Shoulder holsters get a bad rep much of the time
What is a shoulder holster?
A shoulder holster differs from the standard hip holster as it features a cross-back strap allowing the firearm to rest just below and slightly in front of your arms. A firearm will sit under a person’s non-dominant arm, allowing them to cross draw, should the need arise. Shoulder holsters allow a person to choose whether they want to carry vertically or horizontally, however they prefer.
The advantages of a shoulder holster
The main reason to use a shoulder holster is for comfort. For those individuals that move around a lot all day; stretching, bending, or sitting, the shoulder holster was invented for them. If you want to conceal carry a full-size handgun while being able to trek across the Appalachians with little to no discomfort, or you’re going for a world record by driving a tractor across North America, then a shoulder holster is right for you. In either of these situations and practically everything in between, a shoulder holster will keep you feeling comfortable unlike a hip holster would. Granted, a shoulder holster might be a specific taste for some, much like cilantro. You either like it or don’t.
Shoulder holsters need to be fitted and adjusted specifically for an individual; straps tightened or loosened depending on one’s build, and will seem uncomfortable if done incorrectly. Some models also feature or allow the use of straps that attach to one’s belt loops so that nothing jostles around while moving around giving an even more of a snug fit.
Shoulder holsters are also great for those with smaller waists or those who have back problems because the weight is more evenly balanced and distributed across the body. Belt carry places more wear and tear among the lower back as opposed to a shoulder holster which distributes the weight more along one’s shoulders and upper back.
Most shoulder holsters also give a person the option of carrying extra magazines or even a second firearm, features that don’t usually come with hip holsters, which is a big plus. These extra clips or a second firearm may come in handy in the event of a life-threatening situation. It’s best not to run out of ammo in a firefight, though it’s also best to make sure sure you hit your intended target first anyways.
Ease of use
Ankle holsters need to wrapped and secured around one’s ankle. Hip holsters need to be strung through a belt loop. Shoulder holsters, however, only need to be thrown on, getting your arms through the harness once properly adjusted. Nothing extra needed as because it has spots for extra ammo already attached, it is an all-in-one package. This is perfect for when you’re in a hurry and need to slip it on in a jiffy. It can even be worn naked if needed, though it’s not recommended. But, the option is there.
Another point of a shoulder holster’s convenience, countering to a belt holder and it’s pouches, is when you’re going to the restroom. It seems silly, right? But after conceal carrying for a long time, and taking your weapon off and putting it back on all the time, you’ll realize it can be quite a difficult process, especially when using a public washroom. The fact that a shoulder harness is slipped on, much like a jacket, makes taking it off and putting it back on again much easier. Or you don’t even have to take it off, even if you have to sit down.
Concealing and drawing with a shoulder holster
This is where shoulder holsters tend to get the most flak from as the action of reaching up across one’s chest results in a slower draw time. This is quite understandable, yet a faster draw time is rarely a critical factor in real-world situations. Granted, it’s dependent on the situation and situational awareness is much more vital. However, the shoulder holster’s design allows for one to be sneaky with their draw, usually in the form of crossing one’s arms before the draw; sensing a situation about to take a turn for the worse, it’s very natural looking to cross one’s arms - yet, someone conceals carrying with a shoulder holster is actually getting a firm grip on the butt of his pistol, getting ready to take action if needed. Great for being the hero during a bank heist or a store robbery. Note: please don’t try to actively be a hero.
While there are some models that may require one to wear a full second layer to conceal, most shoulder holsters are designed so that they can be concealed wearing an unbuttoned jacket. Drawing with a shoulder holster does require some practice, but with said practice, the draw can be done with great efficiency. The method of drawing with a shoulder holster, as mentioned above, however, makes it so that a gun’s muzzle ends up pointing outward, a point that many practitioners have a problem with, especially at competitions. Practicing the draw is best done in private and in a secure location. The draw also usually leaves one’s arm nestled towards the muzzle if not done right. Therefore, suggested ways to forego this is to raise one’s elbow to guard the head, or reaching across your chest to exhibit a crossguard position. Many practitioners prefer the latter for its discreteness and increased retention.
Other advantages of a shoulder holster
Best for heavier guns
A shoulder holster is probably the best, if not only, way to carry a heavy or long-barreled handgun. With one, due to the cross back design of the holster, the weight of the gun will be much more evenly distributed among the body instead of putting all the weight at one’s hip.
Driving is easier
Driving is also not an issue with a shoulder holster. It is not restricted by a seatbelt and still allows a firearm to be used if needed. The only other option that allows this is an ankle holster, but those are restricted to smaller handguns and also can’t be accessed as readily while driving.
Great while working with heavy machinery
For those that work with heavy machinery, a shoulder holster may be your only option to stay armed while working. While also wearing a simple second layer, such as a zip-up hoodie or something similar, even while working on heavy machinery, getting underneath to check fluids or replace something, the butt of the gun will not catch and will stay clean, even better than a flap holster would. A double whammy.
Keeps you more mobile
One last advantage of the shoulder holster is in its ability to keep its user far more mobile than a hip holster would. Say you’re using a rifle and are prone while hunting and you also have your secondary on you. With a hip holster, your sidearm is going to catch and dig into the ground no matter what, especially if you have to roll around a bit. With a shoulder holster, this is eliminated and remains out of the way, allowing you to focus on the rifle and its sights.
The best shoulder holsters
There are many great shoulder holsters in today’s market, though one company tends to stand out, Galco. Their modular holster designs are great for many different types of handguns, not just a colt 1911, are fully made of leather and will last a lifetime. They have both vertical and horizontal carry designs and are one-size-fits-all. The ones to look out for are Galco’s Miami Classic II, which features a horizontal carry design, as well as their Jackass Rig, which also features a horizontal carry design but can be swiveled to more of 30 degrees upright muzzle angle which many 1911 owners prefer. For a full vertical carry, consider Galco’s Vertical Shoulder Holster, featuring everything the Miami Classic and Jackass Rigs have, but obviously for those that prefer a vertical carry.
For the most comfort from a shoulder holster, and also a cheaper option than Galco’s pure leather choices, try out the Under Control Tactical Shoulder Holster. It’s made out of a nylon material that is lightweight and waterproof and features fully adjustable holster straps able to accommodate just about every handgun. Given that it’s made out of nylon material, it may not last quite as long as Galco’s leather holsters, but the Under Control holster has gone through strenuous testing so it will still last quite a long time.