Although not widely used shoulder holsters can be very useful for specialized purposes. We decided to find out in what situations they are useful and if any can be recommended. After researching for 45 hours and actively testing more than 10 shoulder holsters, we’ve selected both the vertical and horizontal versions of the Masc Shoulder Holster as our favorites.
Everything we recommend
- Why you should trust me
- How we picked
- How we tested
- Our pick
- Also great
- When to use shoulder holsters
- How to safely use a shoulder holster
- Finding a good shoulder holster
- Breaking in a shoulder holster
- Adjusting shoulder holsters
- Shoulder holster positions and angles
- Shoulder holsters for women
Why you should trust me
How we picked
We scoured the internet for reliable expert reviews and owner input on which shoulder holsters were good enough to test. But, we could not find any! Nearly all the written reviews we found had bad grammar and seemed to have been written by persons who did not have a good understanding of the English language. This made us question the authenticity of these reviews and made us highly skeptical of the recommendations as there was no indication the holsters had actually even been worn or tested.
Unfortunately we came to the conclusion that most of the reviews that we encountered had been churned out by review factories that will put any product in there just to get a quick sale.
Furthermore, we could not find any production shoulder holster that met all our quality requirements. It seems the only way to obtain such a holster would be to have it custom made at 2-3 times the cost.
How we tested
Once we settled on our target shoulder holsters - 10 shoulder holsters in all - we focused on our own-hands-on testing. We evaluated each shoulder holster on the following criteria;
- Build quality and design
- Gun retention when in holster
- Adjustments to straps and holster
- Number of gun models holster is available for
- Comfort when worn for long periods
- Add on modules
Where the clear winners began to emerge was in the quality and design of the shoulder holster. Retention of the gun while in the holster also saw some holsters be eliminated. Being new some of the holsters were fairly tight and the leather needed to be worked in, that's not a problem. All we did was place a thin shopping bag around the handgun and then insert and withdraw the gun into the holster until you achieve the desired retention. However, with some of the holsters, simply turning them upside down would result in the gun falling out of the holster, not exactly what we were looking for.
The main gripes we had were with the shoulder straps, which seemed in some cases not to be wide enough or too thin in thickness. There was also the issue of the cross connector on the back where all these straps connect to. We prefer a leather or corrosion resistant metal cross connector as plastic just feels cheap and can sometimes break. Granted in most cases the plastic cross connectors are made out of kydex, still plastic but very strong. The potential is still there for it to break although we have not encountered any broken ones yet.
Our pick: Miami Classic Shoulder Holster
The Galco Miami Classic has a high quality finish. The holster is available for a wide variety of gun models and right or left hand draw. There are two colors available, tan or black. This shoulder holster system is modular so you can have the one harness and swap out different components as needed. There are about 22 components available and it is this large choice of components that makes the Galco Miami Classic II stand out from all the other shoulder holsters. No other holster manufacturer can match that number of accessories. However, these components can only be purchased separately to the shoulder system that you purchase and can, depending on what you purchase, substantially increase the price of your shoulder rig.
The ammo pouch differs from other models in that it is orientated horizontally and does not have a retention strap. This was designed to increase your reloading speed and in testing we did find it quicker than the ammo pouches that require you to flip open a retention strap to access the magazine. So if a quick draw of the ammo magazine is important to you then we would go with the Miami Classic II.
The holster that is sold in this system is also orientated horizontally for a quick draw. We are not keen on that orientation as large handguns placed in the holster can sometimes result in a noticeable bulge from the guns barrel at your back, but it certainly does offer a fast draw. If you find you are not comfortable with the horizontal holster you can always swap the holster to the vertical model.
We considered this holster for our first place pick but there was two factors that bumped it down to runner up. First there is price and it is considerably more expensive than the Masc shoulder holster. Then on examining the leather shoulder straps we noticed they were thinner than those on the Masc holster and just felt cheaper.
If you are just looking for a shoulder holster that gives you a quick draw, price is not an issue, and is made in the United States then this is the one to get.
