Why Your Leather Holster Belongs In the Trash

Why Your Leather Holster Belongs In the Trash

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Having a comfortable, easily accessible holster is arguably the most important part of carrying a handgun. Granted, the choice of handgun itself is important, but it won’t matter much if you can’t get your hand on the gun and point it quickly at your target when needed. And that’s exactly what a good holster enables you to do.

Furthermore, leather simply isn’t the ideal material for an effective holster. It might look pretty and be soft to the touch, but there are several reasons why you should look elsewhere for a holster material.

Off the Grid News tackles this controversial topic:

When it comes to gun holsters and magazine pouches, leather has ruled supreme as the material of choice for over two centuries.
Leather has much to offer when it comes to securely storing firearms and their accessories; not only is leather tough, water resistant, abrasion resistant and easily worked, but it is also beautiful to look at. Leather is cheap and available, and comes from a variety of sources – leather is not synonymous with cow hide, either. Some of the finest holsters out there are made from horsehide, among other things.

All that being said, leather does have some downsides where it pertains to firearms. The tanning chemical residue within the leather sometimes wreaks havoc on blued gunmetal, which is why it’s strongly advised to not leave blued guns within their holsters for extended periods of time. Also, leather most definitely needs a break in period before the holster will be any use at all. Inexperienced shooters will often return brand new leather holsters, claiming they are a size too small when in fact an ultra tight holster is the proper starting point for the gun. Quite simply, the leather needs to stretch over repeated use so that it fits the gun properly.

Leather and its associated issues is one of the main reasons why Kydex is so popular today as a holster material. Kydex, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a synthetic acrylic polyvinyl chloride material (PVC). It’s a material that’s a hybrid of acrylic and PVC – on the one hand, it is very hard and abrasion resistant, and on the other hand, it isn’t brittle like PVC and has excellent chemical resistance.

To your hand, Kydex will feel like a hard plastic with a curiously rough surface; mostly, it has a light gray appearance.

Kydex is a fantastic material for both knife and gun holsters as well as accessories like magazine pouches. It’s thermo-molded, which means that it starts life as a flat sheet and then is heated over a mold, where it assumes its final shape. While it’s never going to be as drop dead gorgeous as leather, Kydex does have some important benefits:

  • Kydex is thermo molded over an ultra precise mold, which means that when you get your new Kydex holster, it will fit your firearm precisely, with no slop or slack.
  • There is no break-in period with Kydex. The second you get your new holster, your gun will fit, and fit perfectly. No stretching the material, no special oils or other laborious processes. It fits the first time.
  • A snug and form fitting Kydex holster adds to the retention of the firearm as it is much firmer and less easily bendable than leather.
  • A Kydex holster never needs maintenance or oiling other than an occasional wipe down with a damp rag.
  • Kydex is pH neutral and will not eat your firearms coating.

The only true downside to Kydex, if it can be called a downside, is the fact that it is so precisely molded that you need to obtain the exact model of holster for your firearm. Many leather holsters will double as one-size-fits-all holsters for similar handguns – not so with Kydex. We recently tested a Kydex holster that wouldn’t accommodate the identical handgun it was designed for, except with an added light rail. That’s what we call a precise fit! Still, having said all of that, for a daily carry holster that will see lots of abuse, Kydex makes excellent sense!

What do you think? Are you convinced? Maybe you’re skeptical but willing to consider an alternative to your favorite leather holster.

Whatever your opinion, tell us about what you think in the comments.

22 COMMENTS

  1. I believe there is room in this world for both leather and kydex. I have not seen kydex belts or rigs for shoulder holsters. It seems that they would not be comfortable. There are upsides and downsides for both.

    • How right you are. I bought a Kydex shoulder holster for my M&P 45. It was much bulkier then any of my leather holsters. So much so it would only conceal under heavier, bulkier jackets. My Kydex paddle holsters are great while on the range, but very uncomfortable while in a vehicle. For these reasons, I stick to my leather shoulder holsters for every day carry.

  2. Kydex wrecks havoc on the finish of a gun. You firearm will show the affects of the roughness of the kydex wearing the finish off with in a week of everyday carry. Yes a leather holster does cause wear on a blued gun after a few years but bluing is also one of the thinnest and softest methods of coloring a firearm but also one of the easiest coloring methods to fix. Due to the properties of kydex (hard plastic) they can also be hard on your body as well being uncomfortable to wear (some are better than others). Many have screws, nuts and bolts and other parts that can come loose (or be lost) and change how the holster works and rides. The best of both worlds would be a leather lined kydex holster that retains it’s shape but has the protection of leather. I will stick with my leather holsters. for now.

