Hide your Heat: Shoulder Thing

Seems I hear a lot of talk about shoulder holsters, and not much of it good. Common complaints are:

-Uncomfortable
-Hard to Hide
-Limited to certain wardrobes.

I have some older pictures that I never used in a post, and I’m away on vaction and syndicating posts, so why not fire this up. Pixs and review below the break.


So here’s your humble host in pretty much 4-season wear. T-shirt, Jeans. Sometimes subsitute shorts for Jeans, or maybe cargo pants, but that’s all seasons for me. Note the lack of belts. This was the #1 reason why I was interested in shoulder carry. Belts, I HATE them they aren’t comfortable to me, and I find the belt always slips above my pants and rubs on my skin. So lets look at the hardware:

So there’s the shoulder system, its a Galco Miami Classic II, and yes its a direct descendant of the holster from That 80s cop show, while nit a Miami Vice fan, I have always been a Noir Detective, and cop flic fan, where similar holsters get shown, so I think it DOES look kinda cool. Not really relevant as I’ll show you how to hide it.

First up one down side of this holster is it has a LOT of hardware. You have the crossed straps across your back, and your mag carrier and gun. If you hug somebody they will most likely feel part of your holster. Thankfully in a world of personal space and sexual harassment this isn’t a huge issue, and most people who hug me on a regular basis not only know I’m a proponent of shoulder carry so if they feel the holster it isn’t much of a surprise.

Some good things are this holster is COMFORTABLE. I have no idea why some people complain, but the guns and magazines ride so comfortable, and the weight is evenly distributed. Also unlike belt carry the gun isn’t attached to your clothing, so it doesn’t pull or mess with your outfit. I routinely wear this rig for more then 12 hours with no ill effects. Its also great if you spend time seated or driving.

One speculation about discomfort is maybe your gun’s width. The holster keeps the gun tight to your body. In my holster is my 1911 Commander, and I put slim grips on it, and I found this made the gun MUCH more comfortable, so maybe a wide gun like an XD, M&P, or Glock might dig into your ribs a little.

Moving on, let’s hide this thing. First thing before we get to a garment, I’ll point out a phenomenon I noticed from myself.

I call this the “Duck Wings”, its odd feeling something just under your arms so you might feel the urge to cock your elbows out so your arms don’t touch your gun. Just tuck them in, it’ll hide the gun better, and you won’t look strange!

So since its August, lets start with what I wear in the winter time!

This is your standard issue button-down flanel shirt. These things hide the Gun VERY well. This is no elaborate blazer or even a heavy shirt. You just need to know what to avoid.

First up this system works best with an access hole. I generally button the bottom two buttons, or zip up a sweatshirt to just below my ribs. This keeps the garment from flying open and revealing your gun but still allows you a natural draw. Depending on your body size this may not be necessary, as you can always lift up your garment from the waist and draw as if from a high-rise belt-holster.

When picking a garment you want something with a SQUARE wast. Tapered waists will simply pull cloth tight RIGHT over your gun making you print.

The important factor for fabric is not thickness as much as STIFFNESS. Stretchy fabric will want to conform to your gun, making weird shapes show up on your body. Flannel, cotton, canvas, denim (for that complete 80s look!) leather all work very well. And remember

YOU ARE NOT A DUCK!

But what about when its warm?

Cotton button-down short-sleeve shirts, or Hawaiian shirts work just great, but again remember to have a square waist, and use stiff fabrics like cotton or linen. You might want to buy the shirt a hair bigger for you to give you a little more concealment.

The lighter shirts don’t conceal nearly as well….but have a look:

This is me attempting to print, and you can see the gun a little bit, but frankly I was disappointed at how poorly my gun printed in the pictures….then I realized this was a GOOD thing.
And again

YOU ARE NOT A DUCK!

Again this is a 1911 commander, hardly a little gun, also unlike vertical belt carry you only have to worry about concealing the length of your gun (ie Barrel and slide) not the height (grip) so I get a full-size 1911 grip, plus a magazine with a bumper-pad. Happens to be my body conceals the 4.25″ barrel very well, tho a 4″ barrel like Kimber makes their “Commander” or something like a Kahr TP45, and of course the ubiquitous Glock 19 would hide a bit better. There are HUGE numbers of guns in this size, also if you’re a bit smaller than me, a smaller gun like a PPK, or a Glock 30, or a Colt Officer ACP might work a LOT better. If you happen to be a little chunky you’ll have a little more body to hide the gun on. Also women with larger breasts I imagine could hide the gun rather well in the shadow of their breasts. Of course if your bust is very large it might hinder your cross-draw.

