The inside-the-waistband holster is the most concealable of all holster types, but it is also the least comfortable. The IWB holster rides close to the body, so when the temperature soars, perspiration is thick, and our clothes cling to the body, a leather holster may become soaked with sweat and adhere to the body. Also, a stiff Kydex holster may become uncomfortable in the same conditions. Perhaps, then, a mix of modern material may be the best bet for making an effective defensive handgun wearable and bearable. To find out if they offer a better ride for our handguns, we took a look at four holsters from StealthGear and Comfort Holsters. We found much to like. We also discovered that such comfort is expensive compared to conventional holsters.
We will cover a lot of ground in this review. But since the holsters make the claim for greater comfort, that must be the focus point of this test. Still, we first evaluated each based on its merits as a holster, and our team found these four to be viable concepts in terms of retention and presentation.
So, compared to other holsters of the type, such as hybrids and Kydex, will these holsters exhibit a higher degree of comfort? Are there trade-offs? In this case, any trade-off is minimal. There is no trade-off, we felt, with the Onyx design. The padding does not make the holster more difficult to conceal. The Onyx is about 10 inches across its breadth compared to 7 inches with the Bentley. However, when both are laid on a table, the Bentley is taller. So, if you have a weak lumbar area and need to spread the weight of the handgun out on the back for increased comfort—exactly the scenario one of our raters faced—the Onyx gets the nod. If your belt space is limited and allocation of belt space is important, the Bentley would seem to make more sense. Both perform well, and the Bentley seems to offer more ease when reholstering. For pure comfort, the Onyx seems to be the better bet, particularly if you share the back problems one of our raters had. Since the Onyx costs $25 less than the Bentley, that is also a plus.
As for the Jaguar, Kydex holsters of this type are usually the least comfortable of all IWB holsters. In this case, the gel insert helps in this regard more than the suede backing, we feel, and makes a tough design friendlier. The Jaguar is only about 3 inches across, taking up the least space of any of the holsters tested. It is the most concealable, but in the context of the test, we thought it was the least comfortable overall. Here are further details on each make and model:
StealthGear Onyx, $99
At the same time we tested the Onyx, we also tested the company’s Double Magazine Carrier, $79. We ordered two holsters, each for right-hand access, one for the Beretta 92A1 9mm handgun and one for the Heckler & Koch P7M8. These are very different handguns, and the Beretta has most of the balance in the slide, while the HK has more balance in the handle. We felt this would be a good test with such different handguns. As for construction, the first thing we noticed was that the Onyx looks similar to other hybrid-material holsters in outline, but it differs considerably in specifics. The holster is a Kydex component that is well molded to the individual handgun. The Onyx holster uses a backing that StealthGear refers to as a platform. This platform is the primary difference between the Onyx and other hybrid types. The unique structure of the backing is accomplished by use of a product called VentMesh. This mesh was designed for comfort in load-bearing platforms such as backpacks. It is also designed to keep moisture away from the body. The holster utilizes a type of cell foam that helps with pressure from the weight of the handgun against the body. Another material called Rhino mesh is used in high-contact points. Finally, the VentCore backing is used to help with fighting perspiration. This padding is marked with diamond-pattern cuts throughout its application.
There are areas where this mesh is not vented on the handgun side. Unvented areas protect the handgun from perspiration. There are areas that are padded and areas that are not. As an example, to one side of the handgun is a padded area, and at the lower area, or foot, of the holster there is padding. The Onyx seems designed for comfort, but it also minimizes the gun’s footprint. The padding does not compromise concealment, we felt. The padding compresses when worn. The width of the gun gives a certain footprint and is a constant dimension. The Onyx is as concealable as any other hybrid type and is more comfortable than those worn for comparison, our testers said.
The holsters are screwed on rather than riveted to the platform. However, each holster is specific to the handgun and backing, and there is no easy interchangeability. This is for the best. As illustrated, there is a considerable difference between the size and shape of the Beretta and HK holsters. It would be a waste to make a large backing for a lighter handgun. The back of the holster is open, with the handgun resting against the backing. The Onyx uses a combination of molding and body pressure for retention. When wearing and using the Onyx, we felt that the claims are valid. The Onyx is a comfortable holster. When compared to other hybrid-type holsters on hand, the difference is noticeable. The draw was good and reholstering the handgun after the draw was not difficult. Overall, the Onyx holster has much merit for those who cannot tolerate conventional holsters or simply desire a more comfortable holster. You will pay more for the Onyx than others, but much goes into the design.
The magazine carrier is also a good design. Often, the magazine carrier is worn on the belt rather than IWB, but in this case the carrier coupled with the magazine and light-ready Kydex holster makes sense.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A (BEST BUY)
If we were marketing types instead of professional reviewers, we might call the Comfort Holster Bentley a “Tri Hybrid” for the combination of its materials. There are unique features, but before commenting on these features, we wore the holster and executed presentations to determine if it were suitable for concealed carry and personal defense. It is. The unit features a strong and well-molded Kydex holster that is attached to two leather wings that hold the belt clips. These leather wings are rigidly attached to the holster body. The longer one is flexible, while the shorter wing is quite rigid, though with some flex. This holster is molded for the CZ 75 pistol and used with a CZ 85 handgun. The fit was good. This is a true holster shell that does not rely upon the holster backing for retention. The mounting of the belt clips allows good retention and spreads the weight of the handgun out on the body. There is good adjustment for height and cant of the holster. The rear belt clip is closer to the holster body. This aids in keeping the holster secure on the draw. Compared to leather, there is no break-in period; compared to a Kydex holster, there is more comfort. This comfort is achieved by a suede backing on the body side, which is a good step on its own. But under the suede is a gel-filled component. This is similar to the popular gel insert for shoes, and those who remain on their feet for long periods attest to the effectiveness of this component. But it isn’t valuable without a good pair of shoes. The same is true for the gel-backed holster—the design must be solid, which it is. One note: The adhesive used is quite pungent when the holster is first removed from its packaging, but this becomes less noticeable after a day or two in the open air.
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
The Jaguar is a conventional Kydex IWB in appearance. The holster is set up as illustrated for the FBI tilt. One of our raters has many years of law enforcement experience and feels that the Jaguar, as tested with the Glock 19, featured the sharpest draw of any combination tested. The draw angle helps in getting a full size handgun from the holster quickly, and the draw was sharp. This design is more comfortable than holsters without the suede backing, but not as comfortable as the other holsters. However, it is the most compact holster tested.
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.