Concealed carry IWB holster
Previous Post
Next Post

Back in the day, there weren’t many resources for questions about concealed carry. Simple trial and error taught me what did and didn’t work. These days there’s no end of information out there. The Internet offers an enormous amount of concealed carry advice; most of it good, some of it not, all of it fragmented.

The most important feedback I can give a new concealed carrier — and there are a lot of them out there now — is this: think of concealed carry holistically. Think of carrying a firearm as a three-part systemwhere each part connects to form a comfortable, safe, secure and efficient whole.

Part 1 – It’s All About the Base

Like layering in inclement weather, a good concealed carry system starts with your base. Your base includes the firearm, holster and belt.

The Gun

Carefully consider what firearm you will start carrying. I emphasize “start” because your choice of handgun will evolve as you become a more experienced shooter and gain experience with the ins and outs of everyday carry.

A compact 9mm handgun holding a minimum of 10 rounds of ammunition is a great jumping off point. A small-but-not-tiny 9mm gun loaded with 10+1 rounds of powerful-but-not-overwhelming self-defense ammo enables reasonable concealment, controllable recoil, considerable accuracy and more-than-merely adequate “stopping power.”

The Right Holster

There’s a huge, not-to-say bewildering variety of holsters from which to choose, made from a wide range of materials, using a number of attachment systems.

IMHO new concealed carriers should stay away from anything other than a traditional holster worn on the hip (i.e., appendix, pocket, shoulder and ankle holsters). While outside-the-waistband holsters are the open carrier’s friend, inside-the-waistband holsters offer optimal concealment.

Find a store that lets you try holsters before you buy one. If you can’t — and even if you can — understand that holster selection is an ongoing process. Most gun owners have a shoebox or two full of rejected holsters. While it’s both expensive and time-consuming, it’s always best to leave uncomfortable and/or impractical and holsters behind as soon as possible, and move on.

A Good Gun Belt

A gun belt for concealed carry needs to be rigid enough to support the weight of your gun and holster and hold up your pants. That’s not going to be your everyday dress belt. It’s a belt designed for that job. Gun belts come in several different widths and styles, many with built-in reinforcement of some kind. A good gun belt isn’t cheap but it’s well worth the money.

Part 2 – Your Lower Body 

Whether you wear dress pants, khakis, blue jeans or shorts, your pants should support the size, weight and shape of your gun, holster and belt.

If you’re carrying a gun in an inside-the-waistband holster, you may need to buy your pants a size larger than normal, to create enough extra space to fit your firearm. Make sure there are enough belt loops of the appropriate width (in a suitable position) to accommodate and support your gun belt.

Ideally, your front pockets should be horizontal to conceal supporting equipment such as knives and flashlights. The back pockets should be patch pockets without flaps or closure options, for those times when you need to carry additional equipment.

If you can’t or won’t change your wardrobe to dress around the gun, you may need to forgo my advice on the ideal starter gun and buy a slimmer, lighter firearm in a smaller caliber with a lower capacity (e.g., a 7+1 Ruger LCP II). Or opt for an outside-the-waistband holster.

[Obviously this advice doesn’t apply to women carrying in a dress, skirt, yoga pants, etc. That’s another subject of a separate article.]

Part 3 – Your Upper Body

What you wear on the top half of your body helps conceal your gun and holster, however you choose to carry it. There are two main considerations: visual and practical.

When someone can see the outline of your gun (or a part of your gun) even though it’s covered, that’s called “printing.” It’s not illegal, but it’s not ideal. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid printing. Shirts in a dark or neutral color are better for disguising a firearm’s outline or a sharp corner, as are shirts with stripes or broken patterns.

Whether your upper body’s covered by a single layer or multiple layers, whether your shirt is buttoned down or open front, you need to be able to retrieve your firearm from under your cover garment quickly and efficiently. That takes a careful combination of gun, holster, belt and clothing And it takes a lot of practice that you can do (with an unloaded gun).

Many people decide to carry a concealed firearm without realizing that they have to create a discreet, comfortable and efficient concealed carry system in order to do it comfortably and well. That requires the interplay of equipment and dress, and a great deal of experimentation. Trial and error. Time and money. Given the stakes, both will be well spent.


Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned to the world at large. He is the president of Trident Concepts in Austin, Texas. 

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. The untucked trend has been good for concealed carriers. And often where I live I’m not at all concerned about printing, in fact sometimes it’s good that people can tell you’re packing.
    Dal-Tech belts. Wright Leatherworks holsters and mag holsters. A fine pistol deserves good leather and craftsmanship, no plastic for the kid.

