When carrying an elegant and iconic firearm like the 1911 outside the waistband, I am not only looking for a functional holster, but a beautiful and well-crafted design, something that’s custom-made to match my 1911.
There are many great options out there, but my favorite 1911 OWB holster is the Galco Combat Master. If you are investigating a case, working a security job, riding around the ranch, or shooting at the practice range, you might consider using the Galco Combat Master. I like this holster because it lets me draw my 1911 quickly and easily.
It also gives me great concealed carry options, keeping the gun close enough to my body to prevent printing and letting me keep my 1911 hidden underneath a long shirt or a jacket.
Before looking my other choices for outside the waistband, let’s talk about the 1911 firearm itself and what you might be looking for in an outside the waistband holster.
Table of Contents
The 1911: America’s Most Iconic Handgun
The History of the 1911
The M1911 boasts the longest service record of any firearm in United States military history. Its purpose was to replace the then-standard revolvers (such as the Colt M1892 revolver) with a semi-automatic pistol. American troops carried the M1911 from 1911 until 1986, when the iconic handgun was phased out for the Beretta M9.
Invented by John Browning in the 1890‘s, the 1911 brought about a major innovation in weapons manufacturing: the cross compatibility of parts across different manufacturers. They would test this by throwing all of the different 1911 parts into a bucket and choosing a random part from each, making sure than the parts from any manufacturer could fit any 1911 model firearm.
The 1911 first saw action during Mexico border disputes, as well as Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba during the so called “banana wars.” Our troops packed this pistol when heading to the aid of French and British troops, first in World War I and then again on the beaches of Normandy.
If you love a gun with a good story, the 1911 carries decades of American history.
This classic staple of American soldiers still sees use today. Many special forces still carry variants of the M1911 on the field today.
Design of the 1911
The 1911 is significantly heavier than most firearms, offers a large variety of options for finding the optimal customization, is well-known for its sharp accuracy, and comes in both .45 ACP and 9mm varieties. The 1911 also has two safety mechanisms, making the weapon steady and easy to carry without an accidental discharge.
The 1911 boasts a single-action trigger, which means it’s directly connected to the hammer. While some triggers operate like a hinge, the 1911 trigger fits in as one piece, sliding completely back. Both features allow for an easy trigger pull, preventing the motion of pulling the trigger from throwing off your aim.
This easy trigger keeps the pressure required to release the hammer the same for every shot. The trigger makes the 1911 one of the more accurate handguns, making it a top choice among both amateur and competitive sharpshooters.
Two different safety mechanisms prevent you from squeezing the 1911’s light trigger. The side-lock safety keeps the hammer and sear in place, keeping the weapon cocked and locked. Since you typically carry the 1911 with the hammer back, this iconic firearm is the provenance of the expression “cocked and loaded.”
Alongside the lock safety, you’ve got the grip safety, which you’ll have to release to fire the shot. So the 1911 gives you an easier trigger pull at the cost of extra safety features.
Why does the 1911 have so many safety features? The answer lies in United States military history. The extra safety features of the 1911 were mainly added because during 1911, the United States still had a large amount of soldiers on horseback, meaning that any semi-automatic pistol must be secured so that there would be no chance of the constant rattling of the galloping horse could cause the gun to fire.
The double safety features were designed so that the pistol could be carried with the side-lock safety in position, making it easy to access and fire, but without the risk that the constant up and down motion of the galloping horse would cause a round to discharge.
Downsides to the 1911
Some people dislike the excessive safety features of the 1911. Now, I firmly believe that any safety mechanism, with proper training, will vanish through habitual usage. However, some find the grip safety uncomfortable and awkward to use.
Another issue with the 1911 is the weight. A fully loaded M1911 weights a total of three pounds (1.36 killograms). Compare that to a fully-loaded Glock 22, which weights only 34.42 ounces (975 grams), making the M1911 15.68 ounces (385 grams) heavier.
Others dislike the limited ammunition capacity of the 1911 compared to modern firearms. Most 1911’s are single stack, and double-stack 1911’s are rather rare.
