We probably have read all of the information that we need to read about shoulder holsters, both pros and cons. The fact remains that a quality shoulder holster may fill a need, at times, to carry a defensive firearm when an OWB or IWB holster just will not work. For example, when carrying IWB or OWB causes discomfort due to lower back or hip problems. Another example may be when traveling a long distance (or even a short distance) in a vehicle when carrying on or behind the hip impedes your ability to quickly get to the firearm because of clothing or seat belt usage. Some may say that appendix carry is the answer. But, as popular as appendix carry may be it is not the utopian answer to all things. The beauty of the human animal is that we are capable of adapting, for the most part. The other beauty of the human animal is that we can (with enough foresight) plan ahead for possible varying conditions.
I also prefer a shoulder holster arrangement during cold weather when wearing layers of clothing is a must. When I carry strong-side, whether IWB or OWB, I have to push a lot of outer clothing out of the way during the draw-stroke – let alone when holstering the firearm.
In my line of thinking, selecting a shoulder holster for my selected self-defense firearms is a more exacting process than selecting an IWB or OWB holster. While body styles influence how a holster carries, it is even more so with a shoulder rig.
Recently, my choice of carrying a CZ75B came into question when I found that holsters for the darn thing are not as plentiful as holsters for other makes and model of semi-automatic pistols. The search for a quality shoulder holster for the CZ75B rendered very little. One of the premier holster makers, Galco, did not make a shoulder rig for the pistol, but the Miami Classic II for a Beretta 92 comes very close due to the design of the two pistols (I have a Miami Classic II rig for my 1911(s) and it is a fine setup once adjusted properly). However, “close” was not what I was looking for. Safariland Holster did not even come close in what I would have considered even as an “acceptable” resemblance of concealment Holster for the CZ.
With the Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster system out of the picture, Craft Holsters seemed to be the only logical choice, because they make holsters in IWB and OWB versions and also a shoulder holster system specifically for the CZ 75B; the Shoulder Holster System with Mag Pouch Code: It.OK1.
An order was placed at the same time that I ordered an Open-Muzzle IWB Holster Code: It. 92, for which I have posted a review @ http://guntoters.com/blog/2018/01/19/craft-falco-holster-code-it92/, because I liked what I saw advertised.
- Fits like A Glove
- Traditional Quality Leather
- Durable Stitching & Construction
- Premium 2 Year Warranty
- 30-day “Try” period.
It remained to be seen if the holsters would actually live up to the hype.
From the Craft Holster website we have the following:
“The horizontal shoulder holster contains a holster unit with a thumb break, cross-shoulder harness and double magazine pouch (double speed loader for revolvers). The holster without the harness can be used as a regular belt holster with two cant positions. The shoulder holster is thermo molded for the perfect holster fit. It features a retention screw to adjust to the safety fit of the handgun. The holster is particularly formed to fit comfortably against the body, whether carried on the belt or shoulder. This holster can be worn in 4 different positions, including horizontal as the shoulder holster, on the side as a belt holster, as a cross draw holster or in SOB carry position. Vega holsters are designed to fit a 1.5 inch belt.”
The Shoulder Holster System with Mag Pouch Code: It.OK1 comes in black or Mahogany Leather; I chose the Mahogany Leather version.
Unlike the Galco Miami Classis II, the Shoulder Holster System with Mag Pouch Code: It.OK1.
The rig came fully assembled. All I had to do was adjust for fit and break in the holster.
I should note here that the actual shoulder holster system is a Vega product.
The holster, as advertised, is molded to the firearm for which it was ordered. Double stitching is used throughout. Leather holster, of course, need breaking in and I steer you to a link for information in the RESOURCES AND REFERENCES section of this article.
The holster is a full-length version that more than adequately protects muzzle, front sight, and trigger. The thumb break is stiff but required very little proper stretching to wrap around the hammer. As a side note, if you get a new holster with a thumb break, always pull (never twist) the thumb break strap to stretch it. Twisting leather damages the grain of the leather.
The thumb break strap is of a length to allow double-action carry. The angle of the thumb break strap negates carrying in “Condition 1.”
The holster for the CZ75B has only one retention screw at the muzzle end. In this case, I feel that a retention screw is unnecessary because the Thumb break retention is more than enough. I simply backed the retention screws out for minimum tension on the pistol. The holster does not have a belt strap or a means to attach one. Personally, I like a belt strap on each side of a shoulder rig – they help me keep my pants up and work as “quasi” suspenders.
My only gripe was that the finish of the holster did not match that of the harness and magazine carrier; the holster is of a darker hue. However, this is common when components are not made at the same time, or at the same place as the holster, even with the same dye lot. It is something that I can live with and is not a deal breaker.
The holster took less time to break-in than did the Falco Open-Muzzle IWB Holster Code: It. 92 that was also ordered for the CZ75B. The usual gun-in-plastic bag worked well. As with the Falco holster, DRAW-EASE from Galco helped to condition the inside of the holster for an easier draw. After a couple of dozen draw strokes, the holster was ready for prime-time. That is not to say that the holster will not come forward when the pistol is drawn, but once the initial resistance is overcome, the holster releases freely.
I would like a belt tie-down strap, as this can limit the amount of forward travel of the holster when drawing the pistol or even when bending over.
The Magazine Carrier
Moving to the strong-side magazine carrier, while not “custom” form-fitted for the spare magazines one would carry it is fitted well. The retention straps keep spare magazine from displacing themselves from the carrier. Spare magazines are carried in the vertical plane rather than horizontally, as with the Miami Classic II. Two tension screws are available for keeping the magazines under some sort of pressure but, as with the tension screws on the holster, I found them to be not needed, as the carrier and retention straps keep magazines well in place. Two snaps for each magazine allow me to adjust the straps for varying lengths of magazines (within limits, of course). For the CZ75B, I will be carrying one 16-round flush magazine in the pistol with two 18-round magazines (with finger extension) as spares.
To offset the weight of the pistol that is carried on the weak side, a belt tie-down strap is provided to hold down the magazine carrier on the strong side. The snaps, by the way, are more than adequate. Two holes in the magazine carrier extension strap allow me to adjust the belt straps to the desired length.
As with the holster, double-stitching is use throughout the magazine carrier. The quality and depth of the Mahogany Leather dye application is the same as the holster – excellent.
Note that the ammunition carrier for a revolver is horizontal and set-up for speed loaders. I note this because I may be ordering a shoulder rig for the Ruger 2.25” SP101.
The harness arrangement is quite a bit different from that use in the Galco system. Rather than using screws as is done by Galco for adjustments, the Craft Holster uses a polymer “buckle” for sliding the harness up and down on itself.
The harness is adjustable both the front and rear for establishing both the length of the harness and cant of the holster and magazine carrier according to your desired position.
The system attaches together using both polymer mounts and snaps for swivel points for the Shoulder mount, screws for the holster mounts, and rivets for the magazine carrier mounts. The harness, unlike the Galco Miami Classic II system, has wider straps in the shoulder area that help mitigate the harness from “digging” into the shoulders. This is a comfort feature that I really like, especially since my broken right clavicle remains unhealed after all of these years. I find my self envisioning a “padding system” that I can design for use with the Miami Classis system – or ordering a wider harness for it through Galco. But, the Miami Classic II system cost me “mucho dinero” and a different harness for it is not inexpensive. And, pardon me for digressing.
Once adjusted to your desired position, you may find that you have an excess of strap material, as I did. I don’t like loose strap material flopping around, which it has a tendency to do. So, I had two choices; remove the excess strap material or somehow secure it.
With the Galco Miami Classic II rig, I simply used adhesive-backed Velcro strip to attach the excess strap material to the underside of the harness. So far, that has worked out and I used the same for the excess strap material on the Shoulder Holster System with Mag Pouch Code: It.OK1. After all, I may want to readjust things later and the Velcro can be removed from the rough-side of the harness without seriously damaging the leather and can be easily replaced with new Velcro material.
To regress a bit, the harness is easily adjustable using the polymer buckles. Simply loosen the strap with the buckle, position the strap to the desired adjustment holes in the strap, and then tighten the leather within the buckle. It is not any harder than adjusting the sling on your favorite long gun and much simpler than removing screws, adjusting the harness, and re-attaching screws. Plus, the polymer buckle provides enough tension on the straps, above and below the buckle, to keep the strap from slipping.
I have to say at this point that, as-delivered, the shoulder rig was a near perfect fit and no harness adjustment was needed. The cant of the holster was more horizontal, where I like it, than horizontal and down.
Obviously, any strap made of leather may experience stretching due to the weight of the loaded accessories attached to the leather, or environmental issues (sweat or excessive moisture, for example) but having buckles rather than screws make re-adjustment a lot easier.
Wearing a Shoulder Holster
I have always liked shoulder holsters. Not necessarily for the mystique of doing so but for comfort and also external considerations (operating a motor vehicle, for example). I recently had to take a business trip to another city some 133 miles away. Of course, I would be sitting for the trip with an occasional escape from the vehicle for a rest or something to eat. My normal IWB carry would have sufficed, but I chose the Miami Classic II shoulder rig for the Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander. In doing so, I was able to carry out several experiments (intentionally and not).
Note that this was the third trip that I had traveled with my best companion housed in a shoulder holster. In the first trip, even my boss, who I was traveling with, did not realize that I was carrying. And, as importantly, I was not “outed” during any of our restaurant excursions after work. Note that I did have to safe the pistol during work hours. I had no intention of being “outed” while on a military base. Let’s move forward to the last business trip.
As on previous trips, the shoulder holster is an extremely comfortable means of carry when seated. My manner of dress was a shirt that was covered by my favorite vest from Outback. Sandwiched between the two was the shoulder holster. Since the weather was cool, I also had an outer hunting jacket with me for excursions into businesses that might frown upon firearms being carried into them or that would panic the populace therein.
Leaving in the wee hours of the morning, I had to stop for breakfast at some point. I threw on the over-sized hunting jacket that I had brought with me and entered the local McDonalds. The first stop was the restroom. When I entered the men’s room, a local Sheriff’s deputy was finishing up his business and was on his way to walking out. I bid him a good morning in passing and continued on to do my business. Test number 1 passed with flying colors.
After taking care of some personal business, I placed an order at the counter for a take-out breakfast and after receiving such headed for the vehicle. Test number 2 passed with flying colors.
I arrived at the work site (private company and non-governmental) and decided to leave the 1911 in my vehicle but left the shoulder holster on. I had since taken off my hunting jacket but had left the vest on. For the remainder of the day, the shoulder holster remained on my person. When I left the work site, the first thing was to place the pistol back into the shoulder holster. I decided, at that point, to leave it there as I checked into the hotel that I would be staying at for several days.
Checking into the hotel was done so without any knowledge by the person checking me in that the person standing before her was packing some heavy firepower. A Waffle House was right next door to the hotel and my next stop was to grab some supper – with the shoulder holster on and packed. That event, as well as the others this day, went without incident regarding carrying a concealed firearm. I rested in peace that night at the hotel.
To make a long story short, the remaining time that I spent at the work site, the hotel, and restaurants was carried out with a shoulder holster carried with a “Condition 1” 1911 being housed in it. As far as I was concerned, the trip was a success both professionally and personally.
So, I put forth what should already be known by those followers of the forum – dress around the firearm. In some cases, I had worn the shoulder rig beneath my shirt with the shirt open and loose; at times with and without the outer vest. At other times, the rig was carried sandwiched between my tucked in shirt and my vest.
According to some, the only way that a shoulder holster should be carried is while wearing…
- Linen pants
- Italian sport coat
- Slip-on sockless loafers
But, let’s face the facts that shoulder holsters…
- Are not especially comfortable. The single-harness design puts that binding strap in your armpit. The double-harness design makes your shoulders and neck ache by the end of the day.
- Are not especially concealable. In the movies and TV, the hero can carry a huge gun in a shoulder holster underneath the lightest of shirts or jackets, and you’ll never see the gun until the moment he hauls it out. In real life, you have to have your suit jackets or sport coats tailored to accommodate the extra bulk, and people are going to see the gun every time your coat comes open even a little bit.
- They’re expensive. A decent hip holster costs $25-$75, although you can always spend more. A comparable shoulder holster will run over $100.
