Shoulder Holsters

shoulder holstered gun with magazine carriers on opposite side


Holsters that rest over the shoulder are typically used as an alternative to the more popular IWB, or Inside the Waistband, holsters. A shoulder holster can adapt for carry in nearly any situation. When selecting a shoulder holster, it's important to assess the degrees of security and concealment you would like it to provide for you before ultimately reaching your decision.

It's also vital to recognize how greatly the material of your shoulder holster can influence these factors. For conceal carry, a shoulder holster also usually means you will also be wearimg a jacket or coat.

Weighing Required Security Against Provided Security

When determining the degree of security you need a shoulder holster to provide, think of the level of physical activity you would need to do with the firearm staying in place. If you expect you'll be using the holster in situations that require you to run or move your torso a lot, it's crucial for you to ensure that the shoulder holster provides a tight enough grip to keep it against your body and prevent it from shaking during these movements.

You can check the tightness of a shoulder holster by paying special attention to the type of clasp used near the grip. Adequate tension under the hammer, or where the hammer would be on a hammerless weapon, is usually enough to guarantee a secure grip.

a double gun shoulder holster with backup gun on secondary side

This double gun rig has your main gun on the primary side and an extra magazine for it along with a smaller back-up gun on the secondary side. The counter balance of weight is an added benefit.

Achieving Proper Concealment With Your Shoulder Holster

If you're looking for a shoulder holster to conceal carry, you will most likely want to use it with an open jacket or button down shirt. A shoulder holster is generally worn high under the armpit for a larger firearm and low near the ribcage or hip for normal to carry size firearms. Adequate concealment with a shoulder holster is relatively easy to achieve by wearing the right type of clothing over it. In order for clothing to be classified as the "right" type to achieve concealment, it simply needs to be made of material that's thick enough to cover any potential bulges or lines caused by the holster.

colt python revolver in shoulder holster

This shoulder holster for my Colt Python requires a belt because it does not have the clips that attach to the pants waist band.

Ensuring Maximum Accessibility to Your Firearm

Once you've chosen the right shoulder holster for you, it's important to ensure you have maximal accessibility to your firearm. What good is having a shoulder holster if you don't have sufficient access to the firearm in it? If you're using your shoulder holster for open carry, the accessibility should be high by default because there would be no clothes in your way should you reach for your firearm.

If your intention is to conceal carry with your shoulder holster, however, it's recommended that you choose a top that is already open or has the ability to open. Wearing a closed top would make it difficult to reach your firearm in a small amount of time, and as we know, seconds can make the difference between life and death in a hazardous situation. Button down shirts and zip up jackets are the items of clothing normally recommended for those who wish to use shoulder holsters in conceal carry situations.

colt detective special shoulder holster

This shoulder holster for my Colt Detective Special is an all-time favorite of mine. It has an elastic piece that holds the gun firmly in the holster yet allows for rapid draw of the weapon.

Material Matters More Than Meets the Eye

Shoulder holsters are typically made with leather. One of the benefits of wearing a leather holster is that it has the ability to form to your body. In addition, the leather can add a bit of resistance to your draw, granting you protection from the gun leaving the holster without being in your full control.

Synthetic materials have gained popularity recently due to their extreme durability. Unlike their leather counterparts, the inorganic materials do not rot due to moisture buildup. Synthetic shoulder holsters are normally preferred by armed professionals for their durability and quicker draw.

colt python 2.5 in shoulder holster

Colt Python 2 1/2" in a vertical rig

Making the Right Choice for You

A shoulder holster is a great solution for you if you are an open carry enthusiast or someone who simply prefers to carry their firearm away from their waist. Whatever material it's made of, the shoulder holster that's best for you should correspond with the degrees of security, concealment, and accessibility you require for your firearm.

Havea Question?

question or comment

Comments and feedback welcome ...

A high quality holster is not just designed to protect your gun, but to protect you and those you come in contact with while carrying. Fit is critical. The tighter fit of the gun in the holster, the more wear that will be inflicted on the gun by holstering and un-holstering it. The looser the fit, the more wear that will be inflicted on the gun by carrying it.


Gun cases that are good for transporting long guns. For my single-barrel Trap guns, I like the leg-o-mutton style cases.

Inside the waistband handgun holsters are designed to mount or clip to a belt and allow the wearer to securely holster the handgun inside their pants.

This OWB hip or belt holster is a vintage Bucheimer holster with "thumb-break", made for my Colt Cobra light weight.

There are so many different varities of gun holsters. This wallet holster, custom made for me by Ron Graham is the best example of creativity I've seen.

1911 Custom Made Holster

1911 Custom Made Holster

colt detective special shoulder holster

Vintage Colt Detective Special Holster

Colt Mustang Shoulder Holster

Shoulder Holster - Two Magazine Carriers