Leather vs Kydex Holster – 2021 Comparison

| Last Updated: May 14, 2021

You bought your own handgun. Now that’s a valuable investment!

You want to look after it as best you can. Your holster is where your gun will spend most of its time, so clearly, your choice of the holster is almost as important as your gun.

In this article, we compare the two most popular types of holsters available today: the traditional leather or the newer Kydex. We hope that this clarifies the pros and cons of both, shows you differences, and enables you to make an informed choice.

Photo credit: usconcealedcarry.com

Pros and Cons of Leather vs Kydex

Let's look at the pros and cons of leather and kydex holsters.

Leather Holster

Kydex Holster

Pros

Pros

Soft texture

Durability

Customizable

No maintenance

Negligible noise

Smooth finish - faster draw

Aesthetically appealing

Molded to the individual weapon, it allows for good retention and concealment

Smooth corners - no snagging

Cell

Cons

Cons

Can be stained

Noise

Poor concealment

Impersonal appearance

Requires maintenance

Not as comfortable as leather

Loses retention over time

Hard finish may polish or scratch

Rough finish - affects the draw

It may have sharp corners - snagging

Best For

Best For

Private gun owners. Firearm collectors. Unconcealed wearing.

Ideal for security/law enforcement personnel, firearm training instructors and pupils, recreational firearm use.

Relevant Characteristics of Leather and Kydex Holsters

Let us have a look at how the two types stack up against each other.

Leather Holster

Kydex Holster

Photo credit: craftholsters.com

Photo credit: gundigest.com

Limited

Adjustability

None, purpose-made

Limited

Durability

Unlimited

Poor

Extreme Temp Resistance

Good

Good

Firearm Protection

Good

Periodic

Maintenance Effort

None

Good, becoming poorer

Retention

Constantly good

Design dependant

Cost

Brand dependant

Similarities and Differences

Now that we have looked at the pros, cons, and statistics, let’s venture into the differences and similarities between the two types of holsters. Ultimately, the choice you make will be a personal one, but a clear understanding of the differences between the two may make your choice easier.

Leather and Kydex Holster Differences

Concealability

If you’re concerned about the visibility of the weapon, then the Kydex holster would be your best bet. Leather holsters tend to be bulky by the nature of their construction, whereas the Kydex is compact and tight-fitting to the weapon, offering better concealability.

Appearance

For hundreds of years, sidearms have been carried in leather holsters, and there’s no doubt that the appearance is appealing. The leather holster just feels more personal, like an extension of your personality. The Kydex holster is functional but cold and impersonal to the eye.

Noise

This could be an important factor when you’re choosing between a leather or Kydex holster. The leather offers a softer texture, so noise when drawing the weapon is minimal. 

The surface of the Kydex holster is, by comparison, much harder and may produce a harsh sound when drawing or holstering the gun. This noise could be a compromise in some situations, so keep that in mind.

Durability

As strong as leather is, it has its drawbacks. Leather wears with age. It stretches, and it may also deform. Over time, this will affect the retention capabilities of the holster. The last thing you would want is your gun flopping around dangerously. 

Although good care of the leather will definitely enhance its longevity, it has a finite lifespan. The Kydex product is vastly different in this regard. Kydex is an acrylic-polyvinyl chloride composite. Due to its rigid forming capabilities, it has found use in many other applications, including gun holsters and knife sheaths. 

This material has a relative hardness of Rockwell 90, is waterproof, and offers good resistance to temperature changes. It also has low friction, which is important when drawing the gun quickly, and it won’t deform over time. In terms of lifespan, then, the Kydex is vastly superior. 

Leather and Kydex Holster Similarities

Protection for Your Gun’s Finish

Both holsters offer a great degree of protection for your gun. Some inevitable damage will be noticed over time with constant use. The Kydex material could also produce scratching on the gun finish.

Retention

A good degree of retention is offered by both. It has to be said, though, that Kydex offers better properties due to the material being formed closely around the gun.

The leather holster tends to become stretched and even deformed over time, so it would eventually lose its retention qualities.

Customization

Photo credit: thefirearmblog.com

Both types lend themselves to customization, more so for the leather. Leather, being softer, lends itself more to creative engraving, while the Kydex surface would only be suitable for light engraving, laser etching, etc.

