Students sometimes tell me they don't carry their every day carry (EDC) gun every day because they have to wear formal clothing at work or at church. The major problem is the button-up, tucked-in shirt and tie for men. For women, they struggle to carry their handgun while wearing a button up blouse, dress skirts or pants.
Wearing formal clothing creates real challenges when carrying a concealed handgun. I'll address these challenges and offer some tips on how to overcome them.
Concealed Carry Wearing a Button-up Shirt —
A step in the typical draw process from concealed is to clear your cover shirt so you can access your handgun. Formal, button-up shirts are inherently more form fitting with less stretch than a t-shirt, factors which also may hinder a clean draw.
Overcoming button-up shirt challenges —
- Try a button-up shirt designed for concealed carry. Manufacturers replace the shirt buttons with snaps. The snaps break free during the draw process and provide better access to your gun. I own some shirts like this and there is a consideration when using snaps instead of buttons. While drawing, part of the shirt that you don't grab may cover the gun, especially when carrying in the appendix position, similar to how an unzipped jacked moves during the draw.
- Practice your draw wearing the clothing you wear most. As mentioned, your draw will be different when you wear a button-up shirt and tuck it in, compared to a t-shirt. So grab an old button-up shirt, tuck it in and hit the range. Spend at least a portion of your range time wearing your button-up shirt. If you do, I bet over time your draw will be much better.
Concealed Carry Wearing a Tucked-in Shirt —
Usually, people wear their button-up/formal shirt tucked into their pants. Any shirt designed to be tucked in is longer. So not only must you pull a tucked-in shirt out of your pants during the draw process, but it hangs lower; this means you must clear more material to get your gun.
Another issue is that you may not even be able to tuck your shirt into your pants because of your holster.
Overcoming the challenges of a tucked in shirt —
- Must you wear your button-up shirt tucked in? I've seen and own some button-up shirts which are not supposed to be tucked in. They are not as long and have a more square bottom hem. One popular brand that makes shirts like this is called “Untuckit.”
Concealed Carry Wearing a Tie —
Not only are ties uncomfortable and, in my opinion, an odd piece of clothing, but they are incredibly unsafe. In a physical fight, I don't want to give the attacker an advantage by giving him access to something that he can use to choke me and control my head.
Here is a short story to underscore my point. While working patrol, sometimes I would wear the optional tie with my uniform. It so happened that during a fight, the suspect thought it would be a good idea to gain an advantage by choking me with my tie. This wasn't an issue, as I thought about this problem ahead of time.
Overcoming the challenges of a tie—
- Make a modification to your tie. I cut all my ties and sewed in velcro so they could fasten and break free with a slight tug. You don't have to do what I did. I just had a few uniform ties and didn't want to throw them away, so I fixed the issue on my own.
- Use a clip-on tie. We wore them as little boys, and they worked just fine.
- You could also opt for a bowtie, but I recommend you ask your wife first.
A quick point concernging lanyards —
Another issue is that the tie can affect the draw if you carry in the appendix position. It probably isn't a big deal, but you want to at least practice your draw while wearing a tie. The index point for most appendix draws is the belly-button, and that is precisely where the bottom of the tie reaches. You may grab the tie along with your shirt, or you may decide to use the dominant hand to clear the tie, depending on what works best for you.
Also consider if you wear a nametag on a lanyard at work. The same things that apply to a tie, apply to the lanyard. I recommend a breakaway lanyard if you wear it around your neck. And if you carry in the appendix position, consider adjusting where the name tag rests. Grabbing a cloth tie along with your shirt is one thing, a plastic badge is another. I simply shortened my lanyard so that my nametag was high enough as not to interfere with me grabbing my shirt.
How to tuck in your shirt while wearing a holster –
Tuckable Holsters —
You may have noticed some holsters described as being “tuckable.” What this means is that the holster uses a clip system which allows the shirt to tuck between the holster clips and the gun. If you tuck in your shirts even occasionally, consider a tuckable holster. One issue with tuckable holsters is that the holster clips are visible. That may or may not be an issue depending on your individual circumstances.
Belly Band Holsters —
Belly band holsters are an option that allow you to tuck in your shirt because they don't attach to the belt. Therefore, belly band holsters don't leave clips exposed. However, belly band holsters are not for everyone and many people find them sweaty and irritating to the skin. If you opt for a bellyband, consider one that covers the trigger guard with reinforced material.
Chassis System —
The PHLster Enigma is unique because it isn't a belly band, and not a holster. It is an independent chassis and belt system that your holster mounts to. I prefer the Enigma over any belly band products on the market. If the Enigma sounds like the solution to your concealed carry clothing problem, read my review here.
FlashBang Bra Holster —
This holster is for women only, as the name implies. The holster attaches to a bra and is an option for women who struggle to find any other suitable method of carry. Before discounting this as unsafe or impractical, check out this thorough review by Annette Evans.
“Clothing” Holsters —
Some manufacturers sell clothing with built-in pockets designed to carry a gun. One example that comes to mind is this shirt from 5.11 Tactical. I'm not a fan of these methods personally, but I am sure it may be practical for someone in limited application.
Alternative Methods of Carry —
For the purposes of this article, I am grouping ankle, thigh, pocket and shoulder holsters in with off body carry, because the shirt you wear won't affect these methods. Each one has its own pro's and cons that you should weigh before choosing as your primary method of carry.
Not everyone can head to work in a “tactical tuxedo.” You may have to get creative on how to conceal your gun while wearing formal clothing, but it can be done. I want to reiterate the earlier point about practicing in the clothing you often wear. Whatever method you come up with, spend some time on the range in similar clothing so you can establish a repeatable draw.
What do you think about this topic? Have you struggled to conceal your handgun at work? Have you used any of the methods mentioned above? What else worked? Let us know in the comments section.