What to Look for in an Outside the Waistband Holster
Before purchasing an outside the waistband holster, you need to figure out the features that you value most. When do you plan to be wearing this holster? Are you looking to conceal your carry, or are you carrying your weapon openly?
Closed or Open Carry?
I typically use an outside the waistband holster for an open carry, since I am usually wearing my sidearm at work or on the ranch and prefer to keep my shirt tucked in. Sometimes, a sports jacket can be long enough to cover my sidearm, but I want to be able to take this off and roll up my sleeves without worrying.
If you prefer baggier shirts or always keep your jacket on, on the other hand, you might prefer an OWB holster for an open carry. In that case, you want to make sure that your holster doesn’t print.
Accessibility versus Retention
When I have an open carry, it means I am in a situation where I need to access my gun quickly, not just keep it hidden for an emergency. If you are carrying your gun around the ranch or practice range, you will probably want to be able to whip it out quick.
Moreover, you are probably less concerned about someone taking your gun from your holster while on your own property or at the range. On the other hand, if you are a security guard or in law enforcement, you will need to decide between retention and accessibility.
Are you more worried about someone sneaking up and taking your gun, or drawing it quickly? This depends a great deal on your day-to-day work as well. Are you walking through large crowds of people at a museum or mall? Or are you pulling people over at a traffic stop or making calls about a case?
Our OWB Holsters for Carrying a 1911
The lack of retention means quick accessibility, making it an ideal choice if you are looking to access your sidearm quickly.
- 100% Leather
- Fits Kimber, Springfield, Para, and Colt 5-inch 1911’s
- Beautiful double-stitched leather design
- Easy accessibility
- Thin material
- Fits the shape of your gun to prevent printing
- No retention device
- Takes time to break in the leather.
If you prefer the feel of a commando to a cowboy, the Blackhawk Serpa Sporster holster might be for you.
The design of this holster makes gives it more of a tactical feel. It’s especially ideal if you are looking for strong retention, as the Blackhawk Serpa Sportster has the strongest retention of any of the holsters on this list, locking your trigger into place and requiring you to press down to release your sidearm.
If you are worried about someone taking your weapon, his holster might be an ideal choice to consider.
- SERPA auto-lock retention
- Trigger lock release
- Adjustable retention screw
- Paddle for extra support
- Strong retention
- Custom fit for 1911
- Easy concealment
- Difficult to draw
- Hard to reholster
- Paddle doesn’t fit small hips
Another great leather holster option from Relentless Tactical is the Ultimate Leather Gun Holster. If you don’t mind the barrel sticking out a bit, this holster is a solid choice. It boasts a bit better retention, while keeping the sleek leather feel.
- Pancake Design
- Close Fit
- US Cowhide Leather
- Fits close to body
- Sleek leather look
- Adaptable for multiple firearms
- Some sights catch on draw
- Barrel of gun sticks out
If you don’t fancy leather, Outbag’s nylon holster provides a reasonable option. It includes a number of features, including a slot for an extra magazine. While certainly not as showy as a leather piece, this Nylon holster certainly gets the job done.
- 600 Denier Nylon
- Steel belt clip
- Slot for magazine
- Thumb break
- Lots of features
- Holds an extra magazine
- Nylon material less sturdy than leather or hardshell
While all these offer great options, I prefer the sleek and easy to draw Galco Combat Master. Although it lacks the strong retention of the Blackhawk Serpa Sportster or even the mild retention of the Relentless tactical ultimate leather holster, I’m not looking for retention in an outside the waistband holster, but for accessibility.
I want to access my firearm quick and the Combat Master lets me do this. Although the Outbags OB-04SC offers more features, I would much prefer to keep my 1911 in sturdy leather, not to mention I much prefer the aesthetics of leather to nylon.
However, all of these holsters have different merits, depending on your needs and preferences, and all of them, in my view, make an excellent holster for carrying America’s most classic semi-automatic pistol: the 1911.