miami classic ii shoulder holster
Courtesy Galco
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I’m not always a big fan of this world. For example, I wish that concealed-carry was unnecessary to protect those we love, and ourselves. However, that isn’t the world in which we live.

So, when friends asked me to begin using concealed-carry at various large gatherings, I started working out my options. The setting of the events I would be attending would allow me to wear a sports jacket. I could also go jacketless. So, the type of holster I’d use for a concealed firearm could run the gamut from ankle to appendix, inside-the-waist band, or shoulder.

There are two reasons I chose a shoulder system, both having to do with clothing: 1) I already often wear jackets to the events in question, and 2) I wear relatively tight-fitting trousers and I had no interest in buying baggier styles to accommodate the other holster types.

With this in mind, I approached Mike Barham at Galco Gunleather to get his suggestions on a shoulder system. I chose Galco because of the recommendations of friends who use and rave about a wide array of their products.

Mike, first asked what type of firearm I would be using. I told him that I had chosen a Kimber 1911 Stainless Pro Carry II in .45 ACP. The Pro Carry II comes with a 4″ barrel, so Mike immediately suggested Galco’s Miami Classic II Shoulder System.

This Shoulder System evolved from Galco’s so-called ‘Jackass Rig‘, from the company’s moniker, ‘The Famous Jackass Leather Company’, when it was still a Chicago-based firm. The company’s name changed to Great American Leather Company, or Galco, in 1980, and they resettled to Phoenix shortly thereafter. Believe it or not this brief history has a point.

When the director of a brand new TV series needed a shoulder system for his leading star’s Bren 10 pistol, they tried to contact the folks at The Famous Jackass Leather Company. The director knew the company from a previous production in which his star in the new series had a minor role and had worn a Jackass Rig.

After some trials and time, they finally located the re-branded, Galco. The owner of Galco flew out to the set in Miami and fitted Don Johnson with a ‘Jackass Rig’; the shoulder system was subsequently renamed after the TV show – ‘Miami Vice.’

It’s true that the Miami Classic II Shoulder System has a cool pedigree. However, that pedigree provided no information on whether this rig would safely and effectively hold my loaded 1911, with regard to both the people in my vicinity and me the carrier.

Notwithstanding Don Johnson’s proclamation that his rig “fit like a glove”, the pedigree also said nothing about the comfort of the shoulder system. Finally, the question of ease of assembly, though not necessarily critical, was important for someone who generally struggles with following (or reading) directions.

Courtesy Galco Gunleather

Very Little Assembly Required…If You Read, and Follow, the Instructions the First Time

Let’s get this out before we go any further. I not only assembled the Miami Classic II incorrectly the first time, I shot the first set of photographs and videos with it in the incorrect configuration. I wish I could say that was because of bad directions, but I can’t. The directions are verbal and pictorial. I am certain I am one of the few people who need them to be scratch-and-sniff as well.

So, I [correctly] re-assembled the rig and began again.

The components are few: straps made from premium saddle leather connected with the Flexalon Swivel Plate; holster; holder for extra magazines; and the harness fasteners.

It doesn’t become much more complicated when you include two extra magazines and the 1911 for which this model was designed.

The leather straps are 1 1/2″ at their widest and 1″ at their narrowest. I wondered if 1″ would be so narrow as to cut into me when the weight of two full magazines and a loaded 1911 was added. What I didn’t realize until I slipped the shoulder system on was that the widest portion of the strap would rest across my shoulders. I found that the 1 1/2″ width of leather distributed the weight of ammunition, magazines and pistol very well.

Also, the design of the so-called ‘Spider Harness’ — with all four straps connected via the clover-shaped Flexalon Swivel Plate — results in all four ends of the straps pivoting independently. When fully-loaded, the Miami Classic II moved easily with my body as I walked, bent over, etc.

The Miami Classic II Shoulder System can accommodate revolvers and both right- and left-handed shooters. Because it’s modular, you can purchase additional holsters and spare magazine carrier and swap out components if you want to change from one type of firearm to another.

