Summer Clothing Carry Tips

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It’s getting hot. Well, maybe not where you are, but where I am (South Carolina), it always seems hot as shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops are just shy of year-round attire. We are hitting the 80s regularly now, which means it’s soon to be in the 90s with 312% humidity, so even though your snow might still be melting, it’s time to talk about summer concealed carry.

The Right Tunic

I love that stop-motion movie featuring lovable Brit characters Wallace and Gromit, The Wrong Trousers. Highly recommended for light entertainment with some laughs. In it, Wallace gets himself into big trouble wearing a pair of robotic pants, originally promised to make walking his dog, Gromit, easier, but as you might guess by the title, that plan fails in comedic fashion.

It reminds me of the flip side. The right clothing can, in fact, dramatically improve one’s situation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some variation of, “It’s getting warmer! It’s time to switch to my summer carry gun.” Presumably, the summer gun and holster rig is some much smaller setup, supposedly to aid in concealment when wearing just a shirt outer layer or (Gasp!) just a t-shirt.

Bollocks!

The wrong fabric! Look how it clings to the gun. Some nylon blends can work,
but cotton seems to do a better job overall.

At the risk of starting a flame email war, I call BS on this argument and see it as a lazy excuse to carry something more convenient. Hey, it’s your carry and your decision; I’m just here to say nothing else is preventing one from carrying the same gun year-round. I stand by my assertion you can easily conceal a “normal-sized” gun when wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Okay, if they’re gym shorts, a belly band will be helpful, but anything with a belt is no different than those long winter pants from a concealment perspective. Of course, if you’re carrying a Thompson Center Contender, I will withdraw my statement.

One big factor for “shirt only” concealment is the quality of your shirt. While patterns help conceal, they don’t technically prevent gun printing. A proper shirt, even a proper T-shirt, does. I love the carry shirts from 5.11. They’re fun and specially designed to cover a concealed gun, all while looking normal. The fake buttons on the lower half allow you to “rip” everything out of the way when you draw. The material, while lightweight, is “rigid” enough to hang over the exposed part of your gun without clinging to every contour and showing its shape.

But I have good success with regular T-shirts too. That multi-decade-old shirt from high school won’t cut it. By now, it’s too soft and worn too thin to hide much of anything. But a “quality” t-shirt made of substantial cotton does a great job. I get T-shirts from Lands’ End by the half dozen in assorted colors. They’re sturdy, last 75% of forever, and very, very comfortable. Not cheap, but boy are they nice. You know what I’m talking about — nothing beats a high-quality T-shirt. The proper weight of good cotton does a yeoman’s job of draping over the gun rather than clinging to it, so concealment is easy. And the shirts are a bit on the long side. That’s by design to prevent the stereotypical plumbers’ Waterloo, but in the case of carry, it’s also a concealment benefit. I carry a full-size 2011 double-stack pistol this way daily, and no one is the wiser.

The Right Chemise

Back in my high school days, I distinctly remember my dad telling me how wearing a proper undershirt on warm days can make you cooler. As I was in my teens and therefore possessed all the wisdom I would ever need, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt he was, well, stupid. Adding clothing layers can’t make you cooler — that’s flat-out ridiculous. But then an interesting thing happened.

When I was in my 20s and wearing a suit every day, tooling around Florida trying to sell computer systems to companies, my dad experienced a medical miracle. Where he knew nothing just a few short years ago, he suddenly became nearly brilliant again. As it turned out, wearing a nice cotton undershirt did make me more comfortable while wearing a suit in the hot Florida climate. It’s shockingly coincidental how much smarter he got when I grew up and left the house. Medical miracles …

I’ve remembered that lesson and will still wear the undershirt in warm weather when so inclined, but I now get a secondary benefit. In addition to temperature comfort, that same t-shirt adds a whole new realm of comfort to inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry.

Most IWB holsters, whether designed for hip or appendix carry, maintain a cut to ensure the holster doesn’t get in the way of the grip. Yeah, I know, there are models that have giant flaps that ride all the way up to provide a complete barrier between the gun’s grip and your body, but I’ve drifted away from those. They too often impede a smooth draw, allowing space for your thumb and fingers to get a proper grip on the initial “grab” without having to readjust elsewhere during the draw sequence.

One benefit of the compression undershirts is the skin-tight fit and slippery texture
keep it out of the way when you need to draw.

A good undershirt made of cotton or that space-age, tactical spandex-ey stuff tucked into your underwear provides a great barrier between a gun and the body. This aids not only comfort from abrasion but helps keep sweat off your gun as the undershirt wicks away moisture. If I’m going to be carrying in the heat for an extended time, the undershirt is a must.

Another thought on the cotton vs. the spandex-ey compression shirts … While cotton is arguably more comfortable (my opinion; your mileage may vary), and you can tuck it in tight, it’s still more likely to move around and *possibly* get a bit in the way of a smooth draw. Kinda remote, I know, but cotton does tend to wrinkle and change position a bit more. The compression shirts, being skin tight and quite slippery, tend to stay put relative to your gun and holster. The material slides over those as you move, so things don’t get bunchy.

All hail proper shirts, inside and out!

Be sure to keep an eye out for the GUNS Magazine Podcast Episode 232, “It’s Too Hot to Carry” hosted by Brent T. Wheat. We’ll dive into more warm weather carry conversation, including off-body carry for various summer-month activities.

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