Coach Customers to the Right Holster

Help your customers avoid that drawer-full-of-lousy-holsters mess that so many shooters have at home by guiding them to the right holster the first time.

Coach Customers to the Right Holster

Kinetic Concealment partner Josh Sykes has numerous stories about customers, holsters and guns, and as with many retailers who sell holsters, not all of the stories are good.

Sykes, in Jackson, Tennessee, is a gun owner, hunter and shooter. He works at a desk and, until last year’s pandemic swept the country, he traveled frequently for his job. He also enjoys being outdoors, whether for hunting, fishing or working. All of these experiences help him relate to customers who come into the Kinetic Concealment shop seeking a holster.

“Our primary focus is the concealed carry customer,” he said. “I have so many customers who come into the shop with a box full of holsters they purchased. They buy online or buy in a store and it doesn’t fit right, doesn’t do what they thought it would, or doesn’t work exactly how they need it to work. That’s why there are so many holsters. No company makes one holster for everyone.”

“Tactical holster” can be broadly interpreted. The immediate thought is for military, law enforcement or other security use, with stiff nylon gun belts and Kydex holsters. Another thought is competition, in which shooters need a secure holster, nylon gun belt and a wide, padded belt to accessorize with spare magazines. Competition shooters compete in the elements — rain, mud, harsh sun and cold — so the gear should be able to take the brunt of tough use. The last consideration is concealed carry. For this, holsters usually are made of stiff leather or a hybrid of Kydex attached to leather or neoprene. That may not fit the stereotype of “tactical,” but simple concealed carry definitely can be a tactical application.


What Are Kydex and Boltaron?

Kydex has been in use since 1965, when it was created for aircraft interiors and other industrial uses. Made by Seikui Kydex in Pennsylvania, it is a composite of acrylic-polyvinyl chloride that can be fabricated under intense heat into sheets of different thicknesses. These sheets can be cut into different sizes and formed for various uses. Seikui lists 11 industrial applications for Kydex, including transportation, retail signage, agriculture and recreation. Chances are good you’ve seen or used it without knowing it.

If you’re in an airplane, for example, the interior walls or form around the headrest of a seat may be Kydex. The addition of texture, along with its toughness and a low flammability rating, makes it a great material for holsters. Kydex holsters are inflexible, resist abrasion, and hold up under tough use.

Another material used for holsters and industrial uses is Boltaron, made by Simona of Ohio. According to the company, it is an extruded thermoplastic alloy that has an abrasion resistance higher than stainless steel. It resists acidic and caustic chemicals, fire, and deformation at high or frigid temperatures. Like Kydex, it is heat-molded around different pistol forms to create holsters. After being heated, the gun form is inserted between two sheets and pressed under pressure to fit the shape of the actual gun.


Helping the Customer

 Selling a tactical holster to a customer may sound easy. Show the goods and make the sale, right? But that’s too simplistic. The customer may have an idea or specific holster in mind. But Sykes said this is when it’s time for serious questions.

“I have several different guns and holsters to wear in different ways,” Sykes said. “The key is to make sure the customer gets the best one for what he or she wants to use it for and how they’re carrying it. So, you have to ask questions. What do they do for a living? Are they at a desk or in a car, or on a construction site or job where they’re on their feet all day? Are they active and moving? Do they wear a suit and tie, or casual clothes?

“Obviously, you have to find out what kind of firearm they’re carrying and if they have anything on it like a light or optic. What position do they want to carry — on the hip, appendix, small of the back? If it’s a woman, will she be carrying it in her purse? For concealed carry customers, that’s critical, because a thief is going to grab the purse and run, and her gun will be in it.”

This isn’t being nosy. It’s merely good customer service, just as you might ask a customer wanting a rifle whether they want it for hunting, competition or plinking. Customers might have done their homework but failed to consider some of the questions or scenarios you present. Establish a rapport with them in the effort to help and not just close the deal. Adding some of your own experiences with tactical holsters, gun belts and uses also will be a benefit. If you’re not familiar with what they’re asking, find another coworker with more experience. You don’t want a customer leaving your shop with a negative image or, worse, going somewhere else to make a purchase.


Size Does Matter

When red-dot optics began appearing more frequently on pistols, holster manufacturers swiftly adapted with cutouts and forms in holsters to fit. Today, you can find myriad holsters to contain pistols with mounted optics or the standard open sights.

However, some gun owners have lights mounted under the barrel frame and want a holster that can adequately handle this setup. Sykes said asking about optics and lights, especially the latter, is a critical element for sales personnel.

“During the forming process, holsters have to be channeled and pressed to fit the front half of the gun,” he said. “The gun fits into that finished shell and is secured at a couple of key points, including the trigger guard. That point of retention is critical. If you have a light attached that is wider than the frame, it may slide into the holster but the retention may only be on the light and not the other key points. You run the risk of it not being secured as well. Your holster should securely retain the gun at the key points to eliminate any risk of it rattling around or not being secure.”

Tactical holsters typically have tension screws that can be adjusted by the user for tightness and cant. The holster hanger, which goes on the belt, also may have tension screws. Be sure to ask your customers what size belt width they use, too. Most gun belts are 1 1/2 inches or wider, but some buyers may wear leather belts that are smaller. The DeSantis Range Master, for example, is designed primarily as a range holster with a Kydex shell and 2.25-inch belt hanger with adjustable tension. It attaches to the belt and hangs, but not low enough to strap to the thigh.

Sykes said one other consideration is the buyer’s body size. This is something you and your staff can size up fairly quickly with a glance. Is the person tall, short, overweight or skinny? Are they muscular, or do they have a Dad Bod? Baggy pants or tighter? Suit or casual? All these clues can help steer you to the right holster after asking the other questions about use and daily activities.


“We get some big guys in our store who say they want to carry appendix and I tell them that I get it, but they’re 5’8” and 350 and it’s not going to happen,” Sykes said. “First, they’re going to be extremely uncomfortable with that. It’s going to dig into their belly and midsection, and they’re probably not going to be able to draw too quickly, if at all.

“Body shape and weight plays an important role in where they want to carry it. If they’re heavyset, a strongside carry on their hip is the best place. Another point, for anyone, is the size of the firearm. You’re most likely not going to carry a full-size pistol inside the waistband. It all comes down to the sales person asking the proper questions, and then helping them learn the best place to properly wear the holster for what they want to do with it.”


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