Why Hybrid Style Holsters Suck

Hybrid Holsters

One of the more popular designs in the conceal carry world is the hybrid holster. Easily found on shelves in gun stores across America, and often appearing in ads on Facebook and Youtube, virtually everyone is at least vaguely familiar with the hybrid. Unfortunately, common use does not necessarily equate high quality. With this in mind, how do hybrid holsters compare to traditional all leather and all kydex offerings?

What is a Hybrid Holster

First we must define what exactly is a hybrid holster. Typically this is a holster which uses a combination of kydex or other polymers backed by leather or synthetic material, worn inside the waistband. The leather backer is designed to improve comfort and protect the gun from wear when compared to a traditional kydex or leather holster. Belt mounts are usually a metal or plastic belt clip, with soft loops being a less common method.

Advantages of Hybrid Holsters

The main advantage I typically hear people claim about hybrid holsters is comfort. That a hybrid outclasses an all-kydex holster in terms of comfort, while providing a little more security than a traditional leather holster. I haven't found this to be the case, which I'll cover more below.

Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5

Price is another advantage I will sometimes hear touted. Alien Gear specifically makes incredibly inexpensive holsters, which allow users to quickly swap out shells for a reduced price. While saving money is good, I wouldn't recommend buying poor quality life saving equipment. As someone who has seen a variety of holsters fail in short order, going the "buy once, cry once" route is the better option. Again, I'll speak more to this point throughout the article.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Holsters

As someone who teaches and writes, I frequently get asked about my gear recommendations. Wanting to give the best possible answer both for those who ask, and for myself, I decided to try several hybrid holsters to see how they compare to my typical carry. With this in mind, I bought a few examples, and borrowed others. Over the course of six months I carried and practiced with five different hybrid holsters. Examples came from Alien Gear, Black Arch, Comp-Tac, and Crossbreed. These were selected as I felt they represented common variations of the hybrid design, and are popular options among the general public. This is on top of significant exposure to hybrid holsters in classes and competition over the course of several years.

During my time with these holsters I found that each typically had some unique positives and negatives compared to the others, with none being a perfect solution.

Comfort

The number one reason why I hear people advocate for hybrid holsters is comfort. Curiously, I've found that hybrids offer the worst levels of comfort between them, and pure kydex or leather offerings. The primary issue in my mind is bulk. Bolting a leather backer to a kydex shell virtually guarantees you a bulkier holster than a standard holster design. As an example, I have to loosen my belt by 1 to 2 notches when wearing a hybrid holster, compared to non-hybrids carried in the same position. Additionally, I have to unbutton and unzip my pants to don hybrid holsters, which is not the case with kydex or leather options. I often see people say that a hybrid spreads pressure over a large area of the body, resulting in greater comfort. Again, this is not the case.

Black Arch Protos-M Hybrid Holster

This excess bulk causes pressure against the body, which turns to discomfort over time. Instead of relieving pressure via distribution, hybrids simply cause more discomfort over more of the body. The smallest footprint hybrid I've used to date is the Black Arch Protos-M, which provided improved comfort due to the smaller size of the holster.

Quality of Materials

These holsters get sweaty fast and stay sweaty for the long haul. Wearing each holster throughout a Midwestern Summer let me see how they stand up to the rigors of daily life, and the results were wanting. Black Arch, Alien Gear, and Crossbreed all soak up sweat from their porous backers, and hold onto it for hours, even once the holster comes off. Even Alien Gear's synthetic backer suffers from this issue, despite claims to the contrary. The combination of sweat and sometimes rough material makes for an unpleasant experience on even the hardiest of hides.

I can hear the comments now "but leather holsters do that too!" This is only partially true. Cheap leather holsters, like the Galco Stow-N-Go soak up sweat like a sponge. If you buy a quality leather option, like a Milt Sparks Summer Special, or Galco Summer Comfort, they repel sweat nearly as well as kydex. I know, I was shocked too, but I own both of those holsters and have seen it with my own eyes.

Concealment

Gone are the days of old when we simply threw a bare holster in our waistband and dressed around it. It's the 2020's and we have tools to improve our ability to conceal our tools. That is, unless you're carrying with a hybrid holster. For most hybrids, you'll lack concealment features such as the traditional wing and wedge. While typically found on AIWB holsters, these can be beneficial to those carrying strong side as well. With hybrids covering such a large area of our body, it becomes difficult to focus our concealment efforts.

