March 2001:

Stellar Rigs Kydex Concealment Holsters for the Kel-Tec P32

One of the most, if not the most, influential trends in the firearms community is the ever increasing number of states that permit law abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms.  As a result of what are called "shall issue" carry laws, there are now more states where an honest citizen can legally carry a firearm than states where it is prohibited.  Handgun manufacturers have not been slow in reacting to this trend.  It seems as though one can now buy a "compact" version of everything from an 8mm Nambu Type 14 to 7.65mm Bayard M1908 to a .50 Action Express Desert Eagle.  All of them are ideal for concealed carry - just ask the manufacturers. 

However, when it comes to carrying the smallest possible gun (a "deep concealment piece") that will still have a reasonable effect in "serious social situations," the new breed of micro-.32's are the guns of choice.  Fitting into this category are the Seecamp LWS32, offerings from Autauga 

Stellar Rigs Kydex Kel-Tec P32 Holster
Arms and North American Arms, and the Kel-Tec P32.  Of these, the Kel-Tec is easily the most diminutive, its polymer frame making it significantly lighter than its brethren.  Despite its small size, the Kel-Tec shares a very real problem with the other micro-.32's. Specifically, how does one carry it effectively?

At first glance, the problem seems elementary.  Drop it in a pocket, right?  Wrong.  Simply dropping it into your pocket almost guarantees that the gun's silhouette will print on the trouser leg, suit jacket, or whichever other article of clothing is secreting the pistol.  More importantly, dropping the gun into a pocket may cause difficulties when attempting a rapid presentation.  Nothing like sticking your hand into your pocket and grabbing the gun muzzle first, eh?  Top it off with the fact that every bit of lint in your pocket has a magnetic attraction to the bore and sensitive innards of the gun, and you can see that the solution isn't so simple.  In short, some sort of holster makes a lot of sense.

As luck would have it, selecting the appropriate holster isn't an easy task either.  The traditional choices, leather or ballistic nylon, simply fail to meet the job requirements.  Leather is nice, but in order to have the necessary retention and fit, the holster would have to be nearly as thick as the gun.  Moreover, leather tends to retain moisture, which given the concealed pistol's proximity to the body, is hardly lacking.  Ballistic nylon, while light, doesn't have the retentive qualities necessary.  So, how to carry the little gun weighed heavily on our minds!

The answer to the quandary posed by the deep concealment rig for the Kel-Tec P32 comes in the form of specialized Kydex holsters made by a company called Stellar Rigs.  Stellar Rigs, located in West Palm Beach, Florida, has been manufacturing custom carry solutions for knives and guns since late 1996, when it was known as "Stellar Knife."  (The name was a bit misleading - while a full line of custom knives was carried, they were kept in inventory as a means to support the research and development involved in making custom carry rigs.)  The company is the brainchild of Edward Kaye, who is both the owner and the design genius behind Stellar Rigs' custom holsters and sheaths.

Kaye's involvement in the custom carry market was initially as a consumer.  A small framed man, he nevertheless liked to carry large knives such as the "Rambo III."  The problem was that there was simply no rig available which would let an average sized human carry a blade that large without attracting a whole lot of unwanted attention.  So, Kaye set about designing his own rig, made entirely from synthetics.  When he was done, he had a nylon and Kydex device that would enable just about anyone to carry the huge blade under a light vest or jacket without arousing so much as a glance from passers by.  Spurred on by his success, and by what he perceived to be the endless possibilities of the Kydex medium with which he worked, Kaye set about designing rigs for a variety of knives and pistols.  Many of his products serve niche markets, and include holsters for guns that no other manufacturer fits.  Indeed, 80% of Stellar's business comes from one of a kind custom orders!

The first question we asked Mr. Kaye was "Why Kydex?"   The answer we got (quoted here in its entirety) made a lot of sense:

Kydex is an acrylic/PVC amalgam that is durable, fire retardant, impact resistant, chemical resistant, and utterly resilient. Kydex and Concealex are uniquely suited as the primary building material of the most rugged of all action specialty gear. Stellar Rigs holsters and knife sheaths are precision formed for an exact fit to the pistol or knife. They are unmatched in the ability to provide a solid, secure grip on the weapon, while at the same time allowing a crisp, clean, break on the
draw. The memory inherent to Kydex materials allows the holster or sheath to retain its shape and grip -- draw after draw, year after year.  The "usual" applications fall behind with the possibility of mounting the weapon to virtually anything - even furniture! When compared to traditional materials, Kydex leaves all others behind.

