Kydex builders are everywhere. With so many selling custom Kydex holsters, the standard of quality is becoming diluted. Many people simply don’t know what to look for in a holster so they decide to buy the cheapest Kydex holster they find. There are very few “good deals” when shopping for Kydex holsters. The vast majority of the time, you get what you pay for. There are many custom Kydex builders that build holsters correctly. There are many, many more that build Kydex holsters incorrectly. Allow me to share with you a bit about what a custom Kydex holster should be.
The thickness of the Kydex, Holstex or Boltaron used to build a holster plays a major role in the strength of the holster. The most popular thickness of Kydex material (from our experience) is .080. This is a great thickness with good flexibility and enough rigidity to make the retention a snap. This is our default thickness. The other common thicknesses are .060, .093 and .125. These thicknesses all have a following along with their pro’s and con’s. I don't use .060 due to its lack of strength. I'm not trying to knock .060. It has areas in which it shines. Small knife sheaths and such are perfect for .060. I just don't believe it has what it takes to make a tough holster.
Eyelets and Placement
Eyelet placement is a learned skill. It’s usually learned through trial and error. Many Kydex holster builders learn by placing their eyelets in locations which are determined by the amount of retention that is needed for the pistol. Over time they learn which areas are bad eyelet locations. Others like myself learned by placing eyelets in locations which aid in structural integrity. Neither of these methods alone are able to produce a Kydex holster which has both structural integrity and good retention when the material thickness remains constant. Kydex holsters with both structural integrity and good retention require a mixture of the two methods. This realization came to me while pressure testing holsters made with single methods. One holster popped apart while the other withstood the force but had weak retention. They were both of identical designs, same thickness material and had the same number of eyelets. The only difference was the placement of the eyelets. When a structure is being erected, the columns and beams have a mandatory location and spacing requirement for the structure to be stable. The same goes for any structure or object that requires strength. Finding good locations for eyelets isn't only a matter of retention, but also of structural integrity. Knowing where to place eyelets is the key to a Kydex holster with both structural integrity and retention.
The amount of care/experience that is placed into building a custom Kydex holster is immediately apparent by looking at the edges of the holster. Kydex Holsters should have clean edges with NO tool marks. Cuts, scratches, and uneven edges are a sign of a holster maker that is just learning, has bad quality control, or simply doesn't care. Bad edges are the number one issue with many Kydex holsters. It's such a widespread issue that many people don't realize that Kydex holsters should have clean, scratch-free edges.
Positive & Negative Retention
The degree of retention in a custom Kydex holster is largely a personal preference and varies from builder to builder. Im a huge fan of adjustable retention because it allows me to set my own positive retention. Positive retention? Yes. There are two types of retention. We refer to them as positive and negative retention. Positive retention is what comes to mind when you think of retention. It is what holds the pistol in the holster. Its that "snap" or "click" as the pistol is holstered. Negative retention is the clearance inside the holster for nonessential retention surfaces. When a holster has good positive retention and bad negative retention, the owner of the Kydex holster will be happy........until they notice high amounts of finish wear on their pistol. Thats when they usually blame it on the Kydex holster. Its not the Kydex at fault, its improper negative retention that is to blame. Even with proper positive and negative retention, pistols will eventually show finish wear. Usually the culprit is grit inside the holster that causes the finish wear. This happens slowly over time and only in small amounts. Quick finish wear in large amounts is the fault of the Kydex holster builder. There should be clearance inside the holster for semi free vertical movement until the positive retention is engaged. The most attention to negative retention is needed at the top sides of the pistol slide. Correct positive retention is imperative for safe carry. Correct negative retention will make drawing and holstering smooth and will slow the wear on the pistol a considerable amount.