Written By
Published Jun 7, 2022 9:10 AM

When it comes to concealed carry holsters, Kydex is a popular choice. Gear makers have come to favor thermoplastic over traditional materials like leather or nylon because it’s easy to mold to a firearm and any accessories mounted to it. Kydex delivers a superior performance not just because of how well it fits the gun, but because of how well it retains its shape. However, there are just as many Kydex holsters on the market as there are pistols, so choosing the right ones can prove a daunting task.

For this article, we set out to find the best Kydex holsters for concealed carry. Check out our top picks for the best Kydex holsters below.

How we tested

For months, I concealed my Beretta M9A3 with Surefire X300U-B, my Glock 19X, and my Sig P365 XL, and I used the holsters present today to do so. These holsters were evaluated on their price, how comfortable they were to wear, how well they concealed various weapons in ordinary street clothes, and how many different types of weapons the manufacturer would make a holster around. The options selected today were chosen out of roughly 14 other options from various other companies who also produce quality Kydex holsters, and the choices on this list won by a very narrow margin. These choices were also vouched for by experienced shooters who take concealed carry seriously, and in the wide array of Kydex holsters on the market, these are the names that kept coming up.

Anyone can make a Kydex holster for a Glock 19 with a Streamlight TLR-1, but Tier 1 Concealed goes above and beyond. The Utah-based gear maker offers Kydex IWB holsters for most handguns available on the market today with made-to-order options for gun accessories, carry preference, and color. I could end the review there, but there’s a whole lot more to say.

With the Agis, Tier 1 Concealed offers pistol molds of a dozen brands and more than 100 models. It goes past the typical Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&Ps, and Sig Sauer striker-fired pistols that a lot of other companies limit themselves to. It also offers customizable options like concealment claws, wedges, sweat guard height, optic cut, and even offer color options for the front and back of the holster separately.

The biggest benefit to the Tier 1 Concealed Agis Combo Pack, though, is it’s a one-stop shop. At a minimum, you get enough equipment to carry your pistol and one extra magazine all at a reasonable price point. On top of that, Tier 1 Concealed delivers top-notch quality, so your holster will look and perform great.

The Tier 1 Concealment Agis was one of the most secure holsters I’ve ever used and they’re also very comfortable. The design has a high level of finishing around the edges, which is where rough finishing can cause sharp edges to cut into your side over long periods of time.

Although you can customize the Agis in so many ways, there’s only one option for belt attachments. Personally, I prefer pull-the-dot loops, as I find them to be the most secure belt mounts for inside the waistband carry, and they’re not an option on this site.

While the Tier 1 Concealed Agis system might be too much in terms of gear and cost for the novice shooter or anyone just looking for a sleeve to park your gun, it’s great if you definitely know what you want in a holster.

PROS

A complete concealed carry ensemble

Good customization

Rock-solid build quality

CONS

Costly

Overly complex for people who just need a holster

Only one clip option

Best Value

The Tulster Oath is a holster, and that’s about it. That’s not a bad thing if you don’t want or need a billion options for customization. However, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it lacks modern features, and that’s why we named it Best Value.

While the Tulster Oath has an ambidextrous design, it’s tuckable and simple. What makes it great is that it’s optics-ready and equipped with a claw, which helps reduce the likelihood of your gun from printing in your clothes. The claw presses against the inside of your waistband so your pistol’s grip presses into your torso. Some companies charge extra for these features, but you get them as part of the package priced at less than $100. But probably the biggest advantage of the Tulster Oath is that it’s available with no lead times. It’s a quality Kydex holster that will ship as quickly as Amazon can get it out the door.

However, simplicity isn’t always great. While it’s an overall great package for a low price, Tulster doesn’t give you very many options. Sure, it’s available for more than 20 handgun models, but you won’t find a single mold fitted for a weapon light. And while you will find it fitted for a Sig P365 — which your humble author used for this review — you won’t find one for a Beretta M9A3, which may disappoint fans of the now historic design.

For people who carry a popular handgun and just want a holster that works, the Tulster Oath is a great option for a one-stop-shop. Tulster made a great decision to produce holsters for the most popular options on the market, and sell them on Amazon. The only consideration is that you should probably carry an off-hand flashlight separately for low-light use.

PROS

A simple holster for popular carry options

Has many of the features of more expensive holsters

No lead times

CONS

Not customizable

Not many handgun options

Not light-bearing

The full-size Beretta M9 pistol isn’t your typical carry gun. Especially mine. It’s the A3 model, which has high-profile sights designed to see over a suppressor, a threaded barrel, and a Surefire X300U-B weapons light. Plus, I plan to mount a Trijicon RMR on the slide in the not-too-distant future. So, I set out to find a holster that would accommodate weird gun hipsters like myself and ended up finding the Legacy Firearms Light Bearing Cygnus.

The Michigan-based company offers a dizzying level of customization that covers color, carry method, barrel type, sight height, light, attachment option, belt-loop size, concealment claw, and more. Plus, Legacy Firearms molds holsters to more than 150 different handguns, including some I had never even heard of before.