As for draw, I must say This technique works AWESOME! Simply place your left hand on your right shoulder, and turn your shoulder towards your threat. this opens your coat and rotates the holster to your hand. Get a firm grip on the gun, hit the thumb break, and pull it across your chest as you bring your support hand down to grip. This also keeps your support arm from getting muzzled. Its hardly strong-side belt draw fast, but you can get very quick with it, but you do need to practice, as with any carry method.

One other advantage to this carry method is you can shield your carry gun without looking strange. Simply bring your arm down to your side and its damn near impossible for somebody to bump or rub your holster or mag carrier. This works great when I ride the subway when you’re packed in like sardines.

So there’s a brief overview of my favorite method of carry, hopefully it’ll help you find a nice way to carry your piece!

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38 Responses to Hide your Heat: Shoulder Thing

  1. I hate to break this to you, but your shoulder rig prints a lot in those photos. The straps going across the front of your shoulders are visible in all frontal shots with the red shirt. You can’t see the gun or ammo carrier, but you can see the straps pretty clearly because of the lay of the fabric. If you were a woman, this might not be so bad because people would mistake it for a bra. But you’re a dude so it looks odd.

    The black shirt looks a lot better, but I can’t tell if it’s because the fabric is heavier or whether the lack of contrast is hiding the printing in the pictures.

  2. Lissa says:

    If you hug somebody they will most likely feel part of your holster. Thankfully in a world of personal space and sexual harassment this isn’t a huge issue

    Crap. That’s probably gonna get me in trouble some day.

  3. ZK says:

    Any idea what your normal draw time is?

    And Jeff is right. Be aware that people who know what one looks like might be able to make out a shoulder holster in that lighter shirt. That’s not a deal-breaker necessarily; along similar lines, I wear a Wilderness belt almost every day. Just be aware.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      No idea the draw time, and I’m hardly a gamer ninja. I know its a ton slower than when I’m using my Bladetech paddle holster (which is hardly a CCW metric) and maybe on par with drawing my 642 from the front pocket of my jeans.

      Hardly a race-holster, but also not anything I feel at a disadvantage with.

  4. Thomas says:

    ./Thomas will stick with appendix carry or open carry, depending on legal contexts.

    Shoulder holsters are for people that spend most of their time in cars, in my personal bigotry.

    Some people like what they do, just like American vs African Carry with rifles. (You probably guessed I like African Carry in most of those contexts, as it’s FASTER to ME).

    That’s what it comes down to, what works for YOU.

  5. Blackhawk101 says:

    My problem with shoulder holsters is two fold – one is that I intensely dislike having a loaded gun pointed behind me that when drawn must also sweep a 180 degree arc to bring on target. Because of this a lot of things/people may be muzzle swept that I would prefer not to sweep (i.e. the wife has learned to stay on my left side to keep my gun hand clear).

    The other is it takes a relatively long time to draw from a shoulder rig. The moves are very long and telegraph your intentions. If the bad guy is close enough and thinking clearly he can easily trap your arm then its Katy bar the door as we have a retention fight going on.

    Now as stated what works for you- cool! I’m a bit overweight and find IWB holsters to be highly uncomfortable so I normally carry on the belt.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      I was wondering if somebody would mention this. This photo-shoot was done in February of ’09 right after I got home from work. So that gun is cocked-and-locked and in the “back” photo (of which I had taken for all of the shirts of which there were several….I just felt the two above were most illustrative) my gun was pointed at my wife.

      I will also note that my gun is in a holster where the trigger is 100% enclosed, the grip safety isn’t depressed, and the retention strap actually rests between the hammer and the firing pin. Not to mention the thumb safety…

      But lets face it, look at ALL the unintended discharge by police. Of all the cops in all the towns and cities for all the hours they’re on duty, have their duty guns in holsters, do you ever hear about a cop driving around and his gun shooting a hole in the Crown Vic floor pan? Or put a hole in the sidewalk as the cop was doing a foot-beat? How about a police horse getting shot from a mounted officer?

      Nope, the guns “go off” when the gun is being unholstered or holstered. For that sake I do keep a 180 degree arc clear when I holster or unholster the gun, or when I practice drawing with an unloaded gun filled with snap-caps. If my life is in danger I’ll take my chances.

      Also another optional draw position for your weak side arm is to blade your body and push your arm forward to push away a near attacker and keep your strong side and piece clear for a draw.

