A Few Tips For Better OWB Concealed Carry

Desantis mini scabbard

courtesy desantisholster.com

As most can attest, inside the waistband carry is better for concealment, but there are some folks who prefer outside the waistband concealed carry. It isn’t difficult to imagine why; it’s more comfortable to carry that way. You don’t need bigger pants and your pistol and holster poke you a little less while you walk around, sit, what have you.

The hitch, of course, is that concealment is more problematic. Concealing with a t-shirt or less can be difficult or impossible. This leads to wearing more layers than you might want to during warmer parts of the year. Or even the cliche, dead giveaway of the shoot-me-first concealed carry vest.

Unless, of course, you wear a suit all the time anyway. In that case, don’t worry about any of this and just keep on keeping on.

What can a person do if they’re determined to carry OWB but still want to stay on the down low?

The older salts among us are already aware of a lot of this, so this is really more for the newbies. There are a few tricks, tips and so on that will help. Your mileage, of course, may vary, so you’ll have to figure out what works for you.

To start with, you need to pick the right gun and gear.

As for pistols, compacts and subcompacts are the best starting point, with pistols of shorter lengths being better suited. The typical CCW gun – especially the single-stack poly subcompact that most people carry these days – is going to do just fine.

Those of us preferring a full-size gun for daily carry (and there are plenty of people who do) will find that the Beretta 92, GLOCK 17 or — better yet —  a government frame 1911 will either barely skate by or you’ll probably have to resort to another concealment scheme. Full frame guns are awfully difficult to conceal when carried outside the waistband.

Also, the thinner the pistol the better. Part of concealment is being able to keep that bump from being noticeable and that’s harder to do outside the waistband.

You might be able to get away with a K-frame revolver, but an N-frame just won’t cut it in all likelihood. Not to mention that you’re liable to give yourself back problems toting one of those every day.

Next is your carry gear, specifically a holster. You’ll do well to choose an OWB holster that rides high and tight. The closer the muzzle is the bottom edge of your belt, the better. Too far down and an untucked shirt won’t cover it. If it sticks too far out away from your body, it prints. Or leads people to think you have a little brother named Kuato.

 

There are plenty of examples of such holsters out there. The old timers carried with leather pancake or Askins holsters, which work well for this purpose with a compact gun. Modern takes on the high-ride OWB are available from some pretty good gear makers as well.

Next is clothing. You can stick with the CCW vest with the sash and CCW badge if you want. However, if you’d like to avoid those cliches, here are some fashion tips.

Try shirts in tall sizes, if they aren’t ridiculous on you. Another inch or two in the hem length can make a big difference.

Short-sleeve button-up shirts with a straight hem around the bottom are a great option as they satisfy most dress codes and can conceal a pistol fairly well. You can wear them untucked and still look presentable enough for the office. A nice roomy polo also works well.

That said, placement matters a great deal. If you pick a good gun and holster, you’ll find it virtually disappears when carried in the right spot but sticks out in others. You’ll have to find the best place for it to ride on your belt.

Will it necessarily work for everyone? No, but if you’re determined not to carry inside the waistband, you still have some good options. Be careful out there.

comments

    1. avatar John C. says:

      These holsters SUCK. Like carrying a giant brick on your belt. I just ordered one and within five minutes of receiving it I boxed it up and shipped it back for a refund. 😂

      1. avatar don says:

        I have to agree. Carried it for a while but I felt it was too big on the waist and was more of a theft target. Sold it on ebay.

  1. avatar Rammerjammer says:

    So you’re advising get a bigger shirt and smaller gun.

    That’s some expert advice…

    1. avatar A O says:

      When reading this article, two things came to mind: no $hit.

      The author owes everyone 2 minutes of their life. And TTAG should also pay some punitive damage for posting this article.

  2. avatar RayS says:

    I didnt see “cant” mentioned, but I find the “FBI” cant good because it keeps the grip from sticking out the back. Also, wearing at 4 or 5 oclock works good for me, especially with an open front garment.

  3. avatar Ranger Rick says:

    As someone who carries in plain clothes a Sig P220 on and off duty I highly reccomend an Alessi CQC-S. This holster conforms to the curve of your waist and does not stick out as much as others. It also has the unique ability to be easily removable for storing the pistol in a safe non-trigger accessible configuration.

  4. avatar tdiinva says:

    Funny, I carry a 1911 or BHP and they are less detectable than my polymer subcompact. You must be doing something wrong

  5. avatar TheSophist says:

    One thing to mention… the average muggle is simply unaware and blind. You might think you’re printing, hell you might KNOW you’re printing like an encyclopedia, but the average person just assumes you’ve got a big cellphone or something.

    In almost five years of nothing but OWB carry, I’ve been “made” twice. Once by a cop, once by private security guard studying to be a cop. Both times we bonded over being people of the gun, talking calibers and holsters and such.

    So yes take care and do what you can, but just realize that most people simply do not see what they don’t want to or expect to see.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Spot on.

      In Massachusetts, everybody is in Condition White all the time, even a lot of cops. I sometimes think that I could wear a gun duct-taped to my forehead like a tiara and nobody would notice. Except maybe the fashion police.

      1. avatar New Continental Army says:

        Indeed. And if people think the normal police are brutal, just wait and see what happens when Ru Paul gets ahold of you.

      2. avatar Mark says:

        You live in MA? My condolences.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      TheSophist,

      I recently visited a tourist attraction in Tennessee and another in Kentucky. Both demanded that everyone disarm before attending. I reluctantly disarmed before attending. In both locations, private security stopped me and accused me of carrying a concealed handgun. Oddly, there was nothing on my waist so I have no idea what they think they saw. Perhaps it was nothing more than my choice of clothing that I specifically chose for optimum concealment qualities???

    3. avatar Joel says:

      My guess is you have been ‘made’ a lot more times than you realize. But didn’t notice. Or the person who made you didn’t make a fuss about it.

      The other day I was leaving Walmart when a guy walked in OCing. There was a family unit (two ladies and three kids who all seemed related) walking in behind him chattering and one of them spotted the gun and motioned to the other lady what she saw. The fear in their faces was priceless. OC guy never noticed the panic he caused or that I was also watching him.

      I’ve spotted carriers many dozens of times, and the carriers are rarely aware I know their secret. I’m sure the same has happened to me.

      1. avatar TheSophist says:

        Joel,

        I think the key word is “muggle”. I’ve “made” concealed carriers IWB and OWB. But that just makes me feel better knowing another law abiding armed citizen is nearby. I’m sure other gun carriers have “made” me without reacting. Because we’re informed and aware.

        Btw, I’m not talking about OC. I’m talking strictly about concealed carry using an OWB holster. Maybe muggles do get freaked out if/when they realize that bulge they noticed is a gun but don’t panic outwardly.

        Maybe as you’ve said, non-gun people “make” OWB concealed carriers all the time without making a fuss. I suppose I have no way of knowing. But I’m pretty confident that most people who do not own or do not carry a gun rarely notice what they simply do not expect.

        YMMV.

    4. avatar Ing says:

      I’ve noticed people open-carrying while my wife remains totally oblivious, and she knows people carry because I always do (and she used to, but found it too inconvenient).

      And even when I know people are probably carrying concealed, I usually have a hard time telling where, how, or even whether they actually are. At our family reunion in July, my brother-in-law and nephew were both carrying and I didn’t know until we all started the inevitable gun conversation.

    5. avatar Ardent says:

      Agreed. I’m a thin guy who packs a g19 and two spare mags OWB EDC and I only ever seem to be made by other people of the gun, and not usually even by them. Like Ralph says, you could wear one openly and not get made by most people most of the time.

