Crossbreed IWB holster
Courtesy Crossbreed

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 jeans. 

GLOCK 43 G43 IWB Kydex holster
Dan Z. for TTAG

On the other hand, if you tote a slimmer, more compact gun like a G43, SIG P365 or Springfield Hellcat 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.

Courtesy 5.11

As for shirts, some people can effectively conceal their EDC gun perfectly well under only a t-shirt. If you’re not quite as slim as you used to be, 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. 

Courtesy 5.11

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. 

Dan Z. for TTAG

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

May of us work in office environments, 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. 

Tuckable holster
Courtesy Amazon

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.

Crossbreed gun belt
Courtesy Crossbreed

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 slacks 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.

Pocket Holster
Dan Z. for TTAG

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 and can still access your gun should you need to. 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 hard to spot and avoids unwanted attention.  

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

 

 

46 COMMENTS

      • “People look at me funny when I rock my Simms vest and waders to the grocery store though.”

        Nah, it’s actually the “Clop-squish, clop-squish” sound you make when walking in leaky waders… 🙂

        • I actually saw someone a couple weeks back walking through the grocery store in a full fly-fishing-in-the-rain outfit with the hood up, mask and lab goggles with exam gloves.

          People acted like it was normal. I figured she was either immunocompromised or named Karen (intelligence/emocompromised)

      • They probably feel like you are judging them for being at the grocery store in a vest and waders from Wal Mart 😉

  1. Can you hold a bowling ball like that and look good doing it? Maybe you oughta lay off Walter Sobchak. In the midst of national crisis, Crossbreed is perniciously encouraging metrosexuality again;-)
    Gonna go put on one of my photojournalist vests since you reminded me.

  2. Tactical vest my ass. Those are photographer’s vests and nobody cares if it matches your tactical socks. Just because some wannabe GI Joe buys something doesn’t make it “tactical.”

    • Just carry an SLR camera with a big-ass lens and you’re good to go. Nobody will question any vests, bags, pockets, or fanny packs you happen to be toting.

      Reminds me of the mid-90s shortly after Utah legalized concealed carry, when suddenly every third ofwg had a fanny pack. I didn’t put the mysterious fanny-pack craze together with the CCW thing until much later, though.

      • When I travel I have a camera case with neck straps that fits just about any reasonable sized pistol. I’ve never had anybody question the contents.

        • Guitar case, foam for inserts, and a hotknife. Works well for lo-pro carry of some rifles & shotguns. Covered with music industry stickers, and good to go. What’s in the box? Asked no one.

          Bonus, fit’s a couple of pistols or a bevy of mags at the same time. Get a roller, it’ll save you a lot of grief versus carrying something that is obviously heavier than a guitar to a trained or simply attentive eye.

        • @ tdiinva

          Exactly, and who in the modern day even remembers such things, outside of a few people on sites like this and some historians? Better still, how often you see musicians getting roused and having their equipment searched outside of TSA checkpoints and the beggar who harassed people whilst playing on the street corner?

          Seeing how I practice what I’ve preached and never been subjected to the same, while anecdotal, it works for me.

    • I bought my first 5-11 vest for travel. I could put all the stuff that went into my pockets in the vest and toss it in a bin. When you are flying 30- 50k miles a year you find ways to ease the hassle at security.

  3. Great article.
    It only left out the requirement of having a box full of holsters that don’t work just right.
    Someone could make a killing setting up a 2a friendly holster exchange website.

  4. … the goal is to dress so that you blend in wherever you go and can still access your gun should you need to.

    A couple years ago I visited a popular tourist destination in Kentucky and in Tennessee with my spouse and children. It was summer time and I wore nice looking casual cargo shorts and nice looking short-sleeve shirts with collars which fit well. (My shirts were neither tight nor loose.) Both tourist destinations were private property and declared themselves “gun-free” zones. At the last second at both locations, I decided to leave my everyday-carry handgun in my car although I kept my holster on my belt. To my utter and complete surprise, multiple security employees (some dressed casually and not obviously armed — and some dressed in uniforms and armed) at both locations stopped me and would not let me proceed until I lifted up my shirt. All employees were relieved to see my empty holster on my belt.

    I thought I was dressed to blend in and wasn’t wearing anything that said, “I must be carrying a handgun!” And yet multiple people thought that I was. Perhaps those employees mistrust anyone who is dressed nice and wearing an untucked shirt? Maybe I would have been better off wearing an untucked t-shirt???

    • A combination of dress and bearing is often a give away, some times a haircut assists as well.

      Jeans, t-shirt and a sport coat looks way different on an oblivious fat guy or an oblivious skinny hippie than it does on a fit person with a short, well kept haircut and their head on a swivel. Two of these people are dressed “business super casual” the other is covering something up most of the time.

