I was watching what has to be the all-time coolest police detective movie with the all-time coolest actor portraying the lead detective. The movie: Bullitt starring Steve McQueen. Filmed in 1968 in San Francisco (long before San Francisco was drowning in human feces and discarded drug needles), the movie follows Detective Frank Bullitt through a murder case that involves a corrupt, local politician. While the movie’s main claim to fame is the most incredible car-chase scene ever filmed (McQueen drove the entire scene, which is why he was so cool), what caught my attention this time was the upside-down Safariland shoulder holster worn by McQueen. The reason it got my attention was threefold.
First, you don’t see upside-down shoulder holsters in use much anymore. The shoulder holster has lost a lot of its popularity, which is a shame because it is a useful design, especially for those folks who still wear sport or suit jackets on a regular basis. It was time to take another look.
Second, Bullitt carries a Colt 2-inch snub-nosed revolver in his holster. A few months ago, I wrote an article about the vintage Colt Cobra .38 Special snub-nosed revolver that I purchased. I decided that my Cobra should look more like McQueen’s.
Third, I carried my Parkerized Colt Agent in a Bianchi #9 upside-down shoulder holster while I worked undercover narcotics back at the start of my law enforcement career. This was my favorite gun and holster setup during that time. Seeing Bullitt wear his Colt snubby in his Safariland rig made me wax a bit nostalgic. I had to have an upside-down shoulder holster to go with my Cobra.
Shoulder holsters used to be quite a bit more popular than they are these days with a lot of popularity being driven by Hollywood on the big and small screens at the time. I can’t swear to it because it was 36 years ago, but I might have been influenced to go with the upside-down Bianchi #9 because of the Bullitt movie. No one else on my drug unit used one, and none of the sheriff’s detectives I worked with at the time had one that I recall, so being influenced by Bullitt was a strong possibility.
I initially checked first to see if Bianchi still made its #9 rig since that was the one that I carried. As I figured, it was no longer in production. I then turned to Nevada Gun Leather, who makes its Upside Down Shoulder Holster for 2- to 3-inch-barreled Colt revolvers, Smith & Wesson J-frames and similar-sized five-shot revolvers such as the Taurus 85.
While the company name “Nevada Gun Leather” and its logo make it seem like it is a cowboy or Western holster company, nothing could be further from the truth. Currently, there are only two cowboy rigs in its lineup, and almost everything else is designed for the modern concealed carry crowd. It is one of the very few places you can find an upside-down shoulder holster. I requested one in brown, just like McQueen wore.
Nevada Gun Leather sells very nice, high-quality leather gear, and its Upside Down Shoulder Holster is no exception. While I wanted one in part for personal nostalgic reasons, why should you revolver-carriers want one?
The upside-down shoulder holster offers some great advantages for the concealed carry user, which I will go into momentarily. However, they are only for revolvers. Semi-automatics will not work in this system. Upside-down revolver holsters clamp around the revolver cylinder for retention, which is maintained by a strong elastic band. Semi-automatic pistols have nothing to clamp onto in this type of holster, and gravity works against keeping the gun in place.
The Nevada Upside Down Shoulder Holster is available for right- and left-handed shooters. Unlike horizontal or vertical shoulder holsters, it has no retention straps that need to be hooked to a belt to hold it in place. Instead, it has a wide, leather arm loop that is attached to the holster body at the muzzle and trigger-guard. A soft, adjustable elastic support loop holds the leather arm loop and holster in place on the opposite side. To put the rig on, simply slide your support hand through the strap and pull it up onto your support-side shoulder. Then, put your shooting hand through the support loop and pull it onto your strong-side shoulder. That’s it. There is nothing to snap in place. You are ready to go.
Since there are no belt straps on this rig, there is no need for you to wear a belt. This is one of the very few holsters that would work for someone wearing gym shorts and a light jacket or other garment over it. It also means that if your jacket or shirt pulls up, no one will see the leather straps holding the gun in place.
There is also no unsightly printing from underneath a jacket or an open button-down shirt. The holster and gun rest under your armpit. The wide, leather holster loop is very comfortable for EDC, and so is the elastic strap. Its position also works well when seated in a car for quick-access, anti-carjack protection.
The front of the holster is a clamshell held together by the elastic band. There is no additional retention device to clear. To draw, grasp the butt of the gun and pull upward and forward to clear the gun, making sure your finger is on the frame until you are on target and ready to shoot. Note that you will not be permitted to draw and fire from this rig on a public range since your gun’s muzzle will be momentarily pointed 180 degrees to your rear. Practice your draw at home with an unloaded revolver. You will need both hands to reholster during practice to make sure that your revolver is firmly seated in place.
The Nevada Upside Down Shoulder Holster is great not only for concealed carry but also for use on the trail. The design keeps space on your belt available for knives, canteens or other hiking gear.
The Nevada Gun Leather Upside Down Shoulder Holster is priced at $114.95. If you have a snub-nosed revolver, it beats horizontal or vertical shoulder rigs hands down. For more information go to: www.nevadagunleather.com.