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Kydex is probably the most popular material out there for holsters right now. In fact, there are so many available that it can be tough to figure out which one is the best Kydex holster for you.
Fortunately, we’ve put together this guide to help you out. In it, we’ll go over everything you need to know to choose the right Kydex holster for you.
We’ll start by talking about what, exactly, Kydex is anyway. Then we’ll go over our top Kydex holster recommendations.
Next, we’ll go over everything you need to know to choose the right Kydex holster for you. Finally, we’ll finish by answering a couple of common questions about Kydex holsters.
Our top pick is the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5. We love this holster because it’s comfortable, concealable, and highly adjustable.
What is Kydex?
Technically, Kydex is a proprietary type of thermoplastic made by manufacturer Sekisui SPI. However, “Kydex” has become a generic trademark and is used to describe other, similar thermoplastics in the same way that Band-Aid is used to generically describe adhesive bandages or Crock-Pot is used to generically describe slow cookers.
Generally, if it’s a plastic holster, it’ll be considered Kydex.
But what does that mean for the holster?
Kydex is lightweight, scratch-resistant, and waterproof. It’s also very easy to maintain. All you have to do to clean Kydex holsters is rinse them with soap and water. Be sure to dry it thoroughly once you’re done, especially around any metal hardware to avoid corrosion.
Kydex can also be molded to create a custom fit for a particular gun. That allows these holsters to fit your gun perfectly without adding extra bulk. You do need to be careful about exposing Kydex to heat since heat can alter the shape of thermoplastics.
Finally, Kydex holsters are available very affordably.
Here Are the Best Kydex Holsters (Our Picks)
Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster
My top pick is the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster.
This IWB holster manages to be both comfortable and concealable. The double clip design helps to distribute the weight of your gun for comfort and concealability.
The base of the holster is reinforced with spring steel to provide durability, plus support for your weapon, yet it’s flexible to fit the shape of your body. At the same time, the neoprene backing panel provides cushioning and breathability while also protecting your weapon.
Fabric lines the edges of the holster so they’re smooth and won’t irritate your skin if you wear the holster directly against your body.
The adjustable cant, ride height, and retention provide further safety and comfort.
And, since the Cloak Tuck is available for almost 600 different handguns, it’s almost guaranteed to be available for your handgun of choice.
The Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster balances both comfort and concealability in a single high-quality holster.
Concealment Express OWB Kydex Paddle Holster
The Concealment Express OWB Kydex Paddle Holster has the standard holster features like adjustable cant and retention, but where it really excels is in the shape of the holster.
It has a full length sweat guard which helps protect your skin from rubbing by your gun’s slide, and protects your gun’s slide from moisture build up. It also has an open face for threaded barrels and accommodates suppressor height sights. Finally, the undercut trigger guard ensures that you can always get a positive grip.
This holster is designed for hip carry on your strong side.
The Concealment Express OWB Kydex Paddle Holster is specially shaped for comfort and utility, while also allowing for accessories like suppressor height sights and barrel accessories.
CrossBreed Holsters Modular Belly Band
A lot of belly band holsters are just soft elastic and don’t provide adequate trigger coverager. This is a huge disadvantage to a holster style that otherwise allows for excellent concealment and comfort.
The CrossBreed Holsters Modular Belly Band addresses this issue by integrating a Kydex shell instead of just a sewn elastic pocket. The leather backing behind the shell allows the belly band to still curve to fit your body while still providing essential trigger coverage.
Since the shell attaches to the belly band via velcro panel, you can actually use multiple shells for different guns with the same belly band.
In addition to the holster itself, the belly band also provides another pocket for storing small items like your ID or some cash, plus a slim pocket that can be used for a knife, flashlight, or spare mag.
It also comes in four different sizes, so there’s one to fit just about any body size.
Belly bands are great in terms of comfort and concealability, but often fail to provide adequate trigger coverage. The CrossBreed Holsters Modular Belly Band addresses this shortcoming with a leather and Kydex hybrid holster shell.
Outlaw Holsters Outlaw Style OWB Holster
The Outlaw Holsters Outlaw Style OWB Holster is interesting in that it has a broad, relatively flat design similar to that of the classic leather pancake holster. This design gives you the durability and protection of Kydex, but with the reduced printing and excellent weight distribution of a pancake holster.
The holster comes in several different options for attaching it to your belt, including a couple speed clips and a paddle. For those who want a slide holster, there are also three different belt loop options.
Finally, this holster comes in a bunch of different colors and prints, so you can choose your favorite. If you’re open carrying anyway, you might as well make a statement, right?
The Outlaw Holsters Outlaw Style OWB Holster gives you all the benefits of a Kydex holster, plus the benefits of the traditional pancake-style holster shape.
We The People IWB Holster
If you’re looking for a basic, no-extra-frills IWB holster, the We The People IWB Holster is a great choice. In fact, it’s one of my go-to holsters for my Glock 19.