  6. Patrick says:

    @Blackhaw101
    5’9″ and 289lbs. I understand the overweight thing. I don’t have a problem with IWB holsters though. Helps hide the grip. 🙂

    @Weer’d
    When you order one, it says Right or Left. Is that “I’m Right Handed” or “It will be on the right side for a lefty”? I also agree with Jeff, that it shows, but I think it might just be how the shirt is laying… It could be fixable with that shirt. Not sure.

  7. Nancy R. says:

    Weer’d — I use the same rig with my XD-9, but for different reasons than you do. Due to my strange proportions (long limbs, short-waisted, and curvy hips), the best place for me to carry is in a shoulder rig. Thestraps are probably attributed to some strange bra configuration. The absurdly long arms (my elbows rest on my hips) make reaching not much of an issue. I also carry my purse on the same side as my gun. Reaching for my gun makes it look like I’m reaching for my purse. I don’t have the duck problem because the holster nestles into the hollow of my waist.

    Hugging? I’m not much of a hugger. If I know you well enough to hug you, you shouldn’t be surprised by the rig. Since I live a half hour drive from civilization for the most part, yeah. I like it for driving.

    And I agree. It’s all about what works for *you*.

    Patrick- order it for your strong hand. Right-handed? Order right.

  8. Dixie says:

    If you hug somebody they will most likely feel part of your holster.

    Ahh, the “Packing heat hug.”

    • Weerd Beard says:

      The wife will often hug me when we meet up in various locals, not only just to express her love, but just to make sure she has a properly armed husband on her arm.

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  13. McThag says:

    Since this post was resurrected…

    I use this same rig for my full size 1911.

    The line about people who spend most of their time in their cars hits home. When I was driving a full-sized Biscayne, I could wear any kind of holster on my waist and have no issues at all. Driving the Corvette, the most conceal carry unfriendly car every designed, the seat-belt latch wants to be where the gun is. One can get things settled, OK; but after a long trip your back will be letting you know you were sitting cocked.

    This is not an issue with a shoulder holster.

    It is also a form of carry that allows me to get at my gun while sitting in the car. Being car jacked is a possibility when you drive a Chevy B-Body or Corvette…

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Driving a car, or driving a desk. Many of us find ourselves seated during large portions of the day. While a 4:00 Belt carry is the bee’s knees standing or walking around, when you sit it really mucks things up.

      Shoulder carry its the same no matter what you’re doing…even sitting on the throne with your pants around your ankles.

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  16. Archer says:

    Looks like this post has been re-linked to several times, but I’m relatively new to Weer’d World, so it’s the first I’ve seen it. Love it, though.

    Got a question: do you know any tactical, safety, or concealability differences between the “standard” shoulder rig you have here and the “vertical” rigs that have the muzzle pointing straight down? Any word on what the practical difference is?

    Just something I’ve been wondering for a while.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Tactical and safety they really aren’t all that different. I haven’t used any vertical shoulder rigs. They very greatly on how they work depending on the size of the gun. You just need to make sure that the holster gives good retention when closed, but still a clean draw you can do with one hand. Other than whatever steps it takes to break the gun free of the holster and assuming your grip but you’ll still need to get that weak-side arm up and out of the way to keep from sweeping it.

      As for conceal-ability it depends on your body size and the dimensions of your gun. The neat thing about a horizontal holster is you can raise the gun very high under your arm and the grip is always accessible to my hand (I also find the higher you let the holster ride the more concealable it is because your arm breaks up the pattern more, AND if like me, your garment also provides warmth you can button or zip your garment up more.

      Not having carried in a vertical rig and just working through how I might I suspect you might have to carry the rig slightly lower just to get a solid grip on the but of the gun to initiate the draw, also while the horizontal rig carried high means you have unlimited grip length you just need to pick a carry gun that has a shorter OAL than the depth of your chest, but your grip length is essentially unlimited. I currently carry a commander 1911 which means it has a reduced barrel, but the same grip size as a GI 1911…furthermore if I wanted to drop in a 10-round extended mag it probably wouldn’t be any harder to hide. With the vertical rig you need to make sure the grip doesn’t poke out against the breast of your shirt, you also need to make sure the muzzle won’t peek out below your waist if you bend or stretch.

      James Bond packing his PPK (or in many parts of the books, a S&W J-Frame) in a shoulder rig is easy because its easy to hide those small gun ANYWHERE when you’re a big burly assassin. Depending on your body type and the gun you wish to conceal it may be an ideal rig or an impossible one. Good luck, and feel free to ask more questions!

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  21. Will says:

    came from here:
    http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2012/02/you-might-be-gun-nerd-if.html

    When you are my size (5.5′, 120lbs), the gun has to be carried at an angle to conceal properly. Horizontal just won’t cut it. The Officers Mod works well, and even a Govt will work with teh right heavy jacket to hide the muzzle. The grip needs to be at least vertical for best angle.

