Pros and Cons of Shoulder Holsters – Are They Any Good, or Just To Look Cool?

Why would someone get a shoulder holster? Are they just impractical holsters that the maverick detective character wears in Hollywood movies, or are there real-world practical use cases for shoulder holsters?

In this article I will describe the pros and cons of shoulder holsters, considering comfort, concealability, versatility and ease of use (i.e. to draw and reholster your firearm).

If you want to know what to watch out for and avoid if you are considering getting a shoulder holster, make sure you stick around to the end of this article!

Summary Overiew – Pros and Cons of Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder holsters are great for concealed carry and offers holster options for most gun types, from larger firearms to smaller compact firearms. They offer comfort when you are often in a sitting position, as the firearm is not in the way.

However, shoulder holsters generally only offer concealed carry if you are able to wear a jacket or other layers of clothing over it. If you live in warmer climates, this is not idea. Additionally, shoulders holsters do not offer the same speedy access to your firearm as a outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster might. If you were to carry your firearm in a shoulder holster, you should train with the holster to be able to draw and reholster your weapon safely and quickly.

Personally, I do not typically prefer a shoulder holster due to the limited concealability (I live in a warm area and hardly ever wear jackets or additional layers) and the reduced access I would have to my weapon in comparison to a OWB holster. That….and I feel I look weird walking around with a shoulder holster on!

Pros of Using Shoulder Holsters

Comfort and Convenience

I find shoulder holsters to be a comfortable and convenient option for concealed carry, especially when seated for extended periods or when driving. The weight of the firearm is distributed evenly across your shoulders and chest, reducing any strain on your lower back or hip. Wearing a shoulder rig allows you to avoid the cumbersome fit of a belt or waist holster when you are seated in a car.

Concealment Advantage

Shoulder holsters provide an excellent concealment advantage, as they keep your firearm easily hidden under a jacket, coat, or unbuttoned shirt. 

By choosing the right cover garment, you can be assured that your firearm stays concealed without drawing unwanted attention. When properly adjusted, your shoulder holster allows your weapon to stay secure and out of sight, while still being within quick reach.

Of course, if you are in a warm climate where wearing a jacket or extra layers of clothing is not really an option, then the concealability of a shoulder holster is less of a factor.

Cons of Using Shoulder Holsters

Safety and Handling Concerns

One of the main concerns with shoulder holsters is safety. When drawing a firearm from a shoulder holster, there is a risk of unintentionally sweeping the muzzle across yourself or others, especially if you are not fully trained and practiced in using this carry method. 

Wear and Comfortability Issues

Shoulder holsters can be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. You might experience pressure on your shoulders from the straps, and the tightness of the garment can cause chafing on your skin. Additionally, as a shoulder holster wearer, you will need to pay extra attention to the balance of the rig to prevent it from shifting or twisting throughout the day.

Limitations in Concealment

Although shoulder holsters can provide effective concealment under certain circumstances, there are some limitations. As I mentioned earlier, shoulder holsters work best in cooler climates where you can wear a jacket or additional layers of clothing. However in hot climates this will be less feasible, impacting your ability to carry concealed.

On the other side of the coin, if you do happen to live in a cooler climate where you can wear jackets a lot of the time to allow for concealed carry of a shoulder holster, you will be hampered in your ability to quickly and safely draw your firearm from underneath a jacket or clothing layers. 

Other Drawbacks

Finally, it’s worth noting that practice and training are essential when using a shoulder holster. You will need to become proficient in drawing and re-holstering your firearm from this position, which can be more difficult compared to other carry methods such as a waist holster. Transitioning between different holster types may require additional training and practice to build muscle memory and ensure your safety while carrying concealed.

Comparison with Other Types of Holsters

In this section, I will compare shoulder holsters with other popular types of holsters, including belt holsters, ankle holsters, and IWB (inside the waistband) holsters.