    6. avatar billy-bob says:

      If anyone comments on the bump under my shirt, I just say it’s my colostomy bag, that usually ends the conversation rather quickly.

  6. avatar Gunr says:

    Man I’ve seen ugly babies before, but that one tops them all!

  7. avatar 0351 says:

    My K6S rides very nicely in a pocket holster. Easy draw, and it protects the trigger. No more uncomfortable than a cell phone, even in jeans. I generally like a tucked shirt so it works great for me.

  8. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

    Steyr S357-A1 with a Masc Holster OWB leather pancake. As a lefty it’s usually between 7 and 8 O’Clock depending on belt loop placement. In warmer weather I just go up a size in T-Shirts. But really, here in Maine above the Volvo line, it’s just a courtesy. I wouldn’t get a second look if I were open carry.

    1. avatar Robin Rhyne says:

      “The Volvo line” 🙂

  9. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I carry a full-size semi-auto pistol with a double-stack magazine. And I carry it in an extremely thin nylon pancake holster outside the waistband. Of particular note: I wear that holster so that my belt is OUTSIDE the holster which really pulls my handgun in tight to my body. With a somewhat lose-fitting t-shirt or button shirt, my handgun is nearly invisible as long as I am not reaching up in the air or twisting.

    I have only had two people notice that I was armed in several years, and one of them was an off-duty policeman.

  10. avatar 33Charlemagne says:

    Since you have to wear an untucked shirt or cover garment to cover the top of a gun carried IWB anyway I see no reason to put up with the discomfort and inconvenience of IWB. An untucked T shirt is enough to cover my 4.2″ barrel SP101 in a Simply Rugged Silver Dollar Pancake Holster. Occasionally you can see a half inch or so of the black leather holster below the hem of the shirt but you really have to be looking especially if I am wearing a black T shirt and/or jeans. It would not even show that half inch with a button up shirt or my snub nose SP101

    1. avatar Travis says:

      I have also found my 4.2″ sp101 to be my ideal carry gun, literally on my belt all day every day, my 2.25″ sp101 goes in my pocket when I leave the place as a backup gun, otherwise I’ve got an LCR 22 as a backup gun for around the place, it is nice for if I have to dispatch a varmint.

  11. avatar Mark says:

    Strange article. OWB is super easy. Here are the guns in my rotation: Walther PPQ 5 inch, Glock 17/34, HK VP9, Canik TP9SF/TP(SFX, Beretta APX, Steyr L9A1/M9A1, Sig P320, FN509/FNS Long slide, CZ P10C,

    Never had a problem. And if I’m printing a bit I don’t give a shit. The soyboys and moms demand types can fuck off.

  12. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    I carry on my belt my phone and right next to it a horizontal mag carrier with a 15 round mag. My gun is carried IWB. A Officer sized 1911 or Walther PPQ-SC with a tucked in or draped over t- shirt.
    If anyone chooses to look. You cant hide holster belt loops. I try not to print the best I can.
    Most people dont seem to pay any attention. As no one has ever said a word to me in over 25 years of daily carry. If I could Id prefer to carry in an open top holster and did so for many years while wearing a sports coat. I still have many coats with chewed up linings from that mode of carry.

  13. avatar Pete says:

    In your photo you depict a pair of 511 tactical pants. I have found these perfect for IWB carry, the elastic gives enough to fit the pistol but when removed, simply bring your belt in one notch. This eliminates the need for one size pants for “carry” and another, smaller size for “not carrying”.

  14. avatar el Possum Guapo says:

    My .9mm MicroMag and “Flesh Tones” forehead holster by Duct Tape have never been detected.

  15. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

    There are three classes of people you don’t want identifying you as a firearms carrier, legally or otherwise.

    1) Cops. Cops are one class of people who can take some action against you, either legitimately or otherwise. Even if you’re perfectly legal, who wants to be part of a “pedestrian stop”? They’re also the toughest class to protect against, since they’re trained to look for firearms on people approaching or near them.

