Review: Alien Gear ShapeShift Shoulder Holster

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Shapeshift Shoulder Holster 4
Using the hybrid concept, Alien Gear has produced a comfortable and efficient shoulder holster system.

Comfort, convenience and performance, Alien Gear's shoulder holster system opens upper-body carry to more armed citizens.

How Alien Gear Has Made A Better Shoulder Holster:

  • CoolVent neoprene backing takes the bite out of the system's leather and Kydex parts.
  • Four-point swivel backplate and elastic connectors helps holster mold to the body and move with it.
  • Excellent passive retention keeps pistol in place.
  • Comes with a Level 2 retention device, a removable Velcro thumbbreak.
  • Superstructure composed of rugged English bridle leather.

Parachute pants, popped collars and shoulder holsters. If you grew up in the 1980s, likely at some time you wore the first two and thought every handgun holster was the latter. Thank the warped lens of Hollywood. Up until then, nearly every big-screen good and bad guy short of Popeye Doyle (French Connection) carried their heater under their arm.

It stands in stark contrast with reality, where the belt holster reigns supreme, then as it does now. That doesn’t mean the shoulder holster should be written off as mere cinematic fantasy. The intriguing upper-body rig has its place away from the movie house, especially with what Alien Gear has cooked up.

Shapeshift Shoulder Holster 7
The ShapeShift's Kydex shell provides excellent passive retention when adjusted right.

The ShapeShift Shoulder Holster rethinks upper-body carry without reinventing the wheel. A delicate balance, but one that opens the style of carry to a greater swath of armed citizens. And, in truth, makes this often overlooked method all the more viable.

Hybrid Comfort

As its name suggests, the ShapeShift Shoulder Holster is part of Alien Gear’s extremely flexible line of modular holsters. This means, if you already have a belt rig, you can buy the strap system (MSRP $99.88) and convert over. If you’re new to the line, Alien Gear sells the whole shoulder holster system (MSRP $133.88). Though nice, the shoulder holster’s protean nature is just icing on the cake.

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Mesh wrapped CoolVent neoprene padding is one of the ShapeShift's secrets to comfort.

The upper body system’s biggest selling point is addressing one of the main complaints about this style of carry: comfort. In the bad old days, shoulder holsters were usually as plush as a plow yoke. Turning to modern materials, a trademark of Alien Gear, the ShapeShift tackles this issue head-on.

While the superstructure of the system is good ol’ English bridle leather, all the key touch points are well padded with Alien Gear’s CoolVent neoprene. Firm padding is a necessity, eliminating the structural material’s bite—particularly the shoulder strap’s leather and the magazine carrier and gun holster’s Kydex.

Made To Move

Alien Gear has made two further simple, but effective tweaks to the traditional shoulder holster design: a four-point swivel backplate and elastic connectors under the shoulder straps. More than comfort enhancements, these better conform the straps and holster to your body, dynamically so. By this I mean, no matter how you twist and turn the ShapeShift consistently presents your gun. Additionally, the elastic provides a bit of shock absorption, so your pistol and magazines don’t get knocked about.

Shapeshift Shoulder Holster 2
The ShapShift Shoulder Holster cuts a low profile and is extremely easy to wear.

Adding a layer of resilience to this aspect of the shoulder holster, a solid lower securing system. Hooks attach to your belt, giving you four anchor points in all to ensure the rig doesn’t slip off.

Pick’n Slim

Alien’s modular ShapShift line gets a lot of kudos for its versatility. But a frequently overlooked aspect is the series’ overall slimness, no matter what carry method. The company has always done a number on knocking down bulk. On the shoulder holster this is much needed. Make one too large and a demure pistol is akin to carrying firewood under your arm. Which goes without saying, is noticeable to the rest of the world.

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An everyday button-up shirt is enough to keep the ShapeShift under wraps.

It was immediately evident, without even slipping on the rig, this wasn’t the case with the ShapeShift. Out of the box, it cut a slim profile, particularly the holster. Impressive, given the Kydex is enveloped in leather to protect your gun and improve comfort. Same goes for the adjustable mag carrier, which tucks right in against your body to stay out of the way.

Safety First

The shoulder holster, more than any other carry method, takes some special consideration when it comes to safety. Most, even the angle adjustable variety, can muzzle sweep objects and people behind you—something to keep in mind. And they’re cross-draw systems, which means you need to fine-tune your retrieval so, again, muzzle sweeps are limited. But by and far, the most imperative issue revolves around the system’s reputation for gun drops.

Shapeshift Shoulder Holster 9

This is the nature of the beast, given regular body movement can and does face the holster’s mouth directly at the ground. Good holster makers understand this and address it in their shoulder system’s design, as Alien Gear has.


For more information on the best concealed carry holster check out:


With the ShapeShift, retention is built in with an adjustable passive system you can really wrench down. However, if you need more security, Alien Gear includes a Level 2 retention system—a removable Velcro thumb break. Jumping the gun on the review section, I have to say the passive system proved enough to keep my Springfield XD subcompact in place. And for general day-to-day activities, I believe it would be enough to safely carry. But it’s nice to have the option to further secure your gun if you believe you’ll really be on the move.

Drawing An Ace

Overall, I was impressed with what the ShapeShift Shoulder Holster brought to the table. The strap system distributed the weight of my subcompact and two 15-round magazines well enough it was easy to forget I was carrying.

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Magazine carriers keep spare rounds on tap.

Drawing was simple and intuitive with the rig, which consistently presented my pistol’s butt no matter what position I was in. This is important, given a shoulder holster’s big advantage is supposed to be unfailing ease of draw. Given how natural the ShapeShift accomplished this facet of its duties, I believe it would make an excellent option for those who find themselves seated or driving a majority of their day.

As far as concealability, it was excellent. I adjusted the ShapeShift for a more horizontal angle, facilitating (at least for me) a quicker draw. This angle, however, puts more the butt away from the body, generally opening the possibility of printing. But it wasn’t the case. A light windbreaker or button-up shirt were enough to make my gun disappear like it wasn’t even there. Definitely an attribute that makes the holster more useful, not only a heavy-clothing option.

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The four-point swivel back plate helps the ShapeShift move with your body.

My only complaint, the thing creaked more than granddad’s rocking chair. Virgin leather, what are you going to do? Nothing really, maybe a little strategically placed talcum powder, the rest is break in.

Parting Shot

Given its assets, will the ShapeShift Shoulder Holster dethrone belt carry? Unlikely, but that’s OK. Upper-body carry has and will remain a niche option. But given its comfort, convenience (it's available for nearly every conceivable handgun) and performance, Alien Gear has come up with a shoulder holster more viable for more armed citizens. In short, they have given the silver screen star a role in real life.

For more information on the ShapeShift Shoulder holster, please visit www.aliengearholsters.com/shoulder-holster.html.


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1 COMMENT

  1. I bought both of the Alien Gear holster sets, the shoulder holster last. I am a 1911 fan and carry a full size 10mm. I know, the ol’ boat anchor. Just my preference. I love the Alien Gear shoulder setup. Makes carrying the heavy ol’ beast extremely comfortable. I agree it is very well made, and their support has been excellent. I had a problem with the retention system (the adjustable one) on the kit I ordered, and a quick e-mail to customer service took care of the problem. Great company and product in my case…

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