Shoulder holsters are a slick and fashionable way to carry a gun. They have been popularized by movies and television but are a very valid way to carry a gun.
Shoulder holsters are perfect for a few specific situations, including day-to-day carry. The trick is finding the right one. A poor shoulder holster, from experience, will hurt—badly.
A good holster will make carrying even the heaviest of guns comfortable. I’m here to guide you through your armpit holster shopping experience. I want to help you find the best shoulder holsters on the market.
8 Best Under Arm Holsters of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews
Here is a list of the best shoulder holsters of 2019:
- Best Horizontal #1: Aker 101 Comfort Flex
- Best Horizontal #2: Galco Classic Lite
- Best Vertical #1: Bianchi X15
- Best Vertical #2: Galco Vertical Shoulder Holster
- Best Leather #1: Miami Classic 2
- Best Leather #2: Gould and Goodrich Gold Line
- Best Glock 19: Barsony Shoulder Holster
- Best Glock 17: Alien Gear Shapeshift Shoulder Holster
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1. Best Horizontal Shoulder Holster #1: Aker 101 Comfort Flex
The Aker 101 Comfort Flex Shoulder holster is a fine-looking piece of gear. The design incorporates either tan or black leather with a slight gloss that is to die for.
The horizontal rig positions the weapon so it points behind you. The holster features an open-end design so that compact models and full-sized models will both fit.
The Comfort Flex has very wide straps which help distribute the weight of full-sized guns and make carrying compacts very easy and quite comfortable. The Comfort Flex earns its name and allows you to live your day-to-day life armed and comfortable.
Features and Specs
- Adjustable for up to a 62-inch chest
- Features a contoured harness design
- Utilizes vegetable tanned cowhide
- Extremely good looking
- Hardy stitching for years of use
- Rear open design will help accommodate a multitude of weapons
- Works with Gen 4 Glocks but has difficulty with back straps.
The Aker 101 Comfort Flex is perfect for those looking to carry a variety of guns. If you buy it for the Glock 17, you can rest assured it will fit your Glock 19 as well.
The Aker 101 Comfort Flex is a great concealed-carry holster and even provides a dual magazine pouch for carrying a couple of reloads.
2. Best Horizontal Shoulder Holster #2: Galco Classic Lite
A lot of shoulder holsters focus on carrying big guns, and that works. However, Galco makes an awesome lightweight shoulder holster for both large and small guns.
The Classic Lite is much better suited for smaller and lighter guns like the PPK, the Glock 26, and other subcompacts. It has thin straps that aren’t designed for heavy guns.
However, overall, it is lighter and more comfortable for smaller framed shooters. The Galco Classic Lite packs a holster and single extra magazine carrier in a compact and affordable package.
Features and Specs
- Right- or left-handed options available
- Made from center cut steerhide
- Thumb strap retention device
- Lightweight design
- Extremely adjustable
- Not optimal for full-sized guns
The Classic Lite is a great example of an economic shoulder holster that works. It’s a great system that Galco has produced for smaller shooters or those looking for a lighter weight setup overall.
The Classic Lite is well thought out and perfect for concealed carry. This little shoulder rig packs a punch with its adjustable clover style back plate and magazine pouch. The price is hard to beat, and Galco’s warranty is second to none.
Galco Classic Lite is also available at:
3. Best Vertical Shoulder Holster #1: Bianchi X15
The Bianchi X15 is one of the more versatile carry rigs out there. It’s produced in a wide variety of sizes, allowing the user to choose an X15 model to carry a gun as small as a 2-inch snub nose or an absolute hand cannon of a revolver.
In between those sizes you can carry 1911s, Glocks, and much more. This system uses an internal tension rod that ensures retention and allows you to go along with your day, be it running errands or climbing mountains, in confidence.
The X15 is an all-leather design that is the same design used by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character.
Features and Specs
- Comes in sizes small to extra large
- Works on a chest up to 48 inches
- Uses a dual-spring closure and tension rod for retention
- Extremely secure
- Allows you to carry massive guns
- Leather-lined to protect the gun’s finish
- Needs a long break-in period before being easy to use
The Bianchi X15 is a great holster for a variety of roles. It’s perfect for hunters with a handgun or shooters carrying a handgun for bear protection while hiking or camping.
