The SHTF Gear is another of the seemingly unending stream of hybrid holster makers that have cropped up since the initial success of companies like Comp-Tac and Crossbreed. It would be easy to write them off because of this but SHTF Gear has done a good job of differentiating themselves in a number of different ways. They have done more than enough for me to take notice which is why I have been wearing the SHTF Gear ACE-1 Hoslter for several months now.
The ACE-1 Holster is what is generally referred to as a “hybrid” holster. The front “half” (the part away from the wearer) is made from molded Kydex and the rear (the part against the wearer) is made from leather. The ACE-1’s leather panel is very thick with a full sweat guard. It is aggressively cut to allow for a full firing grip from the holster.
The Kydex portion of the holster covers only the trigger guard and part of the slide, leaving the muzzle to protrude below. It is fastened to the leather back panel via large rivets and Kevlar thread. The Kevlar thread is exclusive to the SHTF Gear and is extra insurance to keep the Kydex portion of the holster attached to the leather even if a rivet should fail somehow.
The ACE-1 is not adjustable for tension. It is adjustable for cant and ride height. SHTF Gear offers a couple tuckable belt attachments including the standard metal clips and lower visibility leather belt loop options.
Observations from Use
I should probably just say up front that this is the most comfortable IWB holster that I have ever worn. That is due in no small part to the thick leather backer. It was comfortable right out the box but it became even more comfortable after about 7-10 days of wearing it to break in the leather backer. The leather backer sits basically flat against your body. There is no molding, ridges, bumps, or anything else to cause hot spots. The rivets are nearly completely flat and the stitching is so tight to the backing that you will never feel it.
There several similar looking holsters on the market that I have never been pleased with due to the cut of the backer. SHTF Gear gets it right. It has a huge, full sweat guard for comfort but it is aggressively cut away from around the grip to allow a full firing grip right from the holster. This alone moves the SHTF Gear ACE-1 to the top of the heap when it comes to similar hybrid IWB holsters.
The lack of adjustable tension is likely to give some people pause but I found it to be a complete non-issue. The ACE-1 will be alarmingly loose at first when it is off your body but rest assured, when the backer is flexed around your hip, the retention is perfect. The retention level actually increases a bit as the leather breaks in and molds to the gun.
Visually, the Kevlar stitching that reinforces the holster is distinctive. Functionally, I am not sure how important it is since there are several similar holsters that are durable enough with just the rivets. It provides a lot of extra protection against separation and I am never opposed to overbuilding something as long as it doesn’t add much weight or bulk. If nothing else, it lets you know you are looking at a holster made by SHTF Gear.
SHTF Gear’s metal belt hardware is excellent. It is easy to mount, has no sharp edges, and is very durable. It is made from very flexible spring steel so flexing it on and off the thickest belts that I own was no problem. This is significant to me because of my previous experiences with competing hybrid holsters with plastic hardware. I broke and replaced plastic hardware on my previous hybrid IWB twice. It gets hold fast.
I also really liked the transparency of the holster ordering process at SHTF Gear. I received email updates as my holster moves through the production process. It took less than 2 weeks for it to arrive. Since I placed my order, SHTF Gear has added a feature on their website that shows the average wait time from the previous day. It is updated daily. There are some holster makers who wouldn’t dare do that.
While the open bottom, slide style of the Kydex portion of the holster is convenient from a manufacturing standpoint and for those of use who own multiple sizes of similar handguns (my G19 ACE-1 fits everything from a G26 to a G17 without the slide protruding below the leather), I would like to see some full coverage options from SHTF Gear. A full enclosed muzzle protects the front sight from impacts and prevents some situations where the handgun may be pressed up out of the holster by contact with the muzzle.
The ACE-1 is extremely comfortable and durable. SHTF Gear does the leather backer portion of the this holster better than any other that I have seen and their honest, transparent ordering process is a breath of fresh air. This holster has become a great addition to my EDC gear.
Check out SHTF Gear.
Matt pointed me to this holster a few weeks ago. Instead of waiting for this review to print, I purchased one for my kahr cm9. I’ve never owned a hybrid holster, so I cannot draw a comparison to competitors, but darn if this isnt one comfortable holster.
Thumbs up Matt for putting me on to this brand.
You have accurately summerized exactly how I feel about these holsters as well. I was always left wanting a bit more from other hybrid holsters until I discovered SHTF. I don’t have a single complaint about the fit or feel with these guys. No matter the pants I wear or how I change the cant my SHTF always feels so good! Thanks for giving them a chance and helping spread the word, they’re a wonderful company and it’s good to get them out there.
Great review Matt. I have SHTF holster prototype #2. I have worn it continually since Clay gave it to me several years ago to “bench test”. Still the finest IWB holster I have ever owned. JMKnight, Clay’s father-in-law.