I’m Sarah Hauptman, one of the owners of PHLster, and I’m going to tell you why you should NOT buy the PHLster Enigma. I’ve been helping people be successful with the Enigma for the last year and a half, and after seeing thousands of people work through the process of getting better concealment, I’ve got a pretty good radar for the factors that predict a struggle.
Carrying a concealed firearm is a highly personal, individual experience, and the holsters and carry methods that work for one person won’t work for all. As someone who cares deeply about the reputation of my brand, nothing frustrates me more than seeing people have avoidable, preventable problems with a product that isn’t right for their needs or capabilities.
While the PHLster Enigma is an incredibly high performing concealed carry system, it is definitely not the right holster for everyone. Before buying one, I’d highly recommend taking some time to read reviews, learn how it works, and thoroughly research the pros and cons to make sure it fits your needs. We’ve compiled a number of resources to help with this, and you can find tons of user reviews on YouTube, or in the PHLster Concealment Workshop group on Facebook.
Here’s why you should NOT buy the PHLster Enigma
We developed the Enigma for a small market of high end professional users and serious, experienced hobbyists. Most of the things people don’t like about the Enigma were deliberate choices we made to meet the standards of this market. They do not always translate well to a wider audience. That will become clear as you read on.
Don’t buy the Enigma if:
1. You don’t have time for a HUGE learning curve
When I buy a new car, I don’t really care how the engine works or how to get the best performance out of it. I just want to drive from point A to point B. If that’s how you feel about concealment, DO NOT buy the PHLster Enigma. You will hate it. The Enigma is for people who enjoy tweaking the engine to get another 100 horsepower, or another 10 mpg. It’s for people who value performance enough that they are willing to put time into customizing their system, optimizing every detail, and getting everything juuuuust right.
The Enigma requires a lot of knowledge to use successfully. That doesn’t mean you have to know it all before you start, but if you don’t enjoy getting deep into the philosophy and technical aspects of concealed carry, it’s not for you.
We have an extensive library of resources for people who want to learn more about concealed carry, but not everyone wants to get that deep into it, and that’s okay.
2. You don’t have a reason to try
What concealed carry challenge are you trying to solve? If you’re happy with your current holster, you don’t need the Enigma. If you’re already using something that meets all your concealment, performance, comfort, and safety needs, and it works with the clothes you want to wear, then the Enigma isn’t for you.
Additionally, if your concealment or performance needs aren’t that high, the Enigma isn’t for you. That’s not a value judgment. Everyone has different circumstances, and for some folks, printing really doesn’t matter. If you live a lifestyle where there would be no negative personal, social, or career consequences if someone noticed your concealed firearm, then the Enigma probably isn’t worth the effort for you. There are much easier ways to strap a gun to your body. Just find a comfortable belt holster or bellyband (with safe trigger protection), and rock on.
If you don’t care about (or have not yet thought through) performance aspects like draw speed, in-fight access, or what a violent encounter with an aggressive or skilled attacker might realistically look like, then the Enigma is probably not for you. I’ll be honest – you can get a reasonable level of concealment much more easily with systems that cover the grip of your gun with fabric (like bellybands, corsets, etc) if you’re willing to sacrifice draw speed and access.
There are a million different ways to carry a gun, and as long as they meet basic safety standards, none of them are “wrong.” They all have pros and cons. It’s all about what matters to you, and that’s different for everyone. Only those people who value both concealment and performance equally really “need” the Enigma. If you don’t need both of those factors simultaneously, you can find one or the other more easily elsewhere.
3. You don’t have mechanical aptitude
If you are not at least somewhat mechanically inclined, and good at following detailed instructions, you will struggle with assembling and using the Enigma.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’ve seen lots of mechanically challenged people use it successfully over the last year and a half. Now that I think about it, it’s actually something deeper.
If you are not resilient in the face of frustration at this time in your life, you should not buy the Enigma. This is not a judgment. People’s resilience depends on a lot of external circumstances, and it’s not something you’re born with. Every single one of us has been in a situation where we have dropped a glass and broke it and then just sat down on the kitchen floor fighting off tears because that glass was the LAST STRAW.
If you’re there right now, I hear you. I’ve been there, too. Do not buy the Enigma. There are so many little things that can trip you up, and while most of them are easy to fix (see huge learning curve), it still takes a little bite out of your resilience every time.
Don’t buy the Enigma unless you’re in a place in your life where you can experiment and try things without getting discouraged. If you enjoy the process, you’ll be successful. If you find it to be a chore, you’re more likely to give up before you get there.
4. You prefer a ready-made comfort solution over a customizable one
The Enigma is a skeleton. You start with the basic bone structure, and then you flesh it out to suit your body shape and your individual comfort needs. You have to be willing to experiment and customize to get the level of comfort and concealment you want.
This is one of those points I touched on above. We developed the Enigma for a small group of professionals and experienced hobbyists. It is a hardcore piece of fighting equipment designed to survive extreme scenarios. In order to make it hold up to those demands, we chose materials for strength and rugged durability. The Enigma is designed to be ergonomic and adjustable – it’s NOT designed to be soft. That’s very much an intentional design choice.
This is a tough concept to translate to a general audience, and it’s probably the biggest thing that people don’t understand about the Enigma. We made it to stand up to the worst day of your life. We chose mil-spec nylon webbing and heat-pressed woven polymer laminate because it doesn’t break when you’re fighting a 6′ 4″ 250 pound dude who’s trying to rip your holster off your body and kill you with your own gun. Softness was not our primary concern.
That said, skin comfort is absolutely an important factor in concealed carry comfort, and that’s why we made the Enigma as open to customization as possible. If you prefer to wear your Enigma directly against the skin with no undergarments, there are a variety of comfort solutions available, from aftermarket covers to sport belts to creative DIY solutions. You can choose whatever mods you need to get to your desired level of skin comfort. Like everything Enigma, expect it to take some experimentation.
If you’re looking for a ready-made solution that comes out of the box suited to your preferences, the Enigma is not for you, and that’s okay. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
5. You’re on a tight budget
We designed the Standard Enigma to be modular so people could use it with holsters they already had. Most of our original customer base already had suitable holsters lying around. As we expanded into a wider customer base, we started encountering people who needed to buy both the holster and the Enigma, and that certainly adds up.
Additionally, our original customer base was extremely experienced and heavy into DIY. They already knew exactly what they needed to be comfortable wearing a gun all day. So they weren’t spending a bunch of money on customizations or mods.
Fast forward to now. We’re encountering folks who need to buy an Enigma AND a holster, and on top of that, if they prefer not to wear an undershirt or a bandeau, they might need to purchase covers, mods, and accessories. That all adds up. So if you’re entering this system and starting from scratch, it can be expensive.
Additionally, as the Enigma system has evolved and improved over the last couple of years, our holster line has evolved along with it. The sleekest, smallest, and most minimal Enigma model, the Enigma Express, only comes pre-assembled with our holster shell. So if you want to jump directly into the Express, you have to buy the whole package. It’s not cheap.
6. You have certain physical or health problems
If you have physical problems that prevent you from carrying around your waist, the Enigma is (probably) not for you.
So here’s the deal. Any concealment system that applies enough pressure to make the gun conceal is going to require some pressure around the waist. It’s just physics. While the Enigma is very adjustable and works for a wide range of people, I’ve seen a number of people who could not get it working for them for a variety of reasons, including (anonymized examples):
- If your only good concealment sweet spot is right over your c-section or abdominal surgery scar, and that scar is sensitive to pressure, it’s not going to work for you right now.
- If you have sensory issues, skin sensitivities, or connective tissue disorders, you should not use the Enigma. Putting pressure on delicate skin is not a good idea. This is where alternative solutions like off body carry really shine.
- If you have a glucose monitor or ostomy site that interferes with your sweet spot, you may or may not be able to use the Enigma. Sometimes we can work around those things, sometimes not. It’s very individual, and depends a lot on the location of the ostomy site and your overall body shape (which determines the location of your sweet spot).
7. You need to take your gun on/off a lot
If you need to frequently remove your gun throughout the day, for example you need to stow your gun in a car safe to go into secured buildings, the Enigma may not be right for you. While it’s not hard to put on or take off, it is rather more difficult to do it discreetly, especially while seated in a vehicle. You need to reach into your clothing to put on the belt and fasten the leg leash.
If that’s your situation, you’re probably better off with a traditional belt holster with clips.
If you read this far, thank you!
