Dressing for Concealment
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Congratulations. You've either received your permit to carry concealed or live in a Constitutional Carry state.
And now you were starting to run into all of the challenges and compromises that come with trying to carry around a one-pound chunk of metal in a way that allows for easy access during a crisis while still effectively concealing it from others.
You are not alone. Everyone runs into the same problems:
If I have my handgun concealed from view, it's difficult to draw quickly.
If I have my handgun positioned for a quick draw, it's not concealed completely.
I might find I need a different holster or carry position depending on what I'm wearing.
How can I carry during the summer when I want to wear board shorts?
You might even find that you have to thread your belt differently now to accommodate a holster or change how you carry your wallet so that you don't expose your firearm every time you pay for something. (Seriously -- if you carry your wallet in your right rear pocket and your firearm on the right side of your belt, you are more likely to expose your gun when you reach back for your wallet. Consider carrying your wallet elsewhere.)
I think it was Clint Smith who said firearms were meant to be comforting, not comfortable.
You might find yourself falling into the same philosophy exposed by Chris Baker from Lucky Gunner in the video below of "living to carry" versus "carrying to live".
Baker hits on an important concept that we sometimes can fall into when we first start to carry, we dress in a way that makes it more practical to carry. You've seen it -- 5.11 cargo pants, an oversized and untucked shirt, a Wilderness instructor belt rated for 9,000 pounds, and Merrell low-top hikers. Throw in an operator-style ball cap with velcro panels on the front and top. All in khaki or ranger green. And we wear it all year around. On all occasions.
One of the main problems with this is that this particular style of dress becomes easy to identify with people who carry. This identification became so strong in the 90s and early 2000s that the FBI had to specifically forbid agents from wearing 5.11 cargo pants and vests when working, particularly overseas. For those who read people for a living (e.g. criminals) this look is a tell. This can be a positive or a negative.
I have a training partner who witnessed the deterent effect of this kind of tacticool dress during an unfolding robbery. He went into a pharmacy one evening and noticed a young guy with his girlfriend shopping there. He said the guy was wearing all of the trappings of the style of dress we're describing. While waiting for his prescription pick up, he noted two young men wearing hoodies (ironically, this style of dress can also be a tell) both enter the pharmacy together in an aggressive fashion and immediately split up, each of them following the far walls of the pharmacy towards the back. My guy is on alert and getting ready to respond to a robbery in progress. He's watching the two as they head towards the back of the store. He sees them notice the young guy and his girlfriend. The two abruptly come to a halt, spin on their heels, backtrack towards the entrance and exit.
Interestingly, Mr. Tacticool never even noticed the two predators moving towards his area. My training partner is convinced, in this case, the tactical look the young guy had disrupted the two criminals' plan.
That might be one case where a person signaling that they were carrying stopped an attack. On the other hand, there are the people who are threatened by the printing or unintentional showing of your firearm. I have heard stories of a bystander calling 911to report someone "brandishing" a weapon because they saw or could identify your concealed firearm.
[Note: the reason I put the word brandishing in quotes is because brandishing is normally used as a legal term to describe an unlawful display of a firearm when someone is pointing or waving a gun in a threatening manner. Your state might have slight variations on what's considered brandishing. But my attempt at making a point here is that local Karens call the cops because they feel "threatened" that you are even carrying a firearm, much less displaying it. Check your state laws. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.]
From a tactical standpoint, I think you should also be aware that bad guys could decide to eliminate you first if they identify you as a viable target.
Now the flipside of that is the incredible lack of awareness that most of the public carries around on a day-to-day basis. It's possible that you can be incredibly sloppy with your carry and not many people will notice. It's other carriers and newly initiated students who seem to have an increased awareness. I had one student who, after attending a knife class, suddenly began noticing people everywhere carrying knives.
Take a look at Baker's video above and give some thought to his points.