Black Arch Protos-M Hybrid Holster

The bulk mentioned in the previous section does more than impact comfort. It also has a negative impact on concealment. There is a distinct bulge in my pants (UwU) where the holster is "hidden", which is not present on the other hip. Unfortunately, this bulge is not in a place to benefit the public perception of me. Am I hiding a tumor, or maybe a colostomy bag? Who knows, but it's certainly noticeable to those looking. While the average soccer mom may miss it, a knowledgeable bad guy will likely hone in on this distinctly misplaced lump.

Durability

Hybrid holsters are notorious for poor durability across several fronts.

Loss of Rigidity in Backers

The most common issue I see regarding durability is a loss of rigidity in the backers. On multiple occasions I have seen hybrid holsters from multiple manufacturers become unsafe within hours of being worn. I have experienced this with both Crossbreed and Black Arch holsters. Some holsters, like the Alien Gear CloakTuck 3.5 feature a steel liner within the backer to help prevent these issues. Others just opt for thicker leather, which then impacts comfort and concealment as noted above. Thicker backers only serve to delay a loss of rigidity.

Black Arch Protos-M Hybrid Holster
Notice the backer curling after only a few hours of wear

Sweat, outboard pressure from the wearer's body, and aggressive contact during the drawstroke will weaken the backer, quickly causing them to become floppy. Once a backer loses its rigidity, it never returns. These floppy backers cause several problems.

Holstering Interference

The first issue with floppy backers is interference with the holstering process in general. It's fairly common to see a backer hanging over the mouth of the holster after the pistol is drawn. Two things typically happen once the shooter starts to holster their gun.

Most commonly I see shooters using the muzzle of their pistol to press the backer away, opening the mouth of the holster to ease holstering. Think about that for a second. You have a live gun in your hand, and you're willingly pointing it at yourself, finger only maybe off the trigger, as you're trying to safe your gun. People talk about appendix carry being dangerous, but I think a shot transverse across the hips is gonna be a lot worse than anything I could do at AIWB. Ask anyone with medical training if they can help you after blasting a round across the hips and intestines; spoiler alert, they can't.

CrossBreed SuperTuck Hybrid Holster

Next, I see shooters using their support hand to push the backer away. Most of the time this is due to a curling sweat guard. However, this can also be caused by a backer filling the void in the holster once the pistol is drawn. More than once I've seen shooters put fingers inside of their holster, muzzles following, as they try to press the backer away from the shell. Losing a couple digits is the best case scenario here if things go wrong.

Trigger Interaction

Another issue is interference with the trigger when holstering. A floppy backer can easily find its way inside the trigger guard during the holstering process. As the shooter attempts to holster their gun, they begin to press harder upon encountering resistance. This extra force causes the backer to press against the trigger until...BANG. We've seen this happen on video, and I've seen it nearly happen until someone stepped in and stopped the shooter from holstering. The latter portion I've seen in multiple classes, with Chuck Haggard, Tom Givens, and John Johnston swooping in to save the student.

Cracking Shells

Kydex outer shells have significant stress points due to methods of attachment to the backer. This results in cracking  of the shell, and separation of the two pieces. Most commonly this occurs when the shell is bolted directly onto the backer, like with Crossbreed and certain Alien Gear models.

CrossBreed SuperTuck Hybrid Holster
Note the cracking near the mount and the edge of the slide

The cause of this is differences in flexibility between the soft backer and the rigid shell, with the shell eventually breaking opposed to the flexing of the backer. Models with hard 90 degree angles on the shells will experience this sooner, as pressure focuses here. Once this happens, the holster will begin to lose whatever retention it has. Eventually, full separation of the two pieces will occur.

Retention

Many hybrid holsters offer adjustable retention via screws, tightening the shell to the backer. Despite this, retention is often inconsistent and poor across all holsters of the type. This is due to varying levels of tension caused by the mating of different materials. Pressure from the wearer's body will press into the backer, causing greater retention as the pressure increases. This means that tighter belts or bigger users could experience stronger retention. Rigid shells will try to grab onto the pistol, much like a kydex holster, trying to lock into the trigger guards and ejection ports. The combination of these two materials causes an interesting mix of retention. You'll often feel a slow drag from the backer, with a slight "pop" from the shell.

