Handgun selection is important. Choosing a caliber and ammunition type is vital. When it comes to concealed carry, the holster will make or break the experience. A holster must keep the pistol secure. The holster must also offer access and speed from concealed carry.
A poor holster will be a chafing nuisance, a well-designed holster will be appreciated for its load bearing and security properties. Many shooters do not take the necessary time to truly explore their choices. Inside the waistband, strong side high ride, cross draw, and appendix carry are certainly among the options.
The holster should conceal the pistol effectively. This often means different holsters for different climates. Those living in a true four-season climate will use several different holsters for T-shirts in the summer to windbreakers in the fall, and finally, heavy coats in the winter. A lot of thought goes into choosing the holster that is easily concealed, but still offers quick hand purchase when needed.
A cheap holster is a poor choice, even a menace to safety. The holster must maintain security. It should be crafted from high-quality leather, the heaviest fabric, or a hybrid with Kydex.
The Case for Shoulder Holsters
Shoulder holsters should not be chosen on a basis of a trend or because they look racy. I enjoy a well-crafted holster but also think things through. A shoulder holster will serve well for many types of concealed carry.
A properly designed shoulder holster offers plenty of adjustment. You will probably need some help getting the holster properly adjusted, or you will need to adjust the holster by trial and error — adjusting the holster and donning and doffing it repeatedly.
Like most holsters, shoulder rigs have a list of pros and cons. An advantage is that the holster rig takes weight off the hips and lower back. The holster rides on the shoulders and distributes weight on the body. Be certain the holster straps are wide enough for good support and that the holster is snug.
A properly adjusted shoulder holster should not flap around—especially when you bend forward or sit down. The ideal rig balances the handgun with a magazine or two on the strong side of the body. Be certain the holster you choose has sufficient thickness and a properly designed X-type harness that may simply be thrown over the shoulders and then concealed with a covering garment.
A Holster for all Seasons
During the winter months, I often wear a shoulder holster. During the evening, I simply hang the rig on the bed post. This is pretty handy. You need only throw the rig on, and you are well armed. Some shoulder holsters have a belt attachment and others do not. Vertical types demand a belt attachment while horizontal types do not.
The Should Holster Draw
The draw stroke is an oft quoted criticism of the shoulder holster. While the draw is a valid concern, most misunderstand the proper draw. Standing facing the threat and then reaching across the body to draw is slow, even awkward.
The proper draw begins with the weak side forward and the body bladed to the target. The hand grasps the handgun. With the body bladed toward the target, the handgun is pressed toward the target. The weak side hand is kept out of the way of the draw and then moved to meet the strong side hand in the proper hold. This is very similar to the cross draw.
The shoulder holster draw is executed in much the same manner as a cross draw presentation and demands practice. By the same token when you are seated, the shoulder holster is more accessible than a strong side holster.
Practicing the draw will most often be accomplished in the home with a triple-checked unloaded firearm. When the handgun is drawn, it would sweep others at the range and the horizontal shoulder holster keeps the muzzle of the firearm pointed to the rear—although some have a slight downward angle. This makes some folks nervous.
I would not like to be in an area with an unknown shooter’s muzzle sweeping my body! The horizontal holster is limited to certain size pistols but offers a good solid draw and easy concealment.
Some shoulder holsters do not need belt attachment, if properly designed. A vertical holster is more similar to a cross draw and may be used to carry and conceal larger handguns. Among the most famous is the Bianchi X 15, offered in several sizes for popular handguns.
You should try each — even a cheap type — to see how your body shape and clothing styles supports horizontal versus vertical carry models. Be certain you understand how to adjust the holster for a snug fit. If the holster flips around it will be uncomfortable.
Another choice is whether you wish to deploy single or double magazine carriers. Some makers offer magazine carriers of up to four magazines as well as a defensive knife. These are serious professional rigs that are generally worth their price.
By the same token, more complex rigs require considerable experience and hand work to adjust the fit and learn the muscle memory to be a benefit and not a hinderance.
Some shoulder holsters feature friction snaps and others use a safety snap to holster the magazine carrier. Horizontal carry demands that the handgun be secured with a thumb break. Vertical holsters usually feature some type of snap or security device.
The device may be unsnapped on the draw, and the handgun drawn forward. It is usually possible to simply draw the pistol upward and outward of the holster without any concern for the safety retention strap. This draw must, however, be practiced.
The shoulder holster demands more shooter development than practically any other holster. The handgunner must understand how to properly adjust a fairly complex system. The result will be real security, comfort, and superior load bearing.
I cannot stress enough that the draw from concealed carry must be practiced often. The spare magazine or speed loader draw must also be practiced with the same regularity. A covering garment that conceals the holster and which is thick enough not to reveal the handgun under the garment is needed.
The expense of a quality shoulder holster is greater than a standard holster of comparable quality. When all of these hurdles are met, the shoulder holster offers advantages not held by other types including taking the weight off the back, offering a neat trim appearance without the usual bulge about the hips or back, and the ability to carry the handgun and spare gun loads in easy reach when seated or driving.