If you’re a concealed carry gun owner, you’ve probably noticed that the most difficult part about effectively concealing and carrying your weapon is choosing the right holster. Many are just too bulky to be considered true concealment holsters, and keeping your gun in your pocket is certainly not the safest way to carry.
If this sounds like a problem you’re currently facing, then I recommend you go shopping for a quality Kydex, in-the-waistband (IWB) holster. These sturdy, thermoplastic holsters are great for concealment because they hold the gun inside the pants, but still maintain a safe and reliable hold like a traditional holster.
In this guide I will go over all the things you need to look for in the best Kydex IWB gun holster as well as show you some of my favorites.
Quick Recommendations: Top Performing IWB Holsters
For those of you who already know your way around IWB holsters, here’s a couple to check out right away if you’re ready to purchase:
Editor’s Pick: CYA Supply Co. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield IWB Holster
If you own a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm or 40mm, this IWB holster has all the characteristics of a great concealed carry holster and it’s made of Boltaron (a thermoplastic like Kydex) for superior durability.
Best For the Money: Relentless Tactical Defender IWB Holster
At an affordable price, this IWB holster by Relentless Tactical fits a variety of small handguns (similar in size to the M&P Shield 9 or 40) for more concealed carry options.
Selecting the Right IWB Holster for Your Needs
I’ve already established that in my opinion, Kydex IWB holsters are the best holsters for concealed carry, but in their category there are many different options and your pick should be based on your carry needs as well as your personal carry preferences.
If you’re new to the world of IWB holsters, here are some crucial characteristics to consider before purchasing your own:
Kydex or Boltaron?
If you go to any concealed carry forums, you can find a multitude of threads on this very subject, everyone swearing that the plastic they prefer is the best. The reality is this: Kydex and Boltaron are both high-performing thermoplastics that result in a faster draw and more comfortable wear than leather or cowhide.
In my opinion, either of these plastics will serve the same purpose, especially for a first time IWB holster user. Throughout your lifetime as a concealed carrier, you may find you have a preference of one over the other, but if you’re buying your first IWB holster, Kydex or Boltaron will serve you just fine.
The way in which you prefer to carry your gun will tell you a lot about what kind of IWB holster you will need. Some are single-position holsters, while others are adjustable for many different carry positions for max flexibility. Here’s a rundown of the most common carry positions:
This carry position has the IWB holster on the same side as your drawing/shooting arm. This is perhaps the most common carry position.
Opposite of strong-side, this carry position is for those who like to “cross draw”, or reach across their bodies with their strong arm to draw from their “weak” side. This position requires the grip of the pistol to be facing forward, rather than the backward grip position in the strong-side carry position.
This carry position puts your IWB holster on the small of your back, obviously, with the grip of your pistol pointing in the direction of your drawing arm.
Lastly, the appendix carry position places your IWB in your front, approximately where your appendix is, although it can be put in a mirrored position depending on which side from which you draw.
Holster Firearm Retention
Holster retention is a very important factor when selecting a Kydex IWB holster. In this case, retention refers to the ability of the holster to keep your firearm in place when not in use. Good retention will keep your gun from falling out accidentally and also makes it harder for attackers to execute a “gun grab” before you have the chance to defend yourself.
For a civilian carrying a concealed handgun, there are 2 relevant levels of holster retention. Any retention mechanisms past the first two levels could actually hinder your ability to quickly draw your gun in a self-defense situation because they make the draw to slow or the holster too big to conceal.
Friction (level 1)
A level 1 retention holster uses only friction to keep your firearm in place. Since we are talking specifically about thermoplastic IWB holsters, which don’t grip like a leather holster does, this means adjusting tension screws on the holster to achieve the desired retention. The problem with a level 1 Kydex holster is keeping the screws at the desired amount of tension. They will need checked and adjusted often for peak performance.
One Mechanism (level 2)
Level 2 IWB Kydex holsters have all the tension-screw friction retention that a level 1 holster has, but adds a secondary mechanism to further secure your firearm. This secondary mechanism could be a hood, strap, thumb-lever, or any other variation as long as it adds an additional layer of retention. I prefer a level 2 holster to a level 1 because it does give you the added security from would-be gun grabbers.
In my opinion, the adjustability of an IWB holster should be the deciding factor once you’ve narrowed down your choices. The most common adjustable trait in a holster is its cant. The cant of a holster refers to the tilt (in degrees) that the holster allows. For example, an IWB holster with zero degrees of cant is lined straight up and down with the user’s leg.
Even the most comfortable, top-notch holster won’t be a “perfect” fit for every shooter. An IWB holster with adjustable cant allows you to find the absolute perfect draw position to match your draw style.
If this seems obvious to some of my readers, I apologize, but it’s absolutely crucial that you find an IWB holster that is designed for your specific gun. Attempting to carry a firearm in a non-compatible holster is a recipe for disaster and discomfort.
There are IWB holsters that fit one specific gun and those that are designed to fit a wider variety of models. Always check the manufacturer’s literature and make sure that your specific model is designed to be used with the IWB holster you choose. A “close fit” is no fit at all when it comes to concealed carry IWB holsters, or any other holster type for that matter.
