The Preacherman said, "My advice to you is to get yourself a gun and learn how to shoot." The Gunslinger said, "My advice to you is to get yourself a Bible and learn how to pray."

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Review of GALCO VHS Vertical Shoulder Holster System for small frame revolvers



The Galco VHS is a modular concept; by changing the holster and ammo storage you can switch the harness between handgun models and sizes.  I've owned this revolver rig only since November of 2014 but have attempted to shake it down during representative slices of all weather.  Unlike the Jackass Rig and the Miami Classic, all of Galco's tanker style VHS line lack the option for a holster-side tie-down; that can kinda really suck for some of us.  There is an option for installing an offside tie-down, but there are no provisions for anchoring any of the VHS holsters.  With minor exceptions, drawing a handgun from a VHS holster requires two hands or pinning the holster to your side using the weak-side arm.  Yes, I consider the lack of a holster tie-down option a downside to the Galco VHS.  However, I did find that certain revolvers listed for use with Galco's V118 holster have no need for a holster-side tie-down; drawing them from the holster is slick, quick, free, and easy.

Further, using this shoulder rig with no tie-down whatsoever is a problem for me due to the mismatch in weight from one side to the other; I used the two black non-Galco ammo pouches (with cartridges, of course) to add weight to the offside.  While an untied rig is ok for tossing on for a walk around the block or a drive to the deli, I needed it tied down when performing any solid physical activity.  The VHS offside tie-down is via an attachement on the ammo pouch (or via an optional harness attachment if you want to eliminate the ammo pouch).

The small frame revolver used in most of the photos of this review is the S&W Model 640-1 .357 Magnum.



As shown above, the VHS has the widest shoulder straps of the four common Galco shoulder rigs.  I own two of the Galco VHS rigs, one for full-frame 1911s and one for small frame revolvers.  I also own a Galco Jackass Rig equipped for use with 1911s.



Wide shoulder straps help keep loads comfy, but getting the straps set correctly takes time and patience.  In the photo above (without using the offside tie-down), the widest portion of the straps have shifted forward on my shoulders after some outdoor activities.  Wide shoulder straps during summer weather also makes it difficult to remain cool; this rig contributes to profuse perspiration.  When I remove this harness at the end of a summer day there are always wide sweat stains on my teeshirt where the harness was sitting.



As mentioned earlier, I used the two black non-Galco ammo pouches to add weight to the offside to provide a more comfortable balance when not using the offside tie-down.  There are 24-rounds total on speed strips between the black and brown ammo pouches.  Whether that is too much or too little to carry for personal defense is for each of us to decide, but in this case I used the extra 12-rounds strictly for ballast.


This ammo dump-pouch I believe is intended for .38 Special loose rounds; it takes a bit of effort, but the pouch can accommodate the use of speed strips.  I am under the impression that this pouch was never intended for use with .357 cartridges, but I could be wrong.  EDIT:  A reader left us a tip in the comments section on how better to fit cartridges on the speed strips into the pouch

It took some doing to stretch the leather more than I already had, but this is how the .38 caliber cartridges on speed strips will be carried from here forward.



(Above:  Pouch with loose .357 Magnum cartridges)
I mentioned earlier that I was unsure if this Galco pouch was intended for .357 cartridges; well, I have since found that the pouch readily holds LOOSE .357 magnum cartridges but I cannot YET get the leather to stretch enough to hold those cartridges on a speed strip.  If Galco intended that pouch for use with anything other than LOOSE .38 Special cartridges I never found any document on the internet that said so.




The black ammo pouches are not from Galco (they are from Del Fatti Leather).  They work on the straps of most any shoulder rig (such as on this often-worn Ken Null City Slicker rig) as well as they do on a gun belt.



The V118 holster worked fine with J-Frames sporting different grips, including the LG-405 Crimson Trace on my S&W Model 638 Bodyguard.  There is a minor problem when holstering the Ruger SP101 with the standard factory grips, but there are no problems drawing the SP101 from the holster one handed.



The Galco V118 holster for the VHS system is said to fit the following revolvers:

Charter Arms Undercover (2" bbl)
Colt Cobra
Ruger LCR
Smith & Wesson J Frame 340PD
Smith & Wesson J Frame 36 (2" bbl)
Smith & Wesson J Frame 60 (2.125" bbl) .357 .38
Smith & Wesson J Frame 649 Bodyguard (2" bbl)
Taurus 85 (2" bbl)
Taurus 85 Titanium (2" bbl)
Taurus 85CH (2" bbl)

NOTE:  It has been my experience that once a "one size fits many" holster is broken-in for a larger handgun it often (but not always) becomes unsuitable for use with the smaller handguns listed. 

NOTE:  The Galco V118 holster is truly a no compromise ambidextrous holster; it works equally well on either side; it is a very creative design.




My Ruger SP101 and all of my J-Frame revolvers easily draw (tilt) from the Galco V118 holster.  My D-Frame Colt revolvers, with their "girthier" cylinders (the Agent and the Detective Special), require two hands to draw from this holster.  Could I do some additional break-in work on the holster so it would work better with the D-Frame Colts?  Maybe, but I am not certain that the holster would then have enough retention for use with the J-Frames.  It would be best to have separate holsters; one for D-Frames and another for J-Frames.  For now (and probably forever) I will limit use of this rig to the J-Frames and the Ruger SP101.  EDIT 3/6/2016:  It was just a matter of breaking in the holster with the D-Frame Colts; they work fine now.



Although I found it was possible to carry this rig without it, I found it to be more comfortable and more practical to use WITH the offside tie-down (BTW, you have to purchase the tie-down separately, it is NOT INCLUDED with the purchase of the rig).  With the tie-down in use, I no longer needed the extra ammo pouches to try and balance the weight of the rig so I removed them (for this photo, I swapped the boot grip adorned S&W Performance Center .38 Special 640 No Dash for the S&W Model 640-1 .357 Magnum).

I believe this type of rig is designed primarily for use over a shirt and under jacket, which is how I wore it in cooler weather.  During the warm weather months I used it mostly over a teeshirt and under an oversized regular shirt.

It is my conclusion that this rig has far too much leather for carrying such small handguns; I may switch the holster and ammo carrier to a Galco harness that has thinner shoulder straps.  Overall, I am happy with this GALCO rig but I do not (at least not yet) consider it to be an essential part of my carry collection. It was an extravagant impulse purchase for me; it is a pricey rig but IMHO it is equal to the quality received.  I'll continue to work with it from time to time but it just does not (for my tastes, especially during summer months) equal the comfort and convenience of the uber lightweight Ken Null SMZ and SKR rigs.

DISCLAIMER: As always at this blog site, this product review is simply good old-fashioned  campfire talk; this is not an opinion on what you should or should not purchase or what you should use.  What does or does not work for me could be many country miles away from what does or does not work for you.  All products I review for this blog are purchased at retail price by me.  I do not accept payment, discounts, "freebies," products on loan, demon alcohol, or sexual favors for doing any review.  My holsters are as much as a hobby for me as my guns are.


2 comments:

Old 1811 said...

I have been using Galco shoulder holsters since 1976, when they were Jackass Leather Company of Glenview, Illinois. I like the wide shoulder straps for heavier guns; for the J-frames I always used the narrow ones.
I always used the horizontal holsters, never the vertical ones. I was glad to see your review since I'm thinking of getting a VHS holster for a full-size auto or a 4-inch revolver.
Regarding the ammo pouches: I always used Speed Strips but inserted them the opposite of the ones in your pictures, i.e., with the bullet noses to the closed side of the pouches and the Speed Strips to the open (outside) side. I found that the pouches were easier to close that way. The leather will cause JHP bullets to turn funny colors fairly quickly, but it doesn't damage anything. I never tried the speedloader pouches; they might be more practical for open carry. I always carried concealed.
Good luck.

James Zachary said...

Old 1811, thanks a million for stopping by; I am honored. Your many years of experience are golden and I want to thank you for sharing. Your comments bring the real world into this humble blog entry and I certainly do appreciate it.

It bugged the living heck outta me that I could only get the cartridges on the strips to work when I set the bullets away from the closed side of the pouch; it just seemed wrong, but that was the best I could do. Anyway, after I read your comment I hurried downstairs and wrestled with them until they fit the way you described. They now look and feel right. Once the cowhide stretches and sets I am sure they will always fit quick and easy. Thanks again!