Belt Holster Vs Shoulder Holster

Belt holsters are designed to be worn around the waist, either inside or outside the waistband. They can be more easily concealed than shoulder holsters when worn under a loose shirt or jacket. 

However, shoulder holsters offer greater accessibility while seated, making them a popular choice for people who spend a lot of time in a vehicle. Additionally, shoulder holsters often have a slot for extra magazines or ammunition, which can be a convenient feature for some users. Shoulder holsters can also be more comfortable for individuals who do not wear a belt.

Ankle Holster Vs Shoulder Holster

Ankle holsters are worn around the ankle and are commonly used for carrying a backup firearm. They provide excellent concealment, particularly when wearing long pants, but can be less accessible than shoulder holsters in certain situations. 

Drawing a weapon from an ankle holster typically requires bending down or lifting the leg, which may not be feasible in all circumstances. In contrast, shoulder holsters allow for a quick and easy draw while remaining relatively concealed, making them a more versatile option for some users.

IWB Holster Vs Shoulder Holster

IWB holsters are designed to be worn inside the waistband, providing exceptional concealment for those who prefer a discreet carry option. These holsters can be easily adjusted for ambidextrous use and are compatible with a variety of waistband carry styles. 

However, IWB holsters may be less comfortable than shoulder holsters, as they can cause bulkiness or pressure against the body depending on the individual’s body type and the specific holster model. On the other hand, shoulder holsters can be more comfortable and provide better accessibility when seated.

Choice of Firearms for Shoulder Holsters

In my experience with shoulder holsters, I have found that they can accommodate a variety of firearms, ranging from compact pistols to larger revolvers (e.g. the cannons that Dirty Harry likes!). 

When discussing pistols, Glock models such as the 17, 19, and 26 are highly popular and reliable options for shoulder holsters. These Glock models are lightweight and compact, which makes them comfortable to carry. Additionally, their simple design and ease of use have made them a top choice for many gun owners who prefer shoulder holsters.

Another popular option for shoulder holsters is the classic 1911 pistol. Known for its accuracy, durability, and reasonable weight, the 1911 is often a favorite choice for those who prefer a full-size pistol. The slim profile and single-stack design of the 1911 allow it to fit well into a shoulder holster, providing a comfortable and secure carry method.

Switching gears, revolvers can also be carried effectively in shoulder holsters. Despite their generally larger frame and heavier weight compared to compact pistols, revolvers benefit from the balanced weight distribution that shoulder holsters offer. This makes carrying a revolver in a shoulder holster a feasible option for those who appreciate the reliability and power of a wheel gun.

Conclusion

Shoulder holsters offer several advantages, such as their ability to conceal a firearm effectively, especially in colder weather when wearing layers of clothing. This makes accessing the firearm relatively quick and easy compared to a belt holster concealed under multiple layers of clothing. 

Additionally, shoulder holsters are versatile and can accommodate a wide range of firearm types, including both revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, and also offer adjustable features for different body sizes and types.

However, there are also some downsides to using a shoulder holster. For instance, they are not as popular, and some people find them less comfortable compared to other carry options. 

Accessibility may also be a concern if you spend most of your time seated, such as while working at a desk.

Despite the drawbacks, shoulder holsters can still be a practical option for those who require effective concealment and easy access to their firearm. It’s important to consider factors such as the type of firearm you plan to carry, your clothing choices, and your personal comfort when deciding whether a shoulder holster is the right option for you.

In conclusion, shoulder holsters have their unique pros and cons, and ultimately it comes down to personal preference and situational needs. Given their benefits in concealment and accessibility, they can be a reliable choice for those who find them comfortable and suitable for their lifestyle. Like any other carry method, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making your decision.

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Author: Andy Bredenkamp

Andy is the founder of Master The Target, where he gets to live out his passion about responsible firearms use. His mission is to guide gun enthusiasts in picking the best gear and ensuring their safety with each use.