Some ’80s fashions should stay there. Popped collars and lapel pins? Spare me. Leotards and leg warmers? I’m on-board with that. Shoes without socks, and chin stubble? That’s just gross—and that isn’t a beard, it’s just not shaving. Horizontal shoulder holsters? Not on my range, you don’t.
The horizontal holster has two problems—one is a fashion/tactical concern and the other is just un-nerving.
The fashion/tactical one is simple: unless you are barrel-chested, most people aren’t deep enough to truly hide a full-size pistol that way. And if you are barrel-chested, then reaching it can be a problem. That, however, is a problem between you, your tailor and your chiropractor.
The unnerving part? Everywhere you go, the muzzle of your handgun is sweeping everyone behind you.
“But, Sweeney, you just the other day were expressing fondness for an upside-down shoulder rig,” you say. Yes, for double-action revolvers. And small ones at that. But such a rig points only at me, and the movement of drawing takes its muzzle off of me very quickly. A horizontal shoulder holster points at other people all the time, and the draw stroke doesn’t do much to mitigate that.
The design is so strongly thought of that there are trainers, range safety officers and law enforcement supervisors who flatly forbid their use on their ranges. That said, are there daily reports of mishaps with such rigs? No. In fact, I’m not sure I can lay hands on even a handful of incidents with a horizontal shoulder holster, even after decades of being in the business and wearing guns.
So, why do people use them, even though they give me, and others, the willies?
Comfort is one reason. The best designs use a spare ammunition carrier on the other side, and even attach that part of the rig to your belt, to balance the weight. Ease of draw is another. When you reach for the handgun, you don’t have to contort your wrist to get a proper grip on the firearm. You just reach over in the normal fashion, as if you were going to (discreetly or not) scratch yourself. Wearing a handgun while in a vehicle makes the horizontal rig a lot more attractive. And clearly the fashion part, where it can “print” or show, doesn’t bother people.
The hard part about hiding such a rig is the muzzle. If you aren’t deep enough in the chest, or you have selected a handgun that is too big, the muzzle will push a bulge in the back of your jacket (or whatever else you happen to be wearing) and show. Back when we were playing “spot the gun” at the gun shop, this was such an obvious tell that we debated even allowing it as a score.
Now, there are hierarchies here, as in everywhere. Were I going to be packing heat with a horizontal rig, I would be sure to select a handgun appropriately. I would not be using anything that didn’t have either a thumb safety, like a 1911, or that wasn’t a traditional double-action pistol or revolver.
The thumb safety on the 1911 would be built to max pressure needed. I don’t want the safety down unless I have pressed as hard on it as a real-world need will produce. No easy-click-off safeties for me. And a double-action pistol or revolver, with a heavier trigger pull, is fine.
No way am I going to carry a pistol that has its safety on the trigger, unless there is also a thumb safety involved as well.
Can I back up these prejudices with hard numbers?
No. The horizontal rig just gives me the willies, and packing a gun is enough work without adding to it. And when it comes time to practice, I’d have to find a range that lets me practice with the horizontal holster. Some things just call for more work and attention. This is one of them.