No materials are equal

One of the main criteria of a good holster is material, which affects not only the wearing comfort and safety but also the effectiveness of its use. Moreover, it has a great part in protecting the gun itself. The most common materials used to produce holsters are leather, Kydex, and nylon. Let us take a closer look at all of these.

No materials are equal

Kydex

Kydex was used for the first time in 1965 when introduced by a company Rohm and Haas. Primarily, this material was used in the aircraft interior. Not long after Kydex found its wide use in everyday life. In 1987 was the Kydex product range acquired by Kydex, LCC, which is producing the material in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Today the company is a part of the SEKISUI SPI group.

IWB Kydex holster A901 vs OWB Kydex holster C901

Technically, Kydex is a plastic alloy extruded from a special mixture of acrylic PVC (polyvinyl chloride). It is a thermoplastic material that softens when heated but does not lose its form and is easy to shape. It is a composite material that acquires strength and ductility form acrylic, and toughness and resistance to many chemicals from PVC. Thanks to its relatively high hardness (“R” 90 according to the Rockwell hardness scale) and the grainy surface, it is abrasion-resistant and has a high resistance to impacts and scratches. It is temperature stable, well-formed by drawing and pressing. Its great advantage is also in secondary processing, it is easy to grind and can be drilled into it without any problems. Under normal conditions, the properties of the Kydex do not change (it does not expand or shrink), which makes it an ideal material for self-locking sleeves. Today, Kydex offers a variety of design options.

Kydex holster C905 in Grey Digital. Credit: Instructor Zero

Main advantages of Kydex material summed up:

  • Easy to clean
  • Chemical stability
  • Scratch resistance
  • Waterproof
  • Frost resistance
  • Shape stability
Processing natural Italian leather at Falco.

Leather

When the first guns emerged, so were the first holsters created – leather ones. Since the formation of the first holsters, cowhide has been the primary material for their production. In those days it was the only material suitable for holster production add remains in high demand until today. Leather as a material has excellent properties and ensures high comfort and durability. An undeniable pro is leather’s aesthetics, offering a wide range of options from contrast stitching, initials embossing, or coloring even the edges. A common feature is an added Suede under layer that increases the level of gun protection.  Practically any holster design can be found in a leather form. The production process is overall demanding since it consists of several phases such as cutting the cowhide, molding, drying, tanning, setting out, and finishing. This is the reason behind its longer production terms. Of course, not every leather is equal and today there are 4 main leather types commonly used for holster production:

Different types of leather holsters left to right: Basic pre-tanned leather, Comfort- Suede leather, Premium- handcrafted, and hand-molded Italian leather.

1. Basic

Holsters made from hard leather, which is usually available only in black color. These holsters are made for those, who are looking for a cheap, yet functional holster. This holster type has only a basic construction requirement.

2. Suede

holsters are made from nice soft natural leather in combination with hard leather mainly for reinforcing the most important parts such as holster security straps, belt loops, and upper part of a holster. This kind of leather is comfortable for IWB to carry and brings a very nice appearance.

3. Classic Leather

Classic Leather holsters are made from first-class leather. Usually, this leather is pre-tanned and lacquered in the tannery, so the holster producers just hand mold and sew. These holsters offer a reasonable price/quality ratio.

A moment of hand sewing the leather holster at FALCO.

4. Premium leather

Some producers use the term “premium” leather. With this holster type, the whole production process lies in the hands of a holster producer. The supplied leather is in premium quality and untanned. The manufacturer hand colors, oils, treats, and fat liquors the leather. The result is a holster with its characteristic smell and details. For example, Falco Holsters uses 0.11”-0.12” wide, choice cowhide (only 1 out of 4 cowhides fits this requirement)

The main advantages of leather as a material summed up:

  • Years of tradition
  • Aesthetics
  • Wearing comfort
  • Shape stability
  • Easy break-in

With the right usage and care, the lifespan of a leather holster Is equal to that of a gun itself.

Premium Falco Holster


NYLON

Nylon first appeared in 1930 in a DuPont laboratory, United States. It was originally the trade name for only polyamide 6.6. but has later expanded on the whole group of polymers. Basically, it is a synthetic fibre based on polyamides – macromolecules that repeat endlessly. It is made of coal, water, and air. An important feature of nylon is a thermoplastic – able to melt fibres. This allows for seemingly endless possibilities of shapes and sizes. The material is used in many areas. Due to constant development, nylon has been greatly improved recently. Adding other fibres to the blend, such as cotton, polyester, and spandex the Cordura was formed. Cordura is a high-quality material with increased shape holding ability.  Nowadays we can see three types of nylon holsters that differ not only in width and firmness of the foam but also in quality and type of its topcoat:

Cutting the Nylon for a pancake holster at FALCO.

1. Basic nylon

Mainly holsters made from the most basic nylon type. Usually very simple design. These holsters are still functional and effective, but not at all ideal for EDC. The greatest advantage is the low price.

2. Classic nylon

These holsters are commonly made from Cordura 1000, which is basically a topcoat. They have resistant and thick foam in the middle, enclosed by soft breathable nylon. Most often they consist of sandwich material.

3. Combined nylon

Today there can also be found holsters from so-called combined nylon, also referred to as premium nylon. It is basically a combination of nylon, leather, and plastic. By combining these materials, the cases can retain their shape, which in practice means that they allow easier and faster re-holstering. Also, they offer an integrated plastic guide rail to protect the sights. Falco Holsters provides the most sophisticated Premium Nylon. These holsters have combined the qualities of leather and nylon into one.

IWB holsters from different Nylon product lines, left to right: BASIC nylon, CLASSIC nylon, PREMIUM nylon

In the community of shooters, the nylon holsters naturally tend to lag behind Kydex and leather holsters, is often joked about. However, high-quality nylon cases provide unique properties for which it is worth considering getting one.

  • Low weight
  • Temperature resistance
  • Travel friendly
  • Versatility
  • Breath-ability
  • Simplicity
  • Great design range
Premium Nylon holster A805 SMITH. Credit: Luca Muccichini

Conclusion

It should be said that the disadvantages of each material often do not derive from the material itself, but the wrong choice of a holster type. If you know what you are your needs, you can easily avoid these disadvantages. This means it is ideal to keep several holster types for each gun. This will allow you to choose the right one for any given situation.

“Everything you need to rely on at 100%, requires care”

If you want your holster to serve well, you need to pay attention to it. Provide the maintenance, do the cleaning, tighten the screws, oil it, and dry it. Whether it is Kydex, leather, or nylon.



Mgr. Michal Bernadič

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