Properly concealing a handgun on your body requires selecting the right gun, gear and cover garment—as well as understanding where on your body the gun will best hide. Here are a few things to consider before heading out the door armed.
Size matters—at least when it comes to concealing a handgun. Many people assume that barrel length is what makes a gun easier or harder to conceal. While that argument has some validity when your gun is worn in an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster, barrel length is essentially a non-issue as far as concealing a gun carried inside the waistband (IWB) because the holster is tucked into the pants.
Concealability is much more dependent on a handgun’s width and the length of its grip than the length of its barrel. A thinner gun will protrude less from your body, making it less apt to press against your cover garment in what’s referred to as “printing.” Similarly, a longer grip or an extended magazine will tend to print more than a shorter grip.
Holster selection is also relevant. An IWB holster will be easier to conceal because it rides closer to your body, and the bottom of the holster is covered by your pants. That said, there are several outside-the-waistband holsters that conceal quite well, especially those that are angled to keep the grip close to your body.
An often-overlooked aspect of concealed carry is the belt. Not only will a purpose-designed gun belt—available from most holster makers—keep your holstered gun secure, it will more evenly distribute the weight of your gun than would a flimsy casual or dress belt. This keeps the belt from sagging, potentially drawing undue attention to your holstered gun.
Of course, where you carry your gun is another important factor. While carrying on the hip—three o’clock for a righty and nine o’clock for a southpaw—produces what most feel is the most natural draw, it is also the hardest position along the waist to conceal a gun. That’s why many wear their guns in front of or behind the hip.
Carrying forward of the hip or appendix carry is nothing new, although it has seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Many prefer this carry method because it keeps your gun in front of your body, where you have the most control over it. Also, since the gun is closer to the target than if it were carried on or behind the hip, the draw stroke is shortened.
Of course, in close quarters, carrying a gun in front of the hip can make it easier for an assailant to foul your draw stroke. And detractors are quick to point out that when holstered, the muzzle of your pistol is probably pointed at something you really wouldn’t want to have shot. This carry method can also be uncomfortable when seated for extended periods.
From a concealment standpoint, carrying in front of the hip is hard to beat, particularly when employing a holster with a wedge or claw designed to angle the grip closer to your body. I can conceal most carry guns in front of my hip with nothing more than a loose-fitting T-shirt.
Speaking of which, let’s consider what might make one shirt better suited for concealed carry than another. A baggy shirt will conceal better than one that’s more form-fitting, and a darker colored shirt will conceal better than a lighter colored one. A thicker shirt will hide your gun better than a thinner one.
Finally, a shirt with a random pattern will draw less attention to a gun-induced crease than one that is solid colored or, worse yet, one that has a defined pattern that would be conspicuously altered by such crease.
Carrying behind the hip in what could be considered the four or five o’clock postitions (or the seven or eight o’clock positions for lefties) is more conducive to concealment than carrying directly on the hip because when your gun is worn behind the hip, it tends to better conform to the shape of your body.
In my experience, this carry method works best with an open cover garment like an unbuttoned shirt or an unzipped jacket than with a closed garment like a T-shirt. That said, I know several people who routinely use behind the hip carry with a T-shirt.
The drawback to carrying behind the hip is that when you bend over or reach for something with your gun hand, the gun tends to print. The looser and more substantial the covering garment, the less of factor this tends to be. A gun drawn from behind the hip is more difficult for an adversary to see, which could be advantageous. And against a close quarter threat, having the gun behind the hip makes it harder for an assailant to reach, which affords you some standoff distance to draw it.
Holstering a gun worn behind the hip can be a bit of a challenge, since you can’t see the mouth of the holster the way you can when carrying on or forward of the hip.
Only you can decide which concealed-carry method is right for you. But before you strap that gun to your belt, make sure your concealed carry ensemble is working. As the good guy, the element of surprise is one of the few advantages you have should you be attacked. Don’t blow it with a haphazard attempt at concealing your defensive handgun.