Open carry is not everyone’s favorite method of carrying, but there are certain situations and environments where open carry is either necessary or convenient.
This round-up of the best open carry holsters will focus on outside the waistband (OWB) options for semi-autos. Our top choices include leather, synthetic, and plastic. The holsters under review all fall within a 20 to 55 dollars price range, which is affordable.
If you are in the market for a good open carry holster, then you can disregard some of the considerations that would kick in with concealed carry. When concealed carrying you may have to sacrifice a little bit of comfort or holster position, in order to ensure that your weapon does not print.
With open carry, this is not a concern and so there is no need to lose comfort. Everyone’s body is different and so is your belt line. Some prefer a gun that rides higher or lower in the holster. One important requirement is that your holster must be secured pretty tightly if it runs outside of your belt.
Ultimately, comfort with everyday carry and the ability to draw your firearm cleanly, every time, should be your two primary requirements. Aesthetics and other fancy features are a distant second in terms of priorities.
Types of Open Carry Holsters
This review is focusing on OWB and paddle holsters but a few other open carry options are available depending on your personal requirements.
Classic detective shoulder holsters are an alternative. There are also many good ankle, drop leg, and belly band (great for female carriers) holsters which are covered in different reviews on this site.
Open Carry Safety Features
In general, holsters will have a retention rating going from level one up to level four. In each case, there will be an increase in actions required to draw the gun from the holster. For example, with a level one, there will be only one action required to draw.
This action could involve only a smooth vertical draw to “break” the fit or lock that the holster has on the gun. Level three retention would employ two safety features above the passive retention of a snug fit. The final level would have three safety features.
Additional levels could employ safety straps or finger-operated trigger safeties. Ultimately, the level of retention determines how difficult it would be for a third party to remove your gun from its holster.
Naturally, the higher retention levels have their pros and cons. High retention levels will dramatically reduce the chances of an assailant getting your gun away from you, but it will also reduce your draw speed.
The level of retention in a holster is a personal choice that should be impacted by the practicalities of your carry requirements. Law enforcement officers will often by regulation, have to use holsters with at least a level two retention for duty carry.
As a private citizen, your options are open. Depending on what you think are the most likely defense scenarios, it could be to your benefit to favor a quick and fast draw over heightened retention safety.
Why Open Carry?
Depending on your state, you may be required to apply for a separate permit in order to carry a weapon concealed. This may also require fees and additional training courses.
There are also situations where open carry would be more practical such as when you are hiking or bike riding. In addition, if your state is hotter than hades in summer, it can also be pretty uncomfortable to have a gun and holster tucked inside your draws.
One of the most common objections to open carry is the possibility that you could be targeted for your weapon. In the US, this has proven to be statistically rare. Typically, people who open carry will often conceal carry as well. It really depends on the occasion and your state.
The relentless holster is designed to accommodate most full-size and compact semi-autos. This includes 1911 variations as well. It has a magazine pouch for convenience and is made to favor a quick gun draw.
The stitching and craftsmanship of the leather are of very good quality and it is certainly a reasonably priced option for a leather holster. Like with all leather holsters, you will need to wear it in before it fits your gun snuggly and also draws smoothly. It is available in brown and black.
There are two possible drawbacks to this holster. Firstly, the magazine pouch is on the same side as your gun hand, which would make magazine changes a bit slow and inconvenient. This may not be an issue on the range but for a plain-clothed officer or anyone carrying for “duty”, that design feature could prove impractical.
Secondly, unlike many leather holsters, the Relentless does not have extra belt holes to adjust for cant and different carry styles.
Relentless Tactical offer a lifetime warranty on all of their products and their after-sales care is good.
Could do with an extra belt loop
The magazine pouch is on the same side as the users gun hand
The 1791 holster comes in four different colors. Black, classic brown, signature brown, and vintage brown. The leather and stitching is of good quality and the overall look of the holster is aesthetically pleasing.
