Holster Materials 101: Kydex vs Leather vs Hybrid vs Nylon

Holster Materials kydex vs leather vs nylon vs hybrid best holster material for beginners 1

So when it comes to holster materials, we’re usually talking about: 

  • Hard plastic (kydex, boltaron, polymer)
  • Leather
  • Hybrid
  • Nylon / neoprene

Each has its pros & cons.

And some materials are better than others. 

And that’s what we’ll explore a bit more in this article.

Ready? Let’s get started…

Hard Plastic Holsters: Kydex, Polymer, Boltaron

You’ve probably heard about these three bad boys – Kydex, Polymer, and Boltaron

But what are they exactly? 

And more importantly, which one should you choose for your everyday carry (EDC)? 

Well, buckle up because we’re about to find out.

What Are Kydex, Boltaron & Polymer?

  • Kydex is a thermoplastic material that’s super durable and resistant to wear and tear. It’s formed by heating sheets of the material until it becomes pliable enough to mold around your gun.
  • Polymer holsters, on the other hand, are made from injection-molded plastics like ABS or nylon. They’re also tough as nails but might not have that custom-fit feel you get with Kydex.
  • Last but not least is Boltaron – a lesser-known cousin of Kydex. It has similar properties but can handle higher temperatures without losing its shape. So if you live in Death Valley or plan on holstering next to an active volcano (not recommended), this might be your best bet.

The Pros & Cons of Hard Plastic Holsters:

  • Pros:
    • Durability: These materials are built to last. Say goodbye to frayed edges and stretched-out leather.
    • Retention: With their rigid structure, hard plastic holsters offer excellent retention so your firearm stays put when it needs to.
    • Easy Maintenance: A quick wipe down with a damp cloth is all it takes to keep these holsters looking fresh.
    • Adjustability & Customization: With Kydex and Boltaron, you can choose from a wide range of colors and patterns to match your personal style. Polymer options might be more limited in this department, but they’re not all completely black either.
    • Security: Generally, hard plastic holsters are molded exactly to the shape of your gun, giving you better fit & safety.
  • Cons:
    • Comfort: The main downside here is that hard plastic isn’t as forgiving on the body as softer materials like leather or neoprene. However, if the fit is just right, comfort should not be an issue.

In summary, while there may be some trade-offs when it comes to comfort, hard plastic holsters are generally considered the gold standard for EDC setups today. They offer durability, retention, easy maintenance, and customization options that make them an excellent choice for most gun owners.

Kydex vs. Polymer vs. Boltaron: Which One Should You Choose?

If you’ve made up your mind about going with a hard plastic holster (good call.), now comes the fun part – deciding which material is best for you. Here’s our take on each one:

  1. Kydex: This is by far the most popular option out there thanks to its combination of durability and customizability. If you want something tailored specifically to your firearm with tons of color choices available, Kydex should be your go-to pick.
  2. Polymer: These injection-molded wonders are also super durable, but they might not have that perfect fit and finish you get with Kydex. If you’re on a budget or just want something reliable without all the bells and whistles, polymer is a solid choice.
  3. Boltaron: The dark horse of the hard plastic holster world. Boltaron offers similar benefits to Kydex (durability, retention), but it can handle higher temperatures without warping. It’s not as widely available as its counterparts, so if you manage to find one tailored for your gun – consider yourself lucky.

No matter what, these materials will all provide robustness and securement. But if we had to pick a winner based on overall performance and availability? We’d say go for Kydex.

Key Takeaway: 


Hard plastic holsters such as Kydex, Polymer, and Boltaron offer durability, retention, easy maintenance, and customization options. They may not be as comfortable on the body compared to softer materials like leather or neoprene. Kydex is the most popular option due to its combination of durability and customizability.

Leather Holsters

Now, let’s talk about the OG of holster materials: leather. 

Since the days of cowboys in the Wild West, leather holsters have been a staple for concealed carry and remain so today.

