Holster showdown: leather vs kydex for IWB revolver carry

Galco IWB

I really like a good plastic holster for competition and OWB carry. But for IWB carry? Not so much. If the holster is going inside my waistband, leather is better. Now, when we’re talking about leather holsters, I’m not talking about cheap, floppy 25 dollar leather holsters. If you’re going to use a leather holster for IWB, it needs to be well made from quality leather by a reputable company. Also, a lot of the points in this article don’t apply if you’re carrying a flat gun, because it has fewer protuberances than a spinny-middle gun.

Galco IWB

I’ve been carrying a full size Ruger GP100 in this Galco Summer Comfort for a while now. When I’m not carrying that, I’ve been rolling with an SP101 in a Blade-Tech kydex IWB holster. While the SP101 in the smaller Blade-Tech is easier to conceal, the full size GP100 in the leather Galco is more comfortable for all day wear, and it’s because of the way the holsters are made.

Kydex holsters are molded for that specific gun; if you look at a kydex revolver holster such as the one pictured below, you’ll notice that the cylinder bulge is molded into the holster. Depending on how the holster’s made and your carry position, this cylinder bulge can cause a number of issues for comfort or concealment. On the leather Galco holster, the cylinder is positioned above the belt line, which makes the holster slightly top heavy and more difficult to conceal, but extremely comfortable for all day wear.

GP100 AIWB

If the cylinder bulge on a kydex holster is positioned directly under the belt line, it can act as a lever that will push the muzzle end of the holster hard into your leg, regardless of your carry position. I’ve forsaken AIWB and gone back to traditional strong-side, behind the hip, IWB carry. In this carry position, every kydex revolver holster I’ve used pushes the muzzle into my fanny/leg area, resulting in a bruise forming after about 4 hours of wear. Needless to say, I’m not into wearing holsters that do that.

If the cylinder rides below the belt line, the gun will have maximum concealability, but then the cylinder bulge itself can act as a pretty awful pressure point, plus the grip on the gun will be dangerously close to the belt line, which will make establishing a full firing grip difficult. All of these experiences with kydex revolver holsters leave me at the conclusion that for concealed carry, leather is better. Now I say that with a sample size of exactly one leather IWB holster, the Galco Summer Comfort. But it’s also the first time I’ve bought a holster for a CCW gun and thought “man I got this right on the first try.” My sample size for kydex IWB has been a lot larger, and I’ve honestly not found a great kydex IWB solution for the round gun. I have a lot of Kydex holsters that I really, really like for OWB carry and competition, just not for IWB revolver carry.

9 thoughts on “Holster showdown: leather vs kydex for IWB revolver carry”

    1. Maybe sort of. I have an Aliengear, their new one with the neoprene backing instead of leather, for my Taurus 605. Comfortable, yes, but took a bit of doing to get it exactly where I wanted it. I contemplate having a local guy (who is aware of the issues with revolver holsters) make me a full kydex iwb.

      I don’t mind kydex IWB, but I’ve got a fair bit of “padding”. I kind of like my cheap Galco Triton.

      1. I actually have one of the Alien Gear 2.0s on order, right now. I recently got a S&W 66. I was really happy with a Concealment Solutions hybrid for carrying my Glock. Hopefully I like this one as much.

        How long was your wait for the Alien Gear?

  1. A kydex holster can be made with the cylinder above the beltline as easily as doing so in leather. That’s a design problem, not a material problem.

    First one I ever saw was an ad in an Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine of all places.

    Put split leather on the body side and you even get the familiar feel of wearing a cow in your pants.

  2. I love Kydex holsters but not for IWB carry. Leather holsters have just a little give and flex to make their comfort totally superior for IWB carry. Unfortunatly quality leather holsters from the companies I prefer are very expensive. Milt Sparks, Alessi Gun Holsters or Mitch Rosen

  3. I carry a G23 with X300 IWB at my 2 O’clock on the right side of my first belt loop. Because I carry with light mounted, kydex is really my only option. Raven Concealment works great for me. I run a Dale Frick Joab horizontal single mag pouch between my belt buckle and first belt loop. I wear a white T-shirt under whatever outer shirt I wear and I pull it tight with a set of shirt suspenders so it doesn’t bunch up around my holster. Finally I run a set of dickies suspenders under my outer shirt to keep my pants in place. This allows me to run my belt one hole less for comfort while still being able to carry a significant account of gear. I carry a Ruger LCP In my right front pocket and spare mag for that in my left front pocket. That’s my system, been running it for years from the time I wake to the time I sleep. Works great. All my gear stays put, is well hidden and comfortable to wear all day.

  4. I’ve learned that I need a holster that carries the grip close to the belt line, because otherwise I have to practically dislocate my arms to draw anything longer than a Walther PPK. Never had a problem establishing a good grip with holsters that bury most of the trigger guard below the belt.

    But then, I don;t wear jeans from the Junior Misses’s section at Old Navy, as apparently is stylish in some circles. 😉

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