While no single carry gun can work for every situation, finding a handgun and a consistent means of carrying it will make the “one gun, one holster” philosophy more obtainable. With .380 ACPs like the Ruger LCP, Kel-Tec P-3AT, Colt Mustang, Sig Sauer P238 and models of similar dimensions, size is rarely the concern—it is more the ease of carry and what works best.
There are four primary types of concealed carry for .380 ACPs. First is using a pocket holster, one of the most common, followed by using an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. Traditional belt holsters provide the same level of security as an IWB but with more comfort and, depending upon how the holster is worn, faster access to the firearm. An IWB, however, is a bit stealthier. The most comfortable means of concealment with respect to ease of wear and the ability to carry extra magazines is a shoulder holster. There is one additional means of concealed carry that is best suited to a backup gun or when more covert carry is required—an ankle holster—which is ideal for a small .380 ACP. But this provides minimal access under normal conditions.
Among .380 ACP shoulder holsters, the most innovative design is the DeSantis Speed Check, a combination of leather and injection molding that provides optimum concealment with maximum double-locking Level III security. This is a variation of the famous New York Undercover combined with the DeSantis Level III Quick Safe belt rig’s twin Redi-Locks, which retain the gun in the pouch until the releases are pressed simultaneously. There is also a secondary tensioning screw that allows the holster itself to retain the gun if both releases are inadvertently depressed. It is an innovative approach that is also about as fast as any shoulder holster in history. The offside features two angle-adjustable, snap-locking magazine pouches. Currently, the Speed Check is available for the Glock 42, Glock 43 and larger-caliber Glock subcompact models.
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Shoulder holsters for the Ruger LCP used to be a little on the scarce side, but John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather is producing some very innovative holsters for modern-day concealed carry, including the new Spirit shoulder holster, which places an LCP in a horizontal thumb-break pouch. The horizontal position allows the LCP to be carried butt-down with ProMag extended-capacity magazines. The offside, snap-flap, single-magazine carrier is adjustable to accommodate either 10- or longer 15-round magazines. A heavy-duty elastic harness makes this rig easy to put on and take off.
DeSantis has added a new version of its famous New York Undercover shoulder rig just for the LCP, combining a thumb-break pouch with an offside dual magazine pouch. (Optional elongated snap straps allow for carrying the 10-round ProMag LCP magazine.) Along with the Galco Classic Lite shoulder rig for the Glock 42, these are excellent, lightweight, all-season carry rigs that provide quick access, secure retention, offside magazine pouches and superb concealment under any cover garment.
Pocket holsters make .380 ACP sidearms almost invisible and as intuitive to carry as a wallet. With a pocket holster, almost the entire handgun is covered and oriented upright for drawing. A pocket holster also disguises the shape of the gun and prevents it from being outlined in your pocket, or “printing” through fabric. They come in a variety of types from all leather to those with a rubberized exterior to keep the holster securely retained in the pocket. You also might want to consider whether or not the pocket holster you’re looking for is ambidextrous, as the gun can easily be shifted to the offside front pocket as a backup if necessary. Some pocket holsters are strong-side-only designs like the all-leather Bianchi Model 152 Pocket Piece from Safariland. This is a rugged holster with a rough-out suede exterior and a heavy-duty, leather-stitched throat and back panel for secure, comfortable, all-day carry in any situation.
Among popular ambidextrous designs is the the DeSantis Nemesis which uses a rubberized exterior to keep the holster secured to pocket fabric on the draw. Galco has its proven Pocket Protector, a traditional rough-out leather rig available for a variety of .380 ACP subcompacts.
Inside The Waistband
IWB carry remains one of the most prolific methods for small-caliber pistols. This type of carry is particularly well suited to the latest generation of super-thin semi-autos with slide widths under an inch. There are several basic designs that use a leather backing or skirt with a Kydex or injection-molded holster securely attached to it.
IWB holsters with all-leather skirts like the CrossBreed MiniTuck are generally comfortable to wear, as are neoprene and other synthetically backed skirts like those used in Alien Gear IWB rigs and Comfort Holsters’ exotic-looking Jaguar for the Glock 42.
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Holster/skirt flexibility allows for more movement of the body against the gun rig. One of the most comfortable of current IWB designs is the MTR Deluxe Thoroughbred made for the Glock 42 with or without a Crimson Trace Laserguard installed. The handcrafted MTR uses a full leather holster and skirt backed by a padded suede panel to keep the rig soft and curved around body contours. The holster has a separately stitched-in gusset around the throat and a high back to shield the frame and slide from the wearer’s body. The holster is only attached to the skirt from the triggerguard side, allowing the pouch to flex away from the skirt and keep the gun from pressing into your side.
There are also a handful of hybrid IWB/belt rigs that can be worn as situations dictate. One of the newest is the DeSantis Dual Carry II, which is designed for small semi-autos. Tagua Gun Leather offers its 4-In-1 Inside The Pant Holster, which is a thumb-break IWB rig with a multi-slotted back panel allowing it to be worn on a belt vertically, horizontally or at an angle. Crossfire is another company that offers IWB holsters like the Tempest, while its Grip and Grip Clip holsters can be worn securely as IWB rigs or as pocket holsters.
Belt rigs are the oldest concealed-carry designs, and modern interpretations have added thumb-break safety straps. Leather and synthetic molding techniques have made form-fitting belt rigs the standard for concealed carry. Among leading holster-makers offering all-leather rigs for .380 ACPs are DeSantis and Galco, with a wide variety of contoured belt and paddle holsters to fit various models. Contoured holsters are generally of the open-top design for a quick draw from concealment. The Galco Stinger for compact .380s is among the latest. Another tank-tough design is the time-tested DeSantis Mini Scabbard.
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Comfort is a given with belt rigs, but even they can be more flexible with softer leather while still retaining a contoured pouch. One of the most comfortable of all belt holsters for the Glock 42 is the MTR Slim-Line Deluxe pancake holster. The pancake is a traditional belt holster design, and MTR’s version is ideal for the slightly larger Glock 42. Tagua has a design with a raised frame guard known as the Extra Protection Quick Draw, which fits Ruger and Kel-Tec models with Crimson Trace Laserguards. This design keeps the gun’s slide from rubbing against your side. Safariland also offers the Model 5 Black Widow holster made famous by the original designer John Bianchi. The Black Widow is a contoured, all-leather, thumb-break design with a curved skirt to keep the gun close to your body without sacrificing comfort. Another great option for Glock 42 owners is Gould & Goodrich’s Model 897 Belt Slide Tension Holster. It fits snugly against the wearer’s body for comfort and ultimate concealment. The tension screw allows adjustment for a firm or easier draw. It’s made from top grain vegetable-tanned leather and is available in Chestnut brown or black in right- or left-hand versions.
Finally, there are injection-molded belt and paddle holsters for quick mounting and repositioning. Many Galco and DeSantis models are also offered in paddle styles, but DeSantis has added a new line of injection-molded paddle rigs known as the CHAMP, an ambidextrous, reversible, lightweight polymer holster for models like the Glock 42. The contoured, skeletonized pouch locks the Glock into place but allows for a clean draw with minimal resistance. A similar approach (though not reversible) is offered by Fobus with the injection-molded, tension-adjustable GL42ND holster, available in paddle, belt and roto styles.
Finding which type of holster is right for you is all a matter of personal preference. A little over a century ago the choices were few, but today there are as many ways to carry a pocket pistol as there are pistols.
For More Information
Alien Gear Holsters
Elite Survival Systems
Gould & Goodrich
Tagua Gun Leather