I have carried a concealed handgun nearly every day for the last 17 years. In those 17 years, I have gone through a ton of different holsters, holster designs and carry methods (yes, even the much maligned fannypack), but I have always come back to the strong side hip as the preferred location. That is where I carry my gun while working and that is where I carry it whenever I train, so that location makes the most sense as the place to carry concealed since that is where my hand will automatically go if something arises causing me to need my gun.
In the winter months, with longer hours of darkness, I prefer an outside the waistband (OWB) holster that accommodates a weapon mounted light. However, in the warmer months, when I am wearing lighter clothing and cannot conceal that large a system easily, I remove the light and go with an inside the waistband (IWB) holsters.
For the last four years or so, I have been using a Crossbreed holster for this task. I really like them for their comfort and their ability to conceal a full size gun with ease. That hybrid design has been produced by a number of other companies, both large and small. In fact, one of my early articles here at The Bang Switch was a review of the Crossbreed holsters.
So, being a fan of the hybrid holster design, when I was offered a Stealthgear Onyx holster to review, I already had a few thoughts in my mind. While I awaited arrival of my new holster, I read another review of the Stealthgear holster in which they discussed the comfort level of the holster. Initially, I just chalked up the proclaimed comfort to the similarity in design to the Crossbreeds I was so accustomed to. After all, the Crossbreed holster is by far the most comfortable IWB holster I have used, that is until now.
The box arrived and I opened it like a kid on Christmas. The particular holster I received was for my Glock 19. When I opened the package, I was immediately struck by appearance of this holster. The photos I have seen of it, including those attached to this review, do not do the holster justice. The attention to detail is phenomenal. The edges of the Kydex are all slightly radiused, and the Kydex is thick, especially in comparison to some other holsters I have. The hardware (screws, washers, etc.) are all stainless steel so no need to worry about your sweat or body oils damaging them, and the belt clips are just long enough to clear a 1 ¾” belt, but not overly long which in my experience can cause them to dig into your leg or hip when you are seated. The belt clips both have three different mounting holes to allow you to adjust both depth of carry and cant.
All of those items are nice, but most of them can be seen in the photos. What I find more noteworthy, and which unfortunately does not translate to photographs well, is the material that the platform itself is made from. You can actually hold the holster up to a light source and can see the ventilation holes that run through its core. Since I cannot describe the platform any better than the manufacturer, I’m just going to quote them at this point.
The StealthGearUSA ONYX IWB platform is constructed of all-synthetic, non moisture-absorbing materials, and is completely VENTED for breathability and comfort.
• Platform backing is constructed with tri-dimensional polyester VentMesh (also used in high-end backpacking and mountaineering equipment) to wick moisture away from the body.
• Two types of closed cell foam, strategically-positioned, minimize that uncomfortable weapon “bulge” by more evenly distributing pressure across the holster platform
• Polyester-reinforced flexible support platform (used as a stiffener or armature to which all padding and mesh are attached).
• 100% hard nylon RhinoMesh facing used where the weapon contacts the platform. This mesh 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.
• VentCore TM – All foam padding and armature positioned between the facing and backing mesh of the ONYX is completely vented by laser-cut diamond-shaped ports. These vent ports give the holster its breathability (VentCore TM). In our field-testing, we found that on a fully-vented platform, the perspiration moisture escaping away from the body passed through the ports and condensed on the metal slide of the weapon. To solve this problem, and to protect the weapon from corrosion, a non-vented area is designed into the slide or barrel area of each platform to protect the weapon from condensation moisture. We call this the “integrated moisture shield” and it is built into each holster, and custom to each handgun slide or barrel.
• Acrylic binding sewn with polyester thread is used to finish the edge of our platforms.
What all of that translates into is “aaahhhhhhhh”. And by that I mean, this thing is comfortable, super comfortable. Not only does this holster distribute the weight well like other wide IWB designs, but the padding and materials that the platform is made from really do make a difference as far as comfort goes. I have never before worn a holster and forgot I was wearing it, but that has happened several times with this holster, and yes, the gun was in it. This holster takes comfort to a whole new level for me.
But there is also more to a holster than just comfort. If comfort was the only goal, we would just leave the gun at home. The primary job of any holster is to carry the weapon, and here too the Stealthgear Onyx excels. With the carry depth and cant left as they came from the factory, I found my gun sit just where I wanted it, and was very secure. However, unlike some other hybrid design holsters, the retention level with the Onyx is easily adjusted by either tightening or loosening the screws that hold the Kydex to the platform, using the hex wrench included with the holster.
My original intention was to forego my normal OWB holster this winter and just continue wearing the Onyx. However, the weather has been ridiculously cold which necessitated heavier clothing, which in turn disallowed the use of an IWB holster. So, for now, the Onyx has been benched until the weather warms up. Thus far, I have about four (4) weeks of continuous use on this holster, which really is not much in the scheme of things. At this point I can positively say several things about the Stealthgear Onyx IWB holster. I have zero concerns about the durability of the Kydex portion of the holster. The concealment offered by this holster is on par with all the other IWB holsters I have used, if not slightly better. And finally, this is by far the most comfortable IWB holster I have ever used.
Initially, before receiving this holster, I had some concerns about the price of this holster. It lists for $99, which is nothing to sneeze at. However, when comparing it to the Crossbreed holsters that were my go-to standard for IWB holsters, which start at $69 and increase depending on options chosen, the extra level of comfort provided by the Stealthgear Onyx could justify the $30 price difference. In my case, for my daily carry gun, it definitely is worth the added cost, but for guns I only carry on occasion, I would have a hard time coughing up the extra dough. The final determining factor will be whether the Stealthgear has the same durability as the Crossbreed. As for now, it is too early to tell.
Once the weather warms back up some, I will revert back to the Onyx and after a few more months of use, I will write a follow up review in which I will address both warm weather comfort and the durability. Right now, it is far too early to address long term durability and I have only worn it in cold weather. I am anxious to see how well the vented platform allows for breathing which should increase the warm weather comfort when compared to other holsters. Thus far, I am highly impressed. If all goes well, as I suspect it will, I think I have found my new favorite IWB holster.
As always, your questions and comments are welcome.
Be safe out there,