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Written By
Published Aug 18, 2022 4:10 PM

When it comes to gun holsters, buyers have never had more options, and Kydex or a similar material will be among the top choices. It’s durable, lightweight, and generally cheaper than leather. I’ve been carrying a gun daily for years, and I keep coming back to Kydex. I first discovered Kydex in a shooting competition when I found it to be superior to leather, because it didn’t require a break in period. That same construction also provides extreme durability that keeps it working long after leather would deform under the stress of competition. When I began competing in IPSC/USPSA and Steel Challenge, I would dry fire over an hour every day, and every dry fire exercise began with a draw from the holster. This is far more use and abuse than an average carry holster will see. Even still, I’ve never seen the best Kydex holsters fail in years of competition or practice.

Best for Appendix Carry: C&G Holsters Mod1 Lima

C&G Holsters

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Why It Made the Cut

The C&G Mod 1 has an amazing level of detail, engineering, and more adjustability than most Kydex holsters, and it provides an easy way to carry extra ammo.

Key Features

  • Darkwing stabilizer evenly distributes weight
  • Detachable magazine carrier
  • Works with red dots and/or suppressor sights

Pros

  • Accommodates most gun mods
  • Designed for the human body as much as the gun
  • Several carry options
  • Carries larger guns comfortably
  • Excellent for those who work in vehicles

Cons

  • Some options are pricey 

Product Description

I was amazed at the level of detail that goes into the design of C&G holsters. Holster makers use samples of firearms to make holsters, but C&G also anticipates that your gun is probably modified. If you put a red dot on your Glock, it will still fit. If you place an extended slide stop or larger magazine release on your carry gun, it will still fit your C&G holster just fine. Flashlights and compensators can also fit with the right holster choice.

The shape of the holster, as it conceals the barrel, tapers so the attached darkwing keeps the gun in a comfortable position and prevent uncomfortable hot spots. These two features work together so that the grip of your gun is always in the right place for concealment and deployment.

C&G Kydex Holster
The author’s Bul Armory Axe in the C&G Mod1 Lima. Steve Anderson

Because C&G is local to Ohio, I was able to have a brief conversation with company founder and president Chris Burns. I was mainly interested in what separates C&G from the many Kydex holsters on the market. I swore to secrecy on some of the technical details, but I’m convinced that no other holster company puts this much thought and detail into carrying a gun. He is a former LEO and started making holsters for himself to solve the issues he had with other holsters. For instance, if you want to carry a spare magazine, there are several ways to do that with C&G holsters. If you prefer appendix carry, you won’t find a more comfortable option for virtually any carry gun.

Best Budget: Stealth Operator

Stealth Operator

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Why It Made the Cut

This versatile holster makes an adequate one-size-fits-all solution for a gun owner who needs a budget priced holster. 

Key features

  • IWB/OWB options
  • Engineered to work with over 150 guns
  • Good fit for a generic holster

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Fits a wide variety of guns
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Fit will never be perfect
  • Not as adjustable as other options

Product Description

I was very suspicious of a one-size-fits-all holster because holsters that claim to be so typically don’t fit any gun well. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I examined the Stealth Operator holsters with several different carry guns. Most guns of a similar size are the same basic shape, and the Stealth Operator line proves that you can find a holster that works well with your gun without spending a lot of money. These holsters are reasonably priced and do a good job of concealing your carry gun on a tight budget.

The Stealth Operator line offers several styles and sizes for both IWB (inside the waistband) and OWB (outside the waistband) and are available in black or coyote tan. The holsters are extremely durable but come with a lifetime guarantee in the event that something happens to them.

On the Stealth Operator website, an online chart lists over 150 guns and simply shows how well each gun works with each holster. I would have no trouble recommending the Stealth Operator line after a little research and test fitting to anyone who needs a more budget conscious holster. And because gun stores cannot carry every holster for every gun, the Stealth Operator might be one of few options available for a gun you just bought. These also make an acceptable choice for someone who wants one holster that fits multiple guns.

Best OWB: Safariland 578 Pro Fit GLS

Safariland

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Why It Made the Cut

If you prioritize a secure fit, the Safariland GLS retention system is the best compromise between a quick presentation and a more secure gun. It also accommodates multiple guns with a slight adjustment.

Key Features

  • GLS retention system
  • Fits multiple firearms
  • Comes with paddle and belt mounting systems

Pros

  • GLS (Grip Lock System) keeps the gun secure
  • Safari Seven material helps reduce holster wear
  • Affordable

Cons

  • May not fit perfect for every gun
  • Grip Lock System requires adjusting

Product Description

Though it’s one of the best Kydex holsters for OWB carry, the Safariland 578 GLS Pro Fit excels as a versatile carry holster. Choose the model that works for your specific gun but know that it will accommodate others too. A small screw on the bottom of the holster snugs the fit and makes sure the Grip Lock System both secures and releases the gun when you need. The GLS will not prevent someone grabbing your gun away from you because it’s not designed to do that. But it will keep the gun in the holster until the GLS lever is activated with a normal grip on the gun. 

It also includes both a paddle and belt mounting system for the best gun belts. The paddle simply slides inside the waistband to secure the holster to your body without having to go through a belt. Or you can swap to the belt mounting system with just a few screws.

