Why Sidecar Style Holsters Suck

Sidecar Holster

Sidecar style holsters have taken the conceal carry world by storm over the past few years. Used by highly popular influencers, such as Lucas Botkin, Garandthumb, and John Lovell, it's no surprise that folks are clamoring to get a sidecar for themselves. Coming in a handful of variations, it's easy to find something to fit an individual's preference. Despite their popularity, sidecar style holsters have a few fatal flaws which make them far from ideal when it comes to comfort and concealment.

What is a Sidecar Style Holster

First we have to understand what a sidecar style holster is, and why people carry them. A sidecar holster is an inside-the-waistband (IWB) concealment holster, typically carried in the appendix position (AIWB). They feature a physically attached spare magazine carrier, similar to the sidecar of a motorcycle, hence the name. This allows for a simple package, keeping your gun and spare ammunition together. Typically the spare magazine is canted outward for a more efficient reload, and to improve comfort of the wearer. The vast majority of sidecar holsters are made from kydex or boltaron, though there are leather designs out there.

Sidecar Styles

There are three main variations on the sidecar style holster. These variations are organized on how the magazine carrier is attached to the holster. The most popular is the large solid piece, similar to the T.Rex Arms Sidecar. This specific holster uses a single piece of kydex for the front, and one for the rear of the holster, with the two bolted together. In doing so, we have what is commonly referred to as a "tactical codpiece", with a large, rigid holster sitting AIWB.T. Rex Arms Sidecar

Next we have variants that have a removeable sidecar. Initially this was done using screws, like with the G-Code INCOG or the Tier 1 Concealment Aegis. This allows the user to remove the spare magazine for a lower profile holster, or to swap holsters/carriers. There is a little more flexibility here, as the connection point is frequently smaller, and less rigid than the T.Rex style of sidecar.

The last variant also features a removeable sidecar. The difference here is the attachment method. Instead of using screws or bolts, the two sides are lashed together with either paracord, elastic cordage, or similar material. This allows for substantially more flexibility between the holster and the magazine carrier. Users can vary how much slack is allowed by loosening or tightening the lashing.

Advantages of Sidecar Holsters

Despite being a vocal opponent of sidecar style holsters, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the advantages of the design.

Sidecar holsters are often very fast when reloading. The rigid designs help keep the spare magazine in a consistent position along the body, improving split times. Donning and doffing your rig is also simplified, with everything being self contained instead of using multiple pieces of gear. This is less of a factor, but can be a nice relief at the end of a long day. It also helps reduce the likelihood of forgetting something when running out the door.

Disadvantages of Sidecar Style Holsters

Over the past several years I've carried over 25 different concealment holsters in my search for perfection. This includes three different sidecar designs; the T.Rex Arms Sidecar, G-Code INCOG, and T1C Axis. There are some serious flaws with sidecar style holsters. It is not a stretch to say that they're objectively inferior to a separate holster and magazine configuration. This is from a durability, retention, comfort, and concealment perspective.

Concealment

A typical AIWB holster features some sort of wing or claw near the trigger guard. The claw/wing acts on the belt, driving the pistol grip into the wearer's body, improving concealment. Many sidecar designs also feature a claw/wing, however they are typically less effective. This is due to the belt also pressing against the magazine carrier that is attached to the holster. In essence, the magazine carrier is also acting as a wing/claw, resulting in opposing forces. These opposing forces end up pulling the gun away from the body, reducing concealment for both your pistol and spare magazine.

Tier 1 Concealed Axis
The Tier 1 Concealed Axis uses cordage to attach the magazine carrier to the holster, substantially increasing flexibility and wearer mobility

Some manufacturers try to remedy this by using a larger wing/claw than average. Essentially overcoming opposing forces by brute force. This can work, but not without side effects.

Durability

Imagine you are holding a thin wooden board. Grab opposite ends of this board and begin to push each side together, like folding a piece of paper. Eventually, the board will crack in the middle due to the pressure being exerted by your hands.

This is exactly what is happening with a typical sidecar style holster. As the belt exerts pressure on the wing/claw, and on the magazine carrier, opposite ends are bent towards each other. The tighter the belt, the greater the pressure. Typically the force is concentrated where the manufacturer has pre-bent the holster, trying to contour the holster to the body. Frequently, solid sidecar style holsters, such as the T.Rex Arms Sidecar, will crack and snap at their center point. How long this takes varies depending on use, pressure exerted, and manufacturing techniques, but it is an eventuality.

