Ideally we’d all carry our handguns openly on our hip, out there loud and proud for all the world to see. But due either to legal restrictions or the desire to keep things on the down low (or both), keeping your gun concealed is the preference of most everyday carriers.

Dressing for concealed carry, however, takes some thought and planning. Job one is to cover your gun while dressing comfortably and appropriately for whatever you’ll be doing. There are a few simple do’s and don’t’s — and one pitfall you’ll definitely want to avoid — that will help you achieve concealed carry success.

Maybe the most obvious item to avoid: the cliche concealed carry vestJust don’t. 

You aren’t fooling anyone when you wear one of these, especially with shorts, so just say no to tactical vests. A fleece vest may look reasonable in the fall or winter, but there’s a reason so many people call the tactical versions “shoot-me-first vests.”

I’d lay good money that people who actually have a use for one (i.e. police officers) make up a tiny fraction of the total number of those who buy them.

How, then, to dress discreetly and effectively for concealed carry?

While there are certainly lots of more involved options shoulder rigs, belly bands and ankle holsters, here are some tips for the most common methods gun owners choose to carry their EDC pistols.

One of the first bits of conventional wisdom is to wear pants the next pant size up from your normal waist size to accommodate an inside the waistband holster. Whether you actually need to go a size up, though, depends on the gun you carry, your holster and how well your pants fit.

If you pack a larger pistol like a SIG P226 inside the waistband in a hybrid holster (or a G19, FNS-9 or M&P9, just to name a few), then yes, it’s probably a good idea to buy a couple of pairs of larger breeches or some with elastic waistbands. That’s a lot of additional gear to fit between you and your Levi’s. 

On the other hand, if you tote a slimmer, more compact gun like a G43, M&P Shield or a Kahr P9 in a smaller Kydex sheath and you don’t normally wear your drawers hipster-snug, you can probably work with the pants you already have. 

Your mileage will likely vary. The key is to try on your current and new pants, shorts, trousers, etc., with your most frequently used carry gun(s) and holsters to see what gat/rig combinations work with which britches.

As for shirts, some people can effectively conceal their EDC gun perfectly well under only a t-shirt. If you’re not quite that slim any more, you’ll need a bit more material. What you’re looking for are shirts that are loose enough not to print, but not so tent-like as to be ugly or obvious. In other words, give yourself some room, but if people start asking if you have a mix tape, you may have gone too far. 

Pro tip: tall-size shirts can work well too, if you like to tote a larger gun outside the waistband. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid anything slim-fit. More classic cuts when it comes to dress shirts give you the extra width you’ll need to avoid printing, especially if you’ll be tucking your shirt. 

And if you can get away with an outside the waistband rig covered by a buttoned or open untucked shirt, so much the better.

May of us work in office envirnonments, though. For business casual dress, polos and rugby shirts tend to work well, too. They’re usually dressy enough for work, but casual enough for everyday wear and do a good job of concealing IWB-carried gats. 

If you want or need to wear a button-down shirt for a more professional look, go for looser fits and a longer tails. Whether or not you’re tucking your shirt for deep concealment, a little more material helps cover the gun and the holster, but also – and this is something that isn’t always appreciated – won’t pull up over the gun when raising your arms or bending over for something.

Also, don’t forget that a good gun belt makes a huge difference in comfort and support, especially if you carry a larger pistol. Plenty of good gun belts are made of leather, so you really don’t have to wear a tactical web belt with your Brooks Brothers slack and hope no one notices. 

Which brings us to the third option, pocket carry.

There are a number of makers of pants specifically designed for pocket carry. They have larger built-in pocket compartments and some even have break-away Velcro panels to facilitate a quick, effective draw.

Most concealed carriers who pocket carry, though, choose to tote a smaller gun (always in a pocket holster to cover the trigger…right?) in a pair of pants that are roomy enough to accommodate reasonable concealment and quick access. You’d be surprised how easy it is to slip a mouse gun in a sheath holster into a front jeans pocket without anyone being the wiser.

