Leather holsters have been around since guns were a thing. Before that, leather was used to make clothing and stow knives and arrows. At some point, polymer holsters and gear pushed leather to the side and became the new norm. Partly because it’s cheaper and extremely durable. But plastic doesn’t hold a candle to leather when it comes to looks. Especially in the holster world, leather has a more sophisticated and formal look to it.
That doesn’t mean it’s better, but there is still a place for leather products in today’s modern world. I’ve always been attracted to leather gear, and I know that’s just a personal taste. Some like it, and some don’t. I have leather travel bags, gloves, holsters, shoes, and everything in between. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hardcore leather-only guy, but I just like the looks, smell, and feel of real leather products. But are there any benefits to leather gear or is it just an expensive has-been product?
I use a variety of products made from not just leather, but also vinyl, polymer, canvas, and other materials. Each one has some benefits and some drawbacks. I’ll talk a little about the leather gear I have and why I like it, not just because it looks cool.
In the gun world, most people are strictly leather or polymer guys. I have and use both, depending on what I’m carrying, how I’m dressed, and what I plan to be doing. One thing I like most about leather holsters is their ability to mold to a firearm. When you buy a new leather holster, it will be so tight it’s hard to get the gun into it. A little denatured alcohol, a plastic bag, and your gun are all it takes to create a perfectly fitted holster. Polymer holsters are made for specific guns, and they fit great. Most of the time.
When you buy a gun that has been modified or made by a different manufacturer, sometimes the gun just doesn’t fit quite right in a polymer holster. One example of this is 1911 pistols. I have several and they all look to be about the same size. But when I put them in a holster, some of them just don’t fit as well as the others. When this happens, you end up needing another holster. With leather, you can simply re-mold it to fit the new gun.
Another reason I like leather for some occasions is because it looks nicer with formal clothes (at least in my opinion). I work in law enforcement and tactical gear is all the rage right now. But a cool tactical holster looks a little out of place with dress clothes. A well-made leather holster, however, fits right in. Leather can also be more comfortable because it has some give to it. Plastics, on the other hand, don’t have any give to their molded shape.
I’m not sure why, but I have a lot of bags. Backpacks, sling bags, range bags, travel bags, and duffle bags just keep stacking up. No matter how many I get, I find one somewhere that I just can’t help but buy it. I guess they’re kind of like guns; you can’t have too many, right? Well just like my holsters, I have different bags for different purposes. Tactical bags are great for carrying gear to work or taking on a search warrant.
They also work great for setting up as go-bags and emergency preparedness bags. Leather bags can be a great alternative to some of the other materials bags are made from today. They make some great materials that are light, thin, and still strong. But it’s hard to beat the strength of leather. A good leather bag can last a lifetime, even under heavy use. My wife bought me a leather travel bag years ago and it still doesn’t look broken-in even though we travel multiple times per year.
Bulldog offers a big selection of women’s leather purses with built-in holsters. Places like the Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. sell some high-end leather rifles and pistol cases. If you have a pricey gun, why not keep it in a durable leather case? Bags made from other materials will start to wear over time and need to be replaced. But leather ages instead of wearing out. Keep some good oil or conditioner on it and it will outlast just about any other type of bag.
Everything Else Leather
Gloves, shoes, and anything else you can think of are probably available in leather. I even have a large leather envelope in which I keep my firearms insurance paperwork. It may not offer a lot more protection than a paper envelope, but it does provide additional security and it looks nice. Leather is great at repelling water, and it doesn’t burn quite as easily as paper and other light materials. I have leather gloves for driving, shooting, and working in the yard. Different types of leather work better for different tasks, but I have had each pair for years.
Shoes are another item that offers more durability in leather than other materials. Having a conversation with someone a few years ago, I mentioned how much I paid for my leather shoes. To them, this was way too much money to spend on a pair of shoes. But after I asked them how many “cheap” pairs they purchased each year, it became clear they had spent far more than me. The pair I was wearing were 10 years old and still looking great.
Ready to go classic?
Sometimes paying more upfront is better in the long run. Not everything needs to be leather and like I said before, I have plenty of holsters and gear that are not leather. But besides the quality benefits of leather, it carries a classic look that some can appreciate. The point is, that we live in a world with lots of options and products that fit just about anyone’s budget. Polymer holsters are great, and the price tends to be better.
But it can be nice to have a well-made leather holster to carry a gun in. Leather isn’t hard to take care of and just needs a little treatment now and then. Companies like Galco (who make great holsters by the way), offer leather conditioners and cleaners. Leather looks nice, smells good, and lasts a lifetime when properly taken care of. If you don’t have a good leather holster, bag, or pair of boots, give it a try and see how you like going classic.