The design is ultra-comfortable and well supported for hikes up and down rough terrain. The X15 is easy to use and draw from. The design is incredibly secure and ensures your gun isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Bianchi X15 is also available at:
4. Best Vertical Shoulder Holster #2: Galco Vertical Shoulder Holster
The Galco Vertical Shoulder system is a duty-based holster designed with law enforcement in mind. It positions the weapon pointing to the ground, and this keeps it from flagging people behind you.
It’s also much tougher for a crook to take at this angle. The holster features some of the widest straps out there, and they are incredibly comfortable and distribute the weight of a heavy weapon very well.
A small snap around the trigger guard of the weapon ensures the weapon is very secure and retained with ease.
Features and Specs
- Features a dual-magazine carrier
- Fits chests up to 62 inches
- An ambidextrous system can be swapped out at home
- Extremely safe from people trying to take your weapon
- Easy to wear and easy to conceal large guns
- Incredibly comfortable
- Only comes with one tie down
The Galco Vertical Shoulder holster is perfect for open carry or duty use. Smaller people may find it bulky for concealed carry. An open jacket or shirt will reveal it very quickly.
It does not maximize concealment. It is a very safe holster and could a good choice for open carry. The vertical holster system is perfect for winter carry, but the price may turn some off.
5. Best Leather Shoulder Holster #1: Miami Classic 2
If you want to be cool, get a Miami Classic 2. This is the holster most famously used in the show Miami Vice, and that’s where its namesake comes from.
The Miami Classic 2 is easily the most popular shoulder holster on the market, and there is a good reason why. It sets the standard for comfort, adjustability, and dependability.
The Miami Classic’s wide straps are incredibly comfortable, and the ability to adjust the holster over a wide range ensures it stays comfortable. The Miami Classic is made for all popular guns, including 1911s, Glocks, and Smith and Wessons.
Features and Specs
- Adjustable up to a 62-inch chest
- Comes in black or tan
- Flexalon backplate ensures comfort and easy movement
- One of the most comfortable holsters on the market
- Easy to adjust and set up
- Extra mag pouch can be switched for handcuff carrier or even Ka-Bar carrier
The Miami Classic is the shoulder holster of choice for those carrying concealed full-sized guns. The holster pulls the gun up under the shoulder for superior concealability and creates a minimal footprint.
The gun holster and mag carrier will be held in place by the belt tie downs, and the gun itself is kept in with a thumb retention strap.
Miami Classic 2 is also available at:
6. Best Leather Shoulder Holster #2: Gould and Goodrich Gold Line
Gould and Goodrich are most famous for creating holsters for cops. Their bread and butter are fine leather holsters designed to hold a weapon for a day of duty securely.
The Goldline Shoulder holster follows in those traditions. This vegetable-tanned leather shoulder holster is immensely comfortable and perfect for daily carry. The holster comes with a spare magazine carrier that can pocket two extra magazines.
The magazines are held upside down for quick access, and the magazines and gun are kept in place with thumb strap retention devices. This setup is easily adjustable, and the wide straps hold weight well.
Features and Specs
- Magazine carrier with space for two mags
- Swiveling backpiece for movement comfort
- Extremely adjustable
- Low-gloss leather looks amazing
- Thumb strap is easy to defeat
- Very easy to conceal
- No belt to holster connectors included
The Gould and Goodrich Goldline holster is an outstanding everyday carry holster. It’s easy to adjust and wear, and the gun is held in a manner the facilitates concealment.
This includes keeping the gun way up and under your arm, and the holster can tighten down so it doesn’t swing excessively. The Goldline is an excellent choice for concealed carry and is perfect for guns both large and small.
7. Best Glock 19 Shoulder Holster: Barsony Shoulder Holster
The first thing that struck me about the Barsony Shoulder Holster was the strap that holds the gun. It’s larger, wider, and longer than the rest of the holster.
This is an awesome idea that facilitates an easy means to carry the gun. The wider strap helps distribute the weight, and the thinner straps help cut holster weight overall. The holster weighs a mere 6 ounces.
The holster has a four-way size adjustment and two-way height adjustment to fit the holster to your gun. This allows you to fit Gen 4 and up models of the Glock 19 with additional back straps in place.
