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Carry On Concealed Carry

How To Avoid Your Pocket Gun From Printing

by James Tarr   |  April 6th, 2012 7

It has recently occurred (or perhaps re-occurred) to me that people have varying definitions of what they consider “concealed carry”.  I was called out recently on one of my blog posts by a reader who stated, “So a Glock 34 is considered concealed carry now?”


My kneejerk internal response was a very loud “If it’s concealed it is!”, but this got me thinking.  A lot of people think that a small pistol or pocket gun on your person automatically equals concealed carry, and that you can’t carry a big pistol concealed.  Your body shape and mode of dress has much more to do with whether the pistol you’re toting around is concealed than does the actual size of the pistol, but the bottom line is—your pistol is either concealed, or it isn’t.  Period.


I know a professional shooter who does a lot of tactical training who, just to prove a point, went shopping at the mall one winter afternoon.  Under his coat he was wearing his full race rig, i.e. a high-cap 1911 in a speed holster and 4 high cap mags.  He is skinny, and wearing a bulky winter coat his gear simply disappeared.


If you want to carry anything larger than a pocket gun, no matter your size or shape, to some extent you will have to dress around your gun.  I am tall and relatively slender, and in the summer months tend toward Hawaiian shirts unbuttoned in the front.  So attired I could successfully conceal a sawed-off shotgun under each arm.  As a general rule, patterned fabric conceals bulges better than solid colors.  Hiding a full-size auto pistol on my hip is no problem, as long as I stay aware of two things—an errant breeze can always blow my shirt open, and if I bend at the waist, I’ll print.  If you carry on your hip, and don’t know how much you print when you bend over, find a mirror.  You’ll be shocked.


If you are fat and bulge out over your belt in all directions, you immediately suffer a handicap when it comes to trying to conceal anything on your person.  It may take a little more work for you to figure out where and how to carry, but it is possible for everyone to carry concealed (if they so choose) something larger than a pocket gun.  Something the size of a Glock 19 in an inside the waistband holster, either strong-side hip or appendix carry, will disappear for most people under nothing more than an untucked shirt, and no-one should feel “under-armed” carrying a pistol that “only” holds 15+1 rounds of 9mm.


You may not have the option of carrying a gun at your waist, so for many people, concealed carry equals a pocket gun, but just because the gun is in your pocket doesn’t mean it is out of sight, or concealed.  Pocket guns print, and depending on how your jeans/khakis/dress/tacticool pants fit, sometimes pocket guns print BAD.  Stick your pocket gun in your pocket and stand in front of a mirror.  If it passes that concealability test, sit down in a chair—you’ll be surprised how tight that fabric suddenly becomes around that pistol with some pants.  You’ll also find out whether your pocket will dump your pistol out on the floor.  If you’ve been carrying a pocket gun and haven’t tried this already, shame on you.


The tighter the pocket, generally the more the pistol will print and the harder it will be to get it out quickly.  Just because autos are flatter than revolvers doesn’t mean their shape is any less identifiable.  I recommend pocket holsters for two reasons—they conceal the shape of the pistol in the pocket, and keep the pistol oriented in the proper direction.


Remember, it’s either concealed, or it’s not, and just because you’re carrying a smaller pistol doesn’t automatically make it invisible.


  • Dan McNally

    You just have to dress for what you want to carry – or carry for how you are dressed – if it is scorching hot, and layering clothes is too uncomfortable, I carry a Taurus PT738 in shorts with cargo pockets. I have a piece of stiff leather that goes between the front of the pocket and the pistol so it looks like there is a wallet in my pocket.

  • Wolvie

    For me, pocket carry is only viable when it's cold enough that I am wearing layers and a jacket/coat. Then, I would only carry in an outside, hand-warmer pocket of my jacket because the heavy layers of clothing might make getting to a hip holster problematic.

    Personally, I have never been able to carry inside of a pants pocket . It might be my body style, but there is just no way for me to carry without a tell-tale bulge. It is just that obvious. Carrying inside of a cargo pocket is also not an option. Even with the use of a pocket holster (a must-have in my opinion), the gun still flops around enough to bang into my thigh and eventually changes its orientation.

    There are other reasons why I do not like pants-pocket-carry other than the obvious printing issues. Understand that this is my perception since I normally wear jeans and happen to be of athletic build.

    First, from a seated position, it is almost, if not totally, impossible to draw the gun. Add a seat-belt and you just went from "impossible" to "damn impossible".

    Second, I don't care how safe the gun is…I don't like the muzzle pointing at things I want to keep intact. In front pocket carry, this means my femoral artery or…um…the ol' Wedding Tackle.

    These reasons, combined with the restrictive draw, obvious printing issues and inability to keep the gun consistently and properly positioned, make the only form of pocket carry I would consider be the front pocket of a jacket.

    It's ironic that people consider pocket carry for warm weather use and hip carry for the times when you are wearing more clothes and layers. For me, the exact opposite is true.

  • steve lamanen

    Jim, don’t let your panties get tied in a wad… maybe this article will make it easier for you to understand.

    These guns were designed from the ground up for police and military service without size or conceal ability being an overriding concern. They were intended primarily to be easy to shoot, with the expectation they’d be carried in the open on a belt.

    Good Luck, be safe Jim!

  • Miles Ashley

    I guess my thought is, who cares if I print a little. Brandishing a weapon is illegal but having one print isn't. I'm not saying I go out in a skin tight shirt trying to show off but I don't get overly concerned if someone can see a bulge under my shirt. So many people carry cell phones and other things attached to there belts that at first glance I don't think many people notice. I carry in a position that is best for me for retention, accessibility and comfort and if printing happens oh well.

    • Don Sepanski

      "I guess my thought is, who cares if I print a little. Brandishing a weapon is illegal but having one print isn't. "

      This is how I feel about it. I carry my Glock 27, in a pocket holster, in my right front jeans pocket. It bulges, so what. No part of the gun is actually visible.

      I don't care who thinks what about what the bulge might be.


    #1 Don't leave the butt of your gun hanging out of the pocket if you are concerned about "Printing" LOL

    #2 It is insane to carry in a pocket without a pocket holster to keep things from getting in the trigger housing and causing a "Plaxico"

    #3 A pocket holster helps prevent "printing"

    Get a pocket holster if you are going to carry in a pocket and consider a small caliber single stack magazine for pocket carry. A 22LR or .25 or .32 in your pocket is still better than your .38 or 9mm or .40SW that you left at home because the weather and your clothing choice wouldn't hide them. I have a .22WMR pistol and I can tell you I would not want to be shot with it even if it won't put a drug crazed lunatic down instantly with one shot

  • Bob Coffey

    A couple of other thoughts….be very careful in stores if reaching up for an item on top shelf, or bending down. Where permitted to carry, I use an in-the-waist band holster, and have had no problems with my Kimber 45 cal ultra-carry II, or my small M&P 357 S&W 5 shot revolver. Easily concealed by a cover shirt or sweater…Personally, I would not want my firearm to "print"…keeps it concealed from all…including bad guys & creeps. I also have pepper spray handy..

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