Today’s world offers many concealed carry clothing options, beyond that of traditional holsters. Many manufacturer’s offer clothing with holsters built into the clothing itself. The following guide explores these options, as well as many off-body carry options.
- 1 Ultimate Guide to Concealed Carry Clothing
- 2 Just For Women
- 3 Off-Body Carry
Ultimate Guide to Concealed Carry Clothing
Carrying a concealed firearm is a very involved process that can require the lot of time, money, and adjustment to your wardrobe.
The first rule of concealed carry is to pick a holster that is comfortable to wear, because an uncomfortable holster makes carrying a weapon a miserable experience. You should have at least one holster for each pistol you own, but preferably several different types because circumstances may require you to forego the holster you would normally wear.
This brings us to the next rule, which is almost as important as the first: dress appropriately. One of my former firearm instructors has a saying about concealed carry that he repeats to his students constantly: “guns should be heard, but not seen”. What he means by this is that the only way someone should know you are carrying a concealed firearm is if you have to draw it in order to defend yourself.
Living by this axiom will keep surprise on your side when it is needed most. In keeping with this motto, if you are going to carry a weapon concealed, pick the right holster for your attire and wear clothing that will hide your holstered weapon as much as possible.
However, traditional holsters do have their drawbacks. They tend to add bulk around the waistline that can cause the wearer difficulties and discomfort throughout the day. Actions like bending over can cause the gun to dig into your side, while reaching overhead can cause your shirt to lift up,
giving away the presence of the firearm holstered inside the waistband of your jeans. Furthermore, carrying a concealed pistol can make dressing for warmer climates a challenge. When everyone else is wearing shorts and a tee shirt, you don’t want to be the only person wearing a jacket… and sweating profusely.
Fortunately, concealed carry clothing – clothing with holsters built into the fabric – has been developed to mitigate these uncomfortable situations, and make life easier on the average firearm-carrying individual. There are a number of different companies out there making clothing of all sorts with built-in holsters for both men and women. This article will cover the basics of these unique clothing options, and discuss which tend to be more effective than others.
Concealed carry undershirts are getting very popular, especially in warmer climates. Some companies offer this option as an alternative to a shoulder holster, and make them in styles suitable for both men and women.
These types of shirts are typically a blend of polyester and spandex, and provide the wearer with two holster pockets – one under either arm. The elastic holster material allows either pocket to be used as a holster or magazine pouch. Simply throw on a button-down shirt, and your firearm disappears under your clothing. The best part is not having to deal with a bulky shoulder holster. Sleeveless options in this category are available as well.
With any holster, there may be some minor bulging visible, depending on the size of gun you carry and your body shape.
I recommend wearing a patterned shirt over this, as shirts with patterns tend to break up the outline of a holstered gun. There are no button-down shirts that have holsters built in, but there are tactical overshirts on the market that are designed to enable rapid access to a firearm when wearing either the type of undershirt we just discussed, a traditional hip holster, or a shoulder holster. If you are planning on purchasing one of those undershirts, I would recommend also getting a tactical overshirt to go with it.
In the “concealed carry pants” category, men have the option of buying pants with concealed holsters in the front pockets; these are a great way to carry a subcompact pistol without using a traditional holster.
Pants pockets are designed to carry their contents on the outside of the thigh, which causes a pistol in a traditional pocket holster to print against the fabric. Concealed carry pants place the firearm toward the inside and front of the thigh, well below the beltline. This significantly reduces both the firearm printing against the fabric of the pants and the potential for discomfort one might feel in the waistline when sitting.
Traditional pocket holsters also can be difficult to draw from because pockets are not designed to accommodate something the size of a human wrist when grasping frame of the firearm. This can cause your hand to become trapped in your pocket before you are able to get your weapon clear.
Concealed carry pants come in different forms; some design the holster pocket to be open all the way across the top to minimize restriction of the draw, while others will allow the top section of the pocket to break away, facilitating a smooth, unencumbered presentation of the firearm.
Frankly speaking, women do not have the same variety as men in the concealed carry pants category. When researching women’s concealed carry clothing for this article, I spent hours trying to locate a product similar to the aforementioned concealed carry pants for men, and could find nothing even remotely close to it.
The reason for this is tailoring; women’s pants are tailored to be more form-fitting than men’s, which makes hiding even a subcompact pistol in the manner described above a very difficult proposition. Consequently, the majority of concealed carry options for women in the pants category are compression undergarments such as leggings or shorts. These types of garments typically offer a holster on either hip between the 4- and 5-o’clock position, although some brands of concealed carry leggings offer additional holsters for appendix carry as well.
A jacket with a built-in concealed holster is a wonderful option for carrying in colder weather. There are a wide variety of concealed carry jackets on the market, and they are made with several different holster options: some have shoulder holsters under the arms, others feature cross-draw holsters toward the lower or middle of the torso, and a few offer strong-side pocket holsters as well. Many are ambidextrous, providing the same holster placement on either side of the body, so that each jacket will work for any person regardless of whether they are right- or left-hand. For most of these jackets, the holsters are concealed inside specially-designed pockets,
so you can wear your jacket open without having to worry that someone will see your firearm.
Ideally, the average firearm owner should carry the largest gun that they are able to carry comfortably and shoot accurately. Jackets like these provide the user with a lot more room for firearm storage with minimal printing; as a result, people who own these types of jackets tend to carry larger weapons when wearing them. However, before you grab your full-sized handgun and stuff it into your jacket’s holster, I must strongly urge you – as someone who uses this sort of jacket on a regular basis – to take the weight distribution of the gun you intend to carry into consideration first.
If I opt to use my jacket holster to carry one of my full-sized, steel-framed pistols, such as a 1911 or a Beretta 92, the side of the jacket that carries the weapon will droop lower than the other due to the firearm’s weight. While this issue may seem inconsequential at first glance, the droop increases the more you use the jacket holster, and it eventually will be noticeable to others around you. For this reason, I carry a compact pistol instead of a full-sized one in a jacket holster – not a subcompact, but something equal to or smaller than a Glock 19 in size and weight.
Another item to keep in mind is that your jacket will be significantly heavier when you are using it to carry a gun and spare magazines. This added weight may be more than a flimsy plastic or metal coat hanger can handle. I have learned the hard way that you will get some raised eyebrows when the weight of your jacket breaks the head off of the coat hangar it is resting on, and the jacket falls loudly to the floor of your friend’s closet during a dinner party.
There are plenty of concealed carry jackets out there for men, in a variety of styles. While there are a few offerings on the market that are designed to fit women properly (and look good in the process), the styles available are not as varied as they could be. There are many different types of leather jackets, and a few jean jackets, but there are only a handful of heavy jackets for cold weather or soft-shelled jackets for moderate weather.
The Rothco Lightweight Concealed Carry Jacket is a fantastic example. This jacket has an inside pocket on both sides for concealed carry, something the left handers will appreciate. There are additional inner pockets for extra clips. Of course, even without the concealed carry features, a good jacket will be nice jacket first. This jacket is strong in comfort, well built and has everything desired for everyday wear.
If you wear vests, you’re in luck – they make concealed carry vests for both men and women. These vests are typically laid out similarly to concealed carry jackets in terms of holster placement. Most are either leather or jean material, but there are a few different styles to choose from. Most are geared toward people who ride either horses or motorcycles.
To look at features and style, we go to the Rothco Plainsclothes Concealed Carry Vest. This vest is ideal for the outdoorsman. It has two large CCW pockets on each side which comfortably conceal your firearm or anything else you might want to keep out of site. Inside you will find not one, but four accessible magazine pouches. And those of us who like versatility will appreciate the 16 outer pockets! And if that isn’t enough there is a large cargo pocket in the back. This vest features much more than just lots of storage. It is well designed with a mesh back to help keep you cool and with adjustable side waist tabs for comfort. I would recommend this vest for any outdoorsman.