Features and Specs
- Weighs only 6 ounces
- Adjustable up to a 52-inch chest
- Fully adjustable straps for easy adjustment
- Very supportive and very lightweight
- Adjustable holsters allow the fit of backstraps
- Only comes with one belt to holster connector
The Barsony Shoulder Holster is a perfect budget option for a Glock 19 aficionado. The design is supportive and will accommodate all generations of Glock 19s, as well as 23s. The Barsony is made in the USA, and the price is hard to beat.
8. Best Glock 17 Shoulder Holster: Alien Gear Shapeshift Shoulder Holster
The Shapeshift System is designed to be the last holster you‘ll ever need. The system works with a wide variety of guns as well as carrying systems.
The shoulder holster variant uses the Alien Gear Glock 17 polymer shell with a leather shoulder holster. The design is highly adjustable, and the materials move with your body, making it easy to wear comfortably.
The system comes with two belt tie downs and a spare magazine carrier. You can choose the Glock 17 holster, or you can choose between any one of a dozen different options.
Features and Specs
- Adjustable and padded leather straps are very comfortable
- Incredibly modular
- Can work with active or passive retention devices
- Designed to last
- Comes with a magazine carrier and two tie downs
- Can be used with any Shapeshift Shell
- An expensive system
The Alien Gear system is fascinating and one that has taken the industry by storm. This holster is perfect if you want to carry your Glock 17 every day.
It’s big enough to support the big gun and has no issues accepting two Glock magazines. The design is impeccable and a perfect combo of old school leather and new polymer.
When to Use a Shoulder Holster?
Admittedly I am a big fan of shoulder gun harness systems. However, I know when they have faults and what those faults are. Shoulder holsters systems are quite viable, but you need to recognize their faults to appreciate and utilize one fully. Let’s look at the pros and cons of a shoulder holster.
- Easy to wear and use when driving or seated
- Can be very comfortable
- Makes it possible to conceal and carry a full-sized gun
- Easy to attach extra ammo to
- Easy to wear when wearing layers of clothes
- You’ll need a garment to conceal it
- Not as fast to draw from as other holsters
The biggest con is the need for a jacket or an open button shirt to conceal these holsters. In warm environments, this becomes very difficult. A shoulder holster is, however, excellent in the winter.
I think they are most handy when driving long distances. When you’re seated in a vehicle, they are easy to reach and very comfortable to wear.
Additionally, when wearing tons of layers, clearing them to grab your gun from your hip can be a slow process. A shoulder holster is easier to get to when wearing coats, sweaters, long johns, etc.
How to Choose a Shoulder Holster?
The first thing you need to do is picture yourself buying a shoulder holster for less than 50 bucks. Heck, even at 50 bucks you’ll only have a few worthwhile options.
Take it from my experience: a cheap holster is a garbage one. They tend to be extremely uncomfortable over long periods of time and tend to hurt when worn for hours and hours. “Buy once, cry once” is my motto. Spend a little money.
Molded to your gun
Look for a holster that is molded to your gun. When it comes to shoulder holster carry, you want that extra retention. If your gun is too small, it will move, rattle, and likely not activate the active retention device as it needs to. If it’s too big, the trigger might not be fully covered.
The bigger the gun you intend to carry, the wider the straps should be. This helps you support the weight of the gun, and this allows you to carry comfortably. Material-wise, there is a wide variety of options, but most quality holsters come in leather. Leather is a soft material that’s well proven for shoulder holsters.
Some companies have made excellent use of nylon and polymer for tactical rigs, but make sure you do a lot of research on these companies. There tends to be a lot of poorly constructed shoulder holsters on the block.
Another major factor to consider is the number of adjustments that can be made to the design. Can you adjust the holster to make carrying comfortable? Smaller and bigger people will especially have to take note of the adjustment range of a shoulder holster.
The more adjustable a rig is, the better it is. You should be able to loosen and tighten the rig to your body type. This will maximize both concealment and comfort.
Shoulder holsters come in either vertical or horizontal configurations. Some can be adjusted slightly for cant in the horizontal realm too. Horizontal carrying seems to be the best means to conceal a gun. Vertical carrying is often the more secure method of carrying. Vertical carrying also allows carrying larger and more powerful guns, like Magnum hunting revolvers.
Most shoulder rigs come with the ability to add some accessories, like magazines pouches, cuff pouches, and even some cool knife sheaths. This isn’t a major factor, but it’s one to consider.
As a civilian, I only have a need for an extra magazine or two. This extra weight will often help balance the load and keep things from being too heavy.
