Concealed carry is not a topic to be taken lightly.
For men who prefer to carry a weapon but don't want to do so in an obvious manner, knowing how to safely, securely, and stylishly conceal carry is a must. After all, while some guys are happy to brandish a belt holster, most guys like to be discreet when packing heat.
In today's article, I'm breaking out everything you need to know about safely and stylishly carrying a concealed weapon.
We'll be covering:
- What Is Concealed Carry?
- What Are The Different Types Of Pistol Holster?
- How To Safely Conceal Carry A Weapon
- What Clothes Are Best For Concealing A Weapon?
What Is Concealed Carry?
In many countries, concealed carry isn't a thing. So I thought it best to start this article with a brief explanation.
In short, concealed carry means carrying a handgun or other weapon in a concealed manner.
This means carrying the weapon in a way that is not visible to others, such as under your clothing.
Of course, the best way to conceal your weapon will depend on what you're wearing and the type of firearm you're carrying.
Key Concealment Principles
Before we go into too much detail about the technical side of concealed carry, it's first important to understand what concealment is.
After all, this term can mean different things to different people.
In relation to firearms, concealment is the act of hiding a weapon on your body so that those around you cannot detect its presence without invading your personal space. In other words, if someone can look at you briefly and recognize that you have a weapon, then you are not effectively concealing.
When discussing weapon concealment, it's vital to have an understanding of what I like to call the ‘4 S Rule':
- Security: How securely it the weapon attached to the body
- Size: How large the concealed weapon & holster are
- Style: Whether a concealed weapon affects the way an outfit looks
- Safety: Is the wearer acting responsibly and concealing safely?
What Is Printing And How To Avoid It?
Printing is when the shape of your concealed weapon creates an outline (or print) on the outside of your clothing.
This can happen for a number of reasons: from body shape to gun size and holster style. However, in its most basic form, printing is caused when a gun doesn't sit naturally against the body.
Often, body shape and gun size will mean that a gun's grip and slide will lean out from the torso and create a visible bump at the waistline. In short, this ruins concealment.
To avoid this happening, it's important to purchase a holster that's carefully designed with wings and wedges to counteract this:
- Wings: transmit belt pressure to the side of a holster when a belt is tightened on it. This help the handle of the gun rotate inwards and hug the shape of the body
- Wedges: apply pressure to the handle of the gun so that grip leans inwards and doesn't create a noticeable bulge at the waistline
When purchasing a holster, it's important to also invest in tactical gear (wings and wedges) that can help you to find the most comfortable and discrete placement when concealing a weapon. It'll take some trial and error – but using these tools correctly should help you find the best fit for your pistol holster.
Which Weapon Is Best For Concealed Carry?
Your choice of weapon will depend on many different things – from the state you live in, how experienced you are with firearms, and how large you are in stature.
However, it is worth noting that most guys with concealed carry experience would suggest looking into weapons with a small profile, low caliber, and simple exterior.
Carelessly shoving a bulky weapon under your jacket will likely cause a bulge (or printing). When the name of the game is subtlety, bulges at your hip are a dead giveaway that you're packing heat.
As such, careful consideration of your firearm's shape, size, and style is essential.
What Caliber Weapon Is Best For Concealed Carry?
The reality? The smaller the caliber, the small the gun … for the most part.
I know, I know – this is a pretty polarizing topic. You have two camps:
- Guys who say the more firepower, the better
- Guys who say a bullet is a bullet, regardless of caliber
In the interest of keeping the peace, I'm not getting into that.
However, if concealed carry is the name of the game, a lower caliber weapon is a better bet for the sake of subtlety.
In other words, that Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan might be able to drop a bull in one shot, but it's not exactly the most inconspicuous firearm on the market!
If you're trying to conceal your weapon – think like James Bond. Throughout many of his covert operations, he'd carry the Walther PPK or P99 – two lightweight pistols with a slim profile that get the job done.
Can Size And Shape Affect A Gun's Concealability?
Put simply – YES.
Here's the thing. I keep a Glock G19 in my office. When I'm burning the midnight oil, and it's dark as hell, I need to be able to see the guy trying to steal my suit collection. So I use a bulky flashlight attachment to ensure I can keep my office safe 24 hours of the day.
