Chest And Shoulder Mounted Handgun Rigs

Holster post1

When I had arrived at my first unit assignment in the military, the handgun available for issue in that unit was the M1911A1 (Beretta M9’s had not reached us yet due to our old timers dragging their feet on turning in the 1911’s). Of course I was a youngster and thought more was better (ammo capacity) in the handgun dept, and it took a little while to find the reasoning behind not wanting the M9.

One of the first things I did upon my arrival was go to E7’s and E8’s, make an introduction, and ask them a few questions about various things and how they prefered doing it. One of those questions was “What personal handgun do you carry?” The majority chose the Browning Hi-Power P35, and about 1/3 said the 1911A1. The next question was “What holster do you use?”. The answers I received were everything from the standard full flap leather mil issue rig, to tanker/aviator holsters and other types of shoulder rigs.

I started out using a tanker rig for my Hi-Power and 1911A1, and always liked the convenience of it as a field rig. I have used the regular shoulder holster designs, both horizontal and vertical (carried a 6″ N frame Smith for a bit), and  am a huge fan of the horizontal shoulder rig. I use the horizontal shoulder rig for my off duty carry guns, and have never had a reason to question that choice.


Holster post6.JPG

When it comes to holster selection, the deciding factors for most people are usually “Price”, “What fits you the best”, “Speed of weapon presentation”, and “Protecting the gun”, and usually in that order. Like my Belt holster post, I’m going to cover a few of these types of holsters that I have actually used in the field and on the street, and review the benefits and detriments of each.


Holster post4

The chest strap on the holster is from a Camelbak. It kept the holster from shifting around as much when working around vehicles etc. in a FOB setting.

Holster post5

First up, the lowly horizontal shoulder holster. As you can see from pics above, I haven’t just used it for my concealed carry needs, but I used it all the time in a combat theater. “Why am I such a big fan?” you ask. Well, it’s a simple answer, really. With a shoulder rig, I can have my weapon, extra ammo, and a fixed blade knife all together in one “pick up and go” package. No threading it on my belt, or putting my paddle holster on one side, ammo on the other, and putting the fixed blade knife wherever.

It is convenient to be able to pick up my rig as I get ready to go, or hear a bump in the night, and know everything I need for that weapon, as well as backup (a knife doesn’t need to be reloaded) to that in one easy to don package. The shoulder rig is easy to hide (well, actually it depends on your build and/or the size of your “energy reserve”), and as an example, if you are in the middle of a quickly escalating situation in let’s say a convenience store while waiting to pay, simply crossing your arms puts you in a position to have your hand on your weapon while not appearing obvious or threatening.


Although I don’t normally carry the 27 round mag in my Glock 30, It is a regular carry gun, and I almost always carry it in the shoulder holster.

I’ve regularly carried concealed for 25 years, and in that time I’ve learned to appreciate the shoulder holster for a number of reasons. 1) It carries everything for the weapon together. 2) It will hide a fairly large gun well for me. 3) It is easily accessible while driving, and works even better in that role than the crossdraw, since the crossdraw is impeded by the seat belt at times (the crossdraw is generally only recommended by people with little or no experience in actual concealed carry, but it works well for long barreled handguns while hunting). 4) If I end up on my back in a fight (never happens, right?), it is easier for me to access the shoulder holster than any waist mounted holster I’ve tried.


This is an “Elite Survival Systems” holster. The only addition I’ve made is the elastic bungee under the thumb break, and that is on all my shoulder rigs.


An advantage of this shoulder rig is that you can switch out holsters or ammo carriers, due to the modular design. The first holster I had like this was from “Assault Systems” back in the 80’s, and it gives you many more options than a holster designed for only one gun.

What are the downsides to a shoulder rig? 1) If you are very thin, it doesn’t conceal well. 2) If your “modular food storage unit” is designed for “long term sustainment”, you probably can’t reach your weapon with your strong hand. 3) If you have to wear it over something (jacket, body armor, etc.), you probably will have to adjust the straps for a comfortable fit. 4) In certain instances, it might be slightly slower than a strong side holster, but of course this also depends on how much you practice your draw, and what garment is concealing it.


My warm weather gun is a Keltec PF9 in this Galco Classic Lite rig. It is very concealable.

OK, now on to one of my favorite field holsters, the Tanker/Aviator holster. As I said earlier, I carried a Browning Hi-Power (then a Glock 17) for a number of years in a rig like this. One reason we used it was simply because you could put it under your BDU blouse if you did not want it to be noticed by certain administrative types who came out to the field, and were stuck on stupid when it came to practical field regulations and reality.