The holster is designed to fit the most popular auto-pistols from Glocks to Sigs, FN, and Smith and Wesson. It is a level two retention holster.
It has two front belt loops for 1.75-inch belts to cater to different cant requirements, the FBI for the quickest standing draw, and the back-cant for a seated draw.
It also has a thumb strap safety to keep a pistol more securely and to prevent third parties from attempting to access the weapon. The thumb safety itself works well as it is pretty quick and easy to release, particularly with a little practice.
One potential issue with a holster that is designed for many different auto-pistol models is that it will fit some guns far better than others. The thumb catch will be a bit loose for some compact pistols and in the case of a Glock 17 or pistol that has a slightly longer barrel than standard full-size guns, the thumb catch can be either very tight or it won’t lock fully.
The 1791 remains a really good safety leather option that is affordably priced and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Thumb strap safety
Quality leather and workmanship
Might not be a snug fit for compact pistols and full-size guns with slightly longer barrels.
The Fobus evolution or BRS storm is designed specifically for the Beretta 92 full-size and compact, as well as the PX Storm. It would also be ideal for any of the Beretta clones such as the Taurus, Girsan, and Vektor pistols.
The Fobus has a paddle design for additional comfort and has adjustable screws for retention. The rivets at the back of the holster enable the user to make adjustments for cant.
Berettas and clones fit tightly into the holster with a good lock. The Fobus is intended for a straight vertical draw as this is what results in the smoothest release from the holster’s lock.
The holster is made of polymer and the back paddle is mainly rubber to give an end result that is really lightweight. For the price, this is an excellent choice.
Because the holster has a very tight passive grip on a gun and it is designed for a vertical draw, it can be difficult to draw quickly if you don’t carry in a standard vertical cant. This is obviously also part of the holster’s safety features. What makes it difficult for third parties to draw from different angles also restricts the user’s draw angle as well.
Quick draw from a vertical position
Designed specifically for a few models
Retention can be overly tight if drawing from different cants
DYJ Tactical Pistol/Gun Molle Belt Holster with Magazine Pouch
The DYJ tactical is a nylon holster that fits 1911’s, Berettas, and Glocks. Auto-pistols of similar size would also fit. The holster comes in left and right-hand options with three different colors to choose from.
The holster also has a magazine pouch and a place for a small flashlight. Due to its Molle design, the holster is also customizable and overall tightness can be adjusted greatly. It can also be used for belt, chest, or thigh carry.
It has two adjustable safety straps but allows you the option of using only one if that is your preference. Releasing these safety straps is done with a clip and velcro. This will certainly hold your gun well but you are not going to win any quick draw competitions.
One problem with nylon holsters that are made for many gun models is that in spite of the safety straps, a gun can sometimes still flop around in the holster. Particularly if you are doing a lot of fast walking.
In terms of what you get with this holster, it is the best value for money option on this list.
The Cytac is made from military-grade polymer and is available in black. It is designed specifically for the Glock 19 Gen 1 through 5 but is not compatible with the Glock polymer 80. The Cytac is a level two retention holster.
The holster has a trigger safety that can be depressed with your index finger. When putting your gun in the holster it will make an audible click when the trigger safety has been engaged. As a result of the trigger safety, the holster does not have adjustable retention which can result in your gun wobbling a bit.
The Cytec has a paddle attachment for carrying comfort but is also used for adjusting the cant. It has a 360 degree tooth gear which enables a broad range of cant preferences.
The holster is open at the bottom to accommodate longer barrels, however, it will not fit for Glocks that have under-frame rails.
All in all, the paddle design makes it a comfortable holster to carry and the trigger safety is quick to disengage with your index finger. The cant options make it good for cross draw as well. It’s a really lightweight option and its price is a great factor, striking a good balance between quality and affordability.
Comfortable paddle design
Retention is not adjustable
These are our best open carry options that provide a choice between leather and plastic, as well as different retention levels. Each selection will appeal to a different auto-pistol owner. However, all of our top picks are under 55 dollars which makes all of them good value for money deals.