The shoulder holster isn't just for cinematic good and bad guys. It has a role in real life as these eight upper-body rigs prove.
What Are Some Top Shoulder Holster Options:
- Alien Gear ShapeShift
- Galco Classic Lite 2.0 Shoulder Holster
- Gould & Goodrich Gold Line Shoulder Holster
- Bianchi Model X15 Vertical Shoulder Holster
- Uncle Mike's Black Kodra Nylon Sidekick Vertical Shoulder Holster
- Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder System
- DeSantis New York Undercover
- Versacarry Shoulder Holster
A suppressor will make a .308 no louder than mouse flatulence, a hit from a .45 ACP will sweep a perpetrator off his feet, and you never have to reload six-gun. If your gun education came from the warped lens of Hollywood, you’ll swear up and down these are 24-karat, chiseled-in-stone truths. Handled anything above and beyond a cap gun, you understand their veracity is the same caliber as pitch lines for X-ray specs and political promises.
One of the most enduring cinematic fantasies is that of the shoulder holster. Mobsters, undercover cops and PIs, by the big screen’s account it’s the way every good and bad guy carries their heater. Except it isn’t. The belt holster has and does reign supreme, given its simplicity, versatility and comfort. But that doesn’t mean the usefulness of the shoulder holster is mere La-La Land fiction.
For particular individuals who face certain circumstances, the upper-body rig proves eminently advantageous. Drivers and those seated most of their day find shoulder holsters extremely convenient and fast on the draw. And there might not be a more efficient way to amble around with a hand cannon during hunting season.
It sure make it simpler to scramble up a steep grade.
Whatever your case may be, there are plenty of solid shoulder holster options out there and we’re going to look at some of the best. So without further ado, here are some of the top shoulder holster choices that give the silver screen star a role in real life.
Alien Gear ShapeShift
One of the newest and most versatile options, the ShapeShift is also among the most comfortable. A hybrid shoulder holster, Alien Gear combines the strength of an English bridle leather superstructure and Kydex holster, with the comfort of its CoolVent neoprene backing. Padded in all the right places and overall slim in design, it’s easy to forget you’re carrying with the ShapeShift. The system moves with the body thanks to a four-point back swivel and belt anchors, providing consistent handgun presentation that never leaves you fumbling.
It also conceals well. A light overgarment—button-up shirt or windbreaker—is enough to keep your pistol and two spare magazines under wraps. Furthermore, the ShapeShift provides excellent passive retention, but also comes with a removable thumb-break for further security. A bonus, it’s part of Alien Gear’s modular holster system family. This means, if you already own a ShapeShift OWB or IWB holster, you can simply buy the shoulder straps and convert over. MSRP: $243.88
Read Also: Alien Gear Cloak Shoulder Holster Review
Galco Classic Lite 2.0 Shoulder Holster
Galco knows how to get the most out of gun leather, which is obvious when you catch a glimpse of effective and budget-friendly shoulder system. Modeled after the company’s professional rigs, the Classic Lite 2.0 Shoulder Holster is streamlined to make it more conducive to armed citizens, without compromising performance. In particular, this is seen in Galco’s use of the same connectors and Fexalon swivel backplate that make the pro models move naturally with the body and adjust to any frame. To boot, the Classic Lite is about as comfortable as all-leather shoulders come. Thank center cut steerhide for this.
The shoulder holster system comes complete with holster, harness, and a magazine ammo carrier. The original model previously only had one magazine pouch, but since the introduction of the improved 2.0 model it now has two. It’s also available in right- and left-hand draw configurations. The holster proper features a level-2 retention system—a metal button thumb snap—which keeps your pistol secure until you need it. Carry angle is strictly horizontal, which conceals well and draw fast. MSRP: $158
For more information on the best concealed carry holster check out:
- What Is The Best Concealed Carry Holster?
- 5 Things You Must Know About A Concealed Carry Holster
- Buckling Up The Basics Of Gun Belts
- Concealed Carry 101: Holsters for Women
- 7 Pocket Holster Options For Easy Everyday Carry
- Pros And Cons Of The Appendix Carry Holster
Gould & Goodrich Gold Line Shoulder Holster
Gould & Goodrich is known for its duty-grade holsters and accessories. But if you’re aiming to go top-shelf with a shoulder holster and price isn’t a barrier, then it’s difficult to do better than the company’s Gold Line. The rig is the whole nine yards. Especially impressive is the quality of the leather. It's thick enough to stand up to any punishment you can dish out. But it doesn’t wear heavy, with ample shoulder straps distributing the system’s weight.
Designed to move with you, a four-point back swivel keeps the rig in place even if you happen to be moving at a full sprint. A thumb break retention system secures your handgun and dual magazine carrier keeps plenty of ammo on tap. About the only knock on the shoulder holster, it’s only available for a relatively small selection of handguns—Beretta, Glock, Sig Sauer and Smith & Wesson semi-automatics. MSRP: $216.66
Bianchi Model X15 Vertical Shoulder Holster
Carry big iron? Bianchi has a shoulder holster to keep it in check. While there are configurations to handle more moderately sized handguns, the X15 is fully capable of tending up to an 8-inch barrel behemoth and competently so. In turn, the Bianchi shoulder rig makes an excellent choice for your next handgun hunting adventure.
