View Full Version : Shoulder Holsters
February 26, 2011, 01:01 AM
Well after an interesting start at least I can say with certainty that I do feel there's plenty of room for further discussion about Holsters. Of course I will try to make it much less lecturer and ask from the very beginning that I am in fact looking for opinions and experiences related to the topic.
That said I'd like to start with Shoulder Rigs, because I got a PM from a young woman who described a rather frightening ordeal she just recently went through. Thankfully she was not harmed, but she has decided she to take the next step towards self-defense.
Long story short she was mostly interested in a shoulder holster for carry while driving. I'd like to throw a few things of my own out here and would appreciate some other opinions and feedback.
A Shoulder Rig can be very effective in a vehicle scenario as it puts the firearm in a very easily accessible location, you can carry all the way up to a full sized pistol, and they usually already have places to keep things like spare magazines, seat-belt cutters, or flashlights. Each tool can become very useful through out any number of different possible encounters.
I'd like to hit some of the downsides. These Holsters can get uncomfortable sometimes with prolonged wear. They also really limit your options of wardrobe. There's no way around the fact you have to wear something over it to hide it, and then once your seat-belt is fastened this can restrict that garment to your body making it more difficult to reach the firearm. Don't forget the direction the pistol is canted can play a huge role here.
This particular woman was planning on carrying a small revolver or a compact pistol. So I'd suggest that if you're going to use smaller pistols from the beginning, I've had better experiences with ankle holsters for driving scenarios. There's also always the option of concealing the weapon within the car itself, and not on your person. Under the seat, in the door well, under the dash, there's a few different options. Down side then becomes you don't have it on you if you have to leave the vehicle in a hurry.
My personal advice, since she's planning on using smaller pistols would be to go with an ankle holster if she's determined to wear on her person.
More is better though everyone so please if you have an opinion or have some experience with these topics please let's hear it.
February 26, 2011, 01:19 AM
"...very effective in a vehicle scenario..." You can also put a big, painful, hole in yourself, if you're under stress. Not that easy to get the pistol out of either.
"...can get uncomfortable..." Has to fit. Ballistic nylon is better than leather.
"...ankle holsters..." Really stupid place for a handgun at the best of times. Far worse if you're driving. There's a big round thing in the way. Not exactly concealed on a woman in a dress either.
A cross draw works well for either a small pistol or revolver when driving.
February 26, 2011, 11:59 AM
Agreed, the draw can be tricky and even dangerous. I also agree I like the Nylon material on these options better.
If we really go for just a vehicle situation I actually prefer not even to be wearing the pistol. I keep it hidden within reach but somewhere off person. Like the door well personally.
February 26, 2011, 05:00 PM
I tend to agree with not wearing it while driving.A seatbelt holster, or a holster mounted to the dash,console, or door panel would allow quick access without reaching under the seat or into a glovebox.My wife on the other hand carries hers in a special purse with a built-in holster right next to her.Dave
February 26, 2011, 08:09 PM
If you carry in a vehicle without a good means of restraint, you could be asking for serious trouble in an accident. I know, because I've done it myself.
A pistol that is not strapped or retained somehow will go places on impact and may even hurt you.
I prefer my Miami Classic in the vehicle, but wear my IWB quite a bit too.
Ankle holsters were never my cup of tea, at 6'3" my gun was always too far away.:D
February 26, 2011, 09:11 PM
I think an ankle holster may be a bad idea in a car. Depending on one's physique, flexibility and the layout of the car it could be very hard to get to one's gun quickly. Certainly the steering wheel will be an obstacle. It's something one should try out before committing.
And I've always found holsters to be very personal, like shoes. What works for someone might not work for someone else.
I carry a gun whenever I legally can. Personally, I prefer carrying strong side at about 3:00. It's the most versatile carry position, IMO. It works well for me even in my car. It also allows me to use a holster that allows for easy one-handed re-holstering -- which I consider a requirement.
I favor either a Milt Sparks Versa Max 2 for IWB carry --
Or a Milt Sparks Axiom (http://ezine.m1911.org/MiltSparksAxiom.htm) for OWB carry --
The holsters each have a similar "FBI" cant which makes the gun nicely accessible even while seated.
