Should you carry a Kydex Holster or a Leather Holster?
This question is asked a lot and depending on who you ask you can get different answers. If you already have decided which is better for you, you may passionately defend your side and that’s ok. If you haven’t quite made up your mind yet, I’m here to let you in on a little secret…
Both are quality options! Both leather holsters and kydex holsters are pretty damn good for different reasons. You can choose for yourself which features are more important to you and your specific needs and preferences.
Kydex is a relatively new material for holster makers when compared to leather. Kydex is a plastic-like composite material which was originally designed for use in aircraft interiors. Kydex is made in thin sheets that can be heated up and then molded around a gun or a replica to perfectly fit all of the nooks and crannies. Once the Kydex cools back down, it retains the molded shape and also becomes very rigid and durable. This custom molding provides a few benefits and the biggest of those is retention. When you insert your gun into a quality made Kydex holster you will both hear and feel the snap as the gun locks perfectly into place. You can take the holster out and turn it upside down and shake it and the gun will still stay firmly locked into place. Kydex holsters also tend to hold their specific shape for a long time. Another benefit from this is easy reholstering. Because the holster is rigid, it makes reholstering a bit easier to accomplish especially if you are only using one hand.
One of the main complaints about Kydex holsters is the comfort factor. While rigidity is a good thing when it comes to keeping the gun in its place, it is a bad thing for comfort. Especially when you are carrying IWB. Having this very hard thing with hard angles shoved down your pants doesn’t provide the most pleasing experience. If you have a bit of a gut like I do, sitting down while wearing a Kydex holster can prove cumbersome and even downright painful until you get used to it. Another of the complaints about Kydex holsters is they tend to cause damage to your firearm. The Kydex holster tends to have specific points of the gun that it rubs up against which can wear away the finish. With repeated use, the finish on your gun can start to wear out pretty quickly in a Kydex holster. The last major issue with Kydex holsters is that they are only going to work for one specific gun model. If you make any changes to what gun you carry, add any accessories, or even make any aftermarket modifications you may find your Kydex holster doesn’t work like it used to. You will also have a hard time finding an “off the shelf” Kydex holster if your gun isn’t one of the more popular models then having a custom made Kydex holster can be expensive.
Leather holsters have been around ever since guns have needed holstering. There is a reason for that, leather is a very solid choice when it comes to gun holsters. Leather holsters perfectly walk the line between durability and comfort. A well made leather sheath is strong enough to protect your gun for decades and yet still soft enough to wear it down your pants with a smile. When it comes to looks, leather holsters also take the cake. There are museums where you can find leather holsters that are over 100 years old and they still look good!
While Kydex holsters can be limited in your options of style, there is no shortage of different shapes and sizes of leather holsters. Even for IWB carry you have quite a few options with leather.
Suede IWB holsters are what you might consider ‘minimalist’ holsters. The thin suede leather protects the gun and most importantly the trigger but they are very light and simple. This makes it easier to conceal from both a comfort and a printing perspective. When carrying IWB nearly all of the retention is provided by the friction between your belt and your body, and this is especially true regarding suede holsters.
A Bullhide IWB holster may be the perfect holster and it's my personal preference when I carry inside the waistband. The thicker leather breaks in to your gun and provides just a bit more retention than the suede holster. It’s a little bulkier but I think it is a worthwhile trade off.
There are a ton of other options for leather holster styles including some OWB holster designs that are pretty cool.
While no quality holster should ever be considered universal, a lot of leather holsters will work for multiple, similar sized guns. Especially if you rotate your daily carry gun, you may find that you can use the same leather holster with several different guns versus needing a new one for each gun if you chose to go the Kydex route.
Leather detractors will be quick to complain about the extra cost of leather, but with the advent of the internet you will find leather craftsman which can now sell their wares directly to the customer for prices which are very competitive with Kydex. Another complaint is the lack of retention of leather versus kydex holsters. This is a fact. Without a retention strap, you give up some retention if you go with a leather holster.
ConclusionIf you read articles like me, you probably skimmed the rest of this article and came right to the conclusion. If you did that, I like you! So here it is...
It really comes down to personal preference which is better. Kydex holsters come out on top when it comes to retention and reholstering. Leather holsters take the crown when it comes to comfort and style. I know you didn’t read this whole article for me to tell you it's a tie, so for the sake of this article I will choose one. I prefer leather holsters and think they edge out Kydex. The only way to find out which you prefer is to spend some time with both. The best holster is the one you are going to carry everyday. Go out there and get your hands on a few different styles of holster and find out for yourself which is going to make it easiest for you to make sure you have your gun where you need it when you need it!