How to Make a Kydex Holster

Ever want to learn how to make your own custom kydex holster? Here’s how…

For you Kydex newbies, Kydex is basically an acrylic/PVC thermoplastic sheet that is frequently used as an alternative to leather in the production of firearm holsters and sheaths for knives.

The benefits of Kydex are that it is lightweight, thin, durable, and provides excellent retention for whatever application you use it for — be it sheaths, mag pouches, flashlights, or holsters.

Although Kydex holsters and mag pouches have been around for some time now, only in the recent decade do we see the competitive-shooting and military communities embracing them — and if you haven’t yet, I’d recommend you do too.

Given its many benefits, I figured I’d pass onto you how you can make your own custom Kydex gear.

Since making a Kydex holster is one of the more complicated of Kydex crafts, if you haven’t yet I’d highly recommend you first trying to make a Kydex mag pouch to better understand how to work with Kydex (you can see instructions by visiting the following link: how to make your own Kydex mag pouch. Once you’re comfortable with that, making a holster will not be much more difficult.

In this article, I’ll be taking you step by step through the process of making your own Kydex holster (an outside-the-waistband model)

Materials you’ll need


The list below contains all the basics you need to make some great Kydex holsters. Items with the * can be found at KnifeKits.com

  • *Kydex (I like to use .08 thickness)
  • Box cutters
  • Some type of measuring device
  • *Sheath foam (I purchased two 12×11.5×1 sheets)
  • *Rivets/Eyelits (I purchased a bunch of #8-8 1/4 inch size)
  • *Rivet flaring die and guide (I purchased the #8 die)
  • Some wood boards to sandwich the foam
  • Wood clamps
  • Marking tool (pencil)
  • Your pistol
  • A heat gun or good hair drier
  • Gloves to protect your hands from the heat
  • A drill with a 1/4″ bit
  • Optional: It helps to have a craft-board for easy measurements

How to make a Kydex holster

Step 1:
  1. Place the pistol on the sheet of Kydex that will be closest to the waistband.
  2. Leave around a 2-inch gap of kydex above the slide, a 1-inch gap in front of the muzzle, and no gap along the side of the handle.

Step 2: Score the Kydex with some box cutters and split it by hand along the score line
Step 3:
  1. Now, with the reduced dimensions, draw an outline of the pistol making sure to keep the 2-inch gap of kydex along the slide and the 1-inch gap in front of the muzzle.
  2. If you want the non-reflective dull side to be on the outside, be sure to draw the outline on the shiny side.
  3. Also, if you are wearing the pistol on your right-hand side, be sure to point the pistol grip to the right as shown in the picture:

Step 4:
  1. Next, draw out an area that is to be removed from the Kydex to allow access to the grip when you draw the pistol.
  2. Score and remove that area.

Step 5:
  1. Place the pistol on the sheet of Kydex that will be furthest away from the waistband and cut the dimensions similar to Step 1. In this outer half of the holster, you will not need to keep a grip guard (see second picture below):

Step 6:Prepare to form the Kydex by turning on your oven to about 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 7:
  1. Place both Kydex halves on a cookie sheet and place in the oven with the door partially open.
  2. I like to also lay the sheath foam between the oven door and the stove top to warm up the foam. Warming up the foam will help to create a more defined Kydex mold. If you keep the foam at room temperature, it will draw out the heat from the Kydex causing it to cool too fast which will prevent a nicely defined mold.

Step 8:
  1. With gloves on, every few minutes pick up the Kydex to determine if it’s soft and begins to bend.
  2. Once it begins to soften and bend, heat up the pistol with a hot hairdryer or heat gun (this also helps to create a defined mold).
Step 9:
  1. Once the Kydex is very flexible and floppy and the pistol is warm, remove one of the pieces of foam from the oven door and place it on one of the wood boards.
  2. Remove one half of the Kydex from the oven and place it on the foam (with the pencil outline facing up) and…
  3. Place the pistol on the hot Kydex (being sure to match up the pistol with the pencil outline you had made before)
  4. Finally, place the other warm piece of foam on the magazine and Kydex, followed by the other wood board.

