Concealed Carry: Discreet but Well Armed

By Bob Campbell published on in Concealed Carry

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.

Galco offers first-class concealment gear. Just the same, some thought and effort must go into concealing a service-grade handgun.

Galco offers first-class concealment gear. Just the same, some thought and effort must go into concealing a service-grade handgun.

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.

Black Walther 9mm in medium tan Bullard IWB Holster on a white background

A compact Walther 9mm carried securely in a belt clip IWB holster from DM Bullard is as good as it gets in light handguns and carry gear.

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.

Medium wood-grain handled Smith and Wesson E class 1911 in a black holster

With a bit of thought of good gear, you can conceal a larger handgun, such as the Smith and Wesson E class 1911.

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

Light tan canvas shirt for concealed carry.

This canvas shirt takes the worry out of a handgun gouging your body.

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.

Dark gray zipped undergarment.

Undergarments are very important. Just any department store T shirt will not do.

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.

Dark brown handled SIG P 220 in a rich medium brown Don Hume IWB holster

A SIG P 220 and Don Hume IWB holster are good together.

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.

SLRule

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 Shooter’s 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.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

Tags: , , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (39)

  • Kyle

    |

    Thanks for a great article, your insight and suggestions are helpful. I am hoping to find the right IWB holster without buying one of each to try myself.

    @ previous comments: You guys have offered some great advice, but I would be curious to know what what body type you have that explains your favorites. I am an athletic build, I typically wear well fitted clothes and I don’t have any other “padding” to help me conceal.

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Shane

      |

      My daily carry is the Super Tuck Deluxe from Cross Breed Holsters. I work in slacks each day and have no issues carrying because the dual clips on the rig distribute my pistol’s weight evenly. Carrying a .45 ACP Springfield XD-S 3.3″.
      Granted, not as heavy as some of the other guys out there but, for the knockdown of .45 ACP and the slim profile of <1" at the thickest point of the gun, you can't beat the combo for slacks.
      This particular IWB is tuckable which is important obviously in business attire. It is, after all, concealed carry.

      To answer a question about body type:

      Tall 6'+
      Old Athletic body (Meaning still in shape with few extra lbs)

      Reply

    • Rob

      |

      I would suggest looking at Alien Gear holsters. Comfortable and forms to your body. I normally wear t-shirts or polo shirts and you’d be hard pressed to know I was carrying a full sized 1911.

      Reply

  • David

    |

    I have seen no one comment on a Sneaky Pete holster. I have one for my Ruger LCP and like it very much….looks like a cell phone case….and VERY easy to access the Ruger.

    Reply

  • Dave Smith

    |

    Daily carry = Kimber CDP .45 ACP in DeSantis IWB holster held in by a Bone Collector belt with a back-up mag (Chip McCormick Shooting Star 8 round) hiding in a folding knife belt case. Deep concealment (shorts and a t-shirt) = NAA Guardian .380 in an Uncle Mike’s pocket holster.
    And yes, sometimes I carry them both!

    Reply

  • Bill

    |

    I carry a 1911 sub-compact (3″ barrel), one is a S&W Pro Series and the other is an ATI Fatboy. One of the holsters that I use is made by Rhino, it has a clip for your pants and a loop for your belt, so it fits between your belt and trousers, The other one is made by BladeTech and is the Officer model for in waist band, but I can wear it either IWB or just between my belt and trousers like the Rhino, but it doesn’t have the extra clip for the trousers to support the weight, it has two snap loops for the belt. My belts are heavy leather, I have always worn this type of belt since I grew up on a ranch.