  2. If your going to conceal carry you will have to change the way you dress. If you have a pocket gun. Kel Tek 32, Berretta 21A, Ruger LCP, or a North American Arms revolver, you won’t have to change your wardrove.
    But small and larger guns? You will need to arrange your clothing to cover your weapon.
    I suggest you try just carrying concealed around your house first. Its what I did. See how it feels to carry a 2 pound object on your belt? Carry it to the bathroom. Sit in the chairs of your home. Try home carry for few days first. How does it feel? Is the gun pushing into your body? Make adjustments as needed.

    A good outside or inside the waist band holster, that is made specifically for your gun model will cost you at least $40. Every gun needs a proper holster. Even a pocket carry gun. And don’t ever put car keys or other objects in the same pocket with your gun!!!

  3. Good advice. Especially the belt. When it comes to your life don’t skimp on anything. Most of my CCW rigs push $500 today. But, you know what? Every time I reach for my weapon it is exactly where I left it. A former coworker had a cheap nylon rig. I cautioned him about it. He brushed me aside. Until he was nearly beaten to death by a suspect. When I visited Jeff in the hospital I asked why he didn’t kill the man. Jeff said he would have except his holster had shifted on the belt while he was grappling with the suspect. He couldn’t find it. He would be dead today if it weren’t for Dale arriving in time. Jeff resigned the day after he got out of the hospital. Want to live? Don’t skimp. On anything.

    • Gadsden,

      $500!! What does that include?

      Bigfoot gun belt: $90.
      Sneaky Pete Leather Holster: $65.
      Magazine holster: $32.
      Multi-tool Holster: came with the tool.
      Flashlight and knife are pocket carry.

      Total rig cost: $187.

      Is this a quality difference or is your EDC rig more extensive?

      • Life, most of my leather is Kramer, Milt Sparks, Mitch Rosen, El Paso Saddlery, etc. Some factory stuff, but that’s all Galco. Unless it’s synthetic. That’s all Blade Tech. The most expensive piece of leather was always the belt. What does that tell you? Second most expensive was the holster. Then there is the spare mag carrier, flashlight carriers, etc. It adds up. The thing to remember is that no piece of equipment is less important than another. From the weapon to the support equipment, I wish I could remember how many CCW classes I taught that a student(s) showed up with a nice handgun but was carrying it in a $15 nylon holster. Jesus wept. It was reflected in their performance in the class. Those rigs I use are expensive for a reason. All are still in service today. Some after three decades. Obviously used to the observer, but as serviceable as the day they arrived at my door. In fact, better. They’re broke in now. Divide $500 by thirty years. What did it cost me per year? Month? It’s my life. I’m worth it to me. One last point. Not long ago I took my sister and girlfriend to dinner. Cost me $400 to get out the door. The next day I went into the bathroom and that was the end of that. If I had spent $400 on a Kramer rig, or on a Randall knife where do you think they would be today? What was the best money spent? Buy what you want. I only count pennies until I have enough money to buy really good shit. Then again, that’s just me.

        • Gadsden,

          “Divide $500 by thirty years. What did it cost me per year?”

          Good point. Good advice.


      • When I read $500, I thought that was ridiculous. Then I added up the belt, holster, and single magazine pouch I had on. $430. Add tax and shipping and you’re right there at $500.
        And yeah, it’s worth every penny. I taught a TCCC LE class recently and realized the belt and holster I had on were more than 25 years old. They work and look as good as the day I bought them. (Obenauf’s leather care helps.)

      • Col, no. That conversation would have never occurred with Cooper because he never skimped. I did meet the man once and his daughter Lundy. She was was very gracious. Col. Cooper autographed every book I had that he had written. A couple I presented him suprised him. Like my new, still in the wrap G&A copy of Cooper On Handguns. He said, “Never sell this.” I replied, “Sir, don’t concern yourself.” All of those are in my library today. One thing I found interesting. When I handed him my copy of Another Country he said, “This is my best work.”

  4. My second holster purchase was a Sneaky Pete. I was new to guns and, therefore to carrying. Four years later, it is still a Sneaky Pete.

    Advantages for a newbie:

    No need to alter your attire.
    Built-in concealment.
    Goes with casual or formal dress.
    Easy draw.

    Regarding concealment, cops will recognize you are carrying. So will gun folk. Some non-gun folk will be suspicious. That being said, no business or institution has ever asked me to leave.

  5. Do what? “It’s not going to be your everyday dress belt.” Well yes, yes it is going to be my everyday dress belt, dressy or not.

  6. I got my belt about 20 years ago. It’s made out of harness leather and was made by an Amish man in Missouri. Don’t exactly remember how much it cost, but it’s still the best and cheapest part of my rig. Considering how long I’ve had it and that I still wear it everyday. Remember to take care of that leather also. I use what he used on the harness for their horses just plain saddle soap and Vaseline.

    • Dark, I hear you. We’re just a little short of Amish leather workers in Florida. I tried ordering on line. Then I tried phoning. Turns out the Amish don’t have the internet, or phones. So I sent smoke signals. No reply. Guess I’ll muddle by with what I have.

  7. I wear Wrangler Men’s Cowboy Cut Original Fit Jeans (13MWZ, $19.95 at Walmart) and they have 7 belt loops! My belt is a Tandy 1 7/8″ thick leather belt blank that I dyed black and added a substantial buckle to. (sadly, Tandy is now out of business).

    What I’m getting at, by degrees, is that this system works in any belt carry position whether you’re carrying OWB or IWB.

    You can’t beat cheap Wrangler jeans and a good thick belt blank. Gun belts? I’ll put my Tandy job up against them any day!


    • I know that belt! Hard to beat just a big slab of full grain cow hide. Oil it nicely and it will last many generations.
      On the jeans, I wore the same thing. Exact same jeans, down to the size, for almost 30 years.
      Then I got a pair of fancy Mountain Khaki jeans. I will never go back. One pair of jeans, every single day, on the farm, hunting, everything, for a year. Minor scrapes from barbed wire, but even then, they didn’t rip through. They are phenomenal.

  8. Don’t practice your shoulder holster “quick draw” with live ammo at the range before you know what you are doing. Guy next lane from me, died with a big hole in his chest from his own .44 snub nose. Bullet ended up in his upper groin area and took 5 to 9 min to die, was not peaceful for him.
    Maybe needed more unloaded training and or trigger was too light?

    • The range allowed drawing from shoulder holsters? Unless it’s the last bay, he’d be sweeping the line. Even in the last bay, he’d be pointing somewhere other than downrange. I don’t like to go to ranges where the other shooters point guns at me.

      • If drawing from a shoulder holster flags the line then they’re not drawing it correctly.

        This is why you must explore not only how the holster fits and conceals the weapon but how the weapon must be drawn to be safe for yourself and others.

        For a should holster the weapon is pulled direct out from the holster Horizontal if it’s a horizontal alignment or up for a up and down alignment.

        After leaving the holster the weapon is kept facing down or moved to that position and kept there until the weapon is near alignment with the potential target then the weapon is raised into position and aimed. No sweeping to the side. The only flagging done is directly behind if it’s a horizontal alignment but your finger should not be on the trigger at that point anyway or at any point up to beginning to aim at the target.

        Same can be applied for any other position of any holster. You must adapt your draw so as not to flag anyone no matter the position or type of holster.

  9. I had many reinforced belts. I disliked them all. Now my go-to is an Uncle Mike’s inner duty. No buckle, no reinforcement, but sturdy and thick enough to support any gun and spare mag beit OWB or IWB.

  10. “Most gun owners have a shoebox or two full of rejected holsters.”

    Maybe a fuckin’ Samsqantch does. Normies can probably expect a Banker’s box.

  11. What’s needed is a holster with a spring in the bottom. When you unsnap the snapper the gunm jumps into your hand. ,,. If my memory isn’t mistaken I actually think someone made a holster with a spring in it. Can’t remember the details or what year , it might have been for the c96?


    It’s more about Appendix carry, for a reason. Watch and listen. Lose the weight and drop the stereotype. Single stacks are outdated. Nobody is saying you should sell all your single stacks, or saying if you carry a revolver that you are basically fred flintstone, but face it: 12 rounds in a double stack the same size as a Glock 43 means single stacks are dying the same way revolvers already have… I mean are… slowly and painfully.

    • Montana, I’m afraid you are sadly mistaken. Revolvers and single stack mag autos are not dying. If more little bullets were the answer that would have happened a long time ago. Instead of planning to miss a lot people should just learn to hit what they’re shooting at.

      • Yawn. It’s a slow process. Do you think people just turned in their black powder guns right away and moved onto the next best thing? Pretty sure there are still people carrying those too. Go ahead, ask. BTW, your shit is played out and lame.

  13. Montana. Lame? Only to the trolls. Feel free to not read my comments. To paraphrase W.C. Fields, “Go away son. You bother me.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here