Do you love the look of leather holsters? Have you ever bought one and been disappointed with how stiff it felt?
Leather for a gun holster is a classic and top choice going all the way back to the origin of handguns. Let’s face it, some leather holsters out there just look fantastic. Not only that but leather is durable, and it lasts for a long time.
But as with all leather things, when the holster is first used it can feel awkward and stiff. Now, you can ask others for advice, but you’re likely to hear different ideas on how to soften a leather gun holster.
In order to soften a leather gun holster, you need to apply natural amounts of heat and stretching to the natural fibers over a sustained period of time. This is best done by working the leather naturally with your bare hands. Leather holsters should fit tight to the gun and not be loose, but they can be worked to make it more comfortable and easy to use.
Read on to get our specific advice on how to soften your leather holster.
WHAT SOFTENS A LEATHER GUN HOLSTER
What is it exactly that softens leather holsters? Like baseball gloves, these need to be broken in for flexibility and ease of use. Heat, stretch, and time are the three factors your softening strategy needs to include.
Make sure to read carefully, so you don’t damage your holster. Improper technique or using other tools or chemicals could ruin the leather material.
1) HEAT EXPANDS LEATHER FIBERS
When the fibers in leather are heated slightly they expand and become more pliable. Without this heat—which occurs naturally from the friction of wear and use—the leather remains in its original rigid state. This makes it hard to use retention clips and for the gun to fit in the holster itself.
To simulate the natural heat of normal wear, you should rub the leather retention and body of the holster firmly with your hands. Doing this repeatedly warms the leather and allows those fibers to loosen. Experts in leather shoes and jackets recommend this hand rubbing to break in their products, and it works just as well with leather holsters.
Warning! Do not use any unnatural means such as a hairdryer or heater to warm up the leather. Too much heat causes the leather to expand too much. This results in cracks and tears appearing in the leather which renders your holster ugly and useless.
Related reading: Leather Holster Care & Maintenance
2) STRETCH FORMS THE LEATHER
As the leather heats and gains it pliability, you need to work and stretch the material in the way you want it to go. If you want to lengthen the retention strap, that means you need to pull on the strap firmly to make it slightly longer. If you need more space in the holster for the width of your gun, you need to pull on the leather to widen the space.
Another trick involves using wax paper to stretch out the interior space of the holster. The video below suggests you wrap your handgun in wax paper, put the firearm in and out of the holster 5-6 times, and then leave it in all night.
While I have not tested this, logically, it should work. The process of drawing and holstering your gun builds up the heat, and then the extra space of the wax paper should stretch the leather just enough to make the gun fit easier.
Warning! When stretching the leather, take care not fold or crease the material against the natural direction of the material. As with excess heat, this could cause cracks and harm the look and usefulness of the leather. Also, take care not to forcibly stretch the leather too much or your handgun may not fit snugly into the holster.
3) GIVE IT TIME
The natural way to break in leather is just to use it, and—over time—the holster softens enough to fit you. If you don’t want to wait for that to happen naturally, you should do the steps described above over time.
I’m not talking 5 or even 15 minutes. Sit down and watch your favorite TV show, and while you watch, work the material over and over. Given time, the leather will soften similarly to wearing it around. You can completely skip the uncomfortable part where you force everything to fit and wait for days praying that the holster breaks in soon.
Check out this video for advice on breaking in holsters naturally and making sure you buy the right size for your specific gun.
THINGS NOT TO DO TO YOUR HOLSTER
Don’t make these mistakes! You just bought one; you don’t want to damage it by doing one of these common mistakes.
Don’t apply mink oil or other softening chemicals – These products aren’t designed for holsters. The oil makes your holster get too soft and lose its shape. A floppy holster is no good; you want something that can hold your gun firmly, so you can draw it easily in emergencies.
Don’t let it be exposed to excessive moisture – Water is death to leather. If for some reason you holster gets wet, try to restore its shape and let it dry at room temp.
Don’t store it in a place that gets hot – As mentioned before, heat is good for softening, but too much heat can damage your holster. A common mistake people make is storing the holster in the trunk of their car. This spells bad news for you on hot days. Store it in a place that stays around room temperature.
When you go out and buy one, you now know how to soften a leather gun holster. By rubbing and working the material, you heat and stretch it over time to make it fit your gun and body better. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learned something.
Have fun, and keep on shooting!
If you enjoyed this article, check out The Best 1911 IWB Holsters