How to Break In a New Holster

How to Break In a New Holster
How to Break In a New Holster
How to Break In a New Holster
How to Break In a New Holster

I’m always in search of the “perfect” holster, which means I’ve literally accumulated an entire box of holsters (that’s overflowing) in my closet. The other day, I decided that the numerous 1911 holsters in the box wouldn’t work for me and I purchased an outside the waistband “belt slide” holster made of leather.

When I put my gun in this new holster it was so tight that it took me forever to get it out of the holster again. If I would have had to draw the gun at that time to save my life, I’d probably be six feet under at this moment instead of writing this article.

With new leather holsters, having the gun be extremely tight fitting isn’t uncommon and all you need to do is break it in. Oftentimes, if you draw the gun in and out of the holster multiple times that will loosen it up enough and you won’t have to do anything else.

However, with the new holster I just purchased, drawing the gun in and out did very little and the gun was still extremely difficult to draw.

If you find yourself in this position with a leather holster, another thing you can try and use is some type lubricant, such as the popular “Leather Lightning.” Leather Lightning is applied to the inside of a holster and essentially “greases” up the inside of the holster so the gun easily slides in and out.

I will tell you though, I’m not a huge fan of any of these types of lubricants and I didn’t use one on my new leather holster.

Instead, what I did, and what I would do if I were you, is I placed the gun in a plastic shopping bag (the kind you get from the grocery store) and then placed the gun in the holster. (See the picture below.) When you use this plastic bag, it helps to slightly loosen up the holster making it easier for you to draw the gun.

How to Break In a New Holster
How to Break In a New Holster

Leave the gun in the bag overnight and the next morning insert and remove the gun, with the plastic bag still on it, from the holster several times.

Most of the time, the plastic bag is all you need and by now it’ll be easy enough to draw your gun. However, in some cases the gun will still be too tight to get out of the holster.

If this is the case, the next thing you want to do is wrap the gun in some wax paper, which you probably have sitting in a drawer in your kitchen right now. Like with the plastic bag, leave the gun wrapped in wax paper in the holster overnight. Then in the morning draw the gun, still wrapped in wax paper, several times.

How to Break In a New Holster
How to Break In a New Holster

If you’ve used the plastic bag and wax paper and the gun still won’t easily come out of the holster, then try using a thicker plastic bag, such as a Ziploc type bag. If you leave your gun in a thicker bag overnight, this will most likely do the trick.

But, if it doesn’t, then I would suggest using a lubricant like the one I mentioned above. As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of using a lubricant on my new leather holsters, which is why it’s an option of last resort for me.

The bottom line is, if you get a new leather holster for Christmas and you can’t get the gun out of it, use the methods above to make sure the holster is safe for concealed carry.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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When I got my first REAL leather holster, from Milt Sparks, I was advised to use the techniques outlined in your post. Nothing did the job for me. THEN, by accident, I found Galco Draw-EZ lubricant at my local gun store. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! My leather holster isn’t quite as slick as Kydex, but so good I’m very happy. I think your readers will be happy as well.

Byron Scott

Buy a Galco holster & fit will never be be a problem .

Jason Bishop

Probably would have been a good idea to show your weapon empty and decocked while you’re doing all this work with it. Plastic bags and wax paper and such, it’s only a matter of time before something gets bunched up the wrong way and BANG. Safety safety safety. Great article otherwise!


Why? because the PICTURE could go off and kill someone? My goodness the safety nazis are idiots… It is a frigging PICTURE… get over it…

Abad Don

It’s a picture but it doesn’t hurt to point out, for the SAFETY OF PEOPLE READING THIS FUCKING ARTICLE, that when futzing around with your weapon and holster the weapon shouldn’t be in condition 1 or, worse, potentially condition 0. If you think safety tips in weapons forums are silly, you’re a moron.


All good ideas. In the old days, I would lightly soak the inside of the holster in some warm water. Then put the gun in a bag insert it and let is set till the leather dried again. I’ve worked with leather for many years and wetting the leather makes it easier to work, carve etc. I have holster over 30 years old which I did this way and molds perfectly to the gun. Keep in mind, even the best leather needs care. Dirt and dry climates are not good for leather. Leather like wood is sort of living thing still. Proper care will enhance their look and keep them like new for many years.


Of course you could always avoid the entire process by buying Kydex!

Sir TuberKopf

Got one, they still need break-in, especially if the foundation is leather, but a little heat from a blow dryer and they can be tightened or loosened which is super!

