After you decide you are going to carry a firearm, the very next question is often – “what do I wear to keep it concealed?” Starting with the most basic foundation – you will need a quality holster. Because the most popular holsters and carry method is around the waist on your strong side (be it inside the waistband or outside your pants), you will most likely also need a dedicated belt
designed and constructed to properly carry the weight of the firearm.
Gunbelts are made of a variety of materials (the most popular being leather), but the key feature is a plastic or metal band that is sewn or otherwise secured inside the belt. This band helps the belt retain its shape, and prevents it from letting your firearm sag too far. One of the “tells” used to identify when someone is carrying, is the person touching, adjusting, or messing with the gun or holster, and bringing attention to themselves as they make sure the gun is still there.
Even with a great gunbelt, your pants will droop a bit more that you are used to – when you get up from sitting, resist the desire to pull up the gun by only lifting the holster – grab the belt right behind the holster with one hand, and the same location on the opposite side of belt, that is what people who aren’t carrying do when they pull up their pants.
When I started working undercover, I just knew that everyone could tell I had a gun under my shirt. The reality was that I was hyper-aware of the gun, and projected that others around me knew what I knew. Most people are “sheep” – oblivious to the world around them, and unless your firearm is actually poking out from under the fabric covering it and clearly visible, they won’t notice. The issue is whether those who are looking and paying attention, the “wolves,” might notice that slight bulge.
Overall – you want to remain low key, not flashy. If people are noticing you, looking at you, or your clothing is drawing any attention – you have failed. You want to be the “gray” person who fades into the background, with nothing that stands out or attracts attention. Most people will adjust their shirts, jackets or pants when standing after sitting for a while, and as long as your movements mirror what the unarmed people do, you won’t be noticed. As you stand up, subtlety grab the hem of your cover garment, and give a slight tug downward to make sure it drapes over your gun.
Avoid stereotypes: “5-11’s & a photo vest” – the “tactical” pants and the multi pocket vest look just screams CCW. In some places, fanny pack holsters also are widely recognized as holding firearms – although bright colors (red, blue, even pink) may be less obvious that the “tactical black” or “desert tan versions. Another hint – if you have any clothing items that have the names or logos of gun companies or guns related products – save them to wear at the range, don’t wear them and telegraph that you are a “gun person” and remove any doubt people might have when they see you.
Use patterns & colors to “break the lines” so if your firearm starts to “print” through the fabric it will be harder to identify the shape. Patterns also help to distract from shadows that can help outline the shape of a gun when the material is one solid color. Darker colors can help, but various stripes, shapes, and non-repeating patterns of a moderate size (too small and the pattern looks like a single color, too large and the pattern may not break up the shape of the firearm) tend to work best
With common upper body clothing items, avoid “clingy” materials, so the material will smoothly hang & drape over your firearm. Cotton seems to do a bit better than the synthetics in this regard. You will want slightly upsized shirts – not excessively baggy or a lot larger than needed, but with a bit more room to reduce the chance the firearm will print. The shirts should have a longer length, and a full cut, no skin tight, “tailored” or “slim fit” styles if you want to cover the firearm.
Pants: if you use an inside the waistband carry, buy them in a waist size 1-2 inches larger to allow room for the firearm & holster. Standard pant styles that you would typically wear are probably the best choice. Jeans if that’s what you regularly wear and what is common in your area of operation – are fine. Cargo or carpenter style pants are a step down in attracting attention from the dedicated “tactical” pants, and still offer extra pockets to carry additional items. Regardless of what pants you wear, a waist holster will create additional contact points (either on the inside or outside) that will turn into wear locations.
Suit jackets – go a bit larger, have them fitted, or tailored with +1 or +2 inch larger size in the waist area. Most tailors are very familiar with the modifications needed, as many plain clothes police, investigators, detectives, those who do VIP security and other law enforcement types who need to wear a suit also wear a firearm and need these modifications.
Some other suggestions: sweatshirts – the weight of which will vary depending on the temperature, lightweight 1/4 zip pullovers, Island Type Shirts in warm or summer weather – all of these make nice cover garments that can range from semi-dressy to low key informal based on the color, material, pattern or solid, and what kind of pants and shoes they are paired with.
Be aware of physical limitations of movement when determining where equipment will be carried. If you cross your wrists at your navel, that gives you a standard starting point for your body’s range of comfortable motion. Reaching beyond that point may cause difficulty and items that require you to reach beyond that point may not be accessible: pistol on primary side, magazines on secondary side, speed loaders on primary, etc.
On your cover garments watch for straps, snaps, waist tightening draw string things, other stuff that can snag the firearm when drawing, or get into holster or trigger guard area when re-holstering. The last thing you want is your draw being impeded, or you gun going off when something gets caught inside the trigger guard.
Another thing to plan for: the constant contact between your firearm and clothing as the clothing touches the backs of chairs, seats, or just the rubbing action as you walk and move will cause your clothing to wear out sooner. If you have aggressive grips or stocks, or metal frames with sharp edges, the wear will occur faster. This is just the cost of “doing business” and something for you to plan for. At least now you have some ideas what you can do to keep the firearm concealed.