Review: Galco Miami Classic Shoulder Holster

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The idea of a shoulder holster is simple: Provide the wearer with portability and concealability for their handgun while being independent of any belts or the wearer’s waist. The concept can be traced back to the days of cattlemen, cowboys and frontiersmen on horseback during the late 19th century, but perhaps the most famous and modern example would be Galco Gunleather’s Miami Classic Shoulder Holster System. This Miami Classic was originally derived from a forerunner that David Gallagher designed for a Chicago street cop in 1970. A little more than a decade later, the descendant of that original Chicago cop’s rig found itself wrapped around the shoulders of Sonny Crockett, the fictional character and star of the definitive 1980s detective show, Miami Vice. The rest is history. 

Galco Miami Classic Overview

The Miami Classic Shoulder Holster is slightly different and evolved from what detective Sonny Crockett wore on the show, but the Miami Classic’s design runs along the same patterns. The primary differences are the material of the hardware and the horizontal orientation of the holster itself. Tan or black leather finishes are available for this rig. The holster has a metal reinforced thumb-snap and each flap on the magazine carrier has two different snap buttons to accommodate magazines for either compact or full-size handguns. The system can easily accommodate left-handed or right-handed shooters, and because the Miami Classic is one of Galco’s flagship products, they offer holster fits for a large variety of handgun makes and models.  

The Miami Classic consists of a horizontal holster, a double magazine carrier, a spider harness, four leather straps and hardware. All leather components, including the 1-inch wide straps are made from steerhide. The harness is less complicated than it appears. Each of the four straps connects to the spider harness which sits squarely on the wearer’s upper spine. On the opposite end, the straps loop through polymer attachment points on both the holster and the magazine carrier. In conjunction with the spider harness, magazine carrier and holster, the straps create two large loops that the wearer puts their arms through as if they were putting on a jacket. When properly worn, the harness rests over the wearer’s upper back and shoulders with the weight of the firearm and offset magazines balancing each other out. Galco does offer optional matching vertical leather tie downs that connect both the magazine-carrier and holster to the wearer’s belt for additional stability. 

Fitting And Wearing and The Miami Classic 

A properly fitted Galco Miami Classic system has both the holster and magazine carrier sitting just below the wearer’s armpits. I found that fitting and adjusting the harness in front of a mirror was very helpful as well. Even though there was some trial and error in fitting, reaching a satisfactory adjustment didn’t take too long. I found that using the imaginary intersecting line on the bottom of my sternum was a helpful reference point. Tools aren’t needed for fitment or adjustment as the polymer hardware simply wedges into place. Galco suggests new users wait some time and avoid cutting off the excess portions of the leather straps until they’re sure of the Miami Classic’s fitment. 

In terms of concealment with a jacket or other cover garment, it’s important to be aware of one’s proportions and the size of their carry gun. For example, persons with smaller frames carrying full-size handguns such as a Beretta 92 or a government-framed 1911 may have a hard time concealing their guns under a coat with a horizontal holster system because the muzzle may “poke through” leaving a noticeable indentation underneath the fabric of the cover garment. This is why some of Galco’s other designs or those from other companies offer systems where the holster sits horizontally or vertically–to drive the muzzle away from the rear of the cover garment. Anyone who wishes to carry and conceal with the Miami Classic should take stock of their own body’s proportions along with the overall length of their chosen handgun; perhaps consulting one’s tailor might also be helpful.  

Comfort-wise, a properly fitted Miami Classic rig works very well. The leather straps are supple and flexible and don’t grate the upper body. The weight of both magazines in the carrier helps balance out some of the gun’s own weight on the other side.

Safety Concerns While Drawing

My own Miami Classic fits my Beretta M9, a gun I am extremely comfortable and familiar with. The holster’s thumb-break and sides completely cover the Beretta’s hammer and trigger, and the pistol’s first-shot double-action pull also adds an additional layer of safety. On the draw, the holster doesn’t generate much resistance. Using the bicep to push the holster against the body to create a little bit of external tension can help in smooth drawing too.

Due to the nature of the holster’s orientation, drawing a loaded handgun from the Galco Miami Classic will involve a 180-degree sweeping motion in which the pistol’s muzzle could intersect other bystanders, animals or property. This is perhaps the area where shoulder holsters face the most scrutiny in the context of modern defensive pistolcraft. Discussing the pros, cons and risk of such a draw could merit their own separate article, but to get to the point, using a shoulder holster should be left to advanced defensive pistol practitioners who possess keen trigger finger discipline and muzzle-awareness or have a 360-degree backstop to work with. It’s also worth the time to go over the draw during dry-fire practice with this holster.

The Takeaway

These days, shoulder holsters in general aren’t as en vogue as they once were. Not only has the entire concealment and carry gun landscape changed, but also the way most people dress. But even today, the Miami Classic, which I’d argue is peak-shoulder holster design, still works as advertised and lets shooters appreciate old-school concealment.   

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