Big Man's Concealed Carry


For a second gun, more easily accessible in winter clothing,Duke feels that one of
Smith & Wesson’s Scandium revolvers in a coat pocket works well.

The news media is full of stories about how badly overweight Americans are. They needn’t bother me with it, I’ve been that way all my life. Take my word for it. Bearing extra weight makes no end of things more difficult, and carrying a handgun concealed is high on the list.

Young guys always think packing iron would be “cool.” That is until they do it for a while. Aside from the awesome responsibility going along with carrying concealed, having that hunk of metal strapped to you day in and day out is tiresome. When you’re also stout, chubby, hefty, big, heavy or just plain fat, stowing a handgun on your person is even more problematic. I know. Conversely, I’ve got one skinny friend who regularly packs a S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum with 4″ barrel and I can never tell when he does or doesn’t have it on him. That thing would stand out on me like a sore thumb.

What are all the traditional options for carrying concealed? There’s normal butt to the rear carry, cross draw, or middle of the back carry; all of which can be done using either inside- or outside-the-pants holsters. Then there are shoulder holsters and ankle holsters, and unorthodox ways I’m probably not even aware of. I’ve tried many of them and can tell you right off why most don’t work for us heavyweights.

If Duke were to carry an ankle-holstered handgun he would need a stool
to put his foot upon every time he wanted to reach it.


Take ankle holsters for instance. They are completely out of the question for me. When you have a big belly (no use being politically correct about it) it’s hard to bend over and reach an ankle. In fact if I want to tie a boot lace I have to stick my foot up on a bench or stool to get the job done. That would work with an ankle holster but imagine the difficulty in toting around a stool day in and day out! Besides, like many rural Montanans I wear boots daily, so where would the ankle holster go? And don’t tell me I could wear tennis shoes. Walking around in snow or mud in tennis shoes would be rather silly.

Next there are shoulder holsters. For normal-size people shoulder holsters can work well, especially if your life style requires you to wear a coat daily. Look how easy it was for someone like Clint Eastwood to carry that huge S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum in the Dirty Harry movies. Now think about how an overweight guy looks when he bends, strains, or twists while wearing a coat. You can see it pull across his back to the point the coat looks like it will split. Sticking a holstered handgun under that just increases the bind. And that’s not considering the stress the wearer feels from having that thing cutting into his back and shoulders all day long.

Cross draw isn’t a good option for big men according to Duke because
mostly their arms are too short to reach the gun easily.

Duke’s first idea for concealed carry — to have the gun behind the right
kidney in a reverse draw position — was a flop. Sitting back on it the first
time dissuaded him from the idea.

For the same reason as with cross draw Duke doesn’t like a shoulder holster.
Besides he finds it immensely uncomfortable.

Duke Experiments

About 25 years ago an outfitter friend had a contract with the National Park Service to supply some of the backcountry cabins in Yellowstone, from which their rangers patrolled. He once needed some help with a pack string and asked me to ride along. The area where we were going had recently had some grizzly trouble, so even though it was illegal I packed along a Colt SAA .44 Special loaded with some stout handloads. I wore it in a shoulder holster with a denim jacket covering.

Concealed that handgun was. We even met up with a group of park service officials and while we visited evidently none noticed that I was packing. Comfortable that rig was not! By the time we made the 20 or so horseback miles to the cabin I was nearly in a frenzy of pain from the shoulder holster cutting into me. When we got back home I sold that shoulder holster and have never worn another. Plainly spoken, I’m just too fat to wear a shoulder holster comfortably.

What about cross draw? It’s certainly a viable mode of handgun carry. I’ve even heard some say it works best for those sitting in a vehicle. All of that is for skinny to normal-size people. Put extra girth around a fellow’s middle and see just how impractical a cross draw is. Unless the carrier has arms like a gorilla he just can’t reach the gun easily. I know — I’ve tried. If a big guy wears a cross draw holster slightly up front it can be reached easier. It will also be seen, and in most states having allowing concealed carry that’s a big no-no. Put the cross draw holster further back on the side and its pretty hard for us big boys to reach.

During one of the many Thunder Ranch classes I’ve attended Clint had us do an interesting drill. In it the supposition was the regular shooting hand was disabled and the other hand then had to reach across the body for the holstered handgun. My arms were too short to reach it like that, as was also the case with a couple of other plus size guys in the class. Clint said then that our option was to pack a second gun on the other side available to that hand.

