the most noble use for cowhide.

Here are the two main carry rigs I use to comfortably schlep around the Beretta M9 (42oz. loaded weight) and two spare magazines (7.5oz. each):


Bianchi #3S “Pistol Pocket”


Gould & Goodrich “Gold Line” horizontal shoulder holster

Two holsters, both alike in dign…you know what? No. The belt holster is fine as far as reputation goes, but the shoulder rig has no dignity. Let your gun-savvy friends spot you with a shoulder holster, and you’ll have to endure a lot of “Miami Vice” or “Die Hard” jokes.

Let’s go through the advantages and disadvantages of each holster:

Inside-the-waistband belt holster



–Requires only a light cover garment to conceal

–Can be removed from the belt without having to take the cover garment off

–Fast draw

–Easy one-handed reholstering


–Clunks into chairs when seated

–Difficult to access in a sitting position

–Slow draw when wearing multiple layers of cold-weather clothes

–May print when bending over or when the cover garment rides up


Shoulder holster


–Easy access while seated

–Comfortable; distributes gun weight across both shoulders

–Keeps gun and spare ammo together in a grab & go package

–Doesn’t require a sturdy belt

–Doesn’t print to the rear when bending over


–Requires substantial cover garment (an untucked t-shirt won’t cut it)

–Slow draw

–Muzzle safety on the draw (muzzle line crosses own arm if it’s not kept out of the way; gun points at stuff behind the wearer)

–Almost impossible to reholster with one hand

–Presents the firearm butt-forward; potential vulnerability to a gun grab by an assailant (see also: slow draw)

–Cannot be taken off without removing the covering garment first


So which one is the better holster of the two? The answer is a resounding “it depends”.

Today here in Upper Cryogenica, it’s 92 degrees outside. I would not be able to carry that shoulder rig very well. I could put on an untucked short-sleeved shirt over the t-shirt and shoulder rig, but that a.) looks goofy and b.) feels uncomfortable. The Bianchi IWB holster, on the other hand, tucks that Beretta away under an untucked t-shirt, and you won’t be able to tell it’s there unless you have super observation skills or give me a pat-down. In warm to moderate weather, doing regular everyday stuff just walking around, the IWB holster is the better holster of the two.

In January, it will be anywhere from twenty to minus twenty degrees outside, and I’ll be wearing an undershirt, a button-down shirt, a fleece shirt or vest on top, and possibly even a heavy jacket. Getting to that Beretta in the IWB holster will require unzipping the outer garment and digging through two more layers of clothing, or trying to yank everything up over the holster, full pockets and all. The shoulder rig, on the other hand, makes the gun quickly accessible merely by unzipping the jacket zipper halfway (or leaving it that way to begin with.) In cold to severe weather that requires heavier clothing, or doing stuff that requires sitting down or driving a lot, the shoulder holster is the better of the two.

The gun’s a tool, but so is the holster, and that’s why it’s smart to have a toolbox of various holsters for various circumstances. The tactical crowd will tell you that you should always wear your gun at your hip because it conceals best that way and puts it in the same position all the time, but life isn’t a shoothouse, and only the most hardcore dedicated operator types can tailor their clothing and lifestyle around just one carry method. I’m not one of those, so I tailor the carry method to my lifestyle on the fly.

(One thing I will not compromise on, however, is the color-matching. Black holster, black belt, black shoes. Brown holster, brown leather on the rest of the body as well. There’s just no excuse for being unfashionable.)

14 thoughts on “the most noble use for cowhide.

    • Oh, no. Absolutely not. I still carry the six-shooter on occasion. It’s just really hard to find good leather for a 3″ K-frame these days.

        • When I wear just a t-shirt, I leave the mag carrier and the third magazine behind and just tuck a spare magazine into the left-hand pocket next to the wallet.

      • Bianchi Pistol Pocket & a Galco Miami Classic series shoulder holster. Both great for 3″ K-frames.

  1. Curious about your choice for the M9. I like to shoot them, but they seem to get ragged on quite a bit. Mind giving your pros and cons?

    • It’s super-reliable, I can shoot it very well, and I actually like the DA/SA trigger system. It’s really easy to shoot quickly and accurately due to its weight and size, and with the new flush-fit 18-round MecGars, it finally has capacity that matches its frame size. The five-inch tube means better ballistics than what you can get from a compact or subcompact. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt that it looks nice.

      On the minus side, it’s a little big and heavy for a 9mm, but I’ve found that it’s not any harder to conceal for me than a compact Glock. Other drawbacks are the non-replaceable front sight and the inability to mount a light without an aftermarket adapter.

      Overall, they’re just good, reliable, accurate pistols that let me put the holes in the target where I want them, which is pretty much all i can ask of a defensive sidearm.

  2. I usually tell people looking for a shoulder rig to go with a Galco Miami Classic, but that G&G setup looks awesome.

    I think people who automatically dismiss the shoulder holster are ignoring a great solution to a lot of problems, and even though it’s kind of pricy, it’s not that much more than a good holster, belt and pouch combo.

  3. I tossed the double mag pouch from my shoulder rig, and replaced it with a quad pouch. Bought a nylon belt pouch with four flapped slots, and riveted the swivel mounts from an ammo dump pouch to the top and bottom corners so the mags hang horizontally. Found the pouches at a local fun show, cheap. This helps balance the weight better. I can put a flashlight or knife in there, also.
    One of the custom holster makers has a number of multi-mag shoulder rig options, but I couldn’t afford that. My bookmark might be on the other system. I’ll check later.

  4. I find a button-down shirt made of cotton with a square waist and the bottom two buttons hitched covers the gun and shoulder rig very well, and its light enough for a warm summer day. Hawaiian shirt works fine if you have less taste!

    Its fine even for a blazing hot day, just the leather straps will COOK you. They hold in heat like nobody’s business.

  5. Its a shame they dont make that G&G for more models, I’m still hunting for that right shoulder rig for my life.

    I’m partial to a shoulder rig, less as a conceal carry, more of an open carry option for backcountry outings. doesnt get in the way of a backpack as much (hip belt) works great out of a kayak/canoe

    Awesome overall option for an outdoorsman.

    • Look at Aker for shoulder rigs. I prefer their holster, but the “x” in the rig is a little thick, and might print more others. The Galco plastic “X” seems to be the lowest profile connector.

  6. Will — I just mix and match individual components from different manufacturer’s to get the shoulder rig I like. It’s nice when you can get everything from the same company, but not essential. Definately Galco for the suspension, though, IMNSHO.

    • +1 on that.

      I put an X-15 holster onto my old Scorpio horizontal harness with its double mag pouch so I could carry my Rowland conversion 1911 when casually hiking in and near town rather than my cross-chest rig.