Concealed Carry Clothing

posted on October 3, 2010

Though a few jurisdictions allow open carry, most specifically require carry permit holders to keep their guns concealed. I have been carrying concealed for almost 20 years; initially because I was a cop, and now because I think it prudent. I've learned a few things along the way.

For starters, if it's a struggle to keep your handgun concealed or if your carry method is uncomfortable; you will soon quit carrying altogether or begin sacrificing your level of protection. One reason concealed carry can be such a burden is because common clothing is not designed for it. In jacket weather, carrying outside is easy but what happens in warm weather or when you go inside? A comprehensive concealed-carry wardrobe will allow you to covertly carry your handgun in any environment and not look like you're heeled for a fight.

Like a fanny pack, a photographer's vest has almost become a universal symbol of concealed carry. Because of that I rarely wear one. When I do, it's EOTAC's Lightweight Vest. It's such a minimal garment, and you hardly know you have it on. It's also cut long enough to conceal a handgun in a conventional hip holster. (For this to work you need an outer garment to drape about 8 inches below your belt line.) EOTAC offers a pocket organizer for the vest that will hold your cell phone, a small flashlight and a knife. It may not be the most discreet, but it is comfortable and practical.

For a shirt or jacket to reliably conceal a handgun in an inside-the-pants holster, it needs to hang at least 5 inches below your belt line. If you buy clothing capable of hiding a full-size handgun, it will work even better with smaller pistols. For jacketless carry, EOTAC's Tropical shirt is available in a variety of colors and hangs 8 inches below my belt line with an unrestrictive drape that keeps a full-size 1911 from printing. More importantly, this shirt represents contemporary fashion; you won't look out of place in the mall or at your kid's soccer game. It can even be worn with shorts and not alert the fashion police. In cooler weather, I'll wear it over a short or long sleeve t-shirt and never worry my gun will sneak out.

My favorite way to carry concealed is an inside-the-pants holster. One of the main difficulties with this method is the holster increases your waist line by about an inch. This requires being uncomfortable or buying pants one size too big. Another issue is the need to carry a spare magazine and/or a small flashlight. Many companies make belt holsters for both, but I'm sorry, I gave up wearing a Batman belt when I quit being a cop. Tactical pants have enough pockets to sort all this out, but they make you look like an operative bound for the big sand box.

One solution is EOTAC's Discreet Pant which has wide, easy-access back pockets, separate wallet pockets, hidden thigh pockets and an elastic waist line. The front pockets can conceal a sub-compact handgun. They're available in denim and several other colors. Another option that is just as discreet, a bit dressier and maybe even more comfortable, especially in warm weather, is Blackhawk's new Tactical-Non-Tactical (TNT) pants. They have a uniquely designed stretch waist and covert thigh pockets. These pants are so comfortable I wear them even without a gun. Both companies make shorts that are similar in construction to their discreet pants.

Another lesson I've learned: Don't purchase the cheapest or first holster you find; spend the money and get a well made inside-the-pants holster like a Cozy Partner from DeSantis. The leather between you and the top of the handgun makes this an extremely comfortable holster. The Gould & Goodrich pancake is a great belt holster that will keep a handgun snug against your side, and it's the only leather holster I know that will accept a full-size 1911 with a rail like the Kimber Warrior. Also, make sure you get a good belt that's at least 1.5 inches wide.

Successful concealed carry is much more than acquiring a permit and strapping on a gun. Select clothing that allows you to be comfortable, hides your sidearm and will permit fast, unrestricted access. Then, practice weapon presentation while wearing that clothing. It's all part of being responsibly armed.


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