, motivation, and tools, they can get into any and all safes, including bank vaults. The main thing that portable and small locking boxes do is give you extra time. However, cheaper options use thinner materials that might just take a stern look and a paper clip to open. I’ve even seen the Lock Picking Lawyer open a gun lock with an actual twig!  As you start getting up in price, build quality goes up, and the amount of time and tools required to open the safe also increases. 

With very small children, most locking boxes will do the trick, at least for a little while. Just plan to increase the security as they grow and get more curious, as well as more intelligent… I spent hours searching for the key to my father’s gun safe, when I was around 8-10ish. He was a police officer, and I wanted to be just like him. I also started learning how to pick locks at a very young age.  

Biometric Solutions

There are secure ways to store guns while still having fast access to them, in case of a home invasion or similar situation, where you might need your gun very quickly. For example, consider biometric safes from VaultTek, Gun Vault, Hornady, Konig, and Tactical Walls. There are also much larger and more secure gun-safe options, but that topic is beyond the scope of this article. 

Firearm Concealed Carry Terms & Meanings Cheat Sheet

Before we get much further, here is a cheat sheet to help explain some of the most common terms when it comes to concealed carry. There are lots of acronyms and slang that can get confusing if you’re not familiar with them.

IWB carry is any position where the bulk of the holster and firearm are inside your waistband and mostly concealed. You can carry IWB in the front, on the sides, or behind your back.

OWB carry is when the holster is worn on the outside of your pants and would be completely visible if you don’t wear baggy clothing, jackets, or similar styles of clothing. This style of carrying is most common in the military and police, where the main purpose of the holster is for extremely fast access to the handgun without the need to conceal it.

An example of open carry is a uniformed police officer. You can see his or her gun clearly because it’s out in the open. In general, I do not recommend open carrying for regular citizens because displaying a gun to the public simply isn’t going to do you any favors. Of course, this can vary greatly, depending on where you are in the country and the socially accepted practices in your area. In bigger cities especially, it’s practically an open invitation for negative attention at various levels. For example, a lot of people are not familiar with gun laws and would assume that you are a threat, rather than a normal person just doing normal things with a gun on your hip. There are a lot more reasons to not open carry, including making yourself a priority target for an active shooter. Really, no one needs to know you have a gun, just like no one needs to know you have a pair of aces.

Carry concealed, live your life, smile, be polite, and be ready to defend yourself and your loved ones if the need ever arises.

Concealed carry is mostly referenced when talking about carrying a handgun in a holster on your person. It’s also applicable if you are carrying a firearm in a purse, backpack, waist pack, car, etc. Most state laws are fairly clear on their definition of “concealed,” so make sure you read up on your state’s specific definition prior to carrying.

CCW is most commonly used to describe handguns, but it’s also applicable to any other type of concealed weapon, like knives, for example.

While 25 states have enacted “Constitutional Carry,” many others still require an individual to possess a permit to conceal carry their firearm. Discussing the tyrannical overreach of power and corruption of the United States government isn’t in the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, requiring a fee be paid to the state to exercise a constitutional right is absurd.

Basically, anywhere from the 11 to 1 o’clock positions on the front of your waist is considered appendix carry. This is one of the, if not the most, common styles of concealed carrying a firearm. Another term for appendix carry is “centerline carry.” There are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding appendix carry. While there are certainly some negative aspects, it’s still my preferred method.

AIWB is exactly the same as IWB and appendix carry, just shortened to an acronym because we can’t be bothered to type “appendix inside the waistband” every time we are talking about it. You will see some holsters marketed as AIWB. It just means they are specifically designed to be carried in the front and likely won’t work as well or at all in the other carry positions.

If you draw your gun for real, you better be ready to use it.

Other terms for this are “kick,” “kickback,” and “knockback.” Basically, some smart dude named Newton figured out that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Setting off a miniature explosion and launching a bullet at 1,200 fps causes an equal amount of force in the opposite direction (Newton’s Third Law of Motion).

Modern semi-automatic firearms use this reaction to help the gun cycle. This has several positive effects, like less felt recoil (more comfortable) for the shooter, harnessing the energy of recoil rather than wasting it, and allowing much faster follow-on shots versus manual cycling.

This generally correlates to whether you are right-handed or left-handed. According to several scientific journals studied by Medline Plus, 85-90% of people in western countries are right-handed. Left-handed holsters are available, but they can be much harder to find, especially for less common handguns.

Travis Haley made an excellent point back in the Magpul Dynamics days about how you shouldn’t have a weak side. Unfortunately, most of us do. As cool as it would be to sword fight left-handed for a while and then switch, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Cross draw means that, instead of carrying your gun on your right hip if you’re right-handed, you would carry it on your left hip with the grip facing forward, like a mouth-breathing neanderthal. Seriously, unless you have some very unique and legitimate reason for carrying this way, just don’t.