    Frankly, I prefer the straps from Aker for their cut, but the center spider is too thick. Prints in light garments. Wish they would design something closer to the Galco. It’s two layers of heavy leather sandwiching the straps, with metal rivets of sorts for the pivots. Looks strong enough to tow a car with, which is way overkill for suburban use. Heading for the Alaskan wilderness? Perfect. Town use, not so much.

    I like their #101 Holster, though. No extra bulk anywhere. The thumbbreak is one layer of leather, with an external metal reinforcement strip that starts at the snap and runs almost to the tip.
    This design allows me to bend it for a much more positive release. Midway between the snap and rivet, I bend it at a 45*angle out/down (looking at it from the gun grip end, bend it toward your body and down toward the ground) (when looking at the metal strip on the human body side, draw a line from high left to low right). You don’t want the tip to dig into your ribs, so check the clearance while wearing it first, before bending.

    After it’s bent, when you run your hand to the grip with your thumb up, the snap will pop as you take a grip. With some gun/hand combos, you may have to sweep your thumb down to pop it. With this setup, you don’t end up having to stop and wave your thumb sideways to break the snap, or worse, end up with the thumb on the wrong side of the strap!

    Some makers put the metal in between two layers of leather, some just trust two layers to be stiff enough to give you enough leverage to break the snap. I don’t care for those designs, ESPECIALLY the non-metal reinforcement type.

  22. Will says:

    You might want to try a different draw with that rig. Instead of sweeping horizontally, (which is easy to block if close up), try a vertical draw. Well, it won’t be exactly vertical, but close. It may seem more intuitive if your holster is angled a bit more than you show yours. I follow the angle that the gun starts at, and just swing from my elbow, keeping my wrist mostly locked until the muzzle clears my toes, and then start to rotate the wrist as the gun starts to track up the BG’s body. You don’t have to lift your offside arm any more than is needed to grab the gun, and your muzzle never sweeps any part of your body, or anyone standing to the side. As I am rotating my gun wrist, I track my support hand down that arm to catch up to the gun for a two-handed grip.

    With this style draw, you can be standing with your arms crossed, hand on the gun inside your jacket, and not be obvious or provoking. This vertical draw also works well to clear a solid cover garment, like a sweater or sweatshirt, as you don’t have to lift it near to your armpit with the support hand. Will even work one-handed if needed with these type garments, although a little slower due to drag of the materiel.

    If you do a dramatic Weaver step-forward with your support side foot, you may want to check foot clearance for muzzle sweep. A normal step size probably won’t be a problem, and a strong-side step-back for Weaver is no problem, of course. Squared up Isosceles presents no problem, either.

    With a horizontal sweep, if a BG gets a hand on your arm, anytime before you get an index on him, you’re screwed. You’ll probably never get him covered from this point. With the vertical sweep, once you get to the point the muzzle is past your toes, you should be able to get rounds into him, even if he gets a hand on the arm. You only need to hunch down, or step back, to pivot the muzzle onto him at this point. You may have to start by shooting him in the feet, but it should be doable!

  23. Will says:

    Another mod I made to my rig is to increase the spare mag count. If you look at the rear photo, you’ll see the spider is not centered, which indicates an unequal weight. I was originally looking to get the rig more balanced, but a bit more ammo for a really bad civil disturbance might be useful. Still only comes to 29 rounds, total, for me.

    I went to a gun show and bought one of those cordura nylon belt holders for 4 mags. It has velcro covered retaining straps, so it will fit different length mags. I also picked up a used Galco ammo dump pouch for a shoulder rig. I drilled out the rivets holding the Galco pivoting strap mounts, and riveted them to the short end of the 4-mag pouch, so the openings face forward when worn.
    You can get accessory 3 and 4-mag leather pouches from some of the makers, but they are bulky and expensive. This nylon setup is comfortable and low profile. And cheap!

    There is a holster maker that makes a leather mag holder that holds TEN 1911 mags! They sit sideways, but they stack flat, in individual slots, with the edge toward the body, to get that many in a compact area. And costs around $185, or $155 for 6 mags.

    (found it: http://www.andrewsleather.com/traditional.htm under Monarch options)

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  28. NotClauswitz says:

    I’m re-linking because the comments here are valuable and I’m looking at a shoulder-rig for Moto-Carry – and the Galco looks nice but while carrying a passenger – my wife – the muzzle pretty much must be pointed down and not at her… So maybe Bianchi?

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