There seems to be an overabundance of crap shoulder holsters on the market. It can be a pain to get through them to the gold-standard models. However, if you follow the advice above, you’ll have no issues.
Should Holster Brands to Watch
When it comes to leather perfection, it’s almost impossible to beat Galco. They know how leather works and do leatherwork at a level that’s unbeaten by most.
Galco holsters have simply become better. In terms of shoulder holsters, the Galco Miami Classic and Classic 2 are easily the flag bearers of the shoulder holster market.
Their initial popularity from the television show Miami Vice pulled them into the mainstream, and the Miami Classic followed. This pressure without a doubt made them ensure the holster was more than fashionable.
Galco may use old-school leather for the majority of their holsters, but they have introduced modernized components to their shoulder rigs too.
This includes the ability to add a ton of different spare pouches to a shoulder rig to make it handier overall. Galco also introduced the more affordable Lite Classic to support smaller guns, allowing for a lower overall weight and price.
Galco also stands behind their products with an amazing warranty that will even accept the excuse that you just didn’t like it. They are an outstanding company and worth looking at even beyond their shoulder holsters. If you have doubts about shoulder rigs, I’d suggest giving Galco a look.
Barsony is a bit of a new company, but they do produce a number of different shoulder holsters in a number of configurations at a wide variety of price points. Their products are all made in the USA, and they offer one of the widest selections of shoulder holsters.
They also tend to have a variety of different designs. This includes a very lightweight minimalist design, designs that incorporate traditional magazines, pouches, and even two holsters for carrying two guns.
Barsony is a US-made firm that is family owned, but they can still produce at a level that keeps prices low. Their company is growing fast, but their quality remains the same.
They make over 120 different styles in a wide variety of colors. They produce both leather and nylon options and holsters that integrate both into their construction.
The Barsony Holsters are available for both guns and guns equipped with lasers. Their custom-molded holsters will accommodate a variety of guns based on size, so you will need to make sure yours is compatible.
Barsony may be a smaller company, but they have strived to become one that sticks out, and they do.
Safariland owns Bianchi, and they both produce a number of shoulder holsters, including the listed X15. Safariland also uses the famed 7053 holsters on a shoulder rig. Whichever route you go, you can be confident with your shoulder rig.
Safariland prides themselves on building excellent duty and concealed-carry holsters. Their designs often incorporate the latest technology and the most proven methods of production.
Their wide variety allows you to have nearly any style of holster you’d like. Safariland makes outstanding holsters, and their reputation precedes them.
Safariland is the go-to company you’ll see mentioned over and over when people ask about the “best holster for X purpose.” They got this reputation by never accepting anything less than amazing.
The Bianchi Brand is more or less focused on providing affordable but high-quality holsters for civilian use. These include the famed X15 shoulder holster. Some users are going on over 30 years of use with the X15. Their never-die attitude is why Safariland has been so immensely successful.
When it comes to holsters, Safariland and Bianchi are powerhouse brands sitting under one roof. They make way more than holsters these days, but their other products are built just as well. Safariland has currently produced bulletproof vests that have saved the lives of 2,035 public safety personnel.
Q: How do you break in a leather holster?
A: Unfortunately, the only way to break in a holster is to get out and wear it. Wear it a lot. Wear it around the house. Wear while you check the mail. Just keep wearing it.
Q: How do you adjust a shoulder holster?
A: First you need to look at your individual holster—some use snaps, while others use a belt-like device—and adjust according to the holster. To get it to fit you, you need to wear it and adjust with a loaded gun and magazine present.
You need that real weight to make sure the holster is properly adjusted. Loosen or tighten as needed. You should be able to reach the gun in the holster with ease. It should have a minimal swing when moving. The straps shouldn’t rub as you walk either.
Q: Are shoulder holsters safe?
A: Very much so, as long as the trigger is covered and a retention device is used.
Wearing It On Your Shoulder.
Shoulder carry is an outstanding way to carry a gun. It’s very comfortable, and it’s an easy way to conceal a large gun. On top of that, it can be incredibly comfortable when it comes to daily carry.
It has a few downsides, but ultimately choosing the right holster is the key to solving most of these problems. Do your research, read reviews, and use our guide to help you pick the right holster.
If you are not looking for a shoulder holster, take a look our other guides: