Cleveland IWB Holsters Review

Cleveland Comfort Cut for the Ruger SR9c/LaserMax Micro

Bobby Cleveland and company make IWB holsters that are a cut above

most of the other holsters of this type - the hybrid (leather backing and kydex shell) double clip, in-the-waistband holsters for concealed carry. I may be wrong, but I believe the type was made popular, if not originated, by Crossbreed. The idea is basic: use a wide leather backing to provide comfort against the wearer's skin, attach two clips, also widely spaced to take up the weight and attach a kydex shell moulded to fit a particular handgun. Shazam! You have a very odd holster that works very well for its intended purpose. There are quite a few hybrid holster makers offering their designs and variations off this theme. I received a couple of Cleveland holsters made for the LaserMax Micro, rail mounted laser and the Ruger SR9c handgun, and for the LC9 equipped with the LaserMax CenterFire unit to test and report on here. My thanks to Cleveland holsters for the chance to evaluate and write about my findings and opinions

Cleveland holsters take the basic Crossbreed concept and move it into a higher level of design and execution. But before getting into the details, here is what you get when the holsters arrive in the mail.

For the LC9 with a custom cut.

Holster for the SR9c with comfort fit.

Reverse of the package.

 The packaging is good and contains an informative sheet on how the holsters are made and how to adjust the ride height and cant to your liking, and a warning to use the included thread locker material to ensure the screws, once adjusted to your preference, don't move.

The holsters are a quality product throughout. Where some makers use basic cowhide for their backing, Cleveland sports premium tanned leather, as you can see from the closeup below. Other makers' backings are not as smooth, flexible and well finished. In fact, Cleveland even hand bevels the edges for comfort and an excellent finish.

A close look at the leather quality and finish of the backing, and the type of round nuts used to hold the screws.

Another look at the leather finish, kydex and clip attachments.

Below is the custom cut on the LC9 holster. The rear of the slide is protected by the leather backing, but the grips are exposed permitting a good and rapid access to the pistol.

LC9/LaserMax in the custom cut holster.

The reverse side shows the adjustment holes for the two clips and the brass round head screws Cleveland uses to keep the clips and the kydex shell in place. Each of the screw and nut combinations trap a rubber O ring between them so that any slack that may develop between the kydex or clips and the backing can be taken up with a few turns of a screwdriver. This is a good feature, not possible with holsters that are bradded to the leather.

Reverse side of the holster.

The comfort cut, the one supplied for the bigger Ruger SR9c/LaserMax combo, is basically the same holster but with the leather left higher to shield the wearer completely from contact with the gun. It was obvious that the SR9c and 10 round magazine would be completely covered by the backing, but I wanted to see how it would work with the longer 17 round magazine installed.

Comfort cut for the SR9c/LaserMax combo.

The same holster showing how the pistol equipped with the longer magazine fits.

Reverse of the custom cut and Ruger with the longer magazine.

 As you can see, no problem with the long magazine.

Another feature that sets Cleveland holsters apart from the competition is the detail they mould into the ends of their holsters. Rather than simply cutting the kydex off at the muzzle, they wrap it around the end of the weapon, moulding it in place there as well. And the kydex is brought higher up on the slide. This offers more comfort and security to keep the gun in place.

Detail of the muzzle end.

Wearing and using the Cleveland holsters.

 A good design and several quality steps above the normal, these holsters are obviously quality built equipment. The big aspects are comfort, ease of use, adjustability and security of the weapon.

Quality

: I would put Cleveland holsters in the top tier of quality hybrid IWB holsters. I had an opportunity to compare the Cleveland holsters with a Comp-Tac Minotaur hybrid. I discuss this in more detail below. In my experience, these two are at the top of the hybrid IWB game but have very different design and manufacturing philosophies.

Comfort

: These holsters are certainly very comfortable. The two Cleveland holsters were comfortable right off, without a break-in period. As you wear them more and they mould and conform to your own body type and contours they will fit better and become even more easy to wear for extended periods.

Ease of Use

: I had a set of the kydex clips to try out with these holsters. I generally like kydex over steel clips as I find they are most often easier to use. However, the kydex clips Cleveland supplies don't work for me. The steel clips worked as advertised, but I could not get the kydex clips to attach snugly to my 1 1/2" gun belt. I measured the clips inside area and found they were 1 5/8", which should have been big enough, but no. I could force one over the belt, but not the other. I think the issue was that the clips were not big enough on the inside to accommodate my belt and the thickness of the material in my Wranglers. Switching to the steel clips solved that problem. Even so, I have always found the twin clip hybrid holsters difficult to get on properly, and the Clevelands were no exceptions. I think this a personal idiosyncrasy. Your mileage may vary.

