By Steve Tracy
Custom Molded Kydex® Holsters for Concealment or Range Use
Blue steel, walnut handles, and tanned leather make me happy. Despite my affinity for polished blue or glimmering nickel-plated steel frames, black polymer is here to stay. Striker-fired semi-automatic pistols may not carry the panache of the classic pistols and revolvers made of iron and carbon, but it’s hard to argue against the reliable function of today’s synthetic handguns.
The wondrous aroma of a newly crafted, fine leather holster matches up nicely with one of those blued steel guns. The artistry of tooled leather, quality stitching, and a hand boned fit is easily appreciated. Leather works just fine for holstering a plastic framed pistol, but Kydex® seems to match up more naturally with modern pistols.
Polymer, plastic, or Kydex® has become popular for holster use due to its inherit attributes. Kydex® is a thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride produced in sheet form. It’s waterproof, scratch resistant, has low friction, and will hold its shape instead of stretching or shrinking.
Black Rhino Concealment is a veteran owned and operated company that hand forms concealment and hip holsters that are 100 percent made in the USA. Their factory is located in Gilberts, Ill., but they also have a mobile trailer capable of traveling and setting up to custom make holsters on the spot.
My personal S&W Shield is equipped with Truglo night sights and a Crimson Trace laser. It requires a more specialized holster than those commonly available off the shelf. Black Rhino Concealment was able to custom thermoform an inside waistband (IWB) Kydex® holster for my Shield, while I waited at their mobile trailer.
Observing the creative process gave me a newfound appreciation for the handiwork and quality that goes into making one of these holsters. I requested a right-hand holster with a sweat shield to keep the S&W’s slide away from the body. I also wanted the polymer belt clip to be a straight drop instead of canted. Black Rhino can place the belt clip at any angle the customer desires.
Kydex® is available in numerous colors and finishes. Pink has given way to the popular purple for many female holster wearers. Kryptek™ camouflage patterns are trendy and many of their various versions were on hand in rectangular sheets. Instead of basic black, I chose the three-dimensional look of woven carbon fiber. Black Rhino uses only .08 thick, factory first-run material directly from Kydex®.
Rob took my order for their Concealed Carry System (CCS – $59.99) and I watched as John and James turned a sheet of fancy black plastic into a top-quality holster, backed by a lifetime warranty. The first step was to cut the Kydex® sheet to size for my Smith & Wesson. An M&P Pro with 5-inch barrel needs more material to start with than my Shield and a .380 Bodyguard needs much less.
The pistol (or a perfect replica of exact size) is then wrapped in non-marring blue tape that secures a section of wood in between the front and rear sights on top of the slide to aid in the formation of the holster’s sight channel. A square-shaped insert is also used to accommodate the attachment of the plastic belt clip. The Kydex® is then placed in a heating press and brought to a temperature that gives it the consistency of a warm, wet noodle. It is then wrapped around the pistol and placed in between two pieces of conforming foam and clamped down…hard. This molds the Kydex® perfectly to the pistol’s contours.
After molding and cooling, a hole is drilled and a plastic rivet installed under the muzzle area to secure the folded Kydex®. The artistry of trimming away extra material with a rotary tool gives the holster its proper shape. A belt sander and various buffing wheels provide the finishing touches that result in a high-quality, custom holster.
In addition to the holster, smaller sections of leftover Kydex® are used to make a Trigger Guard Holster (TGH – $24.99) with a length of cord tied through a reinforced hole under the muzzle. This smaller cover protects a striker-fired pistol’s trigger from being pulled. Placing a pistol inside the waistband without a holster provides the lowest profile carry possible. However, it gives peace of mind that the trigger is still covered. The length of cord can be tied off to your belt and it will yank the cover off the trigger guard when the pistol is drawn. This also works well for female officers carrying a striker-fired handgun in a purse. The trigger is still covered so the purse’s contents cannot accidentally find their way into the trigger guard and inadvertently pull the trigger.
Black Rhino Concealment stocks commonly requested holsters, but they can make a holster to your specifications for virtually any handgun of modern manufacture that is commonly used for off-duty or undercover police carry. Outside waistband holsters, called the Tactical Carry System (TCS – $69.99), can be made to accommodate all kinds of tactical weapon lights and lasers from various manufacturers (TCSL – $79.99). An IWB conversion kit consisting of additional clips is also available for the TCS.
Seeing the hands-on process from start to finish gave a newfound appreciation for the modern artistry of this kind of holster making. Turning a sheet of Kydex® into a custom made holster follows the same workmanship necessary with leather and even the tools used are not that much more modern. Everything is done by hand, checked by the human eye, and rechecked for fit and finish as the makers run their fingers and palms over the holster’s edges and final silhouette.
The Black Rhino IWB holster wears and carries comfortably and discreetly. The draw is fast while also providing superb retention. Re-holstering of the pistol is intuitive and easily accomplished one handed. The carbon fiber look is striking and, even though no one else will see it, I appreciate how well it’s made and how good it looks.
It’s pleasing to see that old world craftsmanship is alive and well, even if the material used is little more than fancy plastic. PM
Steve Tracy has over two and a half decades experience as a police officer and firearms instructor. He is also a tactical rifle, use of force, less-lethal, and scenario-based training police instructor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Black Rhino Concealment – www.blackrhinoconcealment.com
2. Kydex® is available in numerous colors and finishes. The author chose a woven carbon fiber look.
3. The actual pistol has a section of wood taped to the top of the slide to form the sight channel and a square section is added to form a mount for the IWB clip.
4. After the pistol is traced on the Kydex®, the material is hand cut to its rough form.
5. The Kydex® is heated until it obtains the consistency of a wet noodle.
6. The wrapped pistol is compressed between foam to form a tight fit.
7. Final contours are hand cut.
8. The carbon fiber look is attractive and the CCS IWB holster from Black Rhino Concealment provides outstanding function. It carries comfortably and conceals perfectly.
9. The draw from the CCS holster is fast and the flawless form fit allows one handed re-holstering.