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hybrid holsters explained for concealed carry beginners

If you're new to concealed carry, you're probably getting slammed with a bunch of jargon terms that may mean nothing to you. One of those terms is a hybrid holster.

There are many different types of holsters.

A hybrid holster refers to the merging of two or more different types of materials in a holster's construction. For instance, if you have a holster with a leather backpad and a polymer high-retention shell, that would be considered a hybrid holster. If your had a leather holster that slid onto your belt, it would just be a leather belt-slide outside the waistband holster.

What makes a holster hybrid so special?!

best hybrid holster

A hybrid holster being the “right fit” depends on the manufacturer and the quality of their production.This can be a great thing. Here's a couple things you'll want to pay attention to if you find yourself in the market for a hybrid holster:

  • Layer 1: Backpad
  • Layer 2: Reinforcement Layer
  • Layer 3: Top Protective Layer
  • High-Retention Polymer Shell
  • Fastening Clips

Different holster makers will use different materials. Some will skip things like reinforcing layers. A hybrid holster can ideally last you five to ten years through proper every day carry use. To help you in your quest, we’ll discuss the different layers in a hybrid holster so you have a better idea what you’re looking for.

Hybrid Holster Backpads -- Leather or Neoprene?

different hybrid holster bases

A backpad refers to a piece of material that acts as the layer that stays in contact with your body inside the waistband. Because hybrid inside the waistband holsters are meant to be worn inside the waistband, you have a few considerations for your own personal level of comfort.

Leather backpads will always have a “break-in” time.

The quality of the leather and its thickness will both affect how long of a break-in period is required.

best hybrid holster

The easiest way to break in your leather backpad hybrid holster is to wear it every day -- in and out of the home.

If you are waiting on your concealed carry license or permit to arrive, this is the perfect time to start breaking in that leather backpad.

  • Wear it every day, all around the house.
  • Wear it while you’re out walking the dog or mowing the lawn.
  • Wear it while you’re fixing your car.

This will show you precisely how well leather can conform to your body and get it ready for when your CCW permit arrives.

A hybrid holster can have many different layers between that first leather or neoprene layer but this is the part you will be interacting with most in your every day carry environment.

Your level of daily activity and movement will likely dictate whether leather or neoprene is a good choice. No matter which leather you go with, there will be a “break-in” period as the leather gets adjusted to the contours of your body.

A leather backpad can be a comfortable choice to mount a polymer holster shell. It also has the lasting power of a strong material that can withstand the daily abuses heaped upon it.

Neoprene backing for hybrid holsters has more sweat absorption.

If you are active on a daily basis -- running around, moving for extended periods of time, a neoprene backing may be ideal. It's soft, comfortable, conforms well to your body, and makes a great padding layer for an inside the waistband CCW holster.

Hybrid Holster Reinforcing Layers -- What They Do

hybrid holster base layering for concealed carry quality

The reinforcement layer is meant to allow enough bend to conform the holster to your body but return to its original shape when not needed.

For hybrid holsters that use a thick leather backpad, that is generally the reinforcing layer. For synthetic materials like neoprene, they need support in order to maintain their shape and keep tight retention over the handgun.

Some manufacturers use an ABS core as the reinforcing layer.

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene. it's a semi-rigid, bendable material that maintains an overall shape very well. It conforms almost as good as leather. When used as a reinforcing layer, an ABS core can help keep the hybrid holster's form much longer.

Another popular reinforcement material for hybrid holsters is spring-steel.

Spring steel is a thin layer of steel that is bendable but snaps back to its original shape -- ideal for hybrid holsters.

When placed between a comfortable backpad material like neoprene and a supporting durable protective top layer, spring-steel can accomodate the retention of a handgun very well.

This means when you draw your handgun from your IWB concealed carry holster, your holster bends with the draw. When you reholster, the gun is kept tightly retained between the spring-steel and the polymer gun shell.

Top Protective Layers for Hybrid Holsters

Neoprene is lightweight and sweat absorbant. Spring steel keeps the holster's form while giving it some bend. But these two layers would be lost without a good polymer protective layer.

The polymer protective layer is the top most layer facing outwards. It has to protect against abrasions and scratches from normal wear-and-tear on the hybrid holster.

High Retention Polymer Shells for Hybrid Holsters

hybrid holster shells for high retention and quality

One of the best aspects of hybrid holsters is the high retention they keep over the firearm.

While out and about, the last thing you want to worry about is your gun falling out. High retention is kept by a custom molded polymer shell pressing between the belt and the backpad.

There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to polymer shells. Look for a holster company that makes interchangeable shell replacement. That means if you decide to switch carry guns, you can use the same backpad and just swap shells. This is far easier than buying a holster for each pistol you own.

The polymer shell should be a "combat cut" that protects the trigger guard completely while allowing the web of your hand to get a firm grip on the pistol grip. This means your trigger is protected until you lock on target.

Top four things to look for in polymer shell hybrid holsters:

  • Hybrid holster can swap polymer shells
  • Polymer shell protects trigger guard
  • Polymer shell offers adjustable retention
  • Shell is molded specifically to the gun you carry

If you find a holster system that supports the majority of your handguns, you will find it is easier to carry with that holster every day.

How Fastening Clips Play A Role In Hybrid Holsters

quality clips for hybrid holsters

Fastening clips are the parts of the holster that physically attach to your belt or waistband. These clips can be made out of highly durable plastic, polymer, steel or even leather loops. The choice is yours.

Here's some types of fastening clips for hybrid holsters:

  • J clips - J clips go between the belt and the waistband and cup the bottom end of the belt.
  • C clips - C clips fit between the belt and the waistband and latch on to the top and bottom of the belt.
  • Leather loops - Law enforcement seem to prefer the traditional leather loop approach. This offers a bit of comfort with all the reliability of standard clips.
  • Black steel clips - For some, nothing but the feeling of steel will do. Steel clips offer a rigidity and certainty that some gun owners prefer. They clamp down and apply pressure to the waistband and can be worn without a belt.
  • Standard clips - Standard clips are made out of polymer and loop around the belt like a "p". The length of the "p" is on the inside of the waistband and the loop wraps around the belt.

Your choice of clips for your hybrid holster should be like your choice of polymer shell. They should be interchangeable.

Sometimes, you're going to want to carry without a belt. Steel clips are ideal but standard clips will work.

The best advantage to a hybrid holster is its customizeability. You decide how you want to carry, what you want to carry, and how you want it to feel carrying. This is what makes hybrid holsters stand out from traditional ones.

James England

About The Author

James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.