You simply cannot get better value for your money with the Miami Classic Shoulder Holster, quality construction at a reasonable price.
The Miami Classic's history
Galco's first should holster was the Jackass, first made in 1970. This was popularized in the TV show Miami Vice and the Jackass Shoulder Holster is still available today.
The Miami Classic is a refinement of the Jackass holster and differs a lot from the original Jackass shoulder holster. Nearly all shoulder holsters today are based on this design.
Also Great: Great Alaskan Chest Holster
When to use a shoulder holster
Shoulder holsters are great if you are wearing a jacket in colder climates or are sitting or driving for long periods. As a bonus they do a good job of distributing the weight of a handgun across the shoulders making them very comfortable to wear. I have used shoulder holsters to carry a large revolver on hunting trips and found that the weight of a heavy gun was distributed effectively.Best use cases
- Driving for long periods.
- Sitting for long periods.
- Colder climates when wearing a jacket.
- Women may find they are a better fit for their body shapes.
How to safely use a shoulder holster
Before you draw your gun get your opposite hand (the one you are not using) and arm out of the way by raising it up and placing your hand behind your head, at the same time raise your elbow. By doing this your gun will not be pointed at your off-side arm when you draw.
You can now use your other arm to reach and draw the gun from the holster. As you do so make sure you keep your finger off the trigger.
Finding a quality shoulder holster
Shoulder holsters are mostly made from leather and will consist of harness straps that are positioned over your shoulders to support the holster that is placed on your weak side. You can also obtain them in nylon but I would avoid those as they are mostly cheaply constructed.
The key to comfort is to get a holster with wide straps as they distribute the weight better than narrower straps. The straps also need to be adjustable for different body sizes and clothing. You also want a holster that can be configured to carry a weapon in a horizontal or vertical position and there are some that allow you to position the holster on an angle between vertical and horizontal.
An ammo pouch is a good option too as being positioned on the opposite side to the gun it will help to balance out the weight of the gun. Other things to look for are a thumb break (retaining strap) for safety and several adjustment points to allow for maximum comfort.
What to look for
- Leather construction.
- Leather or metal cross connector.
- Chicago screws.
- Wide straps.
- Holster adjustable between vertical, horizontal or 45° position.
- Double ammo pouch.
- Retaining strap for gun.
- Size adjustment, for holster and body straps.
Breaking in a leather shoulder holster
UNLOAD YOUR FIREARM - before testing the holster fit
First of all check if your holster has tension screws. These screws are not normally set at the factory so you will probably need to adjust them before you try to holster your gun the first time.
- There is no reason to completely remove the tension screws.
- Do not use LocTite on the tension screws.
- A better option is to use a single drop of clear nail polish applied to the thread of the tension screw. This may reduce any unwanted loosening of the screw.
If there are no tension screws and the fit is too tight then do not force it. Please follow these simple steps below to break in your new holster, this process is called blocking.
- Place the unloaded handgun in a plastic freezer bag. Alternatively you can cover it in 2-3 layers of plastic kitchen wrap. Make sure you do not cover the grip.
- Insert the wrapped handgun into the holster slowly, twisting it gently side-to-side to reduce any tearing of the wrap.
- Once you have seated the handgun completely in the holster twist it approximately 1/16" in both directions 6-12 times.
- Leave the wrapped handgun sitting in the holster for about 15 minutes.
- Then remove the handgun from the holster and remove the wrap or bag from the handgun.
- Now insert the handgun into the holster, which should now be snug but not loose. If it is still too tight you will need to repeat the above steps until the holster is broken in to your satisfaction.
How to adjust a shoulder holster
First of all adjust the holster so that it rides up near the arm pit. You do not want it right in the arm pit, about 2 inches below the arm pit is perfect. I have seen too many people wearing their shoulder holsters too low.
Another important point is to create a balance on both sides. That means having two ammo magazines on one side of your body with the gun on the other side. The weight of the ammo magazines should then balance out the weight of the gun to some degree.
Shoulder holster position and angle
There are three positions that the holster can be positioned at, all have their advantages and disadvantages. Those positions are a vertical, horizontal or 45° angle.
