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 traveling to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shoulder holsters are a lot of give-and-take; here's the great things shoulder holsters allow:
Comfortable Concealed Carry
Especially in Winter, 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 weight. 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.
Shoulder holsters also have some drawbacks such as:
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.
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.
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.