Since ancient humans figured out ways to stop the decomposition and rotting of their animal hides, they have used the resulting leather to make many things necessary to survival. Modern man still uses leather a great deal, though less for survival these days and more for looking like an OG pimp with leather kicks, matching belt and watchband. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m kidding, I wear cargo shorts and flip flops. I have the fashion sense of a color blind Peter Pan.
As technology progressed, the tanning process has changed many times, becoming more refined with each iteration. Extravagant leather though has been around for a very long time. Assyrians, Egyptians, and Romans through present day have created beautiful and works of art that were not only glorious to behold, but also functional. Leather work definitely found it’s way to North America and has been used in every step as the United States was born.
Being that tanning and leather are as old as time, the old west was the catalyst for the rapid evolution of guns and gun leather. As soon as folks started carrying guns, they realized, “hey, where the hell am I going to put this thing?”. Artisans and saddle makers began meeting those needs immediately supplementing their normal offerings with a great new source of income. From the 1800’s through most of the 1900’s leather holsters were a staple and truly experienced a renaissance of demand.
The 1960’s brought a new plastic composite material called Kydex. Being easily customized and form-able it was developed then adopted by the airline industry for plane interiors. While no one knows who made the jump from airplanes to guns, in the mid 1990’s Blade-Tech became the first commercial manufacturer of Kydex holsters. This leads us to today where leather holsters and Kydex holsters battle for share in a very competitive niche market. There are still dozens of leather holster companies making thousands of models and styles, however with the tactical market moving in a more Kydex direction it takes more for traditional leather makers to stand out.
The issue is a divisive one. With fans of both styles often arguing the merits of their favorite. I reached out to Jeremy Pozderac, owner of River’s Edge Tactical in rural Ohio and commentator with We Like Shooting and asked, why do you prefer leather?
I like leather. I’m a cowboy…knight in leather armor. Leather is sexy, classic, timeless. Leather always will be.
Firearms enthusiast Alex Nelson repeats that sentiment.
I prefer the feel of leather. It’s more comfortable than kydex for me. I like the look a bit more. I feel it blends better than a Kydex holster when I wear OWB. My OWB holster is a hybrid from alien gear but it fits so close and so well I love it. As for IWB, I’d like leather, but it doesn’t hold up to sweat as well so Kydex all the way son!
Enter Savoy Leather. Known in firearms circles for making some of the most beautiful leather holsters in the industry. Jeremiah and family use a traditional leather holster of their design but what makes them stand apart is the treatment, finish and art.
One of the first things you’ll notice about these holsters is the stain. Savoy’s signature look is the dark edges that feather into a lighter center. Mixed with about any color you can imagine the look is unique and to the eyes of this writer, beautiful. Having the basic style wasn’t enough for them though. What truly sets these holsters apart is the designs available. From pop culture to American culture they can create custom painted and hand stamped artwork on any holster they offer. The wonderfully detailed art on leather invokes an almost visceral response. Check out the gallery below for just a couple of ideas.
Many people love Kydex because of the configurability. Savoy has this figured out with his leather as well. Many different cants, hardware and gun choices provide almost any inside the waist band or outside the waistband configuration you can imagine.
Retention is completely acceptable regardless of whether it is in the belt or out. One thing to note is that leather will be a bit rougher on your guns finish as it touches a lot of surface area to create the proper retention. We saw no problems upside down or crawling in the dirt.
The durability is one of the great things about leather. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t get marred, however with leather the more wear you see, the better it seems to look. Don’t expect it to be scratch proof as it does get scratched. While minor surface defects will appear, the leather will last a long time.
If holsters ever become post apocalyptic currency, Savoy’s will be diamonds. In fact, they are almost like diamonds now. Here is the one sticking point for many folks. These are not cheap, nor are they inexpensive. Anywhere from $150 and up for these works of art. It’s important to go back to the opening paragraph of this article though. These are made by hand by an artist and craftsman. It takes time and manual labor. Keep that in mind when looking at the price.
Leather is a bit bulkier and bit heaver than the alternatives, but feels comfortable against the skin. In fact, leather against skin is probably the most natural feeling holster you’ll wear. The more it breaks in and is treated by your sweat and body heat, the better they feel. It doesn’t add any more bulk to my waistline than any of the other holsters I wear on a regular basis.
Check out Savoy Leather to get an idea of what they can do. Whether you buy a holster or not, it’s a feast for the eyes. At the risk of being crude, Jeremy Pozderac says, “Leather will get you ‘laid’ [sic]. Plastic won’t”. I’m a bit dubious of that claim, but I’m willing to take the chance.