Gunslingers made the leather holster famous throughout the Wild West. They’ve been used by heroic soldiers in wars large and small. Today they are currently used by concealed carry and police officers nationwide. Leather holsters are durable, soft, and comfortable for daily carry. We are going to dive into the use of leather holsters, their history, their benefits, and the current types of leather holsters on the market. Leather gun holsters come in a wide variety of types, sizes, and by a variety of manufacturers.
Although the technology is old, leather holsters have held up over time. Leather holsters have adapted and improved over the years. The technology is hundreds of years old but remains a front line choice for carrying a handgun.
- 1 History of Leather Holsters
- 2 Benefits of Leather Holsters
- 3 What Makes a Good Leather Holster
- 4 Maintaining your Leather Holster
- 5 Types of Leather Gun Holsters
- 6 Top Choices for Leather Gun Holsters
History of Leather Holsters
Dating the first use of holsters is difficult to do. You’d must define what a holster is. Hunters and warriors have always carried weapons via some form of bag or sling. Arrows were in quivers, rocks for slings were in bags, and swords were in sheaths. There is little doubt some enterprising soldier found a convenient way to carry an early firearm. Holsters existed for sure back to the 16th century. The famed pirate Blackbeard carried a brace of three pistols in the 1700s. Leather holsters came to be in the 1800s.
Advances in firearms technology made the six shooter a common weapon in the 1800s. This bred the need for a convenient method to carry the weapon. The leather revolver holster reigned supreme for lawmen, cowboys, and outlaws. Modern hip holsters were born from simple necessity.
The materials at the time were limited, and leather became the material of choice.
Leather is strong, durable, and is easy to work with. It’s perfect for holster construction. As firearms evolved, the materials stayed the same. Police and military forces depended on leather holsters in both daily use and in both World Wars. Leather making and molding techniques evolved over time and holster became even better. Leather remains a viable option for comfortable and dependable carry of a handgun.
Benefits of Leather Holsters
Leather gun holsters present several benefits to the end user. Primarily, leather is a durable material. There is a reason leather is used for making boots and jackets as safety gear. Leather jackets for example have saved the skin of countless motorcycle riders. Leather boots are required for Wild land firefighters nationwide. Leather holsters are just as tough and dependable.
Leather as material is much softer than kydex or nylon. When it comes to concealed carry holsters Inside the waistband is a very popular method of carry. IWB holsters are forced to be very tight to the body, most often pressed against the skin. Leather doesn’t chafe or rub the skin. Even after hours of carrying a gun in a leather iwb holster or hybrid holster it remains comfortable.
Outside the waistband, or OWB, leather holsters are another option for concealed carry. Because leather is a more malleable material it can be clung tighter to the body. This reduces the imprint a holster leaves when a cover garment is in play. The tighter the weapon is to the body, the easier it is to conceal.
Leather holsters also allow you to remove a gun from its holster silently. Polymer holsters, like kydex, often make a distinctive sound when the gun is drawn. This could be important in situations you must draw a gun without drawing attention. There is also what I call the bump factor. If you bump into something with a kydex holster there is a very distinctive sound made. With a leather holster there isn’t any noise. There is also bumping into people or being hugged, etc. When you wear a hard polymer holster it’s noticeable to the touch. When you wear leather it’s less likely to be noticed and is often mistaken for something else.
Leather can also be molded to fit any gun. A good leather holster that’s molded to the shape of your gun improves retention and comfort. So called universal nylon holsters often cause guns to rattle back and forth, and are terrible at retention.
Leather can also be shaped into a wide variety of holsters for a massive amount of guns. In general, if the gun is even moderately popular you can find leather holsters for it. A variety of companies also makes leather holsters, like Galco, Desantis, and Tagua. They come at a variety of price points that make basic holsters affordable and plentiful.
What Makes a Good Leather Holster
Of course not all leather holsters are great at what they do. Some are made quite badly. Instead of focusing on what makes a bad holster it’s a better idea to focus on what makes a good leather holster. You should know where the material is coming from. The two types of leather that give the best bang for buck is steer hide or horsehide. People argue over which is better, but both are excellent choices.
Imitation leather materials can also be quite nice. Neoprene for example is used in place of leather with hybrid holsters. Neoprene isn’t as strong as leather if you were to start cutting and ripping it. Yet, when worn it’s very soft and comfortable. It tends to be a little more affordable as well. Neoprene isn’t used to make OWB holsters though.
A good leather OWB holster is going to need some form of retention device. This device can be active or passive. Active retention will be a thumb strap in most cases. Passive retention is a friction device that can be loosened or tightened via a retention screw. When carrying a gun keeping in the holster is a major concern, so retention is a valuable concept.
Maintaining your Leather Holster
Carrying a leather holster is a responsibility. A leather holster must be maintained like a leather jacket, or a leather pair of boots. Maintaining your leather holster is simple and maintenance is an occasional task. Treating a leather holster is a bit different than treating boots or a jacket.
You never want to use conditioner to treat your holster. Conditioner will soften leather. If your holster because too soft, it will be floppy and have issues retaining your weapon. You want to use so warm water and a cloth with glycerin soap to clean your holster.