One legitimate example of a cross-draw holster is police officers who carry a non-lethal taser and their issued handgun at the same time. The handgun is worn on the officer’s dominant side, as usual, while the non-lethal taser is typically worn around the 9 to 11 o’clock position in a cross-draw holster.

When someone says “stick,” “box,” “source of feed,” or “mag,” they are referring to magazines. Magazines are removable boxes that carry and feed the cartridges into the gun’s chamber. No mag = no ammo = no bang bang = no bueno. (I apologize for not warning you there would be math involved.)

Revolvers certainly will forever have their place in history, but times and technology have changed. If you’re still carrying a revolver, it’s time to take a serious look in the mirror and admit there are much better options out there now. The two biggest reasons not to carry a revolver are ammo capacity and the amount of time to reload. If you have six bullets, and Mr. Scumbag has 17 plus another 17 in a backup magazine, who do you think has the advantage?

Other disadvantages of revolvers include shorter barrels (slower muzzle velocity and less accuracy), more weight because of the mostly steel construction, and higher felt recoil because 100% of the energy is directed into your hands and wrists versus into the slide and springs of a semi-auto pistol.

This is one of those terms that will instantly show how much experience someone has (or doesn’t have) with guns. If someone says something absolutely stupid like, “thirty caliber magazine clip,” I’d bet the farm that they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. The rifle ammunition that the military is currently using is issued on 10-round stripper clips. This allows soldiers to very rapidly load 30-round magazines with 3 “clips” rather than hand-loading 30 rounds individually.

Some people like to have their guns canted ever so slightly forward or backward. Personally, I like my barrel and slide to be vertical without any cant. Some forward cant may help with concealability, depending on your body type and clothing.

Printing is especially bad if you’re wearing tight clothing and carrying your gun around the back of your waist. If you bend over to pick something up, your gun will be printing like crazy and anyone paying attention will instantly know that you are armed.

Brandishing is an aggressive or menacing way of exhibiting a weapon, like waving it around or shaking it. Only five states (Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia) have laws that directly reference brandishing. Most other states refer to the concept of brandishing in terms like “Defensive Display,” “Improper Exhibition of a Weapon,” or “Unlawful Display.” Actions like resting your hand on the grip of your pistol and sweeping your garment aside to expose your concealed carry weapon could all be considered brandishing in some states and should be avoided. (Of course, this is not legal advice. I am not an attorney.)

The most common pistol calibers you’ll find for concealed carry guns are (smallest to largest) .380 ACP, .38 Special, 9mm Lugar (one of the most common), 10mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. I would strongly advise that you stay away from excessively small calibers (.22, .25, .380), as well as anything larger than .45 ACP for your concealed carry handgun.

This is the “business end,” and you should always take extreme care to be aware of what direction that muzzle is pointing. This is rule #2 of the four basic rules of firearms safety. Never point a firearm at anything or anyone you do not intend to destroy.

Lights on daily carry guns are unfortunately less common than they should be. Considering how the average turd burglar operates at night, it would be very helpful to be able to see that joker. The disadvantages of using a weapon light are size, weight, and price. These are just all things to consider.

I.e. leather and Kydex, neoprene and Kydex, leather and nylon, etc.

Kydex is the modern-day holster material of choice for most professionals and hobbyists alike. It has fantastic retention, won’t wear out your gun’s finish, and comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Leather was the holster material of choice for centuries and is still used today. The main downside is that it doesn’t have the same level of durability and retention as Kydex or plastic. Leather holsters also absorb moisture and transfer it directly to your gun, which can cause premature rust, if you don’t maintain it.

Much like revolvers, leather holsters will always have their place in history. However, technology has changed and there are much better, modern holster material options available today.

This is one of the, if not the worst, things that can happen when you are carrying a gun. An ND, or negligent discharge, means the gun was fired when it was not intended to be fired. No, a gun will never “go off” on its own without outside influence.

ND’s are most commonly caused by poor trigger finger discipline. (Remember rule #2 of the firearm safety rules: Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire.)

NDs can be caused by cheap holsters that do not completely cover the trigger. If the holster material is thin and flexible enough for the trigger to be pressed, while the gun is holstered, it’s time to throw that holster in the trash and upgrade for safety’s sake.

Here is an example of a leather holster failure that lead to an ND.

Flagging is basically pointing your gun at someone or something when you did not mean to do so. Basically, it’s a violation of rules #1, #3, and #4 of the universal firearm safety. Flagging someone is a great way to get yourself punched in the face or worse, depending on who you flag and what the circumstances are. This is also a very effective way to get yourself kicked out of shooting ranges in a hurry.

Most concealed carry holsters are level 1 holsters. The only factor keeping the handgun in the holster is friction, the rigidity of the holster, and gravity. Kydex holsters have an advantage over leather holsters in the retention department. Thanks to the heat-molding nature of Kydex, it protrudes into the trigger guard and does a great job of keeping your handgun secure until you need it. Kydex holsters have a very positive “click” sound when you holster.