- Require you to wear an outer layer of clothing at all times when in public view. If I’m in a restaurant wearing a hip holster and want to take off my jacket, I can slip it off either while seated or with the gun side away from view, then sit in a booth with the gun side near the wall. If I’m wearing a shoulder holster, I’ve got to keep the outer layer of clothing on – unless I am able to properly dress around the firearm and the shoulder rig.
- Require both hands to re-holster. The holster isn’t stable enough to hold still on its own while the gun is inserted. If you’re grappling with someone or need to reach for handcuffs, this is inconvenient.
- Seem to be prone to unintended gun discharges. Too many wearers have caught the trigger on clothing or an edge of the holster and put a hole in their armpit, their hand or hip, or whatever happens to be behind them. The thumb break strap needs to be pushed aside so as to keep the inside of the trigger guard reserved for the trigger only. When inserted the firearm, I use the trigger finger to push the thumb-break strap aside; thus, also keeping my trigger finger away from the trigger.
- You are going to “sweep” something with the firearm during drawing from and inserting into the holster. This is the time not to play with the “bang switch.” While the old tenet applies; “Never point the muzzle at something you do not want to destroy.” I would rather carry concealed with a shoulder holster than an appendix holster, thank you.
- Shoulder holsters have a tendency to swing outward when leaning over on the carry side, or shifting forward when bending over. However, with a properly adjusted shoulder rig, this is a rare occurrence.
- It is harder to get on target when drawing from a shoulder holster. Technique, training, and common sense is essential. Consider that the firearm is on (almost) and even level with the target. Drawing from the holster is an “in-out” proposition; the hand goes in, the firearm comes out – at about the same level as the target. The firearm is brought to the center of the chest and pushed out to the target just as if you were drawing from a strong-side carry holster. In both cases, the support hand can assist – or not. Pulling the firearm from a shoulder holster is just a variation of the cross-draw. With a strong-side draw (or appendix carry), the hand must first go down to retrieve the firearm, then bring the firearm up to chest level, from which it is pushed outward to the target. The shoulder holster draw simply remove the “reach down to the firearm” part of the draw equation.
As it happened, I was able to go about my workday and afterwards while carrying in a shoulder holster. And, yes I did have my favorite IWB holster with me just in case things did not work out with the shoulder rig.
Was I fortunate this trip? I think not, because there were too many occasions that I could have been “outed.”
I am going to throw in a side story for just a moment.
One morning I was enjoying a complimentary breakfast at the hotel. I seated myself with my back toward an outer wall. In the center of the dining area was a higher table that patrons could watch TV while enjoying a meal or favorite beverage(s). Seated at this table was a gentleman with his back to me. I noticed, but paid no attention to him as I ate – until he stood to put on his coat. As he was putting on his jacket I caught the unmistakable flash of metal centered on his belt in the MOB position. The pearl-like grip scale also told me that it was part of a .25 or .32 caliber semi-automatic pistol. I have to admit to grinning inwardly as I watched him walk out of the area. He did not know it, but he had been “outed.”
I should also note that my rental vehicle was picked up and returned while wearing the shoulder rig.
Now, I am not bragging on myself. I am simply stating that a shoulder holster, when worn and covered properly, is as hard to detect as an IWB holster. I will also say, that I can at times detect an IWB carrier (side or appendix carry) before I will detect a shoulder holster. The reasons are several but one thing sticks out (the butt of the gun, usually). I and other are used to scanning the strong side for possible carry than we are for shoulder holsters – unless the carry is highly detectable whether IWB is strong side or shoulder holster.
While I did stray away from my review of the Craft/Vega Shoulder Holster System with Mag Pouch OK1, I can say that the system is excellent for keeping your favorite defensive pistol under wraps if you do your part. No matter how well the quality or the design may be, it is only as effective as your ability to conceal it. That is the name of the game – concealed carry should be concealed carry.
If you decide on a shoulder holster, the Craft/Vega Shoulder Holster System with Mag Pouch Code: OK1 just might be worth looking at.
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
Craft Holsters – Shoulder Holster System with Mag Pouch Code: It.OK1: https://www.craftholsters.com/shoulder-holster-system-with-mag-pouch-p472
Vega Holsters: http://www.vegaholster.com/
Holster Care and Break In: https://www.craftholsters.com/leather-holsters-break-in-care-a18