Step 10:
  1. Clamp down the two halves of the boards over the foam like a sandwich. Be sure to securely clamp it down — the more pressure the more defined your final product will be.
  2. Let it sit in the foam press for around 15 min

Step 11: Repeat the process with the other piece of Kydex. Here’s what one of the halves will look like when taken out of the press:
Step 12:Draw a sketch of your holster design on both of the halves as follows and cut out the sections not part of the sketch.
Step 13: After cutting out the designs, place both halves together (with the pistol in the middle) ensuring that both sides are flush. Don’t worry if there are any overlapping sections, since these can be fixed later.
Step 14: Now that both halves are cut out, draw holes where you want the rivets to be.
Step 15: Now begin drilling out the holes that you drew in the previous step. Be sure to keep the magazine in-between the two halves to ensure proper alignment.
Step 16: Using the rivet die, begin installing the rivets (eyelits) where the holes are.
Step 17: After installing all of the rivets, you’ll probably notice that there are slight alignment issues between the two halves. To fix this, use a belt sander, file, or heavy sand paper and start sanding the edges so they even out and become aligned.
Step 18: The previous step will leave a rough finish on the edges. Now it’s time to clean them up using a fine grit sand paper.
Step 19: Viola! You now have an effective and beutiful Kydex holster! What I also did (as you can see in the pics below) is took a heat gun to the edges of the holster to bend them slightly in. This helps to mold it to the body better. In addition, don’t forget the belt loops. These are simply made by cutting strips of Kydex, heating them up and bending them into the shape you desire.

Resources

Still need more Kydex?! Here are some great resources for Kydex materials and how-tos:

Copyright © 2014 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved

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53 Comments»

Comment by David
2012-07-20 10:29:49

This is very nice! The step-by-step instructions make it very easy to make…and save money! Thanks for sharing!!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-20 10:43:06

You’re very welcome David. If you do this, let us know how it goes for you.

 
 
Comment by David O
2012-07-20 10:54:15

I made one, but didn’t have the foam so I set the rivets before I ever heated the Kydex (didn’t heat my pistol up either although that does make sense) and press molded it to the pistol with gloved hands like I would with wet leather. it isn’t “pretty’ but it holds the pistol well and does what I want it to do. It’s an IWB so I’m not that concerned with whether the mold is crisp and clean. If I ever get some mold I’ll try using the method you demonstrated, but will probably set the rivets before I heat it up like I did before. I use a Dremel tool to clean up the edges.

Good job on the holster and I really like the belt loops. :)

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-20 11:40:13

Thanks David O,

I’m working on designing an IWB as well. I’ll be sure to post the process.

Good call on the Dremel! Man, I have one and didn’t even think of using that for the edge cleaning (sanding took forever). Thanks for the tip!

- Erich

 
 
Comment by Todd
2012-07-20 17:08:35

You may also want to not use foam on the “against the body” side. you can make the Kydex wrap wonderfully around the outer side and more flat on the inside for comfort. sometimes just a heat gun will shape it to needed specs. Kydex is great stuff and as versatile as can be, mold to your needs.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-20 17:50:00

Thanks for the good tip Todd. I’ll be making another one soon and may try that approach for comparison.

 
 
Comment by Bob
2012-07-22 09:00:14

Could you as well mold the Kydex with your laser attached to the firearm? It is hard to find holsters with this option, or as stated they are very expensive. I have taken a standard fabric holster and split the bottom and sewn elastic in the bottom of it to allow expansion of the holster for the laser.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-07-22 12:23:48

Bob,

You sure can. Just place the pistol with the light attached onto the kydex and mold as you would normally.

 
 
Comment by Jarett
2012-07-26 19:32:41

I am new to kydex and set up to make my first mold. I have a Ruger with a crimson trace laser. Can I mold over the LASER (NOT FLASH LIGHT) without hurting it? I’m not pressing the mold, so im not worried about crushing it. I’m using a cheap vacuum box i made up. I have to heat to 350 degrees and worried about burning the laser lens. Any input would be great, thanks.

 
Comment by Robert
2012-08-01 21:34:10

Thank you

 
Comment by JHN
2012-09-04 01:06:52

Thanks for the great post, this is definitely something i will do soon. I have a few questions, if you could help me out before I get started.

1). Does the hot Kydex stick to the gun? I would be worried about if it fused to the plastic parts of the Glock, like the handle/trigger area.

2). Does the gun get stuck when drawing it from the holster, from snagging on areas where the kydex formed to indented or protruding parts of the gun (around the trigger guard, ejection port, mag/slide release, front sight)?

3). What type of bolts/screws did you use to attach the belt loops? Could those be used all the way around the holster instead of the eyelet rivets?

4). I noticed on a different Kydex holster tutorial
(http://www.m4carbine.net/showthread.php?t=64714) that both pieces of Kydex are molded around the gun at the same time. Do see any advantages/disadvantages to that way vs. your way?

5). When molding the Kydex one piece at a time, have you ever had it where the Kydex forms more than halfway around the gun, or not far enough around, thus interfering with the joining of the two halves together? For example, if both sides molded more than halfway around, then when they were put together the space woiuld be bigger than the gun; if the sides molded not far enough, then the space would be too small to fit the gun into. (or am I overthinking this, lol).

6). Lastly, does the Kydex/foam smell bad when it is heated up? In other words, should I do this project when the wife and kids are out of the house, so they aren’t bothered by the stink? :)

Sorry for so many questions, any help would be great! Thank you in advance!!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-09-04 10:22:34

Hi JHN,

Thanks for the great questions and I hope my answers help others looking to do this as well.

1. No, the kydex does not stick to the gun since it is “floppy” and not melted.
2. It can sometimes and you’ll need to “tune” the kydex with a blow dryer or heat gun in certain areas like you mentioned.
3. I used chicago screws for that. I suppose you could use them instead of the eyelits.
4. I’ve tried both and for me (since I draw an outline of where the gun’s exact placement should be) I’ve found I get better accuracy with the one-at-a-time approach.
5. No, I think the foam pieces on both sides prevents it from ever going beyond halfway.
6. I’ve never had an issue with smell and the misses doesn’t mind it (except on occasion when I’m using her blowdryer :))

- Erich

 
 
Comment by Brad
2012-10-05 20:57:04

I just finished my second holster of my own design but your instructions are so help ful. Thanks for help

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-10-07 00:20:32

You’re welcome

 
 
Comment by Bill
2012-10-06 23:24:31

Specifically, how did you do the eyelets? I have seen presses do them but u showed a hammer…

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-10-07 00:28:41

Hey Bill,

Yeah to do these using the hammer method you need a an eyelit flaring die in combination with a flaring die guide. Both of these can be purchased at KnifeKits.com

 
 
Comment by Brad
2012-10-06 23:28:29

I have been using pop rivets they seem to hold up very well and dont cause any discomfort. Plus they are faster and easier to install.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-10-07 00:30:32

Pop rivets huh. That’s a great idea! I’ll need to try that. Thanks!

 
 
Comment by Bill
2012-10-07 00:58:37

Great thanks! I have been wanting to make my own holsters for a while but really like kydex since starting IDPA matches a few months ago. Thanks so much for the instructions!!!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-10-08 22:39:36

You’re welcome!

 
 
Comment by Bill
2012-10-31 14:18:20

What did u use to attach the belt loops u made?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-11-01 16:08:08

Bill,

I used the eyelits in combination with chicago screws (they all can be bought at KnifeKits.com).

 
 
Comment by dchang0
2012-11-10 18:30:21

A couple of extra tips:

1) With a good temperature-regulated heat gun with a fine tip adapter (mine is a 3/8″ round nozzle), you can very easily work the Kydex in small spots, while still keeping it looking pro. In fact, because the heat relaxes the Kydex at that small spot, it is possible to remove/undo small blemishes (unless you actually melt the Kydex, which leaves an irreparable shiny spot).

Spot-heating is a must for flattening some of the wavy edges where the two halves of the holster don’t meet, and I was able to loosen up my holster in places where it was binding/catching on the Surefire X300 light by gradually pulling the gun out, stop-motion style, when the Kydex was heated to floppyness in the correct spots. Voila–no need to construct plugs/molds; the gun and light themselves become the mold.

2) The Dremel 1/2″ sanding barrel works wonders for cutting and shaping the edges. Just make sure you keep your hands steady and go in light, fast-moving passes.

3) I didn’t need a press. Just used the foam, a hard floor, and a wooden kitchen cutting board, plus a 50lb. case of ammo on top of that. For good measure, I sat on the ammo case, but this isn’t necessary if the Kydex is heated up to high enough a temperature (still within safe limits, and slowly) to where it’s very floppy.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-11-11 22:31:37

Great tips, thanks!

 
 
Comment by John Brewer
2012-12-20 17:26:41

Great tutorial. I am just about to the point of making some for myself and hopefully others soon. My KK order is shipping right now. Thanks for all of the really good info.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-12-22 12:44:25

You’re very welcome. Let us know how it turns out.

 
 
Comment by James C. Field
2013-02-10 15:26:34

Excellent for the next: baby shooting, cop killing, school massacring, husband/wife/sister/brother/mother/father murderer etc.

“A well regulated militia” not gun nuts! Have you actually read the Constitution?

p.s. It’s spelled “URL” not “URI”. It stands for uniform resource locator.

Not too bright. I bet you don’t dare publish.

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-02-10 15:56:03

Hey James,

Actually a URL (uniform resource locator) is a type of URI (uniform resource indicator).

But thanks for playing anyways.

 
Comment by Joe
2013-02-16 10:57:45

If I’m using the .08 kydex what size Chicago screw do I use to attach my IWB loop. .250 or .500 depth?

 
Comment by Bill
2013-03-15 09:08:17

I was wondering about something. I have a holster that I bought that was a rough mold for a different model gun than what I have, Can it be molded a second time to fit my gun, or is it better to just start with a fresh piece of kydex?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-03-17 20:21:47

you can use that same one by slowly heating it in the oven to lose the old mold and then repressing it with your new pistol. It’s definitely worth a shot.

