I love a piece of gear with a good story, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent hard-earned dollars on something just because of its lineage. Those who haven’t, please, go ahead and cast the first the first 1911.
That said, you can make good CCW arguments for the practicality of a shoulder holster rig: they’re great if you spend a lot of time sitting and can be drawn easily while sitting, the conceal really well with the right clothes, they can be really comfortable, etc. Then you can list arguments against them, which are fairly numerous, but let’s be real—even if you never have an occasion to carry with a shoulder rig, you want one if you don’t already have one.
Every cop show and movie since the black and white days have depicted cops, private eyes, and criminals alike carrying a handgun in a shoulder holster under their jacket.
There’s a mystique to them, but there’s none more famous than Galco’s Miami Classic shoulder rig.
The story is simple, but still really cool and a great example of how guns in Hollywood influence trends in the real world. I’m looking at you Dirty Harry and the S&W Model 29.
So the legend goes, back in 1984, when Michael Mann was gearing up for the launch of his new TV show, Miami Vice, he wanted one of the main characters, Crockett (Don Johnson), to wear his service pistol in leather shoulder holster, so he could rock the laid back and super trendy light colored Miami suits over pastel-colored t-shirts.
In a movie he’d made in 1981, Thief, starring James Caan. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch—it’s a little rough, but you can see how it was a first crack at the idea Mann fully fleshed out in Heat (1995). In Thief, a minor character wore a shoulder holster called the Jackass Rig. Since Mann is a gun and gear nerd, he remembered it and remembered the name, and that’s what he wanted Crockett to wear.
But there was a problem. Nobody could find the Famous Jackass Leather Company in Chicago that had made the shoulder rig a few years earlier. In the days before you could just Google it, the fact that the owner of the company had changed its name to Galco and moved the operation to a different state meant literal weeks of searching. The prop master tried to make a replica of the Jackass Rig, but Johnson hated it. He thought it was so uncomfortable, in fact, that he insisted on wearing a belt holster, which would have ruined the whole no-belt beach vibe of his swanky suits.
Finally, a local holster-maker finally found Rick Ghallager and his new company, Galco Gunleather, in Phoenix, Arizona. Ghallger, who had designed the Jackass Rig himself 14 years earlier, flew to Miami with the genuine article. He custom fit it to Johnson, and the actor gave his approval. Considering he would have to spend untold hours of filming wearing his sizeable Bren 10 pistol in the holster, that means a lot. If it was comfortable for him, it would be comfortable for anyone who has to wear a shoulder rig for long shifts.
But those folks had to know about it. That’s where the impending popularity of the show came in.
Soon Galco was inundated with orders, and lots of companies started copying the Jackass rig.
Today, Galco still makes the holster, but it has since been renamed the Galco Miami Classic, in honor of its role in the show. Technically, they also still make the Jackass Rig. Here’s how it breaks down: the Miami Classic and the Miami Classic II use the same holster component, but have different harnesses. The MC harness has four straps of equal width, just like the one on the TV show. The straps on the MCII harness get wider where they rest on top of the shoulders, which some find distributes weight over a greater surface area. The harness for both is made of smooth surface top-grain leather and the components are stitched.
The modern Jackass Rig is available at a lower price point because it uses premium center-cut steerhide for its harness construction and the holster and ammo carrier on the JR are riveted instead of being stitched.
Additionally, the holster of the JR is designed to carry a handgun diagonally with the muzzle tilted slightly up, achieved by the placement of the swivel keeper for the bottom strap. This swivel keeper is placed above the muzzle on the MC and MCII, resulting in a straighter horizontal carry position.
The Miami Classic II for Revolvers
Galco recently expanded its line of Miami Classic II holsters by offering models build for various wheelgun models. Revolvers are seeing a bit of a resurgence with companies like Kimber offering new concealed-carry optimized wheelguns and Colt bringing back the legendary snake guns one at a time—the Colt King Cobra Carry in .357 Mag/ .38 Spl is especially popular—but older designs have always been, and will continue to be great carry guns.
I got a chance to test out a new holster on the MCII harness with my J-frame Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 637 in .38 Spl., which is definitely more Tubbs than Crockett (Tubbs carried an S&W Model 38 Bodyguard on the show.) Now, this is kind of cheating because the little wheelgun has an aluminum frame with a steel cylinder and and diminutive 1.875″ barrel is also steel—so it only weighs 14.6 ounces. At the same time, it really is a great setup for a carry gun that you can wear around the home and property all day, very comfortable, with any kind of clothing. It’s also a compact setup that you can wear under a tuxedo if you so choose.
Given the current pandemic situation, I opted for the former, and it is extraordinarily comfortable with the fully-loaded 637 on board and two 5-round speedloaders in the included carriers on the strong side. If I were buying a gun specifically for this carry setup, I might choose the PC Model 642, which is a double-action-only hammerless version of the 637.
Personally, I like the wider straps at the shoulders of the MCII and found that, when sitting, the weight all but disappears. While the holsters are new, the star of this setup is the harness. Galco’s Flexalon back plate, which allows all four straps to swivel independently as you move, and the swivel connectors on the other ends, mean that the whole rig moves with your body, all without the uncomfortable tension of elastic and the durability of leather.
The new rig also features Galco’s new key-hole harness fastener system. They replace the old-school Chicago screws, which were a pain in the butt to tighten, required you to repeatedly get a screwdriver near your nice new leather harness while adjusting it for the first time, and had a tendency to loosen and vanish every so often.
The new fasteners eliminate all of those problems and require no tools to install or remove. The only downside is, they will not work with older Galco harnesses, unless you cut little slits into the holes.
The holster itself is wonderfully designed and constructed from flawless leather and stitching with a rich brown color that looks reddish in the sunlight. The thumb break on the retention strap is perfectly position and reinforced with a piece of riveted aluminum so that it reliably disengages with a simple flick of the thumb, but stays fastened when you want it to.
The fit on my S&W was tight out-of-the-box, as is expected, but it loosened up to the appropriate level just by having the revolver in it for a couple days.
Compatibility and Options
The new Miami Classic II with a revolver holster comes with a double speedloader carrier on the strong side, but there are several other component options that you can choose to ride opposite your holster, as the harness is compatible with all Galco shoulder holster components.
You can certainly wear the MCII without tie-downs, Miami Vice style, but if you want to secure your shoulder harness to your belt, all you need is Galco’s Horizontal Shoulder System Tie Down Set, which attaches to your MCII components with simple snaps. These ensure that your handgun and spare ammo don’t swing around as you move, and they also make sure they both stay to the sides and concealed under your jacket, open or closed. Of course, they require a belt and a tucked in shirt to be used, but as a bonus, they also act as suspenders.
If you prefer to carry your spare ammo in a belt carrier on in your pocket, you can mix the tie down set with an SST Off Side Tie Down, which replaces the ammo carrier on the harness and can also attach to your belt.
For those who want to carry spare ammo on the off side, but don’t dig speedloaders, Galco makes a carrier system for its new EZ Loader strips, but it should also work well with similar products, like Bianchi SpeedStrips.
You can even attach a SHUKA platform to your MCII harness, which allows you to carry a fixed-blade knife on your off-side.
If you want to try out the Jackass-style carry angle, with the muzzle tilted more toward the carrier’s armpit, the compatible S1H Holster allows you to do so with your MCII harness.
For an ultra-light and concealable set-up that is actually perfect to attach to your MCII holster when wearing a suit, you can buy the Galco Half-Harness with Belt Clip for $60. This is built more like the old school shoulder holsters with a leather loop wrapped around the holster shoulder and a semi-elastic strap that runs across the back and over the off-side shoulder, ending in a clip that can be attached to a waistband or belt—think James Bond’s holster for his PPK in the Sean Connery days.
This puts all the weight on your neck and left shoulder (if you’re a righty), but it’s perfectly comfortable with a light revolver like my 637, or with a compact automatic like the SIG Sauer P365 or the Springfield Hellcat. Just make sure it fits so that the top of the harness doesn’t show above your suit jacket.