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A Look at Kydex Holsters

by Kim Foster

Kydex holsters are relatively new on the market but have gained in popularity quickly. I wanted to try one for some time but was put off by the price. It is hard for me to get enthusiastic about paying $50 to $60 for a piece of plastic when the same amount of money can buy a quality leather holster. Recently, I was able to purchase a Kydex holster from a local manufacturer for $35. The holster is similar in design to a Blade-Tech and fits the Glock 19/23. As soon as I started practicing with the holster, I found that a sharp rear corner on the belt loop prevented me from acquiring the proper firing grip on the pistol. As an experiment, I ground about an 1/8 inch of plastic off of that corner with a bench grinder and then smoothed it up with sandpaper. This fixed the problem completely and is not readily noticeable. If you have to do this be sure to thoroughly wash the holster before placing the gun back in it.  
I liked this holster and wanted to try one for a 1911, so I contacted the person who made it and ordered one. To make a long story short, this fellow failed to produce the holster and made doing business with him more of a hassle than I thought it was worth. However, I was still interested in getting another Kydex holster, so I perused every web site and catalog I could find. Even though I liked the Kydex concept, I was still unwilling to spend fifty bucks on one.  
I finally settled on a DeSantis Nite Watch (pictured at right), about $28 from Natchez ( This holster is injection molded instead of folded around a form, like my first one. The difference is that the injection molded one is fitted closer to the pistol and contoured to fit closer to the hip. Also, the edges are rounded so there are no sharp corners. In the areas of speed, comfort, retention and concealment, I found the DeSantis to be equal to my folded holster.  
The holsters I've seen use friction at the front of the trigger guard for retention. They are designed so that this is the only part of the holster that forcefully rubs on the pistol. This decreases the force necessary to draw the pistol, thus decreasing your presentation (draw) time. Most holsters have two screws below the trigger guard area that control the holster tension, making it possible to precisely set the amount of force necessary to draw the pistol. Some holsters, like Mad Dog and Tac-Pro use rivets. Since Kydex has no stretch and the molding isn't always precise, I would prefer to be able to adjust the tension myself.  
Kydex is much more rigid than leather, therefore it is possible to cut the front of the holster very low to speed up the draw stroke without significantly sacrificing safety or retention. Quickly drawing a pistol from a Kydex holster produces a distinctive, and sometimes loud clicking noise. Tactically speaking, it is sometimes necessary to produce a gun quietly. I've found if I draw the pistol very slowly, the noise is inaudible just a few feet away. However, if you feel a silent draw is necessary, you should stick with leather.  
Since Kydex is a hard material, it is much more prone to scratch a pistol's finish than leather. If you have a pistol with a blue finish or one you want to keep in pristine condition, I would use a leather holster. Personally, I only use Kydex for stainless guns and ones with abuse resistant finishes like Glock's Tenifer. Kydex is impervious to water and salt. They can be rinsed in a sink or washed in a dishwasher. In fact, because of their hard surface, they should be cleaned frequently to prevent lint or grit from abrading the gun's finish. Because Kydex holsters are smooth and do not grip the belt like a properly designed leather holster, they are more prone to moving around on the belt during physical activity than a leather holster.  
So, do I think Kydex is a better holster material than leather? No, but it does have some advantages in some areas.  
Here are some web sites for Kydex holsters:  

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Uploaded: 2/21/2004