For many, holsters for handguns are kind of like tires: many, many people kind of go to the local Wal-Mart or equivalent, walk in, tell the guy/gal behind the counter, “I need tires” and they get what they get, without having put any research or thought into the process. Yet, like tires, holsters have numerous designs, types, materials, and intended uses for different seasons, and it is well worth your time to do a touch of research before you buy.
These days, holsters come in three basic materials: leather, nylon, and kydex/plastic.
Leather holsters have been around for centuries now, and there’s a reason they’re still around. Leather can be but, sewn, molded, stretched, and worked to make exquisite products. It can be dyed with lots of colors, but the primary mainstays in the gun world are black and variations of brown. With care, a quality leather holster will last you many, many years of good, hard service. I have several that I’ve been using for over 20 years, and they are still in beautiful shape, with no signs of backing down. Leather goes right along with walnut and blued steel as the classic way to go. Not only will leather protect your gun and keep it with you and protect it, but it can also be a touch of a gun aficionado mark…a nice high end leather holster will give any gun guy or gal the warm fuzzies! Also in this category, we’ll throw in the exotic animal hides, like shark skin, alligator, etc. The biggest downfall to the leather holster is cost: a good one can run you around $100 or more. Much, much more. But DAMN will it be sexy!
Nylon holsters are made from tough woven synthetic fibers stitched together. Several manufacturers pound these out, Uncle Mike’s ‘Sidekick” like being the most commonly encountered by far. They are very inexpensive, reasonably rugged, and follow more of a “one size fits all” theme. The Sidekick type holsters are generally considered on the “cheapo” end of things in the gun world, and while they will certainly work in a pinch, and you will see many of them in daily use out there, for my money when the chips are down, I’d much rather run kydex or leather. However, bump things up a notch, and you can get one of the best SHTF holsters out there: the Bianchi M12 or UM84.
The Bianchi M12 /UM84 holsters are military spec, and what the US military currently uses for their Beretta M9 handguns. My UM84 will fit a Beretta, 1911, S&W 39, 59, and 69 series semiautos, a The SIG/Sauer P220, 225,229,228,226, 227, etc, and lots of other full-sized autos very securely. It has a cleaning rod built in, too! This is a bitchin’ rig, and I would look at one seriously for a SHTF belt holster. Oh yeah, they UM84R holds 4″ barreled revolvers! It is built with plastic reinforcing, is ambidextrious, and the half-flap design protects the majority of the handgun. Good stuff for bad times.
Kydex/plastic holsters are relatively new on the gun scene. They are made from molded plastic, and are gun-specific, usually being molded to one specific gun profile. They are the epitome of rugged, no-nonsense, zero-maintenance gun holsters. They sure are kinda ugly, and have zero sex appeal when placed next to a nice hand-crafted leather holster, but they do fit the bill they were designed for. They are impervious to normal-use temperatures (don’t sit too close to the wood stove!), they can be rained on, snowed on, dropped, banged, folded, spindled, mutilated, and they are just fine with it. I ran an Armordillo Concealment holster similar to the one pictures above with my Smith & Wesson M&P40C in a one-handed defensive shooting course this past summer, and it held up beautifully, even after some very unconventional use, including using the edge of the holster to catch the rear sight while racking the slide one-handed. The prices usually run in the $40-80 range, making them a fantastic bang for the buck. They CAN break, but it takes work. Lots of it. As with pretty much anything, spend the money, get the good stuff, and it’ll pay off in the long run. The aforementioned Armordillo Concealment, Raven Concealment, Blackhawk!, and many others make good quality Kydex holsters. As an added bonus, if you can locate some ABS plastic and a heat gun, you can make your own relatively easily…I’ll show you how in a future DIY article.
The most neglected part of the holster system is one I’m sure almost nobody puts any thought into: The belt. The belt holds the holster against your body, and has to deal with keeping your pants on your ass while twisting, turning, and conforming to your body as you move. Throw in the fact that now it has a payload to carry (besides your ass) in the form of a holster and probably magazine pouches or speedloader carriers, and you’re asking a lot of a belt. Belts also come in leather and reinforced nylon, and will run as much as a good holster. A good gunbelt can be stylish and utilitarian too…it just takes more effort that looking at the cheapo $10 belt rack at Wal-Mart. Those belts WILL NOT WORK for long…trust me. I have a Bianchi B29 Professional 1.5″ belt that’s served me extremely well for 16 years, and looks and performs as well as the day I bought it. I even still wear it with dress pants. Newer nylon belts are kevlar reinforced, made of ballistic nylon, and are rugged as all get out. Look to Ares Armor, Blackhawk!, Bianchi, Galco, and others for an excellent nylon belt. Spend at least $50-100 on a good belt, and get at LEAST 1 1/4″ wide to fit through belt loops and still stay sturdy. It will pay off in comfort, longetivity, and gun retention! You want to keep your gun, right?
Next week, on “Holster 102”, I’ll go over various holster types and their applications. And, as always, when searching for your next holster on Amazon, be sure to use the Amazon search function in the right hand sidebar; it helps keep this site up and running when you do!
What holsters do you use for your gun carry? I’m a huge gear nerd; let’s hear what you got!