    Reply

  • Brian

    |

    For those wishing to carry in the small of the back I have an excellent combination. I carry full size 1911 and 9mm. I use an IWB holster from N82tactical. Second I love cargo anything for I also carry concealed a knife, extra mag along with my wallet and phone. 5.11 Tactical has long pants and shorts in taclite model. I have a small waist. The garments have hidden elastic in the waist band which disappears when wearing belt. After dressing the holstered pistol clips tightly on my belt, the elastic stretches and offers room for the holster. I’ll wear a t shirt, blouse over the pistol and it is gone from sight. I wear all the time and never get stares or funny looks. I’m not a really big and wide guy so I don’t have the advantage of girth. The holster (professional model) offers superior retention, adjustability / cant and completely covers pistols so no portion can touch or pinch skin. The backside which touches skin has a soft suede-like material which is very comfortable. It will retain moisture but I wipe down with damp cloth if exercising with it. It dries like new. If I wear compression underwear the holster sits high in the small of back with some stability even in workout shorts. The shorts need to be tied for complete stability though. The tactical cargo shorts and pants have neat pockets. I hate cargos where the pockets are really bulky, puffy and open easily. These are true tactical garments and close very neatly and securely. When pockets are empty the garment looks slimmer, cleaner and neater. Lastly, I will not push carry in the small of back for I realize many of you will not like this but ultimately it is the individual’s choice and I merely want to try to help those who do. It will offer some disadvantages so make sure you have arm flexibility and be ready to use your hands or a knife from front for the rear carry is definitely not as easy or fast as a side draw or front draw. Thank you and be safe!

    Reply

  • Dustin

    |

    Raven Concealment holsters are awesome. Each one is tailor made to your firearm, light, etc. combination. They’re great for OWB concealed as they tuck real close to the body, but IWB they virtually disappear. Believe it or not my carry is a Glock 21 Gen4 with a Streamlight TLR-3. It is rarely seen when OWB, and invisible IWB. Granted it is a heavy carry, but a good belt negates that. I’ve had students comment that it is a great holster when I wear it OWB with my shirt tucked in (range duty) and that it disappears when I demonstrate covering it with my shirt. Great gear and a great gun are a must when concealing!

    Reply

  • Ray

    |

    I carry a S&W Sigma with 14+1 in .040 caliber every day. The holster I like is made by Ross Leather. It is an IWB and I can tuck in a dress shirt with this holster and carry a cannon that is undetectable even by my wife. I buy my pants one size larger than normal to accommodate it. The Sigma disappears under a shirt and I don’t have to worry about the barrel end of the gun showing. I hide the belt clip that loops under my belt with a cell phone case. It worked very well for me when I was a commercial pilot and I still use it now that I am retired. No other holster has been acceptable to me. I love it. I have been using Ross Leathers holster for over 10 years.

    Reply

  • Mike W.

    |

    My EDC is an XD-.40 subcompact and the holster is an Alien Gear. In the summer months I rarely wear an undershirt. After about two weeks the Alien Gear holster molded to my body and is comfortable next to my skin.

    Reply

  • Rob

    |

    I carry a glock in a Buddha west iwb holster in the appendix carry. I’ve tried many different types of holsters for iwb carry and have ruled many out, some were more bulky than the handgun I was trying to conceal, or due to shoulder injuries I couldn’t reach some of them.

    Granted the Buddha west holster looks cheap and flimsy, I have yet to find better. It’s a non holster, it’s a molded piece of kydex that clips to the trigger guard (completely blocks anything from pulling/pushing/discharging the handgun by way of the trigger) and has a cord that loops around your belt (I replaced it with 550 cord), as you draw the loop around your belt (that secures the firearm in Mexican carry mode from falling down your pants) pulls off the pistol during your draw which I find to be smoother and quicker. The best part for me is because of the way the pistol is secured I only have to hide the pistol…and not a large, hot, bulky holster too.

    Ironically they’re made in Chicago lol, hope you guys check them out as an alternative holster, http://www.Buddha west.com and no I don’t sell them, just enjoy the great design, good quality, and affordable price tag of around 30 bucks.

    Reply

  • Greg Jones

    |

    I carry a full size H&K USP .45 Tactical, in a Crossbreed IWB holster w/ a 1 1/2″ horsehide belt from The Beltman. Very comfortable, and it disappears under even the lightest clothing. (Very important in Florida.) However, you need to be a big guy to pull this off.

    Reply

Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

%d bloggers like this: