Before you start learning how to make a Kydex holster, it is important that you know what to expect. You should conduct in-depth research into exactly what Kydex is, the advantages of choosing this material and how it compares to other options. Kydex holsters have been around for longer than many people might realize. They were first invented back in the early 70s by a former FBI agent, Bill Rogers.
Since then, Kydex has been used to make various holsters as well as knife sheaths. Today, gun owners and enthusiasts can create their own custom designs to suit their firearm.
Kydex was initially produced back in 1965, and it was intended for use in the interiors of planes. It is a composite material made from acrylic-polyvinyl chloride. The acrylic aspect gives this material its rigid nature while the PVC makes the material tough and resistant with a good finish.
When researching how to make Kydex holsters, you will notice that there are different kinds of Kydex available. They range in thickness from 0.028 to 0.500, and each thickness suits a different purpose. Some of the top uses for Kydex include holsters, knife sheaths, door liners, safety helmets, air exhaust systems, and kick plates – to name but a few. For holsters, the recommended thickness ranges from 0.060 to 0.125.
Of all the materials used to make holsters, Kydex is fast becoming a public favorite. It is available in various colors so you can make a few in different shades and even two-tone holsters to suit various outfits.
What are the advantages?
There are many benefits to choosing Kydex. Your research on how to make Kydex a holster will reveal plenty of advantages of this versatile material. Some of the main advantages of making a Kydex holster include the following:
- The material is waterproof.
- They don’t shrink or stretch which means that they hold their shape really well.
- Lower amount of friction compared to other holster materials.
- Kydex is thin, but this does not in any way affect its durability and strength.
- The lightweight nature of this material makes it suitable for everyday use.
- Kydex will not rot if you get it wet on occasion.
- Kydex does not require too much special attention.
- You can make your holster with adjustable retention. This means that you can isolate and minimize the retention area which will reduce the wear.
- You can shape and make adjustments to Kydex so that drawing and re-holstering your gun is easier and faster. If you flare the entry point, you can make your life a lot easier, and you can even do so while seated. This will make it possible to draw and holster your gun with one hand rather than two.
- Kydex holds up really well against scratching, sweat, and other external factors.
- Kydex is easy to clean and keep looking great.
- One holster can have several configurations which makes it highly versatile.
- Kydex is one of the most economical holsters available.
How Kydex compares to leather
Despite the large number of gun owners interested in buying or learning how Kydex holsters are made, there are still some skeptics out there who try to argue that leather is the superior choice. Before making any snap judgments, firearm enthusiasts should weigh up the pros and cons of leather versus Kydex.
On the one hand, leather has a classier look when worn with formal attire like a suit and some say that they are more comfortable than Kydex. However, these opinions are changing! On the downside, leather is usually thicker than Kydex and, if you are looking for a custom-made leather holster, you will need to wait for at least a few months. Leather also tends to be on the more expensive side compared to Kydex, and it tends to be a bit harder on the fire arm’s finish. Leather doesn’t hold up quite as well against the elements.
Kydex is lighter, allows for a quicker draw and maintains its shape even when the gun is drawn. On the downside, it might not look as classy as leather, and some say that the texture makes these holsters less comfortable. As mentioned above, the opinions on this matter are changing.
Proper care guidelines
Learning the proper care instructions is just as important as learning how to make your own Kydex holster. Whether you wear your holster every day or only on occasion, it is bound to get dirty. Lint and debris from your clothes and all sorts of debris always seem to find their way inside the holster, and there’s not much you can do to prevent it. You can, however, do everything in your power to keep your holster clean. This is important since the dirt inside can really take its toll on your gun’s finish.
The good news is that Kydex is really easy to clean. If it’s not too dirty, you can simply wash and dry the holster. From time to time, you might feel the need for a deeper clean. Just use some mild soap and rinse thoroughly with water.
Dry the holster with a microfiber or silicone towel. If you use any other materials like paper towels, it will leave little pieces behind which completely defeats the point of cleaning it in the first place. While cleaning your holster, take the time to inspect it for any excessive wear or damage.
In order to reduce friction, you can apply your favorite gun oil to the interior of your holster. Just like oil in a car’s engine, the oil will help lessen friction and wear.
Unlike many other kinds of holsters, the main advantage of using Kydex is that it doesn’t need much maintenance at all.
Make your own Kydex holster
You will be happy to know how easy it is to make this kind of holster yourself and in the comfort of your home. Most of the materials and tools needed to make your own holster are everyday items. If you don’t have all the tools listed below, you might have a friend who will be willing to help you out.
If you plan on making a few holsters, it would be worth investing in your own heat gun, sander, and press.
Materials and equipment needed
- Kydex (choose the thickness and colors according to your needs and preferences)
- Heat gun
- A Press (you can buy one or make your own press – see below)
- Chicago screws
- Sander and sandpaper
- Box cutter / razor blade
- A pencil
Prepare first sheet of Kydex
Start by measuring the size of the Kydex you need. Place the fabric on a flat work surface and place your gun on top. Use a pencil to trace the main shape of the gun. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but you should leave extra space. You can always trim it off later.
Cut the main square of material out with a razor blade or sharp box cutter. Place in the oven and slowly heat up to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If the edges curl or if it starts to shrink, then you know you’re heating it too fast.