T. Rex Arms Sidecar
Two broken Sidecars, courtesy of Primary & Secondary forums

Sidecar style holsters using paracord, or separate but connected designs, like the INCOG or Axis, are substantially less likely to encounter these issues. The additional flexibility is typically enough to avoid snapping in half, and can often alleviate issues with concealment.

Retention

Depending on design, sidecar style holsters can present problems when it comes to retention. This is typically restricted to solid designs, such as the T.Rex Arms Sidecar. When adjusting retention on the pistol or spare magazine, the entire holster is affected. Loosening retention on the magazine will likely loosen the pistol as well, or vice-versa. This can be an issue when required levels of retention are not consistent between the two items. Many times, a well-fit pistol results in an excessively tight spare magazine; a well-fit magazine results in a dangerously loose pistol.

As we see opposing forces interact with overall durability, this can sometimes impact retention as well. Tiny movements of the holster can gradually work retention screws loose. A bit of loctite can solve this problem, keeping you from accidentally losing your gear.

Comfort

An old trope we hear often in the firearms world is "a gun should be comforting, not comfortable." While this has some truth to it, it is not necessarily completely accurate. If a holster is causing pain or great discomfort, then the shooter is far less likely to regularly carry. Of course strapping steel and plastic to your body isn't the same as satin sheets, but we're not here to bathe in sadomasochism either. The best way I can describe a sidecar style holster is as as tactical codpiece. "Is that sidecar holster in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

A significantly larger amount of material is needed to connect your holster and magazine carrier than is required for separate pieces of equipment. This excess material reduces our personal flexibility, and takes up far more space along our waistline. In any of my three sidecar holsters, I am strictly limited to carrying the holster up front. Bending over to pick things up, climbing, cycling, and even simply sitting are more challenging and far less comfortable with a sidecar design. Fatigue sets in far more quickly, as the extra material in noticeably less comfortable, with mobility restrictions becoming more taxing throughout the day.

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With the T.Rex Arms Sidecar and T1C Axis, my ability to access front pockets is restricted as well. Struggling to access pockets can be a key indicator of something hidden on your person.

Comfort Compared to Standard Holsters

When carrying a standard holster and mag carrier, I'm also able to keep a SOFTT-W tourniquet in the 12o'clock position, along with my full size handgun and spare magazine. My current EDC consists of a Glock 34 with an Aimpoint ACRO and Surefire X300, along with aforementioned tourniquet, and a 22 round magazine (thanks Arredondo!) in either a Snake Eater Tactical or Bawidamann carrier. All of this, and my mobility and comfort far exceed what I get from any sidecar style holster I've used thus far. Plus I can get into my pockets with no issues.

As an Aside

The gun community is hyper focused on the gun aspect of preparedness. There are hordes of people carrying big guns and spare magazines, plus knives and more. Ask those same people if they carry medical or less lethal options, and that number shrinks like my nether regions on a cold day. Before we take steps to add spare ammunition to our EDC, we need to ensure that our equipment is well rounded. Personally, a tourniquet, then OC spray are must-haves before spare ammunition. If you're prepared to cause bleeding, you better be prepared to stop bleeding. Not to mention the prevalence of accidents in everyday life. A little bit of pepper spray could also stop an aggressor without the need for lethal force.

Once you have your bases covered, then look to a spare mag.

Final Thoughts on Sidecar Style Holsters

If you haven't noticed by now, I'm not a fan of sidecar style holsters. Choosing one likely won't be the difference between life or death, but it could significantly impact your quality of life in terms of comfort. Don't take my word for it, see what Jon Hauptman of PHLster has to say.

I've also had significant issues with my T.Rex Arms holsters, which I detail in my Sidecar review. If you absolutely must own one of these, my suggestion is the Tier 1 Concealed Axis Elite. It has proven to be the best sidecar style holster I've used to date, but still falls short of traditional designs.

Tenicor Velo

My recommendation is to check out quality options for standard holster and magazine carriers. Tenicor, PHLster, Dark Star Gear, KSG Armory, Bawidamann, have all served me very well. For IWB magazine carriers, Bawidamann, Snake Eater Tactical, and PHLster are solid options. To beat the dead horse, ensure you're covering all of your bases before adding spare ammunition. Medical equipment, handheld lights, and more should be the priority.

About Daniel Reedy 278 Articles
Daniel holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has received training from Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, and Steve Fisher among others. He also has experience competing in USPSA, CAS, 3 Gun, and Steel Challenge. In his free time Daniel enjoys petting puppies and reading the Constitution. His work is also published by AmmoLand, Recoil Concealment, and Air Force Times. Daniel has also written and edited for The Kommando Blog.

16 Comments

  1. I would be more worried about my blood sugar or diabetes than the side car holster if I were you. Been carrying my LAS concealment holster for 2.5 years. G17 with Slide mounted dot and the original inforce APL. I think the lack of fat spilling over onto the grip of my firearm in the appendix position places significantly less stress on the kydex holster and makes the position significantly more comfortable if I had to guess. Also fit people can lose more blood than fat people in a trauma incident— scientifically proven. Consider bringing a salad rather than pepper spray next time.

    • Ooo. Good ad hominem there guys.
      His extra weight if anything doesn't detract from his statement. A dude that is shredded with still be deeper and bigger than the average skinny dude so. Pressure on holster still an issue. Hell anyone that is not a bean pole is going to put some pressure on the holster at the waste.

      Now if it's what yall have decided to stick with and got use to it, whatever floats your boat.
      However you aren't really saying much with personal attacks about the actual product.

      Maybe bring an actual argument and sense of decency rather than a *&^#*^ attitude.

  2. This just sounds like a lot of cope and seethe because most people I know carry OC spray and medical on their person, in addition to a side car style holster, at all times. The magazine also breaks up the traditional shape of a firearm so if you have trouble concealing, it seems like you need to dress around your Glock 34, acro, & X300. I’m not the thinnest guy and I have no problem concealing even with extended baseplates and a magwell. If you have problems getting into your pockets maybe get rid of the fudd wallet with 35 cards and a the key ring with 47 keys, or buy pants that fit, or hit the stair master. The only valid concern you have is they can crack, but back to your opposing forces thing- a belly isn’t helping. It’s just adding yet another opposing force.

  3. Speaking of preparedness, you could stand to get in better shape. Never saw the point of guys that are clearly not in shape, talking smack about a method of carry that people with real combat experience, small team tactics, etc have all agreed is the best evolution of carry.

    • It must be a good sign when the only criticism I hear is that I'm not in great shape. Nobody can defend the holsters or make counter arguments, just say that I'm a fat guy so that automatically makes what I say invalid. Luckily I've been a wide variety of physical conditions, so I have experience with these holsters as a fit guy, a fat guy, and an average build guy. Plus, as a lot of legit guys will tell you, military experience doesn't directly translate to knowledge of conceal carry nor civilian use of force in the United States. More than one former action guy I've trained with has taught techniques that would land a normal guy in jail. They certainly have their areas of expertise, but combat experience doesn't immediately make you a subject matter expert on holster design.

    • Man what an original comment that actually has no basis in reality, thanks for the insight!

  4. I've found this to be the case too.

    My first (and only) sidecar was a G-Code Incog. I wore it only for a very short time. It was super uncomfortable. My EDC holster is a Raven Eidolon and has been for a number of years.

    • If something only works with a very narrow body type, then it's not a great design.
      At my lightest, 170, I still experienced all of these issues with Sidecar style holsters.
      Traditional holsters and separate magazine carriers did not experience these issues even at my biggest, 240.
      At 210, average build, the results are the same.

      You're still not mitigating durability problems, retention inconsistencies, or overall bulk impacting mobility. Shortcomings are shortcomings, even if you're built like twig.

      • Sorry to disagree! It's like pistol designs as well, not all of it suits everyone. That's why some like one design better than the other. The truth is that AIWB is not suited for your body type. Just accept it and stop writing a bad review about it because holster designs come in different types to suit different people.

        • You're clearly someone who misunderstands AIWB. Spencer Keepers is one of the pioneers of the style and he's bigger than I've ever been. Same with John Johnston or John Correia. Check out the PHLster Concealment Workshop if you're interested in learning more about effective concealment techniques across a variety of dress styles and body types.

  5. As long as we're talking about Phlster, it should be noted their Flex is a great alternative to mag-caddy holsters.

    • I've recently started experimenting with that for myself. I definitely see the appeal of it, and I think it is probably a better solution than your typical Sidecar.

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