Climate Control: Options for Warm-Weather Concealed Carry
Written by Dave Morelli
I prefer to carry my off-duty pistol in the same position as when I’m on duty. The quickest draw will come from an outside-the-pants, strong-side holster. When the weather allows, I can wear a light vest or jacket to cover the firearm without too much signature.
Even when carrying a gun this way, the carrier needs to be diligent in movement to make sure the gun doesn’t become exposed when he or she is bending over or reaching up for something. In some communities, this will alert a frightened public into calling law enforcement. In some communities, displaying your concealed firearm is illegal and can cause problems that are best not encountered.
This One Time…
Fortunately for me, I live in a community that isn’t alarmed by the sight of a weapon, and it is small enough that most of the folks around know who I am. The weather here is always cool enough for a vest or some over garment to cover my weapon in plainclothes situations. This was not always so. I retired from a big-city department in a warm climate and, most of the year, off-duty carry was a bit more challenging. I remember once having lunch, off duty, in a restaurant/tavern and noticed a couple of uniforms enter the establishment in a covert tactical manner. Not realizing that one of the employees noticed a bulge under my shirt and called the police, I immediately started looking around to see if I could identify the problem for which they were called.
Imagine my surprise/embarrassment when the eyes of one officer met mine. Recognizing me, he smiled and came over to my table. That situation worked out well, and my only punishment was briefing-room banter, but it could have resulted in me getting proned out in the middle of a restaurant. This was the start of my search for a better way to carry concealed off-duty. There are other options.
OWB Carry Tips
If outside-the-pants carry is still for you, remember to cover your rig completely (and remember it is there when you’re moving about). I have carried a gun this way for so long that my movements automatically complement the carry. I wear a heavy enough and long enough vest to cover the muzzle end and not show the shape of the gun under it. I wear the holster slightly back from my side so that the vest covers it when I’m moving about. If the wind is blowing, my arm automatically positions to hold the vest down.
I have turned to the SERPA-type holster for off-duty carry because it adds a level of security to carrying the weapon. Plus, my duty weapon has the same security device, so it is natural. Don’t think that someone can’t remove your concealed carry piece in a scuffle. I like knowing it won’t fall out if I am called upon to run or jump over something.
Another option is the CCW fanny pack. The great thing about the fanny pack is you could carry a concealed gun while wearing a string bikini. (I apologize for the image; I didn’t mean to suggest I intend to wear a bikini.)
One of the downfalls of the fanny pack, aside from being a fashion faux-pas, is that it has become an icon. People now tend to believe everyone who wears one has a gun in it. This is a small problem though when weighed against the advantages: A fanny pack completely seals the gun from view and, with the proper holster attachment inside, safely carries it with any clothing.
They make fanny packs large enough to carry a full-sized gun, but I prefer a smaller one that is less conspicuous but still can pack an adequate handgun in a compact version. They also come in many colors, and a bright color might actually be less conspicuous than “tactical” black or coyote. With a little practice, fanny packs allow access to a gun quickly and hold other things such as keys, a wallet or spare magazines.
I include purses here, but I don’t have much experience with them (at least those that don’t match my shoes). That said, I offer this advice: Ladies, if you are going to stash a gun in your purse, get one that has a holster compartment designed for CCW or at least holster it in the purse with something that protects the trigger to prevent a negligent discharge. Lipstick containers have been known to work their way into trigger guards and fire pistols.
As the cover goes deeper, the next in line is the inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. These have become much better over the years with the use of harder materials to facilitate easier reholstering. The soft leather type goes flat when the gun is removed and really is only good for a protective cover in my opinion.
The IWB holster covers the muzzle in the pants, and less than half of the firearm is above the waistline, changing the signature left under the shirt. A loose-fitting T-shirt (choose something other than white) can cover the grip of the weapon, and the gun is still relatively easy to get into action quickly. One thing to consider: As the weapon goes deeper undercover, it becomes less and less accessible.
The CrossBreed holster is a good choice because it combines leather and Kydex to make a simple IWB holster that is accessible with less of the gun above the pants. It is a skeleton-type holster, and the muzzle of the gun will imprint on the pants, so the cover garment should be long enough to conceal this.
It is a well-designed holster that can be worn anywhere on the belt. Some guys like wearing the holster closer to the center of the back. I think this is OK if the carrier doesn’t sit much, but I sit much of the day and prefer my gun more to the side. The IWB can also be worn in a cross-draw position if you prefer.
Another IWB holster I like is made by Bianchi. Model #120 is an all-leather holster with a hard material sewn in around the top opening so it will not crush in after I draw the gun. The leather covers the whole gun and, unlike the CrossBreed, there is less muzzle signature. The holster also has a flap that protects the skin from sharp edges and metal and also keeps sweat from the gun.
