This is a step by step guide showing you how to make Kydex holsters. This is a pretty easy process, definitely easier than the shotgun shell caddies I showed you how to make in the first part of the “3-gun on the cheap” series.
I made this holster out of .08″ Boltaron thermoplastic. I like this thickness of plastic, as it’s thick enough for most uses, yet thin enough that it’s still pretty easy to work with. I have found that while Boltaron is a little cheaper than Kydex, it does not get as much definition in the look of the holster. If you care about looks, you might want to go with Kydex instead.
Before we get started, lets make sure you have all the tools needed, here’s everything I used:
- Heat Gun
- Dremel w/ Sanding Drum
- Foam (It’s a $5 camping mattress from Wal-Mart that I cut into pieces)
- Utility Knife
- Some type of oven (I use an old toaster oven, and it works well, I recommend NOT using the oven in your kitchen)
Cut The Plastic:
Ok, so the first step is to cut the plastic into the right size. Lay out your pistol, and figure out how much plastic is needed to wrap it like a taco. I’ll be honest here, in the picture below I didn’t have quite enough and I ended up wasting this piece, and I had to cut one a little larger. It never hurts to go a little bigger than you think you need, just in case. I like to cut the plastic by scoring it with a fresh utility knife, and then bending it until it breaks.
Next, you will want to find a piece of scrap wood, or in this case MDF that will act as a spacer under the dustcover when you mold the holster. I used a piece of MDF I had in the garage that’s approx. 1/2″ thick, and it works well. Alternatively, if you don’t want the holster to be adjustable, you can leave the spacer out and that’s fine too.
Now it’s time to turn on your oven. As mentioned above, I like to use a small toaster oven that I bought used on Craigslist. I usually to set it somewhere around the 250* setting, and I usually leave the plastic in for about two minutes. Your results may vary.
Notice the plastic is starting to curl up at the edges, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not really sure why, but it may have to do with the temperature of the oven, I’ll experiment with lower temps in the future.
Anyways, once the plastic is workable, it’s time to mold. I usually use 3 or 4 layers of foam on both top and bottom. A lot of people build fancy presses for molding the Kydex with, but I’ve found that a piece of 2×12 and my body weight does a better job.
You will want to wrap the hot Kydex around the pistol like a taco, taking care not to burn your fingers in the process (heat resistant gloves are great!). If your pistol has particularly tall sights, you may want to tape a pencil or something along the slide to ensure a proper sight channel gets formed in the plastic, but I’ve not found that to be necessary on most pistols.
You need to be quick and precise when placing the pistol, Kydex, and spacer into the mold, it might take some experimenting, and don’t be afraid to re-heat the Kydex in the oven if you didn’t get it right the first time.
Time to mold!
You will want to make sure that you keep pressure on the mold long enough for it to form correctly. If you take it out too early, the Kydex will fit the pistol poorly.
So after 5-10 minutes, open the press, and you should have something that looks a bit like this:
Next, I like to trim the excess plastic off of the holster:
Making the Recess for the Belt Attachment:
This next step can be done when you mold the pistol the first time, but for some reason or another I decided to do it separately this time around. What you need to do is create a recess on the side of the holster that will go against the belt, so that the screws that hold the belt attachment to the holster won’t scratch up your pistol. I used 3 layers of Kydex scraps as the spacer.
I then heated the back of the holster with the heat gun until it was good and workable, inserted the spacer, and put the entire thing back in the press. After a couple minutes, I had a good looking recess for the belt attachment.
After I have this part molded and finished, I’ll go ahead do some additional trimming to ensure that I will be able to draw the pistol comfortably, without having any parts of the holster rub my hand. This is where the Dremel’s sanding drum really comes in handy.
If you used a spacer under the dustcover when you molded the holster (like I did above) you will need some sort of spacer to fill this gap in your finished product. I’ve found that fuel hose from your local hardware store works well, because it’s mostly rubber so it has a little spring to it, yet it’s rigid enough to hold everything together nicely.