The Cygnus performs exceptionally well, especially proving the concept that I can conceal-carry a full-size duty handgun all day, even with my shirt tucked in, and nobody is the wiser. Due to Legacy allowing me to choose my belt mount system, I chose tuckable soft loops, which allows me to carry even in dress attire with a tucked in shirt, and with a full-size M9 ready to go in the event of an emergency.

The main drawback is that the belt loop option I chose, the tuckable soft loop, only comes with one loop. While it wasn’t a major issue, I’d prefer two for less rotation and movement on my belt.

While you may value the ability to customize a holster for personal preference, customizing it to match your weapon is essential for a self-defense mindset. However, it’s also an investment of both time and money. The company said the wait time for a custom order is 30 business days, and a fully-loaded holster will cost around $180.

While Legacy Firearms offers very customizable holsters priced below other options with less customizability, the real takeaway is that they offer holsters for a lot of different models. It takes a while to get to you, and it’s still not cheap, but for my money, it’s one of my favorites.

PROS

Extreme customization

Conceals large handguns well

Supports a wide variety of handguns

CONS

Long lead times

Costs add up

Only a single belt loop

Most Versatile

The PHLster Floodlight takes a new approach to concealed carry holsters. Instead of molding the holster to a handgun, it’s molded to the light mounted to it. The inherent advantage is that you can use whatever gun you want as long as it’s equipped with the correct fitting weapons light (Surefire X300U, Streamlight TLR-1, or Modlite PL350). Once again, PHLster takes an unorthodox approach and knocks it out of the park.

While this holster is compatible with multiple handguns — no matter the brand or caliber — as long as you can mount a light to it, it’s also compatible with PHLster’s innovative Enigma system, which you wear to mount your holster. It actually made our lists for best tactical belts for concealed carry because it’s just that good.

The downside of this being the only and best universal holster on the market is that it has a somewhat wobbly fit, especially with thinner weapons. So if you prefer a single-stack pistol, you might experience some lateral movement while carrying. It’s not really a bad thing and doesn’t affect the retention, but it might throw some people off.

Another issue is that if you use multiple lights or no light at all, you’re shit out of luck with this holster, as they’re designed for a specific light and only that one. Finally, the Floodlight is a little costly for a single holster that features no other options, costing as much as some other holsters that come complete with magazine pouches and other fully-loaded options.

This is a holster for people who want to carry almost any weapon, and are on the train of having a popular weapon-mounted light on the accessory rail. Unless you have some absolutely ridiculous weapon like an appendix-carry Desert Eagle, the Floodlight will work for you, and it’s a fantastically simple option.

PROS

Almost completely handgun agnostic

Compatible with the Enigma platform

Can be used for multiple weapons

CONS

Some pistol wobble

Not compatible with multiple lights

Costly for a single holster

Our verdict on Kydex holsters

Carrying a pistol for self-defense shouldn’t be complicated, and these options are structured to make sure we have something for everyone. Our best overall pick from Tier 1 Concealment will have you set up in one fell swoop. Our budget choice from Tulster will have you set for well south of $100. My personal choice is the best option for me since I carry an unusual firearm in an unusual way, and it was the best option for me. Every single one of these options is time-tested, and we stand behind their choices. If you don’t see your personal favorite here, feel free to leave a comment, and let us know which holster to check out next.

What to consider when buying a Kydex holster

When buying a Kydex holster, there are some major features to consider, namely the type of holster and how it’s meant to be carried, whether or not it supports your specific firearm, and whether or not it supports your choice of attachments. Another thing to consider is whether or not it features belt loops that are compatible with how you dress, whether or not it has a belt claw or a wedge, and other features that help it conceal better.

Types of Kydex holsters

Appendix

Appendix-carry refers to holsters meant to be worn at the front of your belt, near your appendix. This type of carry is incredibly handy if you want extremely quick access to your firearm in a defensive scenario, at the expense of some torso mobility. This is also a good technique if you want to carry a larger-than-average handgun and still have maximum concealment due to the fact that it doesn’t disrupt your profile from the front. However, if you’re a larger individual, you may find it uncomfortable, especially if you have a lot of belly fat.

Converted outside-the-waistband

This is a great option if you wear a jacket often, or prefer to carry a gun on or behind your hip. This usually consists of taking a holster meant for outside-the-waistband carry and converting it to use things like pull-the-dot loops to mount to your belt. This option also works well if you prefer to have more torso mobility over appendix, but don’t mind the fact that it’s often less concealable than other options, and slower than appendix-carry.

Sidecar

Sidecar-style holsters are for carrying a magazine carrier alongside your pistol. This allows for speedy reloads and easier purchasing, plus you know where your magazine is at all times. The Tier 1 Concealment option on this list is compatible with this option. The disadvantage to this is that the holster will always be bulkier, and can further limit torso mobility.

