Are Shoulder Holsters Dangerous?

Shoulder holsters have historically had some popularity with concealed carriers, especially for those who wear jackets.

However, over the past years, they’ve grown a reputation for violating safety rules. Are shoulder holsters dangerous?

Shoulder holsters can be dangerous like any other holster. Since it’s a cross-draw type that requires reaching across your torso, it can have a slow draw time. One of the biggest complaints is that it involves sweeping yourself or bystanders when you draw. 

In the rest of the article, we’ll point out the dangers, advantages, and disadvantages of shoulder holsters.

We’ll also outline different types of shoulder holsters, their features, pros, and cons, as well as give you several tips on purchasing and using shoulder holsters if you’re set on one. 

The Disadvantages and Potential Dangers of Shoulder Holsters

Trainers and instructors are probably the toughest critics of shoulder holsters due to safety concerns, namely violating the Cardinal Rules of Firearm’s Safety.

Some of these concerns are unique to shoulder holsters, while others come with all types.


Drawing out a gun from a horizontal or vertical shoulder holster involves sweeping everyone to your side.

Shoulder holsters work the same as cross-draw holsters. You’re bound to hold the gun horizontally and point it away from your side at some point during the draw stroke.

Suppose a person is standing on your left side, and you remove your weapon from a shoulder holster.

If there happens to be a negligent discharge, there’s a good chance that the other person will be in the line of fire.

Another safety concern is with horizontal shoulder holsters in which the muzzle points to your back.

This means it will be pointing at anyone standing behind you.

Limited Maneuvering

Another problem concerns when you get attacked closely.

If the attacker grabs you by your strong arm or gets their arms around you, you can’t draw the weapon quickly and easily enough.

The attacker can also hold your arm while you’re trying to reach your gun, and they can easily keep your arm pinned.

In these situations, the only way you can protect yourself is to fight until you’re free.

Another shortcoming is that shoulder holsters have low-security levels (retention) in “snatch-and-grab” situations.

Like cross-draw holsters, the assailant has access to the grip, making it easier for them to grab it if it’s seen. 

If you have your chest pressed against a wall or the ground, you’ll have difficulty drawing your gun.

Most of the time, people who carry the firearm in their shoulder holsters think it’s unlikely to face such conditions, and they’ll have enough time and space to draw their weapon.

Negligent Discharges

It also presents dangers for your own body while you draw the gun.

During the draw stroke, if you fail to draw it in a way that the muzzle gets out of the holster properly, you will be pointing the muzzle at your body (I get it, it happens).

It’s not unusual to see negligent discharges with these types of holsters.

The trigger gets caught in the clothing or the holster’s edge, leading to injuries in the armpit, hand, or hip.

These concerns don’t mean that wearing shoulder holsters leads to more people being killed.

However, these holsters are more unique, and training is needed when using these.

So, you’ll need to put a lot of effort into getting the safety rules and handling the gun right.

In addition to safety concerns, there are also some disadvantages regarding concealment and comfort.

Not So Concealed 

It’s difficult to make sure nobody notices your gun, so shoulder holsters require wearing jackets or coats.

It complicates wearing them in hot weather or in social situations where you need to take off your jacket. 

Suppose you’re at a gathering or at a restaurant where they ask you to take off your jacket.

You could go to the bathroom and remove it, but what are you going to do with it?

It’s an awkward and tricky situation that usually makes you leave your weapon in the car, leaving you unarmed. 

Plus, since these shoulder rigs can sometimes be bulky (depending on gun size), you need to adjust your jacket to allow room for the bulk. If your jacket is tight, it’s easily noticed.

Requires More Training

Working with shoulder holsters requires training just like with other holster types. Normally, we have our hands relaxed at our sides.

To draw your gun from the shoulder holster, you’ll need to reach back under your arm, which requires a higher level of skill and time to execute.

Since most firearm schools, ranges, and shooting competitions prohibit the use of shoulder holsters, you won’t have a lot of chance practicing them if it’s your main concealed carry option.

Also, you won’t get much training regarding how to use them.

Difficult to Reholster

You need both hands to reholster as it doesn’t hold still when you insert the gun.

It’s particularly inconvenient when you’re trying to handle something else or grappling with someone.


Compared to other types of holsters, it’s a bit overpriced for what you get.

You can find much better options at a comparable price.

Although you can find shoulder holsters at prices as low as $20, they’re garbage.

The material, comfort, size, and security are what you can’t compromise for a lower cost.

Why Is a Shoulder Holster a Good Option?

Regardless of the disadvantages and potential dangers, a shoulder holster may be the preferred option for some concealed carry folks.

Here’s why:


If you get a shoulder holster with wide straps that fits you, you’ll notice how comfortable it is to wear.

Most of the people who criticize these holsters for being uncomfortable or heavy ignore this important point.

Your shoulders and upper back support the harness, making it a perfect choice for people with smaller waists.

It gives decent access when you’re sitting buckled up in a car.

It’s much more comfortable than, say, a strong-side holster.

It’s perfect for cold weather as you don’t need to conceal it under many layers of clothes.

There’s only one layer, which is your jacket or coat.

However, this goes for most types of concealed carry.

Additionally, you can carry all you need, including your gun and spare ammo, in your shoulder rig.

There’s no need to carry extra gear for other equipment.

Everything is inside a single package, and you can carry extra magazines, and sometimes additional gear.

Provides Better Weight Distribution

Some prefer it for heavier guns since it provides better weight distribution.

A shoulder holster can distribute the weight evenly over your shoulders.

This is particularly suitable for you if you have lower back problems.


Horizontal holsters allow you to put your hand on the firearm without giving yourself away or alarming anyone.

You can cross your arms and get a firing grip without being noticed. 

Also, if you don’t have a problem wearing extra layers of clothes, you can be sure you won’t print.

They work well in the winter.

Should You Get a Shoulder Holster?

Considering all the potential dangers and the upsides of a shoulder holster, you may wonder if they’re glamorized by Hollywood, or are they viable options?

While the safety concerns are legitimate, if the gun is properly secured inside the holster, it won’t present any dangers.

If your holster perfectly matches the firearm, it will stop the trigger from being pulled by protecting it.

The issues come with the draw and with reholstering.

The safety of a holster depends on how trained and cautious the user is.

A gun and its holster are only as safe as the person who carries it if quality gear is being used.

Honestly, the safety concerns regarding negligent discharge can be present with any gun and holster type. 

The slow draw time, which is natural due to the cross-draw type, increases the importance of situational awareness.

If you’re aware of what’s going on around you, it can give you additional time when needed.

With all that being said and to directly answer the question, NO, I don’t feel like you should get one.

There are much better options for both concealability, access, and safety.

Wrapping Up

Shoulder holsters are one of the most controversial holster types for concealed carry.

While some people praise them for their comfort, others hate them as the most uncomfortable type. 

The safety issues have led to their ban in most ranges and law-enforcement premises.

They have a slow draw time compared to other holster types.

When you draw the gun, you’ll be likely to sweep yourself or other people.

Both vertical and horizontal shoulder holsters have the gun pointing in a direction that can harm the wearer or other people in that direction. 

The final point is that shoulder holsters are not for everyone.

Their usefulness depends on different factors: gun type, your daily routine, how you dress, weather, and even your height.


Can shoulder holsters be dangerous to the wearer?

Shoulder holsters can be dangerous to the wearer if they are not worn or used properly.

If the wearer is not familiar with the proper handling and use of the firearm, there is an increased risk of negligent discharge.

This is more likely to happen during the draw or reholster.

Are shoulder holsters more likely to cause negligent discharges than other types of holsters?

There is no inherent risk of negligent discharge that is specific to shoulder holsters. Negligent discharges can occur with any type of holster if the firearm is not handled and stored safely.

Can shoulder holsters be difficult to draw from in an emergency situation?

Shoulder holsters can be more difficult to draw from than other types of holsters, especially if the wearer is not accustomed to using one.

This is because the gun is positioned across the chest from their strong hand and the wearer must reach across their body to access it.

It may take more time and practice to develop the necessary skills and dexterity to quickly and safely draw from a shoulder holster.

Can shoulder holsters be uncomfortable to wear?

Some people may find shoulder holsters to be uncomfortable to wear, especially if they are not adjusted properly.

The straps may dig into the shoulders or the weight of the firearm may cause the holster to shift or become unbalanced.

It may be necessary to try out different brands and styles of shoulder holsters to find one that is comfortable for the wearer.

Are shoulder holsters legal to wear in public?

The legality of wearing a shoulder holster in public will depend on the laws of the specific jurisdiction.

In some places, it may be legal to openly carry a firearm in a shoulder holster, while in other places it may be illegal to carry a firearm in any way in public.

It is important to familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations regarding the carrying of firearms before using a shoulder holster in public.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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