If you are a first-time concealed carrier, you probably spent weeks or even months researching the best weapon for your concealed carry needs.
You compared models and consulted friends or experts. You even might have visited a range to test out different guns before finally settling on the perfect self-defense weapon.
But how do you plan to conceal it?
Though laws vary by state, most states requirethat your weapon is well-concealed. The most common holsters for carrying a concealed carry are over-the-waistband or OWB holsters and inside-the-waistband or IWB holsters.
Your clothing and holster choices can be just as important as your choice of weapon. This is why many carriers follow the adage “Dress around the gun.”
We’ve put together a guide of some of the methods and tricks to dressing to keep you comfortable, and your weapon concealed, so follow these wardrobe tips for maximum concealment.
Choose patterns over solids.
Although concealed carry weapons are becoming increasingly thinner and lighter, your gun still has bulk, and that bulk is far more visible under a plain t-shirt than it is under a shirt with a plaid pattern.
Patterns fool the eye. The excess visual information of plaid, herringbone, or a complex all-over print will draw attention away from your gun and will conceal the printing or the lines that a gun naturally creates under fabric.
However, certain patterns, such as stripes, might make your gun more visible. The regularity of the pattern will be broken up and distorted by your weapon, which draws attention to the area.
Any pattern is better than a plain shirt, but the best patterns are irregular and unpredictable. Hawaiian shirts are particularly suitable for concealment.
Consider fabric weight.
Find the balance between concealment and ease of access. It might be slightly more difficult to draw from under denim than polyester, but a denim shirt is the better concealer because it is heavier.
A light shirt will drape around your gun, making it visible. A heavy shirt can hide the shape of objects underneath, but it might also make it challenging to access your weapon. The best option is usually, therefore, a medium-weight fabric.
However, if you live in a colder climate, it is important to practice drawing in heavier clothing, so you can access your weapon as quickly as possible.
Choose the “wrong” clothing size.
If you are shopping for clothing to conceal your gun, you will not be wearing your usual size. The waistband of your pants should be one to two inches bigger than normal.
Structured oversized shirts also prevent the gun from being visible by reducing printing. However, if a shirt is too big, your gun can become tangled in extra swaths of fabric.
Wear an undershirt.
It is always a good idea to wear an undershirt to protect the finish of your gun from corrosion caused by sweat.
Because the undershirt sits under your gun, it does not need to be made of thick fabric, like the overshirt. Light cotton will do or, even better, choose fabrics that are designed to wick away sweat, such as athletic wear.
An undershirt also protects your skin from chafing against the gun or holster, which makes carrying a concealed weapon more comfortable. Remember, a gun will not do you any good if it is sitting in a safe at home, so choose items you wear in your day-to-day life.
Think twice about tactical gear.
Many army surplus stores carry clothing options for concealment, and a lot of them look cool and stylish.
However, most people do not wear combat gear in their everyday life. Sporting tactical pants with a million pockets, a pair of tan desert boots, and a contractor shirt will draw attention, and people might even suspect you have a weapon.
Perhaps you need those pockets for extra magazines or other gear. In this case, consider “lifting” the style of another hobby, such as fishing. It is much less conspicuous, and no one is going to suspect you are concealing under a pair of fishing cargo pants.
It is also not the best idea to advertise your favorite firearm brand on your clothing, or on your bumper, for that matter. Even if you conceal your weapon perfectly, people might suspect you are armed if it is spelled out across your shirt.
Dress for quick access.
Often, when you need your gun, you need it instantly. There are very few situations where you will be free to draw your weapon at your leisure.
Snap buttons are the be-all-end-all easy access, and some designs can disguise snaps as traditional buttons for an even more discreet look. With snaps, you will not have to worry about being able to access your gun in a button down and, with practice, you can even do it one-handed.
Choose the right belt.
Do not underestimate how important your belt is when it comes to concealed carry. A great pistol in a great holster is practically useless if it is attached to a weak belt.
The ideal belt for concealed carry is comfortable but also rigid. It can support your weapon when you are carrying, drawing, and re-holstering. CCW belts are often made of a thick, sturdy leather for this reason.
Unlike most pants, one belt can be easily adjusted to accommodate many sizes, and you will likely wear it a size larger than normal.
Make sure the strap of your belt is compatible with your concealed carry holster to prevent your holster from sliding.
Conceal with style.
Many concealed carriers have to consider how to conceal under formal clothing.
Security guards in upscale settings, for instance, are usually required to wear a suit. Government buildings and banks need top-tier security, but they also need to present an atmosphere of professionalism.
Perhaps you are attending a formal event, such as a wedding, a funeral, or even a date. You are not immune to danger just because you are in an upscale environment.
Luckily, a blazer is a decent option for concealing a weapon. In many cases, a blazer and a good holster are all you will need to keep your weapon discreet and out of sight.
However, formal dress might call for an IWB holster, even if OWB is your preference. The shape of your gun is simply more visible if it is carried on top of your belt, and a blazer may not sufficiently hide it.
A heavy jacket will cover up almost any weapon you want to conceal. However, if you are wearing one in the heat of summer, you are going to stand out. You will also be hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable.
Consider wearing a medium-weight jacket or over-shirt. Whether you wear it open or closed is a matter of personal preference. Many people prefer to wear their shirt or jacket open for ease of access. If you do this, keep in mind how easily your weapon can become exposed.
Always be aware of your weapon and whether it is properly concealed. Choose medium-weight fabrics, which do not shift as easily with the wind as their lighter-weight counterparts.
Don't skimp on the holster.
Choosing the right holster could mean the difference between life and death.
If your holster does not fit well, is poorly designed, or is intended for a larger or smaller gun than the one you own, you are compromising the safety of yourself and anyone around you.
This is because a holster that is the wrong size is not only uncomfortable, it could also compromise your draw stroke. The time it takes to draw your gun in an emergency is vital, and every second counts.
No matter how cool your holster looks, or how easy it is to access, you will run into problems if it does not fit correctly.
An uncomfortable holster is a holster you will leave at home. If you are not carrying your concealed carry, it is not protecting anyone.
If you are in an emergency situation, you will most likely not be standing still. This is why it is crucial your holster can keep your gun securely in place.
Holsters typically come in two different levels of retention: passive retention and active retention.
Passive retention is the natural retention of a holster’s design. This includes the retention properties of the material and the shape of the holster. Leather, for example, depending on its state, can either grip a gun or be far too slippery to hold a gun in place.
Active retention holsters must be actively engaged to release a weapon. This means they have retention mechanisms outside of the standard retention that a holster typically offers. This affords far more security than a passive retention holster.
Some holsters will either have passive or active retention, but specific holsters are adjustable and can have either, depending on the wearer’s preference.
When choosing your holster, consider the pros and cons of different materials.
Leather is standard because it can offer good retention, durability, and style. Leather also tends to fit better as it ages because it distorts slightly under body heat and molds to your body.
However, leather also requires upkeep. If you use the wrong leather treatment product, you run the risk of softening your holster too much and reducing its rigidity. This can lead to shifting and even can cause your gun to fire in the holster.
Synthetic materials have some advantages over leather. They hold their shape, do not require upkeep, and can be precision molded to your gun.
Better yet, they do not require an uncomfortable “breaking-in” period, and you can comfortably wear your holster as soon as you receive it. Synthetics also allow for some unique retention features that are impossible to achieve with leather.
Although plenty of companies offer their own proprietary synthetics, and the leather vs. Kydex debate rages on, Kydex has become the most popular choice for concealed carry.
Remember, you get what you pay for, so avoid cheap materials like nylon. Nylon holsters are not going to retain your gun adequately. The material is simply not strong enough to hold the weight. The proper place for nylon is in a holster's lining, or, occasionally, in the retention strap.
A holster should cover the trigger guard, but its materials should never protrude into the trigger guard.
This bears repeating: The holster should not protrude into the trigger guard! This can depress the trigger and cause serious injury.
Ensure that the design of your holster does not disengage your weapon's safeties. Keep in mind that if you are defending yourself, it is likely you will need to engage in strenuous movement, which will jostle your gun.
If you fall, or if your holster is struck, a poorly designed holster could disengage the safety and cause your gun to fire. Depending on the location of carry, this could result in serious injury to you. Never compromise on safety.
Where You Carry
The choice between over-the-waistband and inside-the-waistband mostly comes down to personal preference. With that being said, IWB carry does offer better concealment than OWB.
If you carry IWB, do not attempt to put a holster designed for OWB under your waistband. It simply is not designed to work this way and doing so could compromise your safety. Instead, invest in finding the best IWB holster for your needs.
Extra Considerations for Women
Women can be at a disadvantage when it comes to concealed carry, even though they are just as vulnerable to assault as men if not more so.
Women's clothing is usually thinner and is meant to fit more tightly than men's clothing. There is no way around this except to shop and dress with concealed carry in mind. Try to choose bulkier, patterned fabrics with snap closures whenever possible. Though this may sound limiting, there are many stylish options available in looser silhouettes.
Anatomical differences will also affect concealment. Women tend to have smaller hands than men, which means they should consider grip size and trigger reach when choosing a handgun.
The armpit to hip distance also varies between genders. For female shooters, belt holsters should generally ride lower to facilitate draw stroke with proper form. Additionally, women have wider hips than men, which affects the rake and cant of holsters.
Regardless of your preferred method and style of concealed carry, it is important to put some thought into how you will dress to conceal your weapon. By doing so, you will be much better equipped to protect yourself and those around you .
Your choice of clothing and holster can be just important as your choice of weapon.
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