Adam Harris is a U.S. Army veteran and an avid outdoor enthusiast. Having grown up in Alaska, Harris is aware of the potential threat posed by large wild animals, but a day of mountain biking in rural Washington state nearly ended in disaster when Harris turned the corner and found himself hurtling toward a black bear at high speed.
“He was about 3 feet away when we noticed each other,” Harris says. “He was eating berries, we kind of had a moment, then I shooed him and lucky for me he ran off. If that was a mama with cubs it would have gone differently.”
That’s when Harris started carrying more than a knife while biking in the backcountry. He realized that the perfect solution would be a chest holster, and as the owner of GunfightersINC holster company, Harris had the ability to design and construct exactly what he needed. That’s how the Kenai Chest Holster came to pass, and that product has started a revolution of sorts. More and more hikers, bikers, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts are carrying firearms in chest holsters.
Why Chest Holsters?
For years, the conventional carry position for handguns has been the shooter’s strong side hip. This position makes the handgun easy to reach in many circumstances, and allows the firearm to be tucked out of the way and concealed if necessary. But hip carry has its issues. For starters, carrying a heavy firearm (especially something as large as a big-bore revolver) on the hip causes imbalance and even discomfort while you’re walking several miles. In many cases, such as when sitting on a bike, on horseback or in a canoe, accessing a hip-mounted handgun can be difficult. And fly-fishing? Forget it; it simply isn’t an option when you’re wearing waders.
Enter the chest rig. For starters, chest holsters offer rapid access to your firearm when you need it most. It may initially seem that the hip position is easiest to access—after all, your arms hang down at your sides, right? Think again. Begin tracking your arm position throughout the day and you’ll find your hands are most often in front of your body. This is particularly true when you’re in the outdoors. You’re using your hands to clear brush, to paddle, support a bike, tie a fly to a tippet, or you’ll simply loop your thumbs in your pack straps. In any case, a chest holster offers the fastest, easiest access point if you need to reach your gun in a hurry. Many backpackers mount their firearm to their pack straps, but that’s not the ideal carry solution because if you drop your pack—and you inevitably will—you’re unarmed.
Comfort is another reason why many shooters are turning to chest holsters. Anyone who has carried a large handgun in a belt holster while walking long distances understands how irritating that extra weight can be (not to mention having to hike up your pants over and over and again). Chest holsters balance the gun and distribute weight evenly across the shoulders.
“You can carry very large handguns on your chest very comfortably, and with the right loadout you'll barely notice you have a .500 Magnum,” Harris says. “If (chest holsters) carry a large revolver, the comfort only increases with smaller revolvers and semi autos.”
GunfightersINC’s Kenai holsters straps fit neatly under the straps of a pack, Harris says, and they’ll also ride inside chest waders.
Four-legged predators can be deadly, but odds indicate you’re at far greater risk from two-legged predators. Whether you’re mountain biking, hiking a lonely trail or kayaking down a deserted stretch of river, you may find yourself suddenly threatened by one of your own species. In those instances, having a gun immediately accessible is a smart idea.
“There are people out in the woods up to no good,” Harris says. “Camp robbers and illegal grow ops are a real threat. We've heard from customers who have encountered both situations and were glad to have their firearm displayed on their chest to maintain a hard target.”
GunfightersINC’s Kenai chest holster comes with three adjustable straps and a Kydex/nylon blend shell. The shells can be exchanged, which means you can swap carry guns as needed. I’ll be hunting caribou north of the Arctic Circle in two months. The trip requires a great deal of canoeing, and I’ll be in waders for the duration of the hunt. It also takes place in grizzly country, so a Kenai chest rig makes sense for me. If you spend any time in the outdoors a chest holster probably makes sense for you, too.