Exploring Shoulder Holsters: An In-Depth Look at Their Pros, Cons, and Usage

Shoulder holsters are a popular choice for concealed carry, offering a unique set of advantages and disadvantages compared to other holster types. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of shoulder holsters, including their types, pros, cons, and how they compare to other holster options. We will also discuss how to select the right shoulder holster for your needs and ensure a proper fit for optimal comfort and functionality.

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Quick Facts

  • Shoulder holsters offer a unique and comfortable carry option for those prioritizing concealment and accessibility, particularly when seated.
  • There are three main types of shoulder holsters: vertical carry, horizontal carry, and dual carry, each with their own advantages and suited for different preferences.
  • Shoulder holsters provide exceptional comfort during extended wear, even weight distribution, and compatibility with cross-draw techniques.
  • Drawbacks of shoulder holsters include slower draw speeds, dependence on a cover garment, potential for printing, and discomfort in hot weather.
  • When selecting a shoulder holster, consider factors such as firearm compatibility, holster material, comfort, carry position, concealment, and ease of use.
  • Proper fitting and adjustment are crucial for ensuring a comfortable and secure carry experience with a shoulder holster.

Types of Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder holsters are available in a variety of designs to suit different firearms and individual preferences. The three main types are vertical carry, horizontal carry, and dual carry holsters.

Vertical Carry Holsters

Vertical carry shoulder holsters hold the firearm in an upright position beneath the arm, with the barrel directed downwards. This design is favored for its comfort and ability to conceal the weapon, particularly when the wearer is using a jacket or coat.

Horizontal Carry Holsters

In contrast to vertical carry, horizontal carry shoulder holsters position the firearm sideways across the body. The barrel points behind the wearer, allowing for a swift and intuitive draw motion since the gun aligns naturally with the hand.

Dual Carry Holsters

For individuals who prefer to carry two firearms simultaneously, dual carry shoulder holsters are an ideal choice. These holsters feature two separate pouches, one under each arm, providing the ability to hold a primary and backup weapon or a handgun along with an extra magazine.

Familiarizing yourself with these different shoulder holster types and their specific characteristics is essential for selecting the most comfortable holster based on your individual requirements and intended use.

Advantages of Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder holsters offer a range of benefits that make them a popular choice among gun enthusiasts. Here are some of the key advantages:

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All-Day Comfort

One of the main reasons people opt for shoulder holsters is the exceptional comfort they provide during long hours of use. By spreading the gun’s weight evenly across the shoulders and back, these holsters minimize fatigue and discomfort often associated with other carry methods.

Discreet Concealment

Shoulder holsters truly shine when it comes to concealment, especially when paired with jackets or outerwear. The holster and firearm are expertly hidden under an extra layer of clothing, greatly reducing the risk of printing or detection.

Convenient Access When Seated

For those who spend a lot of time sitting, like professional drivers or individuals working at a desk, shoulder holsters offer unmatched convenience and accessibility. The strategic positioning allows for a smooth, unobstructed draw without the need to adjust clothing or change seated posture.

Even Weight Distribution

Traditional belt holsters tend to place all the weight of the firearm on one side of the body, which can lead to discomfort and uneven strain. Shoulder holsters, on the other hand, balance the load across both shoulders, promoting better overall comfort and reduced fatigue during prolonged periods of carry.

Cross-Draw Compatibility

Shoulder holsters are particularly well-suited for cross-draw techniques, where the firearm is drawn using the opposite hand from the holster side. This approach can be incredibly useful in situations where the primary hand is incapacitated or otherwise occupied.

By understanding the unique benefits offered by shoulder holsters, you can better assess whether this carry style suits your individual needs and preferences.

Disadvantages of Shoulder Holsters

Despite the numerous advantages shoulder holsters offer, they also come with certain drawbacks that should be taken into account before deciding on this carry method.

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Slower Draw Speed

One of the primary disadvantages of shoulder holsters is the reduced draw speed when compared to belt or inside-the-waistband holsters. The need to reach across the body and navigate past the cover garment can result in a slower overall drawing process.

Dependence on Cover Garment

To achieve proper concealment with a shoulder holster, a cover garment such as a jacket or coat is typically required. This necessity can prove inconvenient, especially in warmer climates or when dress codes prohibit such attire.

Risk of Printing

Printing, which occurs when the outline of the firearm is discernible through clothing, can be a concern with shoulder holsters. This issue is particularly prevalent when the cover garment is form-fitting or made from lightweight fabrics. Careful attention must be given to selecting appropriate holsters and cover garments to minimize the risk of printing.

