Clay on the Inside or Outside the Waistband Debate

All the new hotness from Crucial Concealment.

When it comes to your carry gun, one of the great debates is always inside the waistband (IWB) or outside the waistband (OWB). Both have strengths and weaknesses, so what are you to choose?

My answer: “Yes.” Just like shoes or outerwear, you have to pick based on conditions. And those conditions change unless you happen to live in San Diego. You lot can go surf or build sandcastles, while the rest of us talk about real life.

I am currently carrying a SIG P365, which you may remember from my review I called it the “all-purpose gun.” It is small enough to carry concealed, but of high enough capacity and easy enough to shoot to outclass even some duty-sized guns. It is, in short, perfect. Now I needed something to let me carry it in all conditions. Which I found from a company called Crucial Concealment.

IWB with clip for belt retention.

Let’s start with IWB, since that is the most common. Why would we IWB? For most of us, that is the optimal way of concealing in our normal dress. With a small gun and a good holster, I can carry under a t-shirt. Which is what I normally desire, as I wear a t-shirt 99.9% of the time in warmer months.

Crucial Concealment’s Covert IWB is an absolute winner. It is small, as in small footprint of kydex. It is an absolute failure to purchase a tiny gun, then stick it in 5 pounds of leather and try to cram it in your pants. Not only is a massive holster uncomfortable, but it also prints badly, which defeats the point of concealment anyway. I also like the simplistic approach Crucial Concealment uses to secure the holster to your belt.

IWB with P365 XL.

As the kydex itself is minimalist, the Crucial Concealment model attaches with a solitary belt clip. The clip has an underhook that prevents it from sliding off when you draw, but is easy to dislodge when you want to. I like this style for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I don’t carry inside my home.

Why don’t I carry inside my home? I have strategic guns stashed, for one. And two, I have male children that spend most of their time indoors re-enacting a WWE Cage match. My gun is secure in the holster, but it can be uncomfortable when handing out a suplex off the top rope. The easy on/ easy off clip makes it a snap to put on when I leave or need to answer the door.

OWB model with P365.

Now what about OWB? Why do I need that too? For starters, it may be a better choice seasonally. IWB is great under a t-shirt, but can turn unreliable when it’s under a t-shirt, fuzzy layer, and outer shell. That is a lot of garment clearance. But it isn’t the only reason.

OWB under a t-shirt.

It is a fact of life that while OWB may be less socially acceptable in places like NYC or LA, it is much more comfortable on a long day. I don’t care whose magic holster you are wearing. And it is 100% socially acceptable in your own yard: working in the garden, tending to livestock, BBQing, etc. In my state at least, it also won’t even draw a frowny face in the woods, off-roading, or really anywhere that isn’t downtown.

OWB in action. Ignore the author’s quarantine cardio.

OWB also packs very real advantages in those places. If you need to shoot an attacking mountain lion or panther, speed is of the essence. They move faster than any human attacker ever could, and are sneaky as hell. It is a fact that an OWB draw is not only faster but less likely to be fouled. I know, I know, training. Yes, I concur. But don’t tell me you have never tangled your carry gun in your shirt on the draw.

SEE ALSO: Arizona Officials Kill Three Mountain Lions Feeding on Human Remains

I train it all the time, and I’ve done it too. We hope, in a street encounter, that one of two things happens. Either we can draw our IWB gun from behind cover, or we get it right that time in a Wyatt Earp contest. In a street fight, our opponent may actually miss too. An animal has no such weaknesses. There is no cover or out running, and you get one chance to whip that heater out. Better not screw it up.

IWB, cover garment up.

Which is where the Crucial Concealment Covert OWB comes in. A fantastic complement to the IWB, the OWB is built to hug close to your body. Crucial Concealment calls it a precision bend, and it works. It has an extremely flexible, but tough, set of loops that pull it in tight on your belt. It also allows 4 distinct carry positions.

Out of the box, it is configured for lower height carry. You can also flip the loops around for raised carry, such as OWB under a light shirt. If you prefer forward or reverse cant, you can flip the appropriate front or rear loop alone. I also very much like that the Covert has an adjustable tensioner. I like my OWB holsters to retain my gun even if I need to run. Again, children. But you may prefer an easier draw stroke, as the holster is configured out of the box.

I’m going to make a bold statement on the OWB here. I’ve always been an IWB guy, but this one has changed my religion. Even with just a t-shirt on, this one hides incredibly well. And the comfort level is off the charts!

Mag holder in IWB configuration.

Last but not least, the age-old question: To carry a reload or not to carry a reload? In keeping with my heretical theme, I don’t always carry a spare magazine. But I do like having that option to do so. Crucial Concealement has that covered with the Covert Mag pouch. It utilizes a similar clip to the holster, so easy on easy off. But, it has some subtleties built-in.

First, it is non-directional on the magazine, so it can be worn IWB or OWB. Depending on your concealment and comfort needs. It has an adjustable ride height, so you can prime your spare where it works for you. And unique in this class of mag carrier, you can also adjust the cant. This is a really nice feature, especially if concealment is the most important factor for you. Like the OWB holster, it also features adjustable tension.

Cant option on Covert Mag holder.

So there you go. When it comes to your carry gun, it’s not IWB or OWB. It’s both. Train and equip yourself accordingly. Make your firearm work for you, in whatever role you demand.

To learn more about Crucial Concealment visit their website.

