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The Heavy Man's Guide to Concealing A Full Size Pistol

Updated on August 22, 2011

Recently I began experimenting with ways to conceal my full size 1911 pistol. I encountered a plethora of carrying options like holsters, belly bands, T-shirts with carry pouches, pants with carry pouches, the tactical fanny pack, and even the dreaded tactical "man purse." So what's the best choice to carry a full size pistol? More importantly, what's the best choice for the heavier (or as I like to say "well marbled") man like me? There's no blanket answer to this. Because of the fact that every man carries his weight differently it's really up to the individual. Some ways are more comfortable than others and some body types just won't allow certain ways of carrying. Let's take a deeper look.


Holsters are the most common way to carry a pistol. Because heavier men carry their weight in different areas, not every holster is good for every man. I'll break it down for you by holster type.

Outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster: This is the most commonly used holster. Using an OWB holster requires wearing a larger shirt than normal to avoid "printing," or the pistol showing through the clothing. OWB holsters are better for keeping the pistol right at your hip allowing for a very natural draw. They can also be used for cross draw, or small of the back, carry. I don't think cross draw is a good option with OWB holsters because having a bigger belly can pull the back of your shirt taught causing the pistol silhouette to show. This method is not necessarily the best for men with extra large "tactical" love handles because the shirt, no matter how large, may not stop the pistol from printing.

Inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster: I think that this option is far better at concealing than the OWB holster although it's not as comfortable. Not only do your pants and a shirt hide the silhouette of the pistol, I feel that there are more location options to have the pistol inside the pants. For men like me that have the belly overhang, the IWB holster can be fairly uncomfortable at the hip. Nothing says ouch quite like having a pistol grip digging into your belly while you're sitting. The cross draw, or small of the back, is much more comfortable and is much easier to conceal inside the pants. just make sure you always have a shirt tucked in your pants to protect your bare skin from your gun. The key for finding a good IWB holster is to look for one that doesn't close up when there's no pistol in it. Kydex or hardened polymer holsters work best. This makes it easier to practice drawing your pistol.

Shoulder holster: This is a great option for people wearing jackets or suits. They can be worn with a shirt over them but because of how thin shirts can be I recommend really making sure there's no printing going on before you leave your house.

Ankle holster: This option is usually for smaller pistols. I don't think this is a great holster for the heavier man. I don't know about you, but I would have a bit of trouble reaching my ankle quickly because of my belly. 

Here's a couple good holster choices:

OWB Concealed.  Notice the large over shirt.
OWB Concealed. Notice the large over shirt.
OWB Strong side revealed. Note:  the weapon is unloaded
OWB Strong side revealed. Note: the weapon is unloaded
IWB Cross Draw concealed.
IWB Cross Draw concealed.
IWB Cross Draw revealed. Note:  The weapon is unloaded
IWB Cross Draw revealed. Note: The weapon is unloaded

Belly Bands, Tactical T-Shirts and Tactical Pants

The belly band: I don't think this is a good option for concealed carry if you have a good sized belly. The weight of the pistol tends to pull them down toward the underbelly causing discomfort and can make quick draw very difficult.

Tactical T-Shirts: This is a good option as long as you're willing to wear a good over shirt to hide the carry pocket. It mainly works better with smaller pistols.

Tactical cargo pants: I don't really have much experience with these pants. I can see the advantage to having cargo pocket access to the pistol. I just worry about the weight of the pistol pulling my pants down on one side.

The Dreaded Section: Tactical Fanny Packs and Tactical Man Purses (Messenger Bags)

The tactical fanny pack: I don't think I've had a fanny pack since I was about 8 years old. I also seem to remember being made fun of incessantly for having one. Because of the lack of people that wear fanny packs regularly (for obvious reasons) I don't feel this is a good option for carrying a pistol. People's attention will be drawn to the fanny pack which is not good if that pack has a gun in it. The goal of concealed carry is to NOT advertise where your gun is and I think a fanny pack does the exact opposite.

The tactical messenger bag: Even though the messenger bag is commonly referred to as a "man purse" this can actually be a very good option for concealed carry. Many men carry messenger bags now to haul around their laptops or tablet computers and books and such. There are plenty of manufacturers that make messenger bags specifically for concealed carry that are fashionable and still functional to carry everything else. For those of you that find holsters or tactical shirts to be too uncomfortable, the messenger bag may be for you. It's a great way to keep your pistol within reach.

For those of you that are absolutely opposed to carrying a man purse and find the other holster options to be too uncomfortable I fear your only choice left may be to get a smaller gun and a good pocket holster.

I personally prefer the tactical man purse for full sized pistol carry. (it sounds more manly with the word "tactical" in front of it) It doesn't require a change in the way I dress and still gives me the easy access to the pistol that I need. I do also like the IWB holster carried in the small of the back. It's not super comfy but it suits my body shape better than at the hip. But that's what works for me. Finding the best choice for you may take some investment in holsters and clothing. No matter the choice you wind up with, be sure to take time to practice drawing your UNLOADED gun so that it's second nature if you have to draw it for defense. I welcome any questions or comments!

Note: NEVER point your firearm at anything you do not intend to destroy. Always physically and visually inspect that your firearm is unloaded with the chamber cleared before engaging in any drawing practice or dry fire exercises. Remember to carry your weapon in a way that follows all local, state and federal laws and regulations and NEVER carry a concealed weapon without first getting your permit to carry a concealed weapon. Stay safe!


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