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Published Feb 1, 2022 2:03 PM

Self-defense is a human right, and while you may not be able to get away with slinging an M249 over your shoulder while you pick up your morning Starbucks, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your rock chucker at home. Carrying a concealed self-defense weapon is an art that must satisfy a number of requirements, and sometimes, an ankle holster is the only way to pack heat without attracting undesirable attention. Some see ankle rigs as gimmicky, and some products certainly live up to that reputation. On the flip side, other ankle holsters have the potential to impress the most open-minded skeptics. As with any holster, the key is to find a solution that works for you and the environment(s) in which you live and work. So, do your homework, and find a quality holster that works for you. Then, practice, practice, practice.

Sure, ankle carry may not be for everyone, but when it’s the best solution for you, be prepared with the right skills and the perfect holster.

Best Overall

One of the most loved ankle holsters on today’s market is the Galco Ankle Glove. This strap-on rig features a custom-molded leather holster stitched to a wide neoprene band for a sleek, straightforward design and secure firearm retention. The Ankle Glove relies on a hook-and-loop fastener to secure the band in place and allow for a truly custom fit. A genuine sheepskin pad sits inside the band, creating the perfect layer between your gun and your ankle. The holster itself consists of a premium steerhide, and most models include a reinforced thumb break wisely positioned on the inside of the rig to prevent any accidental releases. The Galco Ankle Glove can accommodate a wide variety of revolvers and semi-automatic handguns and fits ankles up to 13 inches in circumference. This rig is compatible with Galco’s Ankle Calf Strap (sold separately), and those who prefer to wear their holster over boots or need a little more space will also appreciate Galco’s Boot Extender. With its quality construction, modularity, and FBI cant, we can see why this ankle holster is so well-loved despite its high price tag.

Product Specs
  • Holster type: Strap-on
  • Construction materials: Neoprene and rubber
  • Retention system: Thumb break
  • Cant: FBI
PROS

Custom firearm fit

Adjustable neoprene band

Reinforced thumb break

Genuine sheepskin padding between gun and leg

CONS

Can be expensive

May move when worn

Looking for an ankle holster that performs well and saves you some pennies? Consider picking up a DeSantis Apache Ankle Rig. While it may not be the cheapest option on the market, this strap-on holster certainly isn’t a budget slayer, and you can rest easy in its solid performance and uncompromising quality. This custom rig relies on a wide yet low-profile elasticized band with a hook-and-loop closure to secure your firearm, while virtually eliminating its ability to rock back and forth in the holster with each step you take. As with all quality ankle holsters, the Apache comes with genuine sheepskin padding between the firearm and your leg, and includes a secure inside thumb break for solid retention and easy access as your situations change. Semi-auto models include a retention strap with an inside adjustable hook-and-loop thumb break, and models designed for revolvers and .32 caliber semi-automatics use a plain hook-and-loop strap instead. Despite its small size, the Apache Ankle Rig accommodates handguns of all sizes, although those packing larger firearms definitely will want to snag a DeSantis Gunhide Ankle Support Strap to match.

Product Specs
  • Holster type: Strap-on
  • Construction materials: Elastic
  • Retention system: Thumb break
  • Cant: FBI
PROS

Affordable

Custom firearm fit

Thumb break retention system

Genuine sheepskin padding between gun and leg

CONS

Elastic band may stretch out over time

May move when worn

Editor’s Choice

Concealed carriers who appreciate the merits of friction holsters will love the relatively hard-to-find Galco Ankle Guard despite its higher price tag. Unlike most ankle holsters, this strap-on holster combines the best of Galco’s Ankle Glove and BlakGuard holsters. It skips the retention strap in favor of a customizable clamp-like retention system controlled via twin tension screws located at the trigger guard. The holster’s “trench” sight rail accommodates and protects almost any iron sight on the market. The injection-molded sight rail and retention system are attached to a premium, center-cut steerhide body which is in turn sewn securely to a neoprene ankle cuff with a hook-and-loop closure and genuine sheepskin padding.. Like the Ankle Glove above, this holster works well with both the Ankle Calf Strap and Boot Extender from Galco. This custom-fit holster comes in a variety of models capable of hosting most common concealable semi-automatics with or without red dot sights.

Product Specs
  • Holster type: Strap-on
  • Construction materials: Neoprene, leather, and polymer
  • Retention system: Friction
  • Cant: FBI
PROS

Custom firearm fit

Adjustable neoprene band

Customizable clamp retention system

Accommodates most iron and and red dot sights

CONS

A little pricey

May move when worn

Best Ankle Holster for Lace-up Boots

Finding a boot-friendly ankle holster can be quite a challenge. That is until you meet the Gould & Goodrich BootLock 716, an ankle holster made with boot wearers in mind. This strap-on holster features a leather construction with a touch of elastic and a hook and loop fastener to provide a fully customized, comfortable fit for all-day wear. Unlike most ankle rigs, this holster features a grid of nine bootlace eyelets designed to secure the holster in place for top-notch stability. Thanks to the holster’s saddle-like design, the BootLock 716 distributes a firearm’s weight very well, giving this holster a noticeably lighter feel compared to its competitors. The canted design allows for a lower profile and facilitates a quick draw, and the thumb break provides solid retention for excellent peace of mind. This Gould & Goodrich ankle holster certainly is worthy of its higher price tag.

Product Specs
  • Holster type: Strap-on hybrid
  • Construction materials: Leather and elastic
  • Retention system: Thumb break
  • Cant: FBI
PROS

Comfortable

Distributes weight well

Facilitates predictable draw stroke

Secure retention

CONS

Can be expensive

Only compatible with lace-up boots

Take patience to install and/or remove from boot

Best Ankle Holster for Slip-on Boots

Cowboy up with the boot-friendly BUGBite Holster. Unlike traditional ankle holsters, the BUGBite positions your concealed handgun above your ankle, making it a solid choice for use with a pair of Justins. This thin, breathable neoprene holster features a sleeve-like design with anti-slip dots along the inside and comes in one of five sizes, each designed to fit different calf sizes for a semi-custom fit. After sliding it over your foot and calf, simply close the zipper and secure both the calf tensioner and zipper retention straps. Once on, the BUGBite refuses to slip, slide, or rotate, and it manages to reduce sweating quite a bit compared to other neoprene holsters. The holster’s universal design accommodates numerous different compact and subcompact CCW handguns, positioning them on the inside of your leg for maximum concealability. While this ankle holster lacks rigid trigger guard protection, the neoprene sleeve combined with a stiff, tall boot shaft should provide ample protection against accidental discharges triggered by ground-based debris. On the outside of the holster is a smaller sleeve ideal for an extra magazine, a flashlight, or similar gear. The BUGBite Holster comes in both right and left-handed designs and sports a sub-$50 price tag. Not bad, amigos.

Product Specs
  • Holster type: Slip-on
  • Construction materials: Neoprene
  • Retention system: Friction
  • Cant: Straight
PROS

Affordable

Breathable

Semi-custom sleeve fit

Includes accessory sleeve

CONS

Lacks rigid trigger guard protection

Only accommodates short-gripped firearms

Positions firearm high above ankle

Every so often, ambitious manufacturers produce new designs for old problems. Enter the Alien Gear ShapeShift Ankle Holster, an innovative design that performs well thanks to its unorthodox approach. Unlike other modern ankle holsters, this design relies on three distinct pieces to achieve optimal performance: stirrup, ankle wrap, and holster shell. The stirrup consists of breathable neoprene, the shell (the key to Alien Gear’s modular ShapeShift system) of tough polymer, and the wrap of a combination of both materials. The holster’s ankle wrap sports a polymer spine that slips into a pocket in the stirrup to position your firearm at your desired height and to eliminate holster movement during wear. The holster shell attaches to the wrap’s polymer mounting base and locks into place, effectively fusing the two pieces into one. Like virtually all good ankle holsters, this rig includes a noticeable cant to reduce your firearms profile, and Alien Gear claims that the ShapeShift Ankle Holster can even hide away a full size handgun. As with all Alien Gear holsters, this American-made ankle rig comes with a Forever Warranty and a 30-day test period for maximum customer confidence. In the end, the AlienGear ShapeShift Ankle Holster provides all-day comfort, rigid trigger protection, and solid firearm retention, an ideal CCW combination.

