To say that there are a lot of holster makers in the market today is an understatement of nearly epic proportions. For a holster maker to set themselves apart means not only a high build quality but understanding what makes a holster work well and building those features into the design. It is the feature set, and execution thereof, that separates decent holsters from the really good holsters. A builder that understand what a holster needs to do and then execute a design with those principles built in is not nearly as common as someone might expect. Tony Mayer, the brains and builder behind JM Custom Kydex, is one of those guys. He has a few different AIWB options, all with specific design features that make each version more or less suitable for different mission profiles.
I secured one of Tony’s standard AIWB holsters, feeling I should try the standard offering before venturing into others. When ordering, there are a few choices to be made, including the type of belt attachment, wedge or no wedge, size of sweat guard, and color. All told my particular holster cost right at $100. The base price if someone wanted to minimize the options is $77.00. While some people may balk at the price, spending 10-20 percent of what the gun cost on a quality holster to carry it in is reasonable in my eyes. I optioned my holster with a full-size sweat guard, a large wedge, JMCK’s split loop for a belt attachment, and did a color upgrade to red carbon fiber, because why not.
The build quality on the holster is top notch. Probably the best, or at least equal to the best I have seen on a kydex holster. The edges are well finished, they all meet up and are even like they are supposed to be, and the bends in the kydex are crisp. Just looking at the holster and holding it you can tell that it is well built.
Something other holster manufacturers don’t use often is a solid loop belt attachment for IWB or AIWB holsters. In fact, I only know of one other kydex holster maker that uses a solid loop. The intent is to have as solid an attachment to the belt as is feasible. The reason for have a split loop is so that the belt attachment can straddle a belt loop if necessary to optimize the placement of the holster. Since this is not a type of attachment commonly available, I wanted to give it a try. It certainly adds stability to the holster, which is important when it comes to having the handgun consistently placed to execute a quick draw. The downside is that it does add thickness to the holster and a hard edge on the top of the loop that will tend to print through clothing that is not loose enough. The split loop is attached to the holster with two screws and has adjustment built into the loop itself, plus another set of mounting holes in the holster body. This allows for some pretty precise adjustments of the loop, which can be critical for optimizing how the gun is carried for both concealment, and a fumble-free, efficient draw of the handgun from the holster. I appreciate that the JMCK loop is not made of kydex either, and actually has a bit of flex to it. Kydex loops have a tendency to crack, but the JMCK loop being made out of a softer plastic has enough flex in it that cracking should not be an issue.
When it comes to AIWB, the holster needs to have some feature built into the holster to help tuck the gun into the body. JMCK’s regular AIWB holster uses a belt wedge, which is a wedge shape built into the body of the holster behind where the belt would be, to tuck the butt of the gun into the body. This has the benefit of minimizing the width of the holster to only what the gun requires it to be, but the downside is that it adds thickness to the holster. Because of this added thickness, Tony actually only recommends this holster for people that have a 34″ waist or larger. That is an example of a holster maker understanding what he is building, why he is building it, and how it is supposed to work. I am a big guy, so I don’t have issues with this type of holster design, but I know some thinner people that do and prefer holsters that use some sort of wing to tuck the gun, so keep that in mind.
JM Custom Kydex also offers neoprene foam wedges of two sizes, a neoprene pad, or what they call “extra tuck,” which is where the holster is molded with a wedge in it. I opted for the large wedge since I intended to carry an essentially full-size handgun, but different guns may do best with other wedge options. A good wedge I think is critical to successful AIWB carry for most people. It not only helps to tuck the gun but also adds comfort. My one critique of JMCK’s wedges (and really everyone else’s too because they are pretty much the same), is that the material they use, while comfortable, takes a set pretty quickly and the effectiveness of the wedge reduces over time. This is pretty easily remedied with some homebrew wedge hacks, but it is a consideration when selecting a wedge. I would say err on the larger side if you opt for a wedge.
Understanding that a perfect holster may not exist, I give the JM Custom Kydex AIWB holster very high marks. It is well built, well designed with key features to aid comfort and concealment, and the level of service from Tony Mayer is top notch. Understanding the features that you, as an individual, need in a holster to make it work is critical to your success. There is not a “one size fits all” holster option. Different body types and guns can require a different feature set. Tony gets this too, and is very responsive to questions over e-mail and understands what he is building well enough to make sound recommendations when given a set of parameters to work with. That is why he makes more than one type of AIWB holster. If someone came to me and said they needed a holster, especially an AIWB holster, I would feel confident pointing them towards JM Custom Kydex.