Assembly – Right-handed Shooter

Step 1 – Lay out the straps flat with the ‘Galco’ name printed on the Flexalon Swivel Plate where you can read it; holster on left and magazine carrier on right.

Step 2 – Run each strap through the top…

…and middle (but not bottom) keepers. Both holster and magazine carrier should be oriented with the top opening away from you (I know the magazine carrier only has one opening, work with me here).

You leave the strap loose from the bottom keeper for final adjustments.

Step 3 – Slip the Shoulder System on and have a buddy help you adjust the empty holster and spare ammunition carrier. We put together a video to illustrate this process.

Step 4 – After adjusted to the proper fit, use the harness fasteners to lock the straps into their final position.

Is the Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder System Safe?

“Are you comfortable with the idea of a horizontally-oriented holster? (A holstered gun is a safe gun, but some people still have issues with it.)”

The above was one of the questions/statements from Mike Barham of Galco as we worked through what shoulder system I should use. I had ‘muzzle control’ [thankfully!] hammered into me by my Dad when I was learning to handle firearms as a child. So, notwithstanding Mike’s statement about a holstered gun being safe, I was worried about having the muzzle of a fully-loaded and cocked firearm pointing behind me.

Having now worked with the Miami Classic II, I no longer have concerns over the safety of this rig. Let me explain why:

1) When seated in the hard-sided holster, the trigger is completely encased and can’t be accidentally pulled or even touched when reaching for the pistol.

2) As with many traditional shoulder holster systems, this rig has a thumb break that closes with a snap; it takes a hard push with the shooter’s thumb to open the break. This thumb break, on a 1911, loops between the cocked hammer and firing pin, making it impossible for the hammer to fall when the break is in place.

3) The holster has been equipped with what I refer to as a ‘thumb safety block’ (I have no idea if this is the correct term). When holstered, this piece of hard plastic sits underneath the, on-safe 1911 thumb safety and prevents it from being disengaged.


The most important issue to me about using the Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder System, and indeed any horizontal system, for concealed-carry was safety for those around me, those at whom the barrel of a cocked and locked 1911 might be pointing. The features on the Miami Classic II shoulder system do indeed make my holstered gun a safe gun.

The next most important feature for me was whether or not the Miami Classic II would be comfortable. Specifically, would it allow carrying a fully-loaded Kimber 1911 and two spare mags for events that might last an entire day, without me ending up worn out and sore. This too has been answered in the affirmative. Having now carried at such events, the only discomfort came from having a sports jacket on while outside in the Georgia summer heat.

The last observation I want to make is that the stiffness of the leather used for the holster and magazine carrier, the tightness of the thumb break, and the independent movement of the four ends of the straps of the Miami Classic II Shoulder System result in a fast draw.

It takes a firm push with the thumb to open the break and a firm pull with my shooting hand to extract the pistol from the holster. However, with my support arm (left) out of the way of the muzzle by being across my body or straight up with my hand behind my head, the straps tighten, allowing resistance against the motions with my shooting hand.

One last point. The horizontal positioning of the opening on the magazine carrier is a change from the original Miami Classic in which the spare magazines were held in a vertical orientation, hence Miami Classic ‘II’. I haven’t tried a vertical model, but the horizontal orientation allows rapid access to the spare magazines.

At $249, the  Miami Classic II Shoulder System isn’t inexpensive. However, you get what you pay for, and the design and materials used for this rig are top-line. Given that it’s meant to help the wearer protect himself and others in an active shooter situation, it’s worth every penny.


Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; links to other articles can be found here.

All photos and video courtesy of Frances and Mike Arnold. 

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  1. Galco’s shoulder holster system is the most wearable on the market. However, I’m not a fan of horizontal shoulder systems because I don’t want to sweep half the room (and my left arm). Vertical systems are more manageable in that regard but come with their own set of problems.

    • Ralph,

      I am super interested in a vertical system shoulder holster. What are the pitfalls of that platform?

      • None. The vertical system is GREAT. I wore one for 321 days of combat in OEF (2006). Works good with the M9 when in garrison mode.

