Kydex vs. Leather Holsters

Whether you’re looking to open carry or conceal carry, there’s lots to consider when choosing the holster that’s best for you. One of the main factors should be the material of the holster itself. Two of the most well-known holster materials are Kydex and leather. Both of these materials have their pros and cons and both are suited for different purposes. However, each material has a lot to offer and should be considered equally before choosing one over the other.

Kydex vs. Leather Holsters

Your holster material can affect a lot of things like draw time, reholstering, the option to conceal or open carry, IWB or OWB, and even just plain old comfort. Comfort is actually a bigger deal than you might think for a lot of people, especially when you’re carrying something as sensitive as a firearm. You should consider your personal preference when it comes to what holster design you would feel comfortable wearing.

Holster Styles

First, let’s take a look at the two main styles of holsters for your pistol. Gun holsters for a pistol usually revolve around whether you are open carry or concealed carry. There’s inside the waistband (IWB) holsters and outside the waistband (OWB) holsters. An IWB holster is more suited for concealed carry, while an OWB holster is better for an open carry. Both styles will give you different freedoms and restrictions, so let’s discuss a little of each.

IWB Holster

IWB Holster

An IWB holster is the kind of holster that goes in between the waistband of your pants and your body. This type of carry holster will attach to your gun belt by a couple of clips and will be effectively concealed. If you’re looking for a very well concealed holster, this is the route to go. This type of holster is better suited for when you can’t wear an outer covering to conceal your holster.

This of course, means that there will be some extra stretch to accommodate in the waistband. So, whenever you carry, get a size larger pants than you normally would because the holster adds a decent chunk of bulk.

While smaller weapons are often able to be completely concealed with an IWB holster, that can be affected by the size of your firearm itself. The larger the weapon means a bigger holster, which also means that you’ll be carrying more weight and diameter in the waistband. This carry style is also known to be uncomfortable; a lot of times the holster or the firearm will end up digging into your skin, depending on the type. If you’re in it for comfort, don’t buy an IWB holster. This is where your personal preference and carry style will come into play.

OWB Holster

OWB Holster

An OWB holster is one that rests on the outside of your waistband, typically on the hip. This type of holster will also just clip onto your gun belt. This method is not geared towards concealed carry, but it can be done. Concealing a weapon like this will be significantly harder than with an IWB holster; you should wear a jacket or some sort of outer covering to try and cover the belt and holster.

Typically though, this method is known to be much more comfortable and less bulky, which makes it perfect for casual carry. If you’re not looking for a concealed carry, just be prepared to use this holster as more of an open carry option (though it still can be concealed).

This option will give you more room to carry a bigger pistol and will make it easier to conceal it if that’s your intention. As long as you have the right coat, the concealing options are pretty much endless. This holster will rest comfortably on your hip, or wherever you prefer, and will not dig into your skin like an IWB might. So, if comfort is very important for you, this carry style is perfect.

Why Does Material Matter?

Now that you’re aware of the carry styles, let’s talk about how the material will make a difference in what carry style you end up choosing.

The material of your holster will support different functions depending on the one you choose. Kydex is harder and therefore more durable, and will retain it’s shape for longer. This material will also let you reholster easily with one hand and will not collapse on the attempt. However, Kydex is very rigid and will be uncomfortable for a conceal carry, especially if you have a larger holster.

Leather is an old time favorite for holsters and has been around for decades. It might hold it’s shape less accurately than the Kydex, but it won’t wear down on your gun as much and will prove to be much more comfortable. Leather will mold to the contours of your body over time and will become shaped for you and your pistol. However, leather is softer, which means it’s prone to collapsing when you reholster.

These are just the basics of what the different material of your holster can provide and limit. We’ll talk more on each material in further detail.

I. Kydex Holster

Kydex Holster

Kydex is a form of polymer plastic that was used in the 1960s, mostly for aircraft purposes. Now that it’s on the modern market, it’s typically used to make holsters and knife sheaths. This material is very durable and makes a great holster for your firearm.

