What To Look For In A Holster

A custom Kydex holster for a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 40

So, you’ve bought your first defensive firearm. You’ve acquired your carry permit (or you’ve chosen to avail yourself of Constitutional Carry if your state supports it…) and now you want to wear the gun. You’re looking for a holster, but there’s a universe of options…what to do? With that in mind, I took an opportunity to sit down with Orion Covrett of Vice Industries here in Miami, and discuss what to look for in a good holster…

Q: Thanks for sitting down with me, Orion. To start, What amazes you most when you see people looking around for a holster?

A: It’s crazy to me when I see someone buy a $500-$800 gun but then ask for a cheap holster. Would you put a $600 iPhone in a shitty case? Not usually, unless you give zero fucks. So why do that with a tool you plan on defending yourself with? Most use of force confrontations are in close proximity and hands on… so if your gun falls out when a bad guy puts you on the ground how advantageous is that? Well it’s advantageous for the bad guy to pick your gun up and shoot you with it. You need a holster that is well made, retains the gun and will last you a long time.

A mold for the first step of forming a Kydex holster

Q: I think it’s really important that those who are new to carrying a firearm know how important a quality holster is in the gear equation. What’s your background in the firearms world?

A: So I spent a while in the Army. Which in most people’s eyes would give unquestioned credibility to the company. But there is no part in training where they teach you about holsters. I became knowledgeable by doing my research, studying use of force encounters, developing prototypes with firearms industry experts, and being a person who shoots regularly and carries every day, all day. For something like holsters, don’t buy solely because the company is vet owned and operated ( though you should always support vet owned businesses) Buy it because their shit works and has been tried and tested.

Q: Wow, nice - you’ve got the background, that’s for sure. How long have you been making holsters and accessories?

A: I started making holsters in 2009 in my basement. I did it out of necessity because I couldn’t find a holster to carry the gun/weapon light combo I had. Then friends asked me to make them one, then friends of friends, then after a while I started getting good at it and doing it full time.

Q: Necessity is the mother of invention. Much of the “received wisdom” in the gun world regarding holsters seems to be rather apathetic, i.e. “You’re going to try out a bunch of holsters and finally settle on one you like…”. That could cost hundreds of dollars in some cases as someone buys 3 or 4 holsters and tries them out. This discourages a lot of new people. How does one deal with that?

A: You deal with it the same way you buy a gun… do your research. Also don’t be cheap. A well made holster will cost you $50 and up. Try on holsters at the store, borrow a friends, ask questions, watch YouTube reviews, etc.

Suction conforms the heated Kydex to the holster mold...

Q: Most of my readers think a holster is like something from Miami Vice, a fancy leather accessory - they see a kydex one and it kind of blows their mind. Why kydex? What makes it special over something like carbon fiber or what-have-you?

A: So, some of the old school guys swear by leather. Whatever works best for you I guess. But there are a lot of downfalls to leather holsters. They deteriorate over time, which can turn into a safety concern, they do not retain a gun well… unless they have some sort of passive retention strap, and they absorb sweat, water, and pretty much anything else it comes in contact with. Kydex is a thermoformed plastic that takes the characteristics of your firearm in the forming stage, which means it will form into the high and low points in the gun and create retention. Kydex is also impervious to pretty much anything, and also will not deteriorate over time, which means it will be just as awesome 4 years later as it was on day one.

Q: You can spend $20 on a Uncle Mike’s gun show special universal holster, or you can spend a little more on something purpose-built for your gun - what’s the benefit?

A: If you want to not spend a shit ton of money buying garbage holsters that don’t work, find a quality kydex company and carry their kit. “Buy once, cry once.”

Q: A lot of people ask me about levels of retention, and even I don’t have that committed to memory - what level of retention do you recommend for your average civilian carrier?

A: Retention levels are 1, 2 and 3. Level one is the holster itself retaining the firearm, 2 is the holster and some sort of retention device.. either passive or active, 3 is the holster and 2 forms of either active or passive retention. For civilians that concealed carry level one is perfect. The level 2 and 3 holsters are more for open carry and police officers… they are there so a bad guy doesn’t catch you off guard and can easily take your shit from you.

Orion uses a band saw to cut the excess Kydex from the unfinished holster...

Q: Inside the waistband, outside the waistband, appendix carry - what do you favor and recommend for a regular guy or girl?

A: I recommend you carry whatever is most comfortable and effective for you. I’m not gonna tell you to carry a certain way because it’s what I favor or what works for me…. it may not work for you. But to answer the question completely, I carry about the 4 o’clock position inside the waistband most of the time. I will recommend 3 things though. If you are going to carry, carry all the time… don’t be that guy who thinks “I’m just running to the store so I won’t need it” reality is you don’t get to decide when you’ll need it or not. Second, carry a round in the chamber. You are already at a disadvantage because you have to react to someone else’s action… why slow your reaction time down. Lastly, carry a spare magazine. The first two things to fail in a gun are the ammunition and magazine. So instead of fumbling around, strip out that bad mag, insert the new one and stay in the fight.

Q: I always carry a spare mag - and you know that since you taught me proper technique! There’s a cool instagram I just discovered, @holsterfails … I’ve seen some sorry states of kydex on there. What’s the worst you’ve seen?

A: I’ve seen some horrendous holsters. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific one. It’s even harder to explain what to say away from or what makes a shitty holster but I guess a good rule of thumb would be, if it looks like the craftsmanship is shotty than that means either the holster maker didn’t care about the quality, or didn’t know what he or she was doing. Stay away from those. Also stay away from holsters that feel cheap to the touch… that means the material is inferior and will eventually fail you. If it looks and feels well made, then you have a winner.

Using a rotary tool, Orion smooths out the burrs and bumps from the almost-finished product for ergonomic reasons...

Q: As an aside, what can someone do to maximize the lifespan of their holster?

A: Buy a kydex one. You don’t have to do anything to them. Just clean it out every once in a while and you’re good to go. Just don’t leave it sitting on the dashboard for hours in direct sunlight on a super hot day…. it could warp slightly… but that’s rare.

Q: A good holster is one thing, and it needs a good firearm to put into it. I always ask my guests - what’s your preferred carry piece?

A: So, again, its personal preference but I carry a Glock 19 with either a Surefire X300 Ultra or an XC1. Or I’ll carry a Glock 17 with a Trijicon RMR and Surefire X300 U when I’m feeling fancy. I also carry a spare 17 round mag, and a folding knife (Cold Steel Recon 1 usually). In my bag I have a backup gun of some sort, an handheld flashlight, a blowout kit ( trauma kit) and 2 tourniquets.

Q: That was pretty informative. Anything else you wanna throw out there for the RGG massive?

A: To wrap this up the one thing to remember about carrying a gun is until you get use to it it may not be comfortable… but it is comforting. Carry a quality gun, a good holster, reliable defensive ammo, and seek training regularly. EDC gear (and duty gear if you’re a cop) check me out on Instagram at @viceindustries - Training- there are soooo many out there but if you are in south Florida then check out Direct Action 1ndustries (DA1), TTOG, or DST. You can’t go wrong with any of these. Follow all of them on IG for cool shit and updates.

Thanks again for sitting down with me, Orion. Your insights into this important part of carrying a firearm is insightful and essential. Additional thanks to DA1 Industries for being amazing hosts for this interview.

A finished Kydex holster for a custom GLOCK 17...

Retention is important...