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Concealed Carry And Clothing
Guns and gear are great…but remember that part of concealed carry is concealment, so some attention has to be paid to concealed carry clothing.
The good news?
You probably have everything you need already. Special clothing is not really needed, so you don’t need to replace your wardrobe.
Instead, what you need to know about concealed carry clothing is how to conceal your gun, concealed carry holster and other EDC items, clearing cover if you have to draw and how your clothing works into the system as a whole.
So, what does one need to know about concealed carry clothing?
If It Covers The Gun, It’s Good Concealed Carry Clothing
The truth is that specialty clothing isn’t needed for concealed carry.
Sure, you could outfit yourself with everything you want from 5.11 Tactical, LA Police Gear, or TruSpec or what have you, but you don’t really need it.
You just need pants that aren’t too tight to insert an IWB holster behind the waistband, and a shirt that’s long enough and roomy enough to drape over the gun and not produce the tell-tale bulge of a handgun.
That’s really it.
Again, most people already have the necessary accoutrements in their closet or dresser already. Is it nice to get some cool cargo pants or whatever? Sure, but for everyday wear…you don’t really need them.
It’s a bit different if you have a practical use for something like Crye Precision pants or what have you, like competitive shooting or if you otherwise wear them outdoors, but most people are just fine in jeans or chinos or whatever.
If any specialty clothing is needed or a good idea to get, it would possibly be some tall-size shirts. Tall sizes, for those unaware, have an extra inch or two added to the hem and sometimes the sleeves, for additional length.
Having a longer hem aids in concealment while standing, but even more so if you bend over or sit down, which causes your shirt to ride up the torso.
For OWB concealment, some people prefer to wear the holster between a t-shirt and an untucked button-up shirt. Again, look for a long shirt hem…and try to find a flat hem, so it looks good untucked.
Again, the clothing needs are minimal. A roomy fit for draping the garment and pants (or shorts) that work with the gun and holster if wearing IWB. Not too complicated is it?
What You Wear Is Not Important; Clearing Cover Is
Again, the concealed carry clothing itself is not really all that important. Whatever you can wear that effectively conceals is all you need. Jeans and a t-shirt, it doesn’t matter.
What DOES matter…
…is how easily you can clear cover. Unlike open carry or range use, you have clothing between gun and the rest of the world. That clothing has to be moved to get the gun out and into the fight.
And it is in this regard where clothing does matter, because not being able to clear cover effectively might be the difference between life and death.
What’s important is learning an effective and repeatable technique for getting your cover garment out of the way. Once you figure out a good method for you and how you carry your gun, practice the heck out of it.
With that said, shirts break down into closed-front (t-shirts, polos) and open-front, meaning button-ups whether they’re fully buttoned or not. So let’s talk about some quick tips for clearing cover garments.
We’ll also go over some tips, tricks and strategies for dealing with a jacket.
Closed-Front Shirts And Concealed Carry
Clearing a closed-front shirt (such as a t-shirt or polo) is easy, in that the procedure is “grip it and rip it.”
Well…don’t actually rip it…
The shirt has to pulled up so the gun is completely uncovered, allowing the shooter to get a firing grip, draw and then present the pistol to fire.
What has to happen is the garment is lifted and swept out of the way. As the gun is cleared, you’ll need to pin the cover garment to your body while driving your hand towards the gun to get a shooting grip.
There are a number of different techniques taught by instructors. Check out this example from Mike Seeklander.
See what he does – he lifts the garment, pins it to his body first with the shooting and then with the support hand, then slides down to the gun to draw and present the gun.
Clearing the cover garment needs to be part of the entire drawing and presentation. Notice how his support hand is in a prime position to build a two-handed shooting grip.
Granted, this example is in the appendix position. For more traditional strong-side carry (meaning the gun is on or just behind the hip) you may not be able to use your support hand the same way, so you may have to only use your shooting hand to clear cover.
What you’re going to have to do is figure out a technique that will reliably get the cover garment cleared so your draw isn’t impeded by your clothing. Once you’ve figured it out, practice the heck out of it.
The Concealed Carry Draw From An Open-Front Shirt
When it comes to an open-front shirt, meaning a button-up shirt of some kind, there can be a bit more variation of technique depending on how you wear it.
The classic concealed carry cover garment is an unbuttoned flannel or denim shirt, long- or short-sleeve as preferred, worn untucked. It provides cover, allows use of either an IWB or a high-ride OWB holster, and looks presentable in the bargain.
You can also choose to button the shirt and close it. It gets pretty windy in Alien Gear Holsters’ part of the world; gusts are pretty common in all seasons, so wearing an open shirt is not always an option!
With an unbuttoned shirt, one technique is to sweep it out of the way. It seems simple, but it actually takes some practice to get down. Since shirt fabric is incredibly light, the shirt tends to whip if you go too fast.
Instead of whipping the shirt, hook under the placket with your shooting hand thumb and pull it out of the way. That moves your cover garment in a smoother fashion, avoiding any potential mishaps.
If your shirt is buttoned, the procedure is the same as with a closed-front (non-button-up) shirt.
Top Tip: if you’re using a buttoned but untucked shirt as your cover garment, leave the bottom-most button undone. This puts a bit of slack in fabric, making it easier to clear.
In either case, you have to experiment with exactly how you make it work best, and then practice the heck out of it.
