BLUF: Soft loop style holsters offer better security, but rigid clips provide potentially better concealment. Try both styles and see what you prefer!
The two most common methods of attaching inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters to belts are either hard plastic clips or soft synthetic loops. The clips typically are placed over the belt and use a small ledge or hook to secure the holster to the bottom of the belt. The loops completely encircle the belt and are attached to the holster via reinforced snaps.
While the clips are much more common, some in the firearms community claim that the soft loops are far superior. The logic is that the clip can become detached from the belt during a struggle, allowing an attacker to disarm the wearer by removing the entire holster, whereas the loops would remain due to the more secure attachment method.
I've tried both styles, using the BladeTech Nano with a Beretta Px4 Compact for a soft loop option. For clip style holsters, I’ve used the Galco Stow-In-Go with a Glock G26 and G19, a G-Code INCOG (with and without mag caddy) with a Smith & Wesson Shield and G26, and a T. Rex Arms Sidecar with a G19.
I will not be discussing the specific merits and shortfalls of each holster, just touching on their mounting methods.
Initial Loop Impressions
The Bladetech Nano always felt like it was about to pop out of my pants, as my belt crosses the holster below the trigger guard, making a pivot point on the gun. This may only be a problem with holsters for the Beretta Px4 Compact.
Additionally, the loops provide no resistance to movement, allowing the grip to turn away from my body and poke out of my shirt causing a massive amount of printing. This problem persisted no matter how I adjusted the ride height, the angle of the holster, or the tightness of the loops.
The Nano was also incredibly difficult to put on or remove compared to a clip style holster, making trips to the bathroom highly inconvenient—though this could be beneficial during a violent encounter.
While discussing these issues on various forums and Facebook groups, the consensus seems to be that the Bladetech Nano is a poor example of a soft loop style holster. Members suggest I try options from Greenforce Tactical, NSR Tactical, and PHLster, though no specific reasoning was given as to why these holsters are superior to the Nano. For my next holster purchase, I will give one of these other options a try to see how they compare.
Leather with Clips
The Galco Stow-N-Go was my first leather holster; I purchased it so that I could carry my new G26 while waiting the six weeks for my INCOG to ship. The clip is so narrow that it couldn't properly grasp my belt (Magpul Tejas, Mission Spec Gibborim). I can definitely see it being removed from one’s pants during the draw or in a struggle.
The clip would be more secure if using a narrower belt and seemed to have no issues grasping my riggers belt.
For what it's worth, the Stow-N-Go remained firmly in place throughout a few hundred dry fire draws, despite the issues with the clip. On the downside, the leather held moisture, a problem during summer months.
Kydex with Clips
The INCOG, despite being a high-quality holster, is not without issues of its own.
The holster would push itself over the belt, and nearly out of my pants when bending or squatting, but the clips always stayed attached to the belt. This is most likely due to the clips being fairly pliable, as well as the mag caddy being somewhat flimsily attached. I kept the INCOG on during a surprise treadmill session, and it gave no issues with retention at speeds up to 8 MPH.
The Sidecar has not exhibited any of the same issues seen on the INCOG, Galco, or Bladetech possibly due to more rigid clips and a claw (a piece of kydex used to press against the belt, driving the pistol grip into the body), as well as being spread over a larger area than the other holsters. That being said the claw will occasionally get caught above the belt but doesn’t seem to have much of a negative effect on concealment or retention of the holster.
The additional real estate taken up by the Sidecar is definitely noticeable, making it the least comfortable holster of the group. You will not forget you are wearing this throughout the day.
Retention is also an issue from the factory; this is the only holster I've ever had a gun fall out of, though quick work with my Leatherman has remedied this problem.
One question that never seems to be asked in this debate is how well the holster retains the gun itself. Everyone focuses on the entire rig being removed from your body, but in my opinion, it seems much more likely to lose the gun while retaining the holster.
If you decide to go with soft loops due to the additional security, then why not also go with a holster that offers Level-2 retention? Safariland, DeSantis, and Galco--among others-- have multiple products offering Level-2 retention in both IWB and OWB holsters.
What happened to "go big or go home"?
In my experience, while clips are not as secure in a fight, they do a better job at keeping the gun tight against the body and the holster in place along the belt. The addition of a claw, like on the Sidecar, only improves concealment, while also providing space for a better grasp when drawing. Neither option is wrong, as both are incredibly popular and worn by world-renowned trainers, but I know where my preference lies.