Concealed Carry

Concealed Carry: Discreet but Well Armed

Man lifting his shirt to show a concealed handgun

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (40)

  1. My EDC had been my Kahr PM9 carried with two spare mags. But ever since that fateful day here in my hometown of Redlands/San Bernardino, CA I started to rethink my plan. I thought it would be more appropriate to gear up for possible multiple, heavily armed adversaries. So I decided to take my old Ruger P89 duty pistol out of mothballs. I love Ruger because they over build everything. They are tough, reliable and built to last. The down side of that is the size and weight. Fortunately I stumbled upon Alien Gear Holsters. The 3.0 IWB holster for the P89 is amazing. Mounted on my NRA holster belt it is so comfortable, concealable and stable it makes carrying my Ruger every bit as easy as carrying my PM9 used to be. I can’t recommend them enough for carrying a full size service pistol.

  2. My EDC is a LCP 380 secured in a Talon wallet holster. It is an excellent holster as it prints as a wallet. Very comfortable in jeans as well as dress pants. Talon has a great training video as to drawing your EDC.

  3. Pingback: view site…
    1. What works for me.

      I usually carry a 1911 in some incarnation. (I am blessed to know a “name” 1911 pistol smith and traded sweat equity for pistols over some 20 years.) I found that a simple Kydex IWB holster works very well. (Blade-Tech Phantom) I have a drawer full of other holsters that weren’t just quite right.

      FWIW, I realized that a pistol/holster combination was supposed to be “comforting not necessarily comfortable” (I stole that line, by the way!).

      The first priority was that the holster had to retain the pistol while upside down and shaken. That’s so you can safely leave the pistol in the holster when you go to the bathroom. Otherwise, you will end up like the Bozo FBI agent who went to the bathroom at Austin-Bergstrom airport and left his pistol IN THE STALL. If you or I did that, I expect that we’d loose the pistol at a minimum or even be charged with child endangerment.

      The second priority was that the holster did all the other things well enough, e.g. keep the holster/pistol stable, keep the pistol cant forward, allow for a quick and consistent draw, and keep the pistol concealed.

      I found that the Levi’s I wore had a belt loop just behind the point of my hip. With a sturdy belt, I can place the two rubber straps on either side of the belt loop. This keeps the pistol/holster very stable. The location allows for a quick draw and since it is on your side it is more comfortable than an “appendix” carry and doesn’t print as badly as a “kidney” or “small of the back” carry when you bend over.

      Besides if you play at IDPA game, that is the normal start position. You will be training as you plan to fight.

      Also, for those of you who may be new to concealed carry. Before you start carrying, pick a day that you are going to be doing chores around the house. Dress with you firearm UNLOADED and concealed and do your chores. That way you will discover if the holster works for you. Or not.

      I don’t care how many Die Hard movies or episodes of Miami Vice you have watched. You will not know until you try it. It is called “training”.

  4. Dan,

    You’re very welcome. Just remember as a “heads up” that everybody has a different preference of how they like the ride height, cant, etc. The STD has 4 holes on each side to adjust it. I tried different combinations until I found my magic mark. Just wear it for a few days and you’ll know whether you need to adjust it.

    And to be clear, their lifetime warranty is really a lifetime warranty. I actually wore out the metal washers on the backside through so many adjustments and when I called, they had a full hardware set in my mailbox in 2 days at no cost to me. Now THAT’S service! I’ve been nothing but impressed with these folks and have saddle soaped my holster about 5-6 times now. Lol. . It’s very well cared for. After all, it gets worn 95% of the time I’m awake.

  5. Nick,

    Check out this line:

    Alien Gear also makes something very similar and very nice with a lifetime warranty as well.

    I prefer the leather for comfort. I’ve got a GALCO IWB also for my full sized .45 and hardly ever wear it now. Same issue with reholstering being difficult. Plus, with such a heavy gun, it doesn’t stay canted like I like. It ends up falling so that the handle rides on top of my waist band.

    The Super Tuck Deluxe I own from CrossBreed is bar none in comfort and I carry a XD-S .45 ACP all day in slacks. No printing, no sagging and all day comfortable. Enough said.

    1. Shane – Thanks man! Just checked out that link, did a little more research and ordered a Super Tuck Deluxe for my HK. Can’t wait till it arrives as that is exactly what I was looking for.

  6. Burns,

    Personally, I like to carry at 4 o’clock aka kidney carry. It’s comfortable, no belly logistics needed, and it’s safer than small of the back carry because if you ever fall back or get knocked down in a fight, you don’t have a hard piece of metal right behind your spine.

    I comfortably carry a 45 that way but, stayed with a .380 as well. Still carry the .380 but, the 45 gets carried 80%. I live in South TX. Hot days, high humidity, and light clothing. This means that the guys who talk about how they can carry their 1911 everywhere even when it’s “hot”, just don’t truly understand what “hot”can be. People are moving to TX by the boat load and you hear a lot more of “I didn’t realize it got this miserable/bad/hot” than I realized at first.

