Guns Magazine, March, 2001 by Massad Ayoob

YOU NEED MORE THAN A HOLSTER TO CREATE AN EFFECTIVE -- AND DISCREET -- CONCEALED CARRY ENSEMBLE.

Instructors for concealed handgun licenses and police trainers whose jobs include preparing personnel for off-duty encounters often hear a common complaint: \"I can\'t figure out how to comfortably conceal a serious defensive handgun.\" This is closely related to an even worse complaint: \"I can\'t figure out how to comfortably conceal a handgun at all.\"

The first rule of gunfighting is, of course, to have a gun. The armed citizen and off-duty cop alike are all but helpless if armed violence looms when they are unarmed. People who recognize they are in danger will bear discomfort -- witness what uniformed cops wear every day on patrol, probably averaging 20 lbs. of equipment, radio and armor -- but when the firearm must be concealed under regular clothes, new comfort factors come into play.

There is physical comfort: guns and holsters that don\'t dig into you or weigh you down or require you to wear a hot outer garment that is inappropriate for the time, the place or the weather. There is also psychological comfort -- the wearer wants to know that the gun is effectively concealed.

If you are willing to research the experience of a lot of people who have carried a lot of guns for a long time, it is possible to come up with compromises. At worst, you end up with discreet, comfortable wear of a full-size combat handgun; at best you have a package that will allow the wearer to be invisibly armed with a handgun that is conveniently small, but still powerful enough to get the job done. The key is to integrate the gun and the carry system with the wardrobe, dress code and body shape of the wearer.

Casual Friday

My fellow geezers and 1 can\'t say today\'s young people haven\'t done anything for us. They have made it fashionable to wear loose clothing. \"Relaxed fit\" pants and Docker\'s trousers might as well have been made for concealing compact handguns. in pocket holsters and ankle holsters.

Roughly half of the adults in this country now wear polo shirts and T-shirts untucked, and often a size or two larger than they need. This is cool and comfortable since it allows air circulation. It is also ideal for hiding firearms at belt level.

For concealed carry, the shirt should be at least one size large, opaque in color and weave, and straight along the hem at the bottom. V-shaped shirttails can impede the drawing motion. On most males, the fabric will drape down from the shoulder area to provide a convenient hollow behind the hip. It'a piece of cake to hide a .45 in an inside-the-waistband holster under such a garment, and a compact sidearm in an outside the belt holster that\'s designed correctly is also concealable this way.

If you prefer sport shirts that button, there are several styles. Banana Republic and other clothiers have popularized the safari shirt. Three other shirts designed to be worn untucked are adaptable to gun concealment if they\'re suitable for the \"fashion statement\" you want to make.

The classic American bowling shirt isn\'t seen often anymore, but its untapered body gives it a loose fit that\'s ideal for gun concealment and unimpeded drawing.

In the South, particularly Florida, the Cuban-style guyaberra shirt is \"in\" for casual wear. Picture a bowling shirt designed for tails-out wear, often with a couple of extra pockets at belly level, and with the buttons stopping just above the navel. The latter feature gives the hem of the garment more flex to clear the holstered gun when you pull it upward. Old Cuba was an armed society; this shirt remains uniquely suitable for members of an armed society today.

The loud colors of a Hawaiian shirt aren\'t appropriate for some dress codes on the mainland. If you can get by with them, though, they\'re primo for pistol-packing. The straight drape gives good concealment; the opacity of the silk-type material hides dark colored guns and holsters; and the asymmetrical print patterns break up the outline of big pistols.

Check Your Coats And Vests

Firms like Concealed Carry Clothiers, Coronado and others now offer jackets and casual vests with built-in gun pockets. I\'m not a big fan of this mode of carry, but that s probably just personal preference and habituation. Still, it shows how far the subculture of the armed citizen has advanced these last few years.

A conventional suit coat or sport coat will allow you to hide a bigger gun than you might conceal under a shirt, if you get the right size, cut and material. For example, the \"classic men\'s sack suit\" popularized by Brooks Brothers is actually pretty decent for concealed carry. When the front button is left undone, the jacket gives good drape. The straight-leg cut of the pants is as friendly to ankle holsters as police uniform trousers, which are cut to a similar pattern.

Tight-fitting, European-style suits like Armani don\'t adapt well at all to concealed guns. European tailoring is much more form-fitting and clings to the body. Even in a sack suit or standard blazer, it\'s a good idea to get the jacket one size large (in the body, not the sleeves). The difference of one size is not enough to make the garment appear ill-fitting, but there will be a remarkable improvement in the amount of interior space in which you can hide your gun.

