There are dozens of ways to carry a gun concealed. All the most popular methods involve wearing belt. This can be a problem if you are in formal attire and need a clean profile, sit down at your job, or find the weight of a gun along your belt line to be a problem.
Only shoulder holsters allow you to wear a full-size gun on your person without a belt, without severely printing. All other methods are less comfortable, require you to downsize your gun or require you to carry off body.
Shoulder holsters are stable of bodyguards, professional drivers, and undercover police officers because of the unique level of retention and concealment that you can get while still maintaining a clean and professional look.
This isn’t to say that shoulder holster for everyone, on the contrary, shoulder holsters require a special level of training to be used safely at a cost prohibitive for most people. If you plan on purchasing a shoulder holster here are 9 of the best shoulder holsters for concealed carry as well as some tips and tricks to make sure that you don’t buy the wrong one or use it improperly.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Use a Shoulder Holster?
- 2 What to Look For in a Shoulder Holster?
- 3 Vertical vs Horizontal Shoulder Holster
- 4 Nylon vs Leather Shoulder Holster
- 5 Our 9 Best Shoulder Holster on the Market Review
- 5.1 Galco VHS Ambidextrous Shoulder System Holster
- 5.2 Kenai Chest Holster
- 5.3 Desantis C.E.O. Shoulder Rig Holster
- 5.4 Bianchi 4101 Black Shoulder Holster with Hush System Scoped
- 5.5 Triple K 3 Piece Shoulder System
- 5.6 UTG Deluxe Universal Horizontal Shoulder Holster
- 5.7 Tactical Shoulder Holster for Glock 17 19 20 21 22 and 23
- 5.8 Condor Tactical Vertical Shoulder Holster
- 5.9 Yeeper Deep Concealment Shoulder Holster
- 6 Shoulder Holster - Advantage/ Disavantage
- 7 Cheap Shoulder Holster - Are They Worth It?
- 8 How to Draw from a Shoulder Holster?
- 9 How to Make the Most Out of Your Shoulder Holster - Tips & Tricks?
- 10 The Verdict
Why Use a Shoulder Holster?
Shoulder holster certainly hard for everyone. They are, however, the solution to a problem that few other things consult. Namely, how to wear a large, even full-size, handgun without a belt. While there are other solutions, namely an ankle holster belly band, neither one offers the same level performance as a shoulder holster.
When it comes to men’s formal attire, nothing beats a shoulder holster. It allows you to have a slim and trim profile along the front of your jacket and beltline. For people who work professional security or driving, a shoulder holster provides a much more reliable means of drawing and much more retention than a belt or angle mounted holster.
Shoulder holsters also allow you to avoid any odd looking bumps or boulders in casual attire if you are going to be seen by a large group of people, as in a nurse wearing scrubs or a salesman giving a presentation.
If you find yourself needing to carry a heavy gun, regardless of the type of attire you are wearing, nothing beats shoulder holster. Because you’re able to suspend the weight of your gun from the beefy as part of your body, you’re effectively able to shoulder anything that you would be able to carry in a backpack.
Provided you adjust the shoulder holster properly, nothing else provides the same level concealment, retention, and flexibility the shoulder holster does.
What to Look For in a Shoulder Holster?
Shoulder holsters are the most expensive concealed carry holster on the market. They are often handmade from expensive genuine leather or are custom assembled from high-quality Kydex and nylon. Even the budget minded offerings are much more expensive than what you would pay for in inside the waistband Kydex model.
Shop around to make sure that this is the type of holster that you want and stick to options that are in your price range. More expensive shoulder holsters are more comfortable but rarely offer more performance.
It may seem odd, but many shoulder holsters on the market are designed for slimmer people. Many shoulder holsters offer short adjustment options that are not large enough for big men and sometimes don’t get small enough for petite women.
Combined with the fact that to save money many companies use very thin straps that don’t distribute the weight of your gun evenly across your shoulders, you can have a very uncomfortable holster very fast. Make sure before you buy it that is going to fit you well, as well as have enough retention for your gun.
The level Concealability that you require is going to be dictated by the gun you are carrying. Shoulder holsters made for large frame revolvers typically are meant to be conceal carry and you won’t find very many options for them.
Small guns like a Glock 19, Glock 26, or Smith & Wesson bodyguard or M&P Shield have tons of affordable CCW options in multiple different materials from several different companies, including the absolute best offerings on the market.
While seem simple, the material that your holster is made from is going to vastly determine his performance. On the current market, leather shoulder holsters are the only realistic option for concealed carry both in terms of performance and comfort.
On the other hand, nylon holsters are the most comfortable for open carry and hunting. Leather holsters require more maintenance and cost more, while nylon holsters tend to be cheaper and construction and have far fewer options.
