Skip to main content

Dressing for Concealed Carry

Dressing for Concealed Carry

It's amazing to me how poorly many of my fellow police officers conceal their off-duty gun. It's as though they are content with any garment as long as it drapes over the gun to some degree. Perhaps this cavalier attitude stems from the idea that anything is less conspicuous than carrying their full-size duty pistols while on the job. What many fail to realize is that there's a big difference between their gun being covered and being concealed.

Successful concealed carry requires more than mere fabric covering your handgun. The better you hide the fact that you're packing, the more likely you are to maintain the element of surprise, which plays a huge role in most armed confrontations. Concealed carry is about finding the perfect balance of concealment and accessibility. Too far in either direction could be detrimental to your health.

I've carried a concealed handgun for more than 17 years and still experiment with different combinations of gun, holster and cover garments in attempt to find a better way to conceal a particular gun while at the same time ensuring I can access it in a hurry.


An open cover garment is a great option. Just remember that a gust of wind can reveal your handgun.


The maxim "dress around the gun" is well-known in concealed carry circles. The idea being that with substantial enough attire one can adequately conceal any type of handgun. The problem here lies in that your mode of dress must be congruent with what others are wearing to avoid drawing undue attention.

I have to admit that as a rookie police officer I didn't give much thought to concealed carry clothing, and in the beginning I toted a full-size Glock in a fanny pack. I'm pretty sure fanny packs fell out of fashion about the same time as acid-washed jeans and aviator sunglasses, but, nevertheless, my fanny pack enabled me to conceal my gun plus a couple spare magazines and still be able to draw either relatively quickly. Of course, that I wore that pack at all was cause for suspicion—of my fashion sense, if nothing else.

Consider this timelier example of a concealed carry fashion dilemma. In North Dakota in February, a heavy jacket might enable you to easily conceal a full-size concealed carry pistol worn comfortably in an outside-the-waistband holster. The jacket wouldn't garner any extra attention because everyone else would be dressed similarly. But that same jacket would be an epic concealed carry failure if you wore it in California on a warm summer day. Sure, your concealed carry gun would be hidden, but you'd likely be miserable, and the mere fact that you were wearing such inappropriate attire for the environment you were in would surely bring unwanted stares.

Remember that every element of your concealed carry wardrobe has to work together: covering garment, gun size, carry location and holster type.


It's important to choose the right clothing. Again, what you wear will be predicated on your concealed carry gun and holster and where it's worn. While there are numerous locations on the body to carry a handgun, this article will focus on waistline concealed carry, which is by far the most popular and, in my opinion, the most practical mode of concealed carry.

Once you've selected your concealed carry handgun, you need to consider where along your belt to carry it and whether you'll be using an inside-the-waistband or outside-the-waistband holster.

Speaking of belts, be sure to strap one on that's wide enough to keep your holster from sliding around and sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of daily carry. A flimsy belt will not hold the weight of your gun and may sag, which could tip off a miscreant that you're packing.


Your decision to wear an open cover garment, such as an unbuttoned shirt or unzipped jacket, or a closed cover garment, like a T-shirt or pullover sweatshirt, is largely a matter of personal preference. However, with an open garment, something as seemingly innocuous as a gust of wind could lead to a major wardrobe malfunction that exposes your gun to the world. Why then is open-garment carry so popular? Because it tends to facilitate an easier and therefore faster draw.

Even something as simple as a T-shirt can be used to conceal a gun the size of this Springfield EMP.

If you opt for an open cover garment, make sure the fabric isn't so thin that the slightest breeze sends it flapping behind you like a superhero's cape mid-flight.

Another potential hang-up with an open cover garment that's too thin is that when you hook the shirt with your hand to uncover your gun, the fabric could actually wrap around your hand creating a potential nightmare scenario. Imagine desperately sweeping away your cover garment to get to your gun only to have the thin fabric entangle your hand. By the time you unraveled your hand from the garment, you could be dangerously far behind the eight ball.

Closed cover garments are less prone to exposing your gun by way of a wind gust, but they are also typically more cumbersome to draw from. Of course, with practice drawing from a closed cover garment can be surprisingly fast.

"Tuckable" holsters are becoming increasingly popular thanks to the deep concealment they provide. With a slightly oversize shirt made of relatively thick fabric (like a typical dress shirt), the only indication of a holster is a low-key, black metal clip. When coupled with a black belt, it's unlikely to draw much attention. Initially, drawing from a tuckable holster can be a bit of a challenge, but I've found that with practice it's really not that bad.

A closed cover garment conceals the gun very well but can be slower to employ.

Another consideration regarding closed cover garment selection requires some inspection. Inside some shirts, near the bottom of the button line, the fabric is not sewn completely together. When you don't get your closed garment out of the way quickly enough, the resultant gap inside the shirt will tend to capture the muzzle as you attempt to drive your gun toward the target.

Could you shoot through the fabric of your shirt? Absolutely. But having your gun snag on your garment will impede your draw and could lead to you dropping your gun. Do yourself a favor and ensure there is no such gap in a shirt you intend to use as a closed cover garment.