To learn more about the SIG P365 visit SIGSauer.com.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Bemused Berserker May 1, 2020, 1:50 pm

    I IWB carried for years, but what do we do when age, and the sag that goes along with it, makes IWB uncomfortable for any length of time? I’ve a box full of holsters that were the latest and greatest (at the time), which are worthless. I’ve gone totally OWB, because, quite frankly, I’m unwilling to plunk down more retiree’s limited resources on the newest fad (which I could wear in my 40’s and 50’s, but not in my 60’s).
    Every article and review is chocked full of pics with a slim and trim model showing off the latest rig, but the reality is that a not small number of potential users are no longer slim and trim (for some, no amount of exercise or diet makes a difference). I may be in the minority, but I’d really appreciate an article and product that addresses this issue.

    • Blu Nos May 1, 2020, 3:01 pm

      Clay is “slim and trim”? You need a new pair of glasses.

      • Mike May 2, 2020, 8:59 pm

        I believe Bemused was referring to the holster manufacturer’s people models, as in advertisements, not Clay.

        As always, enjoy Clay’s perspective.

  • Tim May 1, 2020, 1:07 pm

    Great article, lots of good points made in it. Too bad the holsters are only designed for a really small choice of firearms. Not everyone can carry a small handgun. I have to carry a full size due to size of grips on most compacts are too small for me to shoot.

  • John May 1, 2020, 12:00 pm

    The picture of you dressed in a t-shirt and OWB holster prints really bad. I prefer to wear Hawaiian shirts or collared, short sleeve plaids. Solid color shirts are less likely to hide. In summer I’m more likely to use pocket holsters.

  • William Chastain May 1, 2020, 10:50 am

    I live in beautiful Clackamas County, Oregon – remember the Clackamas Town Center? We take our safety, freedoms, and firearms seriously. Like many others living here, I always carry – usually beneath a Carhartt Pocket T while wearing Unionbay cargo’s.

    After trying too many IWBs and OWBs, I settled on the 9mm Kimber Micro-9 w/ Crimson Trace Grip laser in a Remora IWB holster w/ extra 9mm mag. To me, after four years, still the perfect pistol in a compact size snuggled in a perfectly concealable No Belt, No Hooks, No Straps, No Clips, No Print, No Worries all-day-long comfortable rig.

  • TERRY POHLAND May 1, 2020, 9:07 am

    I have an alternative carry that I use regularly, because it feels comfortable. I have an IWB holster that I carry my P365 in, but I carry it outside the waistband between my belt and waistband. My belt holds the weapon tightly against my waist with a minimal print. It’s more comfortable and easier to draw than IWB. I know that their are a lot of people who will think that this is totally wrong, but it works for me.

    • Jackpine May 1, 2020, 10:32 am

      Exactly my solution. Surprised everyone doesn’t do this. Plus, you don’t need to size your pants larger, just your belt.

      • Some Guy May 1, 2020, 12:32 pm

        I’d never considered it because an IWB holster is supposed to go INSIDE THE WAISTBAND. But that’s a great idea. Except the fact now you need to worry about accidentally revealing if your shirt blows in the wind, or you reach up on your strong side.

    • John G. May 1, 2020, 11:49 am

      Exactly! I thought I was the only one doing that! Easier to oversize a belt than pants, any day. I am an instructor and you should see the looks I get, until the students TRY it. Then the light bulb goes on.

  • Dr Motown May 1, 2020, 7:58 am

    I remember the first defensive pistol class I took years ago. The instructor said: “you will eventually get a drawer full of holsters before you find one that meets your needs and comfort level.” He was spot-on

    • Link Lackluster May 1, 2020, 10:24 am

      Yes. So true. I have emptied the box (wahoo!) by selling them off. I am an unapologetic proponent of my Comp-Tac C-Tac IWB for my Glock 27. Goes with my everywhere. Stays put. Good draw. When OWB is desired, I use the Comp-Tac paddle version with a small forward cant from its 4 o’clock home. I love these products.

  • Benny Teague May 1, 2020, 7:49 am

    One aspect that usually never gets addresses, yes IWB is best for concealment. BUT, if a guy buys pants that actually fit, he will never have any level of comfort with one. In order for me to go with any of the available IWB’s, I need pants with about 2 inches more space in the waste then the rest of the pants looks very sloppy.
    It is SO much easier to find shirts/T-Shirts with a relaxed fit than buying all new pants. I prefer a good Paddle Holster like the ones Fobus makes. They keep my weapons high & tight.

    • Link Lackluster May 1, 2020, 10:26 am

      Fobus = junk. My cop friend is banned from his department from even touching one off-duty let alone actually carrying his gun in one. A better paddle holster will serve you better and not be junk.

  • Frank Garza May 1, 2020, 6:57 am

    Great article. I agree that environment dictates what method of carry is best. I usually carry outside the pants, with either a leather or kydex holster. The kydex holster works well inside the pants and outside the pants because it has a very strong single clip to attach to the belt. When wearing outside the pants I simply put this holster between the belt and pants. It’s great to have carry options without spending a lot of money. For me not only is a good holster important, so is a good gun belt (I believe you’ve stated this before). Thanks again for the great information you consistently provide. Semper Fi (USMC ’76-’79).

    • TERRY May 1, 2020, 9:12 am

      I agree, and also carry my weapon this way. There are some out there that thinks that it is a sin to carry OWB with an IWB holster. It works for me.

  • Pete May 1, 2020, 6:46 am

    I’d like to see a good article comparing strong side carry and cross draw carry. I lean toward the latter because it seems too me it would work better seated in a car.

  • Mike Larsen May 1, 2020, 6:40 am

    I see you’re wearing a Daltech Force SuperBIO. I love those things.

    • clay May 1, 2020, 11:04 am

      First Spear Line One belt, but now that you mention it, they do looks remarkably similar!

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