A convenient way of carrying a relatively large handgun concealed is with a shoulder holster. The origin of the shoulder holster is unknown, though many western historians believe gambler/gunfighter Ben Thompson was the first to suspend a pouch holster under his offside arm for concealment. The shoulder holster was popular with those who habitually wore a sport coat or suit jacket to conceal it. It was also popular in Hollywood with both movie gangsters and detectives using shoulder holsters, including superstar Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.
This piece will consider three shoulder holsters, all for large-frame 1911-style autopistols. Representing the traditional spring clip vertical carry shoulder holster is the Bianchi International Model X-15. Examples of state-of-the-art horizontal carry shoulder holsters are the Dillon/Mitch Rosen Stylemaster-DL and the DeSantis Gunhide New York Special.
Bianchi X-15 Vertical
The model X-15 shoulder holster has been a staple of the Bianchi holster line for over 40 years. The holster on the X-15 is a traditional pouch style closed at the muzzle end but open down the trailing edge. The usual C-shaped spring encircling the handgun has been replaced with a strong heavy-duty wire spring placed vertically in the open trailing edge. This holds the pouch closed and secures the handgun until, upon drawing, the pistol is forced through the spring. The interior of the holster is lined in order to capture the spring, and the entire X-15 holster is constructed of top grade cowhide. The pistol’s triggerguard is enclosed for safety while the gun-butt is presented for a full shooting grip for a positive draw. A removable safety strap secured with a heavy-duty snap fastener provides additional security. I personally do not find the use of this safety strap necessary, but I am not jumping out of any airplanes while wearing my Colt .45 ACP in a X-15 shoulder holster.
The harness is constructed of thin comfortable cowhide going over the supporting shoulder. A heavy-duty elastic strap, adjustable for length, goes across the wearer’s back and encircles the strong side shoulder, anchoring the X-15 in place. The backside of the holster pouch has a belt loop to secure the toe to the wearer’s waist belt. The Bianchi X-15 shoulder holster is a superior example of the traditional vertical carry shoulder holster.
Dillon Precision Products markets an excellent line of concealment holsters. These have been produced for Dillon by several different makers over the years and are currently made by Mitch Rosen Extraordinary Gunleather.
Mitch Rosen, a multi-generation leather worker who previously produced upscale ladies handbags, made his first holster when he was unable to find a commercial concealment holster, which met his exacting quality standards. Recognizing the increasing demand for concealment holsters of such quality, Rosen was soon producing a full line of highest quality holsters, which take us to the Stylemaster-DL horizontal shoulder holster as marketed by Dillon.
The entire rig, being holster and harness, is constructed of top quality black cowhide. The leather appears to be drum dyed, as both the front and backsides are black. All fittings, which attach the harness straps to the holster and to the double magazine pouch, are blackened solid brass.
The holster rides horizontal under the off-side arm and is of the open toe style where the gun muzzle protrudes. This allows one holster to be used with either compact or full-size 1911-style autopistols. Security is provided by a thumb-break safety-strap sized for cocked and locked carry. The thumb-break thumb tab is steel reinforced to insure positive release. The pouch is detail molded for the pistol and fully encloses the triggerguard while presenting the pistol grip for a full shooting grip with first hand contact.
Spare ammunition is carried with an inverted double magazine pouch suspended under the strong side arm. The pouch has individual pockets for the two magazines, which are secured with individual full flaps. Each flap has two heavy-duty female snap fasteners with a single male snap fastener. This allows use of magazines for the short Colt Officer’s ACP sized through standard 1911-sized magazines with bumper pads.
The harness is of the popular spider style with a leather fastener in the middle of four straps, which pivot freely from the fastener. This allows the harness to flex and move as the user moves, for maximum comfort and superior concealment.
The Rosen Stylemaster-DL, as marketed by Dillon Precision Products, is a perfectly executed horizontal carry state of the art shoulder holster available for large frame auto pistols.
DeSantis NY Undercover
Gene DeSantis was making superb holsters before I was writing about gun leather. His state-of-the-art horizontal shoulder holster, cataloged as the New York Undercover rig, also uses the spider style harness. The two straps (legs), which go over the shoulders flare from 1-inch wide at the ends to 3.25-inch wide where they go over the shoulders. This provides superior weight distribution and user comfort. The harness fittings are made of a rigid black synthetic material. Each harness strap has 6 holes for adjustment to the individual user.
A vertical double magazine pouch is suspended top down from the strong-side shoulder. The magazines are secured by individual full flaps, which fasten with heavy-duty snap fasteners.
The high-quality holster is of the abbreviated open toe style and is constructed of top grade cowhide. A perfect fit for the handgun, in this case a Colt 1911 style autopistol, is insured by detailed wet molding. This molding includes a front sight tunnel, which allows the use of high visibility target front sights. An unusual feature is the detailed molding for an ambidextrous speed safety. The open toe pouch allows the use of the different barrel/slide length 1911-style autopistols. Both a thumb break safety strap and an adjustable tension device placed at the root of the pistol’s triggerguard to provide security. The thumb tab is steel reinforced to insure positive release when pressed by the thumb. The holster fully encloses the pistol’s triggerguard for safety while presenting the pistol-grip for a full shooting grip. The DeSantis New York Undercover Rig is finished in an attractive golden brown and provides a means for carrying a large frame autopistol comfortably concealed.