Made from full-grain, vegetable-tanned cowhide, the rugged holster has a touch of elegance—nice since it’s the type you don’t need to keep undercover. A wide X-style harness does a solid job of distributing the weight of a heavy gun, making it overall easier to carry. And the shoulder holster keeps your gun where it needs to be, with a dual spring design. It also offers more security when needed with secondary retention strap. An amazingly consistent presentation, the X15 always puts your gun where you need it. However, it is strictly a vertical draw affair and doesn’t feature a configuration to handle scoped guns. MSRP: $169.50
Uncle Mike's Black Kodra Nylon Sidekick Vertical Shoulder Holster
Rummage around the holster market for any amount of time, you soon learn nylon holsters are often suspect. The Sidekick is a decided exception. The rig is well built, gives you excellent access to your handgun and lightens your load. That last point, weight, is among its greatest benefits, given the shoulder holster is comparatively featherlight. Since it can handle some of the largest firearms on the market—even ones with scopes—the Sidekick is a top candidate to take on the hunt. It’s also extremely budget-friendly, so you won’t weep if you beat it up.
The rig is completely adjustable to body-frame size and features belt anchorages, keeping the system tight as a drum. But it’s purely a vertical draw system and bulky. If you picked it for concealed carry, you might have difficulty keeping it from printing. Despite this, for a rough-and-tumble entry-level hunting rig, it’s among the tops. MSRP: Starting at $45.95
Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder System
It’s difficult to pick the Miami Classic II over the original—after all the earlier iteration is an absolute classic. But for the modern armed citizen, the new twist on the iconic system has a refinement that provides a major advantage—its magazine carrier. An open-front design, the carrier puts your spare magazines right at hand, picking up the pace of reloads. A good thing, indeed.
Practically everything else remains the same on the shoulder holster, including Galco’s top-end leather, dynamic spider harness and fully adjustable strap system. Like the Miami Classic, the II is a straight-up horizontal carry rig, which does an exceptional job concealing a firearm. But if you carry a full-sized firearm, and are smaller framed, it can prove ungainly. MSRP: $319
DeSantis New York Undercover
A true classic in every sense of the word, the New York Undercover shoulder holster has defined the style of carry since the 1970s. It looks the role and has only gotten better over the past four decades. Particularly in the comfort department. Wide shoulder straps on the DeSantis rig do an incredible job of distributing weight evenly, making it an ideal option for heavier handguns. At the same tick, the system offers full range of motion, making it an ideal holster for those on the move.
Equally as convenient is the NY Undercover’s adjustment system. All four straps are independently adjustable, allowing the shooter to tailor the fit exactly to their frame and the position of both gun and support-side equipment (mag or cuff holders available). Drawing is fast and intuitive as well. Horizontally situated, the premium saddle leather rig presents the butt for a perfect high grip and natural break of the retention strap. The only nit to pick on the DeSantis shoulder holster is its price tag. But it’s a time-tested system, quality made and worth every penny. MSRP: $214.99
Versacarry crashed the holster scene with some true head-turning hybrids a couple of years back. Since it's turned its attention to building a better mousetrap when it comes to the good old shoulder holster. By all measures, the company has wildly succeeded with a rock-solid system that not only wears comfortably but also might be among the most attractive rig on the list.
Water buffalo hide is what Versacarry is known for, supple leather that nonetheless is tough as cut nails. It fairs well in a shoulder rig. Wide-cut straps disperse the weight of the system evenly over the shoulders and resist stretching over time. While the Level 2 hanger doesn’t chafe under the arm. To boot, water buffalo hide does a good job resisting moisture, thus offers a level of protection to your firearm. The shoulder holster anchors firmly to the belt and comes with two magazine holders, compatible with both single- and double-stack magazines. The only knock, the holster is purely a horizontal carry option, which facilitates a fast draw, but isn’t every armed citizen’s cup of tea. MSRP: $154.99
Editor's Note: Adam Borisenko contributed to this article.
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I am the owner of Alien Gear ShapeShift & it provide good security for my S&W M&P9.
I still have my shoulder holster from my government funded vacation to exotic South East Asia. We carried S&W Model 10 .38 cal revolvers mostly, although just about anything that would fit in the cockpit could also be found. Our excuse for the shoulder holster was that our harnesses (seat belts) and “bullet bouncers” (chest armor plates) got in the way of weapons in belt holsters. “Got in the way” meaning rendered the weapon totally inaccessible since it was in effect buried under all of the above. Followers of Don Johnson and those whose job keeps them mostly seated may still find them useful. Mine is hanging on my shop wall and serves as a conversation starter.