The level 2 aspect is a secondary locking mechanism that keeps the gun in the holster until the individual manipulates that lock to unholster it. Typical level 2 concealed carry holsters use a strap or band over the back of the gun that is held in place by a snap or button. Another common level 2 design is a lever placed in a position that is naturally pressed when gripping the gun for a draw.

One important note on locking holsters is make sure to get one that has a locking mechanism that you can manipulate with your thumb or index finger in a way that does not cause a safety concern. I’m specifically thinking about Blackhawk SERPA holsters because they are NOT safe in this regard. Some of the best level 2 holsters available are the ALS line made by Safariland.

Level 3 holsters are most commonly used by military and police units that need to maintain possession of their firearm at all times and in all conditions. The holster has two independently functioning locking mechanisms that must both be disengaged by the user before the firearm can be removed from the holster. Use cases would be skydiving, scuba diving, street fighting, ambushes from behind, etc. I’m sure there is at least one level 3 holster out there intended for concealed carry; but for the most part, this level of retention isn’t necessary for most people. Much like level 2, the best level 3 holsters are made by Safariland.

What Makes a Great Concealed Carry Holster

Before we get into the “great” features, let’s quickly cover the three basic requirements to even consider buying a particular holster in the first place. When it comes to choosing a quality concealed carry holster, there are certain foundational aspects you’ll need. If you find a holster that doesn’t have one or more of these key attributes, move along – those aren’t the droids you’re looking for… John Correia, with Active Self Protection, lists the following three basic requirements that a holster must meet to even be considered at all:

A holster MUST completely cover the trigger guard.

A holster MUST hold the firearm securely.

A holster MUST allow access to the firearm reliably.

This example is a full Kydex holster from Bravo Concealment. It’s an older model, as they have changed their production process and material since this holster was made. The main thing you should notice is not only how this holster meets all of the basic requirements, but it also allows a 100% natural full firing grip. That’s a huge plus, and something to look for in a quality holster. 

If you haven’t seen the self-defense shooting breakdown videos that Active Self Protection produces, I would highly recommend taking the time to watch as many as you can, as often as you can, especially if you’ll be carrying a firearm for self-defense. There are many holsters in the world – some are great, most are good, and some are trash.

A Holster MUST Completely Cover The Trigger Guard

The ZeroBulk "holster" from Versa Carry is arguably the WORST holster. It's absolute trash, and I can't believe it's still being manufactured and sold.

One of the primary purposes of a holster is to safely store and carry your firearm in day-to-day life. If the holster doesn’t fully cover and protect the trigger and the entire trigger guard, it’s a non-starter. Quality holsters will always completely protect the trigger. The material around the trigger should be stiff enough to prevent it from collapsing over time or deforming with use. Elastic, thin nylon, and similar flexible fabric “holsters” fall into this no-go category. If you can pull the trigger while the gun is holstered, throw that thing in the trash! This also applies to gaps around the trigger guard, where small objects could get into the trigger (i.e. keys, pens, coins, etc, as in a pocket carry holster).

A Holster MUST Hold The Firearm Securely

If you can’t walk, run, bend over, jump around, and generally do normal tasks without your gun falling out of your holster and sliding across the floor, throw that thing in a burn barrel. A good concealed carry holster must have enough active or passive retention to keep your gun secure until you need it. This is especially true if you are running, ducking, diving for cover, etc. The last thing you want is for some active shooter situation to go down and then watch your handgun fly away because it fell out of its holster. If you can’t hold the gun upside down inside the holster without it falling out, this is a good indicator that there isn’t enough retention. You either need to tighten the retention level, or toss the holster out, if tightening it isn’t an option.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice all kinds of issues with the image below. Not only is this person trying to “holster” his gun in his jeans without an actual holster (NEVER DO THIS), he’s also doing so with his finger on the trigger. If you don’t understand why this is extremely dangerous, go back and revisit the universal rules of firearm safety and please make sure you understand them before you purchase your firearm.

A Holster Must Allow Reliable Access to the Firearm

If the holster moves around a lot, deforms when you draw or reholster, or limits your access to a full firing grip, it’s a no-go. You will never have a high-quality holster if it’s made from cheap materials. There are several very low-entry-cost concealed carry holsters on the market. The reason they’re so inexpensive is because the quality of the materials is not great. Like most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for… Expecting a $10 holster from China to perform as well as a $150 holster made in the United States is not going to work out well for you.

That being said, the current price point where you can spend the least and still get a great holster is around $30-$40. Bravo Concealment, CYA Supply, and We The People Holsters are the best options around this price point, in my opinion. 

A Holster Should Allow A Full Firing Grip

A good holster will allow you to get a full firing grip on your handgun, while it is fully seated in the holster. This means you won’t have to “milk” your hands during the draw and presentation process, due to your out-of-holster-grip not being ideal. Examples of holsters that don’t allow full firing grips are hybrid designs, where the leather or neoprene covers a portion of the grip. Another example of a grip issue is with the nylon or spandex holsters that some belly bands use. If you have to “fix” your grip because of a poor holster design on your primary carry holster, I would encourage you to banish the holster.

