Sometimes it seems that there are as many different options for concealed carry as there are handguns to be carried. But in recent decades the focus for methods of carrying a handgun have (like many other things) gravitated to the waistband — in some respects that focus has been so intense that it often seems all other methods have been forgotten or abandoned. And when conversation strays from the simplistic “inside or outside” the beloved waistband, some method involving odd and uncomfortable spandex contraptions is often involved.
Of course, there is always the obligatory nod toward off-body carry — particularly for women, who can have a bag on their shoulder 24/7 without drawing attention. Before you scream out that I didn’t mention appendix … I did — I said waistband, which last time I looked has a position for appendix carry. And there’s even small of the back if you want to talk about really bad ideas.
The method of concealed carry that I have heard mentioned the least often in recent years, is arguably one of the very best — at least in certain circumstances. I’m talking about shoulder holster carry.
Now, before you smirk at the visual images of Dirty Harry, Barney Miller and Miami Vice that just flashed into your head, let me just say that when I first acquired my concealed carry permit they were still producing new versions of at least two of those! I carried a full-sized .45 autopistol in a shoulder rig for several years before personal wardrobe choices and other factors caused me to move the dominant position southward.
There are many excellent reasons to carry via shoulder holster. Just to name a few:
- if you spend much time driving or sitting;
- if you frequently need to extend your reach or bend down;
- if you have medical issues such as back or hip pain;
- if you want to invisibly carry two full extra magazines; or
- if you’re just tired of buying three sizes of pants in every style you like.
A New Spin?
What was old is new again, as often happens as we pass through the cycles of practical fashion. And one of the best holster companies is clearly one of the more aware.
Alien Gear now offers a complete shoulder holster system made to fit a large variety of handguns. And as they tend to do, the designers at Alien Gear have added a great deal of innovation to an already sound foundation. The hands-down winner is the concealed carrier with another superb option for everyday carry of their handgun.
I carried with a shoulder rig long enough to know the things I liked and didn’t like about them, so I was very interested to see what Alien Gear’s approach was to this style of concealment. Starting with material and construction, I was very impressed when the holster arrived.
The high-quality black leather is nicely married to the non-leather parts via strong stitching, Velcro and buckles. The unit is designed for comfort as well as function, with nice padding in all the contact points, and a well-padded and sweat-guarded backing to the handgun and magazine carriers.
I asked for the holster sized for the Springfield Armory Hellcat. A few reasons for that as opposed to getting it for an XD-M Elite, which would be just as viable an option. One of the few downsides to a shoulder holster that orients the gun horizontally is that a long gun can start to print from the back under certain circumstances. A short-barreled gun like the Hellcat is unlikely to have that problem.
Also, I prefer to carry the same gun year-round, even though I vary the method of carry and the holster system I’m using. Because I’ve yet to find any carry method that is best under all circumstances, I will rotate through position — but I like to do so with the exact same gun if possible.
The other consideration is that with the 15-round magazine for the pistol, the Hellcat gives me full-sized capacity in a micro-compact form factor. And here’s a tip about shoulder holsters — the height of the gun makes virtually no difference, unlike waistband carry, where it is the most “printable” dimension of all. Carrying the pistol loaded with 15+1 keeps it just as concealed as the 11-round mag does.
Alien Gear has added its own flair to the time-tested design by using an injection molded shell as the holder for the handgun, and a push-release locking mechanism as added retention. Because it is cleverly located, it is both quickly accessible to the wearer for release, yet extremely unlikely to ever be released accidentally. After just a minute of practice, it became like second nature to operate the release easily.
The opposite side provides storage for two loaded magazines, oriented horizontally. The tension is adjustable (and the tool for adjustment is actually stored on the device) to ensure a snug fit. The mag pouches can be easily removed to be replaced with another size.
The same is true of the handgun shell, making this a truly modular system that can be easily adapted to many different guns. So, if you’re not like me and you want to carry several different guns in the same rig, Alien Gear has you covered.
But more importantly, you can modify the holster at a minimum cost due to the modular design. Also supplied are strong leather straps, adjustable, with polymer hooks that attach to the wearer’s belt to stabilize the holster on both sides. I prefer mine without, but if you are likely to move a lot — even run or jog — this would be an ideal option to employ.
The fit and finish of the Alien Gear shoulder holster system is excellent, as is the design and innovation used to modernize this classic carry method. Wear the right sized pants and carry your handgun where gentlemen do — just under a smart jacket. Or, sit comfortably behind the wheel in your cotton summer casual button-down with your gun in easy reach.
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Alien Gear Springfield Hellcat ShapeShift Shoulder Holster
XD-M® Elite Series