Vertical vs Horizontal Shoulder Holster
Whether you are going to use a vertical or horizontal shoulder holster is going to be determined by the gun you’re carrying. Most people who are going to be using their shoulder holster for concealed carry are going to want a horizontal shoulder holster. Yes, horizontal shoulder holsters do flag whoever is standing behind you but no matter how you draw from a shoulder holster you are going to flag yourself or someone else. This is why training is so important shoulder holsters!
Horizontal shoulder holster options for common guns like 1911’s, Glock 43, Glock 19, M&P Shield and almost all small and medium framed revolvers.
Vertical shoulder holsters are less concealable, less common, and are often more expensive than horizontal shoulder holsters. The only benefit they offer over horizontal design is being able to conceal a larger gun with a longer barrel.
Most full-size guns like a Glock 17 are perfectly concealable in a horizontal shoulder holster. Vertical shoulder holsters are only really applicable with open carry models made for hunting, specifically with long barreled revolvers or 1911’s.
Nylon vs Leather Shoulder Holster
The decision between a nylon or leather shoulder holster comes down to the frequency that you are going to be using it, and the purpose of the shoulder holster. For concealed carry, there is not a nylon shoulder holster on the market that can compete with any of the leather options.
Nylon shoulder holsters should only be considered for open carry or hunting applications. To get nylon to distribute the weight of a heavy gun evenly, you have to double or triple it up as well as use much more material than you would had you used leather. Not only does this lead to printing but it makes wearing a nylon holster much more uncomfortable concealed.
Leather holsters are much more expensive than their nylon counterparts, they also last much longer if properly taken care of. Leather holsters are easier to conceal, often weigh less, offer more retention, and distribute the weight of a large gun much better than a comparable sized nylon holster.
Nylon shoulder holsters are primarily used in a tactical or hunting arena where you can strap them on top of any other clothing you will be using. In this case, they are much preferable to leather because they offer more support and padding.
Carefully consider how you will be using your shoulder holster before you go shopping and decide on a budget. These holsters get expensive quick, now holsters are less expensive than leather but they are largely not an option for concealed carry.
Now that you have a good standing on what you should consider, here’s the best shoulder holsters for concealed carry, open carry, and even hunting…
Our 9 Best Shoulder Holster on the Market Review
Galco VHS Ambidextrous Shoulder System Holster
There’s no name in holsters like Galco. They make the finest production quality holsters on the market and are the largest purveyor of shoulder holsters in the world. Not only they produce some of the most high quality shoulder holsters, they have the most options.
They have everything from Miami classic shoulder holsters for snub-nosed revolvers, Galco lite shoulder holsters for small guns like S&W Shields, and they have large jackass rigs for full-size all steel 1911’s.
This is one of their best shoulder holster systems because it allows you total freedom and how you set it up and which guns you carry. You can wear this holster system for either hand, and a multitude of different finishes and with different accessories, and for just about any gun on the market.
Because Galco stocks all their holsters your round, there is not a lengthy wait for the next production run of a custom holster. This holster is available off the shelf ready to be broken in and worn. There is no other shoulder holster that is as nearly recommended as Galco, uses holster and you’ll see why.
Kenai Chest Holster
A newcomer to the shoulder holster market, this chest holster is specifically designed for hunting and carrying heavy duty big bore revolvers. The thing that separates his holster from all others in the large bore revolver market is that it is made from Kydex and elastic webbing.
This not only makes it exceptionally durable but totally maintenance-free. Just make sure that you wash the webbing, and there is a debris stuck inside the Kydex and you’re good to go. There’s no worrying about degrading leather for lengthy drying out period after a rainy hunt.
Made from heavy-duty Kydex and very robust elastic webbing, this is an exceptional shoulder and chest carry holster that is perfect for open carry, hunting and especially any time you need to carry a large heavy gun. Available for multiple different firearms, this is an exceptionally high-quality holster that is built to last.
Desantis C.E.O. Shoulder Rig Holster
For people who will be using a shoulder holster underneath formal attire constantly, this is one of the better option the market. It is specifically designed to be as slim as possible to not ruin the lines of a formal suit but also provides enough support for a medium to large frame gun.
This holster is made for just about any compact or full-size service pistol and is made from genuine steer hide with elastic and places to allow the holster to flex to carry large guns. Despite being so thin, the straps of this holster make it much more comfortable than many models on the market.
The niche that this holster works best in his underneath fitted suits or light jackets. It only is used on half of your shoulder keeping one are completely free. The holster incorporates elastic and places that allows it to flex and move with you if you need to walk up stairs or bend at the waist.