I like Kydex!

After thoroughly breaking in a Kydex holster I found it pressing ever so slightly on the mag release. I had to trim a very slight cutaway in the leather foundation, so it could never release the magazine when the weapon was drawn. It would be very embarrassing and possibly fatal to have to pull the weapon and have the mag fall on the floor!

I suggest people wear any new holsters around home during the break-in period. Even consider a blank in the chamber until it is tested 100% safe and reliable in a controlled environment.


If you have to “break in” a Kydex holster either you’ve got a bad holster or I’m at a complete loss to understand what you’re talking about. I’ve owned Bladetech and Tucker Gun Leather Kydex holsters for, literally, decades and not a single one has ever, repeat, EVER, needed any type of break in. Now granted these are not $20 or $30 holsters. Of course why anyone would spend hundreds on a quality gun and buy a cheap holster is beyond me. Tucker’s are usually $125+ and Bladetech runs $75+. They fit the gun first time every time.

Sir TuberKopf

Mine fit the gun like a glove, the leather slab that goes against your skin is another story, and isn’t the shape of the human body the big variable.

If you are Mr. Average that the designers used to create the product, then that’s great for you, they will fit perfect out of the box. I have to say the average American is in atrocious physical shape though?

Sorry couldn’t help that last snipe… Meant it in humor!

Abad Don

If your kydex/leather combo holster is too tight, simply insert washers between the leather and kydex at the attachment points. One thin washer should do the trick.

Jay F

Bought an AG kydex holster for my stainless SA 1911 and it rubbed black marks all over my nice shiny pistol. Kydex has it’s place but not on stainless.


I use wheel bearing grease inside the holster!!!!


I had the same problem with a leather holster that I bought for my Rugar Single Action Black Hawk. I was told by the person that I bought the holster from to soak it in water until it was completely wet. Then to wrap my gun in plastic and put it in the wet holster and let it be until the leather holster had dried completely. And by doing this that the leather would srink and form to the gun. And it worked just fine. I now have no problems with the holster. And my gun is easy to take in and out of the holster. This is just another option to think about trying with a new leather holster that you want to make your gun fit better. It worked for me.


Soak it, Stuff it, Dry it…..Done

Renwick Case

Rubbing alcohol. It’ll soften the leather & allow it to stretch when you pack it in a bag like you did. It won’t harm the leather nor your gun & the leather will hold the new shape.


I too have used this method for many years. Works great!

David Ilten

Your search for the elusive “perfect holster” would end with the purchase of a Crossbreed Super Tuck. Perfect tuck able IWB for heavy full size guns like the 1911.

Harley B. Rider

I use the same method, but start right out (empty gun, of course) using the bag the holster came in, or a ZipLoc freezer bag, as they are stronger than a shopping bag, followed by Galco EZ Draw, as mentioned elsewhere in these comments. I’ve even had to do that the occasional Galco holster.


Have been a leather worker for 58 years (started when I was 7 at a local pacer/trotter track) and the best way to form leather around anything is to wet it thoroughly, drain it of all excess water, “case” it overnight in a plastic or other water proof bag, remove it and it will be mellow and readly to work. Simply wrap the weapon in saran wrap a couple of times to keep the metal from contacting the wet (by this time, damp) leather, insert in the holster, let it air dry with the weapon in place, remove the weapon, and apply a light coating of Neat’s foot oil (NOT compound as all petroleum products, like wheel grease OMG! will permanently degrade leather, carry unwanted grit and grim into the pores, and general foul up your product) and let dry in the sun if you want to get a cherry finish on un-dyed leather or, in the shade if summer, or indoors at 70~80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then enjoy your form-fitted holster for the rest of your life! 😉


Hat’s off to you!! I’ve had a holster I bought from Lou Alessi before he died that was SO tight I could barely force my pistol in it. After reading your comments last night I got it out & followed your procedure and to my surprise it fits great! Thanx for the good advice…


Your experience shows your right i bought a new good name leather holster and it was so tight stiff couldn’t even draw it but i used almost hot water because i watched a video on a holster maker and he used hot water keep it on a low simmer. But if you do a quick soak fast then use either a plastic bag or wax paper insert pistol let it set to dry and form to gun you can even rub edges and creases to form to ever seem and edge for a perfect fit water makes leather real soft to work with then after dried light leather oil just enough to condiction not soak to soften it.