    That all being said, carry what’s comfy to YOU. The best self defense carry gun is the one you have on you when it’s needed. If it’s not comfortable or convenient to carry, you’ll have more times of not carrying it than. That only increases your odds of having an encounter without it. And that defeats the whole purpose of being a responsibly armed citizen.

    1. I am very experienced with log guns but new to handguns. Have a H&K p2000. So far have bought 4 different holsters trying to find the perfect fit for concealed carry. It seems out of the 4 the two I use most are a Galco IWB made of soft leather and a Blackhawk Serpa “click in” OWB that I wear at the 3 or 4 o’clock position only when wearing a tucked in T-shirt and a longer secondary outdoorsy button down shirt to cover the OWB Blackhawk holster. Keep in mind the P2000 is a small compact so even with the OWB BH Serpa it conceals easily, however my question/problem is the IWB Galco offers superior concealability and while easy to draw, it is a total pain the arse to re-holster as the soft leather compresses with my pants so it takes two hands. The BH Serpa has the added benefit of locking my HK in, quick draw and very quick re-holster. Due to being extra conscience of it printing through my clothing I really only wear the Blackhawk when in quiet areas or on hikes, etc. In public I choose the Galco for the confidence it won’t be seen and while it’s a great holster it still has the drawbacks I mentioned above. Being new to carrying can anyone tell me if this is normal and or any suggestions? Was thinking of an IWB kydex but I can imagine that might be pretty uncomfortable. Thanks very much.

  7. I want to thank all those that offered suggested concealed carry holsters. I still have problems with the IWB but the one I got holds my .380 perfectly. I had a little trouble getting the gun into the holster then discovered it was my fat belly not the holster ! I have an IWB for Walther. How should I weR it and with what shirt(s)?

  8. You may try the Hidden Hybrid Holster. I have one that works for my Glock 26 (9mm), Beretta Nano (9mm) and Glock 36 (.45ACP). I also have one for my Glock 21 (.45ACP full-size).

  9. I carry Taurus PT709 Slim and I’m having a heck of a time finding a good holster for concealment. I’m only 5′-4″ tall weighing 130 lbs. I also have a very small waist at 28″. I have tried IWB holsters but I find them to be uncomfortable due to my frame. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good solution for a small build guy? it doesn’t have to be IWB.

    1. I’m 5’6″ at 150, carry hipoint jc40 in off-hand Maverick IWB in small of back not hip, requires twist draw, but quite comfortable. I have also carried Taurus PT140 in appropriately sized Maverick.

  10. I have a bersa 45 acp but I am not sure of the holster to get for concealed carry . It is the bersa ultra compact any sugestions will be helpful.

  11. 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.


    1. 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)

    2. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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 and no I don’t sell them, just enjoy the great design, good quality, and affordable price tag of around 30 bucks.

  20. 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.

  21. Check and see if they make a belt clip for your piece. Solved all my problems. Conceals well, doesn’t move. I have a drawer of holsters that I never use.

  22. Carry a S&W .380 Bodyguard with a IWB Versacarry. Can conceal well with shorts and T-shirt.
    I have a problem with my S&W M&P Shield 9mm. Currently use a holster shirt but hard to conceal outline and firearm moves quite a bit. Looking for something to use in T-shirt and shorts. Suggestions?

  23. I carry a KelTec PF9 with a clip that fastens to the frame and clips to my belt. No holster, no rust, Living in Florida with it’s high humidity corrosion seems to be a problem with any holster I tried. Also have a clip for my KelTec 380

  24. I carry a Springfield XDS 9mm in a N82 Professional Tactical holster. Single metal spring clip makes put on and take off simple. A full suede back that covers the grips as well is comfortable even when carried against bare skin. This is hands down the most comfortable and easy to use holster ever.



  26. I carry a Rock Island Armory full sized 1911-A1 .45 and use an IWB by Alien Gear Holsters (identical to the one shown in the article). I’m a t-shirt/polo shirt kind if guy and just wear it next to the skin. Comfortable holster, holds my 1911 securely and is easy to draw. Walked into my LGS right after I got my Alien Gear and they asked me if I forgot my gun (used to use a Fobus OWB Holster). I said it’s right here and patted my side. They asked what I gave for the holster and when I told them the price they could believe it as their cheapest IWB that’s similar to the Alien Gear was double in price. I’m sold on Alien Gear Holsters and now my son is going to order one for his XD .45.

  27. I’ve been trying to carry with an IWB but having a lot of trouble. I’m using ahi,ster made for Walther PPK/S but using a Taurus TCP .380. It fit well and easily accessible. My problem is when I place the gun in the holster to folds over (and possibly out?).

    What am I doing wrong?

  28. The biggest issue I’m running into as someone new to carrying concealed is finding garments that are long enough. I’m 6’8″, and tall garments are not always easy to find cheaply.

    That said, I have found that my Ruger SR9c in my FoxX Holsters Little Fox, with the “comfort pad” is quite comfortable when not wearing a garment between the holster and the skin. I do like it as a holster, although I’m also somewhat admittedly biased since FoxX is local to me, and I’m always willing to support local. 🙂

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