Part 9 in our concealed carry series.
When preparing for concealed carry, you should look at the whole picture. The handgun, the holster, the ammunition and the clothing you adopt are all important.
A beginner often will choose a firearm and holster combination to adapt to individual mode of dress. You may adopt a light handgun and a pocket holster to fit dress trousers. Others adopt gear that is a non-sequitur to the common-sense choices others make. Sometimes, the results would be laughable if they were not so serious. As an example, a young man showed up at my class with a light jacket over a shoulder holster. The overbuilt rig printed under the jacket, and the young man gave the impression he was wearing a bra beneath his windbreaker. Others adopt improper covering garments and expose even well-made inside-the-waistband holsters.
When you deploy a certain size handgun and particular type of holster, you need to plan and choose clothing that complements the choices. We like being well-armed and obtaining gear that gives us a level playing field with our protein-fed ex-con criminal class. Adopting a quality inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster affords us the opportunity to effectively conceal a fighting pistol that is large and powerful enough to speak with authority on our behalf.
If you choose a belt holster, then you must select a covering garment that will conceal the full length of the holster. If you deploy the more concealable IWB holster, then a lighter garment that covers the handle of the firearm is all that is necessary. There are compromises inherent in every choice, but when considering the advantages of an IWB holster, it makes an intelligent choice. Those who dress around their defensive gear rather than make the gear fit the lifestyle choose an IWB. That is the qualifying difference between living the lifestyle and accommodating a handgun in a less serious way.
Choosing a Holster
When you begin to select carry gear, a holster comes first. While quality handguns are important and ammunition selection is a serious consideration, the holster will make or break your day. It cannot always be comfortable or light as a feather, neither should it be a chafing nuisance. A reasonably comfortable holster that offers a good balance of speed and retention is vital.
Extensive test programs proved several of the illustrated holster types. A holster should be a good design, comfortable, of supple leather and with quality stitching. It must ride close to the body while preserving the draw angle. I have used Don Hume Leathergoods IWB holsters, both dual-loop and belt-clip types, for many years. A respected maker enjoying well-earned success makes those. If you do not begin the search with quality holsters, then dressing around the holster means little.
The average dress belt is not up to the task of keeping a holster stabilized. A 40-ounce 1911, a 30-ounce Commander or a Glock 19 will shift and rotate even in a quality holster if the belt is not up to the task. So will a 9mm Shield, largely because it is so short. A sufficiently thick, double-stitched gun belt is necessary for an IWB holster.
You do not have to match the belt and the holster, and you often find relative bargains by purchasing the holster, belt and magazine carrier together. A double-stitched holster is ideal. The belt should not scream gun belt but should keep the pistol stabilized. You should buy the gun belt 1 inch larger than you normally wear to accommodate the extra girth of the pistol worn inside the trousers. That is not necessary with an on-the-belt holster, but the same belt will do double duty if you also deploy a standard, strong-side holster. The gun belt is essential to the program; if you go cheap on it, you simply will not have utility, speed, retention or comfort.
Choosing Outer Garments
The next step is outer garments. We should consider the worst-case scenario in which the IWB holster is the handiest, and that is carrying a serious handgun without a covering garment, such as a long jacket or sport coat. A pulled-out shirt or even a T-shirt should conceal the firearm. Among the most useful shirts is one from Kakadu Traders (kakadutradersaustrailia.com). A shirt specifically designed for concealed carry allows a greater range of movement than a simple dress shirt.
The Kakadu Gun Worn line features canvas construction, leather collars and a fit that allows the ideal range of movement. That is a great design currently in service not only with the author but also a military intelligence officer deployed in a European hot spot. The shirts allow a greater range of motion than most due to the design. Since they are made of canvas, they are far less likely to blow up or be brushed up and flash a handgun. Therefore, the shirts are an excellent choice for concealed carry use.
When you are wearing an IWB holster, the covering garments are important, and so are the undergarments. It is essential to wear an undershirt between the holster and body, even in the warmest climates, for the best comfort and concealment. Sometimes, carrying without an undergarment beneath a light T-shirt works fine if you use an IWB holster with a soft leather pad although, when possible, it is ideal to use an appropriate undergarment. In this case, you need to get the best product possible.
I discovered credible gear just a few miles from Fort Bragg North Carolina (Proxgo.com). Longworth Industries developed a system for wear next to the skin that functions well as a stand-alone garment or as part of a layering system. The material builds on the body’s natural temperature regulation, and most importantly, the seam placements are specifically tailored for freedom of movement. That is truly the difference between a rugged, long-lasting work shirt and a rugged, long-lasting and comfortable tactical garment. Once you wear and experience it, you will settle for nothing else. When executing a draw or otherwise engaged in movement, the garments will not cramp your style. Your anatomy has become a load-bearing device when you are carrying concealed, and gear such as this reduces the burden.
Lightweight cover garments should be darker in color. White and other light colors are more likely to allow the outline of a dark handgun to be seen. The garment should be at the least a light blue hue to facilitate effective concealment. Another consideration is whether you should use a standard or traditional IWB holster or modern tuckable. You may wear a tuckable under a shirt with the shirt tucked in. If you choose a tuckable holster, then you need to wear a shirt that is generous enough in dimension to conceal it effectively and be comfortable when deploying the holster concealed.
While the hybrids are all the rage, Wild Bill’s (wildbillsconcealment.com) offers a leather tuckable that serves double duty as a standard IWB holster. That one is comfortable, offers a good sharp draw and takes up less of the body than the hybrids. Take a hard look at your body type and honestly debate whether you are an ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph. Then decide on the holster best suited to your frame.
When carrying a concealed piece, your movements and actions are important. Do not bend over at the waist to pick up anything. By bending at the knees, the gun butt is far less likely to print. Be certain that your pistol is not so long that the slide pinches when you sit. A properly designed concealment holster should tilt a handgun for the proper carry. By the same token, a good holster and belt, worn together, will remove the need for touching a handgun, constantly adjusting it or the tilt of the gun butt. Think things through and consider the likely problems you will encounter before you leave the house.
What combination of holster and handgun works for your concealed carry needs, and why do you like it? Let us know in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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