A cover garment's pattern, or lack thereof, is another important consideration. In the same way a horizontally striped shirt can make you look wider, a plain or predictably patterned shirt can accentuate your gun. That's because even the slightest wrinkle or bulge in the fabric sticks out like a sore thumb and can draw a person's eyes to the gun.

Multicolored, random-pattern shirts, particularly those of the Hawaiian variety, make great concealing garments because they help mask minor changes to the naturally draping of the shirt created by the gun. Such shirts can produce a sort of sensory overload to the human eye and make it much more difficult to detect that the wearer is armed.

Appendix carry works well here, but with training you can make other locations practical options as well.

Be prepared to swallow your pride when you're shopping for concealed carry clothing. If you're like me, you'll want to order a size bigger shirt than you'd normally wear. A slightly oversize shirt mitigates the gun printing through the fabric. It also makes drawing the gun easier because there's more garment to grab hold of.

The real ego crusher comes when shopping for pants. If you're planning to carry IWB, expect to purchase pants that are about two inches bigger in the waist. This will allow for the extra girth created by the gun and holster. Trust me on this. It's not worth it to try to squeeze everything into pants that are too small for concealed carry just to be able to say that you wear a particular size.

In most cases, when you carry a concealed handgun along your waist, especially IWB, an undershirt will make you much more comfortable. An undershirt provides a barrier to prevent your gun or holster from rubbing against your bare skin.

It also helps protect your gun from sweat, which can lead to corrosion. There are holsters that are specifically designed to keep the gun from contacting your skin, but even with such a holster, you can't go wrong with an undershirt.

Another potential concealed carry pitfall is dressing like a gunfighter. If you're wearing a "contractor" shirt, freshly creased tactical pants, a pair of $300 desert tan boots and a belt designed for rappelling, people may speculate that you're armed even if your gun is not visible.

Busy patterns, such as Hawaiian shirts, are especially good because the pattern helps disguise any printing.

Add to the mix any firearm-themed logo apparel and you might as well be openly carrying your firearm. (For similar reasons, I'm not a fan of affixing firearms-related stickers to my vehicle.) I would rather a potential foe have no idea that I'm armed. It's all about having an ace up your sleeve and using the element of surprise.

I'm often asked how I carry concealed. I have to admit that since I'm often "testing and evaluating" a new gun or holster for an article, there's not as much consistency to my daily carry as I would like.

My preferred concealed carry style is appendix with only a T-shirt as a cover garment. I can easily conceal my Glock 19 in this manner and bring it into play very quickly. The main gripe with appendix carry is that it can be uncomfortable when you're seated. Like most other carry methods, it's about finding a holster that feels comfortable and experimenting with it to find the sweet spot.

Concealed carry is a very individualized endeavor. Two people given the same gun and holster combo might prefer entirely different carry methods and cover garments. What works well for me may be the most uncomfortable or impractical thing imaginable to you and vice-versa.

Just remember there's more to concealed carry than a strapping a gun to your hip. You need to consider how you will comfortably and efficiently conceal your gun while going about your daily activities.

But concealment is only half the battle. You must also be able to deploy your gun instantaneously in response to a potential deadly threat. Don't underestimate the importance of choosing proper clothing to maintain the element of surprise.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.

Ruger Security 9 Compact

Ruger Security 9 Compact

This handgun lives up to what Ruger wanted to build: a solid, dependable, easy-racking carry/home defense pistol at a better-than-reasonable price.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most parts in just minutes.
Instead, the curtain-rod engineer with a8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods Accessories

8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods

Dusty Gibson - July 17, 2013

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most...

The defensive handgun market is ripe with affordable, accurate and dependable choices, but these six compact high-capacity 9mm pistols stand out from the rest of the field.6 Best Compact High-Capacity 9mm Handguns Compact

6 Best Compact High-Capacity 9mm Handguns

Jeff John - July 08, 2020

The defensive handgun market is ripe with affordable, accurate and dependable choices, but...

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want one.Ruger 57 Pistol Review Reviews

Ruger 57 Pistol Review

James Tarr - June 05, 2020

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want...

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades Accessories

SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades

James Tarr - December 14, 2017

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.

See More Trending Articles

More Concealed Carry



Over the last decade, the number of individuals obtaining a concealed carry permit has6 Essential Elements of Concealed Carry Concealed Carry

6 Essential Elements of Concealed Carry

Brad Fitzpatrick - August 26, 2016

Over the last decade, the number of individuals obtaining a concealed carry permit has

Jessica Nyberg and James Tarr discuss draw techniques when it comes to concealed carry.Drawing Techniques for Concealed Carry Concealed Carry

Drawing Techniques for Concealed Carry

James Tarr - January 12, 2018

Jessica Nyberg and James Tarr discuss draw techniques when it comes to concealed carry.

Concealed carry belts come in all styles and designs. Find the rig that's right for you with these great belts for concealed carry.9 Great Concealed Carry Belts Concealed Carry

9 Great Concealed Carry Belts

Brad Fitzpatrick - March 25, 2014

Concealed carry belts come in all styles and designs. Find the rig that's right for you with...

Safe and effective purse carry takes knowledge and practice.Purse Carry 101 Concealed Carry

Purse Carry 101

Eve Flanigan - December 11, 2018

Safe and effective purse carry takes knowledge and practice.

See More Concealed Carry

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now