Shoulder holsters have a long history, experiencing a resurgence in popularity during the ‘80s, notably through characters like James ‘Sonny” Crockett (Don Johnson) from the TV series Miami Vice. While these holsters provide tangible benefits, it’s essential to comprehend both their advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, understanding the correct way to wear and safely draw from a shoulder holster, along with selecting the one tailored to your needs, is crucial for maximizing the advantages of shoulder carry.

Drawbacks of Shoulder Holsters

The most outspoken critics of shoulder holsters frequently express concerns about comfort, safety and the comparatively slow draw stroke associated with these holsters. Some shoulder holster designs may indeed be uncomfortable, and certain models might be overly complex for the average user.

Firearms instructors emphasize safety concerns, particularly in situations where shooters are positioned facing an impact berm. Many shoulder holsters function similarly to cross-draw holsters, implying that during the draw stroke, the gun may be pointed horizontally, posing a risk of a negligent discharge. This becomes a significant concern in competition venues where range officers and onlookers are in close proximity.

The draw stroke from most shoulder holsters requires specific safety precautions due to the risk of pointing the firearm at parts of the shooter’s own body. Shooters are advised to “chicken-wing” the off-side arm and hand during presentation to avoid crossing the upper off-side arm or shoulder with the muzzle.

Another drawback is the relatively slow draw stroke compared to modern hip-mounted holsters. The speed of drawing from most shoulder holsters is likened to the slow trickle of sand through an hourglass, making them less suitable for quick draws.

Carrying with a shoulder holster requires a jacket or vest as a cover garment. This can pose challenges in social situations where others are removing their coats and jackets. In such cases, the shoulder holster wearer may need to excuse himself or herself, find a private space like a bathroom to undress, and address the challenge of storing the gun and holster. Often, a trip to the vehicle becomes necessary, resulting in being unarmed and separated from the defensive tool.

Despite their drawbacks, some individuals may still consider a shoulder holster for concealed carry, particularly in specific situations where they can offer advantages. However, users must be mindful of these challenges and thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons before choosing a concealed carry holster.

Advantages of Shoulder Holsters

A shoulder holster serves as an excellent alternative for those who prefer to avoid carrying a pistol at the waistband or ankle, especially when belt-mounted holsters aren’t practical or comfortable. It offers easy and rapid access, allowing for a quick draw whether standing or sitting.

For carrying a handgun while driving, a shoulder holster might be the optimal choice. While some may have reservations, a shoulder holster is not constrained by the seat belt and provides accessibility to the defensive handgun in various circumstances. The only alternative that offers comparable freedom while seated in a vehicle is the ankle holster, but it is limited to much smaller handguns. If you’re seeking an option that combines rapid access and comfort, especially during long road trips or backcountry hiking, a shoulder holster could be the right choice.

A well-designed, well-fitted shoulder holster works exceedingly well for heavy handguns. In fact, they work better than hip-mounted holsters because they distribute the weight of the gun over a larger area of the body. A good, well-adjusted shoulder holster makes it easy to carry this heavy headgun for extended periods with little effort or concern. Additionally, for those who prefer long-barreled handguns, a shoulder holster may be the most practical means of concealing the firearm.

Fitting a Shoulder Holster for Concealed Carry

Anyone considering a shoulder holster for concealed carry must recognize that they differ significantly from other holster designs in terms of ready fit. Unlike hip holsters, which are typically ready to use right out of the packaging, shoulder holsters require more involvement. It’s necessary to work with each specific design, ensuring it fits comfortably before determining whether its application will suit your needs.

Wearing a shoulder holster is comparable to wearing a light backpack or book bag. Just as there are backpacks that can quickly become tiring, there are those that work well, even with moderately heavy loads, for extended periods. The crucial factor lies in getting everything in tune with your body style and profile. Achieving a proper fit for any shoulder holster demands patience, time, and a bit of trial and error. A full-length mirror also helps.

Observe and scrutinize how the holster hangs along your sides and assess any printing issues once you wear a covering garment. Perform a series of movements, then return to the mirror to evaluate how well everything stays in place or if any adjustments are needed. This process helps in fine-tuning the fit and ensuring the holster’s effectiveness and comfort.

How to Draw From a Shoulder Holster

First, ensure that the shoulder holster is positioned high up near the armpit. It’s a common mistake for people to wear shoulder holsters too low. A higher holster not only enhances comfort but also makes it easier to control and provides a better draw platform.

During the draw, make sure to move your opposite hand and arm out of the way. Position your off-hand to the back of your head and raise your elbow to avoid pointing your pistol at your off-side arm. Maintain trigger-finger discipline, as always. 

Shoulder Holster Options

Much like selecting the right gun for concealed carry, choosing the appropriate holster plays a crucial role in both comfort and accessibility. Shoulder holsters, unlike many hip holsters, provide the convenience and safety of accommodating various pistols. The challenge is finding one that aligns with your specific needs. To simplify the search, we’ve provided three options from established manufacturers.

Falco Forester Shoulder Holster

The Falco D113 Forester Shoulder Holster is specifically crafted for across-the-chest carry, accommodating a range of modern semi-automatic pistols and revolvers, including those equipped with lasers or weapon lights. Constructed from high-quality Italian leather, the Forester design incorporates three points of adjustment, enabling users to customize the fit based on individual preferences. MSRP for the Falco Forester, offered in multiple finishes, is $229.95 (

SwapRig Flanker Shoulder Holster Rig

The SwapRig Flanker Shoulder Holster Rig provides a solution to the common problem of an overflowing holster drawer for many concealed carriers with its innovative SwapSkin system. The SwapSkin is tailored to the specific gun being carried but is interchangeable across different chassis platforms, offering a space- and cost-saving solution. Setting itself apart, the Flanker boasts an adjustable cant (draw angle) that accommodates three different handgun positions and includes a double-stack/single-stack magazine carrier. MSRP for the Flanker is $253.95 (

Craft Vertical Roto-Shoulder Holster

The Craft Vertical Roto-Shoulder Holster introduces a distinctive rotating feature, enabling users to adjust for a horizontal draw instead of a vertical one. Tailored for both semi-automatics and revolvers, this all-leather shoulder holster includes an off-side nylon belt-attachment strap. The holster consists of two main components: the scabbard portion, which encases the handgun, and the outer covering/retention flap that facilitates gun rotation. This holster offers a practical carry option, especially for owners of large handguns. MSRP for the Vertical Roto-Shoulder Holster is $219 (

A Timeless Everyday Concealed Carry Option

The concept of shoulder holsters, often associated with a bygone era featuring wide whitewall tires, propeller airplanes and vinyl records, endures as a timeless and practical everyday concealed carry option. This concept provides distinct advantages for safely concealing a weapon in specific circumstances, making it a valued choice for many. As always, find the best shoulder holster that fits your needs and train with it to become comfortable and proficient.

This article is a compilation of previous blog posts authored by Frank W. James, Scott. W. Wagner and Kevin Michalowski.