With varying levels of retention, you have varying levels of security. With some hybrid holsters, even when worn, I can get my finger fully on the trigger--on the body side of the pistol. This is a problem. If I'm in an entangled fight, I don't want my attacker to have access to my pistol. If I'm playing with my children, I don't want them to have access to my pistol. Even if the trigger is fully covered, it's easy to force leather away from the gun, causing a substantial safety concern.

Belt Retention

Most hybrid holsters suffer from poor quality belt attachments, resulting in poor retention on the belt. From cheap plastic and metal, I've found nearly every hybrid holster to be lacking in the belt attachment department. I can't count the number of hybrids I've seen leave the pants on the drawstroke or during force on force drills. I've personally experienced this just from everyday movements, the holster working its way out of my pants throughout the day. Much like weapon retention, losing your holstered gun while fighting or playing could be a life threatening issue.

CrossBreed SuperTuck Hybrid Holster
Mild curling starting despite light wear

Look for metal clips, ideally something compatible with Discrete Carry Concepts clips, or similar. I had good luck with the OEM metal clips from Black Arch, which seem higher quality than those from Crossbreed.

Access

What good is a holster if we can't readily access our pistol from it? Looking at most hybrid holsters, and you can clearly see access is of little to concern to both their designers and userbase. Sweat guard portions of backers are often oversized, and poorly cut. Some don't seem to cut their material at all, leaving a massive oval of leather behind the gun. These oversized sweat guards make it difficult to impossible to achieve and appropriate grip upon drawing the pistol. Additionally, these large portions of leather further add to the bulk of the holster, and often begin curling sooner than lower profile options.

Final Thoughts on Hybrid Holsters

I like to think I'm a pretty open minded guy. I spent a couple hundred dollars of my own money working on this project. I also put my reputation on the line, borrowing gear from other shooters. After several months of hands-on evaluation, and years of watching hybrid holsters, I think I've come to a pretty effective conclusion on the type.

Pure nylon holsters and soft leather might take the cake, but a hybrid holster is one of the worst choices a shooter could make when it comes to selecting an IWB concealment holster. All have serious downsides when compared to quality leather and just about any kydex offering. Some hybrid holsters are straight up dangerous.

If there's a hybrid which you think does things better, let me know in the comments. I'm more than willing to give new gear a shot. If you need a quality holster, consider looking at PHLster, KSG Armory, Bawidamann, Tenicor, and others we've reviewed here, along with positive mentions elsewhere in this article.

Author's Note: Special thanks to Karl Rehn of KR Training for loaning me some hybrid holsters. Without your help, this project would've been a lot more expensive. If you're looking for training in Central Texas, Karl and his team are an excellent resource.

About Daniel Reedy 281 Articles
Daniel holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has received training from Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, and Steve Fisher among others. He also has experience competing in USPSA, CAS, 3 Gun, and Steel Challenge. In his free time Daniel enjoys petting puppies and reading the Constitution. His work is also published by AmmoLand, Recoil Concealment, and Air Force Times. Daniel has also written and edited for The Kommando Blog.

15 Comments

  1. Have you tried or heard anything about ProTEQ hybrids? I ordered one before reading this (and other) posts on the subject, I think you make valid points. The reason I chose this brand over all others is the guy who makes them is a mechanical engineer who's worked in the gun industry his entire life and they appear to be made better than the others. Whether this means an improvement over the criticisms here, I don't know.

  2. Do you have any experience with Falco Holsters? https://www.falcoholsters.com/

    I have a few Black Arch hybrid holsters and a Falco hybrid holster. The holsters are definitely bulkier than a pure kydex option but the quality of the materials hasn't ever been an issue.

    • I have not used Falco holsters before, but they don't appear to be substantially better than most others at first glance. I do appreciate that they reinforce the sweat guard without making the rest of the backer bulky.
      I do own a Black Arch Protos-M, and its backer has proven to be pretty weak. I do like that they fully enclose the trigger guard and have decent options for belt clips.

