When starting the journey of how to conceal carry a full size handgun effectively, there is one parameter that needs to be understood and that is that EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.
What may work for many others may not work for you. Everyone has different body shapes, sizes, and a different perspective as to what is comfortable or tolerable.
With that being said, the following is a description of what seems to work for most people when learning how to conceal carry a full size pistol.
Beyond choosing which full size handgun you wish to conceal, which could be an entirely separate discussion on its own. There are two factors to concealing a full size handgun that are non-negotiable; the belt and the holster you choose.
When it comes to concealing a full size handgun, choosing an effective and high-quality belt is non-negotiable.
Your belt will serve as the foundation to pair with your holster, and if you skimp on a belt you will make your carrying experience far less effective and oftentimes, more uncomfortable.
The first thing to pay attention to is the structure of the belt, while it may not have to be an extremely rigid belt such as a KORE Essentials belt, it must have a solid or rigid structure in at least portions of the belt, primarily where you’ll be mounting the holster.
A full size handgun will weigh more than your typical sub-compact, so you’ll need a belt that is capable of supporting that weight and anything else you may have in your waistband, or your pockets.
In my 10 years of concealing carrying a Glock 17 with a Surefire X300, there are three different types of belt that I’ve found to be the most effective.
While I may have a preference for one of the three I will be mentioning, remind yourself that what works for me, may not be the best option depending on your body type.
The Kore Essentials belt has been around for a while and has proven to be a great option for concealed carrying a full size gun, primarily due to its immensely rigid and easily adjustable design.
The rigidity of the belt ensures it will support the pistol, spare mags, and anything else you may be carrying for EDC. It also has an adjustable ratchet-style buckle that can be tightened or loosened on the go without having to remove your holster.
The only downside to belts like the Kore and others like it is hotspots. Hotspots are points on your waist where the belt digs in more than you’d care for and over the course of a few hours will begin to become sore and uncomfortable. This primarily happens because we tend to wear belts as tight as we can without strangling our waist to ensure the gun stays put and to prevent the holster from "sagging" when moving throughout the day.
It’s also worth noting that depending on the thickness of the waistline of the pants you wear, you may tend to notice the hotspots sooner or later than others. For example, there are companies like Viktos that offer pants and shorts that have a padded waistband to prevent hotspots from occurring while conceal carrying.
For me, when wearing my Vertx delta stretch pants, I would typically feel hotspots on the 4 and 8 o’clock positions on my waist after using the Kore belt for a few hours.
Granted, my experience is a sample size of one and I know many people who use and prefer the Kore belt or others like it without issue. If there’s one thing to keep in mind when it comes to conceal carrying, finding what best works for you will take trial and error of trying different gear until you find the harmony of comfort and concealability.
Leather Gun Belts
Leather gun belts have been making a comeback for quite some time with companies such as Blackhawk Tactical and Magpul manufacturing leather belts for conceal carrying, and they certainly have their merits.
They offer the same rigidity as belts like the Kore, but typically don’t create hotspots due to the material of the belt being leather instead of scuba webbing, Tigris, or other rigid materials you typically find in belts designed for conceal carry.
The belts can also be used for dual purposes, both as a gun belt as well as having a belt for a tucked-in shirt that doesn’t scream "tactical".
The only real downside is these belts utilize a standard belt loop and adjusting the belt is as convenient as the Kore. Beyond that, they’re a great choice and I know many people who utilize them for conceal carry.
I do understand that leather can lose its structure over time but both the belts I’ve mentioned are not your average leather material and both companies state that the leather belt will hold up for a significantly longer period than your grandpa’s leather holster he still carries his Ruger 1911 in.
Hunter Constantine Belt
Hunter Constantine is a seasoned USPSA shooter and avid conceal carrier, and sought to manufacture his own belt for conceal carry with some unique features.
Part of the belt is a rigid material similar to the Kore belt or others but also has a section that is a stretchy nylon fabric. In my experience, this belt has been the one that has worked the best for me, but back to the beginning, what works for me may not work for you.
The belt has a low profile buckle with two different loops to latch to, I actually like this feature because I use the tighter loop when I’m carrying, and the first loop when just wearing pants without carrying.
I also like this belt for the same reason I like leather gun belts, the stretchy nylon material at 4 and 8 o’clock prevents hot spots but doesn’t hinder the belt’s ability to support my holster and pistol.
Full Size Concealed Carry Holster
With the discussion of belts out of the way, it’s time to dive into the holster.
Before we get into it, you need to understand that many holster companies offer the same features that I’m going to describe and it will be your decision as to which company you want to go with.