Wearability

Both are versatile in terms of wearability. The leather holster is generally more comfortable than its Kydex counterpart due to the latter having such a hard finish.

Draw

There are two opinions on this subject. Some suggest that the rough, soft texture of the leather could inhibit draw speed. Others will claim that the tight fit of the Kydex holster could do the same. We think it comes down to personal preference and how well you position the holster and handle your gun.

Maintenance

The Kydex material requires no maintenance. Leather, in order to maximize its life, requires periodical treatment with dubbon, etc. In both cases, maintenance isn’t an everyday task.

Advantages of Leather Holsters

Comfort

Leather holsters have been loved by gun owners for as long as guns have been around. They’re comfortable, soft to the touch, and easy to wear. Leather doesn’t feel as cold against your body.

Photo credit: outdoormethods.com

Appearance

Leather looks better to a lot of people. It brings out a traditional look to carrying a sidearm. With its versatility in terms of personalization, it can carry a mark of individuality for the owner. It can be customized with engraving, stitching, studs, or anything you want to make your holster stand out.

Texture

The soft texture of leather means there are no sharp corners to snag on clothing, vehicle seats, or any other items you may come into contact with. A leather holster also feels warmer to the touch, as it does absorb some heat.

Traditionalists will always favor the leather holster. It evokes images of the classics, until recently, who would have pictured a holster made of anything else. The feel, color, and smell of leather are entrenched in sidearm history. It just looks right!

Advantages of Kydex Holsters

Durability

Kydex is a plastic-based compound. As such, it’s completely immune to water impregnation, rust, heat, and most other forms of degradation. It’s light and resistant to shock. The compound is extremely hard, so it’s difficult to scratch or deform. It requires absolutely no maintenance other than the occasional wipe.

Retention

The Kydex sheet is heat formed around the item it’s designed to protect. It’ll only fit that item. The gun is held firmly, all the time. This makes the Kydex holster a must for gun carrying in an active environment, whether it be recreational combat, police or security work, or just general usage. As the material doesn’t degrade with age, the original fit doesn’t deviate.

Maintenance

Nothing to discuss here. Kydex is maintenance-free.

From a practical point of view, the argument for Kydex is sound. It needs no maintenance.

Your gun fits like a glove, protects well, and doesn’t degenerate or deform over time, regardless of usage. The risk of your gun moving in the holster is virtually zero.

Photo credit: huntingmark.com

What About Hybrid Holsters?

Hybrid holsters are typically a blend of two or more different materials. Some manufacturers utilize a Kydex shell on a leather backing. Others may use a nylon base. While you’ll have some of the advantages of the materials used, you certainly won’t get the full advantage of any. 

From a price perspective, hybrids aren’t far off either way. Again, it boils down to your personal choice.

Bottom Line

In this article, we’ve discussed the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of both the leather and Kydex holster. We compared the traditional, old feel and appearance of the leather, against the tightness and durability of the Kydex.

For a personal gun-carrying environment, we think the leather option would suit you. It gives more personal touch, looks appealing, and is, for all intents and purposes, still practical.

For combat, recreational, or professional situations, we would recommend the Kydex variant. Its rugged build, firm retention qualities are a must for anyone on the move.

People Also Ask

Here are some questions surrounding this topic:

Photo credit: thefirearmblog.com

Are Leather Holsters Bad for Your Gun?

Leather holsters aren’t bad for your gun. With age, the leather may stretch or deform, so your gun may not be as secure in the holster over time.

How Long Do Leather Holsters Last?

There are a lot of criteria that can affect this. Leather needs to be looked after to enhance its lifespan.

Extreme hot or cold temperatures will have a negative effect on leather, as will moisture. Regular maintenance will extend the life of leather, but it does have a lifespan.

Will Hot Kydex Hurt My Gun? 

Hot Kydex won’t hurt your gun, but do bear in mind that excessive heat applied to Kydex may result in permanent deformation.

Is Kydex Uncomfortable?

Kydex is harder and has sharper edges than leather. Some users say that Kydex is less comfortable than leather.



Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!