The 80’s, personally I don’t remember them, but I’m a sucker for throwbacks. I grew up on movies like Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and shows like Magnum P.I. Even though this cinema was around before I was born I loved it. A signature part of every 80’s cop was their shoulder holster, even in Miami, where I couldn’t imagine wearing a jacket. This iconic representation not only captures a sense of nostalgia but also highlights the enduring appeal of shoulder holsters.

Today there are more choices than ever when it comes to concealed carry, like appendix holsters, IWB holsters, ankle holsters (Another throwback classic) and more. But something about the shoulder holster is reminiscent of the great John McClain. Shoulder holsters offer a unique blend of concealment and comfort that is still relevant today. We will delve into what shoulder holsters are, why they might be the ideal choice for some, and brings modern improvements to this classic carry style.

What Are Concealed Carry Shoulder Holsters?

A concealed carry shoulder holster is a harness system designed to hold a firearm securely under someone’s arm, opposite their dominant hand. This setup typically includes two main components: the holster itself and a counterbalance on the opposite side, which generally hold extra magazines or other accessories like speed loaders. The harness is worn across the back, and through each arm. It is adjustable and drapes over the shoulders, evenly distributing the firearm’s weight for comfort during wear.

Shoulder holster
Shoulder holster

History of Shoulder Holsters

The historical roots of shoulder holsters trace back to early 20th-century military use among officers, drivers, and pilots because they were often seated and might need access to a firearm from a seated position. Additionally, they were a more comfortable option than belt holsters for full-sized firearms because they distributed weight in a more balanced manner, and made it easy to carry speed loaders.

They gained prominence in law enforcement and personal defense in the mid-1900s for the same reasons, but also because they lent themselves to easy concealment when wearing a heavy jacket.

In cinema and TV, shoulder holsters became symbols of the undercover agent or private detective, a trend cemented by shows like “Miami Vice.” Over the years, their practicality for covert operations and quick access in tight situations has made them a favored choice among private citizens, security, and spies alike.

Advantages of Concealed Carry Shoulder Holsters


One of the primary benefits of using a shoulder holster is the comfort it offers, especially if wearing the firearm for several hours. Unlike belt holsters that concentrate the weight of the firearm and accessories on the waist or hips, shoulder holsters distribute this weight evenly across the shoulders.

If you’ve ever worn a heavy gun belt you know what I mean, after a day or two there are bruises on hot spots where the weight was concentrated.

This design minimizes strain on any single part of the body, making it ideal for those who carry their weapons throughout the day. This weight distribution is also advantageous for individuals with lower back issues who might find belt holsters uncomfortable.


Shoulder holsters provide easy and quick access to the firearm particularly when an individual is seated or driving. This positioning advantage makes drawing the weapon straightforward without the need to stand or reposition. For detectives or others who frequently enter and exit vehicles, this feature, along with comfort is very desirable.

Shoulder gun holster
Shoulder gun holster


Effective concealment is another advantage of shoulder holsters. They work exceptionally well under layers of clothing such as jackets, blazers, or winter coats. This makes them a great choice in environments that tend to be on the colder side. The ability to wear a jacket or loose overshirt over the holster not only conceals the weapon but also allows for quick access when needed.

Capacity and Customization

Shoulder holsters usually come with built-in options for carrying additional magazines or other accessories, making them the only piece of gear needed. The extra pouches or compartments can be customized based on individual needs, increasing the overall functionality of the holster. This capability makes shoulder holsters a popular choice among law enforcement officers and civilians because it increases the carrying capacity without the need for separate magazine holders.

Universal Concealed Carry Holsters

Universal shoulder holsters, like the one’s sold at Tacticon Armament add another layer of value. The universal design of these particular shoulder holsters offers the flexibility to accommodate different types and sizes of firearms.

This adaptability is particularly beneficial for individuals who own multiple handguns or those who may need to switch their carry weapon based on specific situations or times of year. A universal holster eliminates the need for multiple holsters, simplifying the equipment needed while still ensuring a secure fit at an affordable and one-time price.

Drawbacks of Concealed Carry Shoulder Holsters

Like anything in the firearm industry there are drawbacks, and shoulder holsters have some possibly deal-breaking ones.

Wardrobe Requirements

While shoulder holsters offer excellent concealment they also require specific types of clothing to be effective. Typically, a jacket, blazer, or a similarly loose-fitting outer garment is necessary to hide the outline of the holster and weapon. This is probably the largest deal breaker.

This can be very restrictive, particularly in warmer climates or during seasons when heavy clothing is impractical. I still can’t imagine wearing a suit in Miami.

Such constraints limit the utility and convenience of shoulder holsters for everyday carry, especially for individuals who prefer or need to wear lighter or more form-fitting attire. However, for those in colder climates like New York and Chicago, this also makes shoulder holsters ideal.

Draw Speed

Although shoulder holsters provide good accessibility in certain situations like driving or sitting, they generally offer slower draw speeds compared to waistband holsters. The motion required to reach and draw from a shoulder holster is more complex and can be hampered by clothing. In most situations, especially as stress increases, the additional time and potential for error can be a turn off for those looking for a holster.

1911 shoulder holster
Drawing from shoulder holster

Training and Familiarity

Properly using a shoulder holster involves a steeper learning curve than more straightforward holster styles like appendix carry. The mechanics of drawing from a shoulder holster are less intuitive, requiring dedicated practice to master safely and effectively. However, the user should be doing this with whatever type of holster they have regardless.

Users must be thoroughly familiar with their holster’s specific features and practice regularly to be safe and effective during their draw.

These drawbacks can be a dealbreaker for some, however they also illustrate an important point: You should regularly practice, and should be well-versed and effective with whatever you use.

Final Notes

Shoulder holsters were immortalized by 1980s television icons in shows like “Miami Vice,” and remain a viable and popular option for concealed carry, because they are effective and an absolute vibe.

Throughout this article, we’ve explored their distinct advantages, from the comfort provided by even weight distribution across the shoulders to the convenience of accessibility while seated and excellent concealment under appropriate attire. Moreover, the ability of shoulder holsters to carry additional magazines and accessories makes them a great choice for those who don’t want to wear multiple pieces of gear.

However, it’s also important to acknowledge the drawbacks that accompany this style of holster. The wardrobe requirements can limit practicality in warmer weather or less formal settings, and the generally slower draw speed affects response times all things being equal. These challenges demonstrate the importance of training and familiarity with the holster mechanics to mitigate risks effectively and ensure safety.

Universal shoulder holsters are a great option because they give the user compatibility with various firearm models and the adjustable design not only enhances comfort and functionality but also promotes versatility in use across different settings and situations.

The choice to use a shoulder holster demands a commitment to regular practice and specific clothing choices, but so do all aspects of concealed carry. Our universal shoulder holster can be purchased for less than $30, making it a great option for anyone who wants to give shoulder holsters a try without much commitment, or just wants to LARP as your favorite 80’s action hero.

The iconic allure of strapping on a “Miami Vice” style shoulder holster is a nod to the past that still has a relevant place today.

2 thoughts on “Concealed Carry Shoulder Holster

  1. Anthony says:

    Is the universal holster a horizontal draw, vertical draw, or (possibly) both?

    Some prefer horizontal with subcompact / compact, and vertical carry with anything larger. Just works better with my stature. I appreciate the time, figure I’d ask incase anyone else has the same preference. Thanks

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