Shoulder Holsters are still widely used and loved by people across the world. Regardless of the pros and cons, they still hold their rightful place in the firearm community.
Many people face problems while using it, or even use it improperly. There are certain things you need to know about fitting, wearing, and using a shoulder holster properly.
Here we’ll be talking in detail about those minor and major details, as well as the upsides and downsides of using a shoulder holster. To conclude those facts with results, we have also reviewed our three best picks for shoulder holsters on the market. So let’s begin.
Note: Please make sure to carry proper concealed carry permits and comply with the gun laws respective to the state you are in or travelling to.
Comparison Chart of Our Favorite Shoulder Holsters
Deluxe Universal Horizontal Shoulder Holster
Uncle Mike's Black Kodra Nylon Sidekick Vertical Shoulder Holster
VISM Ambidextrous Horizontal Shoulder Holster with Double Magazine Holder
Fitting Your Shoulder Holster
Before you can use a shoulder holster properly, you need it to fit really well. A sloppy fit will not serve the purpose of carrying the firearm. To keep things simple, let's elaborate the procedure in a step-by-step format.
1. Leave all the cargo (weapon and mag) out of the rig before you start wearing it.
2. Put your right hand in the right loop and slide it up. Now put the left hand in the other loop and slide it all the way up. It’s the same as wearing a jacket.
3. The next step is to adjust the position of the cross pad on your back. Make sure you don’t wear it too high or too low, or it will make the rig too uncomfortable and sloppy to wear. A good position of the cross pad is around six inches below your neck. However, it depends upon your own discretion.
4. Shoulder pads, if your rig has them, should be high on your shoulders near your neck and centered front-to-back.
5. Adjust the straps so they sit comfortably tight and close around your torso. Ensure that the straps are neither too tight, nor too loose.
6. Make some movements, bend over, walk around, and use a mirror. Wear a jacket if you want to. Check and confirm that the holster is comfortable in all respects.
Holstering the Gun & Magazine - What You Need to Know
The next step after fitting the shoulder rig is to holster the gun and magazine properly. This is essential to achieve a comfortable and quick draw.
If the position of the holster is adjustable, you must slide it upwards so it sits close to your armpit. A general rule of thumb is a gap of two-inches between the armpit and the holster. If the position is not adjustable, you’ll have to bear with it.
Swap the position of the holster and mag pouch if the holster is not on your dominant side (left for right-handed shooters and right for left-handed shooters).
Then, adjust the angle of the holster, according to your convenience. Most shoulder holsters allow for adjustments. Holsters can be placed horizontally or vertically.
The horizontal position is easy to draw from but it poses a threat to people behind you. Vertical position is safe for people in the surrounding area, but a bit difficult to draw. Some 45 degree holsters are also available on the market, in case you prefer that angle.
Put the gun in the holster and the magazine in the mag pouch. Try holstering and drawing your weapon (make sure it’s safe/empty) several times to ensure the setup is comfortable.
Indulging in a lot of practice with your shoulder holster will accustom you to its functionality, thus helping you to achieve a quicker draw.
How To Properly Wear a Shoulder Holster
Now comes the hard part, where people make the most mistakes. Wearing a holster properly is the key thing.
This video here will explain you about the proper method of wearing a shoulder holster so it doesn’t flop around or require suspenders.
You’ll learn about the proper method to tighten your straps. The holster must sit very close to your body and the cross-pad on the rear should be positioned exactly in the middle of your back with about four-inches of distance from your neck. This will help in distributing the weight of the rig properly.
Shoulder Holster Design Features
Shoulder holsters have been around since the 1870’s, and gained a lot of popularity during WWII where they were used by tank and aircraft crew. In the wake of evolution and competition on the market, different types of holsters with different features have sprouted up.
Shoulder rigs can have detachable or non-detachable holsters depending upon their designs. The latter is more preferred because you get the option of carrying different handguns on the same rig.
Some rigs allow you to adjust the angle of the holster between horizontal and vertical. Some holsters also offer a 45 degree option for more versatility. Eventually it's your personal discretion about which one to choose.
Regarding comfort, some shoulder holsters have padded straps, padded cross pads, and/or padded shoulders. This really helps with comfort.