Key features for Kydex holsters 

Kydex molding and blocking

How the thermoplastic of the holster is formed is very important, and actually affects the retention and load-bearing of the holster. Too loose or coarse of a mold, and the pistol won’t retain as well. Too tight or fine of a mold, and you’ll end up with issues where fine details like cocking serrations cause the pistol to eject a round while being holstered because they get caught on the holster. Details like sights, safety levers, and other features also have to be accounted for, as inferior options have caused handguns to eject a magazine while being carried due to the holster pressing against the magazine release.

Belt claw

A belt claw applies leverage to your belt or waistband to press the pistol grip of your handgun against your torso to prevent undue printing, further enhancing the concealability of your weapon. This is good for people who don’t want to limit themselves to pistols with extremely short grips that limit magazine capacity. 

Wedge

A wedge is a soft rubber or foam piece that presses the holster away from your body to further press the pistol grip into your torso, enhancing concealability without diminishing comfort. This is important to make sure that the plastic of the holster doesn’t dig into your leg as well, which is important, especially on longer-barreled pistols. 

Belt loops

The belt loops of a holster can range from simple clips that go over your belt to elaborate clips and loops designed to attach directly to your waistband. Belt loops are one of the more make-or-break items that can be attached to a holster because while things like pull-the-dot loops have to be used with a belt, tuckable versions can be used with a tucked-in dress shirt, and options like ulticlips can be worn with beltless pants like sweatpants.

Pricing for Kydex holsters 

Kydex holsters tend to cost more than other holster options because it’s expensive and time-consuming to create the mold. 

A budget Kydex holster is a premade holster designed to hold a specific firearm model in stock configuration with no attachments. Because they’re so simple and easy to make, they are readily available and inexpensive. 

A premium Kydex holster will offer custom or semi-custom fitment. They’re designed for specific configurations like a firearm model with modifications and accessories. Making every holster to order is what drives up the price. 

Some other companies like PHLster generally have higher prices on non-custom holsters like the Floodlight, but that’s often due to low production quantities or unusual construction techniques.

Tips and tricks

As with anything that you do for years, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and Kydex holsters. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Generally, keep holsters away from being directly on your hips, as the bulge of a holster will disrupt your side profile and make it more obvious that you’re carrying a pistol.
  • Similarly, avoid putting holsters directly in the small of your back, as if you fall down during a physical confrontation, your pistol may be caught between your lumbar vertebrae and the ground, causing a spinal compression.
  • Wear a good tactical belt designed specifically for concealed carry from companies like Hank’s, Kore Essentials, or any of the other brands listed on our picks for the best tactical belts. This will support your holster and prevent sagging and twisting that can cause discomfort.
  • Carry an extra magazine. While most defensive shootings statistically don’t involve two or more magazines of ammo, magazine-related malfunctions are very common with self-loading pistols, and rather than diagnose the issue when someone is trying to kill or maim you, it’s best to simply change magazines. This is why many of our choices today offer the option of a companion magazine carrier, and why I personally carry a spare.
  • Carry condition one with a round in the chamber. Fumbling with chambering a round in a defensive situation wastes valuable seconds, and introduces the possibility of a failure-to-feed stoppage, which can further hamper a defensive situation. If you use a Kydex holster, carrying condition one is safe due to the trigger being protected by hard plastic.
  • Carry pepper spray. Not every self-defense situation merits lethal force, and I’ve personally been in a confrontation where drawing and firing a weapon would have been murder, but there was still someone being physically aggressive and threatening to harm me. As the saying goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.

FAQs about Kydex holsters

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: Do Kydex holsters scratch guns?

A: Most modern firearms finishes aren’t “scratched” by Kydex, but the plastic may leave a black residue on the finish that looks unsightly. The best solution to this is a little TLC and CLP. Pistols with mirror-polished finishes, gold plating, and so forth might possibly be marred by drawing and re-holstering in any material, due to things like dirt and other debris getting caught inside the holster. If you’re worried about scratching the finish on your handgun, it’s probably not a carry piece.

Q: Which is better, leather or Kydex?

A: Kydex by far is the superior option, offering a degree of retention, full trigger protection, and a perfect fit every time. Leather holsters don’t retain your firearm without things like thumb break straps, and they don’t protect the trigger from outside manipulation or from catching on the edge of the holster, especially as the leather softens. This can cause a negligent discharge, and injure or kill the carrier. 

Q: How long does a Kydex holster last?

A: Kydex holsters last for a while, due to the fact that the material doesn’t soften or degrade like leather. However, parts of the holster like the screws can loosen, and some cheaper holsters can break or crack due to the hard plastic becoming brittle. Periodically inspect your holster for cracks, and if you see them, replace it.

Q: Is Kydex IWB comfortable?

A: No less comfortable than other options. Carrying a pistol comfortably is more dependent on the type of pistol being carried, the carrier’s body type, and whether or not they use things like a proper pistol belt. Things like wedges, claws, and sweat guards further enhance comfort and make your pistol something you can carry on a daily basis.

Task & Purpose and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. We independently evaluate gear by putting products in the hands of subject matter experts. The products we test may be purchased by Task & Purpose, our staff, or provided for review by a manufacturer. No matter the source, our testing procedures and our assessments remain free from third-party influence. Learn more about our product review process.

MORE TO READ