IWB vs OWB Concealed Carry: What Does It Mean?

IWB stands for “Inside the Waist Band” and OWB stands for “Outside the Waist Band”. In the world of carrying a firearm, there is a stark difference between the two. When it comes to concealing a firearm, IWB holsters are designed specifically for concealing the firearm you are carrying.

For many pistol owners, myself included, concealing my weapon comfortably and securely is of the utmost concern. Inside the Waist Band holsters, whether they are holsters designed to go on the hip, or in the appendix area, are the best way to conceal your firearm.

Advantages of IWB Holsters for Concealed Carry

Inside the Waist Band holsters provide a number of advantages over OWB holsters when it comes to concealing your firearm. One of the main advantages of an IWB holster is that it can help to reduce printing while conceal carrying.

How To Maximize Concealment Using an IWB Holster

There are a number of ways to improve your concealment when carrying a pistol, which is one of the main reasons this style of concealing your carry firearm is so popular. Inside the Waist Band holsters are versatile for many different clothing types, especially in your casual daily environment.

The most effective way to maximize your pistol concealment using an IWB holster is to understand the concept of “printing in conceal carry”. We’ve written extensively regarding the topic, so we won’t get into the full breakdown here, but learning how to reduce pistol printing during carry is highly effective for pistol owners who want to maximize concealment when carrying their firearm.

Reducing printing means reducing the chance of being noticed while concealing your weapon.

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Disadvantages of OWB Holsters for Concealed Carry

Outside the Waist Band holsters come with a host of disadvantages for concealing a weapon. Many pistol owners (I’m one of them) own an OWB holster. While the comfort of IWB holsters has improved dramatically over the years, Outside the Waist Band holsters are generally more comfortable than an IWB holster. This is because the weapon is not directly pressed against your body, creating pressure points.

Disadvantage #1: The Pistol is outside of your pants / shorts

The number one rule of concealment is hiding the weapon. That’s the definition of “concealing” something. When the pistol is holstered outside the waist band, it’s out in the open. This of course makes it a lot harder to actually conceal the weapon. In order to conceal your pistol using an OWB holster, you must layer it with clothing. This can present a number of risks, especially if you’re participating in an activity that requires more movement. Shirts can rise and of course, bending over creates the risk of displaying your weapon.

Disadvantage #2: The pistol is less secure than it is pressed against your body

Most people who utilize an OWB holster utilize it in specific situations, because their job requires it, or because it’s simply more comfortable. IWB holsters have a built in advantage over OWB holsters because they utilize an additional level of security, the waist band, to keep the weapon tight to the users body. By simple physics alone, this makes it harder to draw the weapon in the unlikely event that you’ll need to quickly use it.

So, why would somebody want to use an OWB holster for concealment?

One of the main reasons a person would want to utilize an OWB holster for concealment is conceal carrying a full size pistol. As the length of the barrel and size of your firearm increases, it naturally becomes more intrusive and harder to carry. Drawing a full size pistol from an Inside the Waist Band holster can also create a host of challenges, the main one being that draw length increases.

Another big reason you’d want to use an OWB holster for concealment could be, that you’re in a situation where concealment isn’t actually your top priority. If you’re out in the woods on a walk during the fall, where encountering passerby is less likely, an OWB holster is an excellent option. Simply utilize clothing like a longer sweatshirt that provides natural concealment over an Outside the Waist Band holster, and you’re good to go.

Another reason for using an OWB holster for concealment is weather. The more inclement the weather, the more layers you’ll be wearing. It is very challenging to quickly access your firearm using an IWB holster while wearing a jacket and multiple layers of clothing. In this case, an OWB holster is a much larger advantage as you can simply pull up your jacket prior to drawing the firearm.

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