Gear Review: StealthGear USA ONYX IWB Holster

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It’s August. The dog days. You know what that means. This is when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of comfort. You want to pack your pistol. It’s become a habit to the point that you feel positively nekkid without it. You know that gentle lurch in the pit of your stomach you get when you’re in the car, you’ve gotten about a half mile from home and realize you left your phone on the table by the door? Like that. That’s not a feeling you want, but when you’re minimizing clothing in 90+ heat and humidity, it’s easy to rationalize. Do I really need to bring it this time? What could possibly happen on a trip to the grocery store and the cleaners? . . .

You could go with a snubbie or a .380 in a pocket holster, but that can feel like a boat anchor bopping around in shorts and you may end up with them down around your ankles. There’s always the OWB option – a paddle or pancake rig – but if you bend over too far or lift your shirt a little too much going for your wallet, the nice lady behind you in the checkout line might get a look at more than she bargained for.

But inside the waistband? In this heat? Sure, that’s the most concealable option, but it means schvitzing. And that’s the problem StealthGear USA set out to solve with their ONYX holster.

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I can hear you now. Puh-leez, another hybrid holster? What’s the BFD? Well yes, in theory it’s another hybrid holster. Molded Kydex and steel belt clips tacked to a backing to hold it all together. But it’s that backing that’s the story here.

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Traditional IWB hybrids, of course, have a leather backing which, in the summer, inevitably gets wet. And then clammy. An then annoying as hell. The ONYX backing – sorry, they call it a platform – as you can see, isn’t made of leather. It’s…well it’s probably just easier to let them describe it:

The StealthGearUSA ONYX IWB platform is constructed of all-synthetic, non moisture-absorbing materials, and is completely VENTED for breathability and comfort.

  • Platform backing is constructed with tri-dimensional polyester VentMesh (also used in high-end backpacking and mountaineering equipment) to wick moisture away from the body.
  • Two types of closed cell foam, strategically-positioned, minimize that uncomfortable weapon “bulge” by more evenly distributing pressure across the holster platform
  • Polyester-reinforced flexible support platform (used as a stiffener or armature to which all padding and mesh are attached).
  • 100% hard nylon RhinoMesh facing used where the weapon contacts the platform. This mesh has a twist in the warp yarn for extreme strength and abrasion resistance, but still allows maximum breath-ability. We have tested the durability of this facing mesh by holstering and un-holstering a gun in a test holster the equivalent of once per day for 30 years with NO visible wear.
  • VentCore TM – The ONYX is completely vented by laser-cut diamond-shaped ports throughout the platform. In our field-testing, we found that on a fully-vented platform, the perspiration moisture escaping away from the body passed through the ports and condensed on the metal slide of the weapon. To solve this problem, and to protect the weapon from corrosion, a non-vented area is designed into the slide or barrel area of each platform to protect the weapon from condensation moisture. We call this the “integrated moisture shield” and it is built into each holster, and custom to each handgun slide or barrel.
  • Nylon blend UV-resistant binding is used to finish the edge of our platforms.

Got all that? What it boils down to is this: it’s light, airy and feels great. Really great. I’ve been giving it a go for most of this summer. I just about always wear a t-shirt between any holster and my baby-soft skin and with that intermediate layer – yes, even in the summer – the ONYX is about as comfy as an IWB rig can be.

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Of course all those slick materials and the attendant assembly processes (they’re not just stamping those platforms out of a sheet of cow hide) come at a price. An ONYX will run you $99 before shipping. But when the humidity really gets up there to the point where it’s hard to breathe and you can’t bear the idea of wearing anything more than a loose covering shirt, the ONYX will. Breathe, that is. You’ll be able to strap it on with nothing between it and your epidermis. No chafing…honest.

Most of the rest of the ONYX’s features are pretty much what you’d expect. Steel three-position adjustable belt clips let you set it for the height and cant of your choice. They also make the ONYX tuckable.

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And there’s the requisite Kydex shell. It’s nicely molded and holds your heater snugly, just as you’d expect it to. But wait. Unlike most holsters, the ONYX’s shell isn’t riveted to the backing platform. It’s screwed on with rustproof fasteners. All you need to take it off is a garden variety hex head wrench. But when I asked the StealthGear guys if that means you can buy mix-and-match shells for all your guns, they said it’s not quite that simple.

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They tell me that each holster’s custom-designed for each gun, not just the Kydex part. The Plaform’s custom cut, too. So since the model I tested was made for my Kahr CW9, bolting on a shell for a bigger gun – an M&P 45 or a 1911, for instance – could lead to problems. Issues like the trigger guard being exposed or the Plaform “combat cut” not covering everything that needs covering.

What StealthGear will do, though, is leave the end open.

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The standard design (mostly) covers your pistol’s muzzle. But if you own, say, both a Glock 19 and a 17 and ask nicely, they’ll leave that end open for you so you can tote either gun.

Oh, and another thing. I already mentioned that flow-thru ventilation thing, but there’s another aspect that adds to the ONYX’s carry comfort factor. It’s slim. Slimmer than other IWB’s I’ve tried for the same gun. Check this out:

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On the left is my (slightly modified) N82 Tactical IWB holster and on the right is the ONYX. As you can see, the ONYX has a significantly lower profile (aside from the N82‘s clip). That profile has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, the svelteness makes the rig noticeably more comfortable and results in a slimmer, more concealable silhouette because the gun nestles into that cushy platform material.

The negative is that re-holstering isn’t quite as easy. To get your piece back in the ONYX, you have to sort of nose it in there a little. It doesn’t require two hands, but it won’t smoothly slide back home quite as easily as it does with the N82 or other similar leatherback models. It gets easier with practice, but you may laser your own hip if you’re not paying attention.

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Is that a big problem? That’s up to you. As far as I’m concerned I’d rather be more comfortable for the 99.99% of the time the gun sits in the rig on my hip, meaning I’m more likely to have my nine with me than opting for something smaller. But that’s a judgement each toter will have to make for him- or herself.

Long story short, this is the most comfortable IWB holster I’ve tried. That breathability thing really does make a difference and the ONYX’s slim profile is a definite plus.

Specifications:

Models: StealthGear makes one for most popular pistols. Customs available, too.
Colors: stealth black, urban digital, desert digital, forest digital
Price: $99 from StealthGear USA

Ratings (out of five stars):

Comfort: * * * * *
The whole idea behind the ONYX is comfort. They call it the original vented holster and vented it is. If you’re going to carry IWB in the summer, this is the way to go.

Value: * * *
There are tons of options out there for hybrid, tuckable IWB concealed carry. There may be pricier rigs, but ONYX is the most expensive one I’ve seen. Twice as much as some. At the same time, it performs as advertised.

Concealability: * * * * *
IWB and tuckable with a slim profile. Gun? What gun?

Overall: * * * *
Again, the ONYX does just what StealthGear designed it to do. It keeps you cool and your heater hidden. No, it isn’t cheap and yes, you’ll want to practice your re-holstering a little. But the ONYX is light and lets moisture move away from your body. If there’s a better hot weather IWB option, I haven’t seen it yet.