The belly band holster pictured below is an example of a very comfortable holster, however, it doesn’t allow for a full firing grip. The elastic nylon also doesn’t adequately protect the trigger, which is a general disqualifier for a holster. Another thing to note is the elastic band over the back of the handgun, where the button snaps on the front. If your belt rides over that snap, it becomes very difficult to draw, especially with any kind of speed or reliability.

A Holster Should Be Ridgid and Comfortable

Rigidity is critical in a concealed carry holster. The last thing you want is for your holster to collapse or fold when you draw, which could cause an accidental discharge if the trigger gets snagged. Several people have actually shot themselves while trying to reholster into a cheap, flexible holster. (Granted, there were additional safety rule violations that lead to the NDs, but the fact that the holsters collapsed certainly didn’t help.)

Likewise, if a holster is too rigid and inflexible, it won’t conform to your body shape and may be uncomfortable when carrying. If your holster isn’t comfortable, you’re more apt to not wear it. Here’s an unfortunate fact: the fancy concealed carry handgun and holster you left at home aren’t going to help you if you don’t have them with you when you need them the most.

A Holster With Adjustability Is A Plus

One aspect that quality holsters will have over cheaper options is adjustability, both in the retention level for the gun and the belt clip mounting locations. Some holsters will also include features like claws, wedges, and other aspects, specifically designed to help them conceal more effectively. The ability to customize your holster for the gun, body shape, and clothing you’re wearing makes a huge difference in daily carry comfort. It’s not rocket science, but it is nice to have the option of making fine-tuned adjustments.

The three most popular materials used for holsters are Kydex, injection-molded plastic or polymer, and leather.

Kydex

Kydex is by far the most popular material used for high-quality holsters today. It was originally invented in 1965 and has been widely used for holsters, magazine pouches, knife sheathes, aircraft parts, and hundreds of other applications. Kydex is heat moldable, so it creates a very effective holster that is molded like a second skin around your handgun. Kydex holsters are also chemical-resistant, scratch-resistant, easily cleaned, and affordable.

The first Kydex holster was made by FBI agent Bill Rogers in 1972. He later went on to form Rogers Holster Co., which was purchased by a little company called Safariland in 1985. Safariland is now the industry leader in OWB level 2 and 3 holsters for military and police units worldwide.

Leather

Leather has been used as holster material for centuries, and it may be the first real material ever used for holsters. Just like black powder guns and revolvers, leather has it’s place in history, but there are better options available today.

Personally, I don’t use or recommend pure leather holsters for several reasons. First, the leather will become soft over time and become less and less effective at retaining the handgun (see expensive gun sliding across the floor scenario below.) Second, the opening for leather holsters will collapse and deform after your draw, so re-holstering isn’t the easiest or safest. Third, leather naturally absorbs moisture (sweat) and then transfers that moisture to your firearm, causing rust. Leather is a very common material used for hybrid holsters as the backing that goes against your body. This leather backing will start to droop over time, making the reholstering process more difficult. 

Nylon

Notice that nylon is NOT on the list of quality materials for holsters. In fact, it’s one of the worst options on the market.

The day I turned 21, I bought my first handgun and applied for my concealed carry permit. Along with that handgun, I purchased a set of Blackhawk universal nylon IWB and Blackhawk SERPA OWB holsters. If you’re new to the gun world, that may not mean anything to you. If you’ve been around a while and have some knowledge on the subject, you’ll understand that those are two of the WORST holsters you could possibly buy. I was young, ignorant, and didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now, I can share my mistakes and hopefully guide you away from making the same ones I did in my early CCW days. 

Just stay away from nylon holsters as a general rule. Also stay away from anything that has a magazine pouch sewn on the front of the holster – that’s an instant sign that you’re looking at a garbage holster. 

Don’t even think about a holster made from nylon. You should also pass on any holster that has “universal,” “Versa Carry,” “Proud Right Wingers,” “Uncle Mikes,” “Sticky,” or “Urban Carry” in the name. 

Styles of Concealed Carry Holsters

  • Appendix Carry Holster
  • IWB Holster
  • OWB Holster
  • Belly Band Holster
  • Pocket Holster
  • Hybrid Holster
  • Cross Draw Holster
  • Shoulder Holster
  • Ankle Holster
  • Bra Holster
  • Purse / Bag / Backpack Holster

Obviously, with so many different options, there are plenty of choices for your personal needs. However, several of these holster styles are not ideal for your primary method of concealed carry. Unless you have very specific use cases and experience, focus on IWB holsters, OWB holsters, or appendix carry.