Some rigs have single straps, while some have double straps which are reinforced and stitched, offering durability. Some holsters don’t have adjustable straps, and you should obviously avoid them.
Most shoulder rigs these days offer an extra mag pouch on the other side. Which lets you carry extra ammo, and balance the rig’s weight. These designs are fairly good and useful.
Coming to the material, leather shoulder holsters are more popular as compared to the nylon ones. The simple reason for this is leather’s durability, comfort, and longer life. However, they are heavier and cost far more than nylon and neoprene rigs.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Shoulder Holsters
Shoulder holsters have been popular over a long period of time, and like any other holster design, they have their pros and cons.
Comfortable Concealed Carry: Especially in Winters, shoulder holsters offer exceptional concealment for your firearm when you are wearing a jacket or a coat.
These holsters can also be worn under light shirts, with minimal chances of printing. These rigs come in handy when you are riding a motorcycle with a jacket on, or while driving.
Complements Sedentary Lifestyle: If you spend most of your day sitting behind a desk, or in the driving seat, shoulder holsters are a very comfortable, viable option for you. They’ll provide quick access and optimal comfort, when compared with IWB and OWB holsters.
Allows You to Carry Large Calibers: If you carry long barrel handguns like magnum calibers, a shoulder holster will be your best bet.
The position of these holsters makes them good for longer barrels and ensures they don’t dig around when you move or sit.
Better Weight Distribution: Our shoulders are meant to bear weights. That’s the place where we rest our backpacks or luggage. So it is inevitably the best place to support extra weight. A shoulder holster rig distributes the weight of the gun and mags around your torso comfortable. Unlike IWB, OWB or ankle holsters.
Never Forget Accessories: The extra mag pouch lets you carry additional ammo and ensures you don’t forget to bring extra ammo when in a hurry.
Limited Concealment: A shoulder rig will not provide concealment unless you have it covered by a coat or jacket. This factor limits its use, especially in the summer months and in places where open carry is restricted. This, in turn, also limits your wardrobe.
Longer Draw Times: To reach a shoulder holster, you have to swing your arm and move your hand all the way up to your armpit. Compared to a waistband holster, this takes more time.
Gun Safety Issues: When you try to draw the weapon from a shoulder holster, your muzzle is inherently sweeping across bystanders.
Operating Space: Since these holsters require you to swing your arm to reach the gun, you can find yourself helpless in a cramped corner, or when your opponent has blocked your movement by pushing against you.
Our Top Three Picks for Shoulder Holsters
Based upon the shoulder holster design features recommended above, we have handpicked the top three shoulder holsters on the market. These rigs perform exceptionally well on factors like comfort, durability, retention, adjustability, and safety.
The UTG Deluxe Holster is the best shoulder holster in our list. The holster is made of neoprene, which is lightweight and comfortable, as well as provides protection for your weapon. The rig has shoulder pads which distribute the weight evenly, and make it comfortable for you. The straps are completely adjustable for length.
Additionally, the holster’s retention can be monitored using the velcro strap over it. This also allows it to fit most handguns. The holster is placed in a horizontal position, offering easy access to the gun.
The other side of the rig has a couple of mag pouches, which let you carry extra ammunition. The holster and mag pouches are modular and can be interchanged depending upon your dominant side.
A good shoulder holster from Uncle Mike’s, which features a vertical draw. The holster has been made from nylon and has slide-adjustable straps with a self-centering back piece.
The holster has offside, tie-down anchors which harness to a belt and can be worn inside or outside your jacket. The holster is ideal for medium and large barrel single-action revolvers. The mag pouch has a padded base, which makes it even more comfortable.
This nylon shoulder holster features a modular design due to its detachable holster and mag pouch.
The straps are fully adjustable to enable you to wear it comfortably. The double magazine holster attaches to the harness and also helps in supporting the weight of the rig.
The adjustable thumb break tie-down straps allow you to carry handguns with long or short barrels. The double thumb break straps add an extra layer of security to the holster. The holster is adjustable to accommodate small to XXL sizes.
A shoulder holster offers good concealment, especially in winter months. To be effective, a shoulder holster must be properly fitted, along with the gun being carried at a comfortable angle.
Shoulder holsters have their own advantages and disadvantages, but in the end, it's all about your comfort, intended use, and personal discretion.