Top 3 ‘Must-Haves’ For Carrying Outside-the-Waistband

I carry outside-the-waistband (OWB). I find it the most comfortable way to carry a handgun and the best carry method for a quick, efficient draw. Obviously enough, it’s not the most discreet way to schlep a gat.

Even those of us fortunate to live in open carry states still need that discretion; there are plenty of places that allow concealed, but prohibit open carry. And there are times when discretion is the better part of stealthy valor.

When it comes time to hide your gat, you don’t want your gun to show through your clothes. (Note: “printing” is not illegal.) To maintain operational stealth, you have to either wear a really baggy T-shirt or an untucked dress shirt (see: untuckit.com). Regardless, here are three must-have’s to limit “printing.”

1. A Slim, body-hugging holster 

The trick to keeping your OWB firearm from making an outline in your shirt: keep the gun tucked as close as possible to your body.

Some holsters — K-Rounds, Desantis (Speed Scabbard)Bravo Concealment and GunfightersINC holsters, to name a few — are better at this than others.

Unfortunately, this list does not include any retention holsters, my preferred holster for open carry (for obvious reasons). And it goes without saying that you need a stout gun belt to secure your holster of choice.

But even if you buy a slim, body-hugging holster, you’re still going to print with a thick-handled handgun like…most double-stack handguns and every full-sized GLOCK made. So you need . . .

2. A short-handled, thin-handled gun

Some gun buyers mistakenly consider barrel length the most important characteristic of a gun purchased for concealed carry. Nope. It’s the handle. As you can see from the top pic, a Glock 30SF in the aforementioned DeSantis Speed Scabbard.

If you want to OWB carry a full-size gun, go for one with a shorter, thinner grip. I’ve found that 1911-style guns are the most discreet full-sized firearms for the job. Capacity needn’t be a problem with this style of firearm; STI’s 9mm double-stack DVC Carry (soon to join my hip) holds 15 rounds.

There are plenty of small, thin-handled guns that fit the remit, such as the Smith & Wesson Shield, Springfield XD-S, Kahr CW9 and GLOCK 43. Note: though lighter and more concealable than any full-size gun, these guns surrender capacity and weight (which helps with recoil, which helps with accuracy) to larger handguns.

So you’ve go the right gun and holster. You’ll also need . . .

3. A Tommy John undershirt

The problem with carrying a short-handled, thin-handled handgun OWB in a body-hugging holster: it hugs your body. That can cause chafing and sweat-related issues in warmer temperatures (even with holsters with so-called “sweat shields”).

The $40 Tommy John undershirt puts an extremely thin barrier between the gun and your body. Bonus! They’re designed not to come untucked, via extra length that extends down to the top of your thigh. The TJU doesn’t make you significantly hotter, either. A must-have for OWB.

comments

  1. avatar Specialist38 says:

    So…..kinda the same thing you need for “easy” inside-the-waste-band carry.

    Got it..

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      what about SOC (side of your cranium) carry, for ~ swimming?

      What about a nice drop-leg holster? Safariland anyone?

      IWB / OWB =

      NOT
      FOOLING
      ANYONE
      BUT
      YOURSELF

      1. avatar John in TX (Was CT) says:

        Illegal in Texas (at least for “open carry”), where most of the TTAG staff resides. Holster has to be on the waistband or the shoulder to be acceptable.

        And it’s not terribly frequent that your attire will allow you to effectively conceal a thigh holster (especially in TX)

        1. avatar Joe R. says:

          Re: the ‘concealment’ issue, saying you’re ‘concealing’ your firearm is somewhat of a joke. It’s like saying Richard Simmons is as “undecided” as Susan Sarandon. I don’t care if you dress like the Michelin Man, you’re still going to at least have load of tells.

          It’s kinda like TX is telling you that you’re ‘safer’ by not open carrying. OR, more specifically, that TX is protecting you by saying you can’t OC.

          Nobody can protect you on the individual level. Maybe not even you. Don’t let your A-hole neighbors who needed a job (your state government) let them get away with saying otherwise. Tell them to pack their sh_t and go home.

        2. avatar Bob says:

          “Illegal in Texas (at least for “open carry”), where most of the TTAG staff resides. Holster has to be on the waistband or the shoulder to be acceptable.”

          WRONG….as long as the drop leg is attached to the belt it’s legal.
          You may want to actually read the law!