It has a single broad clip to help it attach to your belt. It’s fine if you’re wearing an untucked shirt, but it’s a little obvious otherwise thanks to the company’s white logo on the clip. I removed the logo from my holster.
The clip allows for adjustable ride height and cant, and can be used with belts up to 1.5 inches wide. Along with height and cant, you can also adjust the holster’s retention.
The undercut trigger guard helps with positive grip while the open face accommodates threaded barrels. A sweat guard keeps your skin from getting irritated and protects your gun from moisture.
The We The People IWB Holster has all of the features you want from a holster and nothing extra.
Crossbreed Holsters SuperTuck IWB Holster
The Crossbreed Holsters SuperTuck IWB Holster blends the advantages of leather and Kydex into a single holster.
It has a Kydex holster shell, but it also has a soft leather back panel to make the holster more comfortable and flexible. The high cut of the leather even protects your skin from irritation from the slide of your gun, so it can be worn without an undershirt.
The SuperTuck is specifically designed to be worn for strong side hip carry with a tucked or untucked shirt. The cant and ride height can both be adjusted with the powder-coated steel belt clips.
With the Crossbreed Holsters SuperTuck IWB Holster, you get the advantages of Kydex and leather in one.
Alien Gear ShapeShift 4.0 IWB Holster
Our last pick is the Alien Gear ShapeShift 4.0 IWB Holster.
Now this is a great IWB holster on its own and is fairly similar to the Cloak Tuck 3.5, but what I really like about the ShapeShift 4.0 IWB Holster is that it’s part of the larger Alien Gear ShapeShift Modular Holster System.
The ShapeShift Modular Holster System is a line of holster shells and backings that you can mix and match with one another. In other words, you can use the same shell with a bunch of different styles of holsters, from OWB to ankle. And you can use each of those holsters with any ShapeShift shell.
I think the IWB holster is a great all around holster, so it’s a great place to get started with the ShapeShift platform. However, if you want to get a few options to begin with, you can save money by going with the ShapeShift Core Carry Pack.
Never buy a bunch of holsters for different positions and guns again. You can’t match the versatility of the Alien Gear ShapeShift 4.0 IWB holster and the rest of the ShapeShift Modular Holster System.
When choosing a holster, there are a lot of things to keep in mind, not just to ensure quality and utility, but also safety. Let’s take some time to break them down one by one.
Carry Position & Holster Type
One of the most basic considerations is the holster type and carry position. By that, I mean where on your body do you plan to carry your firearm?
There are a ton of different options for this, so let’s look at a few of the most common.
The vast majority of people want to carry their gun somewhere on their waist, but even there you have a few different options.
Inside the waistband (IWB) are the most common. This is a classic CCW position because it’s very easy to hide your weapon under your clothing. Your waistband and belt help to support your weapon against your body to prevent bouncing.
The downside is that having something rigid right up against your body isn’t the most comfortable. Generally, you’ll want to have an undershirt between the holster and your body, but there’s still typically some sacrifice of comfort required.
An alternative to IWB is outside the waistband (OWB) carry. OWB carry tends to be more comfortable because the holster is on the outside of your waistband, so it doesn’t rub up against your skin.
On the other hand, it’s much harder to conceal your weapon, especially if you want to be able to tuck in your shirt. For that reason, OWB holsters are generally better for open carry than concealed carry.
Of course, these are far from the only options.
We’ve already talked about comfort a little bit, so let’s go ahead and flesh it out.
Kydex inherently just isn’t as comfortable as some other holster materials, like nylon and leather, because it’s rigid and doesn’t breathe. However, Kydex holster manufacturers are aware of this and many of them incorporate features to help make their holsters more comfortable despite Kydex’s shortcomings.
For example, some IWB holster manufacturers use a Kydex shell for your gun, but use a leather or neoprene backing because these materials are softer and, especially in the case of neoprene, more breathable.
Even with these types of features, I always suggest making sure you have a layer of fabric between your body and any holster, especially Kydex holsters. Undershirts and other clothing helps protect your skin against rubbing and moisture buildup.
A good fit is also important when it comes to holster comfort. If the holster stays in place and evenly distributes the weight of your firearm, it’s much less noticable and therefore more comfortable for you to wear.
It’s often tempting to just ignore comfort, but don’t fall into that trap, especially for your CCW. If a holster isn’t comfortable, you’re far more likely to just leave it, and your gun, at home and then what’s the point of getting the holster in the first place?
Retention is the first of a few important safety features that we need to talk about.
Your holster must hold your gun securely in place so that it cannot come out accidentally. Whether you’re sitting, standing, falling over, or doing a cartwheel, your gun shouldn’t come out of your holster.
At the same time, you need to be able to easily pull your gun from your holster when it comes time to use it.
Kydex holsters are great for striking the perfect balance between these two because they typically have adjustable passive retention systems. So what does that mean?
