The Great Holster Smackdown: Nylon v. Leather

Nylon vs. leather (courtesy

Republished with permission from

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.