        3. avatar John in TX (Was CT) says:

          The law specifically says “in a shoulder or belt holster”, and my LTC instructor specifically took time out of his day to tell us that the “oh, well my thigh holder is connected to the belt with a strap” thing doesn’t fly.

      2. avatar Specialist38 says:

        WTH are you talking about?

        You make no sense. Seemed like the same advice given to those looking to carry IWB.

        If you need a slim gun and tight to body holster (PPS, SR9c) for OWB are you gonna be likely to carry a much bigger pistol IWB?

        You might have missed the “easy” part. SInce single stack 9s are selling like hotcakes, I’m guessing most people are looking for that slim profile.

        I can carry an N-frame Smith IWB – but I don’t like to. Like carry a watermelon.

        Maybe just me…YMMV.

    2. avatar Bob says:

      So Rob,
      My pistol has a grip frame and grip panels (1911). Where can I find one with a handle? ???

  2. avatar Waldo says:

    I refuse to wear a shirt that doesn’t make me at least a little bit hotter. I’m not working with a whole lot of natural hotness here, bub.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      It’s going around.

      At least we’re not compensating for hotness, gun = comb-over kinda thing.

      🙂

  3. avatar Big Johnson Jr. says:

    I have plenty of shirts that print just fine without a gat.

  4. avatar Ozzallos says:

    Oh Lord. Ye ole printing paranoia again.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      Yes, “All the guns that are fit to print” – the old gray lady a/k/a: “fake news”

  5. avatar pwrserge says:

    One thing I’ll note is that your gun selection is going to be very much driven by your body type. Being a 5’11” 210lb dude, I don’t exactly have the slim torso lines that most modern hipsters consider “fashionable”. (The fact that I can break the little shits over my knee is also a big plus.) That means that a Glock 34 with a Bravo Concealment holster more or less disappears against the background of my frame with a simple loose shirt or sweatshirt covering it.

    The long undershirt is a great call. Personally, I dug up my old USMC “PT” shirts that were issued for a little while before someone realized that they tend to melt into your skin if you catch a little heat. I still have a dozen of the suckers in perfectly good condition and they have a tendency to stay nice and tucked not to mention being perfect for temperature regulation regardless of climate. (Sweatshirt or long sleeve goes over in cold weather and a nice lose Aloha shirt for hot weather.) I just wish I knew who made them so I can find myself some black ones.

  6. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Top 3 ‘Must-Haves’ For Carrying Outside-the-Waistband: a slim waste!!!

    1. avatar pwrserge says:

      I’d say the exact opposite is true. Us more “barrel chested” gentlemen have a much easier time making items on our waist line disappear into the background.

      1. avatar MarciaCrowley says:

        One can hide a lot in their fat folds.

        1. avatar pwrserge says:

          I wouldn’t know. I’m running at less than 15% body fat.

      2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        Shirts should fit at the shoulder. If the seam where the sleeve attaches is halfway down your arm, your shirt is too big.

        That means that if your waist is smaller than your shoulders, there will be plenty of loose fabric down there to hide your pistol. If your waist is wider, the fabric will tend to be tight at the waist and more likely to print.

        1. avatar pwrserge says:

          If your waist is larger than your shoulders (as a man) you’ve got much bigger problems than your gun printing. Diabetes and congestive heart failure come to mind.

        2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

          Roughly two-thirds of the attendees at the upcoming NRA Convention will fit that description.

        3. avatar Joe R. says:

          Right, but as pwrserge said, it will be an overly-tight fit.

          These are good: https://atomic-athlete.com/exercises/

    2. avatar Sidney Collins says:

      I agree. Unless there is some unknown shirt manufacturer that is pumping out inverse dimensioned shirts, a slim waist line will help conceal.

  7. avatar Swilson says:

    Agree wholeheartedly on having a good undershirt. I carry IWB and I know that isn’t the subject of the article, but whether OWB or IWB, with or without a sweat guard, them things rub!

  8. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

    You can solve the stealth problem with a loose fitting shirt. I am a big fan of “LL Bean tactical.” They sell a number of shirts that make the fattest grip disappear. Wearing Bean clothing also has the advantage of providing cultural camoflage. Nobody associates the Maine retailer with the gun community so even if you print a bit gun will be the last thing people will think.
    Of course if you want elegant color there is always a Tori Richards shirt and you get the advantage of more comfortable hot weather loose fitting clothing.

    1. avatar pwrserge says:

      Bah… That’s what eye witheringly glaring Hawaiian print shirts are for. Make it bright and ugly enough and nobody looks close enough to notice the bulge on your hip.

      1. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

        I’d rather not look like a Czechoslovakian playboy.

        1. avatar pwrserge says:

          Pretty sure no track suits were involved in this conversation.

        2. avatar Snake Plisskin says:

          ^^You, my friend, win the Internet comment of the day….well played….

        3. avatar Adub says:

          Hawaiian shirts and track outfits…

          Serge, you’re always good for a laugh when you’re not enlightening me about military tactics and weapons.

          Thumbs up!

      2. avatar jsallison says:

        Or they’ll think it’s your 10″x12″ i(whatev)phone23 or Galaxy S92.

    2. avatar Pwinky says:

      I like “LL Bean Tactical” myself, but guns are rough even on their clothing. Pm9 knocking about in the cargo pocket has worn a hole in 3 of my 4 pairs of cargo pants, all 2-3 years old. Carried IWB it managed to wear a hole in one of my polo shirts as well!

  9. avatar Steve says:

    I agree with #1.

    #2 should be a quality gun belt.

    There should be no #3.

  10. avatar Hannibal says:

    Uh, how much kickback is TTAG getting from Tommy John? Pretty much any undershirt will do just fine and most come out at around 3 for $10 instead of 1 for $40.

    1. avatar Cornholio says:

      Yeah, really. $40 for ONE t-shirt? Pass.

      1. avatar Andrew says:

        40 for an under shirt eat a bag of d!cks.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      Who makes them extra length?
      Anyway, according to my wife, I don’t wear “undershirts” but T shirts, which are a heavier fabric and for me, more comfortable. I then wear some kind of an overshirt or jacket, which a very common form of dress where I live. Printing is not an issue, nor is comfort. Yes, Ts are more expensive, but they are dressier and, for me, more comfortable. Mine come from Woolrich.

      1. avatar RocketScientist says:

        Kirkland (Costco’s store brand) makes some great undershirts. They’re cheap (low-priced) but very good quality, and VERY long for tucking in and staying tucked. Tend to run a little large in general as well (you might end up needing to buy a size down from your normal).

  11. avatar pete says:

    I like the “Stafford” store brand t-shirts from JCPenny due to being long but otherwise fitting normally. That said I’m craving one of those $40 Tommy John tanks now :S

    1. avatar pete says:

      …Wish they were available in different colors, I could use light yellow or lime.

  12. avatar Alan Esworthy says:

    For a good concealing shirt, don’t rule out the guayabera. They are comfortable, always worn untucked, and are increasingly accepted as business attire as well as casual. With the increasing percentage of the U.S. residents from Latin America, you see guayaberas more and more frequently, and an Anglo wearing one doesn’t raise eyebrows as happened in years past.

    I won’t supply a link, you can find them all over the place. If you Amazon, then Amazon away but there are great shirts available online elsewhere as well. Here’s a photo (the ink is extra).

    1. avatar ATTAGReader says:

      These were not popular among the Anglo set when I lived in FL, but as I am planning to retire to the beach, just not in FL, I agree with you. Add a straw planter’s hat, pour a Pina Colada when you are not carrying, play Some Enchanted Evening in the background. Heavenly.

  13. avatar strych9 says:

    You lost me at “To maintain operational stealth…”.

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      Beat me to it.

  14. avatar Xanderbach says:

    For OWB, I always recommend a retention holster. I have a Safariland ALS that is slim enough under a light jacket, holds like stink(?), yet is easy to draw on a natural draw stroke. Then again, I live in AZ, where open carry is a societal norm… So YMMV. Also, a good shirt to wear is… A Hawaiian shirt. I consider it “dazzle camouflage.”

  15. avatar Ed says:

    A $40 undershirt? A NEED? Give me a break…what a hot air article. Gee I had no idea that I’d need a decent holster an unturned shirt and a overpriced undershirt until TTAG told me. Thank god, I have no idea how I’ve managed to carry all these years without you TTAG. Still not as bad as the appendix carry one from yesterday…but close.

    1. avatar Pwrserge says:

      $40 for a good thermoregulating undershirt is not outrageous. It’s the difference between quality and quantity. I can’t afford many of my Blackhawk dress shirts either, but they are some of the most enduring parts of my wardrobe.

      1. avatar EU says:

        As long as your undershirt is long enough, go ahead and tuck your undershirt into your underpants. It won’t move around, prevents holster/grip chafing, and will make your significant other laugh at you.

  16. avatar FlamencoD says:

    I carry both OWB and IWB. I usually don’t care if I print unless I’m at my kids’ school, where it is legal to carry w/ a CHL, but I don’t want to raise any eyebrows. The thing about printing I don’t like is when a gun makes my body look oblong to the right side at my waist. I take pride in my fairly muscular physique, and having a fat or bulging right hip looks funny so I try to avoid the 3 o’clock position if I can help it. I also don’t like baggy, Hawaiian, unbuttoned cover garments, or tactical shirts. So, I go IWB at 3:30 to 4 o’clock position with my XDs, or at 2 o’clock position which helps hide it fairly well. For me, IWB at 2 o’clock conceals the best, but 3:30 or 4 is generally more comfortable.

    No one needs $40 undershirts – who would spend that much money on an undershirt? I wear white cotton V-necks tucked into my boxers, and it works just fine. 3 for $11.

  17. avatar Larry says:

    Here’s my 3.

    1. Wide shoulders

    2. Narrow hips

    3. A shirt that fits at the shoulders will drape nicely at the hips, concealing gun just fine .

    1. avatar Kendahl says:

      1.5. A waistband no wider than your hips.

  18. avatar Ralph says:

    My guns used to print all the time until I taught them cursive.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      *snicker*

      On a serious note though, many schools have dropped cursive from their curriculum because it takes too much time to teach kids cursive while also teaching for the stupid standardized tests. At the same time we’re pushing back math to the point that what people used to do in 8th grade isn’t offered until sophomore or junior year of high school.

      The statement “We went from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college” is flat out true.

      Ain’t government grand?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Over 40 years ago I started college on the GI bill.(I know. Don’t laugh. I really did.) Four year university. All incoming freshman were required to take a test. We were tested to see if we could read and write. And if you couldn’t read and write they had tutors standing by.

        I can’t imagine things have gotten any better since.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          My freshman year I was required to take English 101. I dropped the Fall semester class because the lady who taught it made it quite clear that if you were white you might as well be wearing a KKK hood to class.

          Spring semester I got a very, very, very good professor who walked in and said (close to verbatim) “Most high school English teachers don’t know a damn thing about English and so neither do most of you. We’re here to fix that so forget what you know about English”.

          She was right. Most of the class was writing and peer reviewing papers. Many of the papers I received for peer review read as if, and I shit you not here, a little kid was talking. It wasn’t quite baby speak but it read the way little kids talk. At best 2nd grade is what we’re talking about here. See Spot Run type shit.

        2. avatar pete says:

          I though my college-prep HS English courses were good enough, and strictly they would gave been, but my college made us start with a 101 level for STEM people. Not a bad move because you never know what could stagger through public school. One kid can get expelled for a bullet keychain, another have a criminal record and can’t read a pizza menu and gets a diploma.

          Wasn’t a waste of my time, the instructor was not a prof but way better than a public school teacher. Actually tore me up on the first assignment. It was worthwhile, got me tuned up for real work in my major.

        3. avatar Mark N. says:

          Yeah I remember those tests. I was lucky–I took the AP test and placed out of freshman English. We also had a 2-yr language requirement, and they tested for that too–that was quite a surprise in the first week of college. I used to type papers for a friend of mine who had only a passing acquaintance with English grammar. He didn’t figure it out until he was a junior. Never could figure out he managed it; it kind of just “happened.”

          Now there are college professors trying to revive Ebonics, because “white” English is “racist.” Black kids should be encouraged to just write how they feel and not worry about grammar or spelling. I shit you not. http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2017/02/bad-medicine.html

      2. avatar Kendahl says:

        I remember being criticized for my poor handwriting early in elementary school and it hasn’t gotten any better since then. Fortunately, there are keyboards. After nearly fifty years pounding on them, I can type 75 words/minute which is far faster than I can write legibly.

        What annoys me far more than poor handwriting is incorrect spelling and grammar. Some of it is due to inadequate proofreading but most results from poor education. Simply reading many, many books though childhood and adolescence gives one a feel for the language that, for the most part, makes memorization of arbitrary rules unnecessary.

        Tests force schools to at least teach something to a standard. They also identify schools where a large fraction of the student body is failing. In defense of the public system, I must point out that there are high school students taking advanced placement classes that count toward a college degree. The real problem begins with kindergarten children whose parents haven’t prepared them for school and who provide no guidance thereafter. These kids start out behind the curve and fall farther and farther behind as they grow older. They are a drag on better prepared students. Schools spend disproportionate resources in a futile attempt to catch them up while neglecting the better students and even failing to provide for their physical safety.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          My handwriting, even in print, sucks so bad that in High School I was basically forced into a typing class. In those days we had typewriters and not PCs.

          I was the only male in the class. It was possibly my best time in school.

          I’m of the opinion that if we did away with the federal level of department of education and returned the control of schools to the locals we would be ahead by a great deal.

        2. avatar strych9 says:

          I have no particular complaint against standardized testing itself. I took AP exams in Chemistry, Physics and English in high school. Those are all standardized tests.

          That said, the current way of doing things is flat out retarded. The standards are low yet students are completely unprepared by previous grades they’ve gotten through. So, most of the school year is dedicated to teaching students how to take that particular test, which they should already know, rather than learn anything useful for their current grade level.

      3. avatar CarlosT says:

        All the useful English composition and grammar knowledge I ever learned, I learned in my high school Latin classes. It’s still, to this day, the most useful subject I ever studied.

  19. avatar jwm says:

    Does that down to your thighs t shirt come with a fly?

  20. avatar Hank says:

    Eh. I just open carry, and when I can’t, I pocket carry a different gun. I gave Up on all the IWB/OWB, baggy shirt, button up, constant holster issues and said F*** it. I’m just gonna open carry or pocket carry.

    1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      Because loose shirts are such a hassle? Hard to find ones that fit?
      Do holster issues vanish when you come out?

      1. avatar Hank says:

        Maybe I do? I weigh over 400 pounds and must often roll to get out of bed or out of my Prius, which rides low as it is. I don’t identify as a fatso though. So I don’t need to lose wieght, or wear sunscreen, because I identify as a thin lesbian black women.

  21. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    OWB concealment holsters with retention: Bianchi Carrylok, any good old leather thumb-break pancake-style holster. I have a Carrylok for my G 26 and I have both Bianchi and Desantis thumb-break holsters for my Ruger LCR and LCR-X 3″ revolvers, respectively*. I carry on horseback a lot and don’t like to carry without retention.

    They conceal just fine.

    I prefer leather to kydex — more comfortable and I’ve broken a kydex holster falling off a horse onto it. Leather gives instead of breaking.

    // * The LCR-X 3″ was horrendously hard to find a retention holster for. Tip from someone who’s been through it: S&W 3″ K frames have nearly the same dimensions!

  22. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    BTW, for undershirts, I usually just wear a normal wife-beater (tank) style cotton undershirt, but sometimes, when I know I’m going to be doing something very hot & sweaty, I wear UnderArmor or knock-off brand wicking compression t-shirts. Cotton can get saturated and clammy, those won’t.

  23. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    You don’t need no short thin gripped gun. A Mk23 or Glock 40 is fine, you just need to dress like the Dude.

  24. avatar Mark N. says:

    Screw all that. Get a duster. Or a long black leather coat. Carry a shottie. And a bunch of other guns. Don’t forget the shades.

  25. avatar Nathan S. says:

    Alternatively, if you don’t want to look like an under dressed child in a giant wrinkled, untucked polo or hooters T shirt, you could invest in some decent button down shirts and sport coats.

  26. avatar Will says:

    If I wear a Tommy John t-shirt will it bring back my fastball? What will it do to my control?

  27. avatar Stinkeye says:

    If that photo is any indication, the fourth thing you need is a willingness to look like an oversized toddler with a colostomy bag.

  28. avatar Wally says:

    The most obvious “tell” that someone is carrying isn’t printing, its ‘gun-tending’ behavior; touching and adjusting the gun/holster through your clothes, adjusting your shirt or coat trying to keep it hidden, pulling at your belt or waistband, walking/running/using stairs funny (don’t want the gun to bounce around too much. ) etc.

    99% of people never see anything they aren’t looking for. And 99% of people aren’t looking out for strangers with guns and/or ill intentions.

  29. avatar M. Atkinson says:

    Please stop calling handguns “gats” you sound like the local ebonics spewing gangbanger.

  30. avatar DBL TPR says:

    The only sane comment on this entire string is from M. Atkinson. Most people are walking around with their faces stuck in their SMART phones (sic). I carry OWB all the time Bank, Post Office. Businesses who don’t allow firearms on their premises. Hell a couple of times in different police stations because I forgot I had it on.. Never once has anyone ever made mention about my sidearm. I use a Kydex holster from Alien Gear with a S&W M&P Shield 9mm. If you don’t act like Rambo no one pays any attention.

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