I live down in the Arizona low desert, not really the sort of place where we are eager to add extra layers to clothing during the summer. Whenever possible, I prefer to open carry – it gets the gunout away from my body and makes my big ol’ steel heater much more comfortable. Of course, open carry is not always legally or socially permissible, so I have a backup IWB holster to use instead – a Galco Summer Comfort. It always worked well enough, so I never spent much time looking to replace it.
Well, it’s been replaced now, that’s for sure. I got one of the new Onyx IWB holsters from StealthGear, and it’s pretty awesome. I was going to try to keep this review cool and professional, but I am just really pleased with pretty much every aspect of this thing. But, ahem! Let me make an effort at neutral objectivity…
The Onyx is a “hybrid” holster, made form a combination of materials. Typically the choices for a holster are leather (if you’re old fashioned), nylon (if you’re cheap), or Kydex (if you’re tactical). Each one has its pros and cons, and in some folks have tried to balance them out by using multiple materials for different parts of a holster. In the case of the StealthGear product, the outer shell for the pistol is made of Kydex, bolted to a hard mesh-pattern nylon sheet, and then backed with a breathable polyester foam mesh stuff that was probably developed for astronauts. I’m pretty sure none of these raw materials had even been invented when my carry gun was manufactured (circa 1948). Fortunately, it does not appear to be quite SO high-tech as to have compatibility issues with old hardware.
Actually, far from having compatibility problem, I found the Onyx to fit my old Ballester-Molina very well. The pistol is held fairly snugly, and I can adjust the fit if I prefer to. The 1911 model of the Onyx uses 7 stainless screws to hold the Kydex half-sheath to the nylon frame of the holster, and those screws run through rubber compression washers, allowing the shealth to be loosened of tightened. The only time I had the pistol show any tendency to work loose was when I did a bunch of burpees (combination jumping jack and pushup) just to see how it would perform. The pistol did come loose after four or five of those, but the is not really surprising. Unlike some other holsters I’ve used, the Onyx applies a continuous even pressure on the gun, and does not snap onto or lock around the trigger guard or any other piece of the gun. Not a bad thing, just a design choice.
The Onyx is held in place by two very stiff belt clips, and these can each be adjusted to meet your preference in holster depth and cant. The clips come preset in their middle holes, and can be moved either up or down. Move them both up, and the holster will be held deeper inside your waistband. Move only one, and the cant can be increased or decreased. Personally, I found the stock settings just fine.
I was surprised and impressed by just how well the Onyx helped conceal a full-size 1911 on me. Maybe I’m out of date with my Galco rig, but I’m used to the grip of the pistol swinging out away from my body and printing when I turn or bend over – the Onxy doesn’t do that. Thanks to its very wide frame, it wraps around the waist, and does an excellent job keeping the grip of my pistol snug up against my body. This also prevents the gun from moving at all, which means you don’t have to worry about re-adjusting the gun during the day. Put it where you want it in the morning, and that’s where it’ll be when evening rolls around.
My Big Test
Breathability and comfort in hot weather is one of StealthGear’s big selling points with the Onyx, but it’s smack in the middle of winter – not a lot of hot weather to test in. Instead, I realized I’d have to work up a sweat myself. So I grabbed my running shoes, belted up a pair of BDUs, threw on a tshirt over the Onyx and my steel lunk of a pistol, and headed out running. I figured a 5k run would let me work up some sweat to see how the Onyx handled it, and would also bring to light any other problems the Onyx might have so far as carrying goes.
To my very happy surprise, I had absolutely no issues develop…not even little ones. The gun stayed glued to my side right where I had put it, through a half hour of running up and down hills. It was effectively concealed the whole time by just an untucked t-shirt, and the fancy space-age polymer super-foam did an excellent job of keeping the holster ventilated. My shirt was sweaty at the end of the run, but the Onyx holster was nice and dry. What more can I say? It did everything I could ask it to.
I will be reporting back next summer when I have the chance to run the Onyx through a 2-gun Action Challenge Match in 105+ degrees, but I have no doubt it’ll pass that test with flying colors too.
Drawing & Shooting
Of course, while CCW holsters will spend 99.99% of their time just carrying a gun, there is always the chance that you will actually need to draw. This is an area where I prefer Kydex to leather for holsters, because I find that the Kydex creates less friction and gives a more consistant drawstroke (and isn’t quite as prone to compressing on a pistol in an unusual body position). The Onyx is no exception, and I find that it’s smooth and consistent pressure on the pistol makes for an excellent draw. Of course, its stability also contributes to a good draw, by ensuring that the gun will always be in the same position. Reholstering takes a little practice, but lighting-fast holstering in an IWB is a skill with no real practical application.
Yeah, the Onyx is more expensive than most other utilitarian holsters. It’s worth it. The saying “buy once, cry once” comes to my mind – pay the premium, get a top-quality piece of gear, and move on to the other things in your life knowing that you won’t have to worry about a holster again. I would like to think that I’m not the easiest guy to impress, but the StealthGear guys have got me sold. Well done!