KYDEX Holsters vs Leather Holsters


By Adam Scepaniak, 7/1/2023

If you are in the market for a new holster, there are not only a lot of manufacturers out there to choose from, but also a lot of materials. Depending on the manner in which you intend to carry there are holsters fabricated from nylon, plastic, and other synthetic materials, but the two most common are leather and KYDEX. We here at ANR Design have always been a thermoplastic solution and holster manufacturer which is exactly what KYDEX is; a thermoplastic. We don’t dabble at all in leather for your holster needs – and for good reasons – yet there are pros and cons to everything. Let’s dive into the positive and negative attributes to both leather holsters and KYDEX holsters.

How Moisture Affects Leather Holsters and KYDEX Holsters

To kick this off, we’ll first take a look at leather holsters. One very noticeable trait about leather holsters are that they absorb water and moisture. So, whether that is sweat, rain, or anything else, leather is going to hold water. Conversely, KYDEX holsters shed water. Leather holsters that have absorbed water can become discolored. So, the original stain or color of your leather holster could become damaged or altered when introduced to water. As a result, leather can bleed its stain or finish onto your clothing. KYDEX holsters are not affected by water and will not permanently damage property or clothing. Also, leather holsters require oil to properly maintain the holster over time, so it will not become brittle, crack, or discolored. KYDEX holsters do not require oils, lubricants, stains, or other chemicals to maintain. Leather holsters are utterly unsafe when they are completely worn out. They can accidently fold into the trigger guard and accidental discharge certain weapons. Leather holsters and KYDEX holsters should routinely be swapped out over time, for new holsters. KYDEX and Leather are wear-items, not forever items.

Break-In Process for Leather Holsters vs KYDEX Holsters

Next, let’s look at how stiff or pliable each material is. Leather holsters are incredibly stiff when they are brand new; so, will KYDEX. The differentiating factor is that leather holsters, over time will wear-in and slowly conform to your body. Whatever your body’s contours, rolls, muscles, and shape happens to be, over time leather will form-fit to you. KYDEX holsters, predictably, will always remain rigid like its original shape. This is something to keep in mind when trying holsters on in a store. If a leather holster is perfect in the store, it could become pliable and change over time on you. Moreover, leather is typically thicker and bulkier than leather. A thermoplastic like KYDEX could be made to be thick, but it doesn’t usually provide any additional benefits the thicker you make it. You simply have more mass and material that you then need to carry with you.

Leather Holsters Are More Expensive than KYDEX Holsters

Something else you will quickly notice as you compare leather holsters to KYDEX holsters is the price. Leather holsters, when comparably measured against KYDEX – shoulder holster versus shoulder holster, etc – are significantly more expensive. The reason for the high cost of leather is due to its difficulty sewing, crafting, fabricating, and forming. It is a stiff, thick, and hard material to sew. KYDEX on the other hand is much more affordable because of the advancements in forming it and production. That is why you see KYDEX holsters for handcuffs, firearms, knives, and many more tools we might be using on a daily basis, while leather holsters for those same items are becoming less common. When you think of the material or medium that KYDEX and leather are there are other limitations in color or appearance as well. With leather holsters, you normally are limited in your color range or aesthetic appearance due to the medium of leather itself. Oppositely, KYDEX holsters can have an infinite number of colors, patterns, or finishes applied to it so the sky is really the limit. KYDEX holsters are also much better for Appendix carry. Check out an assortment of our Quick Ship Holsters HERE!.

Leather Holsters are Classic and Have a Place

The one strong edge that leather holsters have over KYDEX holsters (which is still personal preference and an arguable point) is that it is classic. It is iconic, seen in countless movies, and sexy in its own right. In fact, some occupations may even have departmental suggestions or requirements that if your job requires you to carry a firearm that you made need to use a leather holster. An example is office carry like law enforcement surrounding government buildings, courthouses, or individuals with desk jobs. Leather holsters can be objectively classier for office carry (wearing a suit as a law enforcement officer with an under-the-jacket shoulder rig) if appearance matters that much. The weak argument is that KYDEX holsters or variations of black plastic might look too militant or unapproachable.

Leather Revolver Holsters vs KYDEX Revolver Holsters

One final argument for leather is that it affords you the most options in the way of revolvers if you love wheel guns. Leather mates perfectly with revolvers from an aesthetic standpoint and options have been available for decades. While the options for revolvers by the way of KYDEX continues to grow every day, it still pales in comparison to your choices with leather. We do have a significant variety of models offered for our KYDEX Revolver holsters. KYDEX Revolver holsters now conceal the firearm, rather than “holding” it like leather.

KYDEX Holsters are King

Now, let’s delve into all of the reasons that KYDEX is king and is precisely why we at ANR Design are entrenched in thermoplastics. One of the biggest reasons our consumers appreciate is the ability to accommodate a wide gamut of makes, models, and associated accessories. If you have a flashlight, slide-mounted optic, or both, we craft holsters that will house your firearm. That is flatly something leather cannot compete with. Also, the velocity at which we can produce holsters cannot be matched. We have numerous Quick Ship holster options to get you a holster you need immediately out the door. This fast, semi-custom process is because machines greatly assist in our initial manufacturing processes and then they receive a final human touch before they head their way to you.

KYDEX is superior to leather in many people’s eyes because of its lightweight nature, ability to repel water, ease of forming it for infinite applications, safety, and price. From drop-leg holsters to AIWB (Appendix Inside-the-Waistband) to hip and many more, our thermoplastic solutions are unmatched and deployed by militaries across the globe and civilians alike. Finally, we have some of the most rad camouflage prints and patterns in the biz. If you and your range buddy are an even match in skills, he/she will never be able to compete with your ANR style. As always, watch for future content on all of our socials and check us out for all of your thermoplastic holsters and solutions.

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