Kydex is usually heated and formed to make a holster that will custom fit your firearm. This style of holster wear is great for users that look for durability and stability when drawing the firearm. The Kydex shell provides a good clean fit that will protect your firearm and remain intact against wear and tear longer than a leather holster. It also won’t collapse or move when you’re trying to reholster your weapon like a leather holster might.

On the other hand, the hardness of the plastic holster definitely isn’t the most comfortable. Having a Kydex IWB holster stuck between your skin and your pants is not comfortable because of how hard the holster is. Having an abrasive Kydex sheet rubbing against your skin with sweat and other dirt is not the most pleasant experience.

Kydex isn’t just hard on your skin, it can be hard on your weapon too. Since the material is so abrasive, constant use over time can cause finish wear and other types of minor damages to your pistol. Constant drawing and reholstering is rough on the metal and can end up sanding it down or causing some other issues.

Another thing is that a plastic holster can be easily broken. If a powerful hit is sustained, plastic like that will typically just shatter because of the brittleness of the material.

The Kydex material is shaped with a lower heat than you might expect; that’s how the custom fit is obtained for your firearm. Which is great, meaning that the cost of making and buy a kydex holster might potentially be cheaper. But, it also means that it’s not great at standing up to heat. If you leave in under the sun in a hot car, it could warp. If you use the Kydex material, make sure that you don’t leave it anywhere where it could get too hot.

If you’re looking for a cheap holster, Kydex holsters come in many different sizes and thicknesses. Just keep in mind, the cheaper the holster, the thinner it will be, and the more prone to breakage the product is. Kydex holsters have many different varieties for any gun owner.

Advantages Drawbacks
– The material is durable and has good shape retention. – It’s not very comfortable for concealed carry.
– The holsters are made custom to fit your pistol. – It’s brittle and can break with a powerful hit.
– It won’t collapse on reholster. – It doesn’t have good heat resistance and can warp if left in the sun too long.
– Can be thicker or thinner which gives a good price range. – It can cause more wear and tear to your pistol.

II. Leather Holster

leather holster

A quality leather holster is made from dried animal hides that are stitched together. The hides provide a strong and elegant material, making a good holster with a great appearance. Leather holsters are a centuries old item and are still favorited by the average gun owner for its reliability and smooth finish. It’s the standard material for firearm holsters, knife sheaths, and often gun belts too.

A good leather holster is made from a process called tanning. Tanning alters and preserves the hides so they won’t decay over time and preserves it’s look and feel. This way, the animal hide turns into a stronger product that won’t crumble when it gets too old.

A high quality leather holster is often custom fitted to specific firearms, giving you the perfect fit. A cheap holster is still made with a certain type or size of gun in mind, but not custom fit to the model like a more expensive version. That means there’s a product and a price range out there for every gun owner.

Another advantage of leather is the comfort aspect. Rather than having a hard Kydex sheet shoved in the back of your pants, leather is much softer and will mold a little more to your body, providing a much more comfortable carry. Most gun owners will choose a leather holster for the IWB style solely for the comfort that it provides. Now, just because the material is softer doesn’t mean that there’s a sacrifice for quality. A good leather holster should be the right balance between functionality and comfort.

There is a catch though. In order for a leather holster to have good shape retention while still remaining comfortable and functional, it has to be made right. And nowadays a lot of companies will take shortcuts to make a quick buck and a holster maker is no different. A proper, high quality leather holster can be pretty expensive. It’s unfortunately a necessity for leather though, because a cheap holster won’t work or function properly.

A lot of cheaper models won’t have enough room to stretch and hold your gun tightly in place. You can test for a holster that’s not made right by inserting your firearm and seeing if the holster can hold it in place while it’s upside down. If there’s no chance, then the leather holster is poor quality.

However, a high quality leather holster will come stiff and ready to be broken in. It might take a minute to break it in, but the leather fibers will stretch to accommodate and adjust to your firearm and keep it secure.

