There is no doubt that today’s modern gun companies market kydex like there’s no tomorrow. Is leather out and Kydex in? Probably.
Kydex holsters are easier to produce, cheaper, and come in a variety of designs, fits, etc, that can cater to individual shooters.
When dealing with leather holders, generally there is less selection, less competition, and higher pricing. There are also cheap leather holsters and imitation leather holders, for the sake of this article we will stay away from those holsters. Trust me, you don’t want to run an $8 fake leather holster!
What is Kydex?
Kydex is a very fancy term for a type of hard plastic that is thermally molded to any sort of shape or design.
It’s basically a very durable plastic that is molded to fit whatever you want.
Average Pricing is around $25 – $35
One benefit of using a Kydex holster is the cheaper price compared to leather holsters. In the event that something breaks or you have multiple guns, the cost for a new holster would be about half.
Another benefit of Kydex is shape retention. Because it’s basically a hard plastic, it holds the shape pretty well overtime.
Cheap leather holsters will loosen over time, leather does tend to stretch in general.
However, I have been using my $50 leather holster for daily carry for a few years now, I don’t feel a noticeable difference to be honest. My gun isn’t jostling around in the holster while I walk around.
Combined with the tension of my belt which holds the gun and my pants up, I don’t see how this would become a problem unless you are using some very cheap leather / fake leather holsters or some $8 cloth holster from Amazon (stay away!).
Kydex should have excellent shape retention, and for all intents and purposes, it should hold up very well.
Weakness in Kydex Design
Because Kydex holsters are essentially two pieces of molded plastic stuck together, the weakness in the design usually can be found in the retention pins or whatever method is used to keep the two pieces of plastic stuck together.
In this article from Tactikal Training, he explains how is Alien Gear Kydex holster broke at those weak points.
Those screws may also become loose over time and require periodic maintenance from time to time (depending on the company and type of connector used).
Is it Comfortable?
Seeing as how a concealed carry holster is intended to be used daily, the question of comfort is probably a priority for most people.
HOW you carry really make an impact on the comfort level of each material. Different locations and also depending on how fat / skinny you are comes into account here. Let’s also not forget the type of gun you carry as well.
Let’s just start by saying that pressing a hard plastic against your belly or hip takes some getting used to. But just like your first two weeks of conceal carrying, after a while you get over it and it starts to feel weird going outside WITHOUT being armed.
As a very broad statement, I would say that in most cases, leather is more comfortable than Kydex.
Some companies have tried to address the comfort issue by combining Kydex with Leather (facing the user) to provide the comfort of a leather holster with the hold strength of Kydex. Again, you are still dealing with the connectivity issue which can be a major weak point, especially if you are combining a flexible leather material with Kydex.
I would heed with caution if you are using hybrid holsters. In my opinion, either go full Kydex or leather.
Will Kydex Scratch My Gun?
The act of holstering and re-holstering your gun in a Kydex holster will scratch your gun. Most gun ranges don’t let you shoot from the hip or holster you guns, but you can shoot in the desert or many outdoor ranges with your holster.
It is a good idea to practice holstering and re-holstering you gun, whether it’s loaded or not. This act will definitely scratch the finish on the slide and frame of your gun.
For those who don’t practice often (shame on you), you will probably not notice a lot of wear on your gun. (Image source)
If you’re one of those people who are bothered by scratches on your fancy new gun, you probably shouldn’t get Kydex.
Yes keeping the gun finish nice and in tact is important for maintaining the value and aesthetic of your firearm. If it’s a cheap gun or if you’re one of those guys who say, “as long as it shoots!” Then you shouldn’t be worried about this!
An expensive gun like a Kimber 1911 should be holstered in leather. Especially since Kimber 1911’s have more rounded edges around the slide and frame, the leather should hug it better and without scratching it, unlike a kydex holster would.
There is an extended flap that passes the hammer of the gun. This area is a little flimsily. The purpose of this flap is to protect the metal frame of the 1911 from pressing against my body. It protects the gun from sweat and moisture, while also protecting me from feeling the cold of the metal touching my body. It is very comfortable!
This holster is a very good holster in my opinion.
Pictured above, is a very THICK and cheap holster I bought from Amazon.
A good leather holster will be well made, fashionable, and sturdy. Also a better leather is not necessarily thicker. The leather holster I run is actually relatively thin, but very hard. It also utilizes the metal from the belt clip to keep the shape very straight and strong.
A cheap $8 leather holster on Amazon will absolutely (in my opinion) be garbage!
Average Price of (GOOD) Leather Holsters $40 – $60
You will notice that a lot of leather holsters cater to 1911 and revolver audiences. Generally, these are more expensive guns, and the owners of these guns probably want to preserve the gun’s finish better. If you’re spending $1000 on a gun, what’s really the damage for a $50 holster? Not much.
Leather More Comfortable
As stated before, yes, in general leather should be much more comfortable than Kydex holsters. Just using common sense, do you want a soft leather pressing against your body or do you want hard plastic?
You can also tighten your belt more with leather since is it softer, so the gun can be clung tighter to your body.
Just like Kydex, with Leather, WHERE you carry the gun on your body and WHAT GUN you carry will also dictate the comfort level.
Personally, for outside-the-waistband (OWB) carry, I would use a hard plastic over leather, just because I feel the gun is better protected from outside forces and impacts.
Is Leather Sweaty?
Nobody wants to wear a leather jacket on a hot sunny day. Do leather holsters make you sweaty around the part where you wear it?
I can’t speak for all leather holsters, but the holsters I run don’t make me sweaty. Also, I happen to wear underwear and I keep my gun between my underwear and my pants so the only place where the leather makes contact with my skin is above the waistband of my underwear.
I don’t really feel “sweaty” while wearing it, in fact it doesn’t really press against my skin unless I’m sitting.
When I wear my Kydex holster, I also don’t feel sweaty! It also has an extended flap that protrudes past the belt line and protects the metal slide from touching my belly.
However, in the early days of my concealed carry, I did notice sweat when I was using cloth based holsters. I have stayed away from those holsters for sure!
Which Should I Pick?
Some of the younger gun crowd shies away from leather because they don’t want to look like a gun slinging cowboy. Fair enough.
They want to look modern (Yes even the glock guys care about looks). There’s nothing wrong with that; Leather definitely has a reputation with the older crowd and “aged” guns. I will say that if you can get past the trends and the looks (black leather helps a lot), then you will be able to make a more informed decision about what holster you should use.
A good leather holster will cost more than a good kydex holster. Most kydex holsters are basically the same, the differences will be found in the thickness of the material and the connectors.
If you are running a more expensive gun or a gun with a nice finish to it, you might want to use a leather holster.
For most polymer lower pistols and other guns ( you can refer to the scratched image above), kydex should be fine.
Personal preference is a factor. If you can wear both types of holsters, you might have a better idea about which one to pick. You can only “read” so much about it, you’ll never be able to truly feel the difference until you try it for yourself! So stop reading web articles about it and go try on some holsters!