Looking for a gun holster but can’t quite find the right fit, style, and shape at the right price? Maybe you should make your own gun holster instead. This guide will explain to you how to make your own Kydex concealed holster. Included are some tips and tricks, and a basic guide to how to make the holster best fit both your firearm, belt, and wallet. We will also dive into why Kydex is the plastic of choice for this project compared to materials like leather and regular plastic. We also offer you a list of a few things you might need, including basic reviews for a few kits to make the process easier.
What is Kydex?
Kydex is a plastic that is used worldwide for a huge variety of applications, one of the main uses being aircraft interiors. Both Kydex and leather have been used for at least a couple of decades to make gun holsters, with users discovering that Kydex doesn’t wear out as quickly as leather. Kydex is a lightweight, rigid plastic that is also flexible when heated up. We will go into more detail about this process, but it’s especially well known for molding around the specific grooves and shapes of guns to offer a perfect fit for a firearm. Gun owners really started using Kydex for magazine holsters often due to their heat and cost effectiveness and have now expanded to firearm storage.
How do I start making my own holster?
There are a couple ways to make holsters, including a one-piece model that has only one piece of plastic, and two piece method. We are going to start with the two piece method.
We are going to explain how to make the holster itself. Here are a few items you will need to begin the process of measuring your gun, holding Kydex, and making your holster
- Kydex plastic
- Box Cutters
- Something to measure with
- A drill with bit (probably ¼”)
- Wood clamps
- A heat gun or hot hair dryer
- Rivets or Eyelets
- Rivet flaring die and guide
- Gloves to keep your hands safe from heat
All of these are tools you’ll have in your garage with the possible exception of a heat gun, though the heat gun is fairly important.
Beginning: Placing your Firearm
The first step here is to have the right size piece of Kydex. The key here is to leave a 2-inch gap above the slide, 1 inch in front of the muzzle, and no gap before the side of the handle. To quote one person who made a Kydex holster, it should wrap “like a taco”. Also, before you cut the plastic, you can make your holster adjustable by starting early. One great way is to by placing a spacer in front of the trigger so you can adjust the depth at which you put the gun in the holster.
Use your box butter to carefully score the Kydex around your firearm. The purpose isn’t quite to cut directly around your firearm, but to leave enough to later fold the plastic over. Hence the need to add space around the firearm. Once you have scored the Kydex completely, you can usually snap it off with your hands. Once you have scored the Kydex, you might want to draw a stencil outline of the firearm to ensure you are still using the right measurements. Also, keep in mind at this point that if you are right-handed, point the pistol grip to the right while placing it on the Kydex to ensure the grip faces the right way when scored again.
Next, take a look at how much Kydex you have left after the initial scoring. You have a bit more to remove. Your Kydex should still be in place around the grip of your pistol. You’ll need to score this area and cut it off likely using two straight lines. These lines should expose enough of the grip for you to quickly and easily remove the firearm in a split second. Congrats! You have cut the outer half of the holster. Now for the inner half.
This part is a bit easier, especially once you have the experience of cutting the outer half. Place the firearm on a sheet of Kydex and cut in a similar way. This time will not need to remove a piece shaped for the firearm grip. This piece should be square or rectangular without that cut. You should now have the inner and outer halves cut and ready to go!
Here is where some of the magic happens with Kydex. Like many plastics, Kydex can be molded when heated. Kydex is especially pliable while heated. To start, you can preheat your oven to between 200-250 degrees. This is reasonably low compared to average cooking and is intended to make the Kydex easier to handle sooner post-heating. The Kydex can be placed either directly on the rack or on a cookie sheet if you prefer. One important note here: Kydex has a shiny side and a textured side. Place the shiny side down in the oven.
Note that Kydex can produce a smell, especially if burned. This is part of the reason for a recommendation of a lower temperature. You can readily control Kydex better at a lower temperature, so we suggest doing so. This Kydex maker also suggests leaving the oven door open and placing your soon to be used foam sheet between the door and inside of the oven. Why? The foam will soon be used with the Kydex, and keeping it warm is beneficial to keeping the Kydex moldable. The lukewarm foam will actually draw heat out of the Kydex. In addition, warm foam keeps your mold more defined and tighter.
Check the foam every few minutes, with gloves, to see if its warm enough to begin being flexible. We strongly suggest using heat resistant gloves for the entire process from here on out. Wait for even heating so that your entire Kydex sheet is ready for molding. An uneven oven can make parts of the Kydex less moldable. This reviewer uses a thermal temperature scanner to make sure the temps are even. Another way of telling this without additional equipment is watching your Kydex. The edges will start to roll up, then roll back down when the heat is more even.
What type of oven?
Many user a cheap toaster oven to make the Kydex readily visible. A cheap toaster oven is recommended because Kydex will have some smell, and if you burn the Kydex in your regular oven, it’s a bit more difficult to clean. A smaller oven is much easier to clean than a large one, or just throw it away.
The Kydex is Out of the Oven. What’s Next?
