Over at desantisholster.com they’re having The Great Holster Smackdown: Nylon vs. Leather. Nylon — named for shared credit between Dupont labs in New York and London — isn’t KYDEX. Which is the savvy gun guy and gals’ preferred holster formulation. So I’m pitting leather against KYDEX. And this corner . . .

Leather

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 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.

KYDEX

[NOTE: DeSantis’ post pits leather holsters against Nylon holsters. So here’s a quote from Westin D. Floeter, Communications Manager for K Rounds holsters from our article The Truth About Kydex Holsters]

Leather holsters are sensitive to temperature, moisture and humidity. Leather doesn’t dry easily; if you leave a reholstered gun in a wet leather holster it can cause pitting. [The same holds true for Nylon holsters. Manufacturers generally use “scuba webbing” or “ballistic fabric” which also hold moisture.] Leather holsters require a break-in period and diligent maintenance. Re-holstering can be difficult. They wear out. They can be dangerous.

KYDEX holsters are virtually maintenance-free. If a KYDEX holster gets dirty or dusty, you wash it off and wipe it down. KYDEX holsters are ready to use right away; they don’t have a “break in”period. They will maintain the desired shape over a lifetime of use. What you see is what you get and what you get is what you’l see even after years of hard use.

While un-holstering and re-holstering a gun in a KYDEX holster is louder than clearing and returning a gun to a leather holster, KYDEX owners get a more reliable and secure re-holstering experience (some models emit an audible “click” when the handgun is replaced properly). They are not temperature or moisture sensitive. KYDEX holsters take a beating and still perform well.

It’s Kydex for me, all the way. You?

Recommended For You

102 Responses to CapArms Question of the Day: KYDEX or Leather (Holster)?

    • “Two in the chest. The head gets the rest.”

      That’s a pleasent message to share with the public. Almost makes it sound like the tee shirt wearer is a fan of shooting people. But I guess the CC lifestyle is no fun without the occasional mag dump into someone’s face.

    • My holster has both too! It’s custom model by Crossbreed. It’s made specifically for my Springfield XDm, with a 3.8″ barrel. I live in AZ, so I carry daily for the most part. I wanted a very comfortable holster! No binding, pinching, etc. I also have a 100% Kydex holster, made specifically for that gun by Springfield. Ironically, that holster is at least as comfortable and as form fitting as the Crossbreed, huh? I find that I actually wear it more often than my Crossbreed most of the time!. Wow. Good thing the Crossbreed was only $65, or I would’ve sent it back. It’s nice to have both, just in case I get a sensitive spot from one or the other, usually from sitting too much in the day.

  1. The holster attached to my bed frame is kydex. The holsters I carry on my belt are leather. I’ll never wear kydex. The leather holster is no more difficult to maintain than the gun, or my shoes, or my belt.

    But whatever floats your boat, of course. I’m glad we have so many choices.

  2. Twin kel-tecs in the small of the back? Exactly what flavor of paint chip have you been eating? Also Galco king tuk with ulti-clips. Leather, synthetic and steel.

    • Im sorry twin kel-tecs….. never made it that far up.

      Now i see them… two in case the first one jams?
      Sheer bad ass factor of dual wield if needed?

    • Maybe she wants to double her chances of a crippling spinal injury if she falls and lands on that rig?

      • It’s her spine on the line, so to speak.

        There appears to be a bit of a gap between the tops of the slides, and the Kydex *appears* wide-ish at the top.

        It will still hurt if she falls backwards, tho.

        It is an interesting concept, I could see carrying 5 (or even 6) using something like that, LCR appendix up front, NAA mini on a neck chain, 2 in the back, and one or both ankles.

        As long as I don’t fall into deep water. With that much steel, I’d sink faster than Hillary’s evil hopes on election night at 10 PM.

        (If only someone had a camera in the room when she realized she lost. The video of her losing her mind would have made someone 100 million on pay-per view…)

        *snicker*

        • Given the lengthy history of people crossing the Clintons ending up dead, it would take some serious balls to make such a video public. And a hook-up with the Witness Protection program.

  3. For tactical or OWB applications, it’s hard to bet the simplicity and durability of kydex. It’s incredibly hard to break and is easy to color match to the rest of your gear with a few minutes and a can of spray paint. Also, with modern guns having odd protrusions on them (like lights, lasers, threaded barrels, etc…) it is very easy to get a tight fit and positive retention without a clasp.