In the end, the goal is to dress so that you blend in wherever you go. Sure, you can go the tactical mall ninja route with a GLOCK hat and shirt with the Second Amendment on the back and the Gonzales flag on the front, but it’s the “gray man” who’s harder to spot and avoids unwanted attention.  

And please, for the love of all that is good in the world, please…no vests.

 

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters and Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also contributes regularly to Ammoland, Daily Caller and USA Carry.

57 Responses to Everyday Concealed Carry Dress for Success – Guns For Beginners

  1. Why would you want to open carry? Nice way to tell the bad guy you are armed? If I were the bad guy, guess who I’m taking out first?

    Dumb!

    • If you’re the bad guy and you seen an openly armed citizen, you’ll most likely run away and choose a different time, place and victim.

      Of course it depends on how stupid the perp is, and other circumstances. But you’ll have a hard time finding actual statistical evidence that open carry makes you a more likely target.

    • If you were a predator would you attack someone who was armed rather than wait for someone who wasn’t? I don’t like showing my cards either, but I suspect that most violence against law abiding strangers is by predators that observe their potential prey first and select what they think the easiest ones. Why take a chance with an armed person when there are plenty of unarmed ones?

    • Open carry invites LEO attention. And many among us don’t get the cowboy look of a holstered pistol. The argument about normalizing OC doesn’t hold up because it just not common enough. Even if half the country OC it would be disruptive.
      If you’re wearing an iron openly you are a target. You might be right about perps shitting their pants and running away but I wouldn’t count on it.

      • The possible extra LEO attention is the primary reason I don’t open carry. Cops scare me profoundly. Regardless if I can beat the rap, I’d like to avoid even having them think about giving me a “ride”. I have a very low risk tolerance when it comes to cops.

      • So judgmental. In VA, OC is common enough not to draw even the slightest negative reaction from the general public. As for LEOs, it has been my experience the only attention is a smile or usually a nice discussion on what we carry. As for becoming a target? OC forces enhanced SA. Whenever I OC, which is more often than I CC outside of winter, I always have my Spidey senses on high alert.

    • I see this comment time after time and have yet to see anyone link to an article where this has actually happened.

      Most perps are looking for a quick score, in and out, no fuss, no bother. They carry their pistol just in case something goes south and they need to make a run for it. The chances of such individuals coming into the local Quickie Mart, gas station, burger joint, etc., spotting an open carried pistol and deciding to just shoot the guy before getting on with other business seems exceedingly slim, IMO. It is MUCH more likely they will about face and choose the next victim down the road. It’s not like they don’t have a lot of places to choose from when they’re only looking to score $50-$60 bucks. Putting a first degree murder rap on top of armed robbery seems like a career move even such a desperate and stupid criminal would avoid.

    • I’d like to see some evidence of this happening, ever. I think this is the latest version of the old anti gun line “a gun won’t protect you because the bad guy will just take it away from you and beat you to death with it.”

    • Do what you want but I’m gonna OWB 90% of the time in my next of the woods. I’ve had nothing but friendly encounters open carrying in my area.

    • I can’t ever imagining a situation where I would voluntarily open carry (without my badge on) – unless I had others with me watching my back. Open carry is a bad idea for MULTIPLE reasons. You are probably an easier target than you think you are. Do what you like. Of course, none of this applies to the range or out hunting.

    • I am a Louisiana CCW instructor and have trained many to understand the advantage of “concealed” that is bringing down the criminal rate throughout the country (with exception to big city problems), and the need to NOT to step into the orange or red conditions in the first place. I also do not want potential assailants to know I am CCW yet keep my sight view of my surroundings at the forefront. Being open carry is a nice Macho gesture, but criminal accomplices are likely to want what they see, catch you off guard and take your prized carry from you and perhaps not beat you with it!

      • Guess how many times someone’s gun has been snatched from an OWB holster in VA in the last decade?