I hope this information is helpful. If you’re on the fence, don’t buy the Enigma. Wait until you have a good reason, or a clear need that it can realistically solve. If you don’t see the point of the Enigma, or you don’t understand why it’s worth the effort, then you’re not currently in that intersection of factors that would make the Enigma right for you. That’s okay, and we hope you’ll consider us in the future if your needs change.
Please don’t buy the Enigma just because someone else likes it, or because of hype. Think through the pros and cons, evaluate your requirements, and only consider it if you truly feel it’s right for you.
I strongly believe that reputation and transparency matter, and I’d much rather lose a sale in the short term to avoid unhappy customers in the long term. Please feel free to share this article with your friends who are considering the Enigma so they can make more informed decisions, too. In my opinion, the Enigma is one of the highest performing concealed carry systems on the market. It’s an incredible product with incredible capability. But it is really, truly not for everyone.
Concealment is a skill, a process, and a journey. We’re here to support that journey with detailed educational resources and cutting edge concealment gear. We’re proud of what we create, but there are lots of ways to get where you need to go, and a little perspective goes a long way.
That’s about as honest as a product designer can be ! Refreshing!
Great write up. This is an unusually honest company.
HOWEVER, they never address the comfort that can be achieved by the versatility of the enigma system.
I am a fairly normal person but I have a large spare tire where waste used to be. I carry my sig in a holster attached to
this system. I wear it high, , above the tire. It’s almost like a belly band, but not quite. I do not use the leg leash.
It is secure, very well concealed and extremely comfortable.
Mine will be delivered on Tuesday. Bet you can’t talk me out of loving it..
Great write up Sarah, thanks for the info! I will strongly consider these products after a great deal of research and lots of great reviews from friends. It’s nice to finally hear something AGAINST phlster because I’ve been considering it for a while and only heard good things from friends and wanted to know “why not?” None of these drawbacks seem to apply to me personally so I’m finally ready to give it a try
I love the honesty and CC is truly unique to the individual carrying. A wonderful option for many, but this explains it perfectly!
I just received my Express and I am totally loving it!
I spent a few minutes moving it on my body to find the perfect spot. It took a little longer working with the leash to get that correctly adjusted. It’s perfect. I am a petite 70 year old female, and I now feel so confident and empowered.
Thanks so much, and glad you’re liking it! 🙂
So as another 70 year old female who has to pee a lot, does that leg leash get in the way???
Did you see the video for using the toilet? I was so glad to find it! The suggestion is to release the leash and tuck it into the “belt”. Looks easy.
Here is the link: https://www.phlsterholsters.com/how-to-go-to-the-bathroom-with-your-gun-phlster-enigma/
I just placed my order for an Enigma Express. Can’t wait!
Appreciate that! Let us know if you need any help getting it adjusted. 🙂
I was thinking about getting one a friend has one and he can’t say enough good things about it. unfortunately he lives several states away so I can’t try his on. when I read this write up I decided it probably wasn’t for me because I’m sitting in my wheelchair most of the day.
thank you for your honesty
So many of your paragraphs, if not sentences had me wanting to hit the “like” button. An honest observation of your customers and product. Very well done.
I would love to order the express but first I want to know if they’re in stock and how long it would be before I would get it !
You’re wrong, and I’m getting one to prove you wrong!
I suppose it’s covered by #6, but I don’t think it would hurt to be blunt: If you’ve got a big belly, appendix carry is not for you. Your belly sits on top of the grip (ask me how I know), and that’s uncomfortable, and very hard to draw.
Objective, honest analysis. From an *Owner*! VERY IMPRESSIVE, Sarah. This is the kind of thing that would convince me to do business with you if I was “on the fence” due to cost alone. Since I wear gym shorts or sweats almost exclusively, I’m going to take the time to research and evaluate your product(s). Well Done!
I own and enjoy my PHLster Enigma; I will be buying another one shortly. But this blog post almost rises to PUA-type emotional manipulation. Your product is wildly successful *and* you should continue to improve it so that many of these “reasons” are moot.
You absolutely Should be proud. You are feeling a black hole in concealed carry training that nobody spends any time instructing on. Not only is the product brilliant the videos are exceptionally brilliant. Incredibly excellent work.
Quick counter RE: “7. You need to take your gun on/off a lot”
I don’t agree with this – If you need to take the entire system off, yes – but if I need to take my gun off and put it in my vehicle safe, I can still leave your product on without a firearm in it.