Kydex vs Leather Holsters for Guns and Knives: Tips, Comparison, and Expert Opinion
Kydex vs Leather Holsters for Guns and Knives: Tips, Comparison, and Expert Opinion
5 (100%) 11 vote[s]

Recently I have been browsing Reddit and found an interesting discussion – Leather vs Kydex Holster for Glock. I always thought that leather is better than Kydex in any case, but these guys proved me wrong at some point. So I’ve decided to research this subject further to create the review for my audience. So let’s compare Kydex vs leather holster.

What is a holster?

A holster is very important and necessary if you have a collection of guns and knives. Holsters provide safety of surrounding people, but also protect the blade of a knife or gun from scratches and other environmental impacts. There are many different types of holsters. Holsters of Kydex or leather help to wear a gun or knife in the right place: on the neck, on the belt or the thigh. There are also different materials to make a holster and each material has many advantages and disadvantages. But, first, let’s take a closer look at the peculiarities of leather and Kydex holsters.

Winthrop Holsters OWB Pancake Black Leather Holster

Leather holsters: what you need to know

Leather is the most traditional and still one of the best materials for making holsters and sheaths. Leather has many advantages, but one of the main ones is its awesome look. Leather looks natural, pleasant to the touch and even smells good. The best leather holster makers always remind us about the romantic times of pirates and cowboys.

Kydex vs Leather Holsters

Also, the raw animal skin will not make a squeak when you stick or pull a gun out of it. Because leather is a natural material, it will eventually wear off. If water gets in and the material dries out, it will quickly deteriorate. But if you take care of it and lubricate it on time, a leather holster can last longer than a gun or knife itself.

Advantages of using leather holsters:

  • Visibility and softness. Leather is the most traditional material for making sheaths and remains one of the best of the existing ones. There are many advantages when it comes to raw animal skin, but one of the main ones is aesthetics. Leather is a widely known material that looks exceptional, it is nice to the touch and smells good;
  • Traditional look. Leather is the kind of material that connects us to those distant times when strength, reliability, and durability of holsters were valued;
  • Holsters made of leather are smooth and silent. When you put a knife inside a leather sheath or holster, it goes in smoothly, without any noise, the same happens when you put the knife out;
  • But if you take care of your skin and wax it from time to time, it may last even longer than a knife or gun;

Kydex vs Leather Holster

Disadvantages of leather holsters:

  • Leather holsters are very susceptible to physical effects such as cuts and scratches, so they lose their shape and properties quite quickly during use;
  • As leather is a natural material, it will sooner or later become unusable, although this depends primarily on how well you care for holsters. If you jump in the river with your sheath, stay in the sun for a long time, or in the wind, the oil from your skin will go away, they will dry out and easily crack;
  • If dirt gets inside the leather holsters, scratches may appear on the blade. Removing particles of sand or small pebbles from the inside of such holsters is usually quite problematic, as rinsing them with water is not recommended because it can damage leather goods even more;
  • Leather sheaths and holsters used during airborne operations or rope descents must have additional structural reinforcement made of plastic or tinplate to prevent them from being pierced by the knife’s blade in a case of hard landing under any circumstances;
  • You can’t keep a knife in leather holsters for a long time, corrosion may occur;

Kydex vs Leather Holsters

Interesting fact: The seams of such sheaths should also be made of tough threads with special impregnation to prevent excessive humidity and moisture inside this accessory.

Kydex holsters: what to expect

Kydex is a thermoplastic material based on acrylic-polyvinyl chloride compound (PVC) with a high impact strength as well as resistance to high and low temperatures. Kydex was developed in 1965 for the aerospace industry. Kydex is manufactured in small sheets being 1.5 – 2.5 mm thick. Its main feature is that when heated, the sheets become plastic, and after cooling remain in the desired shape. This material is notable for its high strength and water resistance, which makes it ideal for manufacturing various sheaths for a knife, gun, flashlight, and even mobile phone.

Kydex Holsters

Due to its main property – plasticity – when heated up to 800C and the ability to keep its shape after cooling down, Kydex became very popular as a material for making holsters.

Advantages of Kydex holsters:

  • Its greatest advantage is durability. It is shockproof and fire-resistant, resistant to moisture and various chemically aggressive substances. If you intend to dive into saltwater or be exposed to aggressive environments, this artificial material is the best choice for holsters;
  • The dark and smooth texture of Kydex can mask a knife or gun in a holster well;
  • Working with it does not require any special expensive tools, it is very easy to get the right shape without any instruments;
  • Kydex takes the full shape of a knife or gun, other materials can’t boast of such property;
  • Strength of this material ensures that a gun or knife is securely fixed in the sheath without any additional fasteners;
  • Such sheaths are easy to use, a knife comes out of Kydex holsters easily and quickly, without getting stuck in it, as the material has a small coefficient of friction;
  • It is easy to maintain – just clean with water;

Disadvantages of using Kydex holsters:

  • However, such holsters turn out to be very noisy when you put and take out the knife, there is a noisy clicking or ringing sound. Although this is not always a disadvantage, if you don’t mind to hear clicks;
  • The edges of Kydex holsters will wear out if you repeatedly take a knife or gun out and put it in;
  • This material becomes plastic when heated to 70°C and begins to lose its shape;

Compare the main features: Kydex vs leather for DIY holsters

Let’s compare the major properties of these materials for craftsmen who want to make DIY holsters.

Why is Kydex better than leather?

Kydex holsters have many benefits. One of them is rigidity making the holster’s top always open. When you have to remove a gun many times and put it into the holster again, it’s a great convenience. It’s not necessary to use another hand to open the holster’s mouth.

