Which Retention Holster is Best for You?

October 7, 2019

There are all sorts of choices of holsters for your concealed carry pistol. Knowing which is best is often confusing.

It is vital to have a holster that offers the best amount of retention of  your pistol. You need it to be snugly enveloped and also you must be able to draw quickly.

There are three levels of holster retention.

Level 1

Level 1 is a passive retention holster. Thus, the shooter does not need to activate a lever, release a snap or push a button to draw the weapon. It is released by a firm tug.

This holster holds the firearms snugly by friction. This is accomplished by having a tight grip on the frame as well as the trigger guard. These holsters are often formed to fit a specific makes and models of pistol. Level 1 retention holsters are not interchangeable. They are designed for one pistol.

Level 1 leather and kydex holsters are available. The advantage is that they make drawing easy. They are more compact and less bulky than other higher retention level holsters. 

The disadvantage of Level 1 retention holsters is that they are less secure. You can more easily lose the weapon from the holster. An attacker could wrench it from  you. Leather Level 1 retention holster are affected by heat and humidity. Kydex holsters do not have this problem. 

Level 1 retention holsters are most often worn of inside the waistband.

Level 2

A Level 2 holster is an active retention holster. It has the same friction characteristics as a level 1 holster. However, it has added retention like a strap or hood. This covers the back of the firearm, securing it. The shooter must unsnap the strap or activate a lever to draw the pistol.

While Level 2 holsters offer more retention, they also require an extra step of activating retention features before drawing. This requires training and practice t become competent. Level 2 holster is more secure. It is more likely to keep your weapon from falling out.

Level 3

A Level 3 retention holster includes both passive and active features. It also has some additional retention features to hold the pistol. Many Level 3 holsters include a button. This must be pressed with your index finger before you can draw the weapon. 

Level 3 holsters are the most secure. It would be difficult for someone to grab your handgun. The downside is a slower, much more complicated draw. 

If you had to do a quick draw a level 3 holster would pose a problem.

Level 3 holsters are used by law enforcement and in military personnel. 

As a civilian with a concealed carry permit you need to practice extensively drawing the weapon to reach a highly competent level of drawing your gun.


When looking for the best retention holster discuss with others who use these holsters and with gun shop people who sell the various types of retention holsters. Then be sure to try them out. The right retention level holster should feel comfortable for you.