Which IWB Holster Material Is Best: Kydex, Leather or Hybrid?

Ok, I’ll admit it. For years, I carried my Shield around in a hybrid holster, a Crossbreed Minituck. I bought the holster because it seemed like a good compromise between comfort and retention, and at the time, I had little experience with other holsters.

Things have changed, though, and I know longer carry in a hybrid, for pretty much the same reasons that John Corriea lays out here:

And so, about a year ago, I switched from the hybrid to a PHLSTER Stealth Kydex holster, and I’ve not looked back. As for the supposed extra comfort of the hybrid, I have spent the last four months carrying my Shield one month apiece in a Galco Summer Comfort leather IWB holster, a Blade-Tech Nano Kydex IWB holster, a Blade-Tech Klipt Kydex IWB holster and I also drug out my old Crossbreed Minituck to complete the set, just to see how comfortable each of them are to carry around.

So, what have I learned after wearing different holsters for the same gun for a month apiece?

  • I really prefer holsters with an “FBI cant,” where the holster tilts the gun forward slightly. The Klipt is the only holster that doesn’t have that feature, and I found it very uncomfortable to wear on a day-in, day-out basis. I’m not going to wear it anymore, and in the future, I’ll avoid IWB holsters without the cant.
  • The hybrid holster was just as comfortable to carry as the other two holsters. Hybrid holsters are marketed to be much more comfortable than holsters made from other materials, but my experiences is that cant and position on the belt (straight up 3 o’clock in my case) made much more of difference than what the holster was made of.
  • Safely re-holstering my gun in the leather holster was a challenge at times. While the holster does stay open on the waist to allow it to be re-holstered, but there isn’t the smooth transition between “out of holster” and “in the holster” that there is with kydex.
  • The Florida heat made no difference in which holster was most comfortable, but then again, I’ve been wearing an undershirt since I first moved here, which provides an extra layer of padding.

All of this is subjective, though, so I thought I’d do a test to see which is fastest on the draw. I setup an IDPA target inside and then drew and fired one “shot” close to the Down Zero zone three times from each holster from three yards away, recording the result with the iDryFire2 app. I set up this test to remove accuracy on the draw, and isolate on how fast I could get the gun into play and get off a decent shot. Also, the tests were shot without drawing from concealment as I wanted to get an idea of how the holsters themselves behaved, rather than testing how well I cleared my cover garment.

The results:

 KydexLeatherHybrid
Shot 11.431.551.93
Shot 21.471.511.7
Shot 31.571.641.63
Average1.491.571.75
Percentage Slower-4.89%15.02%

A few notes:

  • Getting a good firing grip on the Crossbreed required a lot more legerdemain than the other two holsters. Even though the holster has a “combat cut” that facilitates a faster, easier grip, it just wasn’t as easy to grab the gun securely than the other two were.
  • The leather on the Galco held onto gun a little more than the other two holsters, resulting in a slower draw time compared to the Kydex, but faster than the hybrid. Now, I haven’t lathered any Draw-EZ into that holster (yet), but that might help even the. score a bit.
  • The “click” you hear re-holstering in a Kydex is a real comfort. No, it doesn’t substitute for watching your gun back into the holster, but it is yet another indication you did it the right way.

So is Kydex the be-all and end all of all holsters? Maybe, maybe not. As I said before, I didn’t smooth out the draw on the Galco leather holster before this test, so that might level the playing field a bit and help smooth the fussiness of re-holstering with that holster as well. However, if you’re currently carrying in a hybrid holster because you think it’s super extra-specially more comfortable than kydex or leather, I suggest buying a quality kydex or leather holster and find out for yourself what you’re giving up in return for pretty much nothing at all.

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