As part of my Naval profession I was required to carry a side concealed in the performance of my duties. I had to work in some pretty inhospitable places where you definitely wanted the means to protect yourself, but you also had to blend in and avoid drawing attention to yourself. Some places were easier than others due to the climate or the situation, while others you had to work really hard to avoid “printing” the telltale sigh you were carrying a firearm. Concealed carry was also still in it’s infancy back then so many of the pioneers were still cutting their teeth on design and materials, which meant we were sometimes the guinea pigs. Many of our lessons learned can be seen in the concealed carry evolution where carrying concealed is part equipment, art form and mindset.
Carrying concealed can be broken down into “high profile”, you might mask the sight of the weapon, but everyone knows you are carrying. To “low profile”, the physical features of the firearm are obscured to the deepest cover, which is “no profile”. In this last condition, you are not only trying to conceal the presence of a firearm, but the evidence you were carrying in the first place. We will focus this article on low profile since it makes up the large majority of modern day conceal carry. To effectively carry concealed in the low profile mode you are basically talking about an inside the waistband holster or IWB.
Keep it simple
Now, before we get to in-depth with this topic let’s also talk about some principles. You want your presentation from concealed to be as close to your normal drawstroke as possible. Obviously it will be somewhat different, but too much deviation means you are now creating two different drawstrokes with two different training conditions and standards. While it doesn’t sound like such a big deal in the bigger picture it is huge. If the drawstroke is so different you will now need to practice the movements to the point they become second nature. I think that is asking a lot for the average person who doesn’t have this as a professional requirement, so keep it simple. Next is the decision to deviate from your primary firearm to firearms that are ultra-compact or a different firearm entirely. You reach a point of diminishing returns when you go so small that you might conceal it well, but have a difficult time meeting the shooting and performance standards.
The go to concealment option
The IWB holster can be made of two types of material; plastic or leather. While you can see hybrids, these will be the two most common choices. When selecting your holster, you want to make sure the holster is designed for the specific firearm you intend on using. Don’t try to make do with something, make sure it is made for the firearm. It should retain the pistol so it stays secure during normal wear. It should adequately protect the trigger and trigger guard so that nothing can get into the trigger guard when the firearm is holstered. Lastly, the holster should retain its shape when the firearm is removed. Since the holster is inside your waistband, the belt and body place pressure that can collapse the holster’s opening making it difficult or dangerous to reholster.
Loops, snaps and hooks
How the holster attaches to your belt is next. You’ll noticed how I stated attached to your belt. I have used several different types of fasteners or hooks and while they are somewhat convenient, if I had a dollar for every time somebody drew their firearm along with their holster I would probably have about $37 more in the bank. I suggest loops or snaps with individual loops so you can maneuver the holster on your hip or around the belt loops of your pants. The snaps work well and are pretty simple. While they are a pain sometimes to snap into place, they are secure once snapped shut. The belt is what keeps the whole package attached to your body that and the belt loops of your pants. The biggest thing I can say about your belt is it must adequately support the weight of the equipment. If it is more of a dress belt you might find it snagging or constantly adjusting, which is a sure give away to the keen eye. Belt material various between leather and nylon and this like holster material is personal preference based off trial and error.
Is that a gun or are you just happy to see me
Now comes the art form, the attire. There are lots of folks who will print just by the clothes they wear. They may be the latest trend, but they also suggest a certain stereotype and that might draw more attention than you want. Because the IWB has to go inside of your pants you might give strong consideration to purchasing pants one size bigger in the waist. This should give you the breathing room, literally when you have the firearm concealed. I also look for belt loops that are directly on the side; this allows me to place the holster on my hip in the same location as the open top type holster. The individual holster loops can fit around the belt loop and offer good control so the holster stays put during daily movement. You don’t want daily movement to shift your holster slightly; just a little movement can force you to change your drawstroke.
Summer, fall, winter and spring
The key to your wardrobe is to have a wide selection; you want to avoid concealed carry specific type modifications. We have seen Velcro and counter weights added to clothing to facilitate a clean drawstroke. The problem is if you get in the habit of relying on those methods you greatly reduce your wardrobe and increase the chances of printing. You should be able to carry concealed effectively with anything off the shelf. The key is your holster and belt selection along with selecting the next size up in your pants. You also want to consider having more than a single IWB holster and belt, some models work better for certain types of clothing. Here is where mixing and matching between leather and plastic holsters and leather and nylon belts can provide you with lots of combinations that should accommodate the various clothing and social requirements. You can utilize simple camouflage techniques such as opting for darker clothing and clothing with varied patterns. Avoid light colors and the lighter materials. While you can still carry concealed, the lighter colors can show the darker material of holster and firearm. The lighter materials drape over the firearm and holster leaving an image or print of the concealed firearm.
All else is supplemental
Mindset is key, and we are not talking solely about the Combat Mindset, but a lifestyle change as well. You will of course need to be well versed in the legalities for carrying concealed in your region. In addition, your activities will need to be married with your method of carry. That is one reason why selection of your equipment is so important, if it is not comfortable or your are not confident then you will constantly be fidgeting and that will eventually let the cat out of the bag you are carrying. Simple tasks like sitting in chairs or bending over to pick items off the deck need to be done carefully so as not to print the presence of a firearm just as a few examples. Additional thoughts on storage when not carried need to be addressed as well as conditions of readiness. While equipment and clothing are important it is the mindset that frames the two for success.
There are no easy answers and carrying concealed is a personal choice. If one intends on pursuing this God giving right then take time to invest in research and testing. Know that you will probably purchase several holsters until you find the one that works best for you and your conditions. Following the principles outlined here will point folks in the right direction. Paying more attention to your wardrobe and how you intend on concealing your firearm give you the best chance for truly concealing said firearm. Remember that your mental preparation is the key. There are lots of questions you have to ask yourself early on and you need the answers. Seek out qualified instruction to further your quest and always remember the responsibility you bear.