When I wrote about my decision to move away from tiny single-stack pocket pistols to a larger double-column handgun for concealed carry, the very first comment I got was from a slim and tall reader who thought concealing a full-sized pistol was “almost impossible.”
I responded that as a fellow tall and thin guy who has carried fullsize handguns for years without ever being “made” as a concealed carrier, I could write on the subject if there was any interest… and interest there was.
So let’s frame this.
I’m 6’2,” and depending on how well I hit the gym in any given month, my weight has fluctuated between 160-170 lbs. I’ve got a 40″ chest, and a 32″ waist. I’m a wiry dude, without a lot of mass to help hide a gun.
That said, I’ve carried the following not-tiny handguns concealed over the years:
- Sistema Colt Modelo 1927 (full-size, steel-framed, single stack 7+1 .45 ACP 1911)
- Smith & Wesson M&P 9C (compact,12+1 double-stack 9mm)
- Smith & Wesson 637CT (a “J-frame” 5-shot .38 Special with a full-size grip)
- Springfield Armory XD (full-sized, 16+1 double-stack duty pistol)
- Springfield Armory XD Subcompact (sub-compact, 13+1 double-stack 9mm)
- Walther PPQ 5″ (long-slide tactical/competition version of the 15+1 double-stack PPQ 9mm duty pistol)
- Beretta M9A1 Compact/92FS Compact L (compact, 13+1 double-stack 9mm)
Of those seven not-small handguns I’ve carried concealed, the long-slide Walther PPQ is the only one I haven’t carried concealed in public wearing my normal summertime “uniform” of a tee shirt and shorts… like this.
So how do I get away with hiding a gun so successfully? I’m not wearing dark colors or a pattern to break up or conceal outlines and bulges, nor am I wearing looses over-sized clothing, or layers of clothing.
I had my daughter take this quick series of snapshots after we’d just run errands at several stores around town. Other than the fact that I tower over neighborhood fences and have legs better suited for large flightless birds, there’s nothing about me that would stand out, even though I’m armed.
Let’s take a closer look.
So, what am I carrying? Here’s the same angle, with the shirt moved to expose “what lies beneath.”
I must have canting my hips weird and pushed the belt down on my right side as I tucked my tee shirt in for the photo, as the belt sits perfectly level in use. What you’re looking at is the aforementioned Beretta M9A1 compact in a semi-custom G-code holster that is currently rigged like an INCOG carried in the appendix position, across from a Steel Will Censor 1310 knife. This works especially well for me because I shoot right-handed (I’m right eye dominant) but I’m a lefty, and I favor my left hand for knife work.
Barely peaking out from behind the Censor is my 13-round spare magazine for the Beretta. I’ll often carry two spare magazines, but this day I was only carrying one.
So what’s the key to hiding this much stuff under a relatively close-fitting, light-colored tee shirt?
- A high-quality holster, carried in a spot that works for your particular body shape
- a high-quality gun belt that holds the holstered gun and accessories tight to your body, without sagging.
My particular body shape is such that I simply can’t hide a pistol under a relatively tight tee shirt at the 3 o’ clock to 5 o’clock position, no matter what kind of holster I use. Because of this, I went with an appendix carry holster.
Yes, I’m aware that there are all sorts of opinions about appendix carry. I’m not going to get into those opinions here. If you decide to want to go down that rabbit hole, Google is your friend.
I’d strongly advise that if you decide to carry a weapon in the appendix position, that you select a holster designed to be carried as an appendix holster. It doesn’t necessarily have to be designed as an appendix-only design—the INCOG is multi-position—but it has to be cut in such a way as to facilitate appendix carry, or it will sit at the wrong angle and will likely be uncomfortable.
Even more important that the holster, in my opinion, is the selection of a proper, dedicated gun belt.
Gun belts are very different from the thin, floppy, split leather belts we use merely to keep our pants up.
A good leather gun belt is going to be roughly twice as thick as a conventional belt, and it needs to be. If it isn’t thick it won’t be stable, and will allow your gun and holster to flop outward, leading to you printing.
A thick, dedicated gun belt will keep both IWB (inside the waistband) and OWB (outside the waistband) holsters tight against your body, as you can see in the photos above. They also do an incredible job of distributing the weight of the items you carry evenly around your waist so you don’t deal with pain, pressure, and chafing around the holster. A good gun belt also makes carrying a gun far more comfortable by the end of the day, and they last almost forever.
I’ve used two gun belts that I’ve been especially happy with over the years. starting with the Dragon from Dragon Leatherworks. More recently, I’ve been trying out the Victory Aegis from Mean Gene Leather. It is the Mean Gene Leather Victory Aegis in the photo above, and here’s what it looks like up close.
It is a rugged and reliable belt with two thick layers of leather reinforced with nylon webbing in between., All three layers are laminated together before being sown, and it utilizes the rugged Aegis buckle from Areas Gear.
I’m not going to lie to you, folks: a good carry rig isn’t going to be cheap. In addition to the cost of your firearm, you’re going to probably want to budget $100 ± for your holster (sometimes a little more for leather, a little less for kydex) with loops sized to match the belt, $100-$200 for a good gunbelt, and then maybe $25-$75 for spare magazine carriers.
The end result, however, is a comfortable, long-lasting, and concealable rig that you’ll actually use, instead of leaving your gun at home because it isn’t comfortable, and because it prints too easily.