Product Specs
  • Holster type: Hybrid
  • Construction materials: Neoprene and polymer
  • Retention system: Friction
  • Cant: FBI
PROS

Maintains consistent position when worn

Custom firearm fit

Custom ride height

Part of modular system

CONS

Multi-piece design

Stirrup could be uncomfortable for some

Why should you trust us

Ever since shooting a little sawed-off .22 carbine at eight years old, I have been fascinated by small arms, and I have studied the art of self-defense for over a decade. I believe that skills and gear must work in concert, and I have developed an appreciation for well-designed gear that can handle any situation. I have covered other self-defense and EDC gear, such as flashlights, bear spray, and various knives.

Types of ankle holsters

Strap-on

Ankle holsters must be secure and easy to use, and for most people, putting their holster on in the morning must fall into the category of “easy to use.” Many (if not most) ankle holsters rely on a single strap or a series of straps to secure them in place, making them much easier to don and doff without removing your shoes than other ankle holsters. Most often, these holsters employ hook-and-loop straps to further improve the user’s experience.

In addition to their ease of use, strap-on holsters usually provide a better fit than most other ankle holsters. The holster straps allow users to provide the perfect level of tension, allowing him or her to find an ideal balance between concealability and comfort.

Slip-on

Slip-on ankle holsters are easier and more economical to manufacture, making them a favorite choice for buyers looking to stick to a budget. These holsters usually consist of a neoprene band to which the actual holster is attached, providing a good combination of flexibility and compression. However, without a calf strap to secure the holster, most slip-on holsters will only work for short-term excursions.

Since most slip-on ankle holsters are made of neoprene, comfort can be an issue, especially when wearing the holster for an extended period of time. As such, the best slip-on holsters combat this issue with moisture-wicking liners or breathable neoprene bands.

Key features of ankle holsters

Comfort

Shop for an ankle holster that is comfortable to wear day in and day out. A holster with a breathable design and low-profile stitching will increase your concealed carry comfort and decrease your repertoire of excuses for not carrying. A comfortable holster also relies on padding to mitigate the weight and sharp edges on your handgun. Genuine sheepskin is an excellent padding option as it provides cushion and breathability while absorbing sweat and resisting bacteria.

Stability is another critical consideration when selecting an ankle holster. An ankle holster that stays in place all day long allows users to find a comfortable position for extended wear. This also makes the firearm’s position predictable, adding a layer of psychological comfort and facilitating a repeatable draw stroke.

Custom molding

While ankle holsters come in both universal and custom fit patterns, we recommend opting for a custom-molded holster over a one-size-fits-all alternative. Custom molding usually provides a strong, reliable grip on your gun both with and without a proper retention system in place. On the other hand, inexpensive universal holsters are a soft, one-size-fits-all option that often struggle to maintain a secure grip on your concealed firearm even with the help of a solid retention system.

Most custom molded holsters rely on leather or polymer construction, with leather providing more comfort and polymer generally offering better retention. One other factor to consider is whether or not a molded holster will accommodate a red dot sight, a controversial yet increasingly popular concealed carry accessory.

Retention system

Firearm retention is a critical consideration when selecting any holster. A properly secured firearm keeps the kids safe when everything is cool, and when you find yourself grappling for your life, the last thing you need is for your assailant to control your last defense. Most ankle holsters rely on a strap with a thumb break to combine security with quick access to your weapon, although some use friction, an unreliable solution in most cases.

Calf strap

Anyone planning to wear their ankle holster for an extended period of time likely will want to invest in a rig that either comes with a calf strap or is at least compatible with one. A calf strap wraps around your upper calf then attaches to the holster via a secondary strap to help secure the holster in its intended position.

Such a setup allows you to develop a smooth, consistent draw stroke. By eliminating holster creep, your firearm will stay in the same place throughout the day, and such consistency allows you to develop a predictable, repeatable draw stroke.

Cant

No, we didn’t forget the apostrophe. The cant of a firearm refers to the tilt of the gun as it sits in the holster. The cant an ankle holster provides directly affects what firearms it can effectively conceal and how quickly the user can draw.

Straight-canted holsters align your gun’s barrel with your leg which often causes grip printing with non-subcompact firearms. An FBI canted holster rotates the top, rear of your firearm a few degrees forward, pulling the grip closer to your leg’s silhouette and minimizing printing and facilitating a faster, smoother draw.

Return policy

For many people, concealed carry with an ankle holster seems awkward, unnecessary, or both. As such, this holster segment gets neglected and ignored by mainstream concealed carry practitioners, and few people are willing to sink $50 or more on an unknown commodity. When shopping for an ankle holster, purchase your desired ankle rig from a retailer that allows for product “test drives”. If during this period (often 30 days) you find that your holster of choice does not work for you, you can return it without having your return rejected. It may not seem like much at first, but it beats wasting hundreds of dollars and tons of storage space on holsters you will never wear or give away.

Benefits of ankle holsters

Handy backup

For many, the mantra “two is one, and one is none” is an axiom of life, and ankle carry provides a proven solution to the challenge of carrying extra hardware. Some people naturally live by the Coast Guard motto, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (even if you’ve never even met a Coastie).

While some concealed carry practitioners may scoff at the idea of an ankle holster, this setup has a number of advantages worth contemplating. Most obviously, ankle holsters serve extremely well as saddles for small backup guns, a place to keep a little extra insurance should the unpredictable occur. While not everyone prefers to carry two guns at once, those who do will appreciate the ankle rig.

Easy access while seated

Many Americans make their living sitting on their duff, but just because someone works behind a desk or drives a big rig to make ends meet doesn’t mean that they should have to stop carrying a concealed self-defense weapon. Most CCW holster styles range from awkward to cumbersome to downright uncomfortable for seated individuals, especially over extended periods of time such as during an endless meeting or driving down an empty stretch of highway. In fact, drawing from an ankle holster from a seated position can be incredibly fast and convenient

Depending on the situation, an ankle holster can also be more discrete. Drivers especially benefit from ankle holsters as car doors hide even exposed ankle-bound handguns from public view. Unless you drive a doorless Jeep.

Great for CCW-unfriendly wardrobes

Some ankle-carry practitioners who carry concealed every day may find that an ankle holster fits the bill on an ideal primary carry location. Many professionals wear uniforms that make other holster options completely impractical. Scrubs, coveralls, flight suits, and similar uniforms simply will not accommodate more mainstream holsters, making an ankle rig the only realistic option for on-body carry.

Flimsy or non-existent waistbands eliminate the possibility of using either an OWB or IWB holster for many individuals, and healthcare workers have even fewer options at their disposal. Due to the physicality of their jobs and the nature of their uniform (scrubs), nurses and other healthcare providers will find shoulder holsters and virtually every other on-body holster to be completely impractical. As such, an ankle rig is likely to be the perfect solution to their concealed carry dilemma.

Pricing considerations for ankle holsters

Budget

Ankle holsters use only a couple of different designs, but as with anything, quality directly affects both the short-term and long-term effects on your wallet. Spend too little, and you’ll be spending again in a few short weeks. As a rule of thumb, avoid picking an ankle holster that costs less than $50.

These rigs feature universal fit patterns which may sound great in theory, but in practice, they usually get replaced in relatively short order. A universal holster’s lack of structure does such a poor job of firearm retention that accidentally kicking your loaded gun across the room becomes a distinct possibility. Since most sub-$50 ankle rigs use a universal holster pattern, we recommend saving your money.