I’ll cut it just a hair thicker than the spacer I used (in this case, just a little thicker than 1/2″)
Drill a couple holes, and a with two Chicago screws, you almost have a holster! All that’s left is to polish the edges with some wet 600 grit sandpaper, and add the belt attachment.
Now, you can make your own belt attachment out of kydex, but beware, it will break eventually. I much prefer to use these attachments made by Bladetech. They mount easily with three screws, and hold secure.
Ok, in the beginning I mentioned that using a spacer along the dustcover is optional. I recently made another holster for my S&W M&P Pro, in which I did not use a spacer. It came out fine, however I did have to do some additional fitting around the dustcover where the holster grabbed onto the pistol rail, and didn’t want to let go. You lose the option to adjust the tension of the holster with this option, but you also don’t have to worry about losing screws during a match.
Also, some of you are probably wondering why I didn’t make a speed cut down the front of the holster to the ejection port. The reason for that is that this is the “3-gun On The Cheap” series, and I feel that a little extra retention is needed for 3-gun than in other games (nobody likes dropped pistols). If you would like to make the speed cut, I’d recommend using the Dremel, and a combination of the cutoff wheel, and a sanding drum to get it just right. Make sure that you don’t make the cut too deep for the game/division you are shooting in.
I think that’s it! If you have any questions or comments, post up in the comments below. Also, if you decide to make a holster, I’d love to see it!
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Check out my holster that I made. Please feel free to share with others.
I seem to remember you asking where to buy foam… look here: Mill Outlet Village: http://www.milloutletvillage.com/pages/locations
When you attach the Bladetech bracket to the holster, how do you prevent the screws from scratching the gun on the inside?
When you mold the holster shell, add in 2 layers of kydex in the shape of the mounting bracket to offset for the screws.
Great article, and answered all of my questions that I have been developing while designing my Carriers and Holsters. Thanks!
I just ordered a kit…….let see how it goes
Popsicle sticks work great to cover the ejection port.
Did you use a molded gun for the forming process? I’m just worried about the finish of my M & P.
If worried about scratching the surface of your firearm, you can use masking tape to cover the metal portions of the pistol, and also can tape into place kydex pieces/popscicle sticks to remove the ejection port recess and other such items that can slow your draw. A well thought out holster design takes a lot of time to process. But in the end, you have something you built on your own, for much less than you could buy a holster on the market.
Great post! I’m going to test out a bunch of these techniques. What length of chicago screws and where did you buy them?
Not sure on the length. Long enough to go through two widths of .08 kydex I guess.
Ive bought some online, some locally at the Tandy Leather store. If I were buying more today, I’d look on Amazon first.
Just starting to dabble with kydex. Can a finish be applied to the kydex rather than buying a piece of colored kydex?
Because kydex is very similar to plastic, painting it isn’t going to result in the best of results. Sure you can do it, sure it may look OK for a couple of wears… but then it starts to scratch off and show wear. Some companies have begun gluing a fabric to the outisde of kydex holsters, and are doing so with pretty good results.
This. Also I’ve heard of a few folks getting lighter colored kydex and dying it different colors, but I’ve never tried it.
I believe it is also possible to hydro dip KYDEX. If I remember correctly, KYDEX is an alloy of acrylic and ABS. ABS is generally paint friendly so long as there aren’t any mold release additives in the material.
Do you have any tutorials for multilayer kydex holster?
Where was the heat gun used in the process? You only showed the oven. Guessing the heat gun is used to do adjustments such as creating that spacer for the holster attachment?
what is the dust cover you refer to?
This part of the pistol is commonly referred to as the dust cover: https://triangletactical.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/wp-1455912787699.jpg
I’m wondering about the toaster oven step sometimes curling and sometimes not. In your picture here it looks like the top and bottom may be getting different heat because of the pan in the bottom of the oven. Have you tried without the pan?
When I form kydex for knives I preheat the oven with two paver bricks in it. This eliminates the problem of temp spikes. When coming up to temp the oven can reach Temps too hot for the plastic. Use a spatula, like a pizza oven.
Won’t standing on the mold damage the gun?