Would I shove that same customized Glock in my pocket and carry it down the street? No.
The bulky flashlight attachment would make it evident that I was trying to conceal my weapon.
My point? The construction of your weapon matters.
If you're aiming to conceal your weapon, then a smooth and small design is the way to go. The more catches and bulky grips a pistol has, the more complicated and uncomfortable it is to conceal under clothing.
Magazine Styles For Concealed Carry
What's a gun without ammunition? Essentially, a very expensive hammer.
When concealing a weapon, your choice of magazine significantly affects how subtle your gun is. After all, a wider mag means a wider handle.
A single-stack magazine is probably the best bet for most men looking to conceal carry.
A single-stack's slim profile means that the overall width of your weapon will be less. Sure it'll hold fewer bullets than a double stack magazine – however, what you lose in firepower, you gain in concealability.
The trick is to be well-practiced with your weapon so that you don't need 15 shots to put an assailant down. Get down the range and learn how to use your weapon effectively. You shouldn't need to unload 10 rounds into your target. After all, bullets hurt, and using as few as possible is a matter of basic firearm safety.
The bottom line? It doesn't matter how stumpy and light your weapon is – if it's chunky and wide, then chances are it'll create one heck of a bulge underneath your clothing.
What Are The Different Styles Of Pistol Holster?
Effectively concealing a weapon isn't as simple as tucking a pistol in the back of your pants.
Sure … some guys choose to do this. Personally, I think it's unsafe and could end up putting you in danger if you're confronted by an assailant who knows you have a gun.
Holsters and sheaths exist for a reason! But which is best when you want to have as little effect on your style as possible?
OWB Weapon Holsters (Hip, Shoulder & Behind The Back)
OWB or ‘Outside The Waistband' is probably the least subtle way of holstering a weapon.
Typically, this method of carrying is reserved for police officers and military men. Hip OWB is when a paddle holster is worn on the belt with the barrel line traveling down the thigh. The pistol handle sits tight against the hip, with the grip leaning slightly forward for easy access.
If you choose this method of concealed carry, be aware that it's very easy to reveal your weapon without intending to do so.
Even a slight breeze could blow your jacket back to reveal the pistol at your hip, so you must be confident when explaining your reasons for carrying a weapon. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that many people disagree with concealed carry – so make sure you know your stuff when the inevitable ‘is that a gun?' comments come your way.
The same goes for shoulder and behind-the-back holstering.
While both of these methods are slightly more inconspicuous than waistband holstering, they're still likely to cause a big bulge to appear under your clothing and still require a jacket to conceal appropriately.
IWB Weapon Holsters (Sheath & Pocket)
If you want to tuck your weapon into your trousers, IWB holsters (inside the waistband) are the way to go.
For the most part, an IWB sheath holster can be positioned inside the waistband at any point on your back, making it a great option more most guys looking to conceal their weapon.
What's more, when using an IWB holster, the only part of the weapon that could be open to the public eye is the handle, which makes it far easier to hide using clothing. A loose shirt or polo could be all you need to keep the handle of your weapon concealed.
However, it's worth noting that an IWB holster probably won't work with regular pants without the wearer experiencing discomfort. I'd advise getting custom widened pants made for your holster, as otherwise, even the smallest and smoothest firearms could cause significant discomfort when moving around.
Pistol Ankle Holsters
Possibly the most subtle method of concealed carry is the ankle holster:
- It's far below people's eye-lines
- It can be easily covered with a trouser leg
However, as with any method of carrying, there are drawbacks that you need to be aware of.
Firstly, the draw speed is slow. Reaching down and drawing your weapon from your ankle could prove challenging in some situations (especially if you're looking to do so without the threat noticing!)
For those who prefer the power of larger weapons, the ankle holster may not be the method for you. After all, there isn't much room down there, so a bulky hand cannon just won't fit on your ankle. Ankle holsters are reserved for the smallest handguns around.
Tailored Pistol Pockets
If you're considering concealed carry, it might be worth paying a visit to your tailor.
