Flat As A Pancake

When They Talk About Concealed,
They Mean Undetectable — Period!
35

There are plenty of good rigs for concealed carry, and Dave thinks
one of the best is the “Pancake” design, which holds a sidearm flat against the body.

It was a chance stop at the mechanic’s shop down the road from my place a couple of miles which started this.

My pal was under a guy’s trailer working on some wiring which had come loose. Standing there watching was the owner of the trailer and the truck to which was hitched, a full-size ¾-ton 4X4 rig. This fellow was maybe 5 feet tall, and underneath his tight-fitting T-shirt one could clearly see the outline of a rather large semi-auto pistol. He wasn’t hiding anything.

I strolled over, and the guy started chatting, clearly oblivious that under my vest was a cocked-and-locked Model 1911 nestled in a belt-slide rig.

Back when I was actively teaching firearms and personal protection, one of the first things my students heard — over and over again — was, “Concealed means concealed, period! Nobody in your presence should know you’re armed.”

And that brings us around to a discussion of a specific class of concealment holsters, known generically as the “Pancake.” I’ve always admired the concept of the Pancake rig, designed some 60 years ago by the late Roy Baker, who marketed his clever holsters — and the concept, really — as Roy’s Pancake Holsters. I was a lot younger when I saw the first advertisements for this holster, probably in American Handgunner or GUNS, and the design has become a classic. A little history of the Pancake may be found at Simply Rugged Holsters, where proprietor Rob Leahy continues the design concept, appropriately calling it the “Tribute.”

Some of the best renditions of the design come from Rob Leahy
at Simply Rugged Holsters. As one can see, these rigs may be built
to accommodate all types and sizes of handguns. Photo courtesy Simply Rugged Holsters

The Pancake is basically two slabs of leather stitched together to form the holster, with belt slots punched ahead of and behind the holster pocket. These slots can be positioned to allow for straight/vertical carry, strongside carry with butt forward or even carry as a cross draw. Such rigs can be built for virtually any size handgun, although at some point, the gun and holster combination could become just too big for practical concealed carry.

I never met Mr. Baker (sure wish I had, just to shake his hand!), but his design was nothing short of genius, in my humble opinion. The term “pancake” has become generic, applying to a holster which is essentially flat, curved slightly to the contour of the human body, resulting in a minimal — if any — print on the outer garment.

I looked online for “pancake” holsters and found literally dozens of different ones made by several companies, from leather, nylon, and combinations of materials, but all faithful to the concept, if not the design, of the original. I prefer leather for several reasons.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and in Baker’s case, he left a huge impression.

DeSantis offers variations of the Pancake design, and Dave used
one during a test and evaluation of a Smith & Wesson wheelgun
a few years ago. It was fast and disappeared under a jacket.

Easier in Winter

I spoke with Leahy via telephone in preparation for this column since his shop now offers what I believe are some of the best renditions of Baker’s original design. He told me a bit about Baker and confirmed what I already discerned about the design. The Pancake was meant to hold a revolver or pistol tight against the body, with a slightly curved outer surface that would reduce the likelihood of printing on a cover garment.

I dug around in my gear and discovered pancake designs from several quality holster makers, including Bianchi, Safariland, Crossbreed and DeSantis, plus a couple I personally built. (Nobody I know ever had only one holster!) Rob confirmed that just about everybody in the business offers some variation, and why not? It works!

With winter about to descend, getting back to the basics of concealed carry will be easier, at least across the middle and northern tiers of the country. Everyone will be bundled up, and you can learn things that will come in handy in the spring and summer months as you peel back the layers. In the winter, cover up with a parka and maybe a vest, a jacket and overcoat; some combination of cover garments which make your sidearm disappear. With the season change, shed the parka or overcoat, switch to a lighter jacket or a longer cover vest.

Find out what works for you and what doesn’t. You’ve got about four months to experiment.

One very good read on holsters is a book from John Bianchi titled “Blue Steel and Gunleather,” I’ve met John a couple of times, and his knowledge of concealment is second to none. If you can find a copy of his book, buy it and read it twice.

Minimalist Mentality

Some years ago, the late Col. Jeff Cooper expressed a real liking for a rig called the Yaqui Slide. It’s a next-to-nothing little belt holster made with two pieces of leather consisting of the main body to slide over the belt, with a slot midway presumably to allow the belt to slide through a loop on the trousers to prevent holster movement, and a strip of leather about 2 inches wide. This strip essentially wraps around the middle of a handgun, with the grip frame on the upside and the barrel (and slide) showing openly on the downside.

The late Col. Jeff Cooper probably gave the minimalist ‘Yaqui Slide’
design its biggest boost. While it is a reliable and popular design,
it doesn’t quite hold the sidearm in as tight as a Pancake …

As shown in this side/bottom view, the Pancake concept
will carry slightly flatter than the Yaqui.

The Yaqui Slide is a different concept than the Pancake, and I’ve found that a sidearm carried in one of these tends to hold the grip tighter to the body, but the top/forward surface of the handgun tends to project slightly outward. This doesn’t happen with a Pancake-type rig, so when I put together what essentially is a modified “Pancake Slide” to fit any number of different 1911 frames, it seemed to work pretty well.

Too Much Gun

I’ll endeavor to not be insulting, but some folks are prone to carry too much gun, with the apparent intent to reveal they are armed.

A gun barrel peeking out from below a short jacket, a large gun butt printing on a tight cover garment, a sidearm holstered in a way that it is visible from an angle and certain to be exposed by a gust of wind; all of these giveaways can and should be avoided.

One of Dave’s favorite Pancake-style holsters is this vintage Bianchi
“Shadow” model, designed for a 2 ½-inch Model 19 S&W. It rides high
and hides well even under a typical blue denim work jacket. He suggests
carrying smaller guns, or models with shorter barrels, for the best concealment.

It’s a matter of mindset, which brings me back to the fellow with the disabled trailer, and he provides a good example of what not to do, not only because it’s nobody’s business if you’re packing, but also because most people really don’t want to know. Let that sink in for a moment. Lots of people get unduly alarmed if they discover someone is armed in their presence, so they really don’t want to know, as they might react poorly. I think the woke mob calls it “triggered.” Far be it from me to unduly raise the alarms of someone who looks for an excuse to be frantic, even terrified. Remember this: “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Some years ago, a guy mentioned that showing you’re packing a pistol makes a “statement.” Being an old news hack, the response went something like this: You want to make a statement, rent a billboard or buy an ad in the newspaper. Attention junkies don’t like hearing that.

If you’re going heeled, choose the right gun and the right holster. The Pancake is, I think, one of the best. Just look around, and you’ll find models from reputable makers all over the place.

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