Unlike leather, Kydex  will not decay, rot, dry out or absorb moisture. The acids in natural and treated leather if left in contact with your hardware will cause corrosion. Not so with Kydex , which doesn't release any chemicals. Kydex is superior to both nylon and leather holsters and sheaths in that it is many times more rugged, withstanding punishment that would destroy even the best nylon or leather gear. Nylon lacks the ability to retain a weapon without the use of cumbersome straps. In contrast, Stellar holsters and sheaths provide a secure grip requiring no straps to retain the weapon. Kydex holds its shape, allowing for safe one-handed re-holstering. Kydex is virtually
maintenance free. When dirty, rinse it off. When wet, dry it off -- or don't, it doesn't matter. Moisture, dirt, chemicals, salt water, solvents, or extreme environments do not affect it.

Stellar Rigs Kydex Kel-Tec P32 Holster on Neck Chain
Kydex's properties lend themselves nicely to the construction of custom holsters.  The medium is heated to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit and then molded about either a specialized aluminum mold, or the actual firearm.  Once cooled, the contours of the holster exactly match the gun.  This precise fit is the secret to Stellar Rigs' wonderful retentive qualities.  Indeed, they even offer the Kel-Tec P32 holster with a neck chain.  When carrying the pistol in this manner it is suspended UPSIDE DOWN, yet there is no fear of the gun's accidentally falling from the holster.

That being said, there are some idiosyncrasies that the buyer should be aware of when considering a Kydex product.  For one, the product is sensitive to heat, softening at about 150 to 180 degrees.  For this reason, it is inadvisable to leave it sitting in a closed car in the heat 

of summer.  While this may seem an easy thing to avoid, there are many states which prohibit the carriage of concealed weapons in establishments that serve alcohol for consumption on premises.  Which means that when you're out and about in your shorts and T-shirt, carrying the "hot set-up" (Kel-Tec P32 and Stellar Rigs holster) in your pocket, and you decide to go to your favorite local eatery, either the holster and gun or just the gun must remain in your car.  The resolution to the problem is simple - don't leave the holster in your car in summer!

Additionally, you can get Kydex holsters in any color you want, so long as they're black.  The same qualities that make Kydex so resistant to wear and chemical contamination or damage also make it resistant to painted finishes.  There is no stitching either - all attachments are drilled and riveted.

Curious about the Stellar Rigs Kel-Tec P32 holsters, we ordered a pair, one with a magazine holder, one without.  They arrived a few days later.

We handed the holsters and a Kel-Tec P32 off to a CRUFFLER.COM staffer with instructions to "wear the heck out of the things" for a month and to report back to us.  This is what he said:

