Kenai Chest Holster from Gunfighters, Inc.

Smith & Wesson recently sent us a model 610† for review. As soon as that T&E was in the works I realized I didn’t have a suitable holster for the big N-Frame. I wanted to carry the gun, at least a little, in a platform that suited its ideal purpose: hunting or defense in the great outdoors. Someone pointed me in the direction of the Kenai Chest Holster, and I’m glad they did.

Full Disclosure: Gunfighter’s Inc. provided a Kenai chest holster for review here. I was paid nothing for this review, and was not asked to write it. However, this post does contain some affiliate links to Amazon.com.

I’m typically not one for unconventional carry methods. The most-used methods to tote handguns – AIWB, IWB, or strong-side OWB – will answer the mail for most of my carry tasks. But for some jobs these carry positions may be less than ideal. When carrying a backpack with a waist belt it can be difficult to find a belt holster that doesn’t rub you raw. I’ve personally stopped a mile into a hike to take off an uncomfortable holster and throw it in my backpack.

Plenty of other outdoor activities require gear that renders belt carry inconvenient, uncomfortable, or impossible – like wearing chest waders. Doing a lot of uphill climbing can make appendix carry unbearable. Coincidentally, activities like these also sometimes put us within the reach of four legged predators, and the threat of ill-intentioned humans is never eliminated regardless of the remoteness of our venue. The pursuit of one’s preferred activities shouldn’t eliminate access to defensive tools.

The Kenai Chest Holster

The Kenai is designed to address the problems of belt carry by getting the gun off the belt. As the name implies, the Kenai chest holster places the gun center chest. When unpackaging it, the Kenai looks like a holster and a huge tangle of nylon webbing. Though it can look a little daunting and takes a bit more setup than just slipping it on your belt, it’s not difficult at all to set it up.

The heart of the Kenai is the holster. Gunfighter’s Inc. offers holster fits for a huge array of revolvers and semi-auto handguns. The fit on my exemplar is excellent. The two-piece holster is molded tightly to the contours of the revolver, covers the trigger guard, and offers a generous sight channel. At a glance it looks like a typical, wide Kydex holster, until you note the three Fastex buckles riveted to it.

Though there are three buckles, there are only two straps that hold the Kenai to your body. The first goes over your support shoulder to provider vertical support, while the other wraps around your torso to keep the gun held tightly to your body. Each strap is adjustable via M-buckles, and the holster comes with plenty of material to fit bulky builds or bulky clothing.

The Kenai Chest Holster harness.

The Kenai is designed to be backpack-friendly and comfortable for all-day wear. Instead of placing the weight of the firearm on one point on the body, the Kenai’s harness has three points of contact that distribute the weight more evenly. The harness yoke (the “T” holding everything together) is a strong elastic material that gives the harness a bit of stretch. Another piece of elastic is found connecting the holster and the buckle of the vertical strap. Additionally, all buckles are thoughtfully placed so they aren’t under your pack frame.

Setup and Wear

After taking it out of the package, the first thing you’ll want to so is adjust the straps to your body. Though I found I could reach around and adjust them while wearing the holster, it was easier to have someone else help me out. If  you don’t have anyone to help you out, an iterative process of taking the holster off, making gross adjustments, trying it back on, and making refinements may be easier.

I managed to get the holster correctly adjusted in relatively short order. Before you jump in, I have just one quick note of caution: as much as you may be tempted to, don’t over-tighten the harness. I wanted the holster extremely snug, but found that when I got gassed, heavier breathing made the harness uncomfortable, but backing off the tension just a bit corrected this problem. Before making a permanent modification to the harness like cutting the straps, you may want to do some physical exertion to ensure it’s where you want it.

After I had correctly adjusted the harness I wanted to preserve my adjustments, so I routed the excess nylon back through the M-buckle. I found I was left with a ton of excess nylon. In the future I may cut this off in the interest of keeping the straps flat and comfortable under a backpack. For now I folded it and taped it down with a strip of Gorilla tape.

It took a few repetitions, but I finally figured out how best to put the Kenai on. I decided on unsnapping the right-side buckle (the one closest to the trigger guard). With the other two buckles snapped the straps form a loop through which I extend my left arm. All that is necessary to close the Kenai is to fasten the strap that wraps around the torso.

Getting the Kenai off and on only requires one buckle. I found the buckle nearest the trigger guard the easiest way to don and ditch the holster.

Using the Kenai Chest Holster

Though I haven’t done any serious backcountry trekking with the Kenai, I did wear it while working around the farm. I wore the Kenai for several hours as I turned compost, dug fence post holes, and performed some other manual labor.

I also wore the Kenai with a ~25 lb. backpack for a bit. The holster and it’s harness didn’t interfere with the backpack at all. I was worried the pack’s back panel would press on the harness and render it uncomfortable, but it didn’t on this short little hike. Overall, I found it extremely comfortable to wear and will definitely consider it for hiking, hunting, and other outdoor endeavors.

Kenai Chest Holster under a backpack

Although I’ve never encountered a Kenai in the wild, I have seen some chest-carried handguns on busy public trails. I’m always a bit put off by this on the types of trails I’m talking about – those trails that are packed all weekend long with refugees from the big city, trying to cram a little nature into their lives. Open carry is just not my thing. Having the gun on prominent display in the middle of my chest even less so.

In true backcountry/wilderness area I’d be fine with open carrying the Kenai. Unfortunately, bears inhabit some of these busy public areas, so I wanted to see if I could put the Kenai under a light jacket. Though this obviously slows the draw stroke down it worked pretty well. It certainly isn’t “deep concealment” but it takes more than a casual glance to notice the gun. In cooler weather I’ll be packing my GP100 under a light jacked or flannel shirt.

Drawing From the Kenai

I requested a S&W N-Frame holster, and through a stroke of serendipity, this also happens to fit my Ruger GP100. Being open-ended, the Kenai is barrel length-agnostic. I wondered if this would impact draw at all, but on my 4″ guns I didn’t even notice it when drawing. I’m not a fan of exposed-barrel holsters for belt carry (sitting down can cause the gun to be driven upward and out of the holster) but it seems acceptable for this style of carry.

As mentioned earlier, the Kenai provides pretty darn good passive retention. The fitment of the holster is precise and there is little chance of the gun coming out of its own accord. The tight fit coupled with the elastic in the harness can create some problems with the draw if you aren’t using the correct technique. The holster doesn’t want to give up the gun, and elastic will stretch before the pressure against the holster overcomes the tension of the elastic and the gun is released. A slow draw is not recommended with the Kenai.

Drawing requires a firm “snap” out of the holster. The gun easily overcomes the holster’s tension when drawing in this manner, and comes out with ease. I didn’t find this detrimental to a clean draw at all. I was curious about the draw from such an unorthodox position but again, found myself able to draw smoothly with a full firing grip.

Complaints

There is but one complaint I have about the Kenai, and I imagine it is unique to variants made for revolvers. As with some other revolver holsters, the Kenai suffers a radical angle at the leading edge of the cylinder. Some edge is necessary here to hold the gun at the correct depth in the holster. However, the sharp edge on the Kenai provided the only discomfort I experienced.

This edge seemed to sit right on my sternum. After an hour or so of wear this became tiresome and found my bunching up my shirt to provide some padding under it. I will likely pad the backside of this holster as I did my Dark Star Gear J-Frame holster. This is probably a non-issue on flat-backed autoloader holster.

The Bottom Line

Unlike many holster manufacturers, Gunfighters Inc. offers excellent revolver support. Fits are available for some Colt revolvers, the Chiappa Rhino, Ruger Blackhawk/Super Blackhawk, GP100, LCR family, Redhawk/Super Redhawk, SP101, and Security Six, S&W J-Frame, K-Frame, L-Frame, N-Frame, X-Frames, and TRR-8, and a number of Taurus revolvers. In all the Kenai supports over 200 firearms, and can be custom-ordered in different colors, and to support sights/lights/lasers.

The Kenai chest holster isn’t exactly inexpensive. It runs $150 directly from Gunfighters, Inc. or on Amazon. It is an extremely high quality holster, and it is manufactured in the United States. Though this isn’t replacing my Precision Holsters Ultra-Appendix, it isn’t intended to. If you need a holster for outdoor carry that makes belt carry less than ideal, check out the Kenai Chest Holster.


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†That review has been delayed for technical reasons. We are still working on it, and we will publish it as soon as possible.

Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began RevolverGuy.com in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

10 thoughts on “Kenai Chest Holster from Gunfighters, Inc.”

  1. Good review. As all of my hiking where I live is in bear (grizz) country, I’m always looking for good backcountry carry options. But like you, when I’m on more popular trails, I don’t like flaunting a gun in people’s faces. Another option for chest carry in more populated areas is a Hill People Gear Kit Bag. I’ve been using these for years – they work very well with a backpack, and the draw is quick and easy with a minimum of practice. Most people I bump into just think I’m wearing an outdoorsy chest pack and have no clue there’s a .357 inside.

  2. Thanks for an excellent review. I would like to see a comparison with Simply Rugged’s “Chesty Puller” rig, one I have been considering.

  3. I don’t really see what advantage this offers over the military style tanker holster, which is cheap not ugly, and fits 4″ K-frames like the Model 19/66, probably the best packing revolver outside of Brown bear territory. Furthermore harnesses like this are available that adapt three slot pancake holsters to be carried in this manner. It’s called the Chesty Puller system from SimplyRugged.

    1. I don’t believe I mentioned the military-style tanker holster anywhere in this article, which would account for me not elucidating advantages and disadvantages between the two. Since you brought it up, though, I can say (having carried a tanker holster a bit as an OOD in the military) this is massively more comfortable. The elastic, wider straps, and flat fastex make it much, much more comfortable than the thin leather with lumpy metal attachments. Advantage #2: there is no strap required to retain the gun in which permits a much faster draw. Third, the Kenai is also available for well over 200 handguns. Maybe you could find a military tanker for a S&W X-Frame…but I kind of doubt it. I’m aware of the Chesty Puller, and another commenter mentioned it, but it’s a completely different product that deserves to be looked at on its own merits.

      Hope you saw my article on the Ellifritz class in October. I hope to see you there since it’s in your neck of the woods!

  4. I was always curious about this style of carry. When I was looking for a backwoods gun when I lived in Grizzly territory, this was high on my interest list. But I was always concerned with the outward appearance of something like this strapped across my chest while on public trails.

    I wonder how this would compare to something enclosed like the Hill People Gear kit bag, which is the direction I was planning on going in the future.

  5. Great review. I almost went this direction for my 3 7/8” 610, but ended up with the Hill People Gear chest pack.

    When I’m hiking in Western states I use it along with a reload in half moon clips. In eastern states I carry a 640 with a couple of speed strips. But the real advantage is that as long as you have a little weight upfront it’s really convenient to add a cell phone, GPS, and whatever else one likes on the trail.

    With a little practice the draw is quick.

    My wife picks on me because I get complimented on it all the time, most from fellow outdoors people who have no idea there’s a gun inside of it.

  6. Well, I’ll offer a *third* positive mention of the Hill People Gear Kit Bag, which I use to carry my handgun when I’m cycling.

    For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a non-tactical-looking, gun-specific *fanny pack for your chest*, that rides in roughly the same position as a chest holster does.

    On the plus side, as Hammer pointed out above, it’s low-key and discreet: it doesn’t look like it’s concealing a gun.

    And when riding a bike, it works much better than a regular holster in a ‘normal’ (strong-side or appendix) position— much more comfortable, with no possibility of the gun suddenly flying out— yet still readily accessible.

    On the negative side— for me at least— it’s *not quite* as quick to access as the Guide’s Choice chest holster.

  7. Ditto, on the hill people kit bag. Used to carry a glock 29 in it, but as of recent a sp 101 w/ 4” barrel (love this gun) stoked with buffalo bore 180 gr. Hard cast . That being said the bear mace hanging off it is plan A. Also holds a survival blanket, small first aid, mora knife lashed to the bottom accessible, leatherman, fero rod lighter, tinder, bandana, and a single speed loader. This is my montana mtn biking/cross country skiing/hiking rig. They also carry more compact units that could hold something like a j frame securely on the chest for a runner, or someone not carrying as much crap as me.

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