    2) People who mean you harm. This would include terrorists, active shooters, armed robbers or other criminal types. While some of these, on identifying you as a carrier, might well choose another target, others may indeed “shoot you first”, whereas had they not seen your weapon, you might have had a tactical advantage which you have now given up. Fortunately, this class is obviously pretty rare – but still a possibility. That’s why you’re carrying, right?

    3) Observant citizens with cell phones. This leads back to “who wants to be part of a ‘pedestrian stop’?” Worse, who wants to be part of a “man with gun” 911 call? Depending on the neighborhood you’re in, if the police aren’t careful to discern from the witness whether you’re holstered or brandishing, this could end badly for you. Worse, some OTHER concealed carrier – legal or not – might decide to confront you, depending on the neighborhood (also related to 2) above.)

    So you really don’t want to be spotted by any of these if you can avoid it. Everyone else is likely oblivious unless you’re making really dumb mistakes like bending over instead of kneeling to pick up something dropped or raising up your shirt or coat over the holster or adjusting your holster in public.

    It is a conundrum if you believe in carrying a firearm with decent capacity that you can control and shoot accurately, especially if you’re not a big person. Sure, you can carry a compact or subcompact, but if seven rounds isn’t enough for you, those options are limiting. Everyone could carry a five-round .22 derringer in that case, but there has to be a balance between capability and size.

    In some cases, off-body carry is warranted if you’ve trained with the method and your situational awareness is good enough to avoid being surprised by an assailant.

    Bottom line: There’s no one answer good for everyone. Duh…

    1. avatar GunGal says:

      I’m waiting for the response to “woman” with a gun call, when walking my dog in our neighborhood.

      A couple of years ago my sister in law and I were shooting at an outdoor gun range. When we’re packing up to leave, a couple of young guys came over and asked “are you police officers”
      My sister in law answered “No, my dad was a retired policeman and her dad was a Judge, we are just bad ass women if anyone poses a threat of death or serious bodily harm, it’s now beer thirdy on the back porch at our ranch outside of Fredericksburg, have a safe and enjoyable range time”

  16. avatar ATTAGReader says:

    I am seeing a lot of men open-carrying the latest massive cell phones in horizontal belt cases. They are so large that at a quick glance they can be mistaken for a holstered gun. I used to carry an iPhone 6 in a belt case, and under a jacket it may as well have been a poorly concealed handgun. It looked so ridiculous I moved it to the breast pocket of my jacket, or pocket of cargo shorts, depending on the situation. Maybe the prevalence of large belt-carried phones will make OC and OWB as well as occasional printing less controversial to the non-firearm community. At least I can wish.

  17. avatar raptor jesus says:

    I like a shoulder holster with my suits.

  18. avatar Capn Jack says:

    IMHO The dumbest thing any Concealed Carrier can do is wear one of those, “I PAC” , or any other firearm related T shirt. All it does is make you a potential, “First Strike’ victim.

    As far as carrying concealed, carry what ever fits your frame and don’t leave home without it.

  19. avatar Bruce Clark says:

    How about the obvious? A shoulder holster on top of a t-shirt covered by a cotton short sleeve button up shirt left unbuttoned. I’ve been carrying that way for 15 years. During the cooler months substitute a long sleeve shirt or jacket. The key is wear it in a cross draw position so in my case being right handed the pistol hangs horizontal under my left arm pointing backwards. Even an expert spotter such as a cop can’t see you’re wearing anything. Only use a good quality leather rig also. Mine is made by Galco and came with two extra mag pouches attached. It’s so comfortable at times even I forget I’m using it.

  20. avatar Truthntesting says:

    I have the same proverbial “big box-o-holsters” as most of us reading this article. Ironically my edc holster is a modified Glock sport holster. It’s light, durable and secure. I’ve also modified two Glock mag holders into a double. Since I settled on owb, I buy clothes for carry first, fashion second.

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