The main problem with leather holsters is the collapsing on reholster. Since the material is softer, when you draw and try to reholster your firearm you might be met with a collapse. This will force you to use both hands to reholster, which is a no-go for competitive shooting.

However, the leather won’t wear down the finish or other parts of your weapon like the Kydex will. The material is soft and easy on your firearm, and won’t damage it over constant use.

Advantages Drawbacks
– It can be custom fit to your firearm. – A lot of leather holsters are poorly made.
– It provides more comfort for concealed carry. – A high quality leather holster is expensive.
– When it’s broken in, it will hold the shape of your firearm and your body to secure it. – It takes a while to break a new holster in.
– The material won’t cause extra wear and tear on your firearm. – It’s prone to collapsing on reholster.

III. Comparison of Durability and Lifespan

When considering a holster, it’s crucial to assess its durability and lifespan.

A. Longevity of Kydex Holsters

Kydex holsters are renowned for their durability. The rigid thermoplastic material used in their construction makes them highly resistant to impacts, scratches, and other forms of wear. They are less prone to deformation, ensuring that they maintain their shape over extended periods of use. Kydex holsters can withstand demanding environments, making them suitable for outdoor activities and law enforcement personnel.

B. Durability of Leather Holsters

Leather holsters, while not as rigid as Kydex holsters, can still offer considerable durability. The quality of the leather and the craftsmanship of the holster greatly influence its lifespan. High-quality leather holsters properly cared for can last for many years. However, they may show signs of wear and tear more quickly compared to Kydex holsters, especially when exposed to harsh conditions.

IV. Comfort and Fit Considerations

Comfort and fit are vital factors when selecting a holster, as they directly impact the user’s experience.

A. Comfort Levels of Kydex Holsters

Comfort levels with Kydex holsters can vary from person to person. Some individuals find the rigid material less comfortable, especially during extended periods of wear. However, many Kydex holsters have features such as adjustable retention and belt attachments, allowing users to customize the fit and find the most comfortable configuration.

B. Fit of Leather Holsters

Leather holsters, due to their natural flexibility, tend to offer a more comfortable fit for many users. As the leather molds to the shape of the firearm and the wearer’s body over time, it provides a custom fit. This can enhance comfort, especially for those who carry their firearms for extended periods. However, it’s important to ensure that the leather holster maintains its retention capability to keep the firearm secure.

V. Concealability and Practicality

Concealability and practicality play a crucial role, especially for those who carry firearms for self-defense or as part of their profession.

A. Concealability Features of Kydex Holsters

Kydex holsters are designed to offer excellent concealment options. Their rigid construction allows for precise molding, resulting in holsters that hug the contours of the firearm closely. This close fit minimizes printing (visible outlines of the firearm through clothing) and provides better concealment. Kydex holsters also have adjustable retention, allowing users to find the right balance between a secure hold and a smooth draw.

B. Practicality of Leather Holsters for Everyday Use

Leather holsters have a reputation for being practical and versatile. They are often favored by those who carry their firearms daily due to their comfort and ease of use. Leather holsters can offer a smooth draw and are less likely to cause discomfort during prolonged wear. However, it’s important to consider the break-in period required for leather holsters to reach their optimal comfort and functionality.

VI. Maintenance and Care Tips

Proper maintenance and care are essential to ensure the longevity and performance of your holster.

A. Maintaining Kydex Holsters

Kydex holsters are relatively low-maintenance compared to leather holsters. They can be easily cleaned using mild soap and water. It’s important to remove any debris or moisture from the holster regularly. Additionally, inspect the screws, rivets, and attachments to ensure they remain secure. Avoid exposing Kydex holsters to extreme heat, as it may cause warping or damage.

B. Caring for Leather Holsters

Leather holsters require more regular maintenance to keep them in optimal condition. Use a specialized leather cleaner and conditioner to clean and moisturize the holster. It’s crucial to remove any excess moisture and allow the holster to dry naturally. Avoid exposing leather holsters to excessive heat or direct sunlight, as it can cause the leather to dry out and become brittle.

VII. Customization Options Available

Customization options can add a personal touch and enhance the functionality of your holster.

A. Customization Possibilities with Kydex Holsters

Kydex holsters offer a wide range of customization possibilities. The material is easily molded, allowing for various designs and patterns. Users can choose from different colors, textures, and even add accessories such as weapon-mounted lights or optics. Customization can provide not only aesthetic appeal but also improved functionality and accessibility.

B. Customization Options for Leather Holsters

While leather holsters may offer fewer customization options compared to Kydex, there are still opportunities to personalize them. Users can select different leather finishes, stitching patterns, or embossed designs. Some manufacturers also offer options for accommodating specific firearm models or adding features like retention straps or thumb breaks.

VIII. Pricing Comparison

Pricing is an important consideration when choosing a holster, as it can vary depending on factors such as material quality and customization.

A. Prices of Kydex and Leather Holsters

Generally, Kydex holsters tend to be more affordable compared to leather holsters. The production process for Kydex allows for cost-effective manufacturing, resulting in a lower price point. Leather holsters, on the other hand, require skilled craftsmanship and premium materials, which can drive up the cost. However, it’s essential to consider that customizations and additional features can also affect the price of both types of holsters.

B. Factors Affecting the Cost

Several factors can influence the cost of Kydex and leather holsters. These include the quality of the materials used, the level of craftsmanship, and the degree of customization. Brand reputation and additional features, such as adjustable Retention Systems or integrated mag pouches, can also contribute to the overall cost. It’s crucial to find the right balance between budget and desired features when making a purchasing decision.

Here’s a table that compares the key aspects of Kydex and leather holsters:

Aspect Kydex Holsters Leather Holsters
Material Rigid thermoplastic Genuine leather
Durability Highly durable and resistant to impact and wear Durable, but may show signs of wear over time
Moisture Resistance Resistant to moisture Susceptible to warping when exposed to moisture
Comfort May be less comfortable for some individuals Provides a comfortable fit once broken in
Concealability Offers excellent concealment due to precise molding Provides a smooth draw and less printing
Customization Options Wide range of colors and patterns available Options for finishes, stitching, and designs
Maintenance and Care Low maintenance, easy to clean Requires regular cleaning and conditioning
Price Generally more affordable Can be more expensive, especially for quality

Holster Recommendations

If neither of these sound right for you, consider nylon holsters or a hybrid holster. There’s also some good brands that will help you to get started on your holster search:

  • Concealment Express
  • Alien Gear
  • Milt Sparks

Just remember that all holsters have something to offer. The decision is all yours and should be based on personal preference, budget, and what type of shooting you’re doing. Happy holster hunting!

XI. Conclusion

In conclusion, the choice between Kydex and leather holsters ultimately depends on individual needs and preferences. Kydex holsters excel in terms of durability, moisture resistance, and customization options. On the other hand, leather holsters offer superior comfort, a classic appearance, and a custom fit over time. It’s important to consider factors such as intended use, climate, personal comfort, and budget when making a decision. By weighing the pros and cons outlined in this article, individuals can make an informed choice based on their specific requirements.


1. Which holster material is more durable?

Both Kydex and leather holsters offer durability, but Kydex holsters are generally more resistant to impact and wear due to their rigid construction.

2. Are Kydex holsters more comfortable than leather holsters?

Comfort is subjective, and individual preferences may vary. Some users find Kydex holsters less comfortable than leather holsters, while others appreciate the secure fit they provide.

3. Can I customize a leather holster?

Yes, many leather holsters offer customization options such as different finishes, stitching patterns, and embossed designs.

4. Are Kydex holsters suitable for everyday carry?

Kydex holsters are popular choices for everyday carry due to their durability, moisture resistance, and excellent firearm retention.

5. Do leather holsters require special maintenance?

Yes, leather holsters require regular maintenance to prevent drying out and cracking. Cleaning and conditioning with specialized products are recommended to keep them in good condition.


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