It's time for another inside the waistband holster review, and fortunately for me the quality of the holsters I get to try just keep getting better and better. This time around I get to take a look at some premium holsters made by StealthGearUSA. SG makes holsters using unique materials that elevate the comfort and longevity of the product far above the conventional holsters of the past. Let's be honest, buying a IWB holster is absolutely brutal. With every Tom, Dick and Harry cranking out holsters, all claiming to be "the best," it can be really hard to shop for the right one. You have to decide for yourself, if you are looking for a quick solution that will get you by in a pinch, or a quality rig that's more advanced and comfortable than the rest... which will help you WANT to carry that sidearm everyday.
What makes StealthGearUSA holsters stand above the crowd is the use of a breathable, laser-cut ventilation mesh in combination with an integrated moisture shield and padding cells. They call this patented tech VentCore, and it adds up to a more comfortable carry with reduced sweating and irritation after a full day packing heat. The platform's ventilation allows my skin to breathe, keeping it dry and pretty comfortable. This design, and really the whole company, was born out of frustrations from inferior quality IWB holsters. After field testing a bunch of competitor's holsters that each claimed to be the king of comfort, the owner of SG wanted to create a holster more comfortable than a Kydex shell riveted to a piece of leather.
The IWB Mini holster is one of SG's popular models. It's basically a narrower width variation of their standard IWB model formerly known as the ONYX. The shorter profile will be welcome among users who find full width IWB designs too bulky and awkward when worn in the 3-6 o'clock position. Using completely synthetic materials instead of moisture-trapping leather, the Mini is ventilated and padded for comfort. It's also noticeably lighter and durable than other holsters on the market that I've tried.
On the inward facing side, the backing is padded with a custom cut layer of foam thats designed to optimize comfort with each individual gun model. On the inside, the foam padding is specifically selected as to not be moisture-absorbing. On the outward facing side, SG used a hard nylon mesh called Rhinomesh that provides structure and rigidity to the otherwise soft and flexible padding and Ventcore layers. The combination adds up to a backing consistent with other materials in thickness and pliability.
The kydex shell of the Mini is custom designed for each individual handgun. The grip clearance is excellent and both the trigger guard and muzzle are covered completely, which I consider must-have features. Obviously full coverage of the trigger guard is a common sense feature for safety, but I also prefer a covered muzzle to prevent the front sight from getting worn / wearing a hole into my clothes, as well as keep lint and debris from accumulating in the barrel, and guarding the muzzle itself from contacting a hard object and sliding up in the holster.
The clips on the IWB Mini are injection molded polymer, and have two screw holes for cant / depth adjustment. Available in either a straight or angled design (to help push the holster tighter into the body) they work with belts between 1.5" - 1.75" wide, and as thick as triple-layer nylon webbing. The upward hook of the clip engages bottom of the belt for maximum retention. Between the shell and the backing, rubber spacers help with adjustment of retention. The clips and shell both use rust resistant black oxide stainless steel fasteners with phillips heads. SG specifically chose not to use rivets, out of concern for premature wear and failure, as well as lack of adjustability.
The Rhinomesh layer on the outward facing layer is textured and porous. In fact, I can see daylight looking through the backing, and can feel air pass through the materials from either side. The flip side to the material's structural benefit is its texture. The texture of the Rhinomesh adds friction when you slip your gun into the shell, which is why they recommend something I've never heard of before until now.
Included with the holster is a promotional card for a product called Quick Draw, which is a dedicated holster lubricant. Yes, you read that right. StealthGear claims the lube will extend to life of the holster by decreasing drag for a faster draw, protect the finish of the firearm from micro-abrasions, and "helps the FEEL of the gun in the holster." Come on guys, that last one puts the BS meter in the red zone. The fun doesn't stop there, because it's recommended that you reapply Quick Draw every 50-100 draws, or every 30 days. Personally, I don't care for the idea of adding another level of maintenance to my holster platform, just because the material the manufacturer chose is a little rough. But if you are the kind of gun owner that worries about keeping a prestine finish and avoids holster wear at all cost, you might want to give the lube a try.
In doing some digging around on the interwebs, I found a review of the Mini's predecessor the Onyx on The Truth About Guns. In a quote from SG at the time: "The hard nylon RhinoMesh facing used where the weapon contacts the platform... has a twist in the warp yarn for extreme strength and abrasion resistance, but still allows maximum breath-ability. We have tested the durability of this facing mesh by holstering and un-holstering a gun in a test holster the equivalent of once per day for 30 years with NO visible wear." I did the math, thats approximately 10,957 times. I doubt I will draw my carry weapon more than 1,000 times in my training time at home, so I choose to not worry about the micro-abrasion issue and forgo the lubrication.
The IWB Mini passed the concealment test with me. At 4:30 - 5 o'clock, which is my preferred position, the Mini kept the grip close to my hip and I did not notice any extra bulk imprinting my pants or shirt. A cover garment ontop of a proper fitting shirt isn't mandatory with this holster. After a few weeks of carrying, I could definitely feel the benefits of the breathable materials as I did not develop a sweaty spot on the skin like I do with other leather or neoprene holster backings.
At $114, is this holster the reigning champion of "most comfortable holster in the world?" I can't say. Honestly, I think thats a foolish question to ask, and companies who let their marketing department squabble over such claims instead of actually innovating in the R&D department are just as fool hearted. So I say to kudos to SG for trying new materials in the pursuit of a better holster. What I can conclude, is if you as the consumer have tried other holsters in the past and was not pleased with the backing being making your skin hot, sweaty, sticky and uncomfortable... or the weight and bulk of leathers products, than the StealthGearUSA's solution maybe exactly what you are looking for in a IWB holster.
FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS
Claim to Fame: When seconds count, your holster will perform.
Target Market: Concealed Carriers
FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):
- Ventcore breathable mesh backing
- Rhinomesh front layer
- Black Oxide hardware
- Polymer 2 position clips
- Width: 8 inches
- Height: 8 Inches
- Weight: 5.35 oz.
- Custom designed fit for each handgun model
- 30+ components
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black, Flat Dark Earth, OD Green
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING?:
"I'm a corporate manager in the Southeast. I had purchased the IWB Standard for my Walther PPS M2 after hearing great things from fellow pistol owners. It was just as comfortable as they said, but my pants' belt loops didn't sit right with the holster clips. The helpful folks @ SG recommended a swap-out for an IWB Mini. They sent me the Mini along with a prepaid mailer to send back the Standard. I've been wearing the IWB Mini for nearly a week now & am absolutely satisfied with its comfort/quality and the top-tier customer service of the company behind it. StealthGear, you'll be where I look first for my next holster!" - Customer Review
- MSRP: $114
I NEED IT NOW! AVAILABILITY:
- Combines lightweight breathability with strength and retention
- Cant adjustable
- Mini helps fit smaller folks, or those with pants where belt loops interfere with holster position
- Website makes selecting gun make, model, light/laser accessory and left/right hand super fast and easily.
- Mesh fabric on backing can fray from aggressive use during training. This is a carry holster, not necessarily a training holster.
- Current lead times are 25 days due to demand
SCORE: 8.0 GREAT
For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.