Potential Discomfort in Hot Weather

Donning a shoulder holster beneath a cover garment during hot weather can lead to discomfort. The extra layers of clothing have a tendency to retain heat and promote excessive perspiration, which may cause irritation and unease during prolonged periods of wear.

Limitations Based on Body Type and Attire

Shoulder holsters may not be the most suitable option for every individual or clothing style. Those with narrower shoulders or a preference for sleeveless or snug-fitting garments might encounter difficulties in effectively concealing or comfortably wearing a shoulder holster.

By acknowledging and considering these potential drawbacks, you can make a well-informed decision that aligns with your specific requirements, personal preferences, and lifestyle factors.

Comparing Shoulder Holsters with Other Types

When choosing the best concealed carry holster, it’s essential to consider various options to find the one that best suits your needs. Let’s compare shoulder holsters with other popular carry methods to help you make an informed decision.

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Belt Holsters vs. Shoulder Holsters

Belt Holsters:

  • Provide swifter access to the firearm compared to shoulder holsters.
  • Offer greater comfort when standing or walking for prolonged periods.
  • Are simpler to conceal beneath untucked shirts or jackets.
  • May cause discomfort when seated for extended durations, particularly while driving.

Shoulder Holsters:

  • Evenly distribute the firearm’s weight across the shoulders and back, ensuring superior comfort when seated.
  • Allow for easier access to the firearm while sitting, compared to belt holsters.
  • Can more comfortably accommodate larger firearms than belt holsters.
  • May present challenges in concealment, especially when worn under form-fitting clothing.

Ankle Holsters vs. Shoulder Holsters

Ankle Holsters:

  • Offer exceptional concealment when standing, making them ideal for carrying backup firearms.
  • Provide enhanced comfort when sitting for extended periods, as the weight is not placed on the shoulders.
  • May cause discomfort during prolonged wear, particularly when walking or standing.
  • Have a slower draw speed compared to shoulder holsters.

Shoulder Holsters:

  • Distribute the firearm’s weight evenly across the shoulders and back, ensuring better comfort when seated.
  • Enable quicker access to the firearm compared to ankle holsters.
  • Can more comfortably accommodate larger firearms than ankle holsters.
  • May present challenges in concealment, especially when worn under snug-fitting clothing.

Belly Band Holsters vs. Shoulder Holsters

Belly Band Holsters:

  • Offer versatility and adaptability, allowing for various carry positions around the midsection.
  • Provide excellent concealment, as they can be worn under clothing without visible clips or attachments.
  • Are compatible with a wide range of clothing types and styles.
  • May cause discomfort during extended wear, particularly in hot weather conditions, as they can trap heat and moisture against the body.

Shoulder Holsters:

  • Distribute the firearm’s weight evenly across the shoulders and back, providing superior comfort when seated.
  • Allow for quicker access to the firearm compared to belly band holsters, which may require adjusting clothing to reach the gun.
  • Can more comfortably accommodate larger firearms than belly band holsters.
  • May present challenges in concealment, as they typically require a cover garment.

When deciding between shoulder holsters and other holster types, consider your specific needs and preferences:

  • Belt holsters excel in quick access and comfort when standing or walking.
  • Ankle holsters provide deep concealment but have a slower draw speed.
  • Belly band holsters offer versatility and adaptability but may be less comfortable for extended wear.
  • Shoulder holsters distribute weight evenly and provide comfort when seated but may be more challenging to conceal.

By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each holster type, you can make an informed decision based on your individual requirements, comfort, and lifestyle.

Selecting the Right Shoulder Holster

Choosing the right shoulder holster is essential for a comfortable and secure carry experience. Consider the following factors when making your selection:

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Firearm Compatibility

  • Verify that the shoulder holster is engineered specifically for your firearm’s make and model.
  • Ensure a snug fit to prevent the gun from shifting or inadvertently falling out of the holster.
  • Look for supplementary features, like retention straps or adjustable tension mechanisms, that can improve the holster’s compatibility with your firearm.

Holster Material and Construction

  • Leather shoulder holsters provide a timeless aesthetic and durability, but may necessitate a break-in period for optimal comfort and fit.
  • Synthetic materials, such as Kydex or nylon, offer lightweight, moisture-resistant options that require minimal upkeep.
  • Seek out reinforced stitching and high-quality hardware, like robust snaps or buckles, to guarantee the holster’s longevity and dependability.

