What does shoulder carry mean?

A holster worn around the shoulders is known as a shoulder carry. Under the armpit, these holsters hold the weapon (and occasionally extra magazines). Though it is common to use the shoulder, it does give you a way to carry if you genuinely need help to make a belt line or ankle work for you.  

Accessing the firearm while seated is the shoulder carry most obvious benefit. If you regularly work from a desk or are in the car, you can access the gun hidden beneath your armpit. This method is also practical because it offers a grab-and-go setup that includes the holster and magazine pouches in one package, eliminating the need to buy extra accessories.  

If you live in a colder climate and frequently wear jackets or coats, shoulder carry is also an option. You can get better access with the holster than with an IWB rig hidden beneath layers because it can slide under the outer layer. Additionally, it provides a respectable weight-bearing option that enables you to carry larger firearms that, for whatever reason, might not function on the beltline. 

Configurations of shoulder holsters

Holsters must be appropriately chosen or viewed as merely disposable accessories when choosing for concealed carry. Holsters are just one component of a larger system, including the shooter’s mindset, training, weapon, sights, and ammunition. Your overall efficiency will be impacted if there is a weakness in any one component of the system. Many people downplay their significance due to the adaptability and relative simplicity of switching/alternating holsters. In other words, choosing a holster for concealed carry requires the same serious thought you would give to choosing a weapon.

To balance the handgun on the other side of the harness, shoulder holsters frequently have double magazine pouches. Belt carry is typically associated with one spare magazine, especially when using high-capacity, double-stack magazines. Sometimes people need to remember that the magazine pouch must be concealed as carefully as the gun. But in this case, a shoulder holster is more practical because it can hold a bigger handgun and two extra magazines.

Handguns can be carried in shoulder holsters horizontally, at an angle of 45 degrees, or vertically (with the muzzle pointing straight up or down). Grant Cunningham outlines the advantages and disadvantages, including:

Vertical Shoulder Holsters

The term “upside-down holster” is typically used to describe vertical holsters with the muzzle pointing up. They are the hardest guns to get a good firing grip on because the butt of the weapon points backward and is off-center. Despite this, they are very concealable. Additionally, they have a maximum barrel length of the armpit, which restricts how long they can accommodate barrels.  

Vertical holsters that carry the muzzle down are excellent options for heavier weapons with longer barrels. Not as concealment equipment, some are designed to fit scoped hunting guns. While muzzle-down holsters are generally simple to draw from, they sacrifice some concealment, particularly with longer barrels. 

Horizontal Shoulder Holsters

The most accessible gun holsters appear to be horizontal ones and are undoubtedly the simplest to draw from. The butt of the gun is carried the farthest forward of any style, allowing for a very natural grip and pull stroke.

Because the gun is carried with its longest dimension crossing the body’s shortest dimension, they are not the best option for concealment. The gun is similar to a turtle on its back because the cylinder width is in the middle and pushes both the butt and the muzzle away from the body.

Also, the muzzle protrudes from the back and the butt from the front, making it obvious that the wearer is hiding something. Additionally, it is the only shoulder holster that makes it difficult to draw without accidentally brushing the muzzle against an unintended target. Only the shortest barrels and smallest frames should be used if one insists on a horizontal holster.

45-Degree Shoulder holsters

A reasonable compromise is to carry the gun at a 45-degree angle, muzzle facing up. Compared to an upside-down model, the grip is simpler to reach, and the geometry of the carrier makes the gun easier to conceal. Compared to horizontal types, the 45-degree works best with slightly longer barrels. 


Women don’t seem as constrained by their figures as men are, and the more muscular the man, the less likely he will be able to use the shoulder holster. Because of this, it is frequently recommended for shoulder holsters for women rather than men. Although at least one manufacturer has made shoulder holsters out of thin polyethylene, shoulder holsters are typically made of leather and nylon fabric. If you carry concealed weapons exclusively from a shoulder holster, be aware that almost all shooting schools forbid their use during class.


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