We all know that the most important factor in personal defense is having a gun when we need it. But certain activities can make traditional carry difficult. Those who enjoy mountain biking, kayaking, and ATV or horse riding will probably find belt carry awkward. This brings us to chest holsters, which have become increasingly popular of late. When traditional shoulder and hip holsters might get in the way, a chest holster should comfortably support big-bore guns. Whether you’re fly fishing or field dressing a moose, a good chest rig will allow you to do whatever you need to do, unhindered, while keeping your gun close. Let’s take a look at some great options.
Simply Rugged Chesty Puller
A veteran U.S. Army MP and the founder of Simply Rugged Holsters, Rob Leahy spent quite a bit of time in Alaska after his service. “I wanted to spend every minute I could outdoors,” said Leahy. “I lived on a boat and fished and hunted every chance I could. I found there was a ready niche for well-made holsters for outdoorsmen, and that’s when I started Simply Rugged.”
Oftentimes the best designs come from lessons hard learned. “I was fishing in the Russian River in Alaska when a big brown bear — head as big as a washtub — started crossing the 40-foot river. He made a bluff charge to move me off my stringer. As I reached into my neoprene waders for the .44 Magnum S&W Mountain Gun in a Sourdough Pancake holster on my hip, the idea came to me,” said Leahy. “I named it in honor of the legendary Marine Corps General Chesty Puller.”
The Chesty Puller Suspension System I tested is designed to hold one of Simply Rugged’s Cuda holsters. Incredibly versatile, the Cuda can be used as a strong-side or crossdraw belt holster—perfect for use when driving. With the Chesty Puller Suspension System, the holster is placed mid-chest for immediate access. The weight of the gun is supported by the shoulder strap, so even a Desert Eagle’s 5-pound weight is negligible. In fact, this rig can be worn all day without becoming burdensome.
This suspension system also offers a great degree of adjustability. In fact, the rig can be fine-tuned for use under a coat or over a heavy-duty winter jacket. The Cuda relies on a friction fit for retention, and my Desert Eagle fit nicely. The Chesty Puller suspension rig also features a descending leather strap that loops around the wearer’s belt and attaches to itself with a snap. This keeps the holster anchored when drawing the gun.
Once adjusted, the holster is quick to put on — simply slide your left arm between the shoulder strap and chest strap, then attach the chest strap to the metal O-ring on the holster’s belt slot flange. To take the holster off, simply detach the chest strap where it meets the holster’s belt slot flange and pull the holster and suspension system off your left shoulder. It literally takes two seconds.
Simply Rugged’s Chesty Puller Suspension System sells for $70, or just $60 when purchased with the Cuda holster, which starts at $80. There are a number of options, including a basket-weave pattern like my test sample’s, and a larger gun like a Desert Eagle requires more leather, and therefore commands a slightly higher price. My sample has a natural tan finish, but the holsters and suspension systems are also available in oxblood and black. For more information, visit simplyrugged.com.
Galco Great Alaskan Chest Holster
Galco’s Great Alaskan Shoulder System is another great choice for chest carry. Like Simply Rugged’s design, the Great Alaskan is available for most full-sized semi-autos and large-frame revolvers. Built from premium steerhide, the Great Alaskan has enough adjustability to be worn in the center of the chest or all the way down in the crossdraw position. For the sake of comfort, Galco uses a 2-inch shoulder strap. Also, the adjustable torso strap uses a quick-detach clip for easy donning and doffing. At every point of attachment to the holster, the Galco system pivots, providing wearer comfort and keeping the system from binding.
I ordered a Great Alaskan Shoulder System for my 5-inch-barreled 1911. It came with a retention strap that goes between the hammer and the slide. The retention strap possesses a button snap, and Galco has added a polymer release tab on the edge of the strap so even gloved hands can easily release it.
Galco also sent me a magazine carrier that rides on the Great Alaskan’s shoulder strap, and it too features a button snap release. I attached mine in the inverted position so the mag would drop into my hand once the carrier’s flap is unsnapped. Galco also makes an ammo carrier that will hold six revolver rounds and can be attached to the shoulder strap in the same manner as the magazine carrier. Both carriers are sold separately. Priced at $189, the Galco Great Alaskan Shoulder System is a handsome and comfortable way to carry your handgun in the chest position. For more information, visit galcogunleather.com.
For many years, I was a distributor for three different AR manufacturers. I worked the gun show circuit and would typically have hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of inventory or cash with me before or after each show. Most of my gun shows were either in Tucson or Phoenix, and that placed me within a one- to three-hour drive of the Mexican border. The money, guns and new Chevy Tahoe made me a target for anyone who wanted to roll the dice.
Back then, I kept an AR-platform pistol in the car with me. It wasn’t quite as evolved as the AR pistols we have today, and it was also difficult to maneuver in such a confined space. I closed my business in 2013 without any major incidents. However, the last year I was toying with the idea of having a Kydex chest rig made for my FN Five-seveN pistol, which would’ve made for an excellent anti-carjacking weapon, and a chest rig would have given me unhindered access to the gun. I wish GunfightersINC had been around back then.
GunfightersINC is a veteran-owned company that makes Kydex holsters in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. its Kenai Chest Holster is the perfect solution for carrying my Five-seveN while driving.
The holster’s low profile makes it perfect for long drives, and the nylon straps lay flat and prevent pressure issues. The Kenai’s shoulder strap is 2 inches wide, which thickness differentiates it from the horizontal chest straps, making the rig easy to throw on quickly. Slide your left arm through the opening between the holster and shoulder strap, then attach the horizontal chest strap on the right side of the holster. That’s all there is to it.
GunfightersINC recommends keeping the chest straps snug so the holster to prevent movement when the gun is drawn. Also, both straps pivot where they meet the holster to eliminate binding. The rig retains my Five-seveN perfectly. Like most Kydex holsters, the Kenai uses the front of the triggerguard to do the lion’s share of the retention. The three-way harness also uses gripper elastic on the back for comfort. There’s also plenty of material for adjustment, even if you wear the Kenai over a thick winter jacket.
The quality of my Kenai is outstanding. The young veterans at GunfightersINC are eager to please and obviously take a great deal of pride in the products they manufacture. All of their components are sourced domestically. GunfightersINC currently has more than 250 molds available for their holsters; if you don’t see what you need, give them a call. Chances are they’ll be able to figure something out for you. For more information, visit gunfightersinc.com.
This article was originally published in Combat Handguns May/June 2019. To order a copy, please visit outdoorgroupstore.com.