Sure, most tailors aren't weapons experts (Kingsmen excluded, of course). However, most can make minor adjustments to your clothing that will make it much easier to conceal and carry a weapon.
For example, they can add an extra layer of fabric inside your jacket to create a hidden pocket for your weapon.
They can also let out the seams of your trousers, so you have more room to move with a holster (and draw your weapon if necessary).
In short, a tailor can be a great asset when it comes to concealing and carrying weapons – just be sure to let them know what you're looking for before they start making any alterations!
Any good tailor will be used to guys asking about concealed carry during a consultation. However, as a courtesy, it may be worth phoning ahead just to inform your tailor that you'll be bringing a weapon along to the fitting.
There shouldn't be a problem, but it's always good to inform your tailor beforehand to avoid any surprises.
How To Safely Conceal Carry A Weapon
Any man that owns a firearm should be well versed in gun safety.
I'm sure I don't have to say it, but a gun is not a toy. It's a tool to help defend and protect yourself and your loved ones. As such, you should treat it with respect.
This is all the more critical when it comes to concealed carry. After all, if someone knows you have a gun, they're likely to be careful around you. However, when concealing a weapon, the burden of safety lies entirely on your shoulders.
What Does The Law Say About Concealed Carry?
The law on concealed carry will depend entirely on the state in which you live.
I'll be honest, gents – I'm no lawyer. Before you consider concealed carry, click here to visit the US Concealed Carry website and find state-specific guidance on carrying a concealed firearm.
You must research and learn the concealed carry policy for your individual state.
It's also worth noting that there are particular premises where concealed carry is primarily banned across the US, including:
- Federal buildings
- Local government buildings
- Political events
- Schools & Universities
- Sporting events
- Amusement parks
Can My Workplace Ban Concealed Carry?
Yes, they can – even in a state with gun-friendly local laws.
Many men would say that banning concealed carry in the workplace goes against the constitutional rights of American workers. After all, the point of carrying a weapon in a concealed manner is to protect yourself and those around you.
However, a private company has the right to restrict firearms anywhere on their land. Act against this restriction, and it could lead to disciplinary action and even get you fired.
To assess where you stand at your office, I would advise checking your company's firearm policy. This should be easily accessible to you on your company's website.
My stance? Do not take a weapon into the office unless you are 100% sure no rules prevent you from doing so. Keep up with company policy (as it is likely it may change with new management or shareholder takeovers) and act within the confines of local law.
So yes, your workplace has the right to prevent you from concealing a weapon in the office. Regardless of your opinions on this fact, it would be wise to follow the rules – after all, you've got bills to pay and a family to take care of.
Should You Talk About Concealed Carry In Public?
Again, it depends on where you are.
When amongst friends in a place of leisure, there's no harm in discussing concealed carry. Sure, some of your buddies might be against concealed carry, but a discussion about it might spark an interesting debate where valid opinions are shared among friends.
However, as with any personal opinion, it's important to manage your expectations of those you don't know.
When at the office, it's best to keep to business. Regardless of your company's gun policy, it's best to avoid the topic. After all, you never know who else is listening in on your conversation with your trusted colleagues.
I think it's also important to recognize that the purpose of concealing a weapon is to keep it under wraps until you need to use it! Speaking loudly about the gun you've got strapped to you're hip is an easy way of letting a potential assailant know that you're armed.
What Clothes Are Best For Concealing A Pistol?
So onto the big question: what outfits are best when concealing and carrying weapons daily? After all, you're a stylish guy who likes guns – you shouldn't have to choose between feeling safe and looking stylish.
Fear not; there is a way to do both! You just need to be intentional with the clothing you wear.
Concealing A Weapon In A Two-Piece Suit
It's a classic look, right?
A guy wearing a well-tailored two-piece suit with a shoulder holster – Clint Eastwood would be proud.
But let's take a step back and look at the most effective ways of concealed carrying a weapon when wearing your finest two-piece tailoring.
In short, pretty much any holster style will work with a two-piece suit. The jacket will help cover most torso-based holsters, and the pants can accommodate IWB holsters, provided some minor adjustments are made.
However, there are some basic considerations a man has to make when arming himself while wearing a suit. Most obviously – what happens when you want to remove your jacket?
Keeping a close eye on the weather forecast is vital:
- If the wind picks up, you risk exposing your weapon as the wind blows your jacket open.
- If it's 90 degrees outside, you will struggle with sweat and discomfort while keeping your jacket on. Not to mention, you'd also look pretty suspicious!
When the weather's looking a bit temperamental, I'd advise opting for an IWB holster. Just make sure to visit your tailor and get those pants altered!
Concealing A Weapon In Casual Clothes
When it comes to concealing a weapon under casual clothes, you have more options.
Many guys think the only way to conceal carry in weekend clothing is to wear baggy pants and a loose-fitting top. I'm here to tell you that's not the case.
In fact, many arms manufacturers make specialty garments designed to help you conceal your weapon safely.
However, if you want to wear regular clothing, that's fine too. My point is, you've got options!
Casual Concealed Carry Jackets
When we talk about jackets designed with the weapon enthusiast in mind, it's important to note that these jackets are designed to look just like regular clothing.
Don't worry; you won't look out of place. The whole point of concealed carry clothing is to feel stylish and safe simultaneously.
5.11 Tactical are experts when it comes to making these styles of jackets. Their tactical jackets and vests wouldn't look out of place in any men's clothing store – with the added bonus of concealed carry functionality.
Many of their concealed carry garments feature ‘internal passthrough' – a design choice that allows the wearer to slip his hand through a concealed fabric opening and access the firearm stored at his hip.
While tactical jackets aren't required for safe firearm concealment, they make it a lot easier to remain casual and comfortable while armed.
Concealed Carry In Everyday Jackets
A jacket does not have to be specially designed for concealed carry to be an effective means of hiding your weapon. Leather jackets, denim jackets, and even wool sports coats will all do the job, provided you know what you're doing.
I'm sure it goes without saying, but you should avoid tight-fitting jackets at all costs. A pistol is a bulky tool, so the skinnier the fit, the more obvious it will be under your clothing.
With that in mind, I'd opt for jackets that are on the larger side. Not so oversized that they make you look foolish but big enough so that they don't hug your body and show every lump and bump.
Bomber jackets, for example, are fantastic for concealing weapons. The puffy design means that any bulge caused by your weapon is either invisible or blends in with the overall look of the jacket.
Concealed Carry In A Sweater
A slightly larger sweater over the top of an IWB holster is one of the most effective ways to conceal and carry a weapon. Sweaters are inconspicuous (ie. they don't look tactical), won't be affected by harsh weather, and should be baggy enough to help you avoid passers-by noticing your weapon at a glance.
Cardigans can also be a great option. However, it's important to remember the limitations of a button-down garment. Weather can significantly affect the efficacy of concealment – a light breeze could blow your cardigan open and reveal the weapon strapped to your hip.
Concealed Carry In A Hoodie
You might be tempted to conceal your weapon in the pocket of your hoodie.
I would advise against this. Hoodie pockets are not designed to hold weapons, so there could be safety issues at play here. The last thing you want is a pistol falling from your pocket and firing as it hits the ground.
If you want to carry a weapon while wearing a hoodie, I'd recommend using an IWB holster underneath your hoodie. While keeping a firearm in the front pocket might make access quicker and easier, I don't think the safety risk is worth it.
Concealed Carry In A T-Shirt
Sometimes it's just too hot to wear a sweater or jacket – but that doesn't mean you have to give up on concealed carry in the warmer months.
There are ways to effectively conceal a weapon under a t-shirt. It's harder to achieve but not impossible.
When wearing a thinner garment like a t-shirt or polo, it's important to pay attention to the principles of concealment I mentioned at the beginning of this article. After all, there's very little fabric between your gun and public view, so the closer and more comfortable it sits on your body, the better.
Also, avoid tight t-shirts. I'm sure it goes without saying, but there isn't a holster in the world that could hide a weapon underneath a muscle-fit t-shirt.
Thinking of boosting your concealed carry game? Ready your holster and check out my ultimate guide to the best belts a man can buy.