Travis Olander 08.22.23
The colder months are approaching faster than we think. For many, that means swapping your daily carry holster setup. Shoulder holsters were made popular by 80s action films, but they remain a practical and comfortable holster option for cold-weather clothing. So, today we are going to walk you through some of our favorite shoulder holsters, our likes/dislikes, and hopefully you can make a more informed decision on your next purchase. Let’s dive in!
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Miami Classic Shoulder System (Our Top Pick)
We’re starting off with what is arguably the most recognizable — and imitated — shoulder holster in the world. The original Miami Classic from Galco, made famous in the 1970s when it was first introduced by the Jackass Leather Company. I’ve personally ran this holster with my 1911 A1 during cold months for a few years. Galco’s craftsmanship is evident as soon as you lay hands on it. The leather and stitching are supple and thick, with perfect beading that doesn’t fray over time.
The system’s adjustability is impressive. Finding the perfect fit out of the box was a breeze. The horizontal orientation provides easy access while maintaining excellent concealment under a jacket or untucked shirt. When worn, I always find the weight distribution is balanced, and the harness always seems to stay put put when you’re huffin’ it on foot. Even with horizontal orientation for your piece, concealment is high with any basic jacket or outer wear.
The dual mag pouch provides plenty of capacity and it further balances the weight across the shoulders, preventing one side from sagging down against the other. Plus, the brown hide, with its satin sheen, just looks and feels damn good. The Miami Classic affords plenty of compatibility with left- and right-handedness. Available in tan or black for just over $300 at publication.
Alien Gear Cloak Shoulder Holster (Best Universal/Adjustable)
Alien Gear pulled out all the stops when they endeavored to make the Cloak Shoulder Holster. As seen worn by the James Bond and Drake from Uncharted, the Cloak shoulder rig provides some serious modularity and adjustability. For starters, the Cloak rig’s universal. Pair it with the bucket designed for your make and model – also manufactured by Alien Gear, obviously – and you’ve got a by-design rig made specifically for your handgun. No “universal,” loose-fitting shells, here.
The shoulder system is wildly adjustable and quite comfortable. The fabric-and-leather strap system provides generously wide pads across the neck and shoulders for all-day comfort, while the straps give way with a bit of elasticity, reducing pressure points and providing a snug fit. The shell can be adjusted for near-vertical, horizontal, or barrel-up cant, with Kydex and leather shells available for practically every handgun on the market to fit your preferences. The thermoplastic-molded magazine pouches provide excellent retention while reducing weight and bulk atop their leather pad. Made in the USA and priced at just under $250 at publication.
BHL Vertical Rig (Best Single Shoulder Holster)
Black Hills Leather is a company that uses old-school handcrafting to produce some fine holsters. Their single, fully adjustable shoulder rig is no exception. Available in russet, chestnut, or black leather, the BH4S Vertical Single Shoulder Rig is made to order for any make and model handgun. Wide straps and natural contours provide good weight distribution and comfort, while the off-shoulder elastic strap ensures everything stays snug but flexible, without pinching. It’s not just the configuration that makes BHL’s vertical holster a solid fit — you’ll need to submit your height and weight, whether your pistol’s rocking any lights or lasers, and whether you need an optic cut.
In exchange, you’ll get a truly custom, tailor-made shoulder holster that fits just right. Active retention is provided by a classic but proven buttoned strap, and the height of your holster can be further adjusted after manufacturing via two buckles. The result is a comfortable, all-day-wear single shoulder holster that doesn’t snag or swing about. At publication, one of BHL’s customer holsters can be yours for $200 with optional extras.
Parabellum 2.0 Shoulder System (Best Hybrid Shoulder Holster)
There is such a concept as too much leather. That’s why GALCO introduced a hybrid setup that keeps the cowhide in check. The Parabellum 2.0 Shoulder Holster ditches leather buckets for smaller, lighter composite accoutrements. An open-muzzle Kydex holster and double magazine container provide comfortable carry and capacity without all the suede and stitching you normally find on a holster rig.
The 2.5″ wide, thin shoulders straps are still leather — but they’re damn comfortable, with great weight distribution and plenty of adjustability. The Parabellum 2.0 is set up for horizontal carry with a thumb break retention strap. The draw is quick and intuitive, while the open holster provides plenty of room for any slide-mounted optics. To keep things snug and stowed on the move, both Kydex fixtures also include bottom mounts for vertical tie-down straps (sold separately).
Sadly, the Parabellum 2.0 is only available in right-handed configurations, and you can have any color you want, so long as it’s black. But it covers nearly all the most popular handgun makes and models, with retail set at $230 at publication.
Aker 101 Comfort-Flex Rig (Best Upward Cant Shoulder Holster)
Upward cant shoulder holsters provide some unique benefits: The cant angle keeps the heaviest part of your pistol — the magazine and grip — at the lowest point of the rig. This improves the center of gravity and reduces the amount of swayin’ n’ swingin’ your shoulder holster suffers when you’re on the move. Aker realizes this concept with perfect execution in their 101 Comfort-Flex Shoulder Rig. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, here — typical 2″ wide leather straps buckle up to a double magazine pouch and an open leather holster with a standard snap strap — but it does improve carry comfort even still.
The harnesses are contoured perfectly, with plenty of height adjustment built into each strap. The wide backstrap distributes weight effectively, and the mag pouch sports a bottom tie-down strap mount for an extra belt anchor. All fixtures are made from full-grain leather, and the 101 Comfort-Flex is, thankfully, available for left-handed shoulders. Grab yours in tan or black for just shy of $200.
Barsony Nylon Vertical Holster (Best Fabric Shoulder Holster)
In a world full of leather, perhaps you still prefer soft cloth or fabric holsters for their comfort and affordability. It can be tough finding a shoulder rig that isn’t made from cowhide, but still affords good performance and comfort — that’s where Barsony comes in. Their nylon vertical shoulder holster provides all the basic features and function you need, without the stitching and tannery.
To be fair, part of the shoulder strap system is leather – but only the topmost portion, where the load is carried. The backside strap, buckles and harness, and the mag pouch and holster itself, are all made from ballistic nylon. Unlike all the other entrants on our list, Barsony’s holster includes vertical belt tie-downs, too.
All in, the entire setup weighs just 10 ounces. The Barsony holster is a simple but effective enclosed shell made entirely from nylon, sporting a typical thumb stud retention strap. The magazine pouch provides top-down orientation with Velcro retention straps, and height is fully adjustable on either side to suit your frame. Made in the USA, the Barsony setup is one of the most affordable options on our list – it costs just $65 at publication.