Every style of concealed carry holster has its own list of pros and cons to consider. Some methods have a lot more pros than cons, while others are borderline useless. Ultimately, the “best” holster for me might not be the best one for you. It’s very common for gun owners to develop a “drawer of shame.” That’s the place where all the holsters they bought, that ended up not being right for them, go to die. (Yes, I have a drawer of shame too. There are about six holsters in mine at the moment.)

Best Appendix Carry AIWB Holster

Appendix carry is becoming increasingly popular, especially among younger people. AIWB stands for “Appendix Inside Waistband,” meaning that your gun and holster are tucked in the front of your pants, rather than on your side or back. This has several advantages – it’s usually more comfortable and easier to draw from, but you do need to make sure that when you draw, you keep your muzzle pointed away from important things, like your femoral artery and family jewels. Again, remember the rule about keeping your trigger finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire!

John Lovell at Warrior Poet Society does a great job explaining some of the considerations for appendix carry versus other methods in the following video. If you don’t know, John was part of Army Special Operations in the 2nd Ranger Battalion with several combat deployments. He’s also the lead instructor for all of the WPS training classes.

The appendix holster that John is using in this video is from Tier 1 Concealed.

Brands to check out for AIWB holsters:

Best IWB Concealed Carry Holster

This example is an IWB Kydex holster from We The People Holsters. Click the image to check it out.

IWB holsters are (in my opinion) the most popular and most practical holsters for carrying a firearm concealed. IWB stands for “inside waistband,” meaning that your gun is completely tucked away inside your pants, against your body. This makes it much more difficult to detect any kind of bulge from a distance, and it keeps the gun closer to your body.

IWB holsters allow you to carry concealed in a huge variety of situations and clothing styles. Some IWB holsters even allow you to tuck your shirt in between the gun and the clips of the holster. The most popular carry positions for IWB holsters are in the front (appendix), 3 o’clock, and 5 o’clock.

Personally, I don’t recommend any carry position past 9 to 3 o’clock (behind you). The reasons I don’t recommend any carry position past your sides are ease of access, ease of concealability, speed of access, and comfort while sitting. One of the biggest reasons I don’t recommend carrying anywhere around your back is that it’s very easy for someone to come up behind you and take your gun. Don’t believe me? Watch this.

Brands to check out for IWB holsters:

Best OWB Concealed Carry Holster

For the most part, OWB holsters aren’t typically considered concealed carry holsters. Obviously, if your gun and holster are outside your waistband on your belt line, they are much more likely to be visible to those around you, unless you’re wearing a baggie shirt or jacket. Depending on your body type and size, you might be able to conceal an OWB holster, if your shirt is large and loose enough. OWB holsters are certainly concealable, especially in colder weather when jackets and thicker clothing are normal. For the most part though, I would personally steer clear of an OWB holster, if you’re specifically looking for a concealed carry holster. OWBs have their place, for sure, but they aren’t used as much for CCWs.

One huge consideration for OWB carry is the fact that you are advertising that you have a high-value item. You’re also inviting all kinds of issues from normal citizens, who are just afraid of guns, to criminals looking for opportunities to steal firearms.

Some people argue that open carrying a firearm is a deterrent to help prevent crimes. Although that may be true in some instances, it’s more likely just turd bait for some aspiring individual (or group) to target you and steal your gun (or worse).

If you do insist on carrying outside your waistband, make sure you have a quality level 2 or above retention holster. I recommend a Safariland ALS level 2 holster for OWB carry.

Brands to check out for OWB holsters that are slim and fairly easy to conceal:

Best Belly Band Holster for Concealed Carry

Belly band holsters are ideal for running and working out. They are also nice with light clothing and when you’re not wearing a belt. The biggest advantage to belly band holsters is that they are worn completely independently from your clothing and belt. The belly band serves as both the belt and holster. There are no visible clips, so you can easily conceal carry with a huge variety of clothes, including workout clothing. 

There are a few different versions of belly bands available, but the usual formula is a neoprene material secured with velcro. It’s pretty simple. Depending on the design of the belly band holster, you can likely wear your firearm in any position you want around your waist.

With as nice as this sounds so far, I would not recommend a belly band as your primary holster. This is because the majority of the ones on the market are made with soft, flexible material, creating the potential for significant safety issues, as discussed earlier (i.e. lacking rigidity for good retention, safe draws, and reholstering, insufficient trigger guard coverage, and hindered access for a full firing grip). At the same time, I will tell you that both my wife and I have one, and they’re not in the box of shame… Here’s the thing: running/working out in public settings isn’t really conducive to carrying a gun…but it becomes possible with a belly band. For us, personally, we’ve decided that, if it comes to doing those activities unarmed versus carrying with belly bands, we would rather be armed. At the same time, this is now more of a temporary plan for us because we recently learned about a new kydex/tegris option from PHLster called “Enigma.”

We’re excited about PHLster’s new Enigma because it appears to properly cover the trigger guard, have good retention, and give reliable draws with safe reholstering. The Enigma seems to be especially popular for women, since it doesn’t require any type of gun belt to wear and use effectively. 