Security

: The guns snap nicely into the kydex when properly adjusted and can be drawn with little effort. The pistol is not coming out of that holster accidentally. At first I expected the comfort cut holster to be more difficult on the draw, but with some practice to familiarize myself with getting a grip between the leather and the grips, I came to the conclusion that this is not really an issue, and I think as the holster breaks in, it will be even easier. I certainly appreciate the leather between me and that long grip. The custom cut is comfortable enough with the smaller LC9 and access is no problem at all. All in all, I think I prefer the custom cut, but, again, that's a purely personal decision. Like any other carry system, train well with what you use and you will be proficient with it.

The Cleveland and the Minotaur

I previously did a review of Comp-Tac's AIWB Minotaur for the SR9c here on this blog. See it for details. It is important to remember that the Minotaur I use here to compare with the Cleveland holsters is not an AIWB, but an IWB designed for strong side carry, as is the Cleveland. In this post I want to point out the differences between these two holsters that clearly show the design differences and philosophies between the two makers.

Right away you can see that the Minotaur is smaller overall and shaped nothing like the Cleveland. Perhaps the most striking difference is in the clips and their arrangement on the two holsters. The Cleveland has traditional metal clips adjusted by means of a series of holes in the leather backing. The Minotaur's clips are thinner kydex with multiple adjustment holes in the clips themselves. Depending on their positions, the ends of the Minotaur's clips may protrude below the bottom of the leather backing. I haven't found this to be an issue. Some users will trim the clips - easily done because they are kydex, not metal - once they have arrived at the positions they like. Unlike all twin clip hybrids, I found the Minotaur to be very easy to put on and remove.

Below you see the reverse (body side) of each holster. The Cleveland is wide and smooth providing a larger surface area to distribute the load. Cleveland uses round, smooth screw heads here which do not impact the holster's comfort. Some holsters of this type use a three-pronged star type of nut that digs into the leather instead of screw heads. This works, but moving these nuts to different positions is a trial, leaving puncture holes behind. The prongs usually are bent and have to be straightened which is difficult as they are thick metal points, and small. This is not an issue with Cleveland's holsters.

The Minotaur's mounting hardware is permanently fixed in place and covered by a thin, smooth leather lining. Even though smaller, the shape of the Minotaur's backing handles the load and delivers a surprising level of comfort. Even though they are radically different in shape, I would say the two are equally comfortable for me. If you have a different body shape, you might prefer one over the other. I am tall and relatively slim: 6' 3", 200 lbs.

The biggest difference between the Minotaur and the Cleveland holsters lies in the ability to attach different kydex shells to the Minotaur to fit different pistols. The kydex shells are available separately for the Minotaur to fit many popular carry guns. Remove four screws, slide in a different holster shell, reinstall the screws and you have a holster for a different gun, but with the same backing broken in to you.

A direct comparison of the two holsters:

Although both holsters offer a wide range of adjustments for ride height and cant, neither are suitable for appendix carry. This style is becoming more popular for CCW owners, and for good reason. There are a number of professional trainers who have debunked the "danger" of appendix carry, especially as compared to the more common strong-side carry method. Both have their risk points and with either the shooter must be aware of them and train to minimize the risks. But to say that appendix carry is inherently more dangerous than the other styles is not correct.

This style of Minotaur might be adjusted for a "straight drop" but the shape of the backing is not designed for appendix carry so I doubt it would be acceptable in that configuration. Comp-Tac does offer a Minotaur designed specifically for appendix carry. I reviewed it here earlier.

The Cleveland is really designed for carry with a cant. I tried to adjust the custom cut for the LC9 to the appendix carry configuration, but with the built-in cant of the kydex shell, it was not possible. So, with that in mind, the Cleveland and the Minotaur can be adjusted for your strong-side carry preferences.

Conclusion

: Cleveland makes the best traditional design hybrid, leather backed, dual clip concealment holsters. They have taken the standard design and elevated it to a much higher level with attention to materials, details of construction and the better moulding and 'wrap around' of the kydex. Cleveland offers a thirty-day guarantee, as does Comp-Tac.

My opinion is that Cleveland and Comp-Tac, although following very different design philosophies, offer the best in hybrid, concealed carry holsters available today. The Minotaur is obviously different and has staked out it's own design path. The Cleveland is a more traditional design, but with deep attention paid to the details, comfort and differences between their product and the also-rans. You really can't go wrong with either.