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How To Wear Your Shoulder Holster So It's Easier To Draw From

Put on your shoulder holster for the first time and wondered "how the heck am I supposed to draw from this thing?!"

Some people do, especially if it's the first time they've ever used one. What are you supposed to do? If you're going to have this type of a holster, how do you set it up so you can use it more competently?

With a bit of fine-tuning, and a bit of adjustment. No holster is perfect out of the box; usually you have to make a few tweaks, including to a shoulder holsters.

So...how do you get the best draw from a shoulder holster?

Body Mechanics, Cross Draw, And Shoulder Holsters

Okay, before we get into stuff to do with or to your shoulder holster, we have to talk about body mechanics.

A shoulder holster is a cross-draw holster, so you have to draw the gun from across the body. To do that, you have to reach over to the gun, get a shooting grip and draw the gun.

Now, you can only reach so far across the body due to human anatomy.

The upper bone of the arm, the humerus, sits in the pocket of the scapula, which is the shoulder blade, which is in turn reinforced by the clavicle, the bone that runs from the sternum to the shoulder.

Now, as you reach across the body, eventually you feel your tendons and ligaments stretch and you hit a point where you can't reach across any further. At that point, the pocket of the scapula prevents the head of the humerus from rotating any further.

An efficient draw requires a minimal amount of strain. If you have to stretch and strain to get the gun out, your shoulder holster is set up wrong. You shouldn't feel much of a stretch at all.

Therefore, the first step is to set up your shoulder holster so you can efficiently grasp the pistol without issue. In fact, if you only adjust your shoulder holster for an easy draw...you're ahead of the curve.

Shoulder Holster Ride Height Cant Angle: Vertical? Horizontal? Somewhere In Between?

shoulder holster cant angle

One thing you'll want to look at is the cant angle of the shoulder holster, meaning the angle that the actual holster itself sits at.

The classic shoulder holster cant angle is either a vertical or horizontal cant angle, both of which have their pros and cons.

A horizontal cant angle is the harder to draw from as you have to reach across and back; on the draw, you have to contort the wrist as you pull the gun from the holster and rotate it into presentation to the target.

A vertical cant angle is a little easier, but where it gets tricky is in getting the ride height correct. Too low and you have to stretch to get to the gun, too high and your shoulder impinges as you reach over.

Too high a ride height also makes carrying with a shoulder holster awkward and uncomfortable, regardless of cant angle.

The best place for the gun TENDS to be, though isn't always for everyone, close to the bottom of the rib cage or somewhere around there. That tends to be something of a sweet spot for an easy reach without stretching.

Now, this is all fine and good, but it comes down to what works best for you. You'll have to find the exact position, ride height and cant angle that work best for you.

What you're looking for is a ride position that allows you to easily reach over, grasp the gun and draw it clean. You should be able to reach the pistol comfortably and efficiently. If you have to stretch at all to get to it, you have more work to do.

Belt Hooks Make A Big Difference With A Shoulder Holster

A sometimes overlooked feature of shoulder holsters is the belt hooks, which aren't necessarily available with all makes and models of shoulder holster. It's a good idea to get one that is.

And why is that?

So, without belt hooks anchoring the shoulder holster down, it flaps around, especially when moving.

For one, it makes carrying your shoulder holster a little awkward.

More importantly, it makes the holster less stable, and this is a critical aspect.

A holster of any type - it doesn't matter if it's a shoulder holster or an IWB holster - needs to create a stable platform to draw from. A pistol, suspended under the arm, without anything anchoring it down, is not going to be the most stable.

Bear in mind that it's one thing to try and draw from a gun when you're dry firing or on a nice, flat range standing still. It's a whole other ball game if you're trying to do so when dynamic movement is taking place and you bet your backside you'll be moving if the stakes are real.

While belt hooks don't keep the holster perfectly still, they will keep it more or less in the same place as you move.

You Have To Train With Your Shoulder Holster

At the risk of becoming a broken record on this point - we've said it a lot - you have to train with your shoulder holster. You have to train with whatever gear you're going to actually have with you at the moment of truth, or else it's worthless.

If you're going to wear an OWB holster, a shoulder holster, whatever, and actually carry a gun with it, you need to train with that holster. If you don't train how you'll fight, then anything you do at the range is practically worthless.

A lot of people get a shoulder holster because they saw James Bond wear one in the movies, or Sonny Crockett use one on TV. That sold a lot of Galco Jackass rigs back in the 80s, and a lot of Bren Ten and later S&W 4506 pistols.

If you're going to be serious about using one, then you have to train with it. Get it dialed in so you can draw and present your pistol efficiently and effectively. You have to use a shot timer and scorable targets so you can quantify how effective you are with it.

Get your shoulder holster dialed in, and then get to training. If you expect to actually use it to carry a gun, that's where you're going to discover further tweaks that you need to make.