How to Wear a Shoulder Holster

Carrying a firearm comes with great responsibility, and finding the right holster is key to a comfortable and practical carrying experience. Personally, I normally prefer to carry Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) simply because my particular frame and choice of clothing demand it. One method of carrying I hadn’t even really considered valid until I started flying planes was the method of carrying concealed via a shoulder holster. The idea of a shoulder holster might stand out as decidedly not CCW-friendly simply due to the nature of the rig being literally strapped to your shoulders. This misconception is probably because most of the time we see shoulder holsters in movies or TV shows when a detective or other character has one on screen. I’ve come to find out that a lot of people actually wear shoulder holsters more frequently than I had originally anticipated so I wanted to test out the concept for myself.

how to wear a shoulder holster
how to wear a shoulder holster

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a shoulder holster is the 1987 film Lethal Weapon. In this movie, the two main characters played by Danny Glover (Murtaugh) and Mel Gibson (Riggs) have two varying styles of firearms and carry methods. The more modern and unpredictable Riggs character chooses a Beretta 92F as his duty weapon while Detective Murtaugh’s older and more seasoned character carries a Smith & Wesson Model 19 in a shoulder holster.

Scene from Lethal Weapon
Scene from Lethal Weapon

To test out this concept of the shoulder holster I thought I would combine the two ideas seen in the movie lethal weapon and see how it works out - does a shoulder holster work with a modern semi-auto gun like my Beretta M9A3? To find out I enlisted the help of my good buddy Lucas who will serve as our model for today.

Friend Lucas wearing a shoulder holster
Friend Lucas wearing a shoulder holster

Choosing the Right Shoulder Holster

First things first, it's essential to select a shoulder holster that fits your needs. The Falco Holsters leather shoulder holster used in this article are specifically designed for the Beretta M9A3, ensuring a snug and secure fit. This ensures proper retention of the handgun while it is in the holster and also ensures that drawing and reholstering the weapon is also a safe affair. My Beretta M9A3 does not feature a manual safety, simple a decocker, and thus it is important that the construction of the holster is such that reholstering won’t run the risk of accidentally discharging the weapon. Some other brands holster designs feature a “one size fits all” design philosophy and I personally think these are suboptimal for both retention and safety, especially with semi-automatic firearms without manual safeties. 

Leather shoulder holster
Leather shoulder holster

Between the more refined brown shoulder holster seen in the photos here and the more modern black hybrid shoulder holster, I much prefer the hybrid design for a few reasons one of which are the two points I mentioned above - retention and safety.

Kydex shoulder holster
Kydex shoulder holster

So once you’ve selected your preferred shoulder holster, how do you put one of these things on? I’ll admit that my first time doing it felt kind of weird like I was putting on some clothing that was more fit for some sort of dimly lit dance club, however, putting on a shoulder holster is about as easy as putting on a t-shirt, just don’t let all the extra straps and hardware attached to the holster freak you out.

Finding the Perfect Fit - How to Wear the Shoulder Holster

Achieving a comfortable fit is crucial for all-day carry. So the first time you wear your holster you will have to adjust it so that it fits with not just your body, but also the clothes you’re wearing for that day. Shoulder holsters typically do not work without a belt so make sure you have a quality gun belt that can support the bottom strap points so that the holster will fit snugly, and won’t dance around under your concealment garment when you’re moving about.

Gun belt
Gun belt

Start by putting on the shoulder holster like you would put on your formal jacket. The orientation should be self-explanatory but for the purpose of clarity, you’ll want to make sure the holster for the gun will be on the opposite side of your dominant hand. 

Beretta M9A3 in a shoulder holster
Beretta M9A3 in a shoulder holster

Once the holster is over your shoulders you’ll want to adjust the shoulder harness to the proper height, this will largely depend on what height you prefer to draw from, as well as the length of your gun’s slide. Smaller guns can be worn higher up and still achieve a comfortable draw but larger full-size guns like the Beretta M9A3 are much longer and require a longer draw stroke and thus must be worn much lower to make drawing both safe and comfortable for concealment.

Adjustment of harness on shoulder holster
Adjustment of harness on shoulder holster

Make sure the holster sits comfortably, neither flopping around nor restricting your movement. This can be achieved via the harness straps found on this style of holster. The brown leather shoulder holster features elastic straps good for giving you a wider range of motion but this style also jostles a bit more when you’re running and moving around.

Strap for shoulder holster
Strap for shoulder holster

The black hybrid shoulder holster features a more secure fit, but will somewhat restrict your movement if it's not adjusted perfectly for both your range of motion and your natural sitting/standing stance.

While comfort is critical, maintaining concealment is equally important. Experiment with different clothing options to find the right balance. Layering your outfit, such as wearing an unbuttoned shirt or jacket over your shoulder holster, can effectively hide your weapon without sacrificing comfort. I find that shoulder holsters work very well in winter due to most people already wearing very thick clothing or at the very least - some sort of long garment that can easily conceal a large firearm like the M9A3.

Concealed shoulder holster
Concealed shoulder holster

Practicing Safe Drawing Techniques From Shoulder Holster

Mastering the skill of drawing your firearm safely and efficiently from your shoulder holster requires practice and training. Always remember to keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire as always and be very conscious of your muzzle when unholstering and reholstering from a Shoulder Holster. I would personally run hundreds and hundreds of dry (no ammo in the gun) practice draws and reholsters and even reloads before I incorporate it into my daily routine.

Dry firing with a shoulder holster
Dry firing with a shoulder holster

Regularly practice your drawing motion, ensuring a smooth and controlled movement that avoids sweeping the muzzle across your body or pointing it at unintended targets like yourself or other people in the room. Additionally, you should also practice reloads with shoulder holster counterbalances as both the orientation and position of your magazines will be wildly different not just from more modern ways of CCW, but also because of the variety of available counterbalances.

Reloading with a shoulder holster
Reloading with a shoulder holster

I like the black hybrid shoulder holster more because it provides you with a clean and quick reload motion without the need to open flaps before performing a reload. However, its worth noting that the flaps provide an increased layer of retention for those who may be moving around a lot or who are in and out of vehicles frequently.

Use of shoulder holster in a car
Use of shoulder holster in a car

Conclusion

Wearing a shoulder holster, such as one of the Falco hybrid shoulder holsters D901, offers a comfortable and concealed carry option for the Beretta M9A3 and more than 3000 other handguns. Following the tips in this guide, you can confidently wear your shoulder holster while prioritizing comfort, accessibility, and firearm safety.

Hybrid shoulder holster
Hybrid shoulder holster

Remember to practice your drawing techniques and perform regular maintenance to ensure a safe and reliable carrying experience, and most of all, select a holster that is made from good durable, and quality leather or Kydex rather than something cheap that will only last you a year or so (if that). Whether for professional use, concealed carry, or for living out your Lethal Weapon fantasies, a shoulder holster combined with your favorite firearm can be a rewarding and enlightening carrying experience.

Luke Cuenco

Luke Cuenco

Writer

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