The downside of PHLster’s Enigma is that it’s on the higher cost side for a holster, particularly unless you already have the kydex portion for your firearm. 

More of a middle ground option, between the basic neoprene style with all its safety issues and the higer price point of the PHLster Enigma, seems to be the Crossbreed Modular Belly Band 2.0 because it also has the kydex insert. I have not personally tried this one either, so the main thing I would wonder about is the ability to get a full firing grip from it. Another issue would be getting a reliable draw from the Crossbreed Modular, since it does not have the leg strap that the Enigma has that keeps the holster in place, without sliding up your waist in a fast draw.

Bottom line with belly bands, in my opinion – unless you decide to join us in upgrading to the PHLster Enigma for better rigidity, trigger guard coverage, reliable draw, and immediate access to the full firing grip, I would generally think of the belly band as a back burner option for specific activities like going jogging in the woods, where you would otherwise not carry at all, so it’s better to have the belly band than go unarmed. Ultimately though, you are now aware of the aspects to consider with belly bands and can weigh the options to determine which set of risks is more tolerable for your personal situation.

Hybrid Concealed Carry Holsters

A hybrid holster is a combination of at least two different materials (typically either leather and Kydex, as with Crossbreed, or neoprene and plastic, as with Alien Gear). The one pictured above is a MiniTuck from Crossbreed. (I don’t recommend it, but read further to see why). Hybrid holsters help spread the pressure points of having a gun stuffed into your pants over a wider area than other designs.

Of course, there are cons. For example, gun holsters that have a leather backing are prone to the same issues with leather, as I mentioned previously. Leather is always looking to soak up moisture, and it will become softer and start breaking down over time. Granted, it will take several years of wear before it becomes a major concern, but it’s something to know upfront. I’ve been testing Crossbreed’s “The Reckoning” holster. It has held up great over the last year (pictured below), but my use of it has been far from daily.

The biggest downside to hybrid holsters is that the leather, or other backing material, tends to cover a portion of the grip, which limits your ability to get a full firing grip with your draw. The next downside to hybrid holsters is that the trigger guard/trigger tends to be easier to access than a full Kydex shell design. This isn’t the case with the Reckoning holster from Crossbreed (see directly above), but when similar holsters don’t fully cover the trigger guard area, it violates rule #1 of the three basic requirements for a holster.

Below is an example of the kind of grip you can expect with a SuperTuck holster from Crossbreed. As you can see, it takes more of a claw than anything to draw it, so I would rule it out. There’s just too much leather to get an acceptable drawing grip.

In my testing of Crossbreed’s Reckoning holster (see above), even though it has less leather around the grip than the SuperTuck below, I actually can’t recommend it because it violates rule #3 of the three basic requirements for a holster in not allowing the full firing grip. I’m actually planning to cut the leather back some and see how that works.

Some hybrid holsters work better than others for various reasons; but personally, I’ve found that I just can’t really recommend hybrid holsters.

Brands that offer hybrid concealed carry holsters:

Cross Draw Holsters

In my opinion, you should only consider a cross draw holster if you are using it for a secondary, non-lethal option like a taser. Otherwise, I don’t recommend cross draw carry for several reasons. First of all, the amount of movement and the distance your hands have to travel before your gun could be used in self-defense is simply too much. If you needed to quickly draw and fire, your strong hand would have to travel completely across your body, draw your gun, and then go back across your body to actually get your firearm pointed in the right direction. You would also very likely be flagging anyone between 9 and 11 o’clock, while getting the gun turned around. That’s a whole bunch of wasted time and energy for a stupid way to carry a gun. It’s not a first-world issue or a matter of being lazy – every second counts in self-defense scenarios. 

Using a cross-draw holster has major negative aspects.

Everything you do takes time, so adding a round trip across your whole body and back again is just stupid because self-defense shootings are literally over in seconds, and the difference between “alive” and “dead” is measured by hundredths of a second.

Another negative aspect of carrying in a cross draw holster is that your handgun’s grip is facing out, which makes it super convenient for someone else to take possession of it. Think about it – would you want someone else to be able to get control of your gun faster than you could?  You don’t have to get a special cross draw holster for that – you could just order you’re normal strong-hand orientation and put it on the wrong side, facing the wrong direction…so it’s easier for Mr. Scumbag to grab in a fight. (Are we clear here? I was being sarcastic. Please just don’t do cross draw.) Friends don’t let friends cross draw!

Shoulder Holsters For Concealed Carry

Guess what? Shoulder holsters fall under the same “stupid” category as cross draw holsters, in my opinion. Unless you need to conceal carry an SMG, just don’t even consider a shoulder holster. It has all the same negative drawbacks as cross draw, with the addition of even more cons. If the barrel of the gun is horizontal to the ground when it’s holstered, guess where it’s pointing? See Rules #1 and #3 of the universal firearms safety rules above. If it’s pointed at the ground, that will put your grip very high, and you could actually run into your other arm when trying to draw quickly.

