I have used and reviewed many holsters over the years. I try to be selective in the ones I review because doing fair and objective (as objective as possible) product evaluations and then writing the review, giving that to the maker for his review for factual accuracy, further edits, photos and publication is a lot of work. I choose holsters that show originality, innovation in design and quality of construction. I will use a holster in my daily carry life for weeks and months before starting an article on it because once the honeymoon period is over the real character and usefulness of that piece of gear will become apparent.
Some holsters work out fine for their intended purpose. Others don’t. Such is life.
Selection used to be fairly straightforward. There were holsters made from leather, synthetic soft materials, kydex and plastic. Then there appeared “hybrid” models made with kydex screwed or bradded to leather backing. Then the leather backing was replaced by a synthetic material allegedly for better ventilation. We also got moulded plastic holster shells with proprietary retention features attached to neoprene. The latest models feature modular plastic, metal and synthetic soft materials that can be reconfigured into different styles.
There are hundreds of leather holster makers, more than hundreds of kydex holster makers and the hybrid makers are somewhere in the middle. Making a quality leather holster is not easy. It requires good material and tools, and most importantly years of experience. A quality leather holster will set you back a hundred dollars. Perhaps more. Anyone can learn to make a kydex holster after spending an hour or two on YouTube. The materials and tools are cheap. The designs possible with kydex are limited. That’s why most of the kydex holsters offered today all look pretty much the same.
Moulded plastic holsters are more expensive to manufacture and require a large start up cost. Part of the cost recovery goes into advertising and packaging, like most small businesses do. You won’t find plastic and modular holster manufacturers working out of their garage.
So, what does this mean to you, the average person who just wants a quality reasonably priced holster or two? It means you now have a ton of choices from many different holster makers (the small outfits, working mostly by hand, up to the large mini-corporations with facilities, employees, management and advertising). Given that most holsters will perform adequately, what differentiates the good ones from the not so good is one thing: customer service. Do the makers of your holster care about you, their customer?
This seems simple but isn’t. A small shop may indeed care, stand by their product and be there when needed, but they may not be there for long. Most small businesses are not noted for longevity. Large outfits may be around longer but may get sold off and are typically more interested in the number of sales they make over the quality of their relationships with individual customers.
These attitudes have been reflected over the years in my experiences working with many different holster makers. I have worked with a few grumpy holster makers who, frankly did not like my criticisms of their products. This is not surprising. I’m not an advertising agency, just a normal guy who carries daily and is willing to evaluate a product as honestly as possible. In some instances makers have taken my critical observations and made modifications that resulted in a better holster. However, occasionally merely getting a holster for review becomes more trouble than it is worth. Lately, with the large number of holster makers struggling to differentiate their products and designs from the rest, the opportunities for a solid, critical review are becoming fewer if the reviewer isn’t a solid member of the gun press or a leading voice on YouTube or social media. That would not include me.
Case in point: Since September of 2016 I have been negotiating with Stealth Gear to get one of their IWB holsters to review against their claims for it and my real-world work experience with it. They were going to send one of their “new” models then nothing happened. I contacted them again in 2017 pointing this out. The employee I had been working with had left the company and no one had followed up. They would take care of this right away I was told. Fine, I said, just let me know one way or the other. Nothing happened for a couple of months. Another contact by me. Working on it they said. Don’t worry. That was before Christmas. It’s now the last part of January. Specifically, I want to see if their technological claims for superior performance and comfort justify the very high cost of that holster.
I also contacted AlienGear last year to review their ShapeShift system. Same kind of deal except after speaking with someone at the company I was sent a “reviewer form” to complete and submit for consideration. I did that in December last year. No response so far. I contacted them again for status. The reply is that it is “in progress”. Must be a giant organization since it’s taken weeks to review a one page form.
My conclusion is that these are two holster manufacturers that have become disconnected from their customers, not because they haven’t complied with my request to review their product - companies are free to choose what gets reviewed by whom - but because attempting to communicate with them is like running into the beaurcratic wall. I’m certain no one in either company thinks they have begun to isolate themselves from their customers and potential customers, but after weeks and months of trying to get a simple and definitive reply to a standard request, I would beg to differ.
I can guarantee that if my request to review one of their products, to put in hours of evalution, write up an extensive draft review, return it for their comments, edit it, take photos and publish on a website I pay for, if my request was accompanied by payment in full for that product, I’d have it in hand within a week.
So, instead of reviewing one of their holsters, this has beeen a review of their company’s attitude and practices toward their customers and potential customers. If Stealth Gear or AlienGear cares to explain or comment, I welcome their input. Given what’s transpired to far, I’m not holding my breath.