    • I agree. I have a leather Crossbreed and an all Kydex made for the XDm, 3.8″ barrel. I found out after extended periods of wear, OWB, that the Kydex maintains it’s form and fit better than the leather. The leather can distort a bit and in doing so, create pinch points / friction spots when worn inside my shirt, (not IWB). When I know the OTB, will be worn for long periods, I choose the Kydex. I was actually surprised when it turned out that way.

  4. “Whatever floats your boat”
    Had to smile, hadn’t heard that since my Daddy died many years ago!
    Thank you Mama Liberty!!!

      • Another old saying, Mamma L – When was the last time you heard someone say ‘It’s a free country” in actual sincerity?

        For me, it was sometime in the 80’s…

        • Another great quote from the original “The Magnificent Seven.”

          Chico, the young Mexican, has been tailing the gunslingers through Mexico on their way to the village. Harry Luck is annoyed and wants to have a word with the kid.

          Chris says: “Nah leave him alone. It’s a free country.

          O’Reilly adds: And it’s his.

  5. Kydex.

    It is temperature sensitive though. Hot car in a FL summer deformed two holsters enough that they wouldn’t work without remolding.

    • I live in AZ. We see 120*F. I’ve never had that happen to my Kydex holster made by Springfield for my XDm. I do have problems with the OWB, custom made, leather backed Crossbreed though. Once it’s doused with sweat, it becomes flimsy and irritating. **BTW, Kydex can take up 400*F before becoming pliable.** So I doubt heat is your problem.

  6. I’m an OFWG and can’t stand Kydex holsters. I’ve never found one that wasn’t overall bulkier and harder to conceal FOR ME than similar Kydex holster. Since I open carry mostly now that isn’t as big an issue but I don’t like the b**t-ugly appearance of OWB index holsters.

  7. Having learned a bit of amateur leatherworking ( necessitated due to an unfortunate need for left-handed holsters), I personally like the fit, the feel, look and yes – the SMELL of leather.
    The one major drawback: human sweat turns even well-finished leather into goo in the Texas heat. So it’s either winter for IWB carry or OWB only all year.

    • I live in AZ, and we see 120*F, so I feel ya on the leather and carrying all day. My becomes flimsy as crap when I sweat on it for hours at a time! It’s a Crossbreed, leather backed / Kydex holster combo. I’d imagine this happens to most leather holsters though. I’ve seen photos of some on Google Photos that look almost 3/8″ thick in parts of it. Maybe they resist sweat better, but look uncomfortable as hell!

      As it turns out, my 100% Kydex holster by Springfield, for my XDm, as comfy as can be! It’s not affected by sweat and body heat either I should’ve returned the Crossbreed while I had the chance. They guaranteed the fit and comfort for a “sixty day trial period…” IIRC.

  8. I’m gonna order a 2 seater, like the one in the top pic. Trouble is: now I’ll have to purchase a 2nd Glock 17!

  9. Kydex. With a slim pistol like my PPS IWB it is a breeze for carry. Even my Glock 19 is fairly comfortable IWB with kydex. I like single clip kydex as it is so easy to out on/off belt with pistol in it. When I am done I remove holster with pistol still in it and it goes into my pistol safe. Easy to do the same in the car if need be.

    Kydex does not absorb moisture, has superior retention, very easy to clean, and very easy to holster and re holster with no worry about holster mouth collapsing. I have found a good quality kydex holster is gentle on pistol wear if that is a concern as most retention is at the trigger guard.

    • As some of the “other guys”, I too once said that I would never use a kydex holster.
      But kept an open mind, tried some, but disliked for other reasons than the actual Kydex itself.

      Now, today I really like, virtually the “cheapest”, single clip ones!
      In at least one brand of Kydex.

      Leather and the super adjustable “monstrosities”, made out of anything are gone!

    • My thoughts and experience exactly! Leather, IMO, is way over-rated. If you have a properly formed and well fitting Kydex holster, it’s the way to go!! I paid $65 for a “custom fitted” leather holster by Crossbreed. Supposedly one of the best “handmade leather” holsters available. I should’ve returned it…my bad!!

  10. I go both ways. Kydex and leather CrossBreed or Blackpoint for the Five SeveN and a leather double shoulder rig for the the .357 and Five SeveN both. Yeah, I intend to drop the really nice revolver if/when it runs empty. I very much hope that never happens – I like the gun too much;-)

  11. Leather, leather, leather. Nothing worse than announcing your draw with a plastic click-clunk. A leather holster requires love and attention, which it pays back in spades. Plastic is for children, leather is for men.