      • I have both vertical and horizontal shoulder rigs for my 40oz .357 revolver from Andrew’s Leather. They are both notably slower than my standard OWB The vertical is a break open but even so I think it is a bit slower than the horizontal. The vertical results in less sweeping but I adjusted my horizontal to a somewhat muzzle down angle and that mitigates it a bit. I wear the horizontal more because it is more comfortable to me. Putting 4 speed loaders on the RH side helps balance it even if just a little. Mostly I use those to change to different loads for different environments. Oh and I have had the retention snap on the horizontal come open when running after my dog once. When I reached down to grab the dog the gun spilled out an caused minor cosmetic damage to the gun. I was horrified about that.

      • “What are the pitfalls of that platform?”

        The main issue is that a big gun drawn vertically from well above the hip can be difficult to draw. Basically, you can run out of room to pull that gat. The gun must be either low slung, or not too big. And a low slung gun isn’t hidden very well. You might as well wear it on your hip.

        • The draw stroke should be down from the holster, then up onto target. I did the “sweep everyone” for a while until I got schooled. I used to stand at the far left of the firing line to qual so I wouldn’t sweep others.

          I have a tan Jackass for my Glock 19, and a black Miami classic for my Detonics 1911’s. Very sturdy and easy to wear.

        • I carried a Colt Trooper MkIII with a 4 inch barrel in a Bianchi X-15 vertical holster for about 10 years, 5 days a week and the only complaint I had with the setup was that, when using the belt loop on the holster that was supposed to keep it tucked into your body, it would tend to make the holster ride up into your armpit when you sat down in a car. I just stopped using the loop and never looked back. I loved the X-15 because of it’s “clam shell” spring steel lined opening on the front of the holster. It made it very quick to get your gun out and into action while standing or seated. Really a great design and comfortable to boot.

      • Vertical underarm is more awkward to draw from, from the time I tried one (Non-Galco).

        I wouldn’t be comfortable carrying a chambered striker-fired weapon horizontal under-arm, but DAO I would with no qualms. I consider that long, *heavy* trigger to be an inherent safety on it’s own…

        • Geoff,

          I wouldn’t be comfortable carrying a chambered striker-fired weapon horizontal under-arm …

          There is that as well.

          And yes, I do carry a striker-fired semi-auto pistol which has a single-action only trigger — and I carry a round in the chamber. I am equally uncomfortable carrying that in a horizontal position.

          Somewhat related, I am also afraid that my handgun could pop itself out of a horizontal holster and fall out. That would be much more unlikely to happen with a vertical holster.

      • Ah, thank you for the feedback everyone.

        I have been thinking that a shoulder holster would be nice for the times that I am wearing a suit coat or a heavy outdoor coat.

        And if I go into serious cold outdoor activities complete with snow pants and super heavy winter coat (or even worse a full-body one-piece snowmobile suit), a hip holster is useless since it would take me on the order of 30 seconds to get past all that heavy clothing. On the other hand, I believe that I would be able to draw from a shoulder holster about as fast as I can partly unzip my coat. And if I had any inkling at all that stuff could go sideways, I could partly unzip my coat before needing to actually draw — thus being able to draw really fast if the situation escalated to that point.

        And, as others stated, it would also make drawing while in a car a lot easier and faster.

        Oh, one other thing: I have wiped out on ice (my feet flew out from under me) and landed on my hip. It goes without saying that landing on your hip REALLY hurts if you have a full-size pistol sitting there in a holster, not to mention the fact that you could damage your handgun. Moving my handgun to a shoulder holster significantly reduces my discomfort if I fall down in addition to reducing the possibility of damaging my pistol when I fall down.

        • Two words.
          Chest rig.

          Very comfortable, great for riding on or in anything. You can get leather, kydex, or combinations of the two. They ride very comfortably.

    • If anyone wants a shoulder holster I highly suggest a vertical roto-tilt. Best of both worlds. Gun is held vertically but the holster rotates as you pull the gun to give a more horizontal like draw.

  2. Always liked the look (and assumed easy ride) of the two loop shoulder holster that didn’t have a mag pouch, or hurricaine tie-downs. Haven’t seen one like that on TV or movies in years. Couldn’t find one online, either.

    • With an AirWeight snubby, it’s a nice, easy carry.

      With a double-stack .45, not so much. 🙂

      The mag pouch filled is kinda needed to counter-balance…

  3. My instructor drilled into us that both magazines should be oriented in the same direction, so you don’t need to consider whether you pulled the top mag or the bottom one when indexing for use, moving and firing all at the same time. Think about it. I know, has nothing to do with the rig, but seeing the mags loaded in opposite directions set my teeth on edge. Good review, I like, but Texas is too hot for jacket 10 months a year.

  4. I”m curious… When you say “friends asked me to begin using concealed-carry at various large gatherings,” do you mean they wanted you to conceal instead of openly carrying, or that they wanted you to just start carrying in the first place?

    And did they want you to join them in carrying, or provide security that they wouldn’t/couldn’t by carrying *for* them?

    As for the holster, it looks pretty snazzy. I’m not in the market for a shoulder holster, nor any holster that retails for the price of this one, but they do have a cachet that other styles lack. Maybe one day I’ll have the $ to carry my stainless S&W 64 in one.

  5. I would love to carry in a shoulder holster. It’s just not feasible in this climate as a concealment solution. Like has been said though, muzzling everything behind me doesn’t seem right. Vertical would be better for me.

  6. Oh my God! It’s 1987 again! Seriously, Galco is about the best leather without going full blown custom. I just don’t care for shoulder holsters. The only real advantage is drawing while seated. But the author’s reasons are sound for him.

      • It also solves the problem of “what do i do with my gat while sitting on the throne?”

        Answer: You do nothing. You do as you’ve always done. You don’t need to leave your gat resting on top of the toilet tank or on the TP holder…

  7. Had one of the original Jackass Rigs for an N frame Smith.

    Much more comfortable to carry than my vertical rig with tie downs (Smith and Wesson leather copy of a Bianchi X15.

    I’m considering a shoulder rig for my glock 48 (driving). I would lean toward a molded leather rig like this over the suede versions. If you’re in the south …. and sweat…..the suede model gets really wet.

  8. Buddy of mine has this rig, but from long ago.
    His gat is a full size 1911, with 5 spare mags.

    I guess when you’ve been in a shootout with psycho bikers, you worry about ammo use.

    Oh, and his frame size hides everything under a windbreaker.

    • “His gat is a full size 1911, with 5 spare mags.”

      He might *say* psycho bikers, but those 5 mags probably counter-balance the weight of that gat quite nicely…

  9. I usually carry my SIG P228 with an IWB holster. However, on long road trips, it’s more comfortable to use my Miami Classic II shoulder harness. When I go to bed, it’s fully loaded and draped over the footboard of our bed. I can tool up quickly if something goes bump in the middle of the night.

  10. Nice review! The holster worked very well for me and my Bren 10. I went through numerous scuffles in bringing down bad guys, and pulled a lot of high-G turns during pursuits in my Testarossa and Scarab and the holsters always kept the gun secure.

    Only real issue with the shoulder holsters was when getting hugged by Sheena Easton, but I learned to live with it.

    • You mean Pantera with a body kit. 😉 I had the Popular Mechanics magazine with the cars of Miami Vice back in the day.

      • First couple of seasons was a kit car, but then Ferrari provided the real deal, ‘cause they didn’t want to be represented by imposters. We’ll raft even started selling a Don Johnson special edition Scarab.

      • Remember when the mechanic working on the mock up sports car got busted for dealing coke out of it?

        Shoulder straps on the Miami are too narrow for a long-term comfort.

        Nothing beats a Bianchi X 15 vertical, there’s a tie down at the bottom of the holster to your belt that keeps it from flopping like the Miami will.

        • If I remember correctly, it was the Ferrari/Corvette that had been sent to the shop for repair. The mechanic then used the car to conduct a drug deal and was arrested.

  11. I have one for a revolver. Maybe it’s because it’s a Ruger (and a bit heavy) but I think the straps would be better if they were not so narrow. Having found some stray leather I’m considering putting on a slight ‘cushion’ under them to see if that helps.

  12. Really? $250 for a holster that you need a PhD in engineering to freaking put together?

    I had at Miami classic a hundred years ago, it was a giant pain in the back, wasn’t all that super concealable, and like a couple of people have mentioned you sweep half the room every time you take it out or put it in.

    Mine said in the closet getting moldy and dusty over the years until I finally gave it away to let someone else enjoy the misery of a shoulder rig.

    Hard pass!

  13. Tried a couple galco.
    Can’t get past the honkin big chunk if plastic in the middle of my back.
    For me, a big no go piece of junk, high dollar at that.

  14. I’ve tried every holster design on the market, none seem to work, si it’s back to dragging the gunm with my tail. I believe a book was written about it, ” Trails In The Sand” by Peter Dragon

  15. I find mine to be comfortable for all-day wear.

    That said, you have to have a fairly deep chest to not print fore/aft if you’re wearing a Government Model.

    I would recommend lubing the inside of the holster to make drawing fast/easy. Neatsfoot oil or something similar seems to work OK for me.

  16. OGF had a summer job when in college. She built the Bren 10s used in Miami Vice. Then the next summer she built MPADS for TRW. I don’t know where she’s working now. She’s OGF PhD, and it’s classified. ‘The name is Girlfriend. Doctor Old Girlfriend’ (cue up theme music). She’s smart, she’s sexy, and she’s a heck of a dancer!

  17. Is it possible to re-holster one handed with this rig.

    As a child of the 80s, I always wanted one of these. Because . . . . . well, I don’t know why. ha.

  18. I have two original Jackass rigs – one for a S&W Model 66, and one for a Detonics .45. I would love to get just the holster for my XDs .45, but they are almost as expensive as a new rig.

    In the years I carried either of those weapons, I never had a problem with either rig. Both very comfortable. Of course, now I am in Texas, it is too warm for a jacket.

  19. I’ve got a couple funny stories for this holster. First I’ve owned three of these holsters over the years, full size 1911, M9 Beretta and Kahr PM9. On the older models the shoulder straps were much wider maybe 3 inches instead of current 1 1/2. First instance I was standing in line waiting to pay at a well known fast food joint. I’ve already handed the cashier my money and was waiting on my change when I felt something moving under my coat as I reached for the gun it fell under the bottom of my coat hit the floor muzzle down making a loud thump. The cashier couldn’t see what I dropped because the bottom of my coat extended below the counter top but he did give me an inquiring look. I reached down picked up my Kimber Custom TLE II same model LAPD swat adopted years ago put it under my arm took my food and made a quick get away. The coat I was wearing was pretty baggy so I’m not sure if the cashier even realized what happened. That holster by that time had a lot of use and the thumb snap had wore out I retired that holster and went to a vertical type.
    2nd story Kurt Russell in the movie Dark Blue plays a LAPD SIS type detective in the days leading up the LA riots. He’s wearing the older model holster with the wider straps there’s scene in the squad room with Russell sitting at his desk the camera is looking directly at Russell and his shoulder rig is put together wrong. The wider strap instead of going over his shoulders is attached to one side of the rig and the thinner under arm straps are attached to the other side. You see him with one wide strap on one should and the very thin strap on the other shoulder. Next time u see that movie look for the scene very funny I guess the technical adviser on that movie was not a fan of either Miami Vice of the Galco holster.

  20. I carry a full sized 1911 in an OWB high ride pancake holster under my suit, every day. Easily concealed.

    I tried a shoulder holster system. It is substantially slower on the clock and the sweep from left to right is downright dangerous.

