It seems that everyone and their brother are in the holster making business these days.
Due to its various properties that make it both durable and easy to work with, Kydex has risen to be one of the top holster materials today. Its ease of workmanship offers the shooting community a greater opportunity for innovation as one man shops and small companies can quickly put new ideas into practice.
Dara Holsters & Gear is one of the innovative companies that offers Kydex carry rigs. I recently had the company send me a pair of holsters for testing. This review is based on my experiences with those holsters.
For ease of typing, I will frequently refer to Dara Holsters & Gear as Dara or Dara Holsters throughout this article. I don’t think it will cause any confusion.
Dara Holsters is based in North Carolina and started like a great many successful businesses. Jon Dara, the company founder, was looking for a concealed carry holster. After weeks of fruitlessly searching for a good option, he took the American Way and decided to build it himself.
Jon Dara’s friends took notice of his design and began buying carry rigs from him. In 2012, Dara started in a backyard shed. Today, the company is in a 1,200 sq.ft. building and making thousands of holsters. Currently the company offers a variety of carry rigs that include both concealment holsters and security duty holsters for law enforcement officers.
Dara dispenses with fancy names that don’t tell you anything about the rig you are buying. The name Custom Kydex IWB Holster tells you exactly what you are getting. To me, that’s refreshing – no “tactical” this or “operator” that.
I ordered the IWB rig for my M&P Shield with a coyote brown finish and a J-hook style belt attachment. The holster arrived exactly as ordered. The holster looked great and felt good in the hand.
Dara uses Kydex with a thickness of 0.093″. This is slightly thicker than the 0.08″ sheets frequently used by other manufacturers. The upside is the holsters have a very solid, durable feel to them. Holding another company’s Glock 43 IWB rig in my hand, the Dara holster definitely had a feel of greater quality because of the thicker material.
The downside to using the thicker Kydex is there are fewer color options available. This may be important to you, but for my purposes it is not a problem. I don’t think the extra thickness significantly impacts concealability, but your thoughts may differ.
All of the edges on the holster were nicely rounded and without any sharp points.
Retention can be adjusted by tightening a single screw toward the bottom of the rig. Rigs with a longer barrel can have more than one adjustment screw. I did not need to adjust the tension on the holster during this evaluation period. The S&W Shield holstered easily with a slight click as it seated.
Dara uses a rounded sweat guard to keep the rear of the slide from rubbing against your skin. This worked well for me.
Typically, I will carry a pistol behind the strong side hip. I normally carry a Glock 19, and I’ve found that position is comfortable and easy to draw from. Additionally, larger guns like my SIG P226 also ride relatively easy in that location.
With the Dara IWB, I carried the rig in two positions: behind the strong hip and in an appendix carry position. When carrying behind the hip, I found the gun was easy to conceal, and it rode comfortably. The holster seemed to keep the gun tight to the body, yet not poke or push in any weird ways.
Drawing from concealment was as easy as any other rig I’ve tried in this position. Overall, I was happy to carry the gun in the Dara rig behind the strong hip.
Although I am not typically a fan of appendix carry I did want to give this holster a run in this position. The company markets the holster as being suitable for this, and I know a lot of you carry in this position. I should note that don’t have any problems with appendix carry; I just prefer carrying in other locations.
With the Shield in the appendix position, the Dara IWB holster really works well. The gun disappeared and was completely comfortable when standing. When seated, the rig was still fairly comfortable. The higher the ride you select, the more comfortable the AIWB position will likely be for you.
I should note that the company offers this holster with the recommended cant and ride height for appendix carry as an AIWB holster. However, this is for ordering convenience. The holster is the same as the standard IWB. If you want to carry AIWB, but with a different ride height, just order the standard IWB with your preferred customizations.
Pricing starts at $51.99 and can go up for certain options.
The company’s Custom Kydex OWB Holster is a similar design to the IWB in construction with obviously different mounting hardware. I ordered this holster in black with a mid ride and single belt loop. As with the IWB above, the holster arrived as ordered. Also like the IWB rig, this holster looked very good.
It has been my experience that holster makers use varying quality mounting hardware. As with the IWB rig, I was impressed by what the company uses on this product. The loop is hard and not like the flexible leather or flexible plastic straps that are used on leather rigs and even some polymer holsters.
With a hard loop, the holster solidly mounts to a belt and does not move. This thing is very rigid and holds the gun exactly where you want it. If the gun wiggles around when worn, the problem is with the belt and not the holster.
