If you've been regularly carrying a handgun for any length of time, there is a good chance that in the gun room or at the back of a closet somewhere you will find The Holster Box. The Holster Box (or in my case, a box and a plastic tub) is the repository (from my past 30 years of owning handguns) of all those holsters you've tried and didn't like, holsters for handguns you no longer own, worn out holsters, or some holsters that you feel just aren't as good as your newest holster.
So, why do we keep these holsters around and what should we do with them? Sometimes you're not sure if you might change your mind about a particular holster. Occasionally, you'll find a friend who loves that holster you hate. With a bit of business sense and stealing the concept from a children's clothing store, I've often thought someone should open a retail establishment called, "Once Upon a Gun Belt" so all those holsters and other slightly used firearm accessories could be put to good use by other folks.
For me, my holster box was created as much by what I like as it was by what I didn't like. When I was in law enforcement, I must have reconfigured my duty belt a dozen different times trying to get just the right holsters, items, and positioning to access all of the hardware we had to carry, while not crushing the radio with the cruiser door, or catching the holster on the seat belt or radio console when you exited the vehicle. For off-duty in the old days and more recently, concealed carry, I've tried dozens of holsters for dozens of guns. I'm not sure I have ever found the perfect combination, but I've found a few that work for me.
The Galco Cop 3-Slot holster is one of my preferred holsters for semi-autos. It is made of quality leather, covers the trigger, hugs my pudgy waistline comfortably and closely to keep "printing" to a minimum while allowing me to adjust the angle of the holster with the three slots. I like the thumb-break retention system and having the action fully covered. Also, I can use same the Cop 3-Slot holster for both my Ruger SR9 and SR9c, and they are almost the same as the one for my Colt 1911.
I have various Kydex and injection-molded holsters from several manufacturers like Uncle Mike's, Fobus, and Comp-Tac. While I love the Kydex holsters for open carry around the house or barn, most of my outside-the-waistband (OWB) Kydex holsters, both paddle and belt-slide, stick out further than the Galco Cop 3-Slot holster and cause more of a "bulge" or "print" for concealed carry, even with the gun-guy-cliche' fishing or photographers vest. Some companies are now using a combination of Kydex and leather to keep leather against your skin.
For a small semi-auto pistol or revolver, I prefer a quality inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. Leather is the preferred material for me as nylon and other "cloth" materials tend to develop an odor after a while from your body's perspiration no matter how much you try to clean them. Leather seems to "air out" for me. The Galco, Bianchi, Triple K, and other quality holsters I've tried with good belt clips, with or without thumb snaps, have held up well over time.
Some folks prefer an IWB holster that stays open and doesn't fold flat for easy re-holstering. I've got some that stay rigidly open and others that flop flat after you draw the firearm. I'm not that locked into either type. I do like the soft Bianchi and Galco IWB leather holsters, although they flop flat after drawing my gun. I just remove the holster from my belt, re-holster the gun, and then slip the holster and gun back inside the waist band. I know some will emphasize the importance of easy re-holstering, but in a concealed carry situation where you have to draw your gun, I'm more concerned about drawing it easily and reliably from a comfortable holster than quickly re-holstering the gun. If you're shooting IDPA or something similar, then a "flop-flat" holster isn't going to work for you.
Speaking of comfort, if you carry every day (and you should if you carry at all, in my opinion) you will quickly find out which holsters work well, wear well, and are comfortable. You'll likely go through several holsters until you find the one that works best. Comfort is important so you'll wear your gun without hesitation, and you'll minimize the "concealed carry fidgets" that new concealed carry folks or people with new holsters tend to get. In the past, I've often chuckled inside during a concealed carry course or handgun course where some loud-mouth, opinionated secret squirrel's gun and holster have rubbed him raw, sometimes to the point of bleeding after a three-day course. If your carry rig is not comfortable, you won't wear it, so find one that works for you.
One option to a traditional holster you may want to consider is a fanny pack or man-bag, or if you're my wife, a concealed carry purse. Sometimes I carry in my man-bag, a Maxpedition Versipack Jumbo. If your situational awareness alerts you to a concern, you can slip your hand into your Versipack's concealed carry compartment. I can actually have my arm at my side, discretely slide my hand into my Versipack's gun slot, have my gun in my grip, and be completely concealed in the Versipack and never have anyone ever notice.
With guns and holsters, the one thing I always recommend to my concealed carry students as an NRA instructor here in Ohio is practice, practice, practice. You'll develop muscle memory and habits and I believe consistency in practice is important, which is why I recommend even if you carry different guns, try to stay with a holster design that is consistent from gun to gun. If you switch to a new holster, then practice, practice, practice. You can easily practice drawing and dry-firing your gun at home - just check to make sure it's unloaded (check three times, is my rule) before dry-firing.
And if you're interested, I have a few things I prefer when looking for a new holster. The trigger MUST be fully covered. I prefer leather for any part of the holster that is against my skin which is why some of the new Kydex IWB holsters that use leather against the body are intriguing to me. Holsters should fully cover the body-side of the gun and keep the beavertail or hammer spur from rubbing my skin raw. Most holsters designed for competition don't seem to be well suited for concealed carry. Avoid gadgets and "trick" holsters. There is a new "bra" holster out which makes my gal cringe as she doesn't like the idea of having the muzzle cover one of the "twins". I also tend to agree with many in the blogosphere that any holster that requires you to push a button in the same basic location as the trigger with your trigger finger should be avoided out of safety logic.
Your thoughts and suggestions on holsters or holster boxes in the comment area would be appreciated, because I'm always learning something new or about new products. I've talked about what works for me, but that doesn't mean I've tried everything. The Holster Box is full of expensive lessons learned.
The last thing I might leave you with on this subject is that holsters, like any equipment, need proper care, adjustment, and when worn out... they need retired... to The Holster Box.