Most people will do lots of research on what type pistol they need before buying one. Sadly the same cannot be said of their holsters. Selecting the proper holster is an important part of gearing up. Just as much research, or possible more, should be given to choosing the proper holster as to what type pistol you carry. The holster has to do a lot more than just hold the pistol.
First, the holster must retain or hold the pistol securely. Generally this means it's made specifically for your type pistol. Yes, your pistol may fit into a generic, one size fits all holster, but the holster probably will not hold the pistol securely, allowing you to move about freely in a variety of different positions without having to worry about the pistol falling or dropping out of the holster. The holster also has to be securely held in position. A holster that is constantly moving around or changing angle makes it extremely difficult to get a consistent draw or get the pistol back into the holster.
The holster must allow you to acquire a proper grip on the pistol, while it is in the holster. Having to pull the pistol part way out of the holster to get the correct grip won't work. This can be a real problem for people with large hands and/or small pistols. In order to check this you must have the holster belted on. Testing it out at the shop counter won't tell you a lot. Put the holster on your belt, pistol in the holster and then make sure you can acquire a proper, correct grip.
Another important consideration is the ability to holster the pistol with one hand. This means the holster must hold its shape once the pistol is removed. If you have to use the support hand to open up the holster in order to put the pistol back into it then you don't have a good holster. Often times you'll see people bring the support hand back to the holster to open it up, and then bring the pistol back to the holster. During this action they are covering their support hand or arm with the muzzle. Safety Rule II: Never allow the muzzle to cover anything you're not willing or ready to put bullets into. This includes parts of your body too. Your support hand may be injured or out of operation. If you have a "two-hand" holster then you're out of luck. A good holster allows you to draw and holster with one hand.
Your holster should be sturdy enough that it can be used as an aid to cycle the pistol with one hand. Cycling or racking the slide is done by hooking the rear sights on the lip or edge of the holster and then forcing the pistol downward. A flimsy or floppy holster or one with a lot of curves might not have an edge that will allow you to do this.
All the points above should be considered when choosing a holster. Selecting a holster for concealed carry can be even more complicated. The main thing is to experiment until you discover what is going to work for you. This is a very personalized process, and things such as body build or how you dress will come into play. What works for you buddy may not fit you at all.
Only you can decide what holster works for you. When it comes to selecting the proper gear, this is how it always is. Test, experiment and practice until discovering the perfect holster, and then practice some more to ensure it will work under any and all conditions. Only then would I be willing to bet my life on my holster.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - http://shootrite.org/book/book.html writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: