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GUNS Magazine Digital February 2011 - Page 18
• M A S S A D A Y O O B • the shouLder hoLster Ostentatious Anachronism or useful accessory? he real Eliot Ness wore a first-issue Colt Detective T Special in a shoulder holster. Robert Stack in TV’s mid-20th century show The Untouchables portrayed him with a bigger Colt Official Police 4" .38 in what appeared to be a Lawrence shoulder rig, and Kevin Costner in the movie of the same name played Ness as wearing a 1911 .45 in the same type of rig. Whether in the pages of the novels or on the screen, Mickey Spillane’s popular private detective Mike Hammer just wouldn’t have been the same with his .45 automatic in anything but a shoulder holster under his trench coat. These days, a lot of folks think shoulder holsters are way too “Hollywood,” and not as fast or as practical as a modern belt holster in any case. They’ll get little argument from me; I rarely wear one these days. That said, though, I think a complete modern “holster wardrobe” should contain a good shoulder rig, if only for special purposes. Back in the ’60s, Richard Gallagher conceptualized the Shoulder System, a figure-8 harness which carried the gun under one arm and ammo and even handcuffs on the opposite side. It came to market as the Jackass Shoulder System, and was the foundation of Gallagher’s current gunleather empire, Galco. The system lives today in Galco’s Miami Classic design and others, and has been widely copied throughout the holster industry. There are certain detectives and federal agents who seem to feel their desk or briefcase is their best holster. At least some of them realize that at any moment an emergency might require their immediate response, prompting them to keep a shoulder system in the drawer instead of just a gun. As quickly as donning a vest or jacket, they can slip their arms through the harness of the shoulder system and have gun, spare ammo and cuffs on their person quickly. 18 Similarly, it makes sense as part of a home defense setup. Twenty years ago, I discovered this setup can also serve as an “orthopedic holster.” I had managed to pull my lower back big time, and the doc told me “No weight around the waist, not even a belt!” He knew my job required me to be armed, even on “light duty/Medical,” and I asked, “How about a shoulder holster?” He replied it would be OK if I wore one on each side. I thought he was joking until he explained that if upper body weight tilted one way or the other due to extra load, the lower back would never get right. I wound up with a cobbled together rig (Jackass holster and mag pouch, Rogers harness and Seventrees handcuff case). With a Spyderco knife clipped to the equipment side and a lightweight Colt Commander .45 auto in the holster, weight balanced to the ounce on both sides. It was an unexpected benefit from shoulder holster design. Another way to equally balance is to simply get twin holsters with an identical gun on each side. The subjective fashion statement might be “paranoid” to some and “ostentatious” to others, but for those of us who recognize the advantage of a backup gun that works like the primary, it’s one effective way to implement the concept. I’ve found it awfully heavy with a pair of loaded all-steel 1911s, but not at all uncomfortable for a week at a time of all-day wear with featherweight Baby Glocks. The late, great Skeeter Skelton had holster makers of the day create twin shoulder rigs for him—to carry 1911s in one case and Ruger service revolvers in the other— and seemed pleased with the results. other needs There are other special needs which the shoulder holster fits well. You’re a bodyguard/chauffeur, spending much of your working time in a seated position wearing a seat belt? If you can manage to keep a cover garment on all the time, a shoulder holster will give you quicker access in that position than the typical belt scabbard worn behind the hip. Police pilots love shoulder holsters, for similar reasons, and they are still extremely common among them. On some departments, the pilots are the Twin shoulder holsters by Galco with a pair of identical weight Glock 26 9mms exactly balances weight and eases pressure for “sore lumbar” patients. horizontal carry high under armpit(s) allows maximum draw speed. WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM•FEBRUARY2011