Recently, concealable all-kydex handgun holsters have exploded in popularity. Though they were around in one form or another for quite some time, it wasn’t until Raven Concealment started manufacturing (and, perhaps, effectively marketing) their Phantom holsters several years ago that, I believe, the design really took off.
What are the benefits of all-Kydex holsters? Well, they’re lightweight, thin, they provide excellent retention, and they reduce the amount of sweat that touches the holstered pistol, which can have an effect on corrosion in certain environments and with certain finishes. I’ve also found that they stay in place better than leather/kydex hybrids. On the other hand, some people prefer leather holsters for comfort – I actually find kydex to be more comfortable – and kydex holsters do cause more wear on the firearm than leather holsters do.
I was a pretty early adopter of Raven holsters, and have used them extensively. There are plenty of high volume shooters who started using them even before I did, and the feedback they provided has allowed Raven to continuously improve their product.
The early holsters sold by Raven were made of a thin kydex – meaning that they were very easy to conceal, but also not exceptionally durable. I used two such holsters – one for a Glock 19 with a Surefire light attached and one for a non-railed 1911. Although the addition of the pistol light made the Glock 19 holster a little bulkier, I was still able to carry it without being “made” in a variety of environments.
The original IWB belt clip design was also made of a thinner material – they also had square “folds” over the top of the belt/pants which did not transmit force very well, and I ended up breaking several, which Raven replaced immediately.
Still, my Raven 1911 holster found more use, and eventually I drew from it enough times that the body of the holster cracked. I discovered this while on a “creeper” underneath my car, as the pistol slid out of the holster and clattered across the concrete. I contacted Raven, was asked to send it in, and had a new, thicker holster on my doorstep within a week and a half, complete with new belt loops that were thicker and had rounded “folds”. I used this holster almost daily for about a year and a half until, again, one of the belt loops cracked.
Again, Raven stepped up, though in the future I might switch to the IWB attachments used by the Comp-Tac MTAC (not to be confused with NTAC) holster, which I have found to be very durable and adjustable, though one of the benefits of the Raven’s belt clip design is how it stays perfectly in place at all times – precisely because they are non-adjustable.
This brings me to NTAC holsters. NTAC started making Kydex holsters in mid 2009, and I purchased one almost immediately. They’re priced just below Raven holsters ($65 vs $75) and seemed to offer similar, made-in-USA quality.
Well, I wasn’t too disappointed. Made of a thicker material, the holster itself has proven to be quite durable. Retention is very positive – on the edge of being too strong – and customer service is great. There was a mixup with my order, and they sent out the correct item (a magazine pouch) immediately. My only major complaint is that the stock belt loops placed the pistol too high, so I replaced them with the aforementioned Comp-Tac loops, which have proven to be a nearly universal upgrade.
When I suddenly needed a holster for a Glock longer than the G19 the NTAC holster was designed for, I simply hacked the bottom off the holster, filed down the edges, and voila – a holster that works well for my Gen 4 G22, as well as maintaining compatibility with the G19.
So, which company’s product is better?
Well, that’s a complicated question. Both are, in my opinion, very high quality, with good fasteners and other materials. I’ve had fewer problems with NTAC products, but I’ve used them for a shorter period of time, and they’ve had the benefit of learning from Raven’s product improvements. One major factor is time – if you want a Raven holster, either scour the internet for a used one or be prepared to wait 16-18 weeks or more. NTAC, on the other hand, says their current wait time is only 30 days. Raven offers more models – as well as weaponlight-compatible models – but both companies can make custom holsters upon request. I consider myself an early adopter of both, because the longest I’ve had to wait for a holster from either company is 3 weeks.
Another factor is belt loop attachments – I have little use for passive retention holsters for OWB (outside the waistband) use, so the fact that IWB (inside the waistband) components must be ordered separately, and add to the cost, of the Raven holster is mildly annoying to me. NTAC gives you the option of IWB or OWB for the same price, or both for another $10.
Now, some might say that NTAC is simply copying Raven – I don’t really want to address this, but I know it will come up. Raven has been a victim of their own success – the incredibly long timeline to receive a Raven holster, a result of the popularity and quality of their product – has created a demand beyond Raven’s ability to supply, and the free market worked in the form of NTAC. If this bothers you, well, you will not be disappointed with the Raven product or their outstanding customer service. I would not hesitate to order another Raven product – as long as I didn’t plan on needing it for 4 or 5 months. I really hope that Raven will be able to step up production in order to meet the demand for their holsters.
Either company’s product is more than satisfactory for my purposes – daily concealed carry – and I do not think about whether I will be using a Raven or an NTAC holster when I select a carry handgun.