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The Case Against Leather Gun Holsters

leather kydex gun holster

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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.

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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:

  • Case against leather gun holsterKydex 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!

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  1. I have used leather holsters for years and have to agree with you there is a breaking in period. I also do not stored any of my blued guns in leather holsters for the same reasons you describe.

  2. LAIndependentThinker

    As far as leather against metal goes knowing the leather used is key. Veg tan leather is safe against even bare carbon steel but it takes longer to produce thus making the leather more expensive. Chrome tanned leather is where you will run into problems on finishes and bare steel. Because of the chemicals used in the tanning the process is much shorter making the leather cheaper but the chemicals left behind can wreak havoc on any bare metal and even some finishes. All that being said leather even when finished still naturally holds moisture and that held against metal can cause issues. The other issue that needs to be added to the article is leather does have a shorter life expectancy than plastics. Leather over repeated draws will soften and can fold into the trigger guard during holstering causing firearms without a safety to go off. This can be fixed with some information on refinishing leather.

  3. You’ve provided good advice about leather holsters that are pretty much discussed clearly. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for this article!!!

    I have not yet converted to kidex but am seriously considering it. My concern with it was that it was actually going to be harder on my guns finish. My concern was with the in and out of the plastic rubbing against the gun would wear away the finish in a scratching fassion.

    I have always favored lined leather for that reason. Is this a non issue?

    Thank you

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