Advantages of the Tanker rig 1) It is up out of the way. 2) It doesn’t general catch on things while on patrol. 3)  It’s easy to maintain positive control of your weapon. 4) It is concealable if necessary. 5) It is easy to adjust it to fit around different types of combat gear.

Holster post2

The Tanker rig being used with an aviator survival vest. The advantage here, compared to a vest mounted holster is that I can take the vest off, and still wear the holster.


Disadvantages of the Tanker rig. 1) It is slower tha a lot of the holsters on the market today. 2) It doesn’t protect your weapon like an under the shoulder or flap holster will. 3) If you hit the ground hard on your chest, it gives you that “less than optimal” feeling (ask me how I know). 4) Low or high crawling with it can fill the holster with crap, but as a caveat, you can shift it around to your side to keep this from happening.

Holster post3

This is a Tanker rig for an M29 N frame S&W 4 inch  .44 mag. It makes a great way to carry this gun while hunting or hiking.

As I said above, a big advantage of these types of holsters (Shoulder or Tanker) is that they are not attached to your combat gear, and can be worn separately in camp, a vehicle, etc.


Both of these Tanker rigs have a CRKT Sting knife attached, and spare ammo carriers.

The Tanker style holsters pictured above have extra ammo attached to them. The Glock 21 rig has two 13 round mags, and the M29 has four 6 round speedloaders. The speedloader pouch I use is a surplus M1 Carbine 15 round 2 mag pouch. I have used these for about 28 years to carry extra speed loaders, The second speedloader in each pocket sits directly above the first speedloader.



I can use the Glock 21 holster for my Beretta M9 as well, since they are so close in size.


My M94 Taurus .22 sits in a mil surplus Aviator holster when I go out hunting.

Are these holsters perfect? Not hardly. But the longer you experiment with different types of gear, the more you come to realize that nothing is. These are my opinions based on decades of use. Hopefully, it has helped you understand not only the benefits, but the downsides of these different types of holsters, and helps you make a more practical choice.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE



31 thoughts on “Chest And Shoulder Mounted Handgun Rigs

  1. Pingback: MDT: Chest And Shoulder Mounted Handgun Rigs | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. First rule in Barry’s Little Old Lady Gunfighting School (yes, there really was such a thing — and the students really were little old ladies) was: “If it is not in your hand it is too late.”


    • Roger that Sarn’t! Young “gunfighter wanna be’s” always look at me like I’m an ignoramus when I say that, but of course when I ask about their “quickdraw” experience, they will say “I saw this youtube video…..”.

      • Would that be the Tex Grebner (look it up), quickdraw? Lol. I carry several j frames daily one of which is always in a Ken Null smz. Old timer Green Beanie SFC enlightened me on the tanker rig for the 1911 back when Don Johnson made the jackass rig cool.

        Keep up the valuable info, enjoy the blog

  3. Good stuff here. For the wheel gun, I really liked the speed-loaders tucked in the M1 Carbine mag pouch. Got me plenty of them; they will be used. THANKS!

    • Good to hear CC. I found it by accident when I needed to store speedloaders in my shooting bag (I always used the normal SL pouches on my gear before). I had them laying around since I had an M1 carbine, and shazam, I found a better SL pouch that held more SL’s, and is in the right color (usually painted my double SL pouches), and fit my N frame SL’s. I was really happy because there isn’t a lot out there for .44 Mag size SL’s and this fit perfectly.

      • That stacking of Model 29 (or other, N-frames’ calibers would work, as well) into good ol’ M1 Carbine 15-round mag pouches is brilliant. I couldn’t understand why, but I could always shoot better with a 4″ 29 than with either a 5″ or 6.5″ version, since you’d think that the longer sight radius would help the longer barrels. Tain’t necessarily so. If folks don’t have any M1 carbine pouches, I’m betting any competent Kydex fabricator could cobble-up something that’d hold those HKS speedloaders, or either Galco or DeSantis might have something. ALSO, while you’re visiting with your Kydex-bender, hand him your blade, and see if he can make you a better way of carrying THAT, as well. (For everything from belt loop, paddle, or plate carrier/chest rig/shoulder holster carry, the resulting Kydex sheath may be MUCH better, and one can often get the various fittings to install, yourself, as you see-fit. 550 cord looped-through the little grommeted holes will do, just fine, on MOLLE, old-school LBE suspenders, or on most plate carriers. The one downside can be insofar as noise discipline, while either skinning, or re-sheathing your blade, what-with the “thock” sound, especially if your blade has a substantial handguard. Having something that works in a seated, vehicular environment is smart. Learn to release the weapon with EITHER hand, though, especially if you are an UBER Driver, venturing into shitty parts of town. When afoot, I prefer belt, strong side carry, up-high, since those low-slung, thigh rigs can gouge you, if you ever have to ROLL, but I’ve used the vertical, the horizontal, and the “tanker” style shoulder rigs,
        and those all worked, so long as they fit the intended handgun well. The business about having one rig that holds handgun, reloads, and backup blade, all in one “throw-it-on” package is right-on, since this can ALSO be done, in your skivvies, if need-be, right? I mean, you might not feel “dressed,” without it, when something goes “bump,” in the night, that might need to be more adequately ventilated, at any moment. Good stuff, as usual, SSG Dodge!

  4. On the semi-auto Tanker rig: the retention strap is in the way of getting a good grip on the pistol, unlike the wheel gun. Chris & I have talked about this and perhaps a bit of 550 elastic cord could be worked. For now, I don’t use the retention strap when I wear the rig. I use the strap only when donning, doffing or transporting.

    G-code holsters also have a horizontal (actually variable angle) shoulder holster setup that I use with my G17/G26. It is an adjustable tension kydex holster with a dual mag carrier on the opposite shoulder. I have found that to keep the rig webbing from coming out of adjustment that using two back to back triglides works very well. The G-code setup also allows for customizing the rotation of the holster and mag carrier. With this system I can easily move my kydex holster from a duty drop belt setup to the shoulder harness.

  5. Well,the one thing I will say about all those rigs is they would force me to become proficient in drawing/shooting with me left hand!

  6. Handguns are OK and all but; They take up room I can use for other things. For the price in penalty weight of my 1911A1 and 3 mags (21 rounds) I can pack an extra 48 rounds for my Garand, or 60 rounds for the AKM (in strippers) . One extra days chow or another canteen. Everybody seems to not want to know that in a TEOTWAWKI balls out civil war two thing that will change in week one will be the total end to gasoline stocks (infantry go’s back to footslogger & mules) and resupply that becomes whatever is in your web gear at that moment or granny hands out to the passin’ boys. Nobody is training for the reality of an end to walmart and BP “on demand” resupply. Y’all know WHY Willy and Joe carried next to nothing all thru WW2? Cause they walked everywhere they went. Something The US Army has not done or trained for since Vietnam. I guess since I don’t pack an AR-15 I haven’t felt the need for a back up for when it fails. I also think that the “wisdom” found on the interweb is often goofy. ( everyone demands MASSIVE first aid rigs , but they have no plan to evacuate the wounded and no secure place to evacuate them TOO. “trainers” who insist on Steel plate armor ,and ruck loads that would break a 19 year old Marine on fifty year olds. The list of RSS seems almost endless). Hand guns look cool and are great for cops, drivers , and anybody else that don’t walk for a living. But if you carry a rife all day they are a huge pain in the ass ( I quit carrying mine the day I realized that every time I trained It wound up in my ruck)

      • Yes you did, however; You were trained as a mechanized solder as was everyone(myself included) in the ground force military since the end of WW2. EVERYTHING about your equipment , weapons selection, ammunitions loads, ruck loads and communications reflect that training as Mech. solder and police officer. You are trained and equipped to expect an “on demand” logistic system , the ability to both advance and retreat with great speed and to be able to communicate instantly. Bringing forward both supply and reinforcement Mechanized ground force and all of its training and logistics, only work while the motorized transport holds out. That ALL stops when the fuel runs out. Once that ability to move and react rapidly on the battlefield are lost EVERYTHING changes. Your force may be intact , but your planning both strategic and tactical must change. Your equipment , tailored to the needs of motorized maneuver, become a burden, not an asset. If we are ever forced to fight to regain our freedom the FIRST things the government will cut is the fuel supply, and the electricity. The first thing WE will cut is the road net. IF G_D forbid. We are ever forced into this fight, the resultant Army of the American People will look one hell of a lot more like the army did in 1918 or 1865 , than it will the army’s of the 21st. century. Nothing about your training and equipment reflect that. Please don’t get me wrong. I think from reading this blog that you ,like Max , and “Mosby” are competent and well trained men. You are just burdened with your training and experience in a modern “on demand” military and world, and you haven’t seen passed that training and mindset– yet.