 
 
Comment by John
2013-03-28 12:46:27

Has anyone made a holster with a paddle? I like this idea, but I only use paddle holsters. Thanks for all the great info.

 
Comment by Phil
2013-04-10 17:00:33

I’ m not sure you have read it.

 
Comment by txscallywag
2013-05-16 17:56:33

Awesome work you’re doing here. I’m just curious about something though. In general, is there any kind of retention on these holsters, such as having to slightly twist, push or pull your firearm in order to un-holster? That’s my only real concern about these holsters.

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-05-17 11:04:52

scallywag,

Kydex holsters have excellent retention (I’ve used them in many training situations where I needed to run, go prone, go to knees, etc etc without the pistol going anywhere). In addition, you can adjust the retention strength by reheating and remolding certain areas (like where the finger guard goes).

It’s not a Level III holster though if that’s what you’re looking for.

- Erich

 
Comment by txscallywag
2013-05-17 13:09:28

That’s exactly what I was looking for. Well I know what I’m doing this weekend. Thanks.

 
Comment by sergio
2013-06-10 12:28:50

Thanks for the tutorial. I had a question and I hope Ill get a response since this entry was created quite a while ago. If I wanted to make a conceal carry kydex holster using this method, what steps would I have to do differently? It seems its almost the same, the only difference is that the firearm would have to be facing the opposite direction when creating the mold…

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2013-06-11 12:36:32

Hey Sergio,

To make an IWB holster, just attach the belt loops so they’re on the outside.

 
Comment by ARCS Self Defense
2013-06-17 18:48:43

Outstanding post…my partner and I were just talking about making a couple holsters. I think we are going to add our logo to it as well.

thanks
j

 
Comment by Simon
2013-06-24 11:39:18

“Sheath Foam” is an unknown product here in the UK,does anybody know what the foam is made of and its density or the Manufactures details or even a Company that will sell it to the UK.?

 
Comment by Simon
2013-06-24 11:41:49

Alas there is none available on eBay.

 
Comment by Dave
2013-06-24 17:09:43

Simon,

Here in the states it is called Thermoform Molding Foam. It’s best to get 1″ thick foam that is heat tolerant. I’ve heard that Neoprene foam will work, but I’ve never tried it.

 
Comment by Simon
2013-07-07 20:41:41

Hey, does anyone want to start selling this stuff on eBay to us Guys in the UK, 2 x 12″sq should do most jobs, and I’ve never had a problem with USPS, what do you say?

 
Comment by PhillyEDC
2013-07-19 23:03:21

Foam is available at http://www.foamforyou.com. It’s the 1 inch thick Neoprene foam.
Also, the folks over at Index Fasteners offer a starter kit which has EVERYTHING you need to get started on this process. All the right hardware, material, and other bits and pieces, right out of the box.

Good luck with your projects!
Jon
PhillyEDC

 
Comment by Quique
2013-08-05 14:03:56

What is the type of KYDEX that Units used to make the holster. KYNDEX 100, 110, 430? What is the best suited for that kind of work?

 
Comment by Chris Andrews
2013-08-21 07:32:04

Can an existing kydex sheath for an ESEE Junglas be heated up and remolded slightly to fit an Ontarion RTAK II? They are very similar knives in size and shape. You can get a factory ESEE sheath for around $75. Ontario does not offer kydex sheaths and to get one custom made similarly equipped would cost over $150. I have looked closely at the sheath for my Junglas and everything currently on it can be removed for remolding if this is even possible. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Chris Andrews

 
2013-08-22 20:41:16

Hi Chris,

As long as it’s Kydex it shouldn’t be an issue to reheat it until soft and remold it to the other knife. Be sure to use some type of foam press to ensure proper fit and molding.

- Erich

 
Comment by michael
2014-03-09 19:14:33

hello, can you do a follow up article on making a drop leg style holster? i want coyote brown for a glock 22 and am not having much luck.

 
Comment by Lawrence
2014-04-01 14:47:13

I have heard not to use your hand gun if the body is made of Polymer to use a mold because of the heat and it might warp. Is this true? buying a blue gin for maybe using it only once is a waste of money to me.

 
Comment by kevin
2014-05-23 00:42:34

I have just one question for Mr. Anti-Gun! Say sometime you and your family are in an active shooter situation and you’re stuck with a madman between you and any exit and you’re waiting many minutes for your beloved police officer to come rescue you… do you sit idly by and let your family die first or do you ask the shooter to shoot you first so you don’t have to watch the inevitable consequence of that situation by choosing not to arm yourself in order to protect yourself and your family???

 
Comment by Kevin
2014-06-04 00:03:15

Hey, where did you get the loops for the belts? Great review amazing info. Thanks

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-06-04 21:56:04

Thanks for the kind words Keving. I made them out of Kydex as well. Just cut thin strips and shape them into your loops under some heat.

 
 
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