If your holster becomes wet, you should allow it to dry at room temperature. If you wear a holster concealed every day it is likely exposed to sweat, and should be allowed to dry every night. Once a month or so you should spray the inside of your holster with spray silicone. A light coating will keep moisture away from your gun, and reduce friction to make a faster draw.
Never attempt to dry a holster in some fast method like using a hair dryer, heat gun, or oven. This will shrink the holster and cause cracking the material. When not in use store the holster in a cool, dry location.
Types of Leather Gun Holsters
Leather can be formed into about any type of holster you could imagine. Leather is a tight, and malleable material so working with is easy. This has created a leather holster for every method of carry you could imagine. Shoulder holsters for example benefit greatly from leather. Leather can be made to make the actual holster, as well as the shoulder straps, and spare accessory pouches.
Leather can of course produce IWB and OWB holster. You can also find leather ankle holsters, back and front pocket holsters, small of back holsters, and hybrid belly band holsters. There are leather automatic holsters, leather revolver holsters, and even leather derringer holsters out there. If you choose to go with leather as your holster material, you have plenty of options.
Just for you, we’ve gathered 5 of the best leather holsters on the market.
Top Choices for Leather Gun Holsters
Relentless Tactical – The Defender
The Relentless Tactical Defender holster is a minimalist inside the waistband design. This leather holster is made entirely from leather. This leather IWB holster uses a single wide metal clip to secure the holster to your pants and belt. Made from bull hide leather in the United States the Defender is a well-made holster.
This holster can be worn in three different positions, strong side carry, cross draw, and appendix. Appendix is a very popular method of carry these days and this holster takes advantage of it. The open top design makes drawing simple and rapid. The gun is held in place by the tension and friction created by the holster being pressed between your belt and you. Once in place it’s going nowhere until you draw.
The Defender leather holster is for small automatics. Firearms like the S&W Shield, the Kahr series, and the Glock 43. It’s backed by a lifetime warranty and is an excellent holster for everyday carry.
Galco Combat Master
Galco knows leather holsters. They are one of the biggest names in the market for good reason. They’ve produced high quality, well designed holsters. The Galco Combat Master is a leather OWB holster for automatic pistols. The Galco Combat Master 1911 rig is probably the most well-known 1911 holsters on the market.
The Galco Combat Master uses what’s known as a pancake design. A pancake design keeps the holster very tight to your body. This improves concealment and comfort of carrying a heavy weapon. The pancake design keeps the weapon tight to your body and makes it difficult for anyone to attempt to take it from you. The open top design also makes drawing very rapid and very easy to do.
The Combat Master uses passive retention. Galco molds the holster around a specific weapon. This molding is aids in retention when you take the passive retention route. Friction is the main retention device and Galco has became an expert in it.
Galco Jackass Shoulder Rig
When it comes to leather shoulder holsters there are very few comfortable options out there. The Galco Jackass Shoulder rig is the go-to leather shoulder holster for those looking to carry with a shoulder rig. The Jackass shoulder rig is by far Galco’s most well-known holster.
The Jackass shoulder rig is incredibly adjustable. This is what makes it the most comfortable leather shoulder rig on the market. The design is also very efficient, it hangs the actual holster under one arms and a double magazine pouch under the other. The Jackass Shoulder rig uses a simple leather thumb strap to retain the weapon and this makes drawing the weapon simple and rapid. The biggest benefit of the Jackass Shoulder rig is comfort. You can conceal and carry a full sized pistol comfortably throughout your day.
Barsony Revolver Holster
The Barsony leather revolver holster is for the classic snub nose revolver. The design itself is a classic revolver holster. Designed for outside the waistband carry this leather holster comes from premium cowhide.
This holster uses a metal clip to attach it to your belt and the holster rides high. Riding high helps conceal the holster under a shirt or jacket. The Barsony leather holster uses a thumb strap that attaches via a simple button design. What’s nice is the leather strap can be defeated a simple movement of the thumb. The thumb falls perfectly into place to deactivate the button when your hand reaches a natural draw position.
The Barsony isn’t a revolutionary holster. It clings to the traditional leather holster design that made leather holsters great. It’s a comfortable rig that is well designed for everyday carry. If you are carrying a snub nose revolver the Barsony leather revolver holster is an excellent choice.
Galco Speed Paddle Holster
The third Galco holster on the list is there for a good reason. Galco is an old school holster company, but that doesn’t mean they don’t innovate. The Galco Speed Paddle is a system that mixes modern and new. The Galco Speed Paddle mixes a leather body with a polymer, injection
The Speed Paddle is available for both revolvers and automatics. The Speed Paddle is an open top design with a passive retention system. The retention system is increased or decreased with a tension screw. This holster is designed for concealed or off duty carry. It pushes the holster higher than average to keep it concealed under something like a T Shirt. This is a great leather concealment holster.
The Galco Speed Paddle mixes new and old materials to create something unique. The Speed Paddle is designed for a wide variety of weapons, from full size automatics to snub nose revolvers.
Leather holsters are perfect for concealed carry, for duty carry, and they still use in the military. They’ve been around for so long for a reason, they work. Regardless of the way you want to carry there is a leather option out there for you.