December 1, 2021

Melting Your Holster? 1791 Gunleather Ultra Custom Review


You ever sous vide a handgun holster? Yeah, that sounds weird, but that’s exactly what you do to 1791 Gunleather’s Ultra Custom concealed carry holster. For those not familiar with the term sous vide, it translates to “under vacuum.” But what does that have to do with a holster?

1791 Gunleather holster with Springfield Hellcat pistol inserted
The 1791 Gunleather Ultra Custom holster is designed to be moldable to fit just about any handgun type available. Shown with Springfield Hellcat.

The Ultra Custom holster features the 1791 Gunleather’s Memory-Lok technology, which allows you to mold the holster to your handgun and get a perfect, Kydex-like fit. And the best part? The holster can be remolded over and over. Want to switch you carry gun for the season? Just reheat and remold.

The Details

The Ultra Custom is an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster made from an ultra-soft cowhide on the outside that is designed with a high tolerance for sweat, making it more comfortable to wear right up against your skin.

While the holster is customizable to an individual handgun, the same one can’t possibly work with the wide range of handgun sizes on the market, so the Ultra Custom is offered in different sizes that will accommodate everything from compacts to revolvers to full-sized semi-auto handguns.

Before and after of the holster molding
At left is an unmolded Ultra Custom holster, while on the right is one fitted for a Hellcat.

When you go to place your order for an Ultra Custom holster on the 1791 Gunleather website, you’ll see a dropdown menu listing a whole bunch of handgun models. Choose the gun you intend to use with the holster, or one that is close in size, and the site will automatically choose the right size holster for you. A full-size handgun will get the largest size, a subcompact the smallest, etc. 

But how do you customize the holster to your gun? First, we need to consider the construction and materials of the holster. A layer of polymer material is sandwiched between the cowhide layers. This polymer becomes moldable when heated, and then retains its shape once it cools.

The Ultra Custom holster comes with everything you need for the molding process, including a thick, sealable plastic bag to hold the holster while heating it. See, I told you it was just like sous vide, and you could actually use a sous vide cooker if you wanted. However, I just used a regular pot on the stove and a laser thermometer to keep the temp in range. I gave it a go, fitting the Size #2 holster to my Springfield Hellcat 9mm ultra compact pistol.

Having a Meltdown

Here’s how it works. Get the holster, the sight channel tool, the bag, a thermometer to measure the water temperature, and, of course, the handgun you want to mold the holster to — in this case, my Hellcat. Then get at least a gallon of water heating on the stove or with one of those fancy sous vide doohickies. This isn’t a saucepan task, so use the bigger pot you boil pasta in or use for chicken soup, because you’ll want the space.

Boiling the holster to mold it
Bag the gun and the holster and then submerged it in water at 165-170 degrees.

Seal the holster in the bag and get as much air out as you can; but first, you’re going to have to weigh it down with something so it stays submerged. The holster is oddly buoyant. I found it easier just to prop a wooden spoon on the edge of the pot and use that to keep the whole holster submerged without it touching the bottom of the pot.

Bring the water temperature to about 165-170 degrees. Leave the holster in that temperature for at least five minutes and remove the bag from the pot. If the holster is pliable like soft leather, it’s ready. If not, throw it back in for a bit longer.

Pull the holster out of the bag, without burning yourself, and you’re ready to mold. Push the handgun you want to fit the holster to in as far as it will go. Then, from the muzzle end, insert the sight channel tool so that the front sight is in the groove on the bottom of the tool. This will give you something to mold around and provide a front-sight channel.

Then, you start working the holster, molding it around the contours of the gun: the triggerguard, muzzle, ejection port and the rail, if your gun has one. The holster comes with plastic tools that can aid you with this, but I ended up just using my thumbs, working my way around the gun a few times, pressing hard and holding for a few seconds in each spot.

Custom fitting a 1791 Gunleather holster to a Hellcat pistol
After heating and fitting, the holster and gun need to sit and cool for the holster to firm to its shape.

The instructions say to do this for about five minutes, and that seemed to do it. The holster material begins holding the shape more and more as it cools, until it finally hardens up. I left the Hellcat in the holster for a while to make sure it was completely cooled and the shape set.

I then removed the gun, wiped it down in case there was any condensation or moisture, and let the holster air dry for a bit for the same reason. 

Conclusion

That’s about all there is to it — a custom molded holster in about 10 minutes. Then, all you have to do is attach the IWB belt clip with the included hardware and the Ultra Custom holster is ready to be used. The retention can also be made tighter by torquing down a screw so you get the resistance you want.

1791 Gunleather holster custom fitted to Hellcat pistol
The holster is now fully molded and custom fitted to the Hellcat 9mm.

The overall process is very easy, and if you have a gun that’s tough to find a molded holster for or you want to switch your carry gun every once in a while but don’t want to buy a holster for every handgun you own, this is a great solution. Or, it’s just a really solid hybrid IWB holster that you can mold to more than one gun that provides all the advantages of a fully Kydex holster with the comfort of leather. The larger sizes have plenty of room for a small laser sight on the accessory rail as well.

If I were only using this holster for my Springfield Hellcat, I may have gone with a smaller-sized holster, but I wanted to also be able to use this same holster for a larger, .45 ACP compact pistol I have, so it worked out perfectly. I’m confident and rather impressed with this versatile and highly customizable concealed-carry holster.

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