Leather holsters are a popular choice for many gun owners due to their classic styling, durability, and ability to conform to the shape of your firearm over time. However, new leather holsters can often feel stiff and uncomfortable when you first start using them. Breaking in a new leather holster properly helps soften the material, create a custom fit for your handgun, and allow for smooth, easy drawing. Follow this simple guide to properly break in your new leather holster.
Why Break In a Leather Holster?
Breaking in a leather holster serves a few important purposes:
- Softens the Leather – New leather is stiff and rigid. Breaking it in loosens the fibers and makes the material more pliable and comfortable against your body.
- Creates a Custom Fit – As you use a holster, the leather molds to the specific shape of your firearm. This creates a snug, custom fit that allows for easy re-holstering.
- Enables Smooth Drawing – A properly broken-in holster will allow you to draw your weapon smoothly and cleanly without grabbing or resistance.
- Retains Shape – Once broken in, quality leather will hold its shape even when empty. This prevents the need to re-break in your holster later.
How to Break In a Leather Holster?
Breaking in a leather holster simply requires regular usage over a period of time. But there are some tips that can help properly and quickly soften and shape the leather:
1. Inspect and Clean the Holster
- When you first receive your new holster, inspect it closely and remove any dirt, residue or packaging material stuck to the leather.
- Use a damp cloth to wipe away any excess dye or oils on the surface.
- Allow it to fully air dry before beginning the break-in process.
2. Insert an Unloaded Firearm
- Verify your firearm is completely unloaded.
- Insert the unloaded gun into the holster, being careful not to scratch or damage the leather.
- The fit will be very snug at first until the leather starts to loosen.
3. Wear the Holster
- Put on the holster and wear it for several hours. Walk around while wearing it to bend and flex the leather.
- The body heat and movement will begin to soften and shape the material.
- Pay attention to any areas that feel especially stiff or uncomfortable.
4. Practice Drawing
- In a safe direction, practice drawing your unloaded firearm from the holster.
- Repeat the motion of gripping the gun and pulling it cleanly from the holster.
- Start slowly and then increase speed as the holster begins to break in.
- This will shape the exact points where the muzzle and grip contact the leather.
5. Treat with Leather Conditioner
- Once the holster starts feeling broken in, remove it and apply a leather conditioner.
- Gently rub the conditioner into the leather, which will further soften and protect it.
- Consider using a conditioner containing beeswax, which helps repel water and allows the leather to slide more smoothly.
- Allow the conditioner to soak in for a few hours before wearing the holster again.
6. Repeat Drawing/Wearing
- Continue wearing the holster daily, practicing your drawstroke.
- Add some variability by drawing while in different body positions or seated.
- The leather should start feeling soft and supple within 1-2 weeks of daily use.
7. Maintain Proper Storage
- Once broken in, be sure not to allow your leather holster to mold to the shape of a table or shelf while in storage.
- Stuff the holster with a sock or paper towel when not in use to retain its shape.
- Every few months apply leather conditioner and repeat the break-in process for a few days to maintain its shape.
Signs Your Leather Holster is Broken In
It usually takes at least a couple of weeks of consistent wear and usage for a quality leather holster to fully break in. Here are a few signs that indicate your holster is ready for everyday carry:
- The leather feels soft, and supple and conforms easily when you insert the firearm.
- You can smoothly draw and re-holster your weapon without any grabbing or friction.
- The holster retains its shape when empty.
- Your firearm fits snugly and doesn’t rattle around in the holster.
- You’ve treated the leather with conditioner 2-3 times.
- Any squeaking or squealing noises from the leather have stopped.
Don’t Rush the Process
While you might be tempted to speed up the break-in process, it’s important not to rush it. Applying excess force or chemicals can damage the leather. Letting the process happen naturally over a few weeks ensures your holster breaks in properly. The resulting fit, retention, and ease of use are worth the wait.
With consistent yet careful use, your new leather holster will soon start feeling like a natural extension of your firearm. Follow these tips to break in that rigid new holster and you’ll enjoy the customized fit and smooth function that only comes from quality leather.
Do leather holsters need to be broken in?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, leather holsters need to be broken in so the retention of the holster increases as it molds itself to the shape of your firearm. No, you don’t have to spend hours working with a new holster to break it in. With normal wear and use, most holsters will take on the shape they need within a few days. After that point, you can start using them for active carry or practice drawing from them if desired.
However, if you’re looking for quicker results or if your holster isn’t conforming well after multiple uses, there are several methods you can use to speed up the process of breaking in your leather holster. Some people recommend placing a heavy object in the holster and leaving it there overnight but this can cause stress to the leather which could lead to premature wear and tear.
A better way is to use a “conditioning” method. This involves using something like a soft cloth, glove or even leather balm rubbed against the inner surface of your holster to soften up the leather. You can then draw your unloaded firearm from the holster multiple times while applying slight pressure until you get the desired fit and feel. With patience and care, you should be able to break-in any leather holster with ease!
Of course, if all else fails, you can always send it back for an exchange or refund! Generally speaking, holsters don’t require a lot of work to break in, but if you’re looking for the perfect fit, sometimes it pays off to put in a bit of extra effort.