Recently I was reminded that I am a dinosaur. We had one of our little 3-gun shoots at our local gun club. Aside from the fact that I was the oldest guy there—by a big margin—I noticed that I was the only one there with a leather holster.
My beautiful, carved El Paso Saddlery Allegiance stuck out like sore thumb, as did my custom 1911. (Both are pictured below.)
Like synthetic rifle stocks, composite holsters have just about taken over that market as well. One reason is cost. Holsters and accoutrements made from composites are 25- to 50-percent cheaper to buy than leather. Composites are immune to moisture. They retain their shape indefinitely and are arguably less inclined to wear out. Too, the slickness of composites can make the draw slightly faster.
On the other hand, composites are rigid and have molded edges that—even when rounded—can bruise you if you take a spill. Leather is a bit more accommodating when it comes to custom accessories on the pistol, for example sights. Of the few composite holsters I have or have had, none will cleanly accept the high-profile Meprolite front sight on my 1911. If I force it, the sight shaves off a tiny curl of the holster material. About half of my leather holsters have a retention device incorporated into them, and all but one of them is a simple strap with a snap. The one exception is a 3/4-flap holster for my 1917 Smith & Wesson that I use for “period” shoots. A strap is pretty foolproof, though it can wear out. Some of the rather novel retention devices employed with composite holsters do not fill me with confidence, especially those with a button release. I can imagine a scenario when the aforementioned spill could plug the button with dirt or debris, rendering it inoperable—and a bit more than embarrassing should I need the pistol in a hurry. Finally—and I realize this is a personal vanity—leather has class and looks better than a black plastic glob hanging from my belt.
If I were some high-speed, low-drag SEAL operator (anyone who knows my profile is laughing hysterically at that visual) working in a variety of hostile environments there is no doubt that I’d have the latest and greatest synthetics cloaking my pistol(s) and their accessories. And I do have a couple of composite rigs for specific pistols … just because. However, for the overwhelming majority of my pistol packin’ I’ll see if I can muddle along with leather—along with my equally antiquated 1911s and N-frame Smiths.