  21. I occasionally carried a S&W 642 in a Ken Null shoulder rig years ago. Once I got it properly adjusted (get help or grow extra arms), it was very comfortable and concealable. It was a vertical, butt down, muzzle up rig that even worked under a loosely tucked shirt. I still preferred IWB or pocket carry, but this worked very well for vehicle carry. Unfortunately, I think Null is gone, I couldn’t find them on the Internet. I’ve seen pictures of a clamshell, upside down rig for snub revolvers that was made by one of the older holster makers, but I’ve never found one.

    • Wow. I tired to go to his site after reading you comment.

      Said it was unreachable. Too bad.

      It was active at least a couple of months ago.

      Hope he ain’t dead. But he’s been around a while.

      Good stuff….cutting edge in thermoplastics.

      Nice guy too.

  22. Glad I got a Bianchi X16 Agent. No assembly required. Although I do recommend some Loctite on the “Chicago” screws. Both rigs have the “last inch” design flaw. I dont want the last inch of my 5″ 1911 poking out of the end of the holster so I carry a Commander sized gun.

  23. Plastic swivels, plastic back piece, thin straps, all for $100 more than a Mitch Rosen express line shoulder holster. Don Johnson’s Rig doesn’t display all those elements of cost cutting.

    • MItch Rosen runs $185. MIami is $225 [Nov 2023] Rosen lacks the brass, lining and boning – so, of course its cheaper, less hand labor.

      “Plastic” harks back the days of Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.” We drive cars with polymer intakes, shoot handguns with polymer grips, type on polymer keyboards on polymer cell phones and laptops.

      The polymer parts wont turn green from sweat, which is toxic. It’s why brass grommets in military field gear are going away, plus polymer parts don’t contribute to a wound as much if struck by projectiles, etc.

      We’ve been using combat rifles and combat pistols with polymer parts since the AR10 and VP70 HK, Glocks have actually proven durable (unless a German Shepherd chew toy) and anybody can buy Chicago screws on Amazon with no guarantee they won’t rust.

      The future is now old guys. Full Disclosure, I’m 70. I just bought a Lite 2.0 for my P365.

  24. I have the Miami Classic II for a Glock. A few comments about some common themes I see here, mainly about horizontal carry.

    First, imagine you have a loaded gun inside a traditional OWB holster that covers the trigger, and you put it on a table or something – will you worry about the muzzle sweeping anybody? I don’t know, maybe, but it is considered safe when holstered. The Galco horizontal holster is basically the same deal, as detailed in this article.

    As a sidenote, if you use a vertical holster, or actually any holster, you could be “sweeping” people from inside the holster – for example, when walking up stairs with people below, or when seated with a pistol in your pocket. This is admittedly less common, though, so I understand why this freaks people out a bit initially about horizontal carry.

    Someone said he’d be OK with a DAO pistol carried this way, but not a 1911 in condition 1 (cocked and locked). I would consider them both safe. Again, I use this holster for a Glock. But if I had to say which is safer, I would probably say the 1911, because to fire a DAO gun, you have a longer tripper pull; to fire a condition 1 1911, you have to disengage the safety and pull the trigger. Even though it is a shorter trigger pull after disengaging the safety, it is two discrete actions, not one. The 1911 also has a grip safety.

    As for vertical shoulder holsters, I had a cheap one (not Galco) for a while, and it included a strap to attach to your belt, to provide resistance when drawing the gun. I found that strap to be annoying, so I would end up using my left hand to hold the bottom of the holster and my right hand to draw. It was much less polished a drawing motion than the Galco allows. With the Galco, it is a one-handed process in which you unsnap the buckle with your thumb, wrap your hand around the grip, and yank. However, maybe Galco or other quality manufacturers have better solutions for this.

    Sweeping people can be somewhat avoided by pointing the muzzle down, then bringing the gun toward the target and raising the muzzle. However, this depends on where people are relative to you and where your target is. It is possible you could sweep people when drawing, and that is something to consider.

    Just my opinions. Great review – and I don’t always say that about TTAG reviews, to be honest. I appreciate the direct, clearly written and informative nature of the prose, without every sentence containing two or three “humorous” analogies.


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