Well, a passive retention system means that the holster uses friction to secure the gun in place, as opposed to a strap or other restraint. In this type of system, the weight of the gun isn’t sufficient to overcome the friction, but you can easily apply enough force to remove the gun yourself.
Since it’s adjustable, you can increase or decrease the amount of friction, usually with screws and a hex key. That way you can choose the balance between security and easy removal that works for you.
Trigger coverage is absolutely non-negotiable. The holster must completely cover the trigger so that it can’t be manipulated while the gun is in the holster. This is an essential feature to avoid accidental discharge.
The good news is that since Kydex is hard, it’s really simple for manufacturers to make holsters that provide adequate trigger coverage. All they have to do is make sure the holster comes up high enough to cover the trigger guard. That means it harder to find a Kydex holster that doesn’t provide adequate trigger coverage than one that does.
Next, a holster should allow for a positive grip. What’s that mean, you ask?
Well, when you go to draw your holster, you should be able to draw your gun with your hand in a ready-to-shoot position. This should be true whatever position you draw from, even in close quarters and small spaces.
The ability to draw this way saves valuable time in a combat situation, when even fractions of a second can be the difference between life and death. Even for range shooting and competition, being able to draw with a positive grip is just more comfortable and convenient.
Concealability is obviously incredibly important if you’re looking for a holster that you can concealed carry with. If you just want a holster to take to the range, concealability isn’t really that important.
As we mentioned above when we talked about holster types, some types of holsters are easier to conceal than others. Generally, if you’re looking for a concealed carry holster, you want an IWB, belly band, or shoulder holster. Depending on the size of your gun, ankle and pocket holsters can also be feasible options. Drop thigh holsters and OWB holsters tend to be less concealable options.
However, the holster type is just one factor.
The types of clothing that you wear also makes a difference. For example, a shoulder holster is generally only very concealable if you wear a jacket. On the other hand, thigh holsters can be very concealable if you wear skirts or dresses.
Similarly, both your frame and your gun’s frame matter. The bigger the gun and the smaller your build, the harder it will be for you to conceal your weapon.
I’m a bigger guy, so I can generally conceal pretty easily, even with full sized guns. My wife, on the other hand, is quite petite. She has has to be thoughtful about how she conceals her Glock 19 on her waist, so she’s not about to bother with a full-sized weapon.
By virtue of the material, Kydex holsters are already very durable, both waterproof and scratch-resistant. However, all Kydex isn’t created equal. In general, if you get a Kydex holster from a reputable manufacturer, you shouldn’t need to worry about durability.
For extra assurance, though, look for a holster that is injection molded, as these are the most durable.
The weak point for durability on a Kydex holster is actually the hardware. Steel hardware is strong, but it can rust, so you’ll want to make sure you keep it clean and dry.
Now let’s talk about a couple of common questions about Kydex holsters.
Scuffs and scratches are one of the most frequently cited downsides of Kydex holsters. However, the reality is a bit more complicated than some would suggest.
For one, the gun’s finish matters. Some finishes scuff and scratch more easily than others. A properly applied Cerakote finish, for example, shouldn’t experience any damage from being holstered and drawn.
Second, if you choose a well-made Kydex holster, the retention system will rely on the trigger guide, not the slide. This reduces the surface area in contact with the holster and therefore minimizes the opportunity for scratches.
A well-made Kydex holster will also have a smooth interior. This, coupled with regularly cleaning the inside of your holster to remove dust and debris, helps reduce friction, which is what causes the scratches and scuffs.
Finally, leather isn’t immune to leaving rub marks either. Repeated contact between two surfaces will, eventually, result in marks. This is something to be mindful of when you buy any holster, not just a Kydex one.
Some people who are new to the world of gun holsters mistake Kydex for a brand of holsters. In reality, Kydex is a specific brand of thermoplastics that has also become a generic term for polymers in general. In other words, Kydex is a material, like leather or nylon.
Kydex brand thermoplastics are very high-quality, but so are most thermoplastics used by reputable holster manufacturers, like the ones recommended here.
Hopefully, by now you know everything that you need to know in order to choose the best Kydex holster for you.
Our top pick is the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5.
This holster has all the important safety features that we need from a Kydex holster like adjustable retention, adjustable cant to assure a positive grip, and adequate trigger coverage.
Plus, the neoprene backing and lined edges make this holster more comfortable. The IWB style and slender clips make this holster much easier to conceal. Finally, the double clips help distribute the weight of your gun across your waistband to make the holster even more comfortable.
However, no holster is best for all people and all seven of the holster we’ve recommended here are excellent quality. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but with the information provided here, you should be able to determine which one is best for you.
Corporal Dalton is a former Infantry Rifleman who served with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. After leaving the Marine Corps, he started an online business where he focuses on teaching self-defense tactics. His two major passions are hiking and shooting guns. He has been a member of the NRA since he was 6 years old and is a strong supporter of the second amendment.