When I wore this Dara model, the gun stayed exactly where I set it up. As with most OWB-style holsters, the Dara holster was extremely comfortable to carry. The gun did not push out from the body as some polymer holsters tend to do.
I ordered the holster with a slight mouth flare for ease of reholstering. The rig had a slight flare – enough to notice, but not so much as to look/feel ridiculous. Dara Holsters state that mouth flare is not necessary and only recommended for pistols with mounted lights. I don’t think most people would need it, but it is an option (along with a full flare option) should you want it.
Like the IWB holster, the OWB has a single tension adjustment screw. The holster arrived adjusted at an acceptable tension amount; I did not feel the need to adjust the amount of tension. Fully inserting the gun gives an soft click to let you know the gun is properly seated.
Pricing starts at $57.99 for these holsters.
Dara offers a number of other holster styles that I have not tested. If one of the above holsters doesn’t grab your attention, perhaps one of these will.
D3 Duty Holster – The D3 is a Level III retention holster designed for uniformed law enforcement officers. It is an OWB holster that uses a rotating hood and an internal locking system that hooks on the pistol’s ejection port. This holster is made for Glock 17/22/31, HK VP9, Smith & Wesson M&P (4.25″ barrels only) and the Walther PPX. I believe the company will do special orders for other handguns with a certain minimum order. The MSRP is $159.99.
A quick note about retention levels… Bill Rogers pioneered the idea when he developed his own duty holsters that included the revered 070 SSIII duty rig. Safariland, who bought the Rogers Holster Company, continued the use of holster security levels. Details of the retention testing they conduct are located here. However, these are not universal standards. Any company can use the term “Level 3” (or whatever) and not mean the same as Safariland/Rogers.
The D3 holster does appear to match the current Safariland retention Level III rating. Without testing the rig, I cannot conclusively determine this, but it certainly seems to.
Level II Duty – This is an outside-the-waistband rig that uses a rotating hood to enhance retention. It does not use the internal locking system that the D3 has. This holster also uses thinner Kydex than the D3 (0.093″,) but it is still thicker than many concealable holsters. While a credible choice for uniformed duty wear, I’d think this is better suited for anyone who open carries.
Unlike the D3, Dara makes this holster for the entire range of handguns they offer. Retail pricing starts at $71.99 for this holster.
Custom Race Holster – This OWB rig is designed for competition shooting. It uses the same thick Kydex that Dara uses for the D3 Duty Holster with Melonite finished hardware for long-term durability. The holster is cut for fast draws. This holster sells for $89.99.
Custom Action Sport OWB Holster – Dara designed this OWB holster for action sports but without the same radical cuts as the Race Holster. Pricing on this one starts at $59.99.
Other Gear – Dara offers a variety of magazine carriers, belts and combination sets.
Dara is now making holsters for the Glock 43 equipped with the TLR-6. Click here to read my review of that Streamlight product.
The Dara Holsters warranty is pretty simple:
All holsters, magazine carriers, belt attachments, etc. that are made by Dara Holsters are guaranteed for LIFE, no questions asked. If there is an issue with your product, notify us and we will email you a pre-paid shipping label for you to return the item to us so that we can fix it, free of charge.
I don’t know if a holster warranty can be any better than that. According to the company, they have never had a single holster or belt attachment break. So, don’t expect to need the warranty. But if you do, they promise to make it right.
Dara Holsters & Gear offers some straightforward designs with options that make sense for many shooters. My rigs were very well built, looked great and worked as well as any I have tried. In fact, they worked better than a number of other rigs that I’ve been testing from some rather big names in the industry.
I feel the pricing is reasonable, and even a little cheaper than I would be willing to pay for them. Combined with a no BS-type lifetime warranty, I believe the holsters are a great value.
If you are looking for a great quality concealment rig, I unreservedly recommend the offerings from Dara Holsters. I’ve not tested the duty holsters or competition rigs, but if the concealment holsters are any indication, they should be top notch as well.
I try to provide the best reviews possible to you so you can make an informed buying decision. Therefore, I believe in fully disclosing any potential conflicts of interest or other biases that may impact my reviews.
The IWB and OWB holsters in this review were provided free of charge by Dara Holsters & Gear to me for testing and review. No promises of a “good” review were given, nor were any asked for. Dara has not provided any money or other forms of consideration for writing this review. Additionally, Dara is not an advertiser, nor are we in any discussions for the company to be one.
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