Concealment Tricks and Tips Vol. 1: Cover Shirt

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. 

For the record: what I’m concealing in these photos.

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!).

Shirt Cut

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.

Miming reaching something above my head, the “classic cut” shirt rides up, exposing portions of knife and magazine carrier.

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.


17 thoughts on “Concealment Tricks and Tips Vol. 1: Cover Shirt

  1. Just to emphasize a point, which shows in the second picture of the article, leave the bottom button unbuttoned. This will make clearing the garment much easier.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Suzanne,

        Thanks for the question.

        Unfortunately, I have to claim ignorance on this one. This is outside my area of experience. Not to be TOO flippant, but even if I was a crossdresser, women’s bodies are just shaped differently than men’s, plus their clothing options are different (tending toward being tighter fitting).

        Likewise, unfortunately, the classes I attend tend to be only sparsely populated by women, so there have been few to seek advice from there.

        So, I am sorry to say that we have no solid resources here for you. Hopefully, someone else will chime in with some resources for you (we really need a female concealed carry practitioner to become a blog contributor!….any volunteers???).–Robert


    1. One other little caveat; make sure the tail of the shirt in the back isn’t so long it catches on articles in your back pocket (wallet or cell phone) or on your belt behind the weapon (cell phone or knife for example). Practice while carrying everything you’d be carrying in everyday life.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Seven months out of the year my work dress is shorts and a three button pull over short sleeve shirt. I wear untucked and do lots of reaching and bending in front of customers. 6’ 3” 210 slender build. Any suggestions on not just clothing but holsters and other items to prevent exposure of concealed weapons? Thanks in advance.


      1. Gary,

        Robert may have some more thoughts to add, but I would start with the foundation of a good belt. Just how sturdy the belt needs to be is dependent on whether you choose to carry outside the waistband or inside the waistband, as well as what carry position you choose. I personally use an Ares Gear Aegis belt for AIWB. Wilderness Instructor belts are also popular. I like the five stitch version. For holsters, I am going to recommend JM Custom Kydex for a very specific reason. If you go to his website and look at individual holster listings, he has appropriate body types and waist sizes listed for each holster. I have found his recommendations to ring true for me with several different AIWB holsters. As an example, I simply don’t have the real estate to successfully and comfortably use a wing or claw holster design. Finally, if you are comfortable with it, given your mode of dress, I think appendix carry offers the best method to effectively conceal a pistol when reaching and bending. Hope this helps, and feel free to ask if you have other questions.



  2. I typically follow the same rules you mention above, but have found that I can now actually wear pretty much anything since I shifted my carry position from 5 o’clock to cross-appendix. Basically, I normally carry in a nice kydex OWB at 4-5 o’clock, but have been playing around and found another, more comfortable and HIGHLY concealable position. I now carry in a paddle holster at 9-11 o’clock. I primarily carry at 11 o’clock, but with it being a paddle holster, it can slide around my belt as I wish and I can easily slip it to around 9 o’clock when sitting. This is especially useful for driving as my seat belt would cover the weapon when I carried strong-side. That would then require me to be unable to access my weapon or to unholster and use the holster I keep in my truck tucked between the seats.

    Either way, I don’t particularly like a cross-draw movement, but have gotten better and better with practice; however, the concealability where it is positioned is unreal. I can actually wear a beater and still conceal. And, no I am not one of those super skinny guys. I actually have an athletic build and don’t particularly like to wear super loose clothing.

    Just my experience…thoughts?


    1. ICE,

      First, thanks for the comment.

      Second, I have written an article quite some time ago about cross-draw entitled “Crossdraw for the win….or not”. Not a fan.

      Also, I’m not a fan of paddle holsters. I much prefer something that attaches more securely to my belt, something that will still remain attached to me should I find myself rolling on the ground with a bad guy, etc. The greatest advantage of paddle holsters (the ability to take them on and off, shift them, etc., easily) is also their greatest weakness. What goes on and off easily when you want it to also comes off when you do NOT want it to do so. Food for thought.

      If your carry position works for you, that’s fine. Just understand the disadvantages that come with the position and with your current gear choice.



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