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.
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" 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.
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 front and back pieces of Kydex should be bonded together when they extend past the eyelets the same distance. They should look like a single piece of Kydex where they're consistently touching. There should not be a visible crack between the two pieces. Forming the front and back pieces of Kydex separately is how a lot of custom Kydex builders make their holsters. This prevents the bonding of the front and back. This is not necessarily incorrect. Its the easy way of doing it. It also doesn't look as good. The major advantage to having the two pieces of Kydex bonded is the increased rigidity that it offers. I prefer to use the method that looks best and adds strength. Some Kydex holster designs require vacuum forming while others require pressing. Forming every Kydex holster design with the same method seriously limits the appearance and strength of the final product. When the design calls for it, bonding the front and back together is the correct route to take.
Custom Kydex Holsters
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.
Holsters are the seat belts for pistols. They're safety devices. A holster protects the world around it from the immense force it holds inside. One never wants to carry an unreliable pistol. The same should be said for a holster.
Tralen, LLC (D.B.A.) Reign Tactical is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with, including, but not limited to: Glock, Heckler & Koch, Smith & Wesson, SigSauer, Seekins Precison, Daniel Defense, Spikes Tactical, Estwing, Esee, Scrap Yard Knife Company, Swamp Rat Knife Works, Suunto.
Thomas Jefferson's "Commonplace Book", 1774-1776, quoting from on Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764
We build with quality components and we take the time to ensure the quality of the Kydex holster is at a high level. Our builders are passionate about their work and anyone from the mailman to the owner has the power to send a product back through production if its not up to par. Everyone is part of our quality control system.
I am the ultimate Kydex holster critic. In my mind, any holster is junk until proven otherwise. Over the years I have worn countless holster brands and I have wasted a lot of money on them. A few were very good holsters and I still own them. Most had either bad cosmetics or overall bad quality and they ended up in the trashcan. As a result, I started my quest for the perfect holster and I finally built it. Along the way I realized my perfect holster may be barely functional to someone else. Because of this, I worked with industry professionals and multiple testers to provide feedback on numerous methods of carry and use. This invaluable feedback played a monumental role in the development of Reign Tactical's Kydex holsters, sheaths and carriers. I have built a lineup of holsters that I would put against any in the industry. We continue to stress our products to ensure they will stand the abuse that so many of us submit them to. I am very proud of the lineup that we offer to you today knowing there is a lot more to come in the future.
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