This will be the first of a series of short articles I have planned on concealment tips. The tips I will share in these articles have a variety of sources. Some are based on information shared in some of the classes taken over the last few years. Alternatively, some are based on readings done online or in those old-fashioned things made of paper (books). Some, of course, are based on my own personal trial-and-error method. As always, when we are talking about topics like concealment, what works for one person may not work for another. A lot will depend on body type/shape, equipment (belt, holster, firearm, etc.), and clothing type and cut. I would caution our readers to try out any advice (from friends, classes, books, or this blog) themselves before relying on it.
Shirts With Patterns
I wish I could give credit where it is due on this one, but I read a number of years ago—somewhere—that shirts with patterns conceal firearms better than solid-color shirts. Overall, I have found this to be true.
An addendum to the above advice that I have read over the years was that it is better to pick patterns that are random (random geometric shapes, Hawaiian shirts, etc.) over shirts that have an obvious pattern (checkered, plaid, etc.), the thought being that the random pattern will act as camouflage for any printing/shadows that might otherwise be evident. Now, I do not know where people giving this advice live, but I do occasionally go into clothing stores and do not often run into shirts with “random geometric patterns” for sale. I also do not see many people wearing such shirts, meaning that, even if I did find some, I would probably stand out wearing them (and I try not to stand out). Likewise, I do not live in or near a cabana, and do not want to be known as “that guy that always wears Hawaiian shirts”, so I avoid them as well. I have found that checkered or plaid shirts work just fine if a pattern is what you want.
In the above photos, the items on my belt are concealed pretty well in both cases. However, the solid-color shirt is of a much heavier weight material than the patterned one. Generally, heavier weight clothing conceals better than lighter. In this case, the pattern of the lighter garment makes up for what the weight of its fabric lacks. (Side note: both shirts–especially the patterned shirt–are a little longer than I’d like, but this is the price you pay when you’re lacking in height. It’s a size small!).
Obviously, some people out there prefer to conceal under a simple T-shirt. What follows will not apply to them. For those of you, like me, who often conceal under an untucked button-down shirt, you may have already discovered that the cut of the shirt is important. The hem of the shirt should be as even as possible all the way around. The “classic hem”, in which the front and back are longer than the sides, should be avoided. First of all, it’s a style of shirt that is designed to be tucked in. Secondly, the shorter sides can, in certain situations, expose items worn at your 3 and 9 o’clock positions (pistol, spare magazines, etc.). Choosing a hem style where the length is the same on front, back, and sides can help ensure your equipment remains hidden from view.
The cut of the shirt should also avoid a taper to the waist. Just picking on big-box store examples, I have found that button-down shirts from Target tend to have such a taper, making concealment of items on the waist more difficult. By way of contrast, the Wrangler shirts I will sometimes buy at WalMart (see examples above) tend to hang straighter, and while this might be less flattering in terms of how you look—hiding that physique you are sculpting several times per week at the gym—flattery is not the point. You will look good enough, while at the same time have an easier time concealing what needs to be concealed.
Again, and I cannot stress this enough, you must try these and other such tips out for yourself. So much will depend on body type/shape, the material the clothing is made of (I find that “slinkier” material—for lack of a better term, is less effective at concealing than something made of a material that holds more of its own shape), or what item(s) you are trying to conceal. Avoid just “covering” your firearm with a shirt and calling it good. While most people may not notice you are printing, those who are looking for it will. Experiment and see what works best for you.
One final note, a tip from Mike Pannone: when you get dressed and are all set to head out, do 5-10 practice draws. No two cover garments hang the same, clear the same, etc.. You do not want to wait until you really NEED your pistol to discover how your cover garment clears. A few extra seconds before you leave the house testing this out is time well-spent.
As always, thanks for reading. Please keep an eye out here on the blog for future installments of Concealment Tips and Tricks (Volume 2 is up here). We welcome below or on our Facebook page any comments or questions you may have.