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Preview – Making Kydex Holsters

Forward by David Reeder

Many of us would no more attempt to customize our own gun or build our own holster than we would attempt to perform open heart surgery. Several RECOIL staffers are included in that number — it’s just important and potentially too expensive to leave to the sort of bumblefuqquery we’re capable of.

Such is not the case with everyone. Their hands are more capable, their talents more suited for building, and their efforts less likely to end in unmitigated disaster. Would-be craftsmen looking to indulge their inner do-it-yourselfer often have questions, or they should. So where should the hopeful holster hand-craftsman go then for advice on DIY Kydex bending?

Jon Hauptman of PHLster, says we. We asked him what advice he’d give a new DIY bender, and here’s what he told us:

Every day, I get at least one email or message from someone who’s getting ready to make their first holster. In fact, as I write this, I’m holding two conversations with prospective or budding Kydex benders. Invariably, people want to jump into the deep end, head first. “Which vacuum former should I buy? How do I make an integrated holster/magazine carrier? Which clips should I use for my holster?”

As gently as I can, to avoid shattering and trampling their enthusiasm, I try to encourage temperance. There are so many questions to ask before getting started. Learning to make good holsters is a time- and resource-consuming undertaking.

kydexholster3 kydexholster2

Today, the technical details of the step-by-step Kydex holster forming and construction process are readily available. If it’s not on my YouTube channel, it’s on, where hundreds of experts share their knowledge and experience. If you need troubleshooting or advice, you have access to some great resources and helpful people. There’s no reason to struggle with such basic problems as obtaining consistent well-defined molds or inconsistent edge finishing.

When asked about the most common mistakes that beginner Kydex benders make, some common technical errors came immediately to mind. From not working the hot material fast enough, to not doing any real preparation to their mold, to not using enough material, the real mistakes actually have very little to do with the technical process and more with simple fixes and easily learned lessons. If you’re thinking about getting started down the path of making your own holsters, before you start setting up your garage workshop, listen up. Here are some dos and don’ts that’ll be a big help in the short and long term.

1. Don’t start making holsters.
This doesn’t mean, “don’t pursue making holsters.” It means: “Don’t try to eat the whole elephant.” Your first project should not be a holster. In fact, your first projects should have nothing to do with hot Kydex. Go to the art supply store and buy a pad of cheap newsprint paper, an L square ruler, some pencils, and start drawing. Fill your pad with drawings for holsters. Trace your (empty) pistol on each page and draw. Measure it and mark it the same way you would as if you were measuring and marking out a Kydex holster. Every drawing you make is a rehearsal. It’s like free practice.

When the time comes to commit to drilling and cutting the real deal, you’ll have done it dozens of times in practice. This is your dry-fire, so don’t skip it. I’ve run several one-on-one weeklong boot camps here at PHLster for thermoforming students. Students draw every single night, including the evening of their arrival and the improvements over the course of the week speak for themselves. Since drawing is an activity virtually free of consequence and expense, it’s a great place to do some exploration and learning.


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