Mid-range

Retention matters when choosing a concealed carry holster but is especially critical when your gun moves back and forth quickly and often. Even lower-end semi-custom ankle rigs designed to host a small range of similar firearms will usually outperform universal holsters, and custom-molded Kydex or leather holsters shine the brightest in stressful situations. Both of these holster types will usually set you back at least $50, but quality usually comes with a higher price tag.

If you plan to drop between $50 and $100 for an ankle holster, you can expect to find some pretty traditional fare: an elastic or neoprene strap with a leather or polymer holster. While most ankle rigs in this category are custom affairs, semi-custom holsters also show up from time to time. While not best for retention purposes, they can work decently well if you have multiple different firearms of different makes but similar sizes. Often, holsters in this price range also include decent padding positioned between your leg that band beneath the holster.

Premium

Somewhat surprisingly, there are limited differences between mid-priced and high-priced ankle holsters that cost over $100, but once again, quality (usually) matches the price tag. Probably the biggest differences are in the details. Features like sweat-wicking sheepskin padding and adjustable tension set these rigs above the rest.

That said, these ankle holsters can be quite an investment, so a good return policy from the seller or manufacturer is especially valuable in this price bracket. Before you go dropping $100 or more on a fancy rig, make sure to read some reviews and do your research. Know yourself and your environment before you spend triple digits on something that could end up sitting in your dresser drawer.

How we chose our top picks

Like with any rig, choosing a good ankle holster takes time and consideration. Before anything made it onto this list, we took some time to see what features were worth the dough and which ones weren’t. Besides the price tag, firearm retention, and stability, comfort was another important consideration. The reality is that if your concealed firearm drops to the floor as soon as you start climbing the stairs, your holster is useless. Of course, a holster that moves throughout the day will lead to an inconsistent, unpredictable draw-increasing variable that will dramatically hinder your draw, and under stress, you may find yourself scrambling for a loose gun rather than engaging the threat.

As we sifted through various hands-on reviews and other user feedback, we found a handful of sources that provided some valuable insights into the holsters that made our list. In particular, we appreciate the information provided by American Arms, ConcealedCarry.com, Green Light Shooting, Gun News Daily, PilotPatriot, Range 365, Shooting Illustrated, and USA Carry.

FAQs on ankle holsters

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. Are ankle holsters good for concealed carry?

A: Generally, yes. Unless you wear shorts or trim/tight jeans all the time, an ankle holster can be a solid CCW holster option. Just make sure you practice your draw stroke (safely) as it is much less natural than drawing from the waistband.

Q. Are ankle holsters uncomfortable?

A: Relative to not carrying at all, every CCW holster is uncomfortable, at least to some degree. With ankle holsters, the biggest detractors to comfort are sweat, especially with holsters sporting neoprene bands, and the extra weight at your ankle. Before wearing your holster in public, get used to the new feeling at home, and while you’re at it, practice walking normally!

Q. Which leg do you wear an ankle holster on?

A: With rare exceptions, the best place to position your ankle holster is on the inside leg of your non-dominant side. For a right-handed individual, this would be the inside of the left ankle. Also, consider rotating the firearm slightly forward to minimize the likelihood of kicking the firearm/holster while you walk.

Q. Can you open carry on your ankle?

A: Even if open carry is legal in your state, then don’t do it. You will have too little control over your firearm (especially around little people), and if you were to need it, you’d very likely get nailed before you could even touch it. Bad dudes don’t care.

Q. Can you wear an ankle holster with boots?

A: Yes, depending on the holster. Some holsters were designed specifically with boot wearers in mind while others were created for use by detectives, white-collar workers, and other bootless individuals.

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For over 25 years, Brian Smyth has been neighbors with the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Army’s Ivy Division. He loves the challenge of crafting words and has written for The Drive, Car Bibles, and other publications. Nothing gets him going quite like the roar of dual Pratt & Whitneys overhead, the smell of cordite, and the stories of the Greatest Generation.

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