Concealed Carry With A Tucked-In Shirt
If you tuck your shirt over your concealed carry gun, clearing cover will change in that you have to do a couple things differently.
First, you have to select a holster that allows for your shirt to be tucked over it, or you have to wear an OWB holster to avoid the issue. The latter case requires pretty much no adjustment in technique as the tucked shirt is a non-issue.
Tucking your shirt over the gun and holster, however, does require some adjustment.
A tucked shirt has to be grasped with a powerful grip to get good purchase and pulled out of the waistband to reveal an IWB holster. After that, the procedure is the same.
If you must tuck your shirt over the holster, leave a little extra material above the waistband. That way, you can easily grasp it.
Concealed Carry With A Jacket
Concealed carry with a jacket is essentially the same as with an open-front shirt, it’s just that more layers are involved.
Clearing cover is the same, and the ideas are the same. You can wear it closed or open.
Classically, the concealed carrier will wear their jacket open. In spring and fall, when light jackets are the norm, this is…unnoticeable because almost everyone does it.
In winter, it becomes a different story. To the typical observer, it’s just an open jacket and they don’t really notice it. However, it’s a dead giveaway to those initiated, such as other concealed carriers and also to law enforcement.
Whether this is a concern to you or not…is up to you to decide. Some people don’t care about how they appear to the observant or unobservant, and others want to be as discreet as humanly possible.
If you do decide to concealed carry under a closed jacket, there are a couple of tips, tricks and so on that can help make clearing the cover garment easier and more efficient.
One tip is to put a zipper pull on the zipper to get reliable purchase on the zipper, and so you can unzip the placket in a hurry. Having some weight in the pocket also helps move the jacket out of the way of the gun.
If you’re wearing a jacket more of the bomber or hoodie variety instead of a longer parka-style jacket, you may be able to pull the jacket up and over the gun just like you would with a shirt.
A longer hem makes pulling the jacket up and over the gun harder to do. It’s also the case that not everyone has a range of motion in their shoulder that allows for it. Therefore, a parka (or parka-style) jacket, or the classic ¾ length style is going to complicate the draw.
Buttoned jackets are right out. You can’t open them quickly, unless they have a zipper under the placket which some – but not all – do.
What If I’m Wearing A Suit?
If you’re wearing a suit, blazer or sport coat, there are a couple of strategies for clearing the cover garment.
Obviously, you can wear the jacket unbuttoned. However, if wearing the jacket buttoned, the classic trick is to leave the bottom-most button undone. That way, you only have to undo one button before clearing cover and drawing the gun.
Blazers and sport coats tend to be – but aren’t always! – a little looser-fitting and many have vents that many suit coats lack.
If YOUR blazer or sport coat (what’s the difference? Blazers are solid colors, sport coats have patterns) is a little roomy with generous vents, you may be able to pull the jacket up over the gun. You also may not. Experiment with your jacket to see what the case is for you.
Clothing Selection For Different Concealed Carry Holsters
IWB and OWB are the default choices of concealed carry holster, everyone knows that…but what if you don’t wear one?
Not everyone does, for a variety of reasons, and some people may carry a backup gun in a pocket or an ankle holster, or may use an alternate carry method on occasion. Sometimes you might pocket carry if running an errand, or using a shoulder holster just because.
Alternative carry methods can also require some concealed carry clothing considerations, though – again – it’s typically simple.
Pocket carry really only requires ample pocket space. What you’re looking for is a pocket that’s deep enough to allow the gun and holster to fit inside it.
The classical guideline is that you’re looking for a pocket that allows your hand to go in to the wrist. If the rim of the pants pocket is at your wrist, with ample room inside it, that’s good for pocket carry.
It’s also crucial to carry with a pocket holster.
Ankle carry merely requires loose enough pants to easily cover the gun…and to be easily drawn up to uncover it. Relaxed-fit pants or jeans are easily found, so that’s a no-brainer. However, be sure to select an ankle holster that works with your footwear.
Some people will carry on occasion with a shoulder holster, though there are the rare folks who do so every day.
A shoulder holster requires a roomy jacket for effective concealment. The trick with shoulder holsters isn’t so much getting the cover garment correct; it’s finding a shoulder holster that works with the contours of your body so it’s concealable in the first place.
You either have a shoulder holster that works well with your shape or you don’t.
Train How You’ll Fight: Wear Your Street Clothes To The Range
The old saw is “train how you’ll fight, fight how you train.” When you practice with your pistol, you need to be wearing the clothes you’ll actually wear.
This is important when you go to your favorite range for practice. This is also important when you do your dry fire practice.
Shooting at the range in full kit is fine if you compete in 3 gun matches or what have you, and wear that gear for the competitive shooting environment. But do you wear a chest rig and a battle belt every day? Do you wear that stuff at home?
Chances are you don’t, unless you’re in the military…or unless you just constantly LARP. Hey, we don’t judge.
If your pistol practice is more for a practical purpose, which for the armed civilian means concealed carry and/or home defense or generalized personal defense, your gear has to reflect that or else you’re not training in a realistic fashion.
Think of it like this: everything athletes do is for their sport. They practice for their events or games, and accessory exercises like weightlifting and so on are tailored to assist in those efforts.
So make sure you’re making smart choices in the gear you’re using, and how you use it. Practice makes perfect, so make sure you’re practicing for what you may need to make happen in real life.