The leather on this holster will need to be taken care of, just like all other leather holsters, but will last you a lifetime if you take care of it. Desantis is known in the holster world for extremely high-quality leather products and this shoulder holster is no different.
Bianchi 4101 Black Shoulder Holster with Hush System Scoped
If you’re looking for the ultimate shoulder holster for caring bear country, or for hiking and hunting. This is the best you can get. It is a complete system specifically designed for scope revolvers and big bore guns that need to be accessed quickly.
Made entirely from high-quality nylon injection molded plastic, this is exceptionally robust holster ready for years of use in the field. While this certainly not a great idea for concealed carry, this fills a niche that few other holsters can. They can carry just about any large bore revolver including Smith & Wesson X frames and Tarus Judges.
It horizontally carries your scoped, or non scoped revolver or long barreled pistol ready for use against four-legged predators or for hunting. Many people who get into handgun hunting need a shoulder holster for hunting because their guns are uncomfortable to carry on their belt. This holster is a cost-effective way to carry a hunting handgun from a shoulder holster.
Triple K 3 Piece Shoulder System
If you’re looking for the highest-quality shoulder holster on the market, this is it. As a combination of suede leather, nylon, and genuine steer hide they gives you the best of all three different materials while allowing you great freedom of movement and adjustability.
Triple K has specifically designed this three piece shoulder system to move with you as you walk for ultimate comfort and concealed carry. This is a very high quality, but expensive shoulder carry system that the ultimate performance for anyone looking for a day in and day out carry rig.
While certainly compete with other brands like Galco and the Gould & Goodrich gold line shoulder holsters on the market, this is going to be one of the most comfortable models for concealed carry.
UTG Deluxe Universal Horizontal Shoulder Holster
For the absolute cheapest in shoulder holsters, UTG has you covered with this universal shoulder holster design for the vast majority of autoloading pistols on the market.
Famous for many of their imported products, UTG offer some of the best values in shooting sports. This holster is all nylon design that incorporates a simple thumb strap for attention, and minimal weight in bulk across the shoulder harness.
It carries your pistol and a horizontal position. The fully adjustable artist allows you to tailor this holster to your body combined with the thumb strap for perfect draw. This holster certainly isn’t going to win any design or quality awards but will certainly get the job done for just about anything you will need a shoulder holster for.
If you’re just experimenting with a shoulder holster, and don’t want to spend very much money, this is the best one for you to buy, just know that it lacks much of the comfort and performance more expensive models.
Tactical Shoulder Holster for Glock 17 19 20 21 22 and 23
If you plan on carrying a Glock underneath a heavy coat, there is not a better shoulder holster than this one on the market. It is in all nylon design that incorporates an ammunition carrier along with a high-quality purposely designed holster for Glock pistols.
Glocks can get heavy after a long day. The double stack design of the gun means that you will be carrying a slightly thicker handgun the most people who will be conceal carry, as well as more rounds. These guns can be cumbersome to carry, especially in your underarm with a shoulder holster. This holster solves that by incorporating belt attachments and plenty of material to distribute the weight of your gun across your shoulders.
This is a very cost-effective holster, costing about a third of what other models will normally run. The high quality materials and ammunition carrier built into this holster make it a steel for anyone looking for a concealed carry workhorse. Especially with large guns like a Glock 17 or Glock 21.
Condor Tactical Vertical Shoulder Holster
If you are hunting with a revolver or carrying one for defense against four-legged predators out West, you’re going to want a holster designed to carry the weight and bulk of a long barreled big bore pistol. Condor tactical has you covered with this vertical shoulder holster.
High-quality nylon stitched together with adequate reinforcement and sufficient padding for wearing all day is pretty much all this shoulder holster provides. For the most part, there’s not a whole lot of frills and this is not the most refined products on the market but it gets the job done.
This is a favorite of people who want a tactical style shoulder holster to carry more than just a firearm. Available with other accessories to carry handcuffs, small pouches, and even a knife this is an excellent shoulder holster system. Perfect for anyone looking to carry a military style holster with a large frame handgun or with extra equipment.
Yeeper Deep Concealment Shoulder Holster
Most belly band holsters can be pressed into service as a shoulder holster, not all the equally. This deep concealment holster is a very smart carry method if you’re looking for a very flexible design to carry a small gun.
While many people looking to use a shoulder holster are going to want more support in order to carry a heavier firearm, this is a great option for someone looking to carry a firearm while jogging, or to the gym.
Made almost entirely of elastic this shoulder holster is primarily designed as a means to carry a single stack gun like a Smith & Wesson Shield or a Glock 43. This holster excels in bringing a simple, cheap design that is perfect for anyone looking to try out shoulder holsters for cheap or looking for a unique situation like carrying a gun while jogging.