Now that you’ve had a crash course in Kydex (and other thermoplastic) IWB holsters, it’s time to get to the fun part! Here’s an in-depth look at some of my favorite IWB holsters for concealed carry-use, including my recommendations from the beginning of this guide.
A Detailed Look at My Top IWB Holster Options:
Relentless Tactical Defender IWB Holster – Best For The Money
At this price point, it’s hard to get an IWB holster of this quality. I added in for its value and it’s the only non-Kydex or Boltaron holster in my list. Made of genuine bullhide leather, the Defender by Relentless tactical is a great fit for many small handguns.
- Fits multiple gun models
- Form-fitted bullhide leather
- Lifetime warranty from Relentless Tactical
- “One size fits most” construction may not be a close enough fit for some
- Level 1 retention – friction only (this may not be a con for some, but I prefer a holster with level 2 retention)
If you’re in the market for a sturdy IWB holster to fit your variety of handguns, the Defender may be the perfect setup for you. Here are the compatible models listed by the manufacturer: Glock (17, 19, 21, 23, 26), Smith & Wesson (M&P and M&P Shield), Sig P239, and other handguns similar in size.
Besides a variety of gun fits, the genuine bullhide leather construction of the Defender makes this one of the sturdiest IWB holsters at this price point. I know we’ve spoken entirely of thermoplastic holsters so far, but this holster, because of its versatility and affordability, deserves to be mentioned when talking about the IWB holsters.
The same thing that makes this holster great, multiple gun model compatibility, may make it less-than-desirable for some. Since this holster is made to fit multiple models, it may not be a snug enough fit for your specific gun. If this is the case, I recommend you read the rest of these reviews for some IWB holsters with a more specific and snug fit.
All-in-all, it’s hard to beat the low cost and versatility of the Defender by Relentless tactical. If you own multiple small handguns and like to carry them all, the sturdy leather construction and low-profile design of this IWB holster makes it is an affordable and convenient solution for you.
Blade Tech Industries Klipt IWB Holster – Great For A Variety of Small Handguns
If Kydex is what you’re after, this IWB holster by Blade Tech Industries is available in many different sizes for a variety of handgun models. The benefit to this holster over a “one-size-fits most” holster like the Defender is that you can order one made specifically for your handgun but the features and benefits of the Klipt line remain the same no matter the design you order.
You can order the Klipt IWB Holster in the following handgun model fits: Glock (19, 26, 42, 43), Sig (238 and 938), Smith & Wesson Bodyguard with a laser attachment, Ruger LCR, and Springfield Armory XDS.
- Audible “click” upon reaching secondary retention
- Can be ordered to fit your specific handgun instead of a “one-size-fits-most” design
- Slim profile
- Overly tight retention
Because this holster is custom designed for the firearm that you choose (from the list above), the profile is remarkably slim. That’s one of the bonuses of a Kydex holster over leather. Since the thermoplastic is so strong, the manufacturer can get away with very thin holster walls, adding only a little width to the handgun.
The clip that gives the Klipt IWB holster its name is also made of Kydex and it’s wide enough to provide a good hold on your belt upon sitting, standing, and walking around. The clip also helps counteract the one negative I found when reviewing Blade Tech’s IWB holster: super strong retention.
The bad thing about this holster is that it’s secondary locking retention mechanism works almost too well. You will need significant draw power to draw one-handed and unfortunately, there are no retention screws to adjust this issue. That’s why the strong clip helps. It allows you to apply the necessary force without yanking the whole holster out of your pants.
All things considered, the slim profile, strong clip, and sturdy Kydex construction make Blade Tech’s Klipt IWB holsters well worth it. I believe the downside, the lack of adjustable retention, can be counteracted simply by getting used to the power needed to draw successfully. If you learn to trust this holster it can be an efficient and effective IWB holster for concealed carry.
CYA Supply Co. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9/40 IWB Holster – Editor’s Choice
This was my pick for the best IWB holster available today. This is partly because of its design and partly because it is specifically designed for one of the most popular handguns in the United States: The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9 and 40.
- Boltaron construction
- Adjustable Cant
- Friction Reliefs for the safety and slide release
- Relatively thin clip that causes some lateral movement
- No backing which can result in discomfort for a bigger woman or man (like me)
CYA’s IWB holster for the M&P Shield is a versatile concealed carry holster that will work for people with a variety of carry styles and positions. This is in large part because of the adjustable cant. As I mentioned in the guide, cant is the ability of the holster to be angled for easier draws. This CYA holster has 15 degrees of adjustable cant either way for maximum comfort.
As far as retention goes, this IWB holster has everything you need to achieve the level of retention you prefer. It comes equipped with adjustable retention screws so you can set it just right, and there are reliefs built in for the safety and side release for a smoother draw and re-holster.
The clip is where this holster falls short. It’s not super strong and therefore results in some wiggle where it is attached to the belt. If you’re dressed appropriately and have sturdy belt, this problem may be minimal, but it’s a problem nonetheless.
CYA’s IWB holster for the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is a great fit for Shield owners and those looking for a comfortable carry. The adjustable cant and level 2 retention make it a versatile concealed carry holster.