Guess what else is a “feature” that’s basically required for shoulder holsters? Just about all of them have a secondary strap with a button or snap that has to be manipulated before you can draw. That means you’ll need to use both hands to draw and reholster effectively, which is a no-go. Also, shoulder holster positioning just gives easy access for Mr. Scumbag to grab your gun, since the grip is already facing him in a fight.

There are a few scenarios when you might want to go with a shoulder holster over something else. One example would be if you spend most of your time sitting or driving. Carrying a holster in your waistband while driving for hours a day isn’t going to be very comfortable at all, not to mention, trying to draw from the waist around a seatbelt isn’t the easiest feat either. A shoulder holster would be a better choice in that specific case.

“BuT jAmEs BoNd UsEs a ShOuLdEr HoLsTeR!?” Yep, he’s also a fictional character, depicted in movies produced by some of the most gun-ignorant folks in the United States (Commiefornia).

Shoulder holsters also add a bunch of bulk and contact areas on your shoulders, back, and under arms. Those bulked-up areas create a massive potential for hotspots to develop, depending on what you’re doing while wearing the holster. You also end up walking around with your arms sticking out to compensate for the junk under your armpits.

So, to sum up shoulder holsters for concealed carry, the best one is the one you don’t buy. Seriously, just don’t. If you absolutely can’t stand the thought of not using a shoulder holster, go with an ALS option from Safariland; but make room in your drawer of shame, just in case.

Don't use a shoulder holster unless you have a very specific profession that requires it.

Concealed Carry Ankle Holsters

Ankle holsters, in my opinion, should only be considered as a backup to your primary firearm. Ankle holsters are most often worn by police officers and Federal agents that have a need for a small backup gun. If you’re just getting into concealed carry, don’t even bother researching ankle holsters. They are typically made from nylon, and they require you to bend over to draw. Imagine you’re minding your own business at the local Wally World when someone starts shooting. Naturally, you start running in the opposite direction, and your super duper tactical 007 ninja concealed carry ankle holster spits out your CCW and sends it sliding across the floor, under some display shelf. Trust me, unless you have a primary gun somewhere on your hip already and you have a legitimate need for a backup gun, don’t waste your time on ankle holsters.

If you spend a lot of time in business casual attire with your shirt tucked in, an ankle holster might be a viable need for carrying a handgun without worrying about printing. You would also be free to give hugs without worrying about people feeling a gun at your waist. Examples of folks that might regularly be in this position are pastors, doctors, lawyers, or anyone that hugs others all the time. Just understand that your draw is going to be very slow and very easy to see coming. If you’re expecting to get your gun into a fight against someone who suddenly has a knife in your face, well…I hope it works out for you. 

The bottom line for ankle holsters is that you should not buy one.

Concealed Carry Pocket Holsters

Pocket holsters are another holster category that, in my opinion, is more of a gimmick than anything. They are extremely limiting in terms of what type and size of gun you can comfortably carry in your pocket. The smaller the gun, the more of a disadvantage you have against the aggressor(s). Pocket holsters tend to be cheaply made, flimsy, nylon garbage. If you decide to go with a pocket holster, remember that it MUST meet the three basic requirements for a holster for you to even consider it (see above for a reminder). If you really love the idea of a pocket holster, I would recommend going with a full Kydex option.

The holster pictured above is a Pocket Locker Kydex holster made by Vedder Holsters

I’ve never personally carried in a pocket holster, so I can’t speak with any real-world experience on them. From what I’ve heard, pocket holsters are a good option if you are “fluffy,” have a “tactical shelf,” or ate all the brownies over the holidays, as I did. I’m not a fan of how many ways the gun could get stuck in the draw stroke, while you’re trying to get it into the fight. I’m also not a fan of trying to draw from a pocket holster in a seated position. Depending on the size and style of pants you’re wearing, the pockets are most likely going to be very difficult to access, especially if you’re in a hurry. 

Bra Holsters For Women

Since I have zero experience in the bra holster department, I’m afraid you’ll have to keep searching for info on this one because my wife doesn’t plan to use this option either. Just remember the basic requirements for a holster, and remember that you don’t want your gun pointing at yourself or the people next to you. Just going off of basic concepts for drawing from concealment, I just don’t think it would be great to have to lift up your shirt that much to access your gun, although maybe that would be a diversion tactic…?

Purse / Bag / Backpack Concealed Carry Holsters

I would not recommend your primary method of concealed carry be a purse, bag, or backpack. There are a few reasons behind this. First, the amount of time and movement that would be required to draw and fire a handgun from a bag is WAY too long. Even if you were a total rockstar and managed to draw and fire in five seconds, the average criminal can draw and fire from the waist in about 0.25 seconds, according to Force Science. Realistically, I think that number is exaggerated quite a bit, so let’s say it takes six times longer. Mr. Bad Guy draws, points, and fires in 1.5 seconds, while you’re still digging around in your bag, trying to find your gun. Not a good day. That’s also not taking into account the time it would take you to recognize the threat, decide on a course of action, and then act on that decision. This is a concept called the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), which was conceived by Air Force Col. John Boyd. This concept deserves its own stand-alone article, but the short version is that there is a series of events that take place before someone decides to do something. In this concealed carry response example, you would observe Mr. Bad Guy and his gun, orient yourself toward or away from that threat (i.e. do you see somewhere to run or hide), decide what to do (fight or flight), and then act on that decision.

