Pictured are a 5.11 Tactical casual shirt with integral holster panel (in tan); a black 5.11 Undergear Holster Shirt (in black); a pair of Recluse molded pocket holsters (with Ruger LC9 and LCP) and Recluse double mag pouch (center); the DeSantis Super Fly pocket rig (lower right); the new Versa Carry platform (with Kahr), and the Deep Conceal Soft Shoulder Holster (in white).

Sometimes there just isn’t a practical way to wear a conventional holster, especially in hot or humid climates where lightweight clothing is worn, or situations where a belt holster, traditional shoulder rig or even an IWB holster cannot be used. These are circumstances that cannot only limit how you carry concealed, but what you can carry. There are, however, ways to get around even the most difficult of circumstances.

There are new and innovative concealed carry methods that do not require conventional holsters (though some of the rigs shown qualify as “unconventional”) and for each method of carry I will show how it is used and how it works.

Hot Topic
This past summer has certainly driven home the point of heat and humidity and the limitations it places on concealed carry. Having had a CCW permit for almost 20 years, I have tried dozens of different methods under all extremes of weather. And when the temperature and dew point increases, the amount of clothing one wears usually decreases exponentially. The most common option for hot weather carry is a small .38 caliber revolver or .380 semi-automatic in a pocket holster. But sometimes that can be an issue too, because even pocket pistols print through with certain fabrics. The general solution is to wear an oversized T-shirt hanging over your pant’s waist and pockets. This works, but can also be a potential impediment to efficiently retrieving your gun in an emergency. The author’s general solution has been an unbuttoned casual shirt (short sleeve or sleeves rolled up) that can be quickly swept aside to allow a pocket draw.

Pocket Pistol Carry

In the pocket category we have found three new rigs that stand out for best concealment and ease of retrieval with a Ruger LCP .380, the DeSantis Super Fly, the Recluse Kydex and the Galco Pocket Protector. All three are designed to eliminate print-through even with lightweight fabrics. The DeSantis uses a tacky rubberized exterior finish (sticks like fly paper, thus the name) to secure the holster pouch in the pocket and has a full shroud that covers the gun’s profile. At worst it looks like a wallet; at best, it just blends into the lines of the pocket. The shroud is also reversible, so the holster can be worn in a right- or left-hand pocket, the latter for southpaws or for use as a secondary weak-side backup gun. The inside of the DeSantis is a nylon fabric that allows the gun to slip easily into hand and be easily re-holstered.

The Recluse is in the “unique” category as it is a form-fit molded holster that completely shrouds the LCP from one side. The pistol is held in place by a contoured, urethane pad that forms a locking slot for the trigger and triggerguard. This is supplemented by a short muzzle pouch into which the front of the LCP rests. Once in place the gun and holster are one and the gun can only be retrieved by inserting your fingers between the holster shroud and the grips, which breaks it loose for a quick and unimpeded draw. Re-holstering requires removing the Recluse from the pocket to remount the gun.
The Galco PRO436 Pocket Protector has been around for a number of years and has been used by the author to carry a Ruger LCP since 2008. The Galco has a rough out suede finish that stays put in the pocket. The pouch has a deeply contoured cutout that leaves the grips exposed for easy retrieval. This can, however, leave an outline of the grip frame with some lightweight fabrics. Most people using a pocket holster wear jeans and print through with denim is very unlikely, even most suit trousers won’t print a grip profile. The PRO436 has a folded and stitched edge to give the pouch support.
All three pocket devices provide rapid access to the LCP (and also work with the Kel-Tec P-3AT) and leave little or no trace of the gun in the wearer’s pocket. This is an all-season option that can put a .380 within easy reach. The DeSantis can be used in either a front or back pocket; Recluse makes specific models for back pocket carry with slightly different contouring.

recluse-rigs-body-of-evidenceThe Recluse pocket holster is a unique design. It remains one of the author’s favorites for discrete carry of a pocket-sized pistol.

Undercover Tactics

You say a .380 isn’t enough gun and you prefer a 9mm? Not a problem with several of today’s micro compact 9mm semi-autos like the Ruger LC9 and Kahr CM9. Both are just slightly larger than a .380 and can also be surreptitiously carried in a pocket holster. Recluse makes one for either model, but this is still a larger gun than a .380 and it looks like a pretty large wallet stuffed in your front or back pocket. Ease of retrieval is the same but you give up some of the unobtrusive fit of a .380. There is, however, a very comfortable way to conceal a 9mm ultra compact, and even a standard compact 9mm in a way that almost no one can detect, and you don’t even need pants to do it!