Leather holsters have their own set of pros and cons, so let’s dive right into them:


The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about leather is comfort.

I mean, who doesn’t love the feel of soft, supple leather against their skin? (No judgment here.)

A well-made leather holster can provide excellent comfort for all-day wear.

Durability & Break-In Period

A quality leather holster can prove to be a long-term companion, providing reliable service for many years. Nevertheless, be aware that when you initially use your holster it might feel rigid and uncooperative (similar to my mother-in-law).

  • TIP: To speed up this process without damaging your prized possession or losing patience with it altogether, try using some leather conditioner.

Style Points & Customization Options

No one can deny that a finely crafted leather holster adds an element of style to your everyday carry setup (you’ll definitely score some cool points). Plus, many artisans offer customization options such as exotic skins or intricate tooling designs if you want something truly unique.

Price Tag

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: cost. Quality leather holsters don’t come cheap (unless you’re into that whole “vintage” thing and find a gem at a garage sale). Expect to invest a good amount for top-notch workmanship – but you get what you pay for.

Maintenance & Weather Resistance

Leather is a natural material, which means it requires more maintenance than its synthetic counterparts. You’ll need to clean and condition your holster regularly to keep it looking sharp and functioning properly.

  • TIP: Avoid exposing your leather holster to extreme temperatures or moisture as this can cause damage over time; if caught in an unexpected downpour, make sure to dry it off thoroughly before storing away.

Retention & Draw Speed

A well-fitted leather holster should provide adequate retention of your firearm without sacrificing draw speed too much (you don’t want any unwanted surprises when reaching for your trusty sidearm).

In a Nutshell: Pros & Cons of Leather Holsters


  • Comfortable for all-day wear
  • Durable with proper care and maintenance
  • Stylish appearance with customization options available


  • Expensive compared to other materials on the market
  • Requires regular cleaning and conditioning to maintain quality
  • May be affected by extreme temperatures and moisture

So, there you have it – the lowdown on leather holsters. They’re comfortable, stylish, and durable (with proper care), but they can also put a dent in your wallet. 

If you’re willing to invest in quality craftsmanship and don’t mind some extra maintenance, then a leather holster might just be the perfect fit for you.

Key Takeaway: 


Leather holsters are the OG of holster materials and have been around since cowboys roamed the Wild West. They offer comfort, durability (with proper care), and style points with customization options available but can be expensive compared to other materials on the market and require regular cleaning and conditioning to maintain quality.

3. Nylon Holsters

If you’re strapped for cash or just want a speedy, effortless option, nylon holsters could be the answer. 

…but hold up. 

Before you jump on the nylon train, let’s dive into the pros and cons of these affordable options.

Pros of Nylon Holsters:

  • Affordability: Let’s face it; not everyone has stacks of cash lying around to spend on fancy gun gear. Nylon holsters are often much cheaper than their leather or hard plastic counterparts, making them an attractive option for those looking to save some dough.
  • Lightweight: Unlike heavier materials like leather or Kydex, nylon is super lightweight. Lightweightness is an advantage if you are aiming to reduce the amount of gear you carry around.
  • Versatility: Many nylon holsters offer adjustable features that allow them to fit various gun models. So if you have multiple firearms (lucky you.), this could be a one-size-fits-all solution.

Cons of Nylon Holsters:

  • Poor Retention: One major drawback of most nylon holsters is their lack of proper retention compared with other holster types such as Kydex ones – which I’ll get into later in this post. Without solid retention mechanisms like screws or snaps, your firearm may not stay securely in place when carried concealed – especially during physical activities like running from zombies (hey, it could happen)…

Overall, we don’t recommend nylon holsters to anyone, unless you need a small pocket holster for specific situations. The security and fit on most nylon holsters out there is simply too poor, and saving $20 is not worth the tradeoff. 

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4. Hybrid Holsters

For those who can’t choose between a leather or hard plastic holster, hybrid holsters offer the perfect combination of comfort and protection. 

