Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Less-Lethal Defensive Tools
- Five Grip Improvements for Your Pistol
- Top Five Most Comfortable Concealed Carry Locations
- Five Ways to Improve Situational Awareness
- Shoot Better with These Top Five Tips for Firearms Training
In a recent informal survey of one person – me – I asked myself what is probably the most popular way to carry a concealed handgun. My answer: Some form of inside-the-waistband carry. Likely, this is due to several factors, including ease of draw and ease of concealment.
As for ease of draw, that seems fairly obvious. The shorter distance your hand has to travel to grasp your gun, the faster you can present. As for ease of concealment, that too seems fairly obvious. An untucked shirt or a sweatshirt can drape over a holstered handgun and keep it out of sight but at the ready. But many who carry concealed might not have the option of the untucked shirt, and sometimes life or work circumstances simply demand a more tucked-in appearance. Frankly, dressing up might seem limiting to some aspects of concealed carry but not necessarily so. With a mindset for safety, the right gear and lots of practice, you can effectively carry concealed when dressed up.
Pocket carry might be the most natural means of hiding a gun on your person. After all, pockets are meant to carry your stuff and most people won’t blink at the sight of a full pocket. Moreover, you can place your hand in your pocket, get a grip on your gun and be ready to draw and all people will see is that you’ve got your hand in your pocket.
But most pockets are only large enough for small guns, such as snub-nosed revolvers or very small .380s. And while pockets are usually very accessible when you’re standing, sitting down creates a crease. This can make it very difficult to get a hand in, let alone out while holding a gun. Finally, if you’re wearing dress pants made from a lightweight material, your holstered gun might flop around a bit.
Recommendation: If you carry a gun in a pocket holster, make sure to carry nothing else in that pocket and make sure the holster stays in your pocket whenever you draw your gun.
Wearing dress pants usually means the cuff of the pants will provide adequate cover for an ankle holster and gun, especially when standing or moving around. When sitting, the pants might ride up just a bit, but a proper ankle holster will still be hidden. Here’s where dark pants, dark socks, dark shoes and a dark holster work in concert for discreet concealed carry.
Similar to pocket carry, most ankles are only large enough for smallish guns. And while the concealability factor is high, the accessibility factor is low. Getting to and drawing an ankle-holstered gun requires you to stoop, kneel or somehow get your hand near your ankle. Then you have to clear the pant leg and draw.
Recommendation: If you carry a gun in an ankle holster, make sure you can affix it tightly but comfortably around your ankle and that it will not only not sag or droop but also that you can run with it safely as it securely holds your gun.
3. Tuckable IWB
You’ve heard of the recommendation to “dress around your gun”? This might apply with a tuckable IWB holster. Since most dress pants are cut to your exact waist size and offer little stretch, if you plan to carry a gun in an IWB holster, you might want to buy pants that are a size or two up from your normal size to accommodate the girth of the gun and the rig in which it will ride. This will allow a bit more comfort when you carry IWB, but you might end up explaining why you have certain bulges in your waistline or what the two black clips attached to your belt are. Drawing from a tucked-in IWB holster means pulling your shirt up and out of the way and then grasping your gun — an exercise that demands practice.
Recommendation: Wear a gun belt that looks like a dress belt (1.25 inches wide and subtle black or brown leather) and pull your shirt out enough that it stays tucked in but the shirt “blouses” over your belt, helping to conceal any clips, reducing printing, etc.
4. Sport Coat Cover
This is my favorite means of carrying while dressing up because it offers maximum concealment and minimum access time. With a sport coat over a collared shirt, you can easily conceal an OWB holstered gun carried on your strong side, which also allows you to carry a larger gun and a reload. (For even better concealment, carry a smaller gun in an OWB holster.) Not only does a sport coat hide many sizes of guns, it allows for greater comfort and greater maneuverability. Most importantly, you can get to your gun very quickly with what is probably your most practiced draw movement. That said, one caveat of carrying under a sport coat is that you’ll have to keep that sport coat on at all times.
Recommendation: A sport coat can hide a gun in a pocket, cover an OWB or IWB holster, and hide a shoulder holster. Just be sure to figure out which mode of carry is right for you and then practice carrying and drawing from it.
I don’t condone off-body carry because that means your gun is potentially out of your reach or out of your control. Still, there are times when you might be able to get away with it, depending on other gear you’re willing to have with you and that you’re willing to keep under your complete control at all times. I’ve carried a gun in a planner binder made specifically for concealed carry and kept it in my hand or in a messenger bag I keep on my shoulder all the time. It’s an exercise in compromise, to be sure, but it is possible to carry this way. Carrying a gun off-body — presumably in some kind of holster or carrier or bag — might draw the attention of others and might require a longer time to access and deploy.
Recommendation: Use an off-body carry system when you’re in a vehicle or when you know you’ll have that system in your complete control all of the time. Look into carry and concealment systems made specifically for off-body carry and consider their ability not only to hide a gun but also to lock it in place.
What’s your preferred method for carrying when you’re dressed up?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.