I’ve been utilizing holsters from Tier One Concealed for quite some time and have found them to be exceptional. However, there are many other great companies out there who you can support and purchase a quality holster from.
When it comes to conceal carry holsters, there are hundreds of options available but many all share the same inherent properties because they do make a world of difference when it comes to effectively concealing a full size handgun.
The first design is a "hinge design" which will be immensely effective if you plan on carrying appendix. Before I go further, it’s worth noting that where you carry your gun is based on the same properties as which handgun you choose. What works for me may not work for you, but for a majority of conceal carriers out there, when it comes to carrying a full size pistol, most utilize appendix carry.
The hinge design means the holster and the mag carrier utilize two pieces of kydex that are connected in several different ways. The Tier One Concealed AXIS elite utilizes shock cord, the T-Rex Arms Sidecar 2.0 utilizes an actual polymer hinge, and the Blackhawk Tactical Stache uses screws to attach the mag carrier.
They all essentially provide the same result, which is the holster conforming better to the body due to it folding towards the body. It also spaces out the belt clips on the holster, which makes for a more stable carry and prevents the holster from moving during daily activities.
Some holsters have a "canted" design that doesn’t utilize the "hinge design" which creates the same result of turning the gun closer to the body to prevent printing.
If you look at the picture showing the Tier One MSP holster, you’ll notice the first belt clip protrudes farther than the second, which aids in turning the gun closer to the body. There are also plenty of holsters out there that don’t have a hinge or canted design, think of the first Sidecar made from T.Rex Arms before the Sidecar 2.0.
These holsters still work and have served many concealed carriers well. In my humble opinion, holsters that have a hinge or canted design work better when it comes to concealment. This is however just from my own experience and your own may vary based on body type, size, etc.
The next design feature of a quality holster that will lessen the amount of printing that works directly in conjunction with a hinge or canted design is the "claw". The claw is found on the pistol side of the holster that pushes against the belt and further pushes the gun closer to the body.
Many companies all have their design of the "claw" but they all are intended to create the same result. I like the design of the Tier One claw because it’s stackable.
You can add or subtract pieces to the claw to either increase or decrease the amount of pressure it puts against the belt to find the best fit for you. In either case, the conjunction of a canted or hinge design holster with the claw aiding in pushing the gun against your body will make carrying a full size pistol significantly easier.
The last feature of a holster that can make a big difference is a "wedge". The wedge is a piece of material similar to that of a yoga mat that attaches to the back of the holster. The wedge not only prevents hotspots on your pelvic area (if you’re appendix carrying) but also pushes the gun closer to your body and can make sitting for long periods significantly more comfortable.
The good news is if your holster didn’t come with one, you can purchase one from companies like Tier One or Phlster. They both offer wedges in several different shapes and thicknesses for a wide variety of users. They have an adhesive side that sticks to the back of the holster and are easy to install or remove. You can also attach male velcro to the holster and female to the wedge if you want to swap between wedges.
If you are determined to carry a full size handgun, you need to accept the fact you may have to make some slight alterations to your wardrobe.
I typically wear pants and a t-shirt 99% of the time. The only real sacrifice I had to make was not wearing tighter t-shirts due to the frame of the pistol being slightly longer and easier to see under clothing. I also understand that many people think they need to go a size higher in pants due to a holster being stuffed into their waist.
This is entirely dependent on what kind of pants you wear. I only buy pants or jeans that have stretch in the waistband such as the Vertx Delta Stretch pants or Defiance Jeans.
Because of this, I never had to wear a bigger size. But it all goes back to individual preference, if you try your setup with the current pants you own and feel as though your legs will lose blood flow after carrying, you may need to go one size up.
Beyond that, I haven’t had to make any serious changes to my daily wardrobe to accommodate my Glock 17. I don’t wear overly baggy shirts but I do tend to wear darker colors more often than not; Because it’s harder to notice the frame of my pistol with a black or dark gray shirt than with a baby blue or red shirt.
But again, my experience may be entirely different than yours, so you’ll need to try different clothes to find what works best for you.
It’s also worth noting that many companies offer clothing specifically for conceal carrying and they’re worth checking out, Vertx and Viktos are two that come to mind. In the pictures provided, I tried to wear a shirt that isn’t black and has a slightly tighter fit to highlight the effectiveness of a quality holster and belt.
If you’ve been having a hard time finding a comfortable way to conceal carry your full-size pistol, there’s no need to worry.
The good news is that there are plenty of options available to help you out. You can choose from a variety of high-quality holsters and specially designed clothing to make carrying a full-size pistol both practical and comfortable.
Don’t hesitate to explore these options and find the solution that works best for you. With the right gear and mindset, you can confidently carry your full-size pistol and stay prepared for whatever comes your way.