As the carry method gets closer to the body, one should consider a stainless or polymer gun. In a moderate environment, sweat will quickly rust steel, and in hot environments, it can be a big problem.
To the Extremities
Moving on, we have extremity carry. Much like the gamblers of the Old West, carrying a weapon on an extremity can prove to be advantageous in some situations — especially concealed carry. They had derringers in their sleeves for a quick show of force or daggers in their boots for sly, quiet defense.
Today, a derringer in the arm would definitely make you look a little weird, but ankle carry for a firearm is a good way to go in warm weather. This would, of course, require the wearing of long pants.
This carry is slow to draw, but speed can be improved with practice. Stepping forward with the carry leg or back with the non-carry leg and bending the knees can get the shooting hand close enough to pull the weapon out. Obviously, this will be a smaller weapon but not out of line for a Detective-Special-type revolver or small auto. I can get away with a Colt Officer’s Model on my ankle, but I wouldn’t want to run much with it (though, in all fairness, I don’t much care for running at all).
The holster must be sturdy and comfortable. It is sturdy so that it carries the gun without the chance of it falling out and comfortable because the ankle is sensitive to something rubbing against the bones that are close to the surface.
When I am on duty, I wear an Uncle Mike’s nylon holster over my duty boot. This gives extra padding against the ankle area and is comfortable for the whole shift. Now, the most common problem with the ankle holster is its tendency to slide down while walking. If I wear an ankle weapon in plainclothes when it’s warm, I will usually wear a lightweight boot with a high ankle to support the holster.
Ankle carry is a decent way to carry your sole weapon but really excels as backup carry. There are good reasons to carry a backup. One, of course, is if the primary weapon fails or you run out of ammo. An overlooked reason to carry two weapons is to have one for an unarmed but trained friend who might assist in the threat neutralization. A spouse, for instance, who is more concerned with fashion than carry might not be dressed to safely carry a weapon. Handing off a secondary weapon gives her the ability to back your play or protect herself if need be.
At the Waist
Waistband holsters, which are elastic bands with a holster sewn in, can also provide great concealment in hot weather. They can carry the pistol and a spare magazine. I like the waistband holster when I am going to the gym. The band holds up the pistol, and my sweats conceal the weapon. If the elastic bothers you, an IWB holster on a belt under the sweats will do the same thing but is a little bulkier.
It is also a good way to be armed while jogging. I realize it is more stylish or maybe even more comfortable to wear shorts while running, but the waistband setup will work well in this situation. For the public and me, I would rather wear sweats.
For the Ladies
There are a host of other carry options, especially for gals, that warrant investigation for the serious gun toter. Thigh holsters, bra holsters and holsters sewn into T-shirts might limit the size of the pistol you will want to pack, but any gun is better than no gun. In warm weather, concessions will have to be made when you carry. The concealed carrier will have to mold the carry option to the clothing he or she will be wearing and the gun he or she wants to carry. With a little experimentation, a combination can be had that is comfortable and user-friendly.
After you decide on a carry method, don’t forget to get comfortable using it and practice bringing the gun into action from this position when shooting at the range. Train like your life depends on it, because some day it might.
Should You Choose a Firearm for Your Clothing or Your Clothing for Your Firearm? Carrying IWB
Written by Bob Campbell
When preparing for concealed carry, you have to look at the whole picture. The handgun, the holster, the ammunition and the clothing you select are all important.
The beginner will often adopt a firearm and holster combination to adapt to his mode of dress. He might deploy a light handgun and a pocket holster to fit his dress trousers. He might select gear based upon a “cool factor” with little thought of practical use. The results would often be laughable if they were not so serious.
As an example, a young man showed up at my class with a light jacket over his shoulder holster. The overbuilt rig printed under the jacket, and the fellow gave the impression he was wearing a bra beneath his windbreaker.
Others adopt improper covering garments and expose even well-designed holsters. When you are deploying a certain size handgun and a particular type of holster, you need to plan ahead and choose clothing that complements the choice. We like to be well-armed and obtain gear that gives us a level playing field with the protein-fed, ex-con criminal class.
Adopting a quality inside-the-waistband holster affords us the opportunity to effectively conceal a fighting pistol that is large and powerful enough to speak with authority on our behalf. If you choose a belt holster, then you must select a covering garment that will conceal the full length of the holster. If you elect to deploy the more concealable inside-the-waistband holster, then a lighter garment that covers the handle of the firearm is all that is necessary.
There are compromises inherent in every holster type, but when the advantages of the inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster are considered, this holster makes an intelligent choice. Those who dress around their defensive gear — rather than attempt to make the gear fit their lifestyles — choose IWB. This is the qualifying difference between living the responsibly armed lifestyle and accommodating a handgun in a less serious manner.
