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Do Kydex Holsters Damage or Scratch Guns?

Affordable and commonly used in the fabrication of both inside and outside the waistband holsters, Kydex holsters are popular. However, is it true that they have a reputation for wearing and scratching the finish of the guns they holster?

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Kydex holsters, like other types of holsters, tend to wear the finish of guns. This is due to its rigidity as Kydex is a highly rigid polymer thermoplastic. However, the wear and abrasion only affect the aesthetic of the gun. Kydex holsters do not damage the pistol in any other way.

With that being said, I’m a huge fan of Kydex and highly recommend it as a holster material. If you own or plan to purchase a Kydex holster, read on. This article will clarify how Kydex can wear on a gun’s finish. It will also provide you with ways that you can mitigate this inconvenience.

Understanding Kydex

Minimal wear (can mostly be cleaned off) afters 4 years of heavy Kydex use

To understand why some gun owners complain of Kydex holsters wearing and scratching the finish of their guns, you need to understand Kydex’s properties.

Kydex is a thermoplastic. When it is thermoformed—using heat to mold a plastic—it is very easy to shape into any form required. Once shaped, however, it becomes very rigid. In part, this is why it is prevalent in the manufacturing of holsters. It provides for a holster that is lightweight, durable, and inexpensive compared to other materials.

However, Kydex’s rigidity is what over repeated actions of drawing and reholstering a gun produces the wear. It should be noted that Kydex has a hardness reading of 90 on the Rockwell R scale.

This denseness and rigidness make it very resistant to abrasion and scratches itself, but makes it prone to scratch and wear other surfaces that it comes in contact with—such as your gun.

The True Underlying Problem With Kydex Holsters

Referring strictly to the wearing effect that Kydex holsters have on gun finishes, it is essential to segregate fact from myth. Not all of the negative reputation assigned to Kydex holsters is accurate. Some of the complaints of wearing are caused by factors not connected to Kydex.

Not All Plastic Holsters Are Made From Kydex

There are many plastic-based holsters on the market. Not all of them, however, are made from real Kydex.

Kydex’s success and popularity have made the term “Kydex” colloquially interchangeable to describe plastic gun holsters in general. This lexiconic misnomer is akin to the word “Kleenex” being used to refer to facial tissues in general. Not every tissue is a Kleenex, as not every plastic holster is a Kydex holster.

This misuse of the term “Kydex” sometimes results in gun owners purchasing a holster that they believe to be made from real Kydex when, in fact, it is not.

Holsters made from lower-grade plastics will result in more numerous instances of scratching and wearing on a gun’s finish. To some degree, the reputation of Kydex holsters being abrasive is attributable to holsters that are not even made with Kydex.

There Are Many Variants of Kydex

Another reality that adds confusion to how Kydex holsters affect your gun’s finish is that even if you purchase a holster made from real Kydex, there are over 40 variants of Kydex on the market.

Depending on the manufacturer of the holster, different Kydex variants may be used. Some are more prone to scratch and wear on gun finishes than others.

Kydex100 and Kydex-T are considered the best choice for gun holsters in that they are easier on the finish of your gun. The latter is often referred to as “the gold standard” in thermoforming.

The worst grades of Kydex used in the manufacturing of gun holsters are those made with recycled Kydex. When recycled, Kydex often contains other plastic contaminants or glass that will be more prone to scratch a gun’s finish. While cheaper, inferior Kydex sheets will produce inferior holsters.

How to Minimize Gun Finish Wear From Kydex Holsters

Simply due to the rigidity factor of Kydex, a certain amount of wear and scratching on a gun’s finish is to be expected. However, this does not mean that there isn’t anything that you can do to minimize this.

Verify the Grade of Kydex Used in Your Holster

You should ensure that your Kydex holster is made from Kydex’s highest grade for the reasons described above. Doing so is one of the most significant steps you can take to curtail wear on your gun. Merely relying on a product description that mentions the term “kydex” is not enough.

You should always seek out the specific variant or grade of the Kydex sheet used in constructing your holster.

Use Kydex Holsters Made Specifically for Your Gun

A Kydex holster that is molded specifically for your gun will minimize the points of friction. In turn, it minimizes wear and scratches.

Ideally, a custom-made Kydex holster that is thermoformed for your gun, not just the model type, will give you the best results. Through this level of customization, every contour can be accounted for and points of friction reduced. Extended external controls, barrels that are threaded, suppressor height sights, etc., can all be accommodated.

If a custom formed Kydex holster is cost-prohibitive to you, at the very least, you should go for a Kydex holster that was made for the specific model of your gun. Otherwise, generic and cookie-cutter Kydex holsters will cause more friction and lead to added wear and scratches on your gun’s finish.

Keep the Holster Clean

Kydex is remarkably simple to keep clean. Being a polymer, Kydex is not affected by water. You can wipe down Kydex with a damp cloth followed by a dry cloth for fast and effective cleaning.

When rubbed between the rigid surface of the Kydex against your gun’s finish, the presence of small and micro dust and dirt particles will have an intensified abrasive effect. Keeping your Kydex holster clean—especially if you carry your weapon in environments prone to dust and dirt—will reduce wear on your gun’s finish.

Something as simple as keeping the holster clean will minimize this type of wear.

Will Cerakote Help to Minimize Wear and Scratching?

Guns with a cerakote finish are not immune from displaying signs of wear and scratches when repeatedly holstered in a Kydex holster. However, the resiliency that comes from a cerakote finish does minimize the problem. Some gun owners report that having a cerakote finish prevents the problem entirely.

There is also the option of “cerakoting” the Kydex holster itself. Even though applying a cerakote finish involves heat curing, an air-cured variant can be used on thermoplastics such as Kydex. Heat curing cerakote onto Kydex would never be advisable. The temperature involved in heat curing would deform the Kydex holster.

In short, the presence of a cerakote finish on your gun or Kydex holster will, in all likelihood, extend the time before wear and scratches become noticeable. However, if the other best practices for mitigating the wear caused by Kydex mentioned above are not taken, the mere fact that cerakote is present will not solve the problem for very long.

Conclusion

Kydex holsters are very popular. They do not damage a gun in the mechanical or operational sense of the word, but they can wear out the gun’s finish and produce scratches in some scenarios. To some, this aesthetic blemishing might be enough to steer them away from Kydex holsters.

However, by being discriminating in your choice of Kydex holster, by ensuring that it is made from high-grade Kydex and not recycled Kydex or cheaper generic plastics, you can minimize the wear on your gun’s finish. By going with custom-formed Kydex holsters, you mitigate the instances of wear even further.

All in all, if you are worried about wear on your gun, you probably shouldn’t carry it. Simply carrying your gun, everyday wear and tear, and training (which you should be doing a lot of) will all produce wear.

Early in my career I carried a leather holster day in and day out. After a couple of years of use, my duty weapon had holster wear. Since then, I have carried Kydex and have noticed comparable wear to what my leather holster caused. No big deal. The pros outweigh the cons for me.

Get a holster that works best for you and carry on.

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