Causing immense debate between the two sides, much like the mere mention of 9mm vs .45 ACP, Kydex holsters vs leather holsters is a battle between old school vs new school.
Kydex sheets were first developed in 1965 by Rohm and Haas, originally designed for interior use on aircraft. Its thermoplastic acrylic-poluvinyl chloride construction allows the plastic to be both rigid yet formable so it can be molded into various shapes, including a variety of gun makes and models.
Kydex materials chiefly benefit from being readily accessible and cost effective, with supplies available on popular purchasing platforms like Amazon. This accessibility makes it easier for small businesses and mom and pop shops to create affordable holster solutions — an advantage not granted to high quality leather holsters.
“Kydex holster making was made popular by simple DIY videos available online, and the fact that just about anyone can start making Kydex from their home kitchen for about $500 to $1,000,” President of L.A.G. Tactical Evan Prive-Shereck told Guns.com in an email.
Kydex has steadily permeated the holster industry, with more consumers choosing the plastic platform over its leather predecessor.
“Leather holsters are about as dead as the single action firearm for personal defense. It’s just something that is antiquated and doesn’t work as well as the modern option,” Rob Pincus told Personal Defense Network. “The modern striker fired gun in a Kydex holster are the modern evolution for concealed carry.”
Kydex enjoys an array of modern attributes over leather to include durability, retention, one-handed manipulations and ease of maintenance, according to some holster makers.
“Kydex is a ‘set it and forget it’ item. It needs virtually no maintenance while even a high quality leather holster – say a DeSantis Mad Max IWB holster — should occasionally be cleaned and conditioned to take advantage of its full life potential,” holster maker DeSantis said in a blog post.
Though leather is often touted as the more comfortable option, its maintenance and upkeep can deter gun owners looking for an easier means to carry. DeSantis, who sells both leather and Kydex style holsters, said consumers tend to choose Kydex for its function while leather’s appeal usually boils down to just aesthetics.
“If you care about aesthetics and intangibles, you’re going to be more drawn to leather. The tactile sensations provided by high quality, natural leather simply can’t be matched by a synthetic substitute,” the company said. “Leather is pleasing (to) the hand as well as the eye, while Kydex is a bit like a Subaru WRX: it’s not the best looking vehicle, but for sheer performance and measurables, it’s off the charts.”
Though Kydex may not be attractive as leather, holster makers are certainly trying to keep up with consumers’ aesthetic demands with more custom shops cropping up to offer a bevy of color combinations, patterns and logos to appeal to concealers requiring more flair.
“There has been a total shift from everybody wearing a Safariland holster to now all these custom small business companies coming out in the forefront,” Jessica Hazelaar, owner of Eclipse Holsters, told Guns.com. “People don’t want just the black anymore. They want it cool and funky.”
Despite Kydex’s advantages, leather will never completely dissipate from the public eye. Regardless of function or aesthetics, there still exists a contingency of carriers who cling to the artform that is leather.
“Kydex is functional, but leather is beautiful. I never get tired of looking at 1911’s in fine leather holsters. They seem to be a combination made in heaven,” DefensiveCarry.com user Illusive Man said. “The masters of leather holsters are craftsmen and artisans. The make something that is the perfect union of beauty and function.”
There’s a place in the concealed carry world for beauty and that beauty, it seems, comes in the form of leather.