When I first obtained a Montana CCW, my thought was to pack a handgun in a belt holster in a reverse draw on my back just slightly off center to the right. Then I would cover it by wearing a vest. My wife is a seamstress so she made me some slightly longer vests to insure complete coverage. It was easy to slip my hand in the vest and onto the gun butt. To be honest that system worked — for awhile. The hitch was when I sat down. Leaning back with a hunk of iron pressed into your back is plain uncomfortable, not to mention that it makes the handgun impossible to reach at that time. Better hope you’re not accosted by an attacker while sitting — you’d be helpless.

Inside the pants holster.

Duke’s most comfortable carry mode for most of the year in Montana is with
a Milt Sparks Summer Special inside-the-pants holster under a vest.

Another option in summer weather is a S&W AirLite or Airweight J-frame in a hip pocket with the long, loose shirt covering it.

Big Boy Options

So what does work for us big boys? Here’s how I manage. First of all, for a handgun I want something flat, which means an autoloader. I like 1911s. Then I carry it butt to the rear on my right side, but the important factor is that it’s worn in a Milt Sparks Summer Special inside-the-pants holster. Why is that so important? Because like most overweight men I have plenty of trouble in keeping my pants hitched up even with the aid of a belt and suspenders. An outside the pants holster worn on the belt just aids gravity in pulling my jeans down, and I don’t think anyone in the world wants that!

A handgun in an inside the pants holster is bound to the body by the belt and therefore does not drag downwards. Then things are covered up with one of my wife’s vests. Montana has a cool climate most of the year so no one takes note of a vest. I have worn large caliber revolvers in inside the pants holsters, but find them less than perfect. There’s enough stuff being crammed inside my belts without the added dimension of a big revolver cylinder. That doesn’t mean that I eschew revolvers from self defense entirely. Remember what I wrote above about Clint Smith saying if you couldn’t reach your main handgun then perhaps you should consider having a second? I have a couple of small Jframe S&W .38s: a Model 442 Airweight and a Model 360 AirLite .357 Magnum that often goes in my left hand coat pocket. Sometimes if just going out for a quick errand, one will ride along in my right hand coat pocket and the 1911 is left behind.

What about summer days? Montana is known for its cold winters, but few people realize it’s sometimes breaks 100 degrees around here in the summer. Not too many people wear a vest then. My method then is to wear Hawaiian shirts. No, really. Besides being cool, they will keep an inside the pants pistol covered and yet are loose enough to easily lift so the handgun can be grabbed. And when making an errand run in the summer I’m not above just sticking one of those J-frame S&Ws in my hip pocket where the loose shirt covers it. That’s not overly western looking but I’m not a fashion plate anyhow.

One of Duke’s carry guns is this Kimber Pro Compact .40 S&W.

Smith & Wesson’s Model 360 AirLite .357 Magnum is a wonder at
only 12 ounces and a great friend to gravity challenged people.


And that brings us to the matter of handguns. In my opinion for oversized guys, the lighter the handguns the better. I don’t want to pack an extra pound I don’t have to. Since Smith & Wesson brought out their new generation of AirLite Scandium revolvers I’ve become one of their biggest fans. Their little Model 360 .357 Magnum weighs a mere 12 ounces. It’s a beast to shoot with full magnum loads, but not too bad with .38 Specials. I often drop mine in my coat pocket or hip pocket of my jeans and hardly know its there. There certainly are better self defense handguns, but any handgun in your pocket trumps one left on a shelf at home because its unwieldy.

As for the Model 1911s, I’m stuck on the lightweight Commander types. I’ve got a Kimber Pro Compact .40 S&W and a Colt Commander .45 ACP. Both ride well in an inside-the-pants holster and are my mainstays. I’ve tried sticking some of the double-stack type autoloaders inside my belt, but as I’ve stressed it’s pretty crowded in there anyway. What I would really like would be a flat-as-a- pancake pistol like the old Colt Model 1903 .32 but capable of firing something like a .40 S&W. Now that would be a supreme “fat boys” CCW pistol!

In regards to handgun toting I’m an amateur. Have no doubt about that. I carry one because I can not because my occupation demands it. As the pictures show I’m also one hefty individual, and as far as I can ascertain that’s never been a benefit in life. It’s just the way things are and I live with it. I’ve tried many ways of concealed carry and most of them don’t work for me. A handgun bound tightly to my body in an inside-the pants holster or simply a little .38 dropped into a pocket are the ways that I can get by. And don’t write and tell me, “Go on a diet!” I’ve pretty much been on one my entire life!

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