Leather vs. Kydex Holsters: Which is Best?

Leather and Kydex are opposite ends of the spectrum in holster material development over time. Both these materials have their own specialties and drawbacks.

In this article, we’ll be comparing these two materials and will try to infer which works best. We will also learn about the pros and cons of each to understand what works better in different situations.

Popular Types of Leather Holsters

FLETCH HIGH RIDE BELT HOLSTER (Source)

Leather has been used to manufacture holsters since their very beginning. Almost every holster type is available in leather except for a few.

The most popular type of leather holsters includes shoulder rigs, IWB holsters, and OWB holsters. Leather was the only material back in the day which could be used for manufacturing holsters.

Moreover, leather is durable, comfortable, and breaks in with ease. Leather holsters with inner suede linings also help protect the firearm. Leather holsters also come in handy when you have to holster your weapon with a hot barrel. Leather is a tried and tested material. Plus leather holsters are more aesthetically pleasing compared to other materials.  

Popular Types of Kydex Holsters 

Insane IWB Kydex (Source)

Kydex is a kind of thermoplastic which retains its shape and is resistant to heat, water, rust, and dirt. Kydex is the latest addition to the line of holster making materials. The types of holsters for which Kydex is used are similar to leather ones. Almost every type of leather holster has a Kydex made counterpart.

Kydex holsters act like a solid shell and retain the firearm firmly. Plus, their rigid body also helps with reholstering the weapon with ease. Kydex holsters require minimal maintenance and can be used in different situations. Their usefulness has grown to an extent where most police and military personnel prefer Kydex based holsters these days. 

Leather vs. Kydex Holsters: Which is Best? 

Relentless Tactical IWB Leather Holster (Source)



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Relentless Tactical IWB Kydex Holster (Source)

Kydex and leather have their own properties which make them ideal under different conditions.

Here, we’ll compare the usability and effectiveness of Kydex and leather holsters upon different factors. In the long history of holsters, Kydex has been around for less than two decades but has also taken the market by storm.

Similarly leather holsters have their own place. They are more classy, customizable, and priced on the higher end, making them more of a novel choice.

  • Retention: Leather holsters mostly rely upon passive retention or a simple button or Velcro based thumb strap. This arises as a problem when you have to run, roll, or perform any other strenuous movements while carrying the holster. On the other hand, Kydex holsters have retention mechanisms like SERPA and the posi-click audible retention system, which gives them an edge over leather holsters. Kydex holsters are a better option than leather holsters when the point is retention.
  • Speed of Draw: For this factor, Kydex holsters have an edge over leather ones. The interior of Kydex holsters is plastic and hence very smooth. The interior of leather holsters is a bit rough and creates a drag (the same friction which helps with retention), thus hampering draw speed. However, the difference between both these holsters is minimal. Eventually, the speed of draw can be mastered with regular practice.
  • Aesthetics: Talking about aesthetics, the winner is clearly leather. Kydex holsters have a simple design that looks more like a tactical plastic shell. On the other hand, leather holsters look more splendid and classy. Leather is a novel item and everybody knows about it. You can have a personalized leather holster for your weapon, or even make some changes to it. But with Kydex, you have to stick with the OEM style.
  • Durability: Both leather and Kydex are closely comparable for durability. Leather is tough and lasts long. But it is also true that leather is prone to damage resulting from moisture, pressure, jolts, and time. Leather holsters tend to sag with time and lose their firmness. On the contrary, Kydex, being solid plastic, retains its shape over time. Plus, it is resistant to water, heat, dirt, pressure, and other relevant factors. Hence, in the end, Kydex comes out to be a better choice.
  • Customizable: Kydex holsters are more customizable compared with leather holsters. You can adjust the cant and the retention of a Kydex holster. Some leather holsters allow you to adjust the cant, however, none allow you to adjust the retention. Kydex holsters favor modular settings and can be used with different platforms like belt loops, paddles, and clips, but leather holsters do not offer such facility.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Leather Holster 

Lets look at some of the advantages and disadvantages a leather holster offers.

