August 2013

Inside-The-Waistband Holsters: Kydex, Leather, & Hybrid Styles

We tested eight of these styles and came away with a new understanding of which ones may be the best tools for the job.

A reader recently asked if we could do a test of IWB holsters and come up with the best balance of speed, retention, and access between Kydex, leather, and hybrid types ó a tall order. But the South Carolina test team was eager to put these holsters to the test because most of us carry a concealed handgun on a daily basis and have a personal stake in the program. The holsters were worn for a minimum of a week and tested by drawing for at least fifty repetitions. We looked at a number of considerations to come up with what we liked the best and what we believe will work the best for most people. But as we found out, everyone is different.

Before you choose a holster, knowing how you will wear it is important. By placing a triple-checked unloaded handgun in your waistband (or better yet, a Rings or ASP fake gun), practicing the draw from standing, seated, and driving positions, you will obtain a better idea of the right holster position for your needs. As an example, some users do not have enough rotation in their shoulder for the FBI tilt in the small of the back, and others are too thin for near-the-hip carry. Drop is related to how the holster rides in relation to the belt, above or below the belt. Most makers offer a choice in how deep in the pants the holster rides.

For our consideration, we deemed access and retention to be the most important points. The shooter must be able to consistently reach the handgun and draw it correctly and quickly. This must be true for a spot on the belt just behind the hip and a sharp draw from the kidney position as well. Of course, the holster must retain the handgun, and the handgun must be in the same position every time the user draws the gun. You should be able to jump up and land hard on your feet without dislodging the handgun. Holstering the handgun with one hand after drawing is also important and was given considerable weight during the test program. Comfort is subjective, but quality isnít subjective when something comes apart, so quality and durability are serious concerns. Is the holster well made? Does it fit the individual handgun correctly? Will the holster last through years of daily carry and practice sessions?

The quality of mounting hardware is also important. With holsters offered with loops or snaps for both OWB and IWB carry, the holsters have to be considered as a system. The mounting hardware cannot break easily and it must fit correctly.

Also, it is no secret that Kydex is harder on a handgunís finish than waxed leather. Bottom line, if you use your handgun and practice often, there will be finish degradation. The carry handgun isnít a safe queen, so degrading the finish cannot be an overwhelming consideration. Just the same, since Kydex retains the handgun by friction on certain points, finish wear is evident. Leather holsters also tend to wear the muzzle, so this wasnít a deal breaker.

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