Sometimes the gun holster world surprises us. Call it throwing a tactical curveball. Just when you think you’ve got a brand all figured out, they go and mess with the universe by playing in someone else’s sandbox, kicking sand in everyone’s faces but in such a nice way that we all thank them. Normally, this lane departure doesn’t turn out well on the quality side because it’s just not what they do. But in the case of 1791 Gunleather (remember the second half of their name for a minute), they stepped out of their original comfort zone and into the world of the 21st-century Kydex holster market.
Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to follow and signup for notifications!
See, 1791 Gunleather specializes in—you guessed it—leather holsters, not Kydex. However, as traditional as that business model may be, they are savvy enough to flex with the times and offer something for the non-leather holster fans: the Tactical Paddle Holster OWB.
This 1791 Gunleather holster is not a hybrid leather and Kydex mix but a completely Kydex setup. In fact, there isn’t a stitch of leather to be found anywhere on it. Not the shell, not the paddle, not anywhere. Instead, it has a taco shell frame with a big fold tunnel that accommodates suppressor and optic co-witness sites, which is good because the cut also allows for an optic on the resident handgun.
Does it meet the criteria of a good holster?
Before we get too far along with the review, it’s only fair to set some ground rules. My judgment of how good or bad a holster is comes with very strict criteria. It’s like the comedy show Who’s Line Is It Anyway, where all the points don’t count and the winner is purely random. For my review, I have three uncompromisable rules.
- The holster must cover the trigger and trigger guard completely so that nothing can accidentally or intentionally trip the firing mechanism while the gun is in the holster.
- The holster must hold the gun securely enough that everyday activity does not dislodge it or cause it to come loose.
- You must be able to reholster the gun one-handed in case your support hand is occupied or wounded. Plus, using two hands to reholster means you will likely muzzle your support hand when working the gun back into the holster. Remember the basic rule of firearms safety that says to never point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot?
After those three conditions are met, then it comes down to comfort and style, two highly subject criteria that deem the holster wearable or unwearable, and other miscellaneous features that set each holster apart, such as optic cut, sight channels, etc.
With the baseline set, let’s get back to the Tactical Paddle Holster OWB and see how well it performs.
Covering the Trigger and Trigger Guard
The Tactical Paddle Holster OWB does a great job of covering the bang switch. Not only is the Kydex solid and strong, but it is also cut perfectly for the shape, including a generous notch for my Vortex optic to nestle in comfortably without any danger of scratching the lens.
Securing the Gun
The shell is held folded by a pair of screws under the trigger guard that also serve as retention adjustment points. As per my norm, I applied my good ol’ flip test, which consists of inserting my unloaded gun into the holster and hanging it over my bed upside down to see if the gun falls out onto the mattress. You might be surprised to learn a lot of holsters without adjustable retention (and even some with) fail this test. But this one passed with flying colors. In fact, the retention was adjusted so perfectly from the factory that I left it completely alone.
Retention is solid and audible on the draw and reholsters with a firm click and tactile lock into place—not too stiff but clinging enough to do the job.
The transition of moving the gun from outside to inside the holster can be especially problematic and dangerous if not done right. Part of that is on the shooter; part of it is on the holster design. In the case of the Tactical Paddle Holster OWB, putting the gun back was also smooth, with no chance of snagging the trigger on the mouth and making it go bang when it wasn’t supposed to.
I used this holster when I taught a pistol class with several draws and reholsters, and it worked flawlessly. Throughout a half-day class, I demonstrated drawing and holstering several times with zero issues. The mouth was easy to find as part of the natural motion, and the gun went in and came out firmly. The gun secured with an obvious tactile and audible click, ensuring it would not work its way back out unassisted. Throughout the 5-hour class and after, it sat securely in the holster, even when I bumped against a door frame at one point. Later, I worked some dryfire drills in the basement, and again the holster performed as intended, with no issues.
While we’re on the shell, it’s worth noting that 1791 added some molded accents purely for decoration on the outside that are totally non-functional, but jazz up what could have been just another boring Kydex holster. It’s a nice touch that is often overlooked in similar holsters.
The shell’s open-ended muzzle design allows for threaded barrels, or in the case of the Glock version they sent me, flexibility to use it for either a G17 or G19 since they share essentially the same frame and slide setup. I even tried my G44 just for giggles. Yep, it fit. It is not large enough, however, to accommodate a suppressor, not that you would normally carry a suppressed firearm in a holster, but there you go.
The holster’s 1.75-inch paddle has enough flex to work it over and behind a belt but is rigid enough to stay in place all day. It’s nice to see the bigger dimension for those who like a wider belt, yet the paddle also worked well with my 1.5-inch belt.
If you’re not sold on the angle of the holster, the cant is easily and quickly adjustable with a single tension screw on the back of the paddle, up to 15 degrees forward or backward. I tightened the screw down in the fully upright position, and it held all day and was still locked in place when I took it off after class. My fears about the screw backing out, because it looked like it might, were unfounded, thankfully.
Overall, I give this holster a solid A in my grade book.
It does a lot of things well and almost nothing poorly. With a lifetime guarantee, the Tactical Paddle Holster OW from 1791 Gunleather is an outstanding Kydex product from a company that staked its reputation on leather goods.