    • “Nothing worse than announcing your draw with a plastic click-clunk.” How about getting burned alive or marrying Denis Rodman? I don’t want to touch your last sentence. There is much danger there.

      • Not all Kydex “clicks” when drawing your gun. Personally, I prefer the adjustable Kydex holsters, which are quiet when drawn. I live in AZ and see temps of 120*F. The leather holsters out here turn to a flimsy piece of crap in this heat and when saturated with sweat. I’m not looking for a fashion statement and carry concealed most all of the time. I want functionality. I don’t care how bitchin’ my leather holster looks. I ordered a “nice looking” custom leather Crossbreed when I first bought this gun. Ya know, “leather is just the greatest…” remarks on some sites like this and fell for it. Crap, I bet those of you concerned how your holster looks could order a “Dooney & Bourke” leather holster. My wife will only buy that brand of purse due to her fashion concerns and wants to, ya know, “look good.” The Kydex holster, made specifically for my XDm holds the pistol in close and stays that way, it’s more comfortable than my “custom” Crossbreed, less bulky than the most leather holsters I’ve seen, and doesn’t lose it’s shape, fit, etc., from hours of heat and sweat. BTW, I’m not into sniffing my holster either, LOL, as someone cited as a reason to choose leather over Kydex, back up in this forum. Hey, to each their own!!

    • Yeah I can’t tell you how many people have told me how loud I am am drawing my gun in public because of the plastic. Happens all the time. Seriously. It’s crazy.

    • If you’re drawing your gun, that click is probably going to be rather quickly overshadowed by a much louder noise.

  12. Different holsters for different applications. I use leather for IWB, kydex for my duty holster, a nice little nylon set up for OWB if I’m bringing my 9 on a hike. I like options…

    Also I’ve been using my simple as hell leather holster for IWB for 5 years, and it is in fine condition. No damage. I don’t even practice maintenance on it. I wear it every day. I’m not sure what people are getting into that their leather is getting destroyed. Then again, relatively cold climate except for summer, and I only go out at night generally…

  13. As for sound – my duty holster is a safari land kydex holster with a suede interior – locking – and there is no click if you take a little care. Smooth quiet draw as well. 7 years I’ve used it.

  14. kydex retention is impressive. cross breed advised me on how to adjust retention using a hairdryer in an email. it worked too well and i had to relax it some. cz75 is alot of weight for a single clip freedom carry, but it works great. the belt does the lions share of the work. so that one is plastic and leather. horsehide. the clip being behind the firearm rather than placed on the snout of the holster is a feature i would encourage others to look for. really pulls the handle in tight.
    i won’t do an all plastic holster for iwb. my brain has me tricked into believing that i’m better off with tanning chemicals resting on my skin than whatever is oozing out of that stabilized goo. the fabric covered kydex stuff might be ok until it wears down.
    horsehide iwb for edc. nothing better. and i don’t mean that subjectively. everyone else is wrong.

    • Always look for a leather holster made from vegetable tanned leathers, e.g., Herman Oaks. All of the good quality manufactures use something that or similar. The chemically tanned hides can cause corrosion and pitting on the surface of the gun, and who knows what they will do to your skin.

  15. Nylon 99.9% of the time, i.e. DeSantis Fanny Pack.
    My Blade-Tech kydex IWB marred the finish of my G19 during the first few practice draws. Bad. Love my new black leather OWB holster for occasions too dressy for the pack. Extremely comfortable for 18 hours at a time.

  16. The original hybrid is still the best. Tucker Answer with leather lining. Comfortable, great retention, quiet draw.

  17. Leather, because it looks and works great. Kydex looks like shit. C’mon, even Kydex fans know it. Kydex looks like shit.

    • Leather is more expensive, and does require a bit more care…but leather has character and charm and beauty, leather can be rugged, but it can also be formal, leather can be romantic. Kydex is hard, plastic, and utilitarian. It does what it does well…but it has no charm, no beauty, no romance…and there is just no way ever make kydex formal or even just attractive, unless you cover it in leather…

        • “Form follows function my friend.”

          Is that why you own ugly guns? Wait — you don’t.

        • ‘Form follows function my friend.’

          At some point in your life you’ll realize that you can have both. So why settle for one or the other?

