Optimizing the PHLster Enigma

phlster enigma upgrades

It’s rare that a holster is a true game changer, but for me the PHLster Enigma is in fact such a thing.  The Enigma allows me to carry in every type of clothing I wear.  It’s also dramatically more comfortable than traditional belt holsters.  Because of that, I’ve pretty much worn nothing else since January.  However, despite being the cliché “game changer,” the Enigma is not what I would call perfect out of the box.  Here, I'll highlight three products I’ve been using for the past few months which enhance an already-excellent product and give some tips from my experience.

Levo Designs Papoose

I hate wearing undershirts and usually only wear them when I absolutely have to.  Unfortunately, the webbing used by the Enigma can lead to chaffing when worn without an undershirt.  It’s also sharp on the edges.  Enter the Papoose.  The Papoose is basically a cloth shroud which adds a bit of softness to the otherwise hard edges of the Enigma.

phlster enigma levo designs papoose

According to Levo Designs, it’s made of “520E Durastretch Nylon Tweave.”  I don’t really know what that is.  What I do know is this:

  • Softens the hard edges of the Enigma webbing
  • Gives enough grip to keep the webbing in the same spot
  • Lets me comfortably wear the Enigma with no undershirt
  • Doesn’t seem to hold odor

I’ve worn an Enigma with a Papoose for about three months now.  It’s been on me during long hikes, training classes, and gym visits with no odor retention.  It does both long drives and lounging around equally well, and it gets worn five days a week in professional business attire.  Having worn the Enigma both with and without the Papoose, the daily comfort gained is well worth the $30.

Levo Designs Mule Tape Leg Leash

The Mule Tape Leg Leash fixes one of my bigger gripes with the Enigma.  After several months of use, what I've found is the OEM leg leash will loosen.  I usually have to adjust it every few days to make sure it's sufficiently tight (but not too tight).  It's also narrow, and when it's too tight it can cut into your thigh.  Finally, my fat fingers have a hard time with the small buckle.

PHLster Enigma levo designs Leg leash
Levo Designs Mule Tape Leg Leash (left) PHLster OEM leg leash (right)

The Mule Tape Leg Leash fixes all three things.  Levo Designs' leash is wider, which distributes the pressure on your leg.  The series of buckles ensures that once you set a circumference for the loop, the leash stays the same size.  It also uses a small FidLock buckle (the same type as used on the Enigma), which is very easy to connect.

JM Custom Kydex Enigma Shell

One of the draws to the Enigma is its compatibility with most common AIWB holsters.  So long as the holster has a ModWing, DarkWing, or other similar claw device, it will fit.  Unfortunately, “will fit” doesn’t mean ideal holster placement on the chassis.  The placement of the wing/claw is meant to match up with the ride height of belt attachments.  On an Enigma this often translates to a low “ride height” for the grip above the hard polymer shell.

Unconstrained by the need for belt attachments, the JM Custom Kydex Enigma Shell allows for a higher ride height for the gun.  This doesn’t mean that the gun itself must ride higher – with the Enigma, ride height is determined by where you place the chassis.  That gives your hand more clearance when drawing – a subtle but important usability tweak.

phlster enigma levo designs jm custom kydex
Note the difference in height of the grips above the chassis. Yes, I know the top Enigma doesn't actually have the holster attached; it's still aligned over the screws on the Dark Wing.

When wearing a tucked-in shirt, a downside of the Enigma is that it can make the user appear to have gained a few inches at their waistline.  The JM Custom Kydex Enigma Shell slims things down a tad.  This is an area where every little bit helps.  Other holsters with blocking can push the Enigma’s chassis out a bit.  The JM Custom Kydex shell makes things as slim behind the belt as they can possibly be.

As of this writing, Tony is working on shells for the light-bearing version of the Enigma.

General Usage Tips

First, the user should treat the Enigma as an additional item of clothing rather than a holster.  The design simply doesn’t lend itself to quick donning and doffing.  It’s something you should put on when you start the day and remove when you end the day.  This is a bit of an adjustment for those of us who have used traditional belt holsters for the past forever, but seriously: put it on in the morning and leave it alone.

Play with the ride height and the orientation of the gun.  You are no longer limited by a set of belt loops or a clip.  The adjustment potential is limitless, and with that potential comes significant increases in comfort and accessibility.  Don’t feel constrained by where you traditionally wore your belt holster.

You may also find that you still need to wear a belt.  For me, I’ve noticed that a belt helps keep my pants from riding up over the Enigma.  It also keeps the Enigma in place through repeated draws.  You absolutely can wear this thing in gym clothes, but a thin belt definitely helps.


Once you get past the learning curve, the Enigma truly lives up to its hype.  The user will, of course, need to make small tweaks and perhaps adjust their donning and doffing habits, but the end result is well worth it.  Unfortunately, these mods make an already-expensive holster system even more expensive.  As of this writing, the Enigma is priced at $85; the Papoose and the Mule Tape Leg Leash add $30 each, and the JMCK Enigma Shell adds $50.  Nevertheless, the level of comfort I’ve achieved is well worth the investment.  If you haven’t tried the Enigma yet or have struggled with it, give these products and suggestions a try.

Check out the PHLster Enigma >>HERE<< or snag a light bearing version >>HERE<<
You can find Levo Designs products >>HERE<<

Order your JM Custom Kydex Enigma shell >>HERE<<


  1. What sort of "thin belt" are we talking about? I've been using a 5.11 Apex Gunner's Belt for the last 14 years, but it just absolutely does NOT work with my Enigma. Would something like a thin, basic, bdu-style belt work better?

  2. Best review I've seen. As it happens, all of these accessories are one's that I have been looking at. so good to see them in use all at the same time.

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