The human body has some unique contours, and there are ways to make them work for you in concealed carry. Body dynamics—height, build, and weight—are all contributing factors, but for the majority of men and women too, a body-forming compression holster shirt can hide a multitude of sins and conceal a 9mm handgun and spare magazine too. The Tactical Undergear Holster Shirt manufactured by 5.11 Tactical was initially designed for law enforcement. Its construction is 82 percent polyester and 18 percent spandex combined with pocket (holster) panels comprised of 62 percent polyester, 29 percent nylon and 9 percent lycra spandex. What’s that all mean? It means structural support that will give the wearer a tight, contouring fit, and hold a semi-auto pistol and an extra magazine securely without sagging.

The 5.11 Tactical Covert Dress Shirt is designed with concealing snaps that can be easily swiped open – to the 5.11 Undergear Holster Shirt

The 5.11 holster shirt has multiple support seams, a body hugging compression fit, and an all-important shoulder yoke to support the weight of the gun. It is essentially a shoulder holster built into a shirt that can be worn under any garment. The holster pockets are ambidextrous, so one style works for right-handed or left-handed wearers with the off side used for a spare magazine or a second gun. Available in V-neck or crew neck styles and in black or white, they are designed for small to medium frame semi-autos and use hook and loop panels to seal the holster pouch, ensuring the gun won’t be exposed until needed. Pair it up with a 5.11 Covert Dress Shirt, which has the appearance of a button-front dress shirt but actually snaps closed below the collar, allowing a quick swipe of the hand to open it up and allow access to the holster shirt beneath. The 5.11 line also offers a casual shirt with roll up button sleeves and a concealed inside holster pocket suitable for most small frame semi-autos.

Deep concealment is an area where the famous Kramer line of holsters comes to mind, but not always for a conventional holster. Kramer pioneered the open mesh deep concealment holster-T design years ago with the Confidant Shirt Gun Holster, and it is still being used by law enforcement today. The Kramer is another tight-fitting shirt with ambidextrous pouches for small to medium frame semi-autos and revolvers, which are stitched under the arms for maximum concealment. A single hook and loop safety strap is used to ensure secure carry. The off-side pouch can also be used for a spare magazine or a second gun. The Kramer is sleeveless and can be worn under dress or casual wear by men and women.

Bring The Big Guns

There are even bigger demands in concealed carry, and that means a full-size semi-auto or revolver with firepower and capacity. For this job there are many holsters, but when a holster isn’t going to work you still have the option of the Deep Conceal Soft Shoulder Holster. This is an entire rig worn under casual clothing that can support any number of medium- and large-frame handguns while providing total concealment. It is designed for men and women and is fully adjustable to position the holster exactly at the correct height for any body type. The cotton and elastic construction also makes the rigs suitable to be worn against the skin without causing irritation. This is a serious deep concealment design and retrieval time is longer as one must get through a layer or two of clothing to get a handhold on the gun. While this is the slowest method, it is also one of the most covert and the only one I know of suitable for a full-size Government Model 1911.

Ultra-Deep Cover

For anyone who has ever said, “The heck with a holster, why can’t I just tuck the gun into my waistband,” this is simply a bad idea. However, for those looking for something that mimics the ease of that while still keeping the gun stable, the new Versa Carry platform is the answer. The Versa Carry puts the gun in a fixed position that you can place anywhere; strong side 4 o’clock, cross draw, small of the back with the grips facing to the strong side draw, and it is reversible, so it works left- or right-handed. I tried it for a couple of days with a Ruger LCP and a Kahr CM9, and once you get used to a gun inside your waistband, it’s pretty comfortable and stays put with the nylon support post deeply inserted into the barrel and your own body for support. Only the grips remain exposed. As for retrieval, it is as quick as you can grab the grips and pull straight up.

The Versa Carry is an injection-molded platform that holds a conical, textured nylon pin that slips inside the barrel and secures the gun to the platform.

For a situation where none of the above mentioned concepts will work, there remains one final alternative; Magills’ IWB underwear. Seriously. And we’ll keep this brief. The IWB underwear are compression shorts worn under your pants, cutoffs, even swim trunks that will secure a small caliber pistol in a place that is, shall we say, out of sight but not out of reach. And that’s the most important feature of any concealed carry device. As John Bianchi, the master of concealed carry once wrote, “The best concealed gun is worthless unless you can access it with reasonable ease and moderate speed.”

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