Preparing your press and gun
You will need a press to shape and mold the warm material. You can make your own press by using two wooden boards and securing Sheath/Holster Making Foam (Thermoform Molding) to the boards. Use at least four strong clamps to press the two together and keep everything in place until it takes shape. If you cannot find the right kind of foam, you can use a workout mat instead. Simply cut it to size and secure three layers to each board of wood.
For best results, keep the magazine inside the gun. For safety, ensure that the magazine is empty and that there’s no bullet in the chamber.
Use tape to attach a wooden dowel to the top of the gun. This helps keep the sights on the gun safe. It prevents them from getting damaged when drawing and holstering your gun.
Tape up your gun to fill up spaces that could eventually catch and rub against the Kydex. The only part you don’t need to worry about taping is the trigger since you need a snug fit to hold your gun in place. You just don’t want too much friction on the rest of your gun.
Pressing the Kydex
Once the Kydex has warmed up enough and is suitably pliable, you can remove it from the oven. It’s important to protect your hands since it might be hot, and you will want to work as quickly as possible.
Place the material on the bottom layer of your press and position your gun in place on top of the material. Fold it over and into place so it wraps around the gun. Place the top part of the press on top of the gun and Kydex before clamping it firmly into place. Let it sit for approximately 10 minutes.
When you’re ready, open up the press and take a look at the result. If you are not completely satisfied with what you see, you can always reheat the Kydex and start again. Once you reach a result you’re happy with, you can remove your gun from the Kydex for now.
Finishing it off
- Use a pencil to draw where you plan on trimming off the excess Kydex.
- Make marks where you will place your rivets to hold the material in place.
- Use a Dremmel with a sand or stone attachment to cut off the edges.
- Use a belt sander (if you have one) to round off the edges and create a less bulky result. Only leave excess where necessary. The more compact, the better. If you don’t have a belt sander, you can use another similar method.
- Manually trim and sand the edges by hand. This gives it that smooth appearance. Instead of sanding by hand, you could also use your Dremmel to make this process quicker and easier.
- Drill holes where you plan on inserting the rivets.
- Use a razor blade to clean out the holes before inserting your rivets.
Testing your holster
- Remove the tape from your gun.
- Clean your holster and remove debris before testing. Debris has a way of damaging your gun, so you want to make sure that you don’t cause unnecessary wear.
- Slide your gun in and out of the holster to test the retention and make sure that you are completely happy.
- If need be, use your heat gun to warm up certain areas where there’s too much retention and loosen it up. You can simply use your finger to reshape the Kydex and press it out from the inside. Remember to keep your heat gun moving around and heat the Kydex slowly. At the same time, don’t heat the entire holster.
- Test your holster again once you have made the necessary adjustments.
Now that you went through the manufacturing process, we won’t blame you if it seems too complicated. It does require some effort and skill and it’s no shame in going the other way and buying one that’s ready to use. For this, we have a great selection of appendix holsters you can review.
Making your own belt clip
Use a thicker material when making a belt clip so that it is as tough as possible. You might like to make a few extra clips if you want to keep some spares on hand. Line up a strip of Kydex to make sure that it will fit and that it’s not too wide or narrow. Mark where you want to make the holes on the belt clip – they need to line up with the rivets on the holster.
Drill the holes into the strip using your heat gun to heat the strip. When you notice that the Kydex becomes soft, place it on the holster and use your fingers to mold it into place. It needs to take the same form and fit snugly against the holster.
Make a mark where you want the clip to bend. Make sure that the holes on the belt clip line up with the rivet holes on the holster before making your mark. Use the heat gun to warm up this area so that you can bend it over. Allow the clip to cool.
Mark the clip according to the size belt you normally wear. Heat the strip and bend it back again (double back) before allowing it to cool and trimming off the excess. Attach the belt clip to the holster by using Chicago screws.
Other important notes
Remember that this is just one easy way of making your own holster from Kydex. There are other methods that allow the use of two different colors for that two-toned effect.
For comfort and to make drawing and holstering easier, you should ensure that the inner portion of the holster (the part against your body) is slightly higher than the exterior side. By doing so, you will make it possible to draw and holster your gun easily and with the use of just one hand.
If you’re not a fan of the Kydex belt clips, you can purchase metal clips and fit them instead.
When making your first holster, you should take your time and set aside at least half a day to get it right.
Kydex holster durability
One of the major concerns when exploring how to make your own Kydex holster is just how well it will hold up. Gun owners like to weigh up all the pros and cons of their decisions. Choosing the right holster material is essential in terms of comfort, practicality, and safety; safety being the most significant concern, of course. You want a holster you can rely on, and you cannot afford for it to let you down when you need it most.
Kydex has proven really tough over the years, and the only real “complaint” is that the belt loop can break if they are repeatedly flexed. Gun owners should either keep extra loops handy or opt for a fixed tunnel.
Of course, just like anything in life, it will also depend on how well you treat it. These holsters are not indestructible, but they are about as close as you’re going to get!
Power of custom design
After discovering how to make a Kydex holster yourself, all that’s left for you to do is gather all the necessary materials and set aside some time to get the job done. The best part of making your own holster is that you can make the perfect fit for your gun, and you won’t need to wait for weeks or even months to get that custom design.
Making your own holster will also help you save money and you could make a separate holster for each of your firearms. As soon as you notice the wear and tear start to take its toll, you can immediately make yourself a new holster without having to shop around or wait.