Guide to Drop Leg Holsters

Drop Leg Holsters For Open Carry, Range Day, Hunting Or Any Other Use!

Everything You Need To Know About Drop Leg And Thigh Carry Holsters

One of the best methods for open carry is using drop leg holsters. Also called “thigh
carry,” it’s gained a bit more traction in recent years as both a comfortable carry method if one isn’t
concerned about concealment as well as a tactical method of carrying a handgun.

Unlike carrying on the hip, it doesn’t require a hip holster, which can be bulky and cumbersome and difficult
to access when seated. Leg carry allows you to access the pistol from virtually any position. It also puts
the weight of the gun in more natural-feeling location.

Drop Leg Holsters Have Been Around For A While

Though some people might think that the drop leg holster is a relatively new phenomenon, specifically a
modern innovation in “tactical gear,” the reality is that thigh carry is, in fact, a much older practice
when it comes to carrying a pistol.

Much like appendix
, carrying a pistol on the leg was done in the 19th century. Again, much like “appendix carry,” the
terms “drop thigh” and “drop leg” and so on are merely modern terms for an older practice.

In those eras, some holsters had a long drop between the holster mouth and the belt loop. The effect was
that the butt of the pistol grip wasn’t located at belt level, but rather at pocket level. Such holsters
were also fitted with a piece of twine or rawhide strip that would be tied around the thigh.

While that type of design differs from the modern leg holster, the effect was more or less the same: the
gun rode on or about the thigh. Granted, it bears mentioning that the intent of wearing such a holster
was somewhat different as the goal was to make the pistol more easily accessed whilst riding a

Old western style drop leg holster

Like other Western holsters, leather was the construction method of the day and many such holsters featured a
thumb break as a retention device.

Today’s leg holster, of course, is a bit different.

The Modern Tactical Leg Holster

Today’s thigh carry is oriented toward tactical use, as a tactical leg holster is inherently useful to
units in police forces and militaries. A handgun, should it be needed, can be easily accessed in nearly
any position – standing, kneeling, prone on the back or stomach, and certainly in a vehicle. Naturally,
it has a great appeal to police officers and military personnel that would carry a sidearm.

The practicality of a tactical holster is unmatched, as they can carry the gun in a more convenient

combat-ready drop leg carry

Some people also find that carrying in this manner feels a bit more natural than having a service pistol on
the hip. Obviously, concealment is impossible but that is hardly a consideration when a person gets a
tactical holster.

Civilian Use Of A Tactical Holster

Naturally, some people wonder if it’s worth it for a civilian to own or use a tactical holster. After all,
the “tacticool” market has completely exploded and all sorts of tactical and military gear is bought and by
the truckload by people that have a limited basis for using it.

However, a tactical leg holster has uses beyond merely being for a police officer, on a SWAT team or not, or
a Special Forces operator and so on. Many civilians, of course, open carry and do so in a variety of

Wearing Drop Leg Holster with larger firearm

For general open carry, whether open carrying regularly or just around the home, a leg holster is
obviously quite practical. It keeps the waistline free of a holster and gun, which can get quite
cumbersome if you carry a larger pistol such as one of the Wonder Nines, a 1911
Commander model
or any service-type pistol.

At the range, whether just being worn for regular shooting or if participating in 3 Gun or other handgun
shooting sport (if allowed; some specify what type of holster you can use) the leg holster allows for
very quick access and easy carry.

If carrying a handgun as a backup in the woods, a thigh holster is much more desirable than a hip holster.
Extra gear around the waist can easily snag on branches and brush, whereas a leg holster is less liable to
do so. The holster and pistol are also completely out of the way of the arms. If carrying a potent semi-auto
for use as a backup gun in bear country – as .357 Sig and 10mm pistols are capable woods carry guns – then
the thigh holster is certainly a good implement for carrying in this manner.

Modular drop leg holster platform

In short, whenever and wherever open carry is allowed or called for, a tactical holster is actually a
fantastic solution.

The 3 Best Uses For A Drop Leg Holster

They do seem cool and tactical as heck, but it’s also the case that a drop leg holster is a bit more than an impulse buy. Usually, quality examples will cost you a bit and, unless you’re as loaded as Tactical Croesus, you should have a use for it before buying.

What are those uses, pray tell?

Here are three good uses for a leg holster. Many of our customers buy and use them for these reasons. As with any holster, it should be a good fit for you and your lifestyle; if you have a use for a tool, then you’ll get your money’s worth out of it.

Drop Leg Holsters Are Great For Training, Competition And Range Days

range day

One of the best uses is as a training, competition or range day holster.

It’s more comfortable than an OWB with a belt cinched tight around your waist, far more enabling for dynamic movement and if set up properly, is every bit as enabling of a fast draw as any other competition rig.

Granted, if you’re getting one for competition use, be sure to check with the rules and regulations of the competition league you’re in. Some are more stringent about makes and models of holster being used than others, so it’s something you need to be aware of.

A lot of people find a drop leg rig is easier to work with doing carbine or shotgun transitions, but some people don’t; this has a lot more to do with your specific setup rather than a general rule. If you’re doing multigun events or drills or what have you, it’s something to be aware of.

The Ultimate Open Carry Holster? Drop Leg Works Well For That

As a companion idea, a drop leg holster is also very well suited to any sort of open carry application. In fact, it’s pretty much only good for that since concealment is completely out of the question unless you’re wearing a trench coat.

Some people prefer using a drop leg holster for open carry for many of the same reasons that some people have them in their range bag for training, practice and/or competition.

What some users find preferential is the weight is taken off the waist to a degree, which some find preferential and less hindering to movement. Some also find it leads to fewer inadvertent bumps into various objects such as cars, doorways and so on.

It’s also the case that some people just don’t care for having a goiter like a gun and a holster on their waistband. Again, that much is down to personal preference.

Also, just as with use as a range/training/competition holster, a leg holster also makes a more dynamic range of motion a bit easier, and also keeps the pistol more easily accessed from different positions.

Point being, a drop leg holster is a great way to open carry once you’ve gotten your holster dialed in.

Drop Leg Holsters Are Also Ideal For Hunting Or Hiking With A Pack

drop leg

Of course, the original reason why anyone bothered with a drop leg holster or some other holster designs – such as the tanker holster – was designed to keep a pistol on the body without interfering with wearing a pack.

Many of our customers report buying and wearing their drop leg holster when hiking or hunting, and having purchased their drop leg holster for precisely this purpose.

When you wear a backpack that’s more substantial than your typical day pack, there’s usually a waist belt. A gun in a holster that’s on your waistband…just isn’t tenable.

The solution is either to leave the handgun behind, or to somehow get it off the waistband.

There are a few other ways to do that besides a drop leg holster, of course. If the pack you’re using has PALS webbing, you can use a MOLLE holster, if you don’t want a drop leg rig you can use a chest holster and so on.

A drop leg holster, obviously, is perfectly suited for carrying a handgun when the waist is otherwise occupied, which incidentally is why the military as well as police officers use them.

So, if you’re hitting the trail either for a day or perhaps a longer trek living out of a pack, or doing likewise in the backcountry for hunting season, a drop leg holster is a way to keep a handgun on you for personal protection.

How To Wear A Leg Holster

Wearing a leg holster is fairly straightforward, but does require some attention to detail when putting it

Instead of being merely supported by the gun belt, such as in the case of OWB or IWB
, a drop leg holster is supported laterally by the side straps and vertically by the belt
loop or belt loops if the holster features two belt loops. Some do, some don’t.

Are two belt loops better than one in a leg holster?

In truth, not that much. The only way two belt loops would be better than one in a drop leg holster would
be if said holster wasn’t secured very well against the thigh; in this case, the belt straps would keep
the holster centered in the position the wearer secures it in.

Putting on the shapeshift tactical drop thigh holster

However, if the thigh straps are of sufficient quality…it actually doesn’t matter. The belt loop should
only keep the holster in place vertically.

Strapping on the tactical drop thigh holster

To put on a leg holster, the holster is first secured to the leg and the thigh straps drawn tight.
Ideally, the straps will be tight enough to keep the holster anchored but no so tight that the wearer is
discomfited by wearing it.

The belt loop is then fastened, by pulling the top of the loop behind and then over the belt.

Once the drop leg holster is secured, the pistol may then be inserted into the holster. The wearer may then
go about their business.