Shoulder Holster - Advantage/ Disavantage
Using a shoulder holster has a few distinct advantages. Forgoing a belt is one, but also the angle that you draw your gun at is much more conducive for people who sit down most of the day. While this is not an all-inclusive list, here are the main pros and cons to shoulder holsters and some thought-provoking lessons from the field that you should pay attention to.
Cheap Shoulder Holster - Are They Worth It?
A good quality leather shoulder holster from a major manufacturer is going to set you back some money. Much more than a Kydex holster would normally cost. Most often, high-end shoulder holsters are made from quality leather and elastic or nylon that feature steel swivels for comfort.
This is done for a reason; shoulder holsters need to be comfortable for you to be able to use them. It may sound simple but many of the nylon or elastic shoulder holsters aimed at concealed carry feel much more like medieval torture devices than carry systems. Especially the end of a long day, even more so if it’s been hot or humid, you are going to want a quality shoulder holster.
Not only would quality shoulder holster last much longer, is going to distribute the weight of your gun much more evenly and allow you much greater freedom than if you bought a cheap nylon holster that sags under the weight of your gun and must be worn extremely tightly.
If you have your eye on a cheap shoulder holster to try out and see if you’re going to like carrying with a shoulder holster, you will almost always hate these cheap models. By once, cry once and get a decent holster. The best shoulder holster for the money is the one you’re going to use for a long period of time.
How to Draw from a Shoulder Holster?
Drawing from a shoulder holster certainly has its problems. Namely, no matter how you draw it you are going to be flying someone with the muzzle of your gun. You must be absolutely sure that when you draw your pistol out of shoulder holster, you leave your finger off the trigger until you’re sites are on the target in your major decision to fire.
Shoulder holsters are not nearly as dangerous other methods of carry, namely appendix carry, but they do offer unique challenges that you have to be able to train around. Here’s a short video and a few tips and tricks on how to draw from a shoulder holster.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Shoulder Holster - Tips & Tricks?
Shoulder holsters are as much an art as they are a science. A stable among professionals, most people use them for concealed carry do so in a very odd way. Here are a few tips and tricks on conceal carry with a shoulder holster that have been acquired from use in the field.
Get the Fit Right
Most people wear their shoulder holsters way too low. Unless you are carrying a full-size, long barrel gun, your shoulder holster should fit in the space between your bicep and underarm. This allows you to distribute the weight on to your trap muscle while preventing your gun from moving too far while you draw or have to run or walk up stairs.
Unless you have an oppressively heavy gun, are caring a large knife, or way too many reloads, stay away from belt keepers designed for shoulder holsters. They do away with keeping a clean profile on your belt line and largely negate the purpose of using a shoulder holster.
Wear in Your Holster - and Your Skin
When you transition to wearing a shoulder holster, do so sparingly. Where your holster on your house for a few hours at a time, and break in the holster as well as your skin. The skin of your underarm, by your shoulder blades, and often the front of your chest is not used to being rubbed all day as you move around with a shoulder holster on. As you break in your holster, your skin will naturally toughen up and lead to less blisters and chafing if you take it slow at first.
"Float" The Holster
The weight of your holster should fall where the weight of a pair of suspenders would be. Meaning, right on your trap muscles or shoulders. What you don’t want, is to have the weight of your holster to be pulling the holster against your chest or the back of your shoulder blades. This will give you a phenomenal headache and make it nearly impossible to draw efficiently. Allow some movement as you walk and wear your holster high under your arms.
Care for Your Holster
Make sure your character holster. Whether that means oiling the swivels, treating leather, or melting stray ends of nylon with a lighter. Shoulder holsters are significantly more expensive than other holsters, to get the most life out of them they are going to require a little bit of maintenance. Especially as leather holsters stretch and begin to sag from daily use. Stay on top of maintenance is that you not worry about repairs or drastic reconditioning.
Always Wear an Under Shirt
No matter what material your shoulder holsters made from, you should always wear an undershirt. Of course, your outer garment is what conceals your gun, but your undershirt not only protects you from blisters and hotspots, it protects your holster from your sweat.
If you have a leather holster, or your holster has uncoated steel swivels daily contact with oils from your skin will begin to break down your holster and severely limit the life of it. Protector holster, and protect you are wearing an undergarment.
No matter your comfort level with concealed carry or a firearm, always remember to be safe and cognizant of your surroundings. Shoulder holsters in particular present several problems that other carry methods do not and making sure you follow the firearm safety rules one sure that if you choose to carry with a shoulder holster you do so in a safe and effective manner.
Concealed carry is an art as much as it is a skill. The more you do it, the more effective you will be at it. Once you settled on a model of shoulder holster, get out and use it. The best shoulder holster in the world won’t do you any good at home in your gun safe.