Gear Review: What's avant garde in holsters? Leather

The JM4 Tactical RELIC (L), and Blackhawk Premium Leather IWB are new interpretations of an old material-leather-for 2018. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)

Two companies unveiled new leather holsters this spring, breathing fresh life into a tired market. I’ve had the opportunity to wear inside-waistband (IWB) models of both for a few weeks. What follows is my experience with both.

The angle of the belt clip on the RELIC helps reduce printing. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)


JM4 Tactical RELIC

This Abilene family business has been busy at the drawing board for more than a year before rolling out the RELIC—they call it their reliable, easy, light, individual carry holster. “Relic” is the last word that comes to mind when I consider this holster marks an innovation never seen before—the sewn marriage of boltaron and leather. Boltaron is a lighter, more flexible, and more weather-resistant polymer than Kydex. It’s also chemical- and abrasion-resistant.

JM4 Tactical chose Hermann Oak brand steer hide to line the holster. It’s not just glued in; it’s sewn in. There are no bubbles, waves, or irregularities in the leather, and because it’s sewn, there’s no chance of curling around the edges. The leather is tanned by a centuries-old, vegetable-based process that the company promises is free of harsh chemicals.

Drawing and reholstering are smooth and safe with the RELIC. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)

The IWB appendix RELIC comes with the user’s choice of belt clips, depending on belt width. The clip is set at an angle that encourages the grip to press against the wearer; a great feature that minimizes printing. Carry height can be adjusted approximately an inch by moving the clip to the provided optional hole—an option I chose. Cant of the holster is entirely adjustable, and can be set in place. For those who want to position the clip in a specific angle and keep it there, a sample size thread locking product is included with purchase.

Retention is entirely adjustable with a single screw. Though I have yet to Loctite that screw, retention has remained consistent since I gave it a slight loosening on arrival.
The holster offers noise-free interface with the gun, as well as protection of finish. Unlike my other holster of choice from this company, the Quick Click & Carry high ride, the RELIC is model-specific.

The Relic fits the Glock 43 perfectly (Photo: Eve Flanigan)

The fit of this holster on my Glock 43 is perfect in terms of ability to draw and reholster smoothly. There’s a bit too much sculpting away, in my opinion, on the sweat guard arm of the holster. Fat or summer sweat could connect with a short section of the slide—an unfortunate recipe for rust on the gun and eczema on me in the summer months, though it’s a small exposed area.

With a properly matched clip and belt, the RELIC has proven more stable than many other clip-secured holsters when the firearm is drawn. I fired a timed course, normally fired from a hip holster, with the RELIC, and the holster never dislodged. I can get a firing grip with the gun secured in the holster—a non-negotiable factor for my own EDC.
Reholstering, when done with attention to firearm safety rules, is safe with the RELIC secured inside the pants. The outer Boltaron frame keeps the body of the holster from collapsing.

If you want a functional, but very unique holster that’s not like any other on the market, the RELIC should be a contender. Since JM4 has patented the leather-lined holster process, don’t expect to see a knockoff from another company. The RELIC is big on innovation. In addition to the IWB appendix model, it’s also available in a clip-on OWB, IWB hybrid, and tuckable versions. Prices start at $94.97. Color choices are black and coyote tan.

Blackhawk’s Premium Leather holster is branded with not only the company logo, but also the make/model of firearm. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)


Blackhawk Premium Leather

If you’re the kind of person who wants something new that looks old, Blackhawk has a new holster line just for you. Their Premium Leather concealment line is hand-crafted in Italy, of Italian leather. The hand-finish process means no two of these holsters look exactly alike. Blackhawk provided an IWB model for this test, fitted to a M&P Shield. It has a leather loop that threads under the belt and snaps in place. A metal clip IWB model is also offered. There’s also a three-slot OWB pancake model, a mag pouch, and I’m told a matching belt is in the works.

Like the RELIC, each holster is crafted to fit a specific firearm, and the leather gives a silent draw and reholstering process. The IWB model is, so far, safe upon reholstering as the sheath hasn’t collapsed with wear. Time will tell whether this remains true as the leather breaks in more. Wearing the Premium Leather holster has proven comfortable, and concealment is acceptable. Retention on the tester is secure thanks to the very true shaping of the leather to the handgun’s profile. If it wasn’t right, I could adjust retention using the included screw just below the trigger guard.

It’s hard to stop looking at this incredibly handsome holster. The test model is antiqued brown. There’s also a slightly lighter burnished brown color in this line.
The holsters are stamped on back with the make/model of firearm…. a boon for any person or facility that accumulates an assortment of holsters.

As of this writing, only the three-slot pancake holster is shown on the Blackhawk website. Here’s hoping the other attractive holsters are available soon. Pricing for Blackhawk Premium leather holsters will be $99.95 MSRP. Mag pouches are $49.95.

Attachment points for both holsters. Both offer excellent, adjustable retention. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)


Something for everyone

The industry seems to be turning, stylistically, toward nostalgia. 2018 saw the advent of wood handguards on AR platform rifles. Now, holsters are going retro with leather, but with undeniably modern interpretations. It’s a great time to be a gun goods consumer; there’s truly something out there for every taste.

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