The holster should be located far enough up the thigh to be readily accessible without any hinging at the
waist. The hand should grasp the grip of the pistol without having to extend the arm. There should still be
a little bend in the elbow when the pistol is grasped.

A good rule of thumb is that the grip should be located just about at the same level as the pants pocket.

As to where on the thigh the holster should be situated, this is the wearer’s choice, though directly on
the side (about the 3 o’clock position) is a good default choice. Rotating a little further in is
perfectly fine as well, though having the gun turned perpendicular to the body is not a very good idea.
Somewhere between the 1 o’clock and 3 o’clock position is just about perfect for most people.

combat ready tactical drop leg holster at 3 o'clock position

How To Choose A Drop Leg Holster

Though there are many on the market, not every drop leg holster is created equal. Though features vary from
manufacturer to manufacturer, you will find two common designs available.

First you’ll find universal leg holsters. These are relatively cheap to acquire, though you will generally
get what you pay for.

These holsters are usually made with nylon cloth. They’re thick enough to be somewhat durable, and they will
fit almost any pistol….mostly because they don’t really fit ANY pistol. Strapping will be nylon straps
with buckles. The vertical strap will always work, but the horizontal straps may not. Retention is only
achieved via a thumb break. You’ll feel the gun against your leg for sure, and you may have to tighten the
straps to almost the point of being uncomfortable.

Why do people buy universal leg holsters? Mostly because they’ll only get used a few times per year and
they’re cheap.

What if you want something a bit sturdier?

Docking platform of the tactical drop thigh holster

The second variety uses a thigh platform that docks with a holster, usually molded out of some sort of
polymer. These are far more secure and often much more comfortable to wear as the gun itself isn’t
fastened to the leg…provided the platform is designed well.

With this model of thigh rig, the holster is often a universal holster design, also requiring an active
retention device.

These are often the generic holsters marketed to law enforcement but also sold to the civilian market.

For the platform-plus-holster variety, many of the same criteria hold true.

The ShapeShift Drop Leg holster, on the other hand, is tailor-made for each firearm it is offered for,
the same with the Cloak Mod Drop Thigh Conversion Kit.

First, it should be comfortable to wear. A little adjustment of thigh rig position may be necessary, but
you shouldn’t have any issue wearing it.

Cloak Mod Tactical Drop Leg Conversion
nylon straps on the drop leg holster

Straps should hold the platform and holster securely, but should also be comfortable to wear. Elastic
bands are a good solution there, but must be of sufficient construction to hold the platform securely.
There should be minimal vertical travel and minimal horizontal travel when wearing it. As to the holster
itself, it should offer good retention and in truth, good retention without an active retention

Granted, retention devices are a subject of some debate.

Some believe they are necessary for open
, others do not. A desirable feature would be
passive retention, or better still the ability to add an active retention device if desired or possibly
remove it.

Removable and fully adjustable passive retention
The ShapeShift Drop Leg Holster

Another feature that’s desirable is the ability to carry extra magazines. Some thigh holsters, especially
those of the platform/holster design, can sometimes double as a magazine thigh carrier and leg holster.
For the person that wishes to carry as much spare ammunition as possible, this is a very beneficial

So, to sum up, what should you look for in a leg holster?

It should be comfortable to wear. It should carry securely, with no fear of it coming loose or slipping.
The holster should adequately hold the pistol and offer the user the retention level they desire, with
customizable retention being better than non-customizable retention.

Being able to carry spare magazines is a serious bonus.

The Alien Gear Drop Leg Holster does have a Magazine Carrier variant, as well as two slots for spare
magazines on the holster platform itself.

A drop leg holster should also come with a product guarantee that inspires confidence in the

Mag Carrier variant of the Tactical Drop Thigh holster

Getting saddled with some piece of junk you won’t want to wear isn’t pleasant, so you should be able to
either get it returned or repaired if need be.

In other words, everything the ShapeShift Drop Leg Holster is.


Take advantage of our 30-day Test Drive

Already have the Cloak Mod? Order the Alien Gear ShapeShift
Drop Leg Carry Expansion Pack
, compatible with both the Cloak Mod and ShapeShift platforms.

Sam Hoober


About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington
University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied
interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as
often as possible.

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