Many shooters like the look and feel of leather holsters for concealed carry, and leather holsters also have several attractive advantages. They're oftentimes more comfortable than synthetic holsters, and they're also quieter when carrying concealed.
Despite their many advantages, leather holsters are more susceptible to wear and damage than other holsters. Even though today's modern leather holsters are durable and robust, there are some basic steps you can take to prolong the life of your holster and protect it from the elements.
Properly care for leather holsters by following these seven tips, and you'll be able to use your holster every day for several years.
Keep the Holster Clean
Sweat, dust, dirt or blood can all damage a holster after long-term exposure, so keep your rig dry and clean. Usually a wipedown with a soft rag will suffice, but sometimes you'll need to use a leather care product.
A bar of glycerin soap or a product specifically designed to clean holsters like Galco's Leather Lotion
is your best bet for holsters with a smooth finish.
Avoid Exposure to the Elements
If you carry with a leather holster often it will eventually be exposed to the elements, but extremes of heat or cold can cause permanent damage to the leather. Don't leave the holster in a hot place, particularly in direct sunlight.
Leaving the gun on the dash of your car is a major mistake. Direct sunlight and heat will eventually break down the structure of the leather and will shorten the life of your holster.
Don't Soften the Leather
Leather holsters are typically molded to fit a particular gun, and that process requires the leather to remain firm so that it properly fits the gun. If you compromise the structure of the holster by adding large amounts of leather conditioners that aren't designed specifically for holsters, you may actually be softening the holster to a point that it no longer fits your gun.
It is critical to use only cleaning agents that are designed for leather holsters. Excessive amounts of saddle soaps and other soft leather conditioners may protect the leather, but over time they can soften the material and cause the holster to lose its form.
Keep Animals Away
It may sound strange, but one of the most common reasons holsters are destroyed is from being gnawed on by animals. A dog views your favorite holster as a sweat-stained chew toy, so keep your rig out of the reach of man's best friend.
Rodents are even worse — a mouse, rat or squirrel that finds your holster will chew on it for the salt, to create bedding and/or to dull their ever-growing incisor teeth. A leather holster that is kept within reach of animals is doomed.
We all sweat every day whether we recognize it or not, and perspiration's toxic mix of salts, oils and water will eventually break down the structure of leather fibers. It's impossible not to sweat, but it may be possible to avoid getting a lot of sweat on your leather holster.
If possible, keep a barrier of clothing between yourself and the holster to keep as much perspiration off the holster as possible. If you've been sweating and the surface of the holster is moist, wipe it down with a dry rag. If the moisture has soaked into the leather, properly dry the holster (see next tip).
Moisture can damage holsters and may lead to mold and other problems, so it's critical to keep holsters dry. That being said, never use any artificial heat to dry your holsters. The use of blow dryers or laying the holster on warm air vents is a sure way to damage the leather.
Instead, place the holster in a dry place with a moderate temperature and allow the leather to dry on its own. Heat can change the shape of the leather and will likely do permanent damage to your holster.
Stretch the Leather to Fit
Leather holsters are oftentimes fitted to a particular gun, but initial fit is usually very tight and requires some stretching of the leather to allow for a smooth, resistance-free draw.
To accomplish this, place your pistol in a Ziploc bag and push it into the holster. This will allow the leather fibers to stretch and will provide just enough extra room in the holster to allow for a smooth draw and yet will maintain a solid grip on your gun.