Holster Misconceptions – Leather retention

So this is another likely series of sorts about misconceptions about holsters. So I’ve watched and read allot of content over the years about holsters. What I’ve found is allot of the time there are ideas or concepts that just flat out are incorrect or incomplete. I don’t believe it’s malicious in the sense that the author of the video or article intends to deceive the audience however that doesn’t change the outcome.

Just an example of a modern boned holster, note the deep boning into the trigger guard as well as the chamber of the firearm.

So as I see things that relate to the topic I’ll likely write up a little post about it just to give more information and correct information as I see things. Now a note, I’m a holster maker of both kydex and leather for the last 9 or so years at this point. I’ve learned and know a fair bit about both sides of that coin, but that’s not to say that I know everything. I don’t and I can be incorrect on things but I do know how my holsters are made and why, as well as allot of other guys within the industry.

Alright so on topic retention of leather vs kydex and how it works. Firstly let’s establish that not all leather or kydex holsters are equal. They vary in build quality, materials, and design across the board. There are some very good holsters out there and some extremely poor designs. I will not name names but they exist and if you’ve bought some holsters over the years it’s likely you’ve encountered both to some degree or another.

This is also a hybrid but with less boning and as a result uses the strap as an additional option for retention.

The claim “leather retains the gun through friction, and eventually that friction will wear out”. That’s technically correct in some ways but it’s incorrect in others. So first retention on a modern boned holster isn’t purely friction like a old school saddle style holster would have used. The modern “boning” or molding is actually using the same principle as stamping or tooling in the sense that you’re compressing the leather fibers around a shape. Doing so increases the rigidity and strength in those areas compared to the surrounding area. Also using heavy pressing tends to compress the entire form of the gun into the leather itself. This is done while the leather is wet(this only works with veg tan leather), and the process itself along with the type of leather used dictates the finished result. IE how rigid the holster is and how much retention it has. Modern boned leather holsters will gain most of their retention via the trigger guard and

This design is actually a hybrid while not looking like it, there is more boning on the rear of the holster for retention while the front maintains a more traditional look.

chamber, they will be pressed into the leather so that there is almost a snap of sorts that is in many ways akin to kydex more than the traditional style of holsters of the past. So the friction of the slide against the leather is far less of a factor and again more akin to kydex where you want the leather to barely touch the slide surface if possible.

Now saddle style holsters or at least that’s the term I’ll use to describe them are more traditional holsters, typically made from veg tanned leather also but with little to no forming or boning. Those holsters typically used just friction from the tightness of the holster and the leather itself gripping the firearm. The release from these holsters doesn’t have any sort of “click” and it’s consistent so to speak from when you start drawing till you end. You will also find some holsters that are more of a hybrid of this style in the sense that they will have some modern boning or molding but they rely on more of the pressure based retention. Typically by looking at the way it’s boned you can tell how the holster was designed to retain the firearm.

This difference in leather also plays a big role on what guys are going to recommend. All leather isn’t the same tanning wise, not construction or design wise. So if you recommend the same type of care for a saddle style holster as a modern boned holster that won’t work well. There are allot of other things that have changed over the years with the progression of design of holsters and there can be an argument made that one is better than the other. I personally prefer a modern boned holster, that’s almost entirely what I build. However as a customer you’re in a position to get either one, there are plenty of guys building traditional saddle style holsters and modern boned holsters.

Since this got a bit longer than anticipated I will do a second post later to address the differences in retention on the kydex front as well as comparing them to leather.

Take care!