by Tim Giblin

As many of you know, I’ve taught a few hundred current concealed carry license holders. Many of them are wearing Kydex holsters. There are many reasons for this that don’t tend towards military or law enforcement purposes. For example:

1. Kydex can be readily made to accommodate any gun without a real mold set up, providing low barrier-to -entry in the market.
2. It allows color patterns that would otherwise be exceedingly expensive.
3. Its tension can be modified at home with a heat gun
4. Many models are very modular.

Kydex is available in a variety of thicknesses, however, the material is patented, so no matter what they tell you, it’s nearly all the same stuff. Personally, I really don’t like .06; I don’t feel that it holds up well, I feel for most uses thicker is needed.

There are many qualitative differences in mounting. Cheap manufacturers don’t use rubber o-rings, resulting in cracking. Many will make Kydex loops, which, if done right, is awesome. If done wrong, the sharp edges will obliterate your belt, and create quite the headache to thread on. Few, if any, now ship with the screws “Loctited” or torqued, but it’s possible. Some smooth the edges and make them seamless with glass-like joints.

The issue, which many newcomers don’t even realize, is that due to the flex in the Kydex, the screws will back out.  At TrainIllinois, we have had 4 screws back out since September. I’ve personally had more back out over the last 5 years. So far, since September I have had loose screws on holsters from more than 10 name brand kydex and kydex hybrid manufacturers.

I recommend Raven partially because they are aware of the issue. (They also stand behind their product, are an established company and so on.)  Blue Loctite is included with every holster shipment that Raven ships.

As they explain in their FAQ:

“Are there any special care instructions with Kydex gear?
For the most part, no. Kydex is a very durable material. It will not retain moisture and will clean easily with a quick rinse, or scrubbing of a nylon brush if you feel the need. That said, there are two key points you should pay attention to with our gear:
1) Once your carry settings are decided, you should place a drop of non-permanent thread locking compound on the threads of the hardware. The thread locking compound should be applied after a clean/degrease of the hardware.
2) DO NOT LEAVE YOUR GEAR IN A HOT VEHICLE, especially in the sun. A piece of gear left on the dashboard of a vehicle during a hot day can reach high enough temperatures to deform them. They are still covered under our warranty, but save yourself the hassle of having to deal with this problem by keeping them away from this exposure. Simply putting them in a bag or in the trunk is usually sufficient to keep them from deforming.”

Props to Raven for sending what is needed with the holster. Obviously, as a conscientious consumer, you should read through the manufacturer’s literature before purchasing—Raven makes this easy.

The next thing to consider is that if your holster doesn’t fit the gun just right (1911 fans, be aware that your slides aren’t all the same size), there will be some give. If you put any load on a cheap Kydex holster  it will warp the holster, causing unsafe retention.

When I was still in the USMC, I went rucking every weekend.  When I got my new carry gear delivered, I decided to do  it with my carry gear and my pack. With a 55-pound pack and my waist belt strapped over the Kydex, I had an obliterated holster within 10 miles from the pistol wallowing out the holster.

So be aware of that serious limitation; they cannot survive a load being put on them for a prolonged period of time. The mag pouch did not have the waist belt around it, just looped over the top of it, adding pressure. I lost a top screw out of my mag carrier on the same trip

One last thing that I’ve found is an issue for some. If you have the mag release covered (as some do) and it doesn’t have the proper gap built in, when the holster is flexed (not even necessarily in line with the mag release), you can end up dropping the mag. This can be very disconcerting; please check this before carrying. An easy check is to push on the mag release through the holster. If it unlocks you have an issue.

Kydex is awesome, its not the end all be all of the holster world but it definitely is something to consider. Just like your firearm and magazines its not a fire and forget purchase, it must be regularly checked and maintained.