  18. That Kydex crap is about as interesting as a Honda Accord. Oh sure it works, but lets face it, leather is stylish and shows class…even with a GLOCK!!
    😉

  19. Leather OWB for WW2 bring back Walther PPK, Leather Shoulder holster (custom Bianchi) for Grandfathers WW1 1911, and none at all for Great Grandfathers Colt 1903 pocket hammerless. the selection dictated by the weather and what I am wearing.
    I have had a CCL since 1967 issues from Conn. and then from 1978 from Mass and from 2004 from Maine. and the other decider on what I picked on any given day would been my job at the time (in the 70s and early 80s I was a pilot on my own flying each night into small town New England airports in a light twin picking up bags containing checks for processing at the Fed in Boston and also used (dirty or torn)bills going to the fed for destruction and replacement it was this job that qualified me for the Mass. permit ) or where I would be on a given day.

    The most comfortable for me, as I am 6’3″ and 210 lbs, is the Shoulder holster, I wear a sport coat and tie most of the time even retired… just force of habit.
    There is no right or wrong answer to this holster selection use what works best for you and fits your body shape, weapon selection and job parameters. I am sure that for some the Kydex is the optimum choice… For me its Leather or nothing (pocket carry of the Colt 1903 Pocket hammerless in very specialized circumstances).

  20. I roll with an AlienGear hybrid, leather jacket with a kydex shell, far more comfortable than the all-kydex triton i was using. If i was wearing OWB, all leather, all day, but good luck getting away with that in Philly.

  21. After much experimentation I have settled on Kydex for EDC. Just works for me. I also have a Remora for my mouse-sized pocket LC9s.

    I would like some input on holsters, however. I have a concept for a hybrid holster for open carry but I can’t seem to locate a manufacturer to discuss it with. The idea is for a nylon belt and thigh drop that looks like a modern tactical nylon version of the old Hollywood cowboy gunfighter’s (leather) holster. On the drop portion would be a fastening system to attach a Kydex pocket custom fit for whatever pistol you wanted to carry that day. The Kydex portions would be interchangeable so that you could have one for each pistol you own, or just your favorite open carry. Any ideas who might be able to build such a rig?

    You can reach me at…no, that would make RF a little testy. Maybe he could forward the info to me?

  22. Leather. No sharp edges. But GOOD leather. And it doesn’t come cheap, and you have to wait after you order it.

    Rosen, Sparks, Kramer. And so forth. Kydex is a distant also-ran, if you’ve ever had a quality leather holster.

    Is she really gonna dual-wield Kel-Tec P-11s? Wouldn’t be my first choice, but 26 shots between the two is nothing to sneer at. (Yes, they hold 12+1, and yes they’re much more concealable than a Glock 26).

  23. I almost bought a Vedder kydex holser, but they make only a single clip holster for 1911s. To my mind, 1911s are a bit too heavy for that. Other than that, I have one Uncle Mike’s that I bought to protect a Colt 1861 during transport (hey, for $10 you can’t lose), one Remora that had to be modified by work OK for pocket carry, and everything else leather. Good leather needs minimal maintenance, looks good, and is comfortable. I have two High Noon Down Under IWBs that work quite well (smooth side in, coarse side out to assist in keeping it in place), a Kirkpatrick OWB pancake for a Kahr (which is functional, comfortable, and beautiful), a Wolf Ears “cowboy” holster for an 1873 SAA, plus a Henderson & Henderson lined holster for an 1862 Pocket Navy. Finally, a hand carved Slim Jim “barbeque holster” is on order from Purdy Gear that might make it here in time for my birthday that will fit a full size 1861 Navy.

    There is nothing “wrong” with Kydex, and it makes a very solid holster with excellent retention. But it isn’t soft to the touch, probably makes you sweat wherever it touches your skin, and is butt ugly.

    • “But it isn’t soft to the touch, probably makes you sweat wherever it touches your skin, and is butt ugly.”

      There’s nothing ugly about the butt of the lady in those pics… 🙂

  24. Kydex inside, leather outside. This has been a closed issue for those who know what knowns ought to be known.

  25. All kydex. All leather. All suede. All nylon. Half leather and half kydex. Elastic gun pocket with leather+neoprene+suede backing. Leather-lined kydex with leather+neoprene+suede backing. Comp-Tac, Garrett Industries, Raven Concealment, N82 Tactical, Galco, and on and on. I’ve tried a lot over the past twenty years. Not going back to any of it for EDC.

    Breathable backing is where it’s at, especially in summer. The Stealthgear Ventcore Mini is by far the best IWB holster I’ve owned.

    • Thanks for the tip on the Ventcore. Breathability is very important to me and I hadn’t heard of that one.