February 26, 2011, 11:42 PM
Oddly enough I have to say the leather Galco Miami Classic shoulder rig by far is the best one I have tried, and I have used a few over the years. the Miami Classic distributes the weight best and carries well with the double mag pouch opposite to balance the load, as it were. It's still going to weigh you down across the shoulders unlike a belt rig will. I can wear a shoulder rig for a while, in winter, but in summer time when a covering garment is a complete impossibility, not likely.
In the car I can see the utility, but also the covering garment must be moved to make sure you have access.
February 27, 2011, 01:55 AM
Awesome ideas guys please keep it coming. I don't have a lot of experience with this next idea but I think it would be relevant and want another opinion.
I very much agree with being able to re-holster a pistol with one hand as a requirement that I look for as well. I've done quite a bit of practice with seated positions with IWB and found the the most easily accessible was to have the (for a right handed shooter, this would be in reverse for a lefty) at about the 4 o'clock and with your draw leaning forward and away from the pistol to open up the draw area. I haven't really tried this with a seat belt on, but as I think about it I do believe the outcome would be pretty similar. Might we be able to achieve a happy medium here if we carry in this position throughout the day... even while driving?
I'll run this drill next time I get a chance with a vehicle. I don't tend to give the "In my experience" speech until I've at least tried something live fire. So it'll be a little bit, but from dry run and thinking about it I believe that if we take the same thoughts about a IWB at 4 o'clock and apply them here we might have real success.
Again, is there anyone who's already run this live fire? I'd love a second opinion here.
February 27, 2011, 06:51 PM
It is all going to involve some sort of compromise. I think, and in my experience, that the deciding factor as to method of carry comes down to where and how you will spend the majority of your time. In the drivers seat. or on two legs. What combination of the two, and in what climate. I have used a decent shoulder holster in a variety of situations, and while it is not ideal it does offer some advantages. Depending on clothing, a crossdraw belt holster is decently easy to access from a seated position and remains a viable option. All in all, the strong side canted belt holster seems to me to be the best all around option, and demands the least amount of overall compromise during an active day, with the greatest amount of safety and retention ability.
February 28, 2011, 09:44 AM
I used to think that shoulder holsters were a decent way to carry, until I was shown how easy it is to both stop someone from drawing from a shoulder holster AND how easy it is for a BG to disarm you.
I now use an IWB holster that has both positive and negative cant adjustments. When driving long distances, I adjust the cant to the negative (approx. 10-15 degrees) and wear cross draw. Most of the time, I simply wear it strong side.
February 28, 2011, 12:45 PM
IME, the best carry position while driiving or riding is cross draw, the best carry position while walking is strong side. The suggestion by gimike (switchable position holster) is one I had never looked into but sounds like the best of both worlds.
March 2, 2011, 06:29 AM
The shoulder holster requires a very high skill level to be safe and fast. Many ranges do not allow them to be used on the premises due to accidential discharges being so common. Not for the less experienced for sure.
The ankle holster is the poorest, IMO, place to carry a handgun in history.
The position one must get in to draw means you cannot be moving at the same time. Moving to cover, safety, or toward your long gun is what you need to be doing. About 15 minutes was all it the time needed to convince
me. I don't even know where the thing is.
Crossdraw is a natural motion. It can't be beat for access when driving.
A little hard to cover with clothing, the idea of a readily moveable (to side or small of back) rig answers this. A paddle type meets this.
When advising the inexperienced always consider the person. Insist they train and learn basic gun safety. Jeff Cooper's Four Rules, if followed, will keep all of us safer. I keep them posted in several places and give out copies all along. True wisdom is always relavent.
ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
The only exception to this occurs when one has a weapon in his hands and he has personally unloaded it for checking. As soon as he puts it down, Rule 1 applies again.
NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DESTROY
You may not wish to destroy it, but you must be clear in your mind that you are quite ready to if you let that muzzle cover the target. To allow a firearm to point at another human being is a deadly threat, and should always be treated as such.
KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER TIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
This we call the Golden Rule because its violation is responsible for about 80 percent of the firearms disasters we read about.
BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET
You never shoot at anything until you have positively identified it. You never fire at a shadow, or a sound, or a suspected presence. You shoot only when you know absolutely what you are shooting at and what is beyond it.
Pray and Shoot Daily.
"Stand your ground. Do not fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, then let it begin here." - Capt. Parker to the Minutemen of the Lexington Militia before the Battle of Lexington April 19, 1775
March 2, 2011, 07:08 AM
I very much prefer shoulder holsters, and always have.
"AND how easy it is for a BG to disarm you."
That's been discussed here many times in the past, and I find the scenario to be.... lacking.
It always seems that no matter what situation the anti-shoulder holster person puts you in, it's against ninja master Who Flung Poo, who can waltz up to you, stick a hand inside your coat, pluck your gun from its holster AND take your underwear at the same time.
I call shenanigans on that.
If you're carrying properly, as in concealed, Master Poo isn't going to know you're carrying a gun unless he has ninja ray vision.
Those disarmament scenarios also always seem to require Master Poo to use his Ninja Paralyzing Gaze on you, for apparently the whole time he's approaching you and plucking your gun from its holster, you're just standing there like a big lump.
If you've been careless enough to let a bad guy figure out that you're carrying a handgun, you've got other problems to worry about...
Like him walking up behind you on your BLIND side and bashing your skull with a rock or a piece of pipe. After which he simply takes your gun and your wallet.
Bad guys aren't completely stupid. They're not going to face down someone armed with a gun if they can ambush him instead.
I also am having a lot of trouble trying to figure out a way in which a bad guy is going to keep you from drawing a gun from a shoulder holster where he wouldn't be able to do the same if you're using any other kind of holster.
As with anything else, proper use of chose equipment means training.
That is TRULY the biggest drawback to a shoulder holster -- most ranges won't allow you to train with a shoulder holster because the muzzle is pointed the wrong way, and that is a valid concern.
Then again, many ranges I've been to also don't allow you to train using a belt holster, IWB, pocket, or any other kind of holster.
That's where home draw practice comes in with a gun loaded with snap caps.
Ultimately, I prefer to carry a gun in one of two methods -- a pocket holster or a shoulder holster.
If neither of those options is available to me for whatever reason, chances are VERY good that I'm not going to be carrying a gun simply because I hate other carry options that much.
March 2, 2011, 02:44 PM
Awesome point Mike, I certainly think that a shoulder holster rig has it's place. I went and ran this very same scenario that was described earlier and found the even with a vest/jacket/baggy shirt, whatever, over the holster to keep it concealed the draw was very simple, quick, and effective. I did this live fire with a Sig P226, a Glock 19, and a Walther PPK, with rigs for each pistol. I also tried the Glock 19 with my left hand for you lefties. Fact is fact.
If you take the vehicle scenario that I started this thread with I was very successful in drawing safely, effectively, and quickly against targets at just about any position around the vehicle. When I examined having to leave the vehicle quickly the Shoulder holster performed perfectly. I should point out that I did use the attachments that secure the rig to your pants or belt, and I think it's silly to use a shoulder rig and not do that.
After running this one live fire, with different pistols, from different locations within the car, and against different targets at different locations through out the car I am convinced that the Shoulder Holster is a superb option for just about any vehicle situation. I'm sure the "what if" will eventually find something I missed, but fact is still fact. This worked very well when it came time to perform the actions in the tasks I mentioned. I will point out that when wearing your pistol you should ensure that the muzzle is pointed in a safe location while worn, but truly if you've practiced your draw and are proficient with it this risk can certainly be minimized.
March 2, 2011, 03:21 PM
"I will point out that when wearing your pistol you should ensure that the muzzle is pointed in a safe location while worn, but truly if you've practiced your draw and are proficient with it this risk can certainly be minimized."
My response to the "the muzzle is pointed in an unsafe direction" (with a horizontal holster) has always been....
All of my shoulder holsters are made such that the trigger is covered by the holster, and the retaining strap prevents the hammer from being cocked.
Unless I'm struck by lightning, I sincerely doubt if my gun is going to go off on its own accord.
And if I have to draw my gun from the shoulder holster? What about muzzle control then?
That point is easily addressed with another standard axiom of gun safety -- keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.
My final contribution to that safety concern is that I only carry revolvers, which require long, deliberate trigger pulls to activate, or my HK P7PSP, which requires a very deliberate grip to cock the action.
My last point in this installment of "shoulder holster pontification" is the claim that people make about the shoulder holster being extremely slow to draw from.
My answer to that is.... it depends on how you draw.
If you're drawing then sweeping your arm out to get full arm extension while preparing to come to a Weaver stance?
Yeah, that's slow - probably slower than achieving a similar draw and position from a belt holster.
But if you're in a situation where you need to draw your gun, my theory is that you're also in a situation where one of your first concerns should be gun RETENTION -- keeping it close to your body and under your control.
And to do that means that you can employ a type of draw that is MUCH faster.
Essentially, when reach across your body to draw your gun, your draw arm is usually in contact with your chest, or very close to it.
Once you get your gun into your hand and start the draw, instead of pushing your arm forward and out, you rotate your arm back around your body -- in essence, your wrist, your forearm, your elbow, never leave contact with your chest.
When your upper arm is back where it normally hangs against your body, the muzzle of your gun is now pointing forward in a close body retention hold at roughly chest level with your adversary.
That... body hugger draw, for lack of a better term, is fast, secure, and it puts your gun in a position where it can be used immediately and defended against someone trying to grab it.
March 2, 2011, 07:54 PM
All in all I actually would recommend this as a very fees-able option for conceal. I think Mike's expertise on this and my own experience with a few different options now has convinced me that this is in fact a better option than I had at first believed. Up until I took this topic on I had a little experience with Shoulder Rigs. Now, after going through the paces I think this is a great option and will certainly not be arguing against it from here on.
March 7, 2011, 06:11 AM
My preferred method for wearing my 'big' guns (as opposed to those that fit my pockets) is weak side butt forward.
Some go IWB, some not; all are readily reached with either hand; sitting and drawing is not an issue, nor discomfort while belted and driving; the weak-hand draw can be blazingly fast, and wide-eye the assailant :eek:.
Wife either fanny-packs, or uses her purse with built-in holster (and steel-cable strap, and locking capability. Years back cop-chick cousin turned us on to cop-grade purse holsters).
March 7, 2011, 06:48 AM
Who Flung Poo, who can waltz up to you, stick a hand inside your coat, pluck your gun from its holster AND take your underwear at the same time.
I shouldn't have read that one so early Mike, now I have to clean up the coffee I sprayed all over the kitchen table:D:D:
March 7, 2011, 08:03 AM
Who Flung Poo is a brother to Sling Hockey High. :D
Double Naught Spy
March 7, 2011, 12:21 PM
One of my first firearms instructors was asked about shoulder rigs. He said lots of people he knew had them and they all wore them, at least once, but most not more than 2 or 3 times. He made a good point and I never bought one. I borrowed one and found that I didn't like it and saved a bunch of money.
IME, the best carry position while driiving or riding is cross draw,
I guess that would really all depend on whether you are right handed or left handed. Crossdraw for a right handed passenger (sitting in typical American car) will have to deal with the apex of the seatbelt straps converging on the left side where the holster is located. This causes problems just like a strong side holster does for a right handed person in the driver's seat.
Strong side carry for a right hander is what I find ideal as a passenger.
March 25, 2011, 09:14 PM
Very informative thread.
As a certified FOP (____ Old Person) and former cop, I'd like to add a few things:
If you are warm-natured, as I am, you may not be able to tolerate a shoulder rig when it gets above 70 or so degrees. Then, even if it is winter, what happens if you go inside and someone has the heat cranked up to BROIL?
That said, shoulder rigs have more than a few assets:
1. If you have a bad back, particularly lower back, they can be much more comfortable than a belt holster.
2. If you are in a situation that doesn't feel right, no one gives a second glance to you if your arms are crossed, but you can have your hand on the grip and be ready to present the weapon VERY quickly.
3. A shoulder rig is an easy way to grab both the weapon and spare ammo at the same time. You could even add your official Mall Ninja Accessory Kit to it and carry a flashlight, knife, or light saber....
4. If suffering from the flu, and you are forced to use a public restroom, your hardware will remain unseed while on the "throne."
Ankle holsters have a place; I always carried my backup J-frame in one while on uniformed patrol, and I never had a problem accessing it. Pull your offside leg up to the seat cushion, and you can have it in a flash. I did this MANY times when I noticed a citizen approaching my cruiser, and I could discreetly conceal the J-frame while they asked directions, but was still prepared for the worst.
But as an old-timer, my experience has been bad with nylon and good with leather. I have three shoulder rigs from Alessi (two of which are 20+ years old), and all are comfortable and fast. My ankle rig (25+ year old) is from Ken Null, and still going strong.
Keep the good ideas coming!
Double Naught Spy
March 25, 2011, 11:37 PM
That said, shoulder rigs have more than a few assets:
5. They are a very good way to carry for those who wade while fishing.
A buddy of mine uses his for this, but otherwise really doesn't like it for normal carry.
March 29, 2011, 05:43 AM
The Galco "Miami Classic" is a great holster. I own one and use it often in the cooler weather, as for the warmer days and nights I'm still looking for a holster. As for comfort it is more of a question of fit and adjustment and this can take some time to find both. As for the safety issue, I don't carry mine with a bullet in the chamber (XDM 40 3.8) as I decided that all a holster does for me is allows me to transport my gun incase I need to use it. Upon a little review of the placing of the gun into and drawing it out of a shoulder holster I find it would be quit easy to shoot oneself with either motion. I guess seconds count when someone is about to jump on you in a parking lot or where ever but I just can't see that much difference between drawing my gun and racking the slide after it has cleared the holster. I don't think that being quick on the draw is what I am trying to achieve here but maybe I am wrong. The other day a person bought a new holster (Not shoulder) at a local Bass Pro store and ended up shooting himself in while he was still in the parking lot. You can hurt yourself while putting a gun into or out of one and learning to quick draw can only compound the problem.
"Maybe carrying a revolver might be a better choice"
March 29, 2011, 07:18 AM
I have been discussing this with my son. He planned to buy me one as a present, until he realized he didn't really like his very much. So I am sticking with IWB which suits me.
But body types and dress styles differ. So do guns. If I packed my 6" Model 19 concealed I think a vertical shoulder holster would be the only way to go.
March 29, 2011, 10:28 AM
....As for the safety issue, I don't carry mine with a bullet in the chamber (XDM 40 3.8) as I decided that all a holster does for me is allows me to transport my gun incase I need to use it. Upon a little review of the placing of the gun into and drawing it out of a shoulder holster I find it would be quit easy to shoot oneself with either motion. I guess seconds count when someone is about to jump on you in a parking lot or where ever but I just can't see that much difference between drawing my gun and racking the slide after it has cleared the holster. I don't think that being quick on the draw is what I am trying to achieve here but maybe I am wrong....Well I, and probably a bunch of others here, do think you're wrong. That's really not a discussion for this thread, and it's been discussed here multiple times. See --
And in any case, proper, safe and effective use of any type of holster requires training and practice. I suggest that you consider getting some serious, professional training.
April 10, 2011, 06:18 PM
"And in any case, proper, safe and effective use of any type of holster requires training and practice. I suggest that you consider getting some serious, professional training."
AWESOME POINT!!! Exactly what I've always said, and even if people do disagree with some option or another, with proper training just about anything can be effective and safe.
April 10, 2011, 06:52 PM
I suggest a kangaroo holster, a friend has one for a 38 subnose, I tryed it with my G19 and it fits in his. I like it, very concealable. Has 3 pouches for putting ammo, I even put a magazine in the pouch and it was hidden pretty good.
April 23, 2011, 12:04 PM
5. They are a very good way to carry for those who wade while fishing.
A decided disadvantage to ankle holsters, I'll bet...:D
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