For the modern armed freeman, conceal-ability ranks very highly on the “Should I Carry This Gun?” checklist. Most of our daily activities require us to come in remarkably close proximity to the multitudes of “sheeple” who, in the unlikely event that one should happen to glance up from his or her toes long enough to see an exposed firearm, would either scream bloody murder, call the police, or faint right there on the spot.
One of the largest waves to hit the concealed carry market since the laser sighting aid, which is just that, an aid to the proper fundamentals of marksmanship, is the production of quality, dependable, accurate pocket pistols. Small guns are nothing new, but the emphasis placed on them as a primary is. While I firmly believe that there is an application for almost every legitimate firearm out there, not everyone is afforded the luxury of multiple firearms. Some folks also can’t (and if that’s how they feel, shouldn’t) accept sub-.45ACP in a carry gun. Whatever your case may be, please take a moment to consider the more negotiable aspect of toting around that small piece of tangible freedom.
We’ll keep this short article to waist/holster carry. There are some aspects that should never be ignored. Obviously the gun should be accurate, dependable, and well tested. The holster should also be of high quality, rigid, and able to be positioned in a fixed location. The most often neglected aspect of carrying a handgun is the belt. A good belt can be fitted perfectly, will not ride up during the draw stroke, and will remain stiff for longer than one season of wear.
Once you’ve established your preferred method of carry, the balance of dressing around the gun begins. In most weather conditions, I prefer at least a t-shirt or undershirt, tucked in, underneath a loose fitting button down worn un-tucked. The weight of the button down shirt can be changed for hot or cool weather, and cold weather allows heavier clothing and the new problem of getting to your gun well.
I avoid clothing designed to appear ‘tactical’. While most reputable brands offer high quality functional gear, you are advertising yourself as the type of person most likely to be armed. I do generally stick to pants and boots, but I believe that’s more a personal preference than absolute necessity. Most jeans have enough pockets for what’s practical to carry on your person without the “Shoot Me First Bad Guy!” bumper sticker attached.
To get back on point, depending on what and where you carry, jeans and a t-shirt may provide enough concealment for your needs. Note, but don’t obsess about, the act of the gun printing through your clothing. If it gets to the point were it is obviously not a cell phone on your belt, consider alterations in your setup. As I said, cooler weather is always easier to hide the gun, but you must practice negotiating the additional layers to ensure a smooth and safe draw.
If you carry on or behind your strong side hip, one of the biggest obstacles you’ll face with even a small handgun is the grip protruding when seated or bending over. You may find that knowing this causes you to check the level of exposure by touching it and/or looking down at it. Those actions actually give away more than most bulges do. Constantly repeating a movement will draw unwanted attention, and if you’re that concerned with your setup it probably needs work anyway.
Coats and vests may help conceal a gun on the hip, but it’s another layer to get clear of the gun and may look out of place if it’s your go-to method and doesn’t blend in with the people around you. I will never forget siting outside an ice cream joint mid-August watching a gun in jean shorts, a tucked in polo shirt, hiking boots and a giant photographer’s vest catch a corner of his vest on the back of a chair and exposing his Sig P220 for the world to see. He responded well, correcting the vest and acting as if nothing had happened, but if it weren’t for the out-of-place vest I would have scanned right past him and never seen his gun.
For the past few months, I’ve dedicated my practice and execution to appendix carry. Not only does this method of carry keep the gun in front of you and within direct line of sight, it allows a pistol with a larger grip to remain concealed with only a slightly heavier or larger t-shirt. Bending over is noticeably more uncomfortable, but preferable to hanging a grip out in the wind when it’s on your hip, and if you squat instead of bend it’s not bad anyway. The placement doesn’t offer an attacker the firearm the way a cross draw carry does, and with a single-strapped kydex holster like I have you can actually tuck a shirt in over the gun with just the strap on your belt for deeper concealment.
Holsters are generally classified according to their given levels of retention. Remember, one of the responsibilities that comes along with arming yourself is to not let a bad guy get your weapon. Some holsters have zero retention, some snap in and out with just a pull, some have levers and bales, and some have to be torqued to a certain angle to draw. I dislike a zero because at minimum I may have to run with it, but don’t care for bales or levers on concealment rigs, for my taste that can be reserved for open carry duty holsters.
As long as you realize it will take additional thought and planning once you add a firearm to the wardrobe, chances are you’ll figure out what works for you without too much trouble. A size up in pants for IWB carry, one or two larger button downs, a sport coat or whatever fits your bill, all you’ve got to do is think about it and pray about it and eventually it’ll come to you.