        • Obviously you haven’t really looked at what I carry and how I carry it. You are right, we will have to hump it all without the convenience of vehicles. That is why I advocate what I do. “EVERYTHING about your equipment , weapons selection, ammunition loads, ruck loads and communications reflect that training”. My loadout and training is geared towards worst case scenario from a Survivalist’s perspective, not the military’s. One of those “Worst case” scenarios is getting my family out of a situation without vehicles, and the first “Bug Out” location being compromised. “the resultant Army of the American People will look one hell of a lot more like the army did in 1918 or 1865 , than it will the army’s of the 21st. century. Nothing about your training and equipment reflect that.”Reflect what? I you study the former Yugoslavia in the ’90’s, you’ll get an idean of what I believe we’ll see. I find it funny that you say that, but I’ve heard the exact opposite from Max and Mosby. “You carry too much gear” is usually one of the lines, but I know this is something that is coming from guys who are, as you say, stuck in that “Mech mindset”, and not thinking about it from a Survivalists POV. What you have on your back could be it, with no resupply available. I figured that out when I was 15 Ray. Trust me, if I was gearing my training and equipment strictly towards the lines that I was trained in, it would be somewhat different. I train with the max load I can carry on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean I will be carrying that when it hits. BTW, the first two units I served in were geared towards riding a vehicle to the airfield, chopper (primarily) or fixed wing to the AO, jump/rappel in, then hump it to the objective, whatever type of objective/mission it was. Chopper out, and a vehicle back to the HQ. I guess if that is Mech (I see your point) oriented to you, OK, but it is not what I orient my training or loadout towards today (Although It would be nice to have vehicles available, I don’t plan on it after the “P” in PACE). I’m a big fan of redundancy, but not to the extreme. Tools that are pivotal from a survival perspective are given redundancy if possible. This is simply due to their overall importance in keeping you alive. The handgun is something you keep on you, but if you notice, I don’t teach “cool guy” transitions (although I can do them [work requirement], I don’t teach or advocate it in primary weapons training), because I know the reality of a handgun in combat, and it’s not the cool MW3 image some trainers want you to have. I appreciate your input, hopefully some that read this will get something out of your perspective. BTW, one of the primary reasons I advocate having a handgun, is due to being in situations where you might not want to be overtly armed.

    • I’m glad Ray said this. We never carried rucks during ops. They were humped in during infil, then dumped ASAP in the “stash” (not cache). My LBE was a SAS wind smock with poacher pocket. My hand gun was in a flap holster belted to the small of my back — with one spare mag in my left trouser pocket. Never drew it.

  7. Sir,
    Great article on shoulder/chest holsters. I am curious as to what prompted you to add the elastic cord to the horizontal shoulder holsters. I inherited a couple of the Jackass/Galco shoulder rigs many years ago but haven’t really taken the time to got comfortable with them as my Dept discourages shoulder holsters.

  8. For 38/357 SL’s I have found they fit great in Ruger 10/22 mag holders. Triple K makes a double holder in leather with belt loop.

  9. Pacific Canvas and Leather makes some great reproductions of the classic US shoulder holsters like the M3, M7 and the Victory model. My S&W 66 fits the Victory holster perfect, but I couldn’t find a speed loader holder that matched. Thanks for the heads up on the M1 Carbine pouch!

  10. Pingback: The Tanker Holster | The Jolly Landsknecht

  11. Pingback: Chest and Shoulder Mounted Handgun Rigs - Knuckledraggin My Life AwayKnuckledraggin My Life Away

  12. You M1 Garand guys need to know that the current issue molle grenade pouch (with the snap) fits two Garand clips (with cardboards) perfectly. I did a little in-country tour with the 5th SFG (Abn) (1964, 65 & 66) and also carried a 1911 in a 1942 tanker holster, w/2 mag clip pouch on my belt. No rucks on 2-3 day patrols, just ammo for my M2 Carbine (preferred 15 rd mags with one 30 rounder to break contact) along with a couple of bandoliers, carbine bayonet, 45, 2 grenades (to also break contact with) 2 canteens, and whatever food I could stuff in my pockets (usually rice balls with peanuts and fish-heads). Great way to lose weight, I went from 160# to 128 # during that time, if I stood sideways, I was AWOL. My oldest son went to Iraq years ago with the Montana National Guard and was not allowed to carry a personal sidearm. If nothing else, a sidearm is a morale booster, although mine saved my bacon at least once. WWI, WWII, Korean War, and even the (early) VN war, if you wanted to haul it, you could have it. Times have not changed for the better. My oldest grandson is a 1LT with the 1st ID presently in Kuwait and does not even have a long gun assigned to him. I told him to get to know the arms locker SGT on a first name basis and find out where the key(s) are kept.

  13. When I was in the Army I purchased a Bianci ambi holster for my 1911. I am a lefty but shoot most times right handed. The left hand holster though is great for in a patrol car. You don’t need to worry about repositioning it when you get behind the wheel. The other thing was the straps on either side allowed me to switch it to my right side if I ever had a driver.
    Still have that holster and a Galco Jackass I picked up long before Miami Vice.

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