The Goal of any CCWer is to carry the largest gun with the highest ammo capacity they can lawfully conceal in the most tactically available position possible. Sadly, for many people that may not be a full size gun with a spare mag at the 3pm duty position on the strong side hip. So remember that having a gun is always better than not having a gun which means that any potential sacrifice you may have to make in order to have it with you is worth making if the alternative is leaving it at home or in the vehicle.
In that line of thinking despite some of the barriers (discussed more below) for many concealed carriers, apparel holsters are a viable option for daily carry. This article is meant to introduce some of the different concealed carry clothing options that exist on the market as well as provide some guidance AND warnings about carrying your firearm in an apparel system.
Different Gun Apparel Options:
For any gun owner who likes a handy vest, this can be a viable option. Generally speaking a good concealed carry vest has lined and reinforced pockets that will support the weight of a gun while preventing the dreaded print. Further, pockets are often lined with Velcro to allow the user to use any Velcro holster pocket in conjunction with the vest.
Some gun owners will carry on the torso or in a shoulder rig and use a concealed carry vest as an outer garment to cover/conceal the firearm better than a standard shirt or a heavier full size coat/jacket. This is probably preferable as your draw will be more consistent when the firearm is fixed to the body and isn't bouncing around against your chest in a vest pocket.
For some of us a good vest may blend in with our normal attire or local customs more than for others.
Concealed Carry Shirts & Undershirts
For those who love cross draw and underarm carry check out undershirts and shirts sold as concealed carry shirts. These generally consist of a shirt or undershirt that has a covert pocket sewn in on the side for the firearm. Oftentimes, shirts will have Velcro or a similar breakaway system that can be opened quickly for firearm access.
A quick search online will lead you to popular products from 5.11 Tactical and UnderTech.
Conversely, if you carry on your waist, like a majority of people do, there is nothing wrong with using a concealed carry tee shirt. Wonder what that is? Just a regular shirt that you can buy at any store. We usually recommend that your shirt be a bit longer to help conceal your firearm when you have to bend over.
While the topic of this article is all about clothing with built in holsters, your concealed carry shirt doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive. If you're going to use a t-shirt, just make sure you get something to cover your gun–like shopping in the “tall” section of your store.
Concealed Carry Shorts/Underwear
Want to eliminate the holster altogether but still carry on your torso? Check out concealed carry “shorts” or underwear. Products like these are also manufactured with a sleeve or pocket for your firearm.
The image shown positions the firearm at about the 4 o'clock position but there are similar products made for cross draw or appendix carry as well.
These are generally more versatile in working with any outfit, are fully tuckable, and don't require a belt.
Concealed Carry Pants
It is common for us to talk about what makes a good pair of pants when carrying concealed but you can also buy concealed carry pants with built in holsters. Yoga style pants to standard cargo pants … you can find about any style of pant with pre-sewn holster pockets.
Naturally because pants exist, you can also find pre-sewn concealed carry shorts for warmer weather carry that are very similar in design.
Concerns and Barriers to Overcome
How Many Will You Need?
If buying a shirt or undergarment of any type you will need multiple items just to keep from smelling like gym socks after a few days. You do have to wash any and all concealed carry clothing that sits on your skin to prevent that, which means you need to buy a high volume of that “holster” instead of just one.
The same can apply for outer garments as you can't wear the same pair of pants of shirt indefinitely. The garment is meant to conceal the gun but not repel friends and family so consider your plan when laundry is being done.
There Goes Your Style or Grey Man Affect
One common argument against apparel systems is the likelihood that other gun industry people will be able to detect you and your gun. At this point while there are a lot of different companies out there making and selling concealed carry clothing, those of us who have been around for awhile can generally pick it out of a crowd and name the make/model. Since the average criminal isn't so studied you may feel this isn't much of a concern but your job is to generally blend in all the time everywhere.
Does It Fit Your Gun?
Companies that make apparel holsters have enough SKUs to worry about with different colors and sizes. They rarely also make them in different sizes for different guns. You are almost certainly going to have to live with a one size fits all holster pocket that may not fit your firearm very well. Check for retention devices like straps that might add a layer of safety to your firearm.
Speed & Safety of Draw
Like anything else if you train well you should be able to overcome barriers to speed and safety when drawing from any holster in any position but even if you go through the work that system may not ever be AS fast or safe as alternative options.
No matter how you choose to carry your gun you are going to have to overcome barriers. Some issues are more prominent than others, but the key to concealed carry is to train properly and make sure you're prepared should that time ever come when you need to defend yourself with your gun.
Your concealed carry clothing is an important choice not to be taken lightly whether you use an apparel system, or just wear regular clothes. You are to fit in. It needs to work. And it needs to be something that you can do daily, regardless of what is clean or dirty.
Before you take another step, you need to read this resource concerning the amount of ammo you keep on your person.