The holster itself is made of a proprietary nylon blend called Safari Seven which is light, durable, and specifically designed to protect the finish of the gun. But the best part of the Safariland GLS is the GLS system itself. Your gun won’t go anywhere until the lever is released, which is intuitive and adds very little time to your draw. Simply press the lever in with your middle finger as you grip the gun and present the gun normally. Because the holster rides outside the waistband on the hip, you’ll need a slightly larger garment than IWB carry, but any coat or jacket will work just fine. The added benefit of this arrangement is that it works well with larger guns that may offer more ammo capacity.

Best IWB: Alien Gear Roswell

Aliean Gear

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Why It Made the Cut

The Alien Gear Roswell is a slim, minimalist holster designed for IWB carry with a great price that doesn’t sacrifice performance.

Key Features

  • Designed for IWB strong side or appendix carry
  • Available in multiple belt sizes
  • Can be configured to accommodate red dots

Pros

  • Below average cost
  • Available for most popular carry guns
  • Adjustable cant and ride height
  • Optional red dot sight hood
  • Made in U.S. with lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Doesn’t work with third party claw/wing attachments
  • Not available for as many guns as other holsters

Product Description

There’s a sweet spot in the Kydex holster market where price meets performance, and the Alien Gear Roswell IWB occupies that spot. More holsters are starting to feature stabilizer wings, and while they have different names, they function the same. They help evenly distribute the size and weight of the gun by rotating the gun and holster toward the user’s body to improve concealment and comfort. This creates a feeling of weightlessness for your carry system. You can also adjust this holster for the angle of the gun and ride height to fit comfortably.

The Alien Gear Roswell is available in left or right-hand configurations and for belts that are 1.5 or 1.75 inches wide. The belt size is an important and often overlooked option for those whose belts are more tactical than practical. And the optional red dot hood keeps the dot clean and safe during daily carry. At around $40, this holster runs below average compared to most. So, if you’re looking for an IWB holster (and to save a few bucks), the Roswell should catch your attention.

Best Premium: C&G Covert

C&G Holsters

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Why It Made the Cut

If you’re willing to spend a little more for the ultimate Kydex EDC holster, the C&G Covert becomes the obvious choice. This holster is available for over 150 guns, and each model is custom fit to its specific gun. You can even add a magazine carrier if you like.

Key Features

  • Designed for most gun mods
  • Custom C&G belt clips for increased strength
  • Made in U.S.

Pros

  • Most comfort available at a premium price point
  • Accommodates most guns
  • Works with red dots and/or suppressor sights

Cons

  • Pricey

Product Description

If you get the best holster the first time, you only need to pay for one holster. This makes the C&G Covert a no-brainer. Because each holster is custom fit for each gun, finding the right model C&G Covert is quick and easy, and it’s available for over 150 of the best handguns. And because users in this price range are more likely to modify their guns with things like extended mag releases and slide stops, these mods will already work in your C&G Covert holster. The best red dots and suppressor sights are also not a problem in the entire C&G line, and the Covert is no exception. The Darkwing stabilizer rotates the gun toward the body and the beveled edge of the holster body provides even more comfort, effectively eliminating hot spots. These features also make the Covert a great choice for those who spend a lot of time seated in vehicles or LEO.

I tried the Covert with a Bul Armory Axe and was extremely impressed with its ability to carry and conceal a gun of this size and weight. The Bul Armory Axe runs on the larger side of guns (Glock 17 size), and the Covert made the size and weight nearly disappear under my untucked shirt. I have issues with other holster claws not gripping the belt securely but had no issues with the claw on the Covert.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Kydex holster

You’ll need to decide where on the body you’re going to carry the holster, how you’re going to conceal it, and how much you’re willing to spend. In some cases, you’ll also need to decide if you want a perfect fit for one gun or a more generic holster that will work for a few different carry guns. Modifications like flashlights, red dot sights, and/or suppressor sights, will also determine which holster best fits your needs.

FAQs

Q: How much do Kydex holsters cost?

Kydex holsters cost as low as $20 to well over $100 based on holster design and quality.

Q: Will a Kydex holster scratch my gun?

The short answer is maybe. Depending on your gun’s finish and the holster’s design, a Kydex holster may or may not produce what is called “holster wear” on your gun. Most carry guns will wind up showing some holster wear if you carry them frequently.

Q: Can you store a gun in a Kydex holster?

Yes, you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. Your Kydex holster will not retain moisture the way other holster materials can, but only you can decide if long term storage of a potentially loaded gun inside a holster is a good idea. Your lifestyle and local laws regarding firearm storage are more important than the holster material when you need to make this decision.

Final Thoughts

The best Kydex holsters for you are the ones that fit your gun, your wardrobe, and your lifestyle. You may wind up with several carry guns and holsters, or you may only need one gun and holster. While there are many places to buy holsters online, trying on a holster can ensure that you get the fit right the first time.

Methodology

For this review, I visited Vance Outdoors in Obetz, Ohio to evaluate options that the average gun owner will see in a normal retail environment. I also relied on my experience with products I’ve used in the past as a USPSA grand master and shooting instructor.