The 5 Most Comfortable Shoulder Holster Systems
Maybe you can't figure out how to carry inside the waist band in a suit or maybe you want to channel your 80s cop vibe. Either way there are certain considerations, limitations, and other factors to take into account for the most comfortable shoulder holster. Let's look at some.
Fashion trends, technological advancements, and gun design are the three major reasons shoulder holsters have for the most part left the general concealed carry market.
About the Shoulder Holster
To start off we will address the first question. That is “What is a shoulder holster?” A shoulder holster is a type of holster, whether concealed or not, that takes advantage of the area ranging from your armpit to your hip. This goes mainly for storage, concealment, and access.
They trace their origins back to the early 1900s, if not earlier, and can be considered an add on or variant of early Load Bearing Vests or LBVs. In essence these LBVs are combat suspenders. They branched out into stand alone styles that were not attached to any particular sets of equipment, especially for civilian use.
Given early military trends in the height of the belt, the holsters of pistols tended to be put on the non dominate side and cross drawn since the holster was quite literally at the base of the rib cage. This is the general area that most shoulder holsters put the handgun.
Reasons to Use a Shoulder Holster
There are two main reasons shoulder holsters began to be employed:
The access reason comes into play when the individual is stuck in various confined spaces, sitting a lot, or is in an area where drawing a pistol from their side would not be feasible.
Because of this you will see military style shoulder holsters referred to as tanker holsters etc. or issued to pilots, drivers, or gunners. Pretty much anyone who has to be in a cramped metal box for long periods of time will end up either procuring something like a shoulder holster or a chest oriented holster.
The second reason has to deal more with the size of handguns throughout the years. Those handguns with longer barrels are harder to comfortably conceal, especially inside the waist band.
A good example of pistols too long to comfortably conceal are the older cowboy guns and such movie icons as the long barreled Smith & Wesson Model 29 carried by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry series.
Once handguns begin to edge past 7” or 8” overall, people tend to find them a bit daunting to conceal in more normal ways.
The shoulder holster does help with this problem.
Additionally, the larger frames of early semi auto pistols like the 1911 and Browning High Power and the Beretta M9 were larger and heavier than most of the offered pistols today.
Different Types of Shoulder Holsters
There are two major types of shoulder holsters:
- Normal Suspender style holsters
- Band style holsters
The band styles are predominately elastic, have poor retention and are predominately built to be worn under business shirts and things like jogging wear. They are not a very viable option and will not be addressed here because of their lack of stability, protection of the firearm, and their lack of retention.
Most shoulder holsters come in the traditional suspender like style. These balance the weight of the holster across the back, usually looping around the arms.
The loops around the arms can be reinforced or the side that actually has the holster attached to it will be reinforced. These reinforcements disperse the pressure from the weight of the gun in the holster so your shoulders are less likely to hurt. Those holsters with reinforcements on both shoulder straps tend to include spare magazine holders as well.
Since shoulder holster tend to have a flexible set of straps across your back this does not mean they are not fit for use. If the stretchy material were what the actual holster area, rather than the rigging, was made out of then they should be ruled out. This is not the case except in regards to band type chest/shoulder holsters.
The main purpose of a holster is to keep your pistol on your person, easily accessible, and properly retained when not in use. This means that one has to be able to draw the pistol easily and quickly. This means for leather type shoulder holsters thumb break style releases are preferred to snaps to be released by the index finger.
The 5 Most Comfortable Shoulder Holsters
With all this in mind let us look at some of the most comfortable shoulder holsters the market currently has to offer.
This holster design was originally released in 1970 and Galco re-released it on the 30th anniversary. The rig has a horizontal holster that can be adjusted if you want a more diagonal angle. It possesses a thumb break release, quality trigger coverage, and modularity. Add-ons and modification parts are purchasable and help add to the quality this holster already offers.
Galco is one of the leaders in the shoulder holster area and has been the top choices. In all, the rig includes a holster, ammo carrier, harness, and a set of screws for the system. It also features flares on the shoulder area to mitigate the weight better. The buckles are plastic, as is the connecting section of the straps, the leather is quality and overall craftsmanship is quality and durable. This model is geared toward the Beretta 92F/FS but other models are available.
This holster features leather slide loops for attaching to your belt for a more stable system. The holster is predominately leather and metal construction but has a cloth like material connection between the base of the holster and ammo carrier and the connections to the belt. The connectors are adjustable. This particular model has a thumb break and will fit a Beretta 92FS and various Taurus PT models.
This Aker model will fit up to a 62” chest and comes for a variety of pistols. This model will accommodate S&W M&P and M2.0 9, 9C, 40, 40C, 45, but no M&P Shield models. It features a thumb break and may require a little wetting/forming modifications. This applies to things like the retention strap and for attaining that perfect fit for the pistol. There are specific models for the specific guns. Sig Saur's P226 and other models are available as are ones for various Glock models (like the G17) and even 1911 style pistols.
This particular model has a index snap closure that may cause draw issues but it is still Galco quality. It is recommended to follow the instructions it comes with and to adjust the holster over a few days of testing. Be aware that factory magazines for Beretta M9 style pistols may not fit in the magazine carrier for this model. This can be fixed by stretching the leather carefully.
This holster falls on the cheaper end of the spectrum and has a lower quality for the components for such things as the Chicago screws. The leather is good quality and the rig is comfortable to wear. This harness could use some improvement but if you can't afford the better quality rigs it is a decent and comfortable option with a thumb break.
You will find a predominance of M9 shoulder holsters but holster molds for Glocks and other pistol brands are available in shoulder holsters. And even fewer come ready to use with a weapon mounted light.
Custom options for shoulder holsters are available through various leather holster shops but most people are not willing to pay for custom options because of how high the price is. And even the options listed in this article are on the higher side of the regular holster price spectrum. But quality costs in regards to holsters with most good holsters being more than $50 for kydex offerings and good leather options either match or double the prices of kydex holsters.
Are shoulder holsters a viable option?
They take more practice to be able to draw them quickly, but then most things for firearms require practice. However they are for very specific concealed carry options. People who tend to do a lot of sitting, especially in vehicles all day, may find that the shoulder holster will work better and be more comfortable than other options.
Those who wear suits a lot of the time and who cannot figure out how to tuck their dress shirts around an inside-the-waistband holster will find that a shoulder holster more useful. Generally blazers, dress coats, and suit coats are what are going to be paired with a shoulder holster.
The shoulder holster is for either business, formal, or out door occasions where a normal concealed holster would be too uncomfortable or extremely tricky to use. For the average individual they may not be the best option but hopefully you now have an idea of what the most comfortable shoulder holster could be and what to look for in a shoulder holster