Kydex Holster

Kydex material does not change shape with time (which is good and not so good).

Leather holsters deform with time, take the shape of the body’s part where they are attached, though, sometimes it increases the comfort of wearing. On the other hand, the mouth of leather sheaths is crushed (narrowed) and the second hand is needed to return a knife or gun to a leather holster.

Leather is nicer when it is exposed to the body, but, in the process, it uses a variety of chemicals that may damage this material. Unlike Kydex, most experts do not recommend storing knives in leather sheaths for a long time.

Kydex vs. Leather Holster

Also, when working with Kydex, a craftsman can save time and fabrics.

A knife or gun will stay in this sheath due to the stiffness of the material, it doesn’t need any additional elements to fix it. Kydex has the advantage that a gun or knife can be pulled out of the sheath instantly.

Kydex is completely waterproof, while leather swells when exposed to moisture – if raw animal skin doesn’t dry, it may spoil over time.

Unlike leather, this material does not stretch or wear out, it does not deform over time. Also custom Kydex holsters can easily resist temperature changes and high humidity.

Why is leather better than Kydex?

Leather holsters have a better appearance. Unlike leather, Kydex does not look so attractive. It just looks like a hard piece of plastic that lacks a personal touch.
Also, it is a silent material – because Kydex sheaths click clearly when you insert or pull out a gun or knife.

In theory, Kydex can still break due to heavy loads (especially in such places where the clip is attached, where the holes are drilled, etc.) and it is not that easy to tear leather.

Plastic vs Leather vs Kydex holsters

A plastic holster is no-no choice for any knife or gun owner because it doesn’t offer any secure fixation, like Kydex or leather. Only leather and Kydex holsters can be attached to various items of equipment. Apart from these two materials, some manufacturers still use polyamide IAABS plastic along with the molding method for making sheaths.

Kydex vs. Leather Holsters

However, in terms of durability and cost, most manufacturers still choose raw animal skin and Kydex to produce a large number of items at low prices. On the other hand, when they can offer plastic or metal parts on the sheath – for example, when there is a need to dive being equipped with a handgun or knife. Only leather and Kydex materials become an essential pick for holders to keep tactical combat knives instead of plastic. Only holsters for folding knives are still made of plastic.

Leather sheaths and holsters for folding knives with normal clips can be worn at the waist of trousers but they usually fall to the ground. If someone wants to purchase a leather holster, he or she should ensure that leather is as thick as possible and that the blade sits as tightly in a sheath as possible. It does not matter whether the leather holster is mounted horizontally or vertically on a belt or other piece of equipment, as in any case the mouth of the holster may open and the folding knife will fall out.

Why do experts pick Kydex holsters for Glock IBW?

One of my good friends (asked to stay anonymous) shared his thoughts on using Kydex holsters for his Glock IBW. He has tried many different materials but why did he pick Kydex? According to him, Kydex sheath for a hunting knife is also a very good choice because a knife won’t leave any scratches on this material. If you pick plastic instead of Kydex or leather, get ready that such holsters won’t be completely waterproof.

Winthrop Holsters OWB Pancake Black Leather Holster

Leather holsters are more suitable for guns and knives because they are made of natural material. Such sheath is soft, durable and won’t be easily scratched. He also added that it is rather pointless to pick between leather or Kydex holsters, for instance, you may buy a leather-wrapped Kydex holster and won’t regret it. Both materials make great holsters that won’t cause a gun or knife falling out easily, compared to plastic. They come out of such sheath without any clicks as well, so the snap effect is very moderate.

Final thoughts

As you can see, Kydex vs leather holster comparison is at some point useless; it is still a matter of choice. However, never pick plastic sheaths for your hand guns or knives. Kydex is rather hard to work with, so the leather is definitely your pick if you are going to create durable, nice-looking and cost-effective DIY holsters.


Steve Coltharp
Hello, my name is Steve and I’m an author of the blog “Leather Toolkits“. The beauty is in simplicity, so learn, train, and make your life maximally simple by creating things that will please people for many years. Let your hobby grow into something more and make this world brighter! Hope, in this blog you will find answers to all of your questions.

Related Posts

Leather Seats vs. Cloth Seats: Which is Better?

In this article, we're going to talk about leather seats versus cloth seats. Leather Seats - Main Features [su_table responsive="yes"] Pros Cons Luxurious looking Tend to be more expensive Easy to clean from spills Most aren't perforated Tend to be more supple More prone to slide and stick New car smell lasts longer Difficult to…

Wet Forming Leather

Making some stuff and accessories from leather is a rather painstaking and multi-step process. Wet forming leather is an old technology that hasn’t lost its relevance to this day. You can prepare any leather blank of a particular shape thanks to this method. It’s also possible to form any angles and bends for the final…

How to Sew Zipper on Leather? The Main Aspects of Broken Lock Replacement

Sooner or later, almost everyone is faced with the need to repair clothes, in particular, to replace or repair a levin. Latches are sewn to different products in diverse ways, and natural skin clothing requires special attention since careless work can damage the skin coating and it will lose its integrity. Features of fixing or…

How to Use a Leather Sewing Awl?

Being a dedicated leather craft artist, an enthusiast, making unparalleled belts, straps, horse saddles or knife sheaths, passport covers and pendants; or just a homeowner, you would hardly use an industrial sewing machine. Even if you regularly work on the thick cowhide materials, really durable and inflexible, you would select the hand suturing method, and…

One Comment

  1. I like this comparison between kydex vs leather holster. I think the leather holster is better because of visibility, smoothness, traditional look that I personally enjoy plus it has a certain softness to it. It all makes a good package that makes it stand out.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *