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 vest. Just 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?
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.