Recently, several companies have released concealed carry underclothing designed specifically for women.
Camisoles, bras, corsets, garters… all are now available in a variety of sizes, materials, and colors. The marketplace for women’s concealed carry clothing is rapidly expanding, so new offerings are constantly being released. One such example is Lethal Lace.
Lethal Lace is a unique holster alternative designed specifically for women that does away with the traditional approach of specific holsters for specific carry positions.
In this unconventional design, a lace wrap has a pocket on one end for the pistol, which is held against the body at the desired holster point. The lace is then wrapped around the body to secure the firearm in place. Long wraps are used for holster positions on the torso (i.e. shoulder, chest, belly, hip, back, etc.), while shorter wraps are used for holstering to your thigh or ankle. This holster method provides women with a vastly more functional approach to concealed carry while minimizing the impact that carrying a weapon can have on their wardrobe choices.
While the selection of concealed carry options for women have greatly improved over the last several years, they are still limited when compared to the options designed for men. For this reason, purse holsters have become very popular with female gun owners.
Some businessmen like to carry a pistol in their briefcase instead of on their person, especially in warmer weather when they don’t wear a suit jacket. Still others like to use “tactical” messenger bags that have a built-in concealed holster for their pistol. Carrying a firearm in any of these ways is called “off-body” carry, and is a hotly contested topic.
Many firearms instructors strongly discourage off-body carry because when you carry your weapon in this manner, you cannot effectively control access to the firearm. Your purse can be stolen, your child can rummage through your handbag when you set it down, or you can accidentally leave your briefcase or messenger bag in the office restroom or under the table at the coffee shop. In any of these cases, if your off-body accessory is not under your immediate physical control, the firearm can inadvertently fall into the hands of an untrained or unauthorized individual.
However, when faced with the decision of either carrying a firearm off-body or not carrying one at all, many decide that it is better to off-body carry. Should you choose to carry your pistol in this way, you must take measures to ensure the security of that firearm. When carrying in a purse, you should use a strap long enough to enable comfortable cross-body shoulder wear, as it makes theft significantly harder. Keep the item under your physical control at all times – especially in high-traffic areas like shopping malls and crowded sidewalks, or when sitting down in a public place such as a restaurant or coffee shop.
For women, the widest variety of concealed carry offerings is in the purse department. Literally hundreds of different versions with concealed holsters or pistol pockets can be found in virtually every size, shape, color, and texture at prices ranging from $40 to well beyond $800. In addition, purse holster inserts are made by several different companies if you like the handbag or purse you have and want to add a method to securely carry your pistol in it.
Briefcases, Portfolios, and Messenger bags
Like purses, there are a number of different concealed carry options for briefcases, portfolios, and messenger bags. Made out of materials ranging from high-denier nylon to finely-crafted leather, there is no shortage of options for the average person on the go. These types of products tend to have concealed pockets built in to either the side or top, making the firearm readily accessible regardless of whether the case or bag is open or closed.
Backpacks and Specialty Packs
Today a wide range of packs are available to suit most any lifestyle. The Rothco TactiSling Transport Pack is a great example of these. This pack is designed to be more than just a holster, it is designed with function and comfort in mind. Multiple pockets for all your accessories, computers, and documents. The single strap design, which is quite popular today, allows allows the pack to swing to the front for quick and easy access. Packs like this are quickly becoming the future of off-body concealed carry. The video below shows the kind of features you will find on packs today.
We close this segment with one of the earliest (and most made-fun-of) concealed carry devices… the fanny pack. While it has been the butt of many jokes over the years, the concealed carry fanny pack remains one of the more reliable holster alternatives. It positions the firearm so that it is readily accessible with the yank of a pull-tab, and has room for spare magazines in it as well. Belt bags tend to be sized just for the pistol, so they are quite a bit smaller than a fanny pack, and are a bit more discreet than open carry. Either will get the job done, though neither will win any awards for fashion.