Concealment Express Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9/40 Kydex Holster – Best Appendix Carry Holster
I consider this IWB holster a great choice for those of you who prefer the appendix carry position because of its slim profile (.08” Kydex) and adjustable cant.
- 15 Degrees of adjustable cant
- “Posi-click” level 2 retentionFull sweat shield backing
- Similar to the Blade Tech Klipt holster, the retention is very tight
This holster has everything I like in an IWB holster for concealed carry. Between the slim profile and 15 degrees of cant adjustment, it can be “customized” for whatever carry position or draw style you prefer. Appendix carriers need a good level of adjustment in order to find a comfortable fit, and this holster has it.
Regarding the tight retention, I think that a lot of the problem is not trusting the holster to stand up to the necessary draw force. You don’t want the gun to fall out ever, so in my opinion, it’s better to strengthen your draw arm than it is to buy a holster with less retention. The “posi-click” locking mechanism may hold on tight, but you’ll know for certain that your firearm is secured when not in use.
For appendix carriers, a fully adjustable IWB holster like this one from Concealment Express is hard to beat. The sweat shield makes it comfortable to wear all day so the hardest part might be remembering that you’re carrying a firearm at all!
CYA Supply Co. IWB Glock 19/23/32 Holster – Best Boltaron Holster
CYA makes great Boltaron holsters. Boltaron, like Kydex, can stand up to wear and heat that nylon or leather just cannot. I had to add this model to the list because it’s designed for one of the other most popular handguns, the Glock. This holster fits the 19, 23, and 32.
- Adjustable Cant
- No questions asked return policy
- Low profile Boltaron construction
- The clip may not sit flush with all belts
CYA’s IWB Glock 19/23/32 holster has all the trappings that have made CYA famous. My favorite feature, as you probably know by now, is the adjustable cant. 15 degrees of adjustment is plenty for you to find a comfortable draw position for your IWB holster.
The clip issue is a minor one and the reality is that while shopping for your own IWB holster, you’ll have to find a clip that fits your needs and is comfortable to wear all the time. No specific clip can work for all specific body types.If your main carry gun is a Glock, I highly recommend trying CYA’s IWB holster for Glock 19/23/32 for its adjustability and sturdy Boltaron construction.
CYA Supply Co. IWB Glock 43 Holster – IWB Holster With Audible Retention System
It may seem redundant to mention this CYA holster for the Glock 43 after reviewing the Glock 19/23/32 holster, but let me explain! The reason I’ve included this one in my list is that it has all the features of other CYA IWB holsters, but it’s specifically made for my favorite concealed carry firearm: the Glock 43.
The Glock 43 is one of the smallest models that Glock produces and that makes it one of the best for concealed carry. While it does have a smaller magazine, it’s easy to conceal and since it’s a Glock, you know it’s worth the cost! Here’s why I love CYA’s Glock 43 IWB holster:
- Cant and retention are fully adjustable
- CYA’s famous “posi-click” audible retention system
- Sweat guard for ultimate comfort
- Make sure the retention screws aren’t going to scratch your gun
This retention screw issue seems like a major problem but in reality it is easily avoided. Simply test (slowly) for the appropriate amount of retention before you shove your Glock in the holster full force. The screws come fully tightened so they may be protruding more than necessary. If it still seems to be an issue, cover the screws up with felt or even duct tape when you find the right retention. It’s well worth the modification for the high performance of the rest of this holster.
It’s hard to beat such a compact, slim IWB holster for an equally compact and dependable handgun. When you put together the compactness of this set up with the adjustable cant and retention of this CYA IWB holster, it’s a recipe for a quick and comfortable concealed carry setup.
Concealment Express IWB Taurus 111/140/Millenium G2 Kydex Holster – Best Kydex Holster
I would be remiss to leave out a concealed carry holster specifically designed for a Taurus (models 111-140 Millenium G2), one of the most popular handguns for concealed carry.
- Ultralight at 2.5 ounces
- Adjustable retention pressure and cant
- Audible retention locking mechanism for certain and proper holstering
- The clip can be a little pinchy for those of us with a little more body weight
This IWB holster, which comes in black and carbon fiber finish, is perfect for you Taurus owners out there. Similar to the CYA Glock holsters, this model is fully adjustable to conform to almost any carry style, with 15 degrees of cant adjustment via the screw on the clip and retention pressure screws.
As you can probably tell by my cons on a lot of these holsters, these clips can be an issue. Don’t let a less than perfect clip prevent you from trying out such a great holster, especially if you carry a Taurus. Don’t go for a “one-size-fits-most” model when there is a custom molded IWB holster available!
IWB Holsters Make Concealed Carry Easy
You can probably guess this by the way I’ve talked about them, but I truly believe IWB holsters are the best and most comfortable holsters for concealed carry. Their slim profile and lightweight durability make them perfect for everyday carry.
I hope that I’ve been able to shed some light on some of the best Kydex IWB gun holsters to look at first, but remember to keep in mind your own needs and carry style before you make a purchase. And always make sure that the holster you choose is designed specifically for the model of gun you carry. “Close” is never close enough when it comes to concealed carry safety and comfort.