With the wave of shall-issue CCW laws I, like many others began wearing my ultimate defensive pistol ensemble on the 9:00 p.m. trips to the supermarket for milk and bread. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I spent nearly as much time donning the special belts, mag pouches, tight-fitting holsters, and extra clothing to ensure discreet concealment than it took for the entire trip to the store. Moreover, in the years since I acquired my CCW permit, I haven't encountered even one situation where I even considered reaching for my pistol. But, I cant count the number of times I have cringed as the butt of that darn Colt gouged into my rib cage as I took my seat behind the wheel. More than a few articles of clothing have succumbed to the hammer spur and rear sight of various shooting irons. As a consequence, I have developed a tendency to skip the sidearm altogether on my short outings.
I began to seek a less cumbersome solution than hanging two or three pounds of steel with sharp angles on my body. Kel-Tec and the marvelous world of high tech plastics offered me a credible alternative to the bruised ribs and torn jackets in their handy P-32 pistol. The P-32 packs 8 rounds of .32 ACP in a package smaller than my hand. A fellow P-32 aficionado observed that this is roughly equivalent to one round of 12 gauge double-ought buckshot, with the flexibility of placing the pellets in specific locations. Hard to argue with that.
And so, the P-32 began to accompany me on many of those short trips to the store. Still, something was missing when the pistol was carried loose in the pocket of blue jeans, or the pocket of a light jacket. In the jeans, the pistol still “printed” when carried in the front pocket. In a jacket, the pistol was swallowed by the pocket. Too often, the pistol reoriented itself in a jacket pocket so as to offer the muzzle as the grasping point.  I think I liked the bruised ribs more.
STELLAR RIGS TO THE RESCUE. I think these guys must have been reading my mind. They offer a pair of holsters for the P-32. Actually, Stellar Rigs provides, to my knowledge, the only holster available made specifically for the P-32. The Stellar Rigs design follows the simplicity of form of the P-32, is folded and molded to fit the P-32 perfectly, and is itself is almost light as air.  For comparison's sake, I have included some relative weights:
P-32 (loaded): 9.7 ounces
Magazine (loaded): 2.7 ounces
Small holster: 1.8 ounces
Small holster w/ gun: 11.5 ounces
Large holster: 2.0 ounces
Large holster w/gun and extra magazine: 14.3 ounces
Ruger P95 (loaded): 36.7 ounces (for comparison)
The holster is a heavy-duty slab of molded Kydex with a simulated leather grain texture on the outside, and a slick surface on the inside. The tension on this folded piece of plastic is maintained by a plastic “Chicago screw.” With all due respect to the concept of keeping things lightweight, I would have preferred a Chicago metal screw. The Chicago screw is a tensioning device comprised of a pair of male and female flat-head screws which are screwed together. Tension on the holster (i.e. how hard it grips the pistol) can be adjusted by turning the Chicago screw. I found that I preferred the screw to be fairly loose.  As a result the plastic screw probably wont have to bear much stress, and therefore is unlikely to be a problem. Even with the screw removed from the holster, I found that I could not shake the holster loose from the gun. Drawing from the holster is realistically a two- handed operation. Which may be the one “negative” feature of the Stellar Rigs design. It is ironic that it takes two hands to draw from such a small holster. The Stellar Rigs web site suggests that the gun can be disengaged from the holster by the middle finger of the gun-hand.  While it is possible to do this, I found it to be very awkward.  In a high-stress situation I wouldn't attempt that stunt unless there were no alternative. I think a person carrying this rig would be well advised to train with it by either drawing from the holster with the middle finger of gun hand until proficient or using the free hand to hold the holster, while drawing with the firing hand. Still, the gun draws easily and smoothly from either holster.  And, with the larger holster, a towhead draw from the holster will ensure that you will already have your spare mag in your hand after you draw.
The Stellar Rigs holsters come in two designs, at the modest prices of $39 and $45 respectively. One is just a basic holster (1.8 ounces), which holds just the gun.  The second design (2.0 ounces) will accommodate the gun and a spare magazine.  (Stellar Rigs also noted that soon a horizontal carry in three options will be available: 1) Right Hand, Left Hand and Ambidextrous. They will hang from the chain as do their holsters for the North American Mini-Revolvers.)
At first I thought the idea of a “tactical reload” with a P-32 was an absurd concept. I suppose this inclination was largely a product of my perception that carrying a second P-32 mag would be almost as inconvenient as carrying a second .45 ACP mag. The Stellar Rigs holster proved me wrong. The gun-and-mag holster carries the two like bread and butter. After a few weeks trying the two holsters, I concluded that I like the gun-and-mag unit best. This conclusion is based on my observation that it is just as convenient to carry the minutely larger and heavier holster as it is to carry the slightly smaller holster.
The Stellar Rigs holsters shine the brightest is in the breast pocket of a sport-coat. I have never been able to conveniently carry any defensive weapon in a sport-coat pocket. The Stellar Rigs gun-and-mag holster fits perfectly in my favorite blazer. The equivalent of a double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun undetectibly stowed in the breast pocket of a sport coat. Imagine that. The lightweight blazer in the picture sags ever so slightly on the left with the holster, gun and extra mag. Not enough for anybody but the most careful observer to notice. When the jacket is unbuttoned there is no discernible sag or bulge.

The holsters carry well in casual clothes too. Although designed for loose slacks like Dockers, in tight fitting jeans, the gun and holster ride discreetly in the front pocket. Although the bulge is noticeable, it does not scream “gun!” in the way the P-32 does when carried loose in the pocket. The holster also offers the advantage of reducing the lint accumulation in the muzzle and hammer areas of the weapon.  If the smaller holster offers any advantage over the larger holster, it is in the front pocket of a pair of tight jeans.  The Stellar Rigs holster rides comfortably enough in the back pocket of my jeans. But, concealment suffers.

Lastly, Stellar Rigs offers a heavy-duty neck chain which allows the gun to be carried around the neck with the muzzle pointed toward one's head. The folks at Stellar Rigs wisely advise that one should carry the gun with an empty chamber if this mode of carry is practiced.  (They also note that the horizontal neckchain holsters will eliminate this "muzzle-up" situation.) I find it too disconcerting to carry in this manner. I can't think of a situation where I would not be able to find some other recess in my clothing to stash this compact defensive package. But, in the spirit of being willing to try (almost) anything once, I at least tried it on with the chain. I was surprised that it was not nearly as uncomfortable around the neck as I had anticipated. This manner of carry does allow one to leave the blazer at home. Only the closest inspection would cause an observer to realize that there is something lurking beneath the Oxford shirt and tie.  Leaving one button unbuttoned allows for quick access.

In summary, we were delighted with the Stellar Rigs holsters. The Kydex design compliments the mostly- plastic Kel-Tec pistol perfectly. The holster looks to be tough as nails and impervious to sweat and moisture. Most importantly, the Stellar Rigs provide a dignified manner of carry for those of us who frequently must wear a suit and tie, but who rarely face the need to be armed with a full-size service pistol.
And now, our Buy-O-Meter rating for the Stellar Rigs Kel-Tec P-32 Holster:

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