Most holsters are developed for men’s bodies, so when a woman selects a holster that allows her to conceal a firearm, it may come at the expense of comfort. One holster system, often overlooked, that works surprisingly well in bridging the gap between concealment and comfort, is the shoulder holster(Click Here to view the 11 New Holsters for 2014 | Best in Concealed Carry). For many of us, the mere mention of shoulder holsters conjures up images of shows and movies like Miami Vice and Serpico, whose popularity in turned spurred interest in shoulder holsters as a method of concealed carry. Today, though less often used by civilians, shoulder holsters are common in law enforcement, especially for those assigned to desk jobs such as investigations. And their enduring popularity with law enforcement may provide some clues as to why more women are opting for them as concealed-carry holsters.
Shoulder holsters can be found in the product lines of a number of well-known holster makers. Safariland makes the leather and synthetic Safariland 1090 Gun Quick, which uses a spring-loaded retention device, while DeSantis makes a series of shoulder holsters, including the leather-crafted C.E.O., the nylon Patriot and the leather New York Undercover, which DeSantis debuted in the early 1970s. Another holster maker with a long, 40-plus-year shoulder-holster pedigree is Galco Gunleather, which makes nine different systems, including the two I used to test the shoulder holster’s viability as means of carry for women, the Classic Lite and the Miami Classic II.
With the holsters fitted for my full-size, 8.74-inch Glock 35, I utilized my law enforcement training, skills and experience along with my feminine preferences to see what I had been missing all of these years. As a caveat, I’ll mention that this was my first personal experience with a shoulder rig. It didn’t take long for me to learn some valuable lessons.
VERTICAL OR HORIZONTAL?
Initially, I gave no real consideration to the firearm I selected to use in my evaluation. As a law enforcement officer it seemed simple. I selected a holster for a Glock 35 (Click Here to see a review on the Glock 35!) because that’s my duty weapon. Upon assembling the shoulder rig I immediately discovered my error. The Glock 35 has a 5-inch barrel, so when I mounted the holster for horizontal carry, which is my preferred carry position, the barrel protruded out from behind my back. I would’ve preferred a horizontal carry position because, so situated, I find it easier to draw from the holster. When the firearm is carried vertically, its canted with the grip angled down and the barrel angled up. To draw the firearm from the holster oriented vertically, it must be pulled downward. It can be especially difficult to clear the holster when the firearm has a long barrel. The advantage of carrying the firearm in a canted, vertical position, however, is that it allows thinner people to carry longer pistols than would be concealable if carried horizontally.
My lack of forethought regarding the selection of the firearm to be carried provided me with some valuable insight. I discovered that when it comes to selecting a firearm for concealed carry, a shoulder rig is a great system for those who wish to conceal a medium-sized or compact firearm. The size of the concealed firearm is limited by the width of the individual concealing it and the orientation of the firearm.
DRAWING WHEN SEATED:
Many law enforcement officers know that drawing a firearm from behind the wheel of a car (or to a lesser degree, behind a desk) poses a challenge if that firearm is positioned at or below waist level. The main obstacles presented by waist, thigh, or ankle holsters to users who are seated include difficulty in reaching the firearm, difficulty in releasing the retention mechanism, difficulty in clearing the Material Matters I evaluated Galco’s Classic Lite and the Miami Classic II Shoulder System. Both are extremely comfortable because they distribute the weight of the firearm and magazines across the shoulders and upper back. For me, comfort is a top consideration, but it doesn’t trump security. Comparing the two shoulder systems, I immediately noticed a difference between them—and I’m not just talking about their price!
The Classic Lite Shoulder System is made of center-cut steer hide, which makes it light and flexible, which certainly adds to its comfort. But it could be more vulnerable to gun grabs, which are a real threat. Also, the Classic Lite System has an unmolded holster attached, which can cause re-holstering issues if it collapses. I found that access to my magazine was hindered by the pouch’s orientation and retention. The upside of the Classic Lite System, however, is that it is that it is light and comfortable, and with an MSRP of $92.95, it is an affordable option.
Testing the Miami Classic II Shoulder System, I was extremely pleased. It is made of premium saddle leather, which is very secure. I’m a firm believer in the dictum, “You get what you pay for,” and with an MSRP of $194.95, I’m getting peace of mind. The Miami Classic’s holster is molded, which allows for effortless re-holstering. In addition, the holster and magazine pouches are horizontally oriented, easing access to the magazines.
With more women purchasing and carrying firearms, we can expect more women to invest in a variety of holsters. A shoulder holster system offers concealment and comfort and cures many ailments untreated by other methods of carry. For example, it facilitates drawing from a seated position and allows women flexibility in apparel choices. As mentioned, Galco, among other manufacturers, offers a variety of shoulder holster systems in many configurations. But, when it comes to selecting one for concealed carry, consideration should be given to concealability, security and comfort—and in that order.
For more information on Holsters, visit:
Galco Gunleather or call 800-874-2526
Safariland or call 800-347-1200