Advantages

  • Long Lasting: If you know about leather, you must be aware that it lasts a really long time. There are leather holsters on display in museums which are more than a century old, and they still look amazing. If used properly, leather holsters can be passed onto generations as a family legacy.
  • Comfortable: Comparable to other holster materials, especially Kydex, leather is extremely comfortable. Once it breaks in, it doesn’t even feel like it’s there. Leather holsters are a very good choice for carrying revolvers, especially with longer barrels. 
  • Protects the Weapon: Most leather holsters have an inner suede or cloth lining. This protects your weapon when you slide it in or out. Compared to the stiff Kydex, this is a very prominent advantage with leather holsters. 

Customized Patriotic Art SAvoy Leather Holster (Source)

  • Aesthetically Pleasing: Leather is widely used in the fashion industry, as well as for crafting classy and good looking products. Leather holsters have an amazing sheen on them and look admirable. Some leather holsters have engravings and embroidery over them which adds to their aesthetics.

Disadvantages

  • Weak Retention: Leather Holsters generally rely upon passive retention i.e, their friction. This makes the weapon more likely to pop out with strenuous and bumpy movements. Holsters with retention straps do work well, but only to some extent.  
  • Requires Intensive Care: Leather can last for decades only if it is looked after. Leather holsters require proper service and care at regular intervals. You can’t just expect to put them aside or wash them. They require proper cleaning and oiling.
  • Costly: Leather holsters costly because of the high-grade material and effort put into making them. Most leather holsters are handcrafted by individuals, which makes them more crafty and adds to their value.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Kydex Holster 

Listed below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a kydex holster.

Advantages 

  • Durable: Kydex is a simple thermoplastic which is thin strong and lightweight. A Kydex holster can resist jolting without squeezing the firearm. Additionally, a Kydex holster will last for a longer period because of its durable design. Kydex holsters are extremely useful for tactical situations as well as everyday carry.
  • Maintenance Free: Kydex, being a thermoplastic, is resistant to dirt, sweat, heat, water, and wear. Kydex holsters don’t lose their shape and sheen with time. They do not require any sort of maintenance and can last for years without a single service session. Moreover, Kydex protects your gun from dirt and sweat, especially when you use it IWB. If your holster gets dirty, you can simply wash and wipe it within seconds.
  • Versatile: Kydex holsters offer a modular mechanism which allows you to use them on different platforms (belt loops, paddles etc.,) Additionally, Kydex holsters offer multiple configurations for the same holster, such as shell replacements, so you can use the same holster for multiple weapons. These holsters also offer adjustments for retention and cant for improved performance.

Cz 75 P07 P09 Modular Level Ii Retention Polymer Paddle Holster (Source)

  • Quickdraw and reholstering: Since Kydex holsters have a firm body, they provide intuitive guidance as well as a quick draw. On the other hand, the solid flare of the holster doesn’t squeeze and stays in shape, hence facilitating quick and proper reholstering with only one hand.  

Disadvantages

  • Might Damage Your Gun: A very prominent disadvantage of Kydex is its stiffness. This tends to scratch and wear on your weapon when you draw or reholster. Some people use cerakoted slides on their guns to prevent this. However, this is still a truth about Kydex holsters.
  • Limited Comfort: Another problem related to the rigidity of Kydex is discomfort. Kydex is stiff and hence, tends to poke around when you sit, drive, or run. This limits your comfort in certain situations.
  • Noisy: When you strike a solid over solid, it produces noise. This is a similar case with Kydex. When the gun rubs against the holster, it produces noise. This might not be relevant in certain situations, but in others, this factor will play an important part.

Conclusion

Both leather and Kydex are widely used and have their own pros and cons. Leather holsters are more comfortable, long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing, and protect the firearm very well. However, they require maintenance, have leaner retention, and are costly.

Kydex holsters are stiff, durable, versatile, don’t require any sort of maintenance, and provide a quick draw and reholstering. But Kydex holsters offer limited comfort, are a bit noisy, and might damage the polish of your weapon.

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