Holster Review: HW Holsters Fold-Over Kydex Holster (Level 2 Retention – 2021 Version)

Nothing excites me more than when I grab a new pistol to add to the collection, but it does mean that I have to look at finding a new holster for it, which can throw up some interesting questions.

The main question usually revolves around how am I going to carry it? With or without a light?, covert or overt?, mounted to a Safariland QLS or directly onto a belt?

I try to balance the pros/cons of any holster I buy, because when you’ve got at least one holster for each and every pistol in a collection like mine, it adds up to a big additional cost. So why don’t I just buy a “universal” holster? Well, I’ve long held the opinion that universal holsters are… Universally shit.

So that leaves me with either a commercial off the shelf design from Fobus, Blackhawk!, T.Rex Arms, Safariland, Blade-Tech or… Kydex.

An earlier HW Holsters purchase, this one designed to accommodate the same pistol with a Surefire X300u weaponlight.

My usual “go to” for holsters is HW Holsters, one of the foremost established manufacturers of kydex holsters and accessories in the UK, they offer what I’ve always considered as an exceptional product for a relatively modest price tag.

For clarity and so you know where I stand, My relationship with HW Holsters is foremost as a customer, but over the years I have built a friendship with the man in charge.

HW Holsters were kind enough to help the blog out with discounted or free holsters in the past, but I’d be doing no one any favours by providing a biased or overly positive review.

I have a very strict way of doing things, so be aware that whenever I’m reviewing an item (specifically when I have an existing relationship with its manufacturer), that I always strive to be fair and impartial with what is writen. I was a customer before I was a friend, and I’ll always remember that when writing a review.

This review however, will be slightly different to most of the others I’ve done in the past. The reason being that the retention hood is part of HW’s latest lineup and is still technically undergoing trials with a select few end users, which I’m lucky to be one of.

The basic holster was paid for in full by myself, but the hood (which is usually an additional cost) was provided free for the purposes of testing and evaluation.

The holster is made primarily from .093” (2.35mm) thick kydex, the pistol model that I’ve opted for on this occasion is for my M45A1, this should hopefully allow a number of my 1911 style pistols to fit in the holster without any cause for concern. As my belt kit is predominantly green, I selected olive green kydex to help it blend in.

Whilst I love the colour, it might end up getting a slight dusting of Krylon in the near future.

The kydex holster in question is of the fold-over (or taco) design, this basically means that a sheet of kydex is moulded over a two piece mould of your pistol (left and right half), Once formed, the excess material is then trimmed off and a series of holes are drilled to allow for retention “carriage bolts” and the mounting plate/belt loops as well as a hood (if applicable).

Hit the play button to watch A short video showing how HW Holsters have used CNC automation to drill and cut out their holsters.

The top ridge is then folded again to produce that taco shell shape, the fold itself becoming the front sight channel.

The top ridge, a large amount of the holster’s strength comes from this simple dorsal fold

The moulding of many kydex holsters results in either too much or not enough “form“, too little detail and you end up with an androgynous shapeless mess that isn’t visually appealing and often fails to have the necessary amount of retention on the pistol it’s designed for. Too much form and the risk is that you could provide too much grip and possibly even cause the pistol to be out of battery when drawn or fatally… The trigger to be pulled when re-holstering.

Despite being a rather quiet on social media, HW Holsters is a pretty big manufacturer, even by international standards. The above pic is only a portion of a recent contract order, heading to interesting people who have interesting jobs

This holster however, feels just about right. The shape keeps the controls clear of the kydex, whilst offering a fair amount of “first level” retention on the pistol, first level retention in this case being a mechanical friction grip against the trigger guard. The form of the holster doesn’t exactly mimic that of the pistol underneath, although you can tell this is a holster for 1911 shaped pistols pretty easily. Each line has been purposefully designed to provide structural rigidity whilst placing key areas of the pistol (slide, trigger guard, frame) next to the kydex to provide a firm fit. It’s pleasing to the eye to say the least, arguably one of the nicest looking holsters I own.

A simple elegant holster, the lines are undeniably sexy

The rear of the holster is home to the mounting holes, HW holsters pre-drilling for a number of fitment options. I did have to drill a little material out on the bottom slot as it didn’t want to fit my Safariland spec SLS plate, but that’s not a biggie. If you opt to use HW Holsters own mounting systems, it’s a direct no-fuss fit.

A multi-brand compatible hole layout for the majority of common mounting plates

The retention bolts on the “open” side of the holster provide a variable degree of grip on your sidearm, providing enough range to trailer your holster from a smooth, effortless draw all the way up to an ultra tight retention. It’s up to the end user to find the perfect middle ground.

Tightening these two carriage bolts can change the retention quite significantly

The hood, the part which I found the most interesting. Up until now, HW Holsters have used Blade-Tech WRS hoods, these activate by means of a sprung hood with a “sear” type catch holding the hood in place. Pushing this sear away from the holster and towards the body results in this hood springing forward and out of the way. It’s a system that works, although it does take a little getting used to, certainly if you’re used to a Safariland or Blackhawk! Style of retention.

This latest design uses a much more user friendly (than the blade-tech) button, without the need to push the thumb break towards the body, it slides backwards in a much more linear and refined fashion. I’m a big fan of this design, but I must make you all aware that this is only a prototype of the design that HW Holsters will be using in later models, there may be a few changes made to simplify the design and meet certain criteria that certain military units and police forces (official Met vocab guidelines state we should say service not force) might have.

Overall, the holster provides a safe and secure way to carry your sidearm. Once you’ve had a a goops holster, you’ll struggle to ever go back to something inferior. It’s one of the bits of kit that defies the often touted saying “good kit doesn’t make you a better player”, in the case of a good holster, it absolutely does.

In use, I’ve found the holster to be more than durable enough for the rigours of airsoft, indeed HW Holsters are primarily involved in the manufacturing of holsters for military and police units, so its more than enough for your average airsofter.

As for negatives? Well, the one complaint I’ve seen mentioned on more than one occasion is that communication isn’t HW Holsters biggest strength, and that often you can be waiting 4/6 weeks from point of order to actually getting a holster back in your hands.

One of HW’s recent contract orders, covered, formed, cut and ready for the final fold, fit and finish.

It’s a valid critique but its also important to note that HW Holsters is far from being alone in this field, when you look at “real steel” manufacturers, many won’t reply to out of stock or fulfilment enquiries, you just have to wait. Theres good reason for this, HW Holsters (much like a lot of kit manufacturers) are usually in the midst of a contract order, one that to be brutally honest, is more important (my words, not theirs) than a single airsofter’s order for a left handed Multicam Tropic Desert Eagle holster they need for playing toy soldiers.

A previous order, a behemoth slab of Kydex.

Another little thing I’d like to see amended, is that you need to create a rather large standoff in order to fit a Safariland QLS interface. If the mounting plate was moved slightly lower, this wouldn’t require such a large standoff. I’m personally a fan of having a bit of distance between my body and the pistol, but others might not want such a gap.

So overall, can I recommend this holster to a friend? Well, yes. HW Holsters remains (as mentioned) my first choice for a custom holster, certainly when I’m looking specifically at those with level 2 hooded retention. There might be other brands I choose for other types of holster, but when you’ve consistently been happy with a brand, you tend to stick with it.

Thanks again to HW Holsters, I’ll be following up on this review with a further look at two recent additions to their mounting range in the next month or so.

HW’s Mid Ride Mount, to be reviewed soon!

To place an order with HW Holsters, you can contact them through their website: www.hwholsters.com

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