When the Kydex is becoming flexible enough, you want to start heating up your pistol. Like the foam, the pistol will allow the Kydex to form a tighter mold if it works with the heat and mold of the Kydex. Simply using a hairdryer will do the trick here. Don’t put your pistol in the oven. We now have flexible Kydex, a warmed piece of foam, and a warmed pistol.
You can now place the place one of the pieces of foam on a wooden board to start the process of making a foam, firearm, and Kydex sandwich. Remove one half of the Kydex from the oven and place it on the foam with the pencil outline facing up so you can match it to the remaining parts.
Make a Press
With the outer foam layer in place and the Kydex on the foam, you can now place your warm pistol, making sure to match up your pistol to the drawn outline you made earlier. Place the other piece of warm foam on too. At this point, you’ve made your warm pistol sandwich, complete with foam. Now to ensure that all of the parts are pushed together, place the other wood board on top and clamp it down.
Use a total of four clamps, if you can, from all four corners of the wood boards, and apply as much pressure as you can. The more pressure you can apply, the more defined the currently warm Kydex will become, and the tighter your firearm will fit. Let your fully clamped board sit for at least 15 minutes. Some people have specific presses made for the purpose of combining these items and have their own set of instructions. These instructions intend to use everyday household items for the most past.
Do the same thing with the other heated piece of Kydex, this time with the half that doesn’t have the firearm grip formed. You should now have two sides, one of which has the angled grip cut out, while the other only extends to around the trigger guard.
Cut it Out
While you have two sides, you also have plenty of excess Kydex plastic that definitely won’t be comfortable to wear. The Kydex should still be soft and moldable, so you can cut off the excess. This more involves the end of the Kydex, past the firearm barrel. You will still need enough space for the rivets. At this point, you should have the two halves of Kydex plastic molded specifically to your firearm shape with some of the plastic shaved off.
The rivets are meant to hold the two halves together with nice, fastened strength. You can pre-draw where you want your rivets to go. Use your rivet die to place the rivets in the right spots. You might have alignment issues after installing rivets. Slide your firearm in and out to discover where the issues are, then use a sander to minimize the edges causing issues. You can then smooth out any edges with finer grain sandpaper.
You have made a basic Kydex two piece holster. We suggest adding some Kydex or other plastic strips to make a belt loop to attach to the back to secure your holster in place on your body, and potentially heating and bending your holster to better conform to your body. Just use your heat gun or hair dryer at this point, get the holster nice and warm, then hand bend and experiment as you go to see what best fits your body.
There is another way: Making a one-piece holster
The biggest difference between a one piece holster and a two piece holster is the lack of rivets. Some say at the extra space needed to use rivets also makes the holster smaller and easier to carry. Since the plastic is cheap, why not make one of each?
Draw a Bit Differently
You can still draw an outline if you want, but to make a one-piece, one of the more significant steps is to cut less Kydex away before heating it. You’ll want to leave at least a couple inches above the muzzle and instead prepare to cut more after wrapping. We suggest starting with a 8” by 8” square. You can cut down to have enough room for your trigger guard and an inch or two past your muzzle.
Heating it Up
You’ll want to watch your Kydex more closely for signs of the edges curling up and down this time, as even heat is more important with a single piece.
You will want to again promptly remove the Kydex from the heat once it’s reached around the temperature you set the oven too. In this example video, the expert user heated the toaster oven to 315 degrees and pulled out the very flexible Kydex, which is great for doing the “taco wrap.”
Out of the Oven
We are out of the oven again, and just like the two piece model, you are going to wrap the hot Kydex around a warmed up firearm. Do this quickly while also making sure the firearm is in the center of the Kydex with enough room to cut off additional plastic. Again, you can use a specially made plastic press for the purpose or a pair of wood boards with clamps, or just your own weight and feet. Whichever makes the Kydex come out with detailed molds of the firearm. Wait about 15 minutes again to make sure the mold is what you expected, and remains tight so the firearm cannot move.
You can trim off the extraneous plastic that isn’t quite adding anything now, like from the end of the barrel muzzle as the firearm should be held securely by the sides anyway. Trimming makes the holster lighter and more comfortable.
Now that your firearm is nicely wrapped up like a burrito or taco within the warm confines of Kydex, you can sand it to your liking. Like the two piece, use tougher grit sandpaper to sand anything obstructing you from removing the firearm, then detail sand with lighter grit. You can also add rivets or screw holes for a strap in basically the same fashion and method as a one piece if you wish.
Got it sanded and looking to your liking? For both the one piece and two piece, one of the best parts of Kydex is you can reheat it and start over to a certain extent. Ensure that you can draw the firearm quickly and easily. You should also hear a click of the firearm pieces touching the Kydex when you put the firearm into the holster. A smooth, quick insert and exit are desired.
You made a Kydex holster. You can now use the screw holes to make a strap to better secure it to your body, or otherwise, make it more comfortable. Wrapping the holster in moleskin can help keep you from chafing, which is a problem that could potentially apply to any holster.