  5. I disagree on the vest. It all depends on where you live. People out here in Wisconsin think it is a fishing vest. I also have a Duluth Trading vest that I wear with smaller pistols because of the way it is cut.

    • Correct about vests for concealed carry. There are many nice looking-looking ones you can buy that don’t have the poofy pockets all over, which just look silly unless you are fishing. For summer, I got a lightweight cotton one with only two slash side pockets pockets. I’ve never seen anyone take a second look. Why would they? Where this “shoot me first” nonsense came from for vests I don’t know. No one ever looks at me funny when I’m wearing a vest. But then that may depend on the region of the country. In big cities, it may be different. (Sorry, but no rational person lives in a big city these days.)

      Then for cool weather there are obviously many brands/types of thin poly pile vests. There are very nice looking ones with nylon or some other smooth material on the outside with a then pile lining. Even in cities people wear those in the fall.

      But, in any case, think about out it; how many people can you describe to me who were at the last store you were at.? Unless you are constantly practicing “situational awareness” (Jason Bourne at the WalMart). Nobody cares; no one is looking at you, except for security guards at locations where “no firearms” signs are posted (and little children who love to stare at everyone). I believe in respecting the sign ; it is their property – just like if someone were coming on to your land and you didn’t want them armed. If you don’t like it, go somewhe else. Or take your chances with the huge hassle if a security guard calls the cops on you. Depending on the state, you can get in trouble, and believe me you don’t want cops responding to “man with a gun” in the store. That man (or woman) being you.

      Another option to cover a belt holster is a lightweight blazer (there are very casual-looking cotton ones). Lots of types for women too. When it is in the 70s in temperature these are fine instead of a light jacket. Or tweed? ones in the cool weather. I’ve got a few. ($10 for $200 designer tag ones at the thrift stores, you can easily tell good material from all-polyester junk). When is in the 70s in temp or below these are fine. See the the Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood detective movies, or Sonny and Ricardo in original Miami Vice. Bring back some style. (Most people these days in the U.S. dress like pathetic slobs for some reason.) Geez people, watch a Cary Grant movie.

      You can also make your own button-up “no-tuck” shirts by sewing triming and sewing a horizontal hem into the tails of a regular shirt – one with long enough tails. You can look at the 5.11 brand shirts in the store or buy one to copy. Then buy a bunch on thrift store shirts with long tails to sew- lots like new for $4. Ask your wife or girlfriend if you don’t know what I”m talking about. If you want to get really fancy, you can copy the 5.11 shirts with then quick open snaps or button magnets for use with belly band holsters. They sell the little snaps and button magnets in fabric stores. Or just buy a bunch of thrift store polo shirts. Take your (empty) belt holster into the store to check the mirror in the fitting room to make sure they are big enough not to print.

  6. What bullshit.

    “We would all wear our guns on our hips”…… but don’t wear a vest.

    Flroida law saw my pistol needs to be concealed. A vest does that.

    Do some people assume I’m armed? Sure. Do they KNOW I’m armed ? No.

    I can reach my pistol (or pistols) much faster than if I had a tuck able holster or one of the silly underwear holsters.

    It is truly concealed as opposed to people who carry a Glock 19 IWB with a T shirt having Glock grip outline.

    I do carry with just a shirt sometimes or a tshirt and cover shirt.

    A vest (I own several) allows me a carry a full sized gun if I like plus another gun if i choose.

    I have had one guy sarcastically ask me if I was going fishing. My reply was “I’m always ready to go fishing – aren’t you?”

    Dont like a vest, dont wear one. And dont worry for those of use who do.

  7. A word of advice none of these types of articles never seem to mention to new carriers is: “stop worrying quite so much about printing”.
    In my experience, new cc-ers tend to obsess over whether someone will, under any imaginable scenario, no matter how unlikely, figure out that the small buldge in your shirt is the butt of a firearm. 90% of people are so distracted by what they’re doing, or their stupid phone, that you could be walking around with an OWB rig on over nothing but your whitie-tighties and the wouldn’t notice. The VERY few who do make out that outline of your gat are probably curious what you’re carrying because their itching to talk guns with you.

  8. Someone new may have the grayman atire but that should include body language too, I.e. stop touching/adjusting the holster or stop looking like a security guard scanning everyone, or when walking and not allowing that strong arm to swing. Shoot, anytime someone’s Body movement is a little off, people notice.

  9. “Ideally we’d all carry our handguns openly on our hip, out there loud and proud for all the world to see.”

    Who’s this “we”? Got a mouse in your pocket? Speak for yourself. Not everyone gets a chubby walking into a Chipotle showing off their dick er gun.

    I’ve worn firearms openly, plenty- by necessity. It isn’t some silly point of ‘pride’ and when I can carry concealed and it’s practical, that is my preferred method by far. Open carrying for practical purposes is one thing, but you sound like you’re treating guns as a fashion accessory.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here