Desantis mini scabbard
courtesy desantisholster.com
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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 an OWB rig with a t-shirt can be difficult or impossible. This leads to wearing more layers than you might want during warmer parts of the year. Or even the dreaded cliche, dead-giveaway of the shoot-me-first concealed carry vest. Even in summer.

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 and that can 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 micro- and sub-compacts are the best starting point, with pistols of shorter lengths being better suited. The typical CCW gun these days is frequently something like a SIG P365, Springfield Hellcat, Kimber Mako or similar. They work well and allow you to carry plenty of ammo. But they’re not for everyone.

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.

If you like to pack a wheel gun, 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.

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.

An Askins holster 

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

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

Short-sleeve button-up shirts 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 — “prints” prominently in others. You’ll have to find the best place for it to ride on your belt.

Will what you end up with necessarily work for everyone? No, but if you’re determined not to carry inside the waistband, you still have some very good options if you’re willing to do the work and experiment a little.

Be careful out there.

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55 COMMENTS

  1. G43 in a simple Tagua leather owb slide here. Preferred cover is a dark navy or black polo shirt, either solid or patterned. With Glocks I’ve found that too much forward cant is bad. A slight cant or vertical carry keeps the rear of the slide from printing more than the grip.

  2. Sneaky Pete. They always forget Sneaky Pete. Been wearing one for 6 years. Good looking (just like me!), sturdy (again, like me!), reliable (me, again!), comes in ballistic nylon or leather (ahem!….nothing like that in my wardrobe), and a variety of colors (not me…I gots one color), is fast on the draw (like me) and is modest in appearance (also like me!).

  3. As always a good solid leather gunbelt, mag pouch and streamlined outside the waistband will easily handle a 1911. P35, P220, G17, or even a K-frame/GP100. This full-size carry needs to be paired with the right wardrobe but, also the practice of a full-size carry needs to be regular to handle the weight.

  4. I had an Askins for a 1911 that did not work too well, as it would not keep the gun in tight. A holster with a loop at either end works much better. The main problem I had carrying a 1911 high and tight was that the rear corner of the grip dug painfully into my ribs. Belt slides are OK, but the front sight may snag on the draw. Plus your gun gets banged around a lot more. I have a preference for leather, and recommend that your holster have a sweat guard to cover the back of the slide and keep it from scratching you.

  5. A good sturdy gunm and 3 feet of 130# test fishing line works for me.
    Low speed drag.
    I just cant find a holstein that fits.

  6. I carry 99.9% of days and I carry outside waistband 99% of days. Any my configuration is virtually invisible even though I carry a Smith and Wesson M&P40 full-size semi-auto handgun with a 15-round magazine which is obviously thicker than a single-stack semi-auto pistol.

    The reason that my configuration works so well is because I use a simple and inexpensive thick (and therefore somewhat stiff) nylon holster and carry it BETWEEN my belt and my shorts/pants. The result is that my belt squeezes my handgun and holster into my body and makes it virtually invisible. (Saying it another way, I carry “outside waistband” and “inside belt”.)

    As the author of this article stated, shirt selection is critical. I am always very careful to select T-shirts or button-up shirts which are a bit long–or at least long enough to cover my handgun. Still, if I reach above my head (such as reaching for a top shelf at a store), my handgun will be partially visible.

    Note that belt strength/stiffness/performance is far less critical when your handgun and holster are inside your belt.

    • Clarification: when I said that my inexpensive nylon holster is “thick”, I am referring to the thickness of the nylon material. In other words my holster uses very thick/strong/stiff nylon material. The entire holster, however, is thin. (When my holster is empty, it flattens on a table to about 3/16-inch thick.) Thus, when my pistol is in my holster, my handgun and holster combined are approximately 1 and 1/8 inches (1.125 inches) thick.

      And since my belt is outside of my handgun and holster, my belt pulls that into my body nice and snug and my handgun becomes very hard to detect.

  7. Been Carrying a Kimber KHX pro for a couple of months now. OWB. Galco Fletch with a bullhide belt cinched tight. Short sleeve button-up and shorts. No problem. The Kimber’s a bit heavier than my hellcat, but I really prefer the 1911. The kimber has a rounded butt and I put a Holosun 507 on it. No problem so far.

  8. Maybe I’m just weird but I carry OWB only I thread the belt so it goes around the outside of my gat like an IWB holster. It’s more comfortable than IWB but more concealable than OWB because it pulls the grips tight to your body. I carry a Beretta 92 Compact and 3″ and 4″ GP100s this way.

    • I’m intrigued by this. What does this do in terms of limiting holster selection?

      On occasion I OWB a S&W 627 snub in an El Paso Saddlery pancake. It’s really the only holster I have for the thing, and I know it wouldn’t work this way. (Really not tough to conceal. May bulge a bit, but I’m in a part of FL where it doesn’t matter and I can OC at work) Sometimes a J-Frame, yesterday it was a G19. The G19 was decidedly more printy than I’d like in terms of outline than the 627.

      Do you still use IWB holsters with clips or is there a certain OWB holster you go for?

      So now I’m sitting here looking at all of my holsters/carry guns wondering what I’m going to wear today… decisions, decisions…

      • I should have clarified, I wear basic leather belt holsters this way with the belt loops on either side. Just thread the belt the other way through the loops. Probably wouldn’t work with other OWB holster styles.

    • @Gov. William J Le Petomane

      “…but I carry OWB only I thread the belt so it goes around the outside of my gat like an IWB holster.”

      That’s great for some body types, we have some around here that do it. Its very effective for pulling the grip in tighter. Doesn’t work with all OWB holsters though. Another method is to use an IWB holster on the outside, instead of inside the pants place it between the belt and pants on the outside and thread the belt through but some IWB holsters are not suitable for this method.

      • I did that with my IWB holsters when wearing jeans that were too snug for IWB. Works fine but a belt holster is still more comfortable. Probably more secure too, but that wasn’t really a problem with the IWB holsters.

  9. I have Galco leather that I have used for about 8 years. works well.

    I use a DeSantis thumbreak mini-slide for 43 when carrying OWB.

    The 43 can be carried with from 3-4 o’clock under a fishing shirt or vest.

    I also carry my 48 in this holster but it has to be at 3 o’clock because of the longer butt. Great Holster.

  10. I live 60 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. My wardrobe has become mostly Hawaiian shirts. If my wife spots a PFG shirt in Academy in my size and a color she likes, she buys it on the spot. My EDC is a Browning Hi-Power and with a kydex holster.

    I got my first dedicated belt from Hank’s and it is good. The belt loops on the holster allow enough clearance for the belt without being too loose.

    Word of caution: the belt is important. A fellow veteran and coworker was participating in an active shooter training event with the local police department. One of the tips for unarmed defense was using a belt to hold a door closed with standoff. His belt snapped during the drill. Spend money on a good belt without regard for carry.

  11. Concealment without printing like ya got a big arrow pointing to you with a sign that says ‘Gun Here!” – just a few things….

    1. Choose pants that actually fits. For example, if you are in your 50’s stop fooling you self and realize your pants waist is tighter because you probably need a larger size pants waist. Another example, if you wear jeans and the zipper plat is not flat across the zipper area while wearing them you are wearing jeans that are too tight for you even if the waist might be ‘comfortable’. For jeans, the Lee or Wrangler jeans with their flex ‘stretch’ waist lines are great for IWB carry – for example, > Wrangler Authentics Men’s Regular Fit Comfort Flex Waist Jean https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07C82X7JG/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 …. or …. LEE Men’s Performance Series Extreme Motion Regular Fit Jean https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07T5Q6L59/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    2. T-Shirts, well, no matter what you think not everyone looks good in a tight fitting T-shirt. Sure, some people do but its not very good if you plan to carry concealed. There is a category of clothing called ‘oversized’, and no it does not mean fat people. These are T-shirts in your size that are actually a little larger than your actual size, think of it as your size +25%, e.g. XL +, but not the next actual size. So for example, if you wear a size XL in a T-Shirt and it fits well and is loose a little but the firearm still prints a little you get an XL ‘oversized’ and it will be a little more loose and not snug around the weapon as much when you move or are standing still. There is also the same basic thing for button or zippered shorts and tops. The ‘concealed carry’ clothing places use this concept and charge a bunch more money for it but you can find it cheaper in other normal brands that are not sold as ‘concealed carry’ clothing. Most clothing manufacturers will produce ‘oversized’ clothing as a result of defective measurement settings on equipment when the material is cut, and instead of throwing it away after sewing it all together they sell it off in bulk lots to the many ‘wholesale’ sellers on the internet. Some careful shopping will get you some great ‘concealed carry’ shirts and tops at 1/4 the cost of what you might pay for clothing that’s sold by places as ‘concealed carry’ of which most is really this ‘oversized’ stuff they found and then put their label on it. And then sometimes you just need to move to a larger size in shirts.

    3. Darker color shorts aid reduced printing more than lighter color shirts. You don’t necessarily need to wear a pattern all the time. Polyester type materials are more ‘clingy’ then cotton or a blend so, for example, the Under Armor performance wear that you think you look so good in is probably not helping you not print actually when you move around.

    • I find Carhart tees some of the best for anti-printing. Wearing Lee stretchy’s and the aforementioned Carhart in dark blue rn, lol. Comfort zone, with 2 15rd in sidecar, 1 21 in pocket, 2 30’s on my ankle. Grey man above all.

      You’d have to look real close to notice anything off about the shoes. Altama Maritime Assault’s in black subdued multicam. Looks like any other generic high top shoe to the casual observer without a close inspection. Flat bottom, only giveaway is the tread. You’d think they’d be quiet, but footfalls still sound like boots unless careful. Recommended.

      On board with everything else.

      [email protected]

  12. A little sexist with this ain’tcha? What about IWB carry for all those ladies & LGPTQetc people? Don’t they deserve some love from y’all? And don’t forget midgets. 🙂 😉

  13. I don’t worry about printing too much. I’ll try to avoid but most people are so unaware of their surroundings and have their face in their phone. The only people who might notice are someone else who carries.

    • You’d be surprised at who notices the firearm printing. Just because you think they are not noticing doesn’t mean they are not noticing. I’ve seen small kids correctly identify a concealed carried because of the printing.

      One day I was in line at the grocery store, there were six people ahead of me and one of them was a guy I saw at the range frequently and I knew he carried and was new at it but he printed some. So anyway, every time he moved the printing became a little more obvious. Directly behind him was a lady with her little girl, the child points to the guy and said “mom something moving under that mans shirt, it pokes out”.

  14. It’s all in the holster. I can make a 1911 disappear while wearing a polo shirt. For OWB, a snug holster is essential then slide it around til you find the spot most concealable.

    Then carry what you like.

  15. I do agree that a well made reinforced leather belt assists in keeping an OWB holster from tipping out, and currently I use one be DeSantis I’m happy with. I carry OWB about 95% of the time. I’ve just enough gut to make IWB uncomfortable for all day wear, and realistically at 63, the gut’s here to stay. Though I’ve various holsters I sometimes use, most of the time I carry my P365 in a Bianchi Belt Slide #2218. It holds the gun close enough that printing is not an issue with most of my clothes.
    In coat weather, I wear a shoulder holster half the time.

  16. I use a wide DeSantis gun belt with their mini scabbard OWB holster for all of my pistols. I currently carry a S&W Shield Plus 13 1 9mm in the mini scabbard.

    I put a pant belt loop between the two belt loops on the mini scabbard so the holster doesn’t move around much and the gun is always in the same position for draw.

    I use heavy cotton Polo shirts or button-up short sleeve shirts in the summer and heavy sweatshirts in the winter.

    I find that darker patterned shirts conceal better than solid colors and I always use the “relaxed”, “classic”, or “traditional” fit shirts to help conceal with my rotund figure.

  17. Step 1: Move to a state where permitless concealed and open carry are both legal.
    Step 2: Stop worrying about whether you are printing
    Step 3: Profit.

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