IWB holsters will always conceal better under a jacket. The hem of the coat can come all the way up to belt level and not flash the gun, and the pants break up the bulging outline of the holster.

If there isn\'t room in the waistband for both you and the holstered gun, the next best choice is one of the better hip scabbards that pull the gun into the beltline from both front and back. Roy Baker pioneered this concept years ago with his Pancake design, and most holster makers today have some version of the same design.

Altering The Dress Code

Some people are firmly convinced that certain gun concealment strategies are a dead giveaway that will call undue attention upon the wearer -- the attention of the police as well as that of criminals. The theory is that since pistol-packers often wear photographer\'s vests or fanny packs, for instance, wearing such things flags the fact that you\'re wearing a gun.

But take a look around. Everybody seems to be wearing this stuff these days. The photographer\'s vest, with its many pockets for cell phones and Daytimers, marks you as a Yuppie more than as a pistol packer. BDU pants? Kids call them \"cargo pants\" and they\'re all the rage. Fanny packs? Been to a park in the summer or to Disney World lately? Everybody wears them when casually dressed.

Underwear Issues

If your suit jacket comes off during the day, or you prefer to wear your casual shirts tucked into tight-fitting pants, all is not lost.

Belly bands have been around since the \'60s, introduced by a company called MMGR in Brooklyn, N.Y This device is now available from several makers, including Gould & Goodrich, Uncle Mike\'s and Guardian Leather. Picture a 4\" wide band of elastic with one or more gun pouches, worn \"over the underwear but under the overwear.\"

There are perhaps three ways to apply the belly band. In most of the ads, you see it worn around the midriff. This works particularly well for women, with the gun worn to the front and concealed by the drape of blouse.

On most men, though, it looks like a colostomy bag, and it can shift uncomfortably as you move around. You can also wear the belly band down low on the hips, allowing you to hide a snub .38 or small auto bare-chested with shorts -- but it\'s not the most comfortable carry.

Your best bet with the belly band is to wear it at belt level. You can position the gun either behind your hip, or in a front cross-draw position. If you leave the second shirt button above the belt unfastened (your necktie will pretty well cover this, and the Fashion Police only consider it a misdemeanor in any case) you can make an amazingly fast draw from the front cross-draw position. This position also allows you to bring your hands to body center, mimicking the body language of terror, and actually have your hand on the gun. I find this works best with a small-frame, 2\" revolver, but it can also be comfortable with some of the smaller auto pistols.

Other options with a tucked-in shirt include Greg Kramer\'s concealment T-shirt, which comes with an upright fabric \"holster pouch\" under each arm. You draw as from a shoulder holster.

Going lower on the body, Thunderwear resembles a soft fabric fanny pack worn under the pants at the front. It holds your handgun in a \"groin holster\" carry that is accessed through the front of the pants.

Pager Pal makes a unit that hides at the same level, front or back, attached to a pager or knife pouch. Pull up on the pager or pouch, and the whole holster comes up from inside your pants, ready to draw from.

If you\'re habituated to the behind the hip draw, the holster Dave Workman designed is an excellent choice for hiding under tucked in shirts. Picture an IWB holster with a vertical leather strap that creates a valley between holster and waistband. Into that valley, the shirt is tucked. Blouse it very slightly at the edge, and the holstered gun disappears. Tugging your shirt up with your free hand in the \"Hackathorn Rip\" technique exposes it for a fast conventional draw.

Mitch Rosen translated Dave\'s design into a production model, appropriately called The Workman. It quickly became the most copied hideout holster on the market.

If you\'ve recognized the need to have a firearm handy to protect yourself, your family and your home, more power to you. With some research, planning, training, mental preparation and commitment, you\'ll find that it\'s now possible to carry a gun conveniently and discreetly more often than you thought. It\'s also possible to carry a bigger, more practical gun, which you can shoot more effectively, and not suffer much -- if at all -- in the comfort department. Today, clothing and equipment give the legally armed citizen more options than ever.

Today, we have better personal defensive handguns than at any time in history small, light, controllable, reliable and powerful. We have the best concealment holsters in history. We are at a time when current fashion trends are remarkably amenable to gun concealment, particularly in leisurewear.

With all this good hardware, we can\'t neglect the software. Train vigorously, not only in firearms safety and defensive combat shooting, but also in understanding the legal, ethical and tactical parameters of the use of deadly force.

If you carry concealed and shoot practical handgun competition, you should do it from concealment as often as possible. Try to use the same gun, the same holster, the same type of concealing clothing, and ammunition that duplicates the flash, sound report, and recoil of your carry load.


COPYRIGHT 2001 Publishers'Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group