  26. In general? Prefer leather. Have a Desantis nylon holsters for pocket carry & a Uncle Mike Nylon for Shoulder carry. Kydex, seems more a item for duty gun users & open carry.

  27. If all the guns in American history were made of plastic and all the holsters had been made of Kydex, Americans would not have a love affair with guns. Guns would have all the desirability of Sawzalls or framing hammers. Nobody collects either.

    We like steel guns because they’re not plastic “Cheez Wiz,” as Dyspeptic Gunsmith would say. We like leather for the same reason. Steel, wood, leather — they’re all real. Kydex comes from a lab. A Kydex holster is about as real as silicon breast implants, and not nearly as attractive.

    • I agree.

      I went through all my holsters the other day, when prompted by The Management to organize & neaten up that particular shelf… so I have a fresh mental inventory of what I have. Two nylons, one techno-drop IPSC holster for one particular race gun, and the rest (a couple dozen) are leather holsters, of varying quality.

      When I first started buying holsters, I reckoned I’d buy cheap, and see how it worked out, then buy better if I thought it did. This turned out to be a mistake, because cheap holsters rarely, if ever, work out. Recently, (the last five years), I buy only quality leather gun gear, only quality leather belts, knife holsters, etc. When taken care of leather lasts a long, long time. It doesn’t need fancy tooling, it doesn’t need to be pretty. But my gun leather now has to be quality leather, put together in a quality way. I’m in the process of chucking all the non-quality stuff now; I realized there’s no point in keeping crappy holsters I’m never going to use again.

      I’ve looked at Kydex holsters – again and again – mostly because I have customers, friends and associates who keep raving about them. My reaction the first time I saw Kydex is my reaction now: “Who would want such a thing?” That, BTW, was my first reaction to the first Glock-made holsters in the early 90’s.

      There are applications where, even in this era of modern wonder-materials, I just vastly prefer leather. Example are shoes, boots, belts and holsters. I think nothing of spending $400+ on a pair of good leather work boots (most of my working boots have been made and rebuilt by White’s Boot Co., Spokane, WA). They last 10+ years, and under very hard use, I can send them in to White’s to be rebuilt at a fraction of the cost of buying another new pair for $400. I have a pair for winter, a pair for summer, and a pair for “clean work,” ie, no grease, oil or cowshit allowed. My dressy slip-on boots are Lucchese’s, which I purchased 30+ years ago, and they still look & fit well today. Quality leather lasts.

      • “cheap holsters rarely, if ever, work out.”

        Agreed. In fact, cheap anything rarely works out. As a wise oldtimer once told me when I was a young whippersnapper, “it’s dear to buy cheap.”

    • Just as there are boob jobs and their are boob jobs, not all KYDEX holsters are alike. Click here for The Truth About KYDEX.

    • ‘Guns would have all the desirability of Sawzalls or framing hammers.’

      I realize that like most people you have no idea, but you can do AMAZING things with a proper framing hammer. Swatting 16d nails like flies is kind of addicting.

    • They wear out, for one. And then this can happen.

      For another, many lose their shape when the gun’s removed — which can make re-holstering “problematic.”

      • And therein lies the difference between a quality leather holster and a cheap, floppy POS.

        When I pull a pistol out of one of my quality leather holsters, nothing goes floppy. Quality leather holsters are thick, and they’re wet-molded over the specific gun that’s going to go into them. I have holsters for 1911’s (of both Government and Commander sizes), holsters for Glocks (of two sizes) and a holster for a N-frame S&W. Pull any of those handguns out of those holsters, and the holster stays open, in shape. Yes, they all cost about $150 each.

  28. Sorry its Kydex. no drag on pistola. I was in quick draw for many years, Kydex is the smoothest.. I know leather lovers, sorry. Check it out what is the best.

  29. just bought a thumb break minmini slide for my G43.

    Blade Tech iwb next.

    Different materials for different applications

  30. Leather throughout my career in military and law enforcement, not to mention growing up. Perhaps I just have a leather fetish. 🙂

  31. Twin keltec in a SOB rig? That setup was stupid in Face//Off when Nick Cage’s character was used a leather rig with twin custom 1911s.

    • The Garret Silent Thunder Fusion I carried my LC9s in (before I sold the gun) is my second favorite holster of all time, next to the SG Ventcore. The SG only wins on breathability. The Garrett was a quieter draw.

  32. Leather-lined Kydex from Garrett Industries (Woodville, TX) – best of both worlds, doesn’t wear the finish off and retains its shape for re-holstering. I’ve purchased several over the years for different handguns and have never been disappointed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *