A Shoulder Holster That Isn't


Duke with his 7X Leather “shoulder holster that isn’t.” The collie’s
name is Brady, and he’s Duke’s constant companion.

I’ve been searching around for a good method to carry a handgun if I’m not wearing a belt. I haven’t worn one for several years, for reasons too long to detail here. As I described in a previous Handgunner article, most shoulder holsters aren’t a viable choice for someone as broad as me because I’d need gorilla length arms to reach the handgun. But photos showing the type of holster issued to American tankers in World War II intrigued me. Those guys were forever climbing in and out of hatches; in turn they couldn’t have a belt holster hanging up every time they did. Instead, the holsters placed their 1911s in front, on their chests. In fact, I even bought a couple of replicas of such and found they make good photo props, but really didn’t suit my needs. Besides they were fairly “cheesy” in quality.

Last winter at a gun show here in Montana, I met a young saddle maker. His name is Wes Daems and he does business as “7X Leather.” Along with being a horseman, Wes is also an avid handgun shooter and wisely carries a big-bore revolver with him on his family outings into the Montana mountains. As I also learned four decades back, he realized packing a handgun around day in and day out, especially while riding a horse, can be an awful nuisance. Worn on the hip, it catches on everything from tree limbs to packhorse lead ropes. And big handguns can be very tiresome when packed in traditional shoulder holsters. It gets to feeling like you’re toting a goose by the end of the day.

The rear has a simple adjustment system, which adds to the comfort.

The 7X Leather Chest/Shoulder rig showed top-notch workmanship and quality. Duke really likes its versatility.

Convenient Carry

On our visit, Wes showed me a holster of his own design. I call it: a shoulder holster that isn’t. It could also be called a cross draw holster — that isn’t. It could be termed a chest holster, which for me, is what it is. Actually, it can be all three with the proper strap adjustment. After Wes showed me his rig, I asked him to build a rig for me. He asked, “For what handgun?” Well, I’m not likely to ride about the mountains on a horse ever again so instead of making it for a big sixgun I told him to build it for a full-size 1911. That way it can accommodate one of my several, ranging from a Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special .45 to a Kimber Pro Compact .40 S&W.

Let me say up front, Les Daem’s holster idea isn’t so much for concealed carry as for convenient carry. For outdoorsmen in cold weather, his holster rig can be worn under a coat. For open carry in summer garb, an outdoorsman can adjust the straps so the holster is lower to the offside position, much like a cross draw. Conversely, the straps can be adjusted to position the holster right in the middle of the chest, over the heart. That’s proven best for me. Another benefit is various holsters and magazine pouches can be substituted in the same basic harness. I think my next holster will be for my little Colt 1903 .32 and we’ll see if the rig can function for concealed carry.

A Proper Holster

Workmanship on this rig is top notch. The holster and spare magazine pouch are made of sturdy saddle leather and the straps are much lighter, pliable leather. One thing I was happy to see that Wes and I agreed about was there are no snaps in the rig because, in my experience, snaps often cease snapping. Instead he uses snubs and split holes for safety straps.

Just last weekend, I was finally able to give my new holster its first workout while attending a vintage bolt-action military rifle competition. Some of the stages required the competitor to first fire a handgun, so I took along a 1911-A1 .45 in the new holster. It was worn for hours, getting on and off an ATV, getting in and out of various positions for rifle shooting and getting the pistol in and out to be fired. Not once, not ever, was this leather rig an inconvenience or uncomfortable. And when I took it off at the end of the day there wasn’t a sigh of relief. I’ve found the proper holster for me at this stage of my life.

For more info: http://www.7xleather.com