The second reason I don’t recommend a bag or purse for your primary carry is that you have to maintain control and positive possession of that bag or purse at all times. The odds of someone coming along and helping themselves to your bag are on the higher side these days, especially if you live in blue-controlled cities. If you sit down for dinner in a restaurant and hang your purse or backpack on a chair, it’s not only easy for someone else to help themselves to it, but it’s also further away than it should be if you needed to grab your gun and react quickly.

The third reason you should pass on a backpack or purse carry style is that drawing and presenting the gun are both inconsistent and requires both hands. In a perfect scenario, you would have both hands free and be fully mentally, as well as physically, prepared for action. You might also say you could just drop whatever you were carrying and go from there. Okay, what if you’re carrying your child? That’s a whole different story.

This scenario is a good example of why a holster must allow reliable access to your gun. If you only have one hand to draw and fire, can you do it quickly and effectively? What if your primary hand isn’t an option for whatever reason? Can you draw and fire reasonably well with both hands from your holster? If not, why not?

Finding the Right Price Point: Affordable vs Expensive Concealment Holsters

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Assuming the holster you’re looking at meets all three of the basic requirements, there are several different price points, ranging from around $30 to $150+ for a concealed carry holster. The lower-cost options will typically be made with cheaper plastic material versus thicker Kydex; but for the most part, you can get an affordable holster and be just fine. In general, the high-end options include attached spare magazine carriers, concealment claws, wedges, and a lot of customizability. Brands like T1C, TXC, and T.REX ARMS all allow you to basically choose every color, style, accessory, extras, etc. If you want a red carbon fiber back with a black topo pattern holster with a spare mag carrier and a blue shock cord, T1C is the place to get it. 

Additional options include customizing the design of the Kydex and custom shaping for specific add-on items like handcuffs, a tourniquet, spare magazines, AR magazines, etc. Are those exact options required? Not at all, but they are certainly nice, if you have the spare cash to spend. Do you need to spend $150+ on a holster? Not really, but lots of people do for various reasons. You also don’t “need” to spend thousands of dollars on a Rolex watch when a G-Shock will keep more accurate time. The Bravo Concealment holster pictured above is $30, and it’s a great option at a great price. 

One factor that can add a significant cost is if you need something completely custom-made. If you have a Desert Eagle with a flame thrower mounted on it, you’re probably not going to find a mass produced holster for it…just a theory though. 

The brands I’m thinking of for “high-end holsters” are SafarilandTier 1 Concealed, PHLster, and T.REX ARMS. All of these companies produce a variety of holsters including IWB, OWB, and level 3 holsters. Some of the best sellers for T.REX and T1C include AIWB holsters with a spare magazine carrier built into the holster. For Safariland, either the level 2 ACS holster line or the 6378 line seem to be good sellers. (Don’t ask me about Safariland’s naming matrix – no one understands it, including Safariland.)

The reason you won’t find Tier 1 Concealed, PHLster,  T.REX ARMS, and Safariland mentioned on most of the “best holsters” lists is that they don’t have affiliate marketing programs. In other words, content creators don’t have a financial reason to mention them. We’re telling you anyway because we think that’s the right thing to do. 

In Conclusion, What is the Best Concealed Carry Holster?

The best concealed carry holster for you is the one that you will actually, actively use and safely carry every day. Your gun is worthless to you if you don’t have fast and reliable access to it at all times. Choosing to save a few dollars by purchasing a cheap holster isn’t going to do you any favors. If you’re serious about carrying a gun, you should be serious about the holster and belt you choose to pair with it.

When it comes to carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense, finding the right holster is essential. The right holster must allow for quick and continuous availability to the gun, let you maintain control and positive possession of it at all times, and enable drawing and presenting with both hands, if needed. There are holsters available at various price points – from basic plastic models around $30 to highly customizable Kydex options that can easily cost up to $200 or more, depending on need, features like spare magazine carriers, concealment claws, wedges, customizability, and other add-ons that may be necessary or desirable for you.

Ultimately, the best holster for you is the one that can be used daily with fast, reliable access when needed. It’s important not to skimp on quality. Investing in a good quality holster could make all the difference when it comes to safety and protection for you and those you love. 

Thank you for reading this article. If you found it helpful, please share it with others who may benefit from it! If you have any questions or further thoughts on this topic, feel free to reach out. I’m here to help. Thanks again, be safe, and stay informed!

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