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.
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.