When you begin to select your carry gear, the holster comes first. While quality handguns are important and ammunition selection is a serious consideration, the holster will make or break your day. The holster cannot always be comfortable or light as a feather but neither should it be a chafing nuisance.
A reasonably comfortable holster that offers a good balance of speed and retention is vital. The Hopps Custom Leather holster is a good design, comfortable and of supple leather, and the blend of two-tone tanning is pleasing to the eye. This holster rides close to the body while preserving the draw angle.
The S & S (Snaps and Straps) IWB holster from Barber Leather Works is a remarkable holster from a young maker enjoying well-earned success. The twin wings spread the weight out in a comfortable manner, making the Snaps and Straps design a top choice.
Liberty Custom Leather’s Savannah holster is a well-executed, traditional design from an old-line maker. The Savannah is affordable, with the option of adding custom enhancements such as double loops and alligator welts. The Saigon Belt Clip from the same maker is a minimalist design that appeals to many users.
These are just a few of the best quality IWB holsters available. If you do not begin with a quality holster, then dressing around the holster means little. Just the same, when you choose a holster, that is just the beginning.
Covering garments are important, but so is the belt. The average dress belt is not up to the task of keeping a holster stabilized. A 40-ounce 1911, a 30-ounce Commander or a fully loaded Glock 19 will shift and rotate even in a quality holster if the belt isn’t up to the task. A sufficiently thick double-stitched gun belt is necessary for use with an IWB holster. You do not necessarily have to match the belt and the holster from the same maker, but you often find relative bargains by purchasing the holster, belt and magazine carrier together.
The Hopp Custom Leather rig is an excellent example of exactly how a gun belt should look, wear and be constructed. The double stitching is ideal, and the buckle is classic in appearance. The belt doesn’t scream gun, but it keeps the pistol stabilized. The gun belt should be purchased an inch larger than you would normally wear in order to accommodate the extra girth of a pistol worn inside the trousers.
This isn’t necessary with an on-the-belt holster, but the same belt will do double duty if you also deploy a standard strong-side holster at times. The gun belt is essential to the program. If you go cheap on the belt, you will not have utility, speed, retention or comfort.
The next step is the outer garments. We should consider the worst-case scenario in which the IWB is the handiest, and that is carrying a serious handgun without a covering garment such as a long jacket or sport coat. A pulled-out sport shirt or even a T-shirt should conceal the firearm.
One of the most useful shirts I have found comes from Kakadu Traders. A shirt specifically designed for concealed carry must allow a greater range of movement than a simple dress shirt. The Kakadu Gunn Worn line features canvas construction and a fit that allows the ideal range of movement. This is a great design that is presently in service not only with the author but a military intelligence officer presently deployed in a European hot spot.
The design of these shirts allows a greater range of motion than most. Since canvas is used in their construction, they are far less likely to blow up or be brushed up and flash the handgun. These shirts are an excellent choice for concealed carry use.
When carrying IWB, the covering garments are important but so are the undergarments. It is essential that an undershirt is worn between the holster and the body, even in the warmest climate, for the best comfort and concealment. Sometimes carrying without an undergarment beneath a light T-shirt works fine if an IWB with a soft leather pad is used, but when possible, it is ideal to use an appropriate undergarment. In this case, you need to obtain the best product possible.
I discovered credible gear just a few miles from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Longworth Industries developed a system for wearing next to the skin that functions well as a standalone garment or for use as part of a layering system. The material builds upon the body’s natural temperature regulation and, most importantly, the seam placements are specifically tailored for freedom of movement.
This intelligent design is the difference between a rugged, long-lasting work shirt and a rugged, long-lasting and comfortable tactical garment. After you wear it, you will settle for nothing else. When you’re executing the draw or are otherwise engaged in movement, these garments will not cramp your style. Your anatomy becomes a load-bearing device when you are carrying concealed, and gear such as this lightens the burden.
When deployed with a light covering garment, this garment should be of a darker color. White and other light colors are more likely to allow the outline of a dark handgun to be seen. The garment should be at least a light blue shade in order to facilitate effective concealment, and tan or brown is better. Yet another consideration is whether you should use a traditional IWB holster or the modern tuckable.
The tuckable can be worn under the shirt with the shirt tucked in. Among the most innovative is the SwapRig holster, a design that allows changing the Kydex holster and using the same leather backing. If you elect to deploy a tuckable holster, then you need to choose a shirt that is generous enough in dimension to both conceal the holster effectively and be comfortable when deploying the holster concealed beneath the shirt rather than simply under the shirt.
When you look at all of the solutions to concealed carry, the best answer remains the concealable and effective IWB. But the holster will not work properly unless you take the time to prepare and select a wardrobe that maximizes the advantages it offers.