    • I have 2 Alien Gear tuck 2.0 holsters for 2 different handguns. I’m very happy with them. The kydex holds the gun in place while the sandwiched backing fits comfortably against the body. I can wear it all day, in a car, on my bike, sitting in a chair, etc. It is so comfortable I often forget I’m wearing it. I don’t think lining the kydex with leather would provide the hold the kydex alone provides. I may be wrong since I have nothing to go by. Sounds like something for some manufacturer to explore.

      • Agreed. I’m not a big Alien Gear fan, but i won a couple of them and they are just another version of the Crossbreeds I use every day.

  3. I have seen and used both and I must say that I prefer good leather. I normally use saddle soap on a new leather holster to soften and then work the weapon in and out several time. I do not store the weapon for extended periods in the leather holster not because I expect it to damage the weapon, but because the weapon is better off being stored in it’s own container if it is going to be stored for an extended time. Since I normally daily carry, this isn’t an issue with my daily carry weapon. Kydex and other similar materials are, in my opinion, harder on the weapon and my side. I have seen and used shoulder rigs in Kydex and they weren’t as comfortable although I would say that is personal preference.

  4. The article proves that the author thinks he knows what’s best for all, sorry to burst your bubble but I’m sticking to leather. Tried kydex, it’s in the trash.
    Nuff said because it’s all about individual choice, period.

    • I did just the opposite. I prefer my kydex over leather. I have a drawer full of leather holsters that never get used since I went to kydex.

  5. Well, I found the “best of both worlds” from Garrett Industries. They make a leather lined Kydex holster. It is, by far, the best holster I own. I carry a Glock 19 comfortably all day, every day. I have no connection to them, other than being a customer. I’ve tried several different brands and this one is my favorite. There are literally hundreds of reviews out there so, don’t just take my word for it.

  6. I am a leather crafter. Kydex is available to me, but I don’t work with it because a holster or knife sheath must be made for ONE must be made for ONE specific weapon. Then if you make a change to the outline of your weapon you have to get a completely be holster. Leather is more forgiving and pliable, allowing for changes from accessories to different pistols entirely. As for the problem you mentioned in regards to the tanning chemicals affecting the finish of your pistol, get a good tooling leather holster and you won’t have that problem, and it will be adaptable to more than one pistol.

  7. I love my Urban Carry leather. Most LEOs can’t even tell I’m carrying and very comfortable for daily wear.

  8. If you take care of your leather it will not let you down. As far as tanning chemicals ruining the bluing, I have not seen it happen in the 60 something years that I have experience with them.

  9. In the days of the old west it was ideal but with conceal carry it’s another story. The state in which I live in you can do either but open carry is a lot more restricted. I use my alien gear 3.0 more than my leather shoulder rig but never leave them in the holsters overnight so I can’t say of excessive wear. Really it’s down to each his or her own

  10. High Noon Holsters offer “HYBRID” leather lined kydex holsters. I don’t own one but their leather IWB “Public Secret” model is the best I’ve found. It has no cant so it works great crossdraw which I find to be the best way to conceal and not print however you move. It’s my EDC and very comfortable with a full size 1911. Judging by the quality of the one I have I would think the hybrids would be top quality as well.

  11. This author has no idea what he’s talking about. I have been carrying every day for the past 41yrs. and I have used leather holsters almost exclusively.I tried Kydex and it was noisy and uncomfortable and wore the finish on my guns faster than leather.You have to buy a quality leather holster that is boned to fit your particular handgun and never, ever wet the holster to try to make it fit.Leather is not only better looking than Kydex but it is much more comfortable than Kydex ever thought of being so before you throw your leather holster in the trash,a stupid idea by the way, as this author suggests, give your leather a chance by wearing it every day and you will see that I am right.Leather is beautiful and it works,period.-FS

  12. I too prefer leather if for no other reason than any thing else is mostly impossible to wear while in the car. Bucket seats.

  13. I am a fan of whatever works and as a defensive tactics instructor for many years now. Having said that, I have yet to conduct a class where we didn’t break some kind of composite/plastic holster during weapon retention drills or the like. One of the biggest problems with off duty carry is that in a struggle, your holster comes loose from your person and now you are fighting with another person over the gun away from you; whole new ballgame as opposed to keeping some control with the holster still attached to your belt. Have yet to see a leather holster fail during the same classes.

  14. I purchased a Mitch Rosen wet molded to fit my Kimber .45 because I liked the look and feel. My son bought me a kydex inside the waist for it and it is the most uncomfortable thing I ever tried.
    With my leather holster and matching belt I am never uncomfortable no mater what I am doing except for one scenario. When I am driving being right handed and right hand draw, the seat belt runs across my weapon digging into my hip. If I were not so round in the middle it might be different. When I drive I place the weapon in the console. I want to get a clip on cross draw and try it next.

  15. I love my Crossbreed holster with a nice leather backing and a Kydex holster. It’s comfortable and the Kydex gives my heavy G21 all the support and trigger protection I could possibly hope for.

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