How to Break in Leather Holster?

A Comprehensive Guide

Every new leather holster will need to be broken in before it can perform adequately for the user. Breaking in a leather holster is not something that can be done by leaving the holster in a hot car or applying oil to it. It is an involved process that requires time and patience on the part of the owner. In this article, we will learn how to break in leather holster?

Table of Contents

Making sure that your leather holster fits you correctly is essential for practical concealed carry. An adequately fitted holster will stay put yet allow quick access when needed. If you consider purchasing a leather IWB holster for concealed carry, you may want to attend the range with your new holster and your gun. While at the range, try your holster out with your unloaded gun multiple times. This will give you an idea of how well the holster works when you are in motion or pressed against something like a countertop.

Break in Procedures for an IWB holster

A leather holster designed to be worn inside the waistband (IWB) will need the most significant amount of breaking in. The pressure from your body and belt pressing against it every time you sit down, stand up, bend over or walk around will put a significant amount of strain on the materials used to make this type of holster. You can make life much easier on yourself if you choose to break in any IWB holster by using an old pair of jeans as a “donut” during the process.


Begin by placing your unloaded firearm into your IWB holster and then into your preferred pair of jeans and attach the belt and pants as usual. Depending on what type of leather you are using, you can use a hairdryer, heat gun, or even an oven to soften the material. If you have used a range, check the holster every 10 minutes and pull it out when you feel that it is soft enough for your preference. Remember that it will become more supple after continued use.

Break in Procedures for OWB holsters

An outside waistband (OWB) holster needs less breaking in than an IWB holster because nobody pressure is applied to it all day long. You still want to start this process with your unloaded firearm in your new OWB holster with an old pair of jeans wrapped around where the holster will go. The denim will allow for some give as you exert pressure on the holster. You can use a hairdryer or heat gun on OWB holsters just as you would an IWB holster. Keep checking your holster every 10 minutes or so until it is pliable enough for you to use.

Break in Procedures for OWB holsters

Steps to Take After Breaking in Your New Holster

During the break-in process, you may notice that your new holster is now a bit larger than when it was completely rigid. You can begin wearing your new holster at this point, being careful not to wear it for too long during the first day. If after a few hours you notice that your holster is digging into either your body or belt so much so that wearing it becomes an annoyance, take it back off and shrink it just a little bit more with the hairdryer or heat gun. Some holsters are made with a safety strap. If you have purchased one of these, it will need to be broken in also. Attach the safety strap and hand sew (using a needle and thread) the ends together around an old belt. Your holster will stretch over time so expect to retighten or resew this stitching during the life of your new holster.

How to Take Care of Leather Holster?

Once your new leather holster has been broken in, you can expect it to last for many years if treated properly. Leather is skin and flesh like our own, so keeping it moisturized will keep it supple and durable over time. Apply a small amount of leather cleaner, saddle soap, or petroleum jelly once per week. If the holster becomes dry, apply more saddle soap until the desired level of moisture is restored. You will know that your holster is getting too dry when your finger “sticks” slightly on the material instead of sliding smoothly across its surface.


Avoid using any oil-based product on your holster because oils can break down certain adhesives used in their construction which could cause the stitching to fail over time. Always check your holster before wearing it. If you see any signs of loose stitching, fraying, or other damage to the material, discard it and buy a new one because this type of holster cannot be repaired.

Leather Holster Care Dont's

You should never submerge your leather holster in water or allow it to become saturated with water. Leather is a porous material, and when submerged in water, the fibers will swell and lose their shape. You should also never allow your holster to become so dry that it begins to crack or split. Doing so can create a dangerous situation if the holster fails to hold your firearm securely while you are wearing it. Additionally, you should never store your leather holster in an area that will consistently be exposed to high temperatures. This includes but is not limited to being placed in or under the sun, on top of or underneath hot objects, near heat vents, or in a vehicle during warm weather.


Storing leather in areas that exceed the suggested temperatures specified by the manufacturer can cause its fibers to lose their flexibility. This will eventually cause your holster to become brittle and develop cracks or, at worst, ultimately fail. When working with your leather holster during the break-in process, avoid using any solvents which may damage it. Leather is a porous material, and some solvents can soak into it, causing the holster to become loose and eventually fail. Be careful with any petroleum-based products because these will break down the stitching.


When caring for your leather holster, be careful not to cut any of the stitches. Cutting a stitch will weaken the material and lead to losing your firearm if the holster fails. If your holster comes equipped with any sharp objects or devices (screws, snaps, or studs), be careful not to let them come in contact with your skin. They can easily puncture and tear the leather, thus creating a dangerous situation if your firearm is concealed. If you follow these basic steps when taking care of your new leather holster, it will most likely be the last holster you ever need to purchase.


Absolutely! After all, you wouldn’t want a new pair of shoes that were too tight or a belt that was too stiff. The same goes for your holster; it should be worn in by the end-user to make it comfortable, form-fitting, and allow proper drawing of your firearm. 

Most people think they can just go to the store, buy a holster, and start carrying right away with no break-in period. However, this is far from reality because most holsters are stiff at first and require some degree of usage before being molded to the specific owner.  

Many manufacturers sell unique oil treatments for breaking in your new holster, but you can also use high-quality gun oils as well. When using any type of oil during the break-in period, avoid putting it on your firearm. This can not only cause some of the materials to break down, but it will also attract dirt and debris that may scratch or damage your gun. Instead, place a small amount of oil on your fingers and rub it into the leather until it is fully saturated. 

Not too much, though, because you do not want it seeping through to the inside. Once the leather has been treated, wipe off any excess on the inside of your holster.  

If your holster is constructed with high-quality, finished leather, it should not scratch the gun. However, if your holster is made of suede or unfinished leather, you may have to expect some scratching on both the holster and the firearm as they break in together. 

Most manufactures will offer a finish to help protect your pistol, but eventually, even this layer will wear off, and the firearm will have to be treated with a protective coating.

Yes, over time, your holster will wear on the gun. This is normal and to be expected as you break in any new leather product. This can aid in breaking it in as the continued rubbing against the metal will help take out minor bumps and rough spots that may appear at first glance.

However, if the firearm is wearing on the holster, you may need to readjust your carry position because it may be too far forward and cause the gun to sit in a poorly balanced position.


It is essential to take the time and treat your leather holster with care. Remember that it is not just a piece of equipment holding your gun; it’s an extension of yourself. Without proper care, you not only risk permanently damaging or losing your firearm but also putting yourself at risk for injury from an improperly fitted holster. Do the safe thing and follow these basic guidelines along with any specific manufacturer instructions to ensure that you have an adequately crafted holster for years to come. Thank you for reading my article on “how to break in leather holster?” I hope you learned all about how to break in a leather holster.

Author Profile

Gabriel Tackett
Double major in Engineering and Geology at the University of Minnesota. Experienced shooter & hunter for over 15 years. Certified NRA officer for over 10 years working as a writer at .

Was This Post Helpful?

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors