Bear Gun Chest Rigs

We talk a lot about the most effective gun choices when it comes to hunting the Maine black bear. We also talk a lot about calibers and specific rifle action types. The hardiest of us talk about pistols and revolvers best equipped to match the black ghost of the Maine woods. One thing we don’t often hear about is handgun holster choice when hunting bear. Whether you are a guide that has the misfortune of surprising an angry sow with cubs during a bait refill run or a hound hunter slogging through bog after bog, having the right holster and the ability to ‘clear leather’ quickly and neatly is important.

There is plenty of debate on what constitutes the perfect bear hunting handgun. For brevity, I’ll just go with the most common type seen afield in pursuit of bear – large caliber revolvers. The nature of a large caliber revolver is such that traditional hip holsters or even drop holsters become ineffective due to the weight of both the gun and the load within. Even on the smaller side of traditional big game revolvers, a loaded .44 Magnum can feel like putting a cinderblock on your hip after a few hours.

Ferrying bait while a drop holster is slapping the bucket is no fun. Neither is that boat anchor on your hip digging into your waistline while ankles deep in a cedar bog. Enter the chest holster, God’s very own gift to the bear hunter.

Commonly referred to as the Alaskan Chest Holster, this design puts the gun on your chest where it is easily accessible in a split second. Houndsmen especially benefit from the rig, keeping their hands free while working dogs and easily switching to a one handed leash hold while unlimbering the gun with the other if needed. The high position of the holster prevents snags and provides a near instant high ready position with the gun.

Archers seeking bruins would also find a suitable use as a backup contingency while on stand and nearly any outdoorsman could benefit from a chest rig while snowmobiling, horseback riding or exploring the trails by ATV. Trappers and any other big game handgun hunter would find this rig to be very comfortable and easy to use.

Quite a few companies market a version of the original ‘Guides Choice’ leather chest holster by Diamond D Leather in Alaska. There are even nylon versions that cause me to raise an eyebrow, but such is the nature of innovation. If you didn’t invent it, try to copy it or better it. This however, is no small task.

Every holster made by Diamond D is hand crafted to fit the specific gun model ordered. Changed the front ramp sight? No problem. They tailor the holster to your specific gun if modifications were made and offer accessory add-ons like speed loader pouches, cartridge holders and spare magazine pouches fitted to your gun. They’ll even add your initials if you so desire.

While I leaned heavily on the bear hunting revolver aspect, these rigs are available for many popular makes and models including 1911 pistols, Glock, FN, Beretta, Browning, CZ, Kimber, Ruger and Smith & Wesson to name a few. Add the fact that these works of art are hand made in America by dedicated craftsmen in Alaska and you really run out of reasons not to own one. If I’ve piqued your interest, you can find them on the web at

At $175, the Diamond D chest holster rig is no small investment, but worth every penny; properly cared for, it’ll last you a lifetime. You can take that to the bank.

[Photo caption – The Guides Choice leather chest holster – Courtesy Diamond D]

John is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He also works as a freelance outdoors writer and is the author of “Life on the Ridge” for the Outdoors section. He can be reached at or on Facebook @tuckerridgeoutdoors

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