If I am using a shoulder holster I nearly always use the 45° position, it just seems to work better than the vertical or horizontal positions for me anyway. You may well find one of the other positions will work better for you. I suggest you try them all to see which you prefer.
The vertical shoulder holster
The horizontal shoulder holster
Horizontal holsters are the easiest to draw a handgun from and the most widely available. The guns butt is the furthest forward of the styles which is not the best for concealment but it does offer a natural draw stroke and grip. You will find the that the revolvers cylinder pushes the muzzle and butt away from the users body leaving the gun in a unstable rocking position. Furthermore, you will find the butt pushes out at the front and the muzzle at the user's back leaving a clear indication that the user has an object under their clothes. Another problem is that when you draw the gun it sweeps across unintended targets. So my advice is if you do use a horizontal shoulder holster that you choose a handgun with a small frame and short muzzle.
The 45° shoulder holster
Shoulder holsters for women
I would recommend the shoulder holster as a gun holster for women more than men. This is because the more muscular a man is then the more difficult they find it to have the flexibility to twist their upper body and draw safely from a shoulder holster. Whereas most women do have the required body flexibility to safely draw from this style of holster.
The majority of IWB and OWB holsters have been developed for men's bodies and can be difficult to conceal under tight fitting women's clothing. If a woman tries to wear a holster developed for men then it can come at the expense of comfort. The shoulder holster is a solution to this problem as it bridges the gap between comfort and concealment.
Women often find that shoulder holsters are a comfortable alternative to belt holsters.
Shoulder holsters are great if you spend a lot of time at a desk, in a car or are always wearing a jacket, they are very comfortable for these situations. Your handgun is always easy to reach when you are sitting and does not dig into your waist if you are entering or exiting a vehicle. Another plus with models that have an ammunition carrier is that the magazine carrier being on the opposite side of the handgun, balances out the weight of the handgun.
I should point out that we based these reviews on only production models of shoulder holsters. You can certainly find better shoulder holsters if money is no obstacle and you want a custom designed holster. However, for the majority of the concealed carry community the shoulder holsters we have recommended are sufficient and will do the job at a reasonable price point.
We were disappointed that we could not find any production holster that met our quality requirements, the only way to obtain such a shoulder holster would be to have a custom holster made at two or three times the price of the production models. There is definitely room for improvement from the large holster companies. Our main gripe was the cross piece that sits on the back and connects all the straps, this should be made from leather or brass but on the production models is mostly made from plastic. This is the weak link in all those models, if that breaks your shoulder holster would be useless, although we have not found any users saying this piece has broken yet. But you would expect something better than plastic for the prices you are paying for some of these shoulder holsters.
Another issue was the thickness of the shoulder straps, they felt a bit cheap on the Miami Classic and we think they also need to be wider for comfort. The thinner straps tend to dig into your body if you are carrying a heavy gun.
Then there is the position of the holster, it would be nice if they allowed you to select a vertical, horizontal or 45 angle on each model. Instead you are forced to choose between a vertical or horizontal shoulder holster that cannot be adjusted to any other position if you decide you do not like it. The only holster that allowed this was the Alien gear Shape Shifter, although it felt a bit bulky and was not completely made from leather.
There are some other negative aspects you should also be aware of for all shoulder holsters;
- In order to draw the handgun it will be necessary to reach across your body and if you are trying to repel an attacker then drawing the gun would be difficult.
- There is a safety issue with the muzzle pointing directly at whoever is behind you. This is still a problem with muzzle down rigs as the muzzle will still point towards people as you withdraw the handgun.
- There is also a problem with concealment and you will need to be constantly wearing a jacket to conceal the rig.
Hopefully I have not put you off shoulder holsters, they still have a place depending on your carry situation. We picked the best we could find on the current market among the production models but there is no single shoulder holster that meets the list of requirements we wanted to see in a top quality shoulder holster. The closest we could get was the Masc shoulder holster. If you find one that surpasses that then please let us know in the comments and we will review it.