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Paddle Holsters

Wikipedia describes a paddle holster as “A paddle holster is a holster for a handgun whose method of securing the holster to the wearer utilizes a flat, concave shaped piece of plastic or stiffened leather designed to be worn against the body inside of the pants”, and that’s a pretty accurate description.

Paddle holster

Scroll down to see all the paddle holster models that we currently offer

The holster portion of paddle holsters is typically manufactured from one of three materials:

  • Leather – Our personal favorite and still one of the most popular gun holster materials
  • Kydex – This thermoplastic material has become very popular as a gun holster material in the last 20 years. It’s an extremely durable material that is completely waterproof, but is vulnerable to high heat.
  • Ballistic Nylon – This durable material is known for being extremely strong of the weight with a high tensile strength. It’s less expensive to produce but doesn’t hold its form all that well.

The paddles themselves can be produced from a number of materials, but the two most popular options are kydex paddles and kydex or plastic paddles that are covered in leather or suede for additional comfort. Most paddles are designed with a series of built in appendages that are commonly called lips, ledges, or anchors. These appendages are designed to increase the amount of friction holding the holster to the body, and to serve as a grabbing or gripping point for the underside of a belt (if one is worn) to aid in stability and retention.

Like most things in life, paddle holsters offer some advantages and disadvantages. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of this holster style:


Easy to putting on or taking off – With the paddle portion being worn inside the waistband, the paddle holster is fairly easy to put on or take off. The user doesn’t have to remove the belt, or even undo the pants in most cases, and that’s the single biggest advantage that a paddle holster offers. That feature is what makes the paddle holster such a popular holster option.

Can potentially be worn without a belt – While many other holster styles are dependent on a belt to function, the paddle holster is really the only outside the waistband holster style that is NOT dependent on a belt. This feature makes the paddle holster a popular option with the ladies (as many do not utilize a belt in most every day wear), and with clothing styles that are not belt friendly (think sweat pants, yoga pants, etc.). Now in order for the holster to be stable in these scenarios, the pants have to have a fairly firm waistband that rides tight to the body; otherwise, the holster will shift around and pull away from the body.


Not as stable as a belt holster – The easy-on/easy off features of the paddle holster are a bit of a double edged sword as they also mean that the paddle holster relies on the friction of the paddle inside the waist as an anchor point to keep the holster in place. This attachment method is not as stable as attaching the holster directly to the belt and can mean that the holster may shift on the waist.

Lacks the physical security of a belt holster – Although most paddle holster models use a ledge, lip, or clip of some design to help with friction and as a means to help grab on to the bottom of the belt, the holster itself isn’t physically attached to the belt like a traditional belt holster. As such, the paddle holster lacks the same physical security found on a belt holster with the belt attached through belt slots in the holster.

Concealability – While the paddle holster design offers an easier way to put the holster on or take it off compared to the traditional belt loop method, it doesn’t pull the holster as tight to the body as a belt holster. With the holster riding a little farther away from the body, paddle holsters can be more difficult to conceal compared to a traditional OWB belt holster.

Paddle Holster Options

Like most gun holster models, paddle holster are available with various options or features that can be beneficial to the user. Some of the more popular options include the following:

Holster cant – The “cant” refers to the angle that the holster rides on the waist in relation to the user. The two most popular cants are commonly called straight up cant or zero cant, and a forward cant. The forward cant angle varies with each holster brand, but most angle a forward cant model somewhere between 10 degrees and 15 degrees. Some paddle holster models feature an adjustable cant that be adjusted to a 0 cant (straight up and down), forward cant, or even a 15 degree reverse cant for those that might want to wear the holster in a cross draw configuration.

Retention devices – While many paddle holster models are designed as open top models with just passive retention, some are available with active retention devices. Passive retention refers to the retention provided by the fit of the weapon into the holster, while active retention refers to a retention device that has to be activated or accessed in order for the handgun to be drawn from the holster. The two most common types are:

  • Thumb Break – A thumb break (also commonly called a retention strap, security strap, or retention break) is used to describe a strap device or hood device that goes over the rear portion of the handgun and is designed to help keep the firearm in the holster. In most cases, the strap or hood has to be unsnapped, disengaged, or moved forward in order for the handgun to be drawn.
  • Internal lock – Paddle holster models with an internal lock are designed with a locking mechanism that basically attaches to the front trigger guard area of the handgun within the holster. This lock has to be deactivated via a button or other mechanism in order to drawn the handgun.

From a security level standpoint most commonly seen at the law enforcement level, these types of retention devices are commonly known as Level 1 devices. A Level 2 holster would have 2 retention devices, while a Level 3 holster would have 3 retention devices. Most paddle holsters only offer a maximum of Level 1 retention on the standard LEO retention scale, although there are a few specialized paddle holster designs on the market that are classified as a Level 2.

Ride Height – Some paddle holster models on the market also offer an adjustable ride height, meaning the user can adjust where the paddle attaches to the holster, and control the height that the holster rides in relation to the belt or waistline.

Here are some commonly asked questions that we see regarding paddle holsters:

#1 – Do you offer a paddle model to fit any pistols with lights mounted?

Yes, we carry the MTR Custom paddle holster which is available to fit over 100 different handgun models with a number of popular weapon light models attached. That paddle holster model can be seen by following this link.

#2 – I’m looking for a leather paddle style holster that uses a push button style security release similar to the security lock on the Blackhawk Serpa holster?

Unfortunately, we don’t currently offer a leather paddle holster that features an internal lock or push button security release. All the paddle holsters that we offer use a thumb break as the retention device.

#3 – Do you have a paddle models that features an adjustable cant?

We currently offer two holster brands that produce a paddle holster: Don Hume and MTR Custom. Of the two, only the MTR Custom model offers an adjustable cant. The cant on that model can be set up for straight up cant, forward cant, or reverse forward cant for cross draw carry. That model can be seen by following this link: MTR Custom Paddle Holster.

All the paddle holster models that we carry are listed below.

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