The firearms industry is, indeed, a whole industry: aside from guns and ammunition, an increasing number of retailers offer accessories of many kinds, including the subject of this piece, specific clothing intended for concealed carry.
In order to help you figure out whether or not clothing specifically meant for concealed carry of a firearm is a good choice for you, we’ll cover some of the kinds of garments out there and their benefits, as well as some potential downsides. From there, we’ll go through a few non-specialized options that our writers, who concealed carry on a daily basis, use to conceal handguns while remaining incognito.
Tactical pants, or pants intended for concealed carry, can take a lot of forms. On the most simple end, you’ll find pants that have reinforced belt loops meant for gun belts. On the more extreme end, some pants come with built-in pockets or ankle holsters that are meant to conceal the gun within the pants and usually have zippered pockets. We certainly see the wisdom in the reinforced belt loops to keep things from ripping if you have to draw your gun, but, in some cases, the multitude of cargo pockets advertises that you’re someone who might be carrying a firearm.
A lot of concealed carry or tactical shirts are simply button-down shirts that are a little more generously cut in the midsection, allowing for you to better conceal a handgun without printing. We’ve also run into some undershirts that have a holster built into them, which might be a little hard to get to. Much like the pants, we can see the use for shirts that are cut a little bit differently, but the context always matters. An oversized button-down might not stand out at brunch, but it might look a little bit funny in church or in a formal office setting.
Concealed Carry Bags
There are a lot of choices for how to carry a firearm out there, and for a lot of people, carrying in a bag can be consistent and doable in a lot of situations. To this end, there are some companies making bags that have special, easily accessible gun pockets that are meant to function as holsters. Off-body carry has risks, for example, that someone can steal your bag and your gun at the same time, but for some people, a discreet bag can work for not just a firearm, but also your daily essentials.
The Use of Specially Made Tactical Clothes/Bags?
We think that there are a lot of folks who can get away with wearing specialized tactical gear that makes sense for their lives. For example, people who work in EMS, do blue-collar jobs, or generally can dress casually, can get away with tactical clothes, especially considering that we’re in a moment where camo is a popular style in a lot of circles. With that in mind, it can be a little tricker if, for instance, you work in a white-collar job where people are extremely anti-gun. So, how do you go incognito in those settings?
Sizing Up in Shirts
A fairly acceptable look in most white-collar settings today, or even at relatively formal restaurants, is a button-down shirt that’s untucked. In those circumstances, I typically just buy shirts one size bigger than normal, but in the same colors and patterns that otherwise fit in at the office: that way, a small handgun doesn’t print much, if at all. To make things exceptionally subtle, patterns like stripes or herringbone break up any lines from the gun, making it about impossible to see on your waistline.
Consider an Over-garment
I happen to be a person who likes style, and I’m willing to experiment a bit. To that end, in the past few months, I’ve been wearing vests in transitional weather, and these come with some nice benefits when I concealed carry. A heavier waxed-cotton vest, for example, is stiff enough that you can put a subcompact handgun in one of the pockets (with a pocket holster) with no printing whatsoever. Additionally, wearing a slightly longer coat or jacket, even a sweater out of a heavy knit, can make lots of room to conceal even full-sized handguns.
Choosing Pants to Use for Concealed Carry
When I’m looking for concealed carry-friendly pants, the first thing I look at is the belt loops: my gun belt is 1.5” wide, so I need pants with belt loops that size for them to fit properly. From there, much like the recommendation in shirts, going up one size in your pant waist is usually all I do to prepare to carry a firearm. This usually gives me room to fit an inside the waistband holster into my pants without any obvious pulling or compromise on the fit.
The Biggest Consideration: Blending In
The whole point of concealed carry, at least in my thinking, is to be able to protect myself without causing too much attention to get thrown my way. If a potential assailant never knows I have a firearm, I’ve done my job well. Similarly, if I can get lunch with a coworker and they never even know I own a firearm, let alone that there’s one on my waist, even better. So, above all, choose garments that make sense for your life, and that allows you to carry the means to protect yourself as well as you can.
So, do you need specially designed tactical pants, shirts, or bags? In our view, most likely not. If you like how they look and will allow you to concealed carry in a way that you’re okay with, then by all means go ahead. With that said, you do not need to go buy a new wardrobe to concealed carry a firearm, and it’s likely that things you already own will do the job well. Keeping a few general principles in mind in terms of sizing and fit, we concealed carry, every day, without specifically made tactical clothing.
*I wish to thank Paul Barnett for writing this particular article and also thank our friends at Primary Arms.