Nylon vs. leather (courtesy desnatisholster.com)

Republished with permission from desantisholster.com:

It’s that time in our democracy when we exercise the right to shape our future. Everyone has strong leanings towards one set of ideas over another and we proudly express these publicly.  We examine the facts; discuss the issues. Family members argue; spirited debates ensue. Of course we’re not talking about Presidential politics. We’re batting around the hottest debate among gun owners: leather or nylon? Natural or not-so-natural? Which is better and can it be proven that one is superior to the other? Read on . . .

The answer to those questions depends on who’s weighing in on the discussion. Second Amendment supporters are passionate about what material they employ to tote their firearm. But there are a many of factors to consider: weight, durability, and comfort among others. With this being campaign season, let’s look at the two candidates side by side and see if we can pick a winner!


Let’s start with the classic contender: leather. This mogul of materials is literally old school. Rendering raw cowhide into wearable leather with tree tannin (hence the term “tanning”) can be traced back to Ancient Egypt almost 1,300 years ago. Some tanners used the feces of animals in their tanning process.

No wonder it took a while for leather catch on! In more recent times, modern leather manufacturing has turned to chemicals for a more efficient process. Whatever the methodology employed, it is remarkable that – all these centuries later – there is still such high demand for a natural product like leather.

The fact remains that leather is a remarkable material. And premium quality materials like the steer hides and saddle leathers employed in DeSantis Gunhide’s holsters are remarkably durable and resilient. For many, the tactile aspect of a natural material like animal hide is preferable to something cooked up in a glass beaker.

On the other hand, because leather is a natural material, it needs time to “break-in” and tends to wear in an idiosyncratic way.  On the other hand it is the very pliability of leather that makes it so comfortable – a critical factor for Every Day Carry. Especially when a holster is worn inside the waistband, a natural, more forgiving material in contact with your body is a distinct advantage over stiffer synthetic alternatives.

And in spite of being a natural material, leather is incredibly tough and durable. If well cared-for and maintained, a good leather holster like the DeSantis Thumb Break Scabbard can last until the cows come home (!).  And there is also an aesthetic factor: crafted leather is actually quite beautiful, even in something as utilitarian as a holster. For example, take a look at DeSantis’ premier IWB holster the Mad Max or OWB Thumb Break Scabbard.  They are hands down some of the most beautiful gun concealers you will ever see.


Now let’s take a look at the upstart, the challenger: nylon. This relative newcomer was born in a lab in 1935. Nylon is a type of thermoplastic – which means it liquefies as high temperatures and can be custom formed and shaped for almost any application. After premiering in toothbrushes and ladies’ stockings, nylon got a major boost in World War II when it became a readily available substitute for scarce natural materials.

Given that it’s a synthetic material, nylon enjoys some significant advantages over leather.  For one, nylon is more sunlight resistant and generally more resistant to fading (colorfast).  It also tends to be lighter, which can be a difference-maker if you are carrying a full-sized firearm on your belt or inside your waistband all day.

Nylon can also be permanently molded and pleated in a way that leather cannot. That means wear is predictable and break-in is not as much of a factor as it is with leather.

A well-designed nylon holster like the DeSantis Nylon Mini Scabbard can be worn outside the waistband in the toughest conditions – constant sunlight, intense moisture – without cracking or fading. It’s why nylon is frequently used by law enforcement. Nylon also requires less maintenance than leather and will last a lifetime given even a responsible amount of care.

Traditionally, nylon has not been the choice for concealed carry inside the waistband. Synthetic materials are typically not as comfortable against the body.

But with some clever design tweaks, nylon has even made gains on this front. One of DeSantis’ most popular holsters – the Pro Stealth, is an IWB holster made from ballistic nylon – basically the same stuff that parachutes are made have. It’s both tough as nails and Master Holster Designer Gene DeSantis has found a way to make it soft, forgiving and comfortable.


So nylon’s winning strategy involves durability, predictability and less maintenance. It is the set-it-and-forget-it of concealed carry.

The planks of leather’s winning platform are: aesthetics, comfort and surprising durability.

So is one really “better” than the other?  Not objectively. Choice between the two really comes down to preference. Do you care how your holster looks? Do you like the look and feel of natural materials, or is a holster more of a utilitarian proposition for you?

In terms of function, you can’t go wrong with either material. Manufacturers like DeSantis have found ways to compensate for the shortcomings of both materials so that – in terms of function – it really is a ‘draw’ between these two types of holsters.

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37 Responses to The Great Holster Smackdown: Nylon v. Leather

    • I started with nylon just to have something to carry my new Glock 19. Then I was thinking about Kydex and one day in my LGS I overheard a worker tell a customer “If the gun is plastic put it in plastic, if it is metal put it in leather.” Well I thought that may very well be but I took it as a dig at polymer guns so I got a leather holster just to spite him. I carried in that leather IWB holster for three years and was very satisfied. I still use it as my night stand holster and appendix carry when on the road. But I recently bought the Crossbreed Super Tuck and man what a difference it makes. The draw is so fast and smooth that I did not realize how that leather used to grab my gun. I haven’t timed my draw yet but I was getting 1.5 seconds from concealment before so I anticipate cutting a one now.

      • It’s one of those things that sounds like a dig but it isn’t. The leather will grab the polymer frames in a way it won’t metal. More accurately – Leather holsters should only be used with metal guns, and nylon with any gun.
        Take that with a grain of salt. Carrying a Colt SAA in a nylon holster might work, but please, for the love of God, don’t.

  1. I’d wear either, but I prefer quality leather (meaning well fitting/wearing leather… not exotic types).

    I’ve always felt that leather just fits better and better the more you wear it; nylon feels good, not great, and it doesn’t change over time.

  2. Kydex FTW. Not mentioned though since Desantis doesn’t use it. Is this sponsored content, or really just a copy-paste-with permission job?

  3. You didn’t mention how leather wicks away oil from the gun so if you are not diligent with your gun maintenance you could be carrying a semi-auto with dry rails. Not really a problem once you know that but for beginners it might be nice to know.

  4. Leather. Hands down. Quality leather, crafted by people who know leather and their craft, feels better, and can treat guns better than synthetics.

    You can soak lots of rust preventative into leather and make it soft, pliable and protective of a nicely finished gun. Try putting it into nylon, and you’ll soon have a greasy mess next to you. Leather, properly treated, will repel water.

    Nylon? Most holster nylon fabrics will allow water straight through.

  5. BOTH!
    Leather against the body, thermoplastic (nylon/kydex/whatever) to the outside. My homemade holster is a clone of the Crossbreed Supertuck. I’ve never carried in anything more comfortable and secure.

  6. Correction: Wikipedia says “Tanning was being carried out by the South Asian inhabitants of Mehrgarh between 7000 and 3300 BC.[2] Around 2500 BC, the Sumerians began using leather, affixed by copper studs, on chariot wheels.” Yes, it’s wikipedia, but 1300 years ago doesn’t jibe with “ancient Egyptians” (that’s well after the fall of Rome and even longer after Rome conquered Egypt), nor does it pass the smell test.

  7. After carrying a Springfield XD(m) in a hybrid holster, I found that the slide finish wore off on the leather side of the holster, where as on the kydex side of the holster the gun was not marred. Now, the XD(m) is notorious for having a poor slide finish, but I lost any confidence in the protective qualities of leather once I noticed that. I do like to keep my guns looking nice, but am not too concerned about some imperfections on the finish. Interestingly, I was under the impression that the kydex side would wear more.
    Yes, leather is good, and I have good leather holsters for my classier guns like revolvers and 1911, but kydex wins hands down for me.
    Now nylon is another story. It doesn’t conform to the shape of the gun, so I am not even in the least bit interested, especially when a material like kydex is available as an alternative to leather, and does the job better.

    • I had an opposite experience. I had two holsters for a TCP. One kydex, one leather. I used to use the kydex in the hot days and leather in winter. But the kydex scratched the heck out of the frame of my gun. It doesn’t bother me. It’s a cheap reliable pocket pistol. But the leather seems to protect the gun better.

  8. “In terms of function, you can’t go wrong with either material.”
    That is an absolute crock.
    Either material can be used to produce a crappy holster.
    Caveat Emptor.

  9. I’m pretty sure that, like so many other things, everyone is a law unto themselves when it comes to what works best. I hear us fat boys saying the skinny guys can carry whatever they want so much easier and the skinny folks claim that they can’t carry anything without printing, and so on and on it goes. So much hogwash! That old joke about a box full of holsters wasn’t proven true without a LOT of trial and error, you know.

    As for me? Leather, no two ways about it. (S&W M&P40c in a Ken Null OWB horsehide rig.)


  10. Do you pledge allegiance to the democracy for which our flag stands? I didn’t f***ing think so. Words matter, you’ve said so yourself on this blog. Pure democracy kills nations, and this nation is exceedingly suicidal.

  11. Leather only and high quality at that. Since I carry IWB here in Florida 100% of the time, All leather conforms to my body better then nylon or any combination of plastics and leather. I just hates me the feel of nylon bleeeeeh. Never got used to the idea of kydex.

  12. I’m a huge fan of the kydex holsters that have a sort of felt/fuzz like material bonded to the outside. A couple of holster makers offer this option now. The gun gets that nice snap into place hold offered by kydex but without the cold clammy plastic against the skin feeling.

  13. Guys, guys, guys… All this talk about this material is better than that material, it’s tearing us apart. Can’t we all just agree that the most important thing is that now we all know that DeSantis makes many different models of holsters, and they’re all great?

  14. When the day comes that Uncle Sam says I’m old enough to carry, I really want to leather shoulder holster with either a Beretta 92 or my Security Six… There’s just something so appealing about it that I can’t get it out of my mind.

  15. Admittedly, I have a nylon pocket holster, but it is because I bought a supposedly IWB/OWB convertible that was good at neither task, but has done well in my pocket with the belt straps cut off. All the others are A leather Harrison & Harrison, Wolf Ears, Kirkpatrick. I have a DeSantis for my .45 that sux, and I will eventually replace it with, probably, another Kirkpatrick pancake OWB. I also have a Bianchi slide for the same gun, but I prefer my barrels completely covered to protect them from damage. And just around my birthday I should be receiving a beautifully hand carved Sacramento Rose holster and belt for my 1861 Navy from Purdy Gear. When it comes to beauty, leather cannot be beat. I have never owned a Kydex, and I don’t anticipate I ever will. Yuck,

  16. Leather for revolvers and the 1911. Nylon for the 9 mm and military. Kydex for .40 & .357 sig. There you go. These are the rules. Oh- Horse hide for me.

  17. Kydex over leather have use leather and feels gritty on the draw. Kydex that I can adjust the tension of the draw to my liking, now I use Kydex holsters Molded for my Glocks and S&W guns

    • Kydex for the win!
      After a day on the back roads of Arizona, my gun and holster are covered in what looks like a mixture of sand and coco powder, a quick swish in the sink and the holster is clean. Th gun takes a bit longer although it is a Glock so maybe I could swish it in the dish water?

  18. I’m nearly to the point where I ban nylon holsters from our weekly fun shoot. it says to me “I don’t take carrying my gun seriously enough to buy a decent holster to participate in this event, I couldn’t even be bothered to spend $25 on a fobus”

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