Comfort and Fit

  • Select shoulder holsters with broad, cushioned shoulder straps to evenly distribute the firearm’s weight and minimize fatigue during prolonged use.
  • Opt for models with adjustable straps to achieve a personalized fit that accommodates your body type and preferences.
  • Consider holsters with a sweat guard or moisture-wicking lining to enhance comfort, particularly in warm weather conditions.

Carry Position and Handedness

  • Pick a shoulder holster designed for your dominant hand to ensure a fluid and instinctive draw motion.
  • Contemplate your preferred carry position (vertical, horizontal, or angled) based on comfort, accessibility, and concealment requirements.
  • Some shoulder holsters provide adjustable cant or ride height, enabling you to fine-tune the holster’s position for optimal comfort and draw efficiency.


  • Assess how effectively the shoulder holster conceals under your typical clothing choices, such as jackets or sport coats.
  • Consider the necessity for a cover garment and how it may impact your overall comfort, style, and accessibility to the firearm.
  • Seek out shoulder holsters with low-profile designs or integrated features, like a streamlined harness or a contoured holster body, that minimize printing and enhance concealment.

Ease of Use and Retention

  • Confirm that the shoulder holster permits a smooth and intuitive draw stroke, with a clear path for your hand to reach and grasp the firearm.
  • Opt for models with adjustable retention mechanisms, such as a thumb break or a tensioning device, to strike a balance between security and accessibility based on your preferences.
  • Consider any supplementary safety features, like a trigger guard cover or a reinforced holster mouth, that can improve the holster’s overall functionality and safety.

By carefully considering these factors and evaluating your specific needs, you can select a shoulder holster that provides the perfect balance of comfort, concealment, and accessibility for your lifestyle and preferences.

Proper Fitting and Adjustment

A well-fitted shoulder holster is crucial for comfort and functionality. Follow these steps to ensure your holster is properly adjusted:

Positioning the Holster

  • Put on the shoulder holster and adjust the straps until the holster sits comfortably on your shoulders.
  • Position the holster at a height that allows for a smooth, natural draw motion.
  • Avoid positioning the holster too high or too low, as this can hinder accessibility and comfort.

Adjusting the Shoulder Straps

  • Tighten or loosen the shoulder straps until the holster feels secure and stable against your body.
  • The straps should be snug but not so tight that they dig into your shoulders or restrict movement.
  • Ensure that the straps are adjusted evenly on both sides to prevent the holster from shifting or sagging.

Fine-Tuning the Holster Position

  • Once the shoulder straps are adjusted, fine-tune the holster’s position by adjusting the connecting straps or pivot points.
  • The holster should be angled in a way that allows for a smooth, efficient draw stroke.
  • Experiment with different angles and positions to find the most comfortable and accessible configuration for your body type and preferences.

Testing the Fit and Draw

  • With the holster properly adjusted, practice drawing your firearm from the holster.
  • Ensure that you can grip the firearm securely and extract it from the holster without snagging or resistance.
  • Move your arms and body to simulate various positions and activities to verify that the holster remains stable and comfortable.

Making Adjustments for Comfort

  • If you experience any discomfort or chafing, make minor adjustments to the holster’s position or straps.
  • Consider using additional padding or cushioning materials to alleviate pressure points or rubbing.
  • Over time, the holster may need periodic readjustment as the materials break in or your body shape changes.

Accommodating Different Clothing Styles

  • When wearing different clothing styles or layers, you may need to adjust your shoulder holster accordingly.
  • Ensure that the holster remains accessible and concealed under various garments, such as jackets or sweaters.
  • Practice drawing your firearm while wearing different clothing to identify any necessary adjustments or limitations.

Remember, finding the perfect fit for your shoulder holster may require some trial and error. Be patient and take the time to make minor adjustments until you achieve a comfortable, secure, and accessible carry setup that suits your individual needs.


For individuals who value comfort, concealment, and accessibility, shoulder holsters provide a distinctive and practical carry solution. To make an informed choice when selecting the ideal shoulder holster for your requirements, it’s essential to comprehend the different types available, along with their advantages, disadvantages, and relative benefits.

Additionally, taking into account factors such as firearm compatibility, material, and fit will further guide your decision-making process. By dedicating time to properly adjust your chosen holster and practice drawing from it, you can ensure a comfortable and secure carry experience that bolsters your personal safety and peace of mind.


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