Best Concealed Carry Holster: Leather vs. Kydex vs. Nylon Holsters
- by Casy Smith
- The importance of a good holster
- Why you should use a leather holster
- Why you should use a kydex holster
- Why you should use a nylon holster
- Where to store your firearm at home
When it comes to concealed carry advice, we stress the importance of practicing the fundamentals of drawing and firing your daily concealed carry weapon. Practice is essential to success in a self-defense situation. After training, crafting a self-defense plan for home, work and other daily activities is a critical step to conscious concealed carry.
However, you need the right tools for the job. When you're poorly equipped, you end up looking like a surgeon preparing for a procedure with a butter knife: clumsy and dangerous.
Nailing the basics of your CCW gear can be the difference between efficient self-defense or a fumbling mess in a serious situation. Outside of your firearm, your holster is the most critical component of your concealed carry practice. A low-quality holster will lead to low-quality results.
In our work to manufacture excellent concealment furniture and decor, we understand that there isn't a one-size-fits-all standard for firearms. We want to develop options that work in different situations. It is the same in your search for the best concealed carry holster: you need to ensure you have the best equipment for you.
When looking online, you will find several holster formats and material types. To learn more about the pros and cons of different holster placements, check out our article covering shoulder and belt holsters. Today, we want to explore a few holster materials and see which will work best for you.
Why Does a Good Holster Matter?
As discussed earlier, having the right equipment can help you better prepare for self-defense. A slower draw speed equals less space between you and an assailant. Your holster should keep your pistol concealed and secure to your body to avoid any unwanted reveals.
How do you find a "good" holster? It needs to fit three criteria:
- It secures and conceals the firearm to your designated draw point. You should feel good about your firearm staying put when walking, sitting and taking care of other daily chores.
- It is comfortable enough to keep on you for long periods. You shouldn't have to shift your firearm around or remove it from your side to feel comfortable.
- It blends with your normal attire, allowing you to conceal your sidearm in an inconspicuous spot.
You will find that many holster manufacturers choose one of the following three materials to meet those criteria: leather, kydex and nylon. Which one will work best for you?
Handgun Holster Types: Leather
Leather holsters have a long history of use and are known for their iconic look. While our forefathers' leather holsters didn't exist exactly as we saw them in the movies, variations of this gun case go back to the 1800s and earlier being popularized in the Civil War. Travelers and farmers used them to transport and protect their firearms.
Today, you still see many leather holsters in the concealed carry space. How do they retain their popularity?
Pros of Using a Leather Concealed Carry Holster
- Comfort: Leather's natural flexibility and soft finish can make it desirable for carrying in the waistband. Much like a high-quality leather belt, a leather holster will naturally shape around the gun and your body, making it a natural extension of your attire.
- Low profile: Leather's slim profile is perfect for keeping your firearm's footprint as minimal as possible on your attire. Leather minimizes "printing" through your pants or shirt, as it bends with the waistband.
- Durability (if properly maintained): If you take time to look through the history of leather handgun holsters, you may find leather holsters that have endured more than 100 years and are still intact. When you properly maintain your leather holster, you may see similar results.
Cons of Using a Leather Concealed Carry Holster
- Cost: Quality, custom leather holsters can get expensive in a hurry. Real leather holsters can cost anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars. While some pundits will say the cost is worth it regarding the best concealed carry experience, the price must be considered when comparing the three materials.
- Natural moisture retention: Moisture can wreak havoc on a leather holster if it can't air out properly. Sweat, humidity and precipitation can all reach a leather holster if exposed. This moisture can then dry out the leather or cause rot to the tanned hyde if not aired out properly. You should have a layer of clothing between you and your holster.
- Break-in period: A leather holster may be stiff at first and cause discomfort to the carrier. A leather sidearm carrier can take a few days or weeks to conform to your firearm and body.
Now that we've had a chance to visit the tannery and explore leather as a potential holster material, let's look at a polymer that’s become synonymous with high-quality holsters: Kydex.
Handgun Holster Types: Kydex
Kydex is a high-impact, fire-rated and acrylic-modified PVC thermoplastic sheet developed in the 1960s for aircraft components and mass transit interiors. Its use as a holster material came in the next decade when a former FBI agent developed the Kydex holster in 1973. What made these premier polymer holsters commonplace in the concealed carry space?
Pros of Using a Kydex Concealed Carry Holster
- High durability: These thermoplastic sheets are extremely strong and difficult to break or alter chemically. In normal conditions, you don't have to worry about a Kydex holster snapping or breaking when you're out and about.
- Excellent shape retention: Kydex holsters must be thermoformed around a firearm mold, meaning they are designed to fit your handgun exactly. The custom mold makes sure you know exactly where your firearm is when drawing and is always ready for the reholster.
- Low maintenance: Kydex is easy to clean and maintain after a long day. You can simply wipe away moisture or debris from your holster and move on about your day.
Cons of Using a Kydex Concealed Carry Holster
- Rigidity can be uncomfortable: One of the best parts of Kydex can also be one of its biggest weaknesses in the comfort department. It was initially developed as an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster for law enforcement, so the initial carriers didn't worry about the hard polymer digging into their skin as it rested on their belts. In civilian concealed carry, you may find the holster uncomfortable when sitting at an office job or running errands.
- Price: Like their leather counterparts, Kydex holsters can be expensive. Due to their specific molding, you have to find one that fits your firearm's dimensions. The customized nature of Kydex may lead to a higher cost than a generic holster.
- Potential firearm wear: Some seasoned firearm owners have described seeing more wear on their handguns' finishes when using a Kydex holster due to the material's rough finish.
After peeling back some of the layers of Kydex as your potential holster material, let's look at the last common textile you may be exploring for your next firearm holder: nylon.
Handgun Holster Types: Nylon
Nylon is a prominent synthetic that saw its debut in the late 1930s. It was marketed as a super textile that could provide the strength of steel in a small fiber. While it couldn't deliver on that lofty expectation, it offered a number of applications through the 20th century, including hosiery, fishing line and toothbrushes.
It continues to be used as a synthetic in various tactical applications, especially firearm accessories like holsters. Is this storied synthetic the best material for your holster?
Pros of Using a Nylon Concealed Carry Holster
- Cost: Nylon holsters are generally the least expensive of the three materials we looked at today. Many are mass-manufactured to fit a range of firearm sizes, reducing their cost.
- Comfort: Nylon holsters are flexible and softer than Kydex or a fresh leather holster. You may find nylon holsters with extra padding to make them more comfortable.
- Tactical accessory integration: If you need to carry your firearm off of your body, nylon holsters can easily integrate with fanny packs or small concealed carry bags. You may see concealed carry accessories that use hook and loop fasteners to secure the firearm.
Cons of Using a Nylon Concealed Carry Holster
- Poor quality: Nylon is naturally less sturdy than leather or Kydex holsters. Since nylon holsters are made up of fibers, they tend to fray and wear with extended use.
- Lack of retention: Nylon holsters are soft and are usually manufactured to fit a range of guns, so they don't hold their shape well.
- Not secure: The lack of retention and poor quality may result in an inaccessible or dropped firearm, which is the last thing you want when concealed carrying.
Regardless of the material you choose, testing your holster is essential. Don't be afraid to try a few out. You want to be comfortable with your concealed carry setup's second most important part. Ask the gun shop owner if they have a recommendation for your particular sidearm.
Once you pick your holster, find pieces in your wardrobe to accommodate it. Take time to walk around with the holster to make sure it fits well. Sit and stand with it. Take time to get used to it. Once you feel comfortable with your new holster, remember to continue dry-fire training with it at home and live-fire practicing at the range (if allowed).