A hybrid holster is essentially a mix between two different materials, typically combining a soft backing (like leather) with a hard shell (such as Kydex). 

This combo offers increased comfort while maintaining the safety and retention of your gun. So let’s dive into the pros and cons of these versatile holsters.

The Pros:

  • Comfort: Thanks to that soft backing material, hybrid holsters are generally more comfortable than their all-plastic counterparts. Your body will thank you after hours of carrying around your trusty sidearm.
  • Retention: The rigid outer shell provides excellent retention for your firearm, ensuring it stays put until you need it most. No one wants an accidental “gun slip” situation on their hands.
  • Versatility: Many hybrid holsters allow for adjustable cant and ride height, giving you options when it comes to how your gun sits on your hip. Hybrid holsters offer a lot of versatility, featuring adjustable cant and ride height, plus they work well for concealed carry.

The Cons:

  • Bulkiness: Due to their dual-material design, hybrid holsters can be bulkier than single-material options like Kydex or leather alone. If discretion is key for you when carrying concealed, this might not be ideal.
  • Break-In Period: Just like a new pair of shoes, hybrid holsters may require some time to break in and conform to your body. But hey, good things come to those who wait.
  • Maintenance: With two different materials at play, you’ll need to take care of both the leather and hard shell components. This means regular cleaning and conditioning for the leather part (here’s a handy guide) as well as occasional maintenance on the plastic portion.

If you’re considering giving hybrid holsters a try, there are plenty of great options out there. 

We recommend Hidden Hybrid, and an alternative worth checking out is the Alien Gear ShapeShift Modular Holster System if you want something adjustable. As its name suggests, this bad boy can be transformed into various configurations (IWB, OWB slide or paddle), making it one heck of an adaptable holster.

Key Takeaway: 


Hybrid holsters combine a soft backing material with a hard shell for increased comfort and retention. They offer versatility in terms of adjustable cant and ride height, but can be bulkier than single-material options and require regular maintenance.

FAQs in Relation to Holster Materials 101: Understanding the Pros and Cons

What is the Best Material for a Gun Holster?

The best material for a gun holster depends on your personal preferences and intended use. We recommend kydex, polymer, or Boltaron for beginners as they offer better durability and retention. Avoid nylon holsters, and if you want to buy a leather holster then we recommend starting from a Hybrid model as they have better retention vs. pure leather models. 

What is Better: Holster Leather or Kydex?

Both leather and Kydex have their advantages: Leather holsters provide classic aesthetics, comfort, and adaptability to different firearms; whereas Kydex offers superior durability, resistance to environmental factors, low maintenance requirements, and adjustable retention levels. Consider your priorities when choosing between these materials.

What Type of Holster is Safest?

A safe holster should securely retain the firearm while allowing quick access during emergencies. Holsters with adjustable retention mechanisms like those made from hard plastics (Kydex) or hybrid designs can be considered safer options due to their ability to prevent accidental discharges more effectively than softer materials such as nylon or worn-out leather.

What is Better: Kydex or Polymer?

Kydex has slight advantages over other polymers like Boltaron due to its higher heat-resistance properties, which make it less prone to warping under extreme conditions. However, both materials perform similarly in terms of durability, retention, and resistance to environmental factors. Ultimately, the choice between Kydex or polymer comes down to personal preference and availability.


If you’re not sure which material to choose – go with Kydex for your first holster. 

Our take is that you should look at leather & hybrid holsters only if you find that Kydex is too uncomfortable for you. 

To summarize: 

Leather holsters are durable and stylish but require maintenance, while hard plastic holsters like Kydex offer excellent retention but can be uncomfortable to wear. Nylon holsters are affordable and lightweight but lack durability compared to other materials. Hybrid holsters combine the best of both worlds with a mix of materials. When choosing a holster material, it is important to consider your personal preferences and needs as well as the type of firearm you own. 

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