    • I agree, i did plenty of research and got a black arch hybrid, quality was good. good retention, good materials (both kydex and leather with no signs of wear), good retention (it clicks into place as much as a full kydex would), and the leather doesn't curl in despite me wearing it off duty and when i go to defensive shooting competitions. I'm getting a new gun and conflicted with getting another black arch or trying a muddy river tactical hybrid, which has the pro of full kydex on full leather backing (unlike black arch was has a 3/4 of a kydex holster giving good retention and a leather and nylon backing). this means the best retention but also the cons such as added bulk. it's a bit cheaper but price isn't a big factor for me. the black arch looks more professional though

    • You're gonna have to be more specific regarding alleged Stealth Gear advantages and your experience supporting this. They look just like any other hybrid on the market.

  3. I have three hybrid holsters in my collection, a Crossbreed Supertuck with the Combat Cut, a Crossbreed Freedom, and a Blackpoimt Tactical wing, all for an M&P 9c that Ino longer carry. The problems you wrote about regarding the Supertuck are legit. I’m on my third due to the Kydex cracking. Crossbreed does have a lifetime replacement guarantee that they stand behind. On the plus side, at least for me, the Supertuck was probably the most concealable rig I have owned, and reasonably comfortable. At least with the 9c and a flat mag baseplate, printing was the most minimal I have ever experienced. When I used the Supertuck, concealment was an absolute requirement. The Freedom, on the other hand did not work as I had hoped and wasn’t very comfortable to boot. Another problem for some is the fact that with the pistol grip pressed close to the torso, establishing a firing grip is more difficult under stress. Something to plan for in training. I still think the best concealment holster ever made, and most comfortable to boot, is the Milt Sparks Summer Special II. Each holster consumer is different. Anyone who still thinks a hybrid holster meets their exact carry needs must be aware of the negative aspects and plan to inspect and replace it periodically, if not frequently.

    • Glad you're definitely keeping an eye on your holsters and are aware of the problems. Preventative maintenance and inspection are far too often overlooked with the majority of people.
      Over the years I've broken one PHLster holster and they had a free replacement in the mail to me within 24 hours of emailing Customer Service. It seems like many of the higher end companies that I carry (PHLster, KSG Armory, Henry, etc) don't advertise lifetime warranties, but will take care of you if something breaks.

      I started carrying with a Summer Special II late last year as well. It's definitely very nice. The Galco Summer Comfort is also turning out to be a really good holster, with a couple pros/cons versus the Milt Sparks. There's a huge difference between quality leather like those and a cheaper option like a Stow-N-Go or SOF-Tuck.

  4. Different strokes for different folks im a slim individual who uses Alien Gear 3.0 & 3.5 exclusively very comfortable even when I drive for long distances. In my view all Kydex holsters suck for a lot of the reasons you stated hybrid holsters suck.

    • Unfortunately that's not actually the case. The dangers of hybrid holsters are well known among the industry. Many people have been shot by the hybrid holster and many more have come close to it. I can't name a kydex holster that I've seen become broken with hours of being pulled from the packaging, even with poor quality brands like Muddy River.

        • Off the top of my head I know two people who have been killed by the backer of their hybrid holster getting into the trigger guard, causing the pistol to discharge. I know zero who have been killed by kydex. There have also been a fair amount injured by poor quality leather, but I don't know of any deaths. Seeing as hybrid designs are far more likely to have problems such as these, they're a non-starter for me. We had a discussion on this in the main Primary & Secondary group a few months ago while I was doing research for this piece. You can search through the comments there, in addition to several other threads on the subject within that group, and content from people like Tom Givens, Chuck Haggard, Greg Ellifritz, and others.

          • The thing is not all hybrids are created equal your speaks as if they are. The Alien Gear 3.0 and 3.5 with the steel core doesn't have that issue at all. I'm willing to bet that in both those instances the backing was leather only and that is valid for those types of holsters but not all hybrids. Different strokes kydex only is uncomfortable and I dont care for the single clip.

          • I specifically speak to the pros/cons of the metal lined Alien Gear in this article, as well as my review on the Alien Gear CloakTuck 3.5.

            Single clip holsters are typically inferior to dual clip. If you look through our holster reviews you'll see that most quality kydex options use two belt attachment points. Good mounts being Discreet Carry Concepts clips or Pull The Dot Loops. I recommend holsters from JM Custom Kydex, Henry Holsters, Bawidamann, Tenicor, PHLster, KSG Armory, and Raven Concealment.

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