Rather than taking this list or another of items, and buying the rivets, kydex, screws, and nearly everything else individually at the hardware store while manually inspecting each item to make sure it’s the right size, you can save yourself some time and effort and buy a do it yourself kit.
One of the higher-rated do it yourself kits is available on Amazon. The DIY Holster (made by a company named DIY Holster too!) provides the hardware and Kydex sheet you need to make a quick holster. It’s well-rated and cheap, in large part because it doesn’t come with any of the tools needed to actually place rivets and is just hardware. If you have a garage with a rivet driver, this is a great option for a great price. You even get extra hardware in case you lose something or mess up.
If you want to be a little more particular and get the heat just right for conforming to your body, and don’t want to make your own press, you can get a more complete kit like this one. Complete with a 12” press kit, you also get a Dewalt thermal heat gun to precise heat the corners, as well as a digital thermometer so you can tell exactly when to pull your Kydex out of the heat. This kit assumes you are doing at least a small volume of holsters and doesn’t include Kydex itself so you can buy more in bulk, in the right size and color.
While not firearm specific, this kit includes the heat gun and press for those with the eyes to know when the Kydex is done.
If you want to go truly high volume and have some tools already, you can get a really high-quality press from a place like Holster Smith.
You read earlier that some people just use a pair of pieces of wood and clamps to make their press. This is fine, though it’s difficult to know how even your weight is using clamps, or literally your feet, when standing on a pair of wood pieces to make a DIY press.
A quality press has a simple handle to fold down and press the parts together, but more importantly, obviously has a nice straight, level plate to keep consisently applied pressure. You also get a latch that keeps the weight held down evenly, without you needing to keep a particularly close eye on it.
Are the different kinds of Kydex?
There most certainly are! This is part of the reason why some DIY press kits don’t come with Kydex sheets. You can choose your own. Kydex alone comes in 40 different variable styles with different grades of heat resistance, toughness, thickness, and grain. Kydex T and Kydex 100 are the most popular for being super tough and durable and is rigid while being able to withstand high heat, including being used in the desert without softening. The most moldable Kydex also reduces the gun wear that any holster can create.
Leather or Kydex?
Leather has been the choice of shooting enthusiasts for quite some time. It’s easily accessible, looks good, and can smell good. They are also made of natural materials that don’t make much if any noise when unholstered, though we sincerely hope you are never in a situation where that matters. Leather, however, is much different from Kydex in the sense that leather can and will lose it’s shape, especially when wet or even moist, and hot.
Leather holsters also require maintenance and often have a break-in period. Kydex requires no maintenance unless you find your Kydex covered in dirt or dust, in which case you can clean it easily. Kydex is louder, which can be a good thing. You’ll hear a nice confirming click if the Kydex plastic is tight enough to contact metal firearm pieces. One way to reduce noise is to make the holster slightly looser and practice withdrawing and replacing the gun to avoid hitting edges.
Kydex vs Injection Molding
Injection molding is a process and material. Melted plastic is injected into a mold and hardened to form a shell that becomes a firearm holster. The injection molding process is typically cheaper and faster but can make the holster less custom and comfortable because the firearm fits the gun, and not the user specifically. Kydex tends to be more formable for the user and their gun at the same time. Injection molding holsters are commonly available at sporting good stores. If you see one that says it first a variety of pistols, this isn’t really a good sign as not all pistols are made the same way. These kinds will probably be lose or wear out quicker than you expect if your firearm is larger.
As we have noted the differences between Kydex and other materials, the most important part of the process is making a good, safe holster that is both tight and makes it easy to withdraw. This might mean making and remaking your Kydex holster to get it just right. Many of the examples provided within this article are from people who have made a few Kydex holsters that work well for them and have some experience. Don’t be afraid to recognize that your initial efforts need improvement. Keep working at your Kydex holster until it’s loose enough around the trigger guard to allow you to withdraw your firearm with one hand and not have to transition your hand to a different grip before shooting. This is critical in a self-defense moment or when competitive shooting, where the location and timing really counts.
Even more importantly, the holster should be tight enough that your firearm doesn’t move when you walk or accidentally fall out. A holster that successfully combines removing the firearm, then being able to be an immediate shooting grip, while also not allowing the firearm to move is essential. Do it over and over again until you get it right. The process is fairly cheap and your safety could depend upon it. Once you have tried once or twice, the most time-consuming part will become heating up material and pressing the mold together.
Now that you know a fair bit more about making a Kydex holster, we hope you’ll take the time to try the process and learn the best way to make your holster. Making your holster can be a good exercise in careful precision and could be fun to see what works and what doesn’t. While you don’t need specific equipment, you definitely have options to make the process faster without wandering around for the garage for the right stuff. Consider Kydex in general if you want a sturdy, fairly easy to make a project that will provide a durable grip for your firearm for years. The material is superior to leather or regular plastic in many ways and when done right, can make your firearm handling safer. Try it out, have fun, and be safe.
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