        I’ll give you a hint: it’s less than 5.

        Most of the time, when people carry openly, they maintain hyper-vigilance and are constantly aware of their surroundings, almost to the point of paranoia.

        I openly carry, and have for years. My wife and I are both keeping an eye on our surroundings at all times when in public, and if something seems suspicious, we’ll get into a position that is beneficial to us.

        If I have to bend down to get something, she gets on my right side until I’m back up. If she’s not there, I wait until I’m alone to bend down.

        Trying to scare people out of openly carrying, or attempting to mock and shame them out of doing so by using the term “macho” just shows your ignorance and immaturity. I open carry because I don’t believe I should have to have a permit to carry my damn sidearm. I open carry because 95% of the time, just having a gun on you and letting a would-be attacker know you have a gun on you is enough to prevent an altercation.

        If I’m openly carrying, that 95% is automatic. Nobody has to wonder whether or not I have a gun.

        If you’re concealing, and someone chooses you as a target, it doesn’t matter how quick your reflexes are if they slide a knife into your back or pull their firearm on you. You could be Quickdraw McGraw, and it won’t matter for shit if you already have a gun pointed in your face.

        I’ll stick with my 95% statistic, by letting everyone around me know that I have a gun, that I absolutely am watching you, and that you’re much better off picking a softer target with a lower potential of a fight.

    • Concur. You’re asking to be shot first. Saw that in a Walmart store. The element of surprise is compromised. You will definitely be the first to go down.

  2. Due to my “full figure” IWB is right out. I have found I can conceal my PPQ 45 pretty comfortably (relative term) with a wife beater T shirt and a loose fitting button down. Even when we hit triple digit temps. Other lessons learned, darker colors with a pattern to break up lines and get shirts with “stretchy” fabric to help with getting shirt out of the way during the draw. Hey, don’t make fun of the vest! My daughters bought me several nice vests from Columbia outfitters. They say, they are “in” fashion….I have no clue.

  3. Good points. When I FIRST started carrying I polled as many POG that I knew what and how they carried. Almost all the ones who actually carried all day everyday pocket carried, and that is the route I ended up going with 90% of the time as well.

    Oh, I wear a vest like 4-6 months out of the year. 😉 but not a tactical carry vest. I work outside and it is natural for me. (I wore them for years before i carried a gun on a daily basis.) keeps the core warm without restricting movement.

  4. Since I actually take care of myself, IWB works great. Appendix position, jeans and a t-shirt. I’d be surprised if anyone spots it.

    • That’s how I carry, with a remora holster. And whatever shirt is appropriate. Even tucked in. Aside from one state trooper who didn’t sat anything, I’m pretty sure no one has ever spotted it.

  5. What kind of idiot authors an article that starts “Ideally we’d all carry our handguns openly on our hip, out there loud and proud for all the world to see.” ? You do nothing but make yourself an immediate target and give away the advantage of stealth. Open carry is for police officers, and soldiers in warzones. I live in a state that allows permitless open carry of anything, and you see it very rarely…because its idiotic.

    • That’s right. Open carry is only for priveldged members of society. Stupid commoners are incapable of excersizing such specialized behavior. Indeed we should have it banned for the subjects across the land so that no peon may be able to feel superior to our government overlords.

    • What kind of idiot authors an article that starts “Ideally we’d all carry our handguns openly on our hip, out there loud and proud for all the world to see.”

      A honest one. Because concealing a weapon is downright ungentlemanly and only a coward would behave in such a dastardly manner. Concealing is a form of dishonesty. Are you a dishonest person?

  6. Levis and Wrangler have jeans that are semi mixed with spandex. In essence, you can get your regular size and they will stretch around your IWB holster. Pretty comfy too. Beyond that, a good gun belt, a large/tall shirt and you should be good to go.

  7. I sometimes wear a vest – photo/outdoor not tactical.

    It conceals pretty well. I don’t see the issue with a vest especially since you stated that ideally we would open carry.

    Yes it looks different but not out of place. I live in the south where camp and fishing shirts are norm for much of the year.

    As long as it conceals I good.

  8. Who makes the OWB paddle holster pictured in the article? I have been looking for a Kydex designed like that one because it doesn’t look like a pistol skin and prints less.

  9. From the image of Walter Sobchak it appears that you are calling his fishing/photojournalists vest “concealed carry vest”. You then go on to say it is a “shoot-me-first vest.” Please provide a reference to the study or other reliable evidence that people wearing those get attacked more often or first. From the comments it sounds like lots of carriers wear them and haven’t had a problem. My credentials are as impressive as yours and I posit that a vest with shorts or without is fine.

    • So me and mine (both professionally and family) play the “who is a threat game”. Vests, 5.11 anything, black on tan, cover garments, back packs in the wrong environment all get our attention. I haven’t found any evidence of that actually happening, but the military guys in black and tan at the Boston bombing sure stand out. If i were a bad guy, i would take out anyone wearing a best first on General principle

      • It really depends on your environment. Around here, 5.11s, camo shirts, pants and hats are commonly worn everyday gear. But here, it is semirural, where hunting and fishing are very common pastimes. There may not be that many deer, but we are on a major flyway. In a month, cafes and restaurants will be full of orange vests.

      • All of us play that game. You can’t even be at yellow without doing so. You however are not a bad guy suffering from the stress most of them are likely to experience right before they commit their crime. These aren’t tier one guys being completely rational. You have likely watched the videos of violent crimes and seen that they are rarely calm cool secret agents, they are screw ups that make mistake after mistake. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be committing a violent crime in the first place. I bet many of them might miss spotting even a uniformed officer. You also speak of ‘taking them out’ like you have an easy button to do so and I doubt it is hardly ever that easy. For one thing, they are looking for you too. Etc. Etc.

  10. Ideally I would never carry my handgun openly on my hip, concealed there silently and modesty for no one in the world to see or ever know until its defensive service is needed.
    Why draw attention to yourself unnecessarily? In an ambush, which is how all attacks start, open carriers will be the clearest apparent threat and will have to be the first to go. I dont want that kind of attention.

    • I don’t open carry either but have to ask, how many criminals do you think begin their crimes by trying to kill every likely threat in the area? Are you living in world of Bond villains or something?

    • Based on the information derived from surveying and asking convicted felons about their target selection process, it is apparent that you are MUCH less likely to be the target of an ambush if you are seen to be carrying. There are exceptions of course. A few weeks ago an elderly man at a convenience store was targeted by an armed thug who told him he wanted his (openly carried) gun. The elderly musician promptly shot the thug. The surprise factor conveyed by carrying concealed is probably offset by the decreased probability of being targeted at all. That said, I personally carry concealed, but mostly because there are so many businesses that ban open carry here, that it is just easier.

  11. The UnTuckIt line of shirts might be an interesting option for business casual IWB carry of a single stack if you work in a big city where it is a style statement and if you can afford the near $100 price of the shirt.

    • Untucked shirts in a business environment — at least my business environment — just don’t cut it. However, a sport coat always looks good, and makes you look more professional to boot.

      If I’m carrying in the course of business, I wear a sport coat or a suit.

      There are some places where I have to be completely concealed and even the j-hook of my tuckable IWB holster is too big a risk. I do not want someone saying “Hey, what’s that?” The sport coat or suit jacket conceals the j-hook and eliminates all printing.

        • I haven’t tired the velcro v-clips, because the sport coat has worked so well.

          In business attire I carry either a Ruger LCR or a Kel-Tec P32 — very small handguns. Easy to conceal.

  12. For me it’s patterned button-front shirts with the tail out. I pretty much wear that at work, out and about, even at church. It’s a good “I’m trying to be young and hip but not trying too hard” look and fits with what I do. It also perfectly conceals a single stack either IWB or high-riding OWB.

    One thing I wish gun designers would think about is the profile of the slide. My favorite thing about the Ruger LC9s is the slope on the back end of the slide. Compared to the squared back end of the Glock or even the sharp corners on a Shield, the LC9s just melts into the cover garment. The Storm and R51 figured this out. I wish a few others would.

    • I live in south TX (where it’s HOT except for 3 days in February, which we call “winter” down here!), and I carry a competition model XDs, the 5.25 inch barreled, double-stack .45 variant. For me, although I have a mild “old fart’s belly,” it conceals effectively under a Large size T-shirt (I’d normally wear a Medium), or even better, under a Hawaiian shirt, in a Kydex IWB holster. I also wear “tactical” looking vests sometimes, and have come to wear 5.11 pants virtually all the time now, because I can carry all my regular EDC stuff, including 2 spare magazines in their special pockets within the cargo pocket (and my cell phone-about the size of an AR mag- is held in place nicely in the magazine slot in the other cargo pocket). I find that I can draw more quickly and easily from under the vest or a sport jacket, and it only needs 1 hand, while I’m a little clumsier and have to practice more doing a 2-handed draw from under the T-shirt. If I leave the bottom button on a Hawaiian shirt undone, I can use the same 1-handed draw stroke as I can with a vest, so I usually wear it that way. I was recently asked by the Barista at my local coffee house, why us old guys (I’m 71) were all wearing Hawaiian shirts these days…hmmmnnnn!

  13. “You’d be surprised how easy it is to slip a mouse gun in a sheath holster into a front jeans pocket” – Or, instead of a mouse gun, a decently-sized handgun such as a S&W 442 or 642.

  14. I’ve carried many ways, and I’ve found that my preferred method of carry is openly, OWB.

    I’ve gotten comments of all sorts, from people thanking me profusely for my service to the community as a protector (???) to people mumbling that I’m probably going to start killing people any moment.

    I’ve had the police called on me twice (both times in the same year) and both times were very casual encounters. The officers walked up to me, shook my hand, asked for identification, and once they knew I wasnt a violent felon, they told me to stay safe and have a good day. That was it.

    Considering the statistic is around 95% of the time, just HAVING a gun on your person prevents an altercation with a would-be aggressor, and considering the fact that in all my time openly carrying, I’ve noticed that 99% of people give me a wide berth, I’m very comfortable with how I carry.

    When I open carry, I always dress nicely. I’m always clean shaven; both head and face. I speak clearly and eloquently, and a vast majority of people with whom I interact throughout the day are visually unaffected by the fact that they know I have a gun.

    As a matter of fact, my favorite story was the time I went to Walmart to cash a check. I was carrying openly and the lady behind the counter was very excited. She was previously unaware that she could carry openly; apparently a family member had misled her. She was rather large and she said that she felt uncomfortable every time she carried concealed. She asked what kind of gun I carry; I told her, and she asked what kind of holster I used, because she really liked it.

    I told her, and we chatted about various gun-related topics for the duration of the transaction.

    A couple of months later, I had taken my daughter to a playground in a well known park in the area, and I saw that lady openly carrying a nice looking SIG P320 in the exact same holster I was carrying. She came up and thanked me and gave me a hug, and we sat and continued to chat about guns and gun law.

    So you see, through my open carry, I was able to help an otherwise unarmed woman arm herself against potential threats. I’m very satisfied with being able to openly carry, and not least of all because it allows me to carry my gun without the state telling me that it’s ok. I have the right to carry my gun; I don’t need a permit to do so, and that’s the way it SHOULD be.

    If you prefer to carry concealed, that’s wonderful, and I would never insult you because I believe it to be ridiculous to have to ask permission to carry a gun. I wouldn’t call you an idiot or a moron, like some of this childish individuals above.

    Freedom of choice is a large part of what this country is about, ladies and gentlemen; let’s try to remember and respect that.

  15. Open carry is the obsessive goal of the ‘cowboy’ type. Think about it; you’re allowed by law to carry a concealed weapon! No one has to know, and you’re not going to be targeted by a ‘grab-n-run’ pick-pistol scheme. Crap, be thrilled you can carry a deadly weapon legally, there’s no need to push and cry for open ‘look at me’ carry.

  16. That guy in the picture. His pants are 31-30? That gun must weigh more than he does. Didn’t know 11 – year-olds could get ccls.

  17. Once, a prospective student called and queried:

    “I’m fixin’ to move to Texas. What do I need, in order to legally carry openly, down there?

    I told him:

    “To legally carry openly, in Texas, you will need 3 things:
    1. A handgun.
    2. A valid Texas License To Carry, and
    3. A low IQ.”

    Strange – – The doofus never called back. I guess he decided not to move. Oh well, no loss.

    Michael J Arnold
    Texas LTC Instructor
    San Antonio, TX

    • According to research, you’re most definitely less likely to be targeted if you’re openly carrying.

      And as for what the gentleman above said about running by and grabbing an openly carried gun, my holster has triple retention. You’re not getting the gun out unless you know exactly how to get it out.

      And just like another gentleman commented above, OC forces heightened situational awareness. When I open carry, both my wife and I are constantly aware of our surroundings at all times, to the point where if I have to bend over to grab something, she’s at the hip where my gun is automatically.

  18. I actually do carry in a vest, while riding a horse down the 10 miles of dirt road near me, it is an Orange hunting vest and has pockets and can cover the Ruger LCP II very well in any carry style, IWB, OWB, Shoulder or just slipped in a pocket. I put the Ruger in one front pocket and the cell phone in the other.
    The Orange tells cars/trucks something is in the road they need to miss hitting and also tells Deer Hunters that Me and the Horse are not a deer.
    Summer time while horseback I carry open on a belt a 1911A1 colt, if it is going to be visible it doesn’t matter if it’s a full size pistol.
    On the street I carry the Ruger pocket style with an Allen holster. I wear baggy Jeans or Khaki’s.

  19. I wish people would quit repeating the threadbare label “shoot-me-first vest”. My chances of ever having to use my gun to defend myself are already pretty close to zero. My chances of having to defend myself against multiple combatants who are well-trained enough to be making shooting decisions based on how people are dressed are effectively zero. And an enemy that savvy would certainly be targeting all the Hawaiian shirts at the same time as the vest wearers.

    Hey, the object is to have a gun. If that means a vest, or a shoulder holster, or a belly band, or a fanny pack, then do what works for you and quit worrying about the junior-high level clucking you will get from the tacticool wannabes.

  20. To bad we can’t go back to the days when men almost always wore sport coats & suits, you could carry a big damn gun!

  21. This whole discussion is ridiculous. I carry a Ruger .380 in the back pocket of my jeans, in a pocket holster. It fits nicely in my dress pants back pocket, as well. And don’t tell me the .380 is not enough firepower. If you feel that way, let me shoot you with it and see how you feel. I even like .22’s for concealed carry. And again, if you think that’s not enough firepower, take a .22 slug in the shoulder and tell me how you feel. There’s too much macho testosterone floating around these discussions.

    Now my wife, on the other hand, carries a .38 snub nose in her purse. A waste of time! By the time she fishes it out from under the tangle of lipsticks, coin purses and other female flotsam and jetsome, it’s all over. But you can’t tell the ladies anything. I tried to get her to carry that gun purse they make, with the opening in the side, but it wasn’t “fashionable” enough. Oh well ………………………………..

  22. Let’s face it, carrying a gun can be uncomfortable. I’ve come
    up with what I think is the most efficient solution.
    Occasionally I carry a 38 snubby. On those days I wear either
    cargo pants or cargo shorts. I’ve had the right front pockets
    removed and remade slightly deeper of heavy duty canvas.
    The gun is undetectable and always accessible, I can sit comfortably in the car or anywhere else without revealing
    my firearm.

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