In the world of concealed carry, sometimes we talk about dressing around a gun—choosing clothing that better accommodates a hidden firearm.
That might include purchasing pants with a slightly wider waist to provide the extra inch or two needed to comfortably hold a firearm in an inside the waistband holster; or it might mean purchasing a shirt that looks okay untucked, again to hide a firearm in an inside the waistband holster; or it might mean purchasing a vest or jacket with built-in compartments meant to safely hide a handgun. For some, however, a handgun needs to fit well with a current wardrobe.
Moreover, life and work circumstances (going to the office, going out for a nice dinner) sometimes mean getting dressed up. Concealing a handgun can seem a more difficult goal when dressed up, but, with the right equipment, it is not only possible, but comfortable.
The first of this three-part Dressed to Defend series addresses pocket and ankle holsters. I’ll be using a Smith & Wesson 340 PD (a lightweight J-frame in .357 Magnum) as my concealment weapon.
Dressing up while carrying concealed offers some unique advantages: Being dressed up generally projects a positive, professional image. You may be perceived as more self-confident and therefore less vulnerable. Being dressed up is of course different from wearing street clothes. To the casual observer, you may be considered less likely to be armed. For concealed carry, this can all work to your advantage.
For me, dressing up includes wearing dress pants. Unless I carry in an outside the waistband holster and cover it with a sport coat, carrying a handgun anywhere on my waist is not practical or comfortable. With a small and lightweight revolver like the S&W 340 PD, pocket carry becomes a viable option. While not recommended, some people like to simply drop a small revolver or pistol right in their pocket and just go.
I prefer a good pocket holster for three reasons: improved safety, easier draw, and better concealment. An effective pocket holster such as the Galco Pocket Protector or DeSantis Nemesis will cover the trigger of your weapon, stand the gun up in your pocket, allow you to reach in and get a good grip on it when drawing, and reduce printing through the material. Yes, these holsters add extra material, weight, and bulk to your pocket, but the trade-offs seem worth it. Not surprisingly, each pocket holster had its strengths and weaknesses.
Galco Pocket Protector: $24.95
Galco’s Pocket Protector sounds nerdy, but is anything but that. While it’s not much more than a thoughtful construction of a single piece of very good leather, it nonetheless held the J-frame securely in the front right pocket of my dress pants. The gun stood up in the holster, ready to be drawn, and the holster remained in my pocket when drawing. The holster’s reinforced mouth allowed for easy holstering, although Galco recommends removing the holster from your pocket before holstering.
Dress pants being what they are, a lightweight, loose fabric the holster moved with the momentum of my leg as I walked, but not obnoxiously so. Standing still resulted in no printing, but sitting showed the outline of the holster. Any tighter style of pants resulted in printing while standing and sitting.
DeSantis Nemesis: $24.99
The DeSantis Nemesis functioned similar to the Galco Pocket Protector, but with different design principles. The synthetic exterior felt rubbery and sticky, which helped it stay in place in my pocket. Also, the Nemesis held the 340 PD a bit higher, just short of the stock wanting to peer out of my pocket, but otherwise kept it securely in place. It printed just like the Galco; not at all when standing, and showing the outline when sitting. A curious eye would catch the shape and wonder what was in my pocket. A trained eye would know it right away.
Both pocket holsters offered fast and easy deployment of the 340 PD and could be used in other pockets, such as in a jacket or coat.
Even with their printing issues, pocket holsters have the unique advantage of allowing you to get a grip on your gun while keeping it concealed. With an ankle holster, the pros and cons are opposite. The Galco Ankle Glove and DeSantis Apache are virtually undetectable under dress pants, but require a stoop, reach, and release of a retention strap to deploy. I wore the ankle holsters on my left leg on the notion that to draw I would drop to my right knee, lift my left pant leg with my left hand, and draw with my right hand. Moreover, wearing an ankle holster on the inside of my left leg seemed more secure and less likely to bump into something or someone.
Galco Ankle Glove: $89.95
Comprised of a premium leather holster affixed to a neoprene band with hook and loop closure, the Galco Ankle Glove lived up to its name. With its layer of sheepskin padding between the 340 PD and my ankle, this holster fit like a glove; snug, yet comfortable. While some credit is due to the 340 PD for being so lightweight, the Galco Ankle Glove is a thoughtful design that distributes the weight of a gun across the neoprene band and therefore across a wearer’s lower leg. Wearing this rig didn’t make me walk like a pirate, and despite how robust of a holster it is, it disappeared under the fabric of my dress pants.
The holster held the 340 PD very securely, so the retention strap seemed superfluous. Still, it served as an extra measure of confidence for keeping the gun secure. I was more concerned about brushing my leg against something and causing the hook and loop closure to open up. Thankfully, that never happened.
DeSantis Apache: $51.99
Did You Know…?
Gallup poll results released in October 2011 show that 47 percent of American adults currently report that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property, the highest such number reported since 1993. In the same survey, 23 percent of women reported that they personally own a firearm, and 43 percent said there was at least one gun in their household.
Since March 2011, the total number of permit holders in Oregon has increased nearly 11 percent, to over 152,000 as of April 2012. In 1986, only eight states had shall-issue concealed carry laws, and 15 states had no provision for any form of lawful concealed carry.
In 2012, 37 states have shall-issue concealed carry laws, and only one state (Illinois) still has no provision for any form of lawful carry.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, there were 935,813 active concealed carry permits issued to Florida residents as of April 30, 2012. With a statewide population estimated at 19,057,542 (2011 estimate from US Census Bureau), that means that approximately one out of 20 Florida residents have carry permits.
Wisconsin legalized concealed carry in November 2011. As of April 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Justice had received over 100,000 applications for concealed carry permits—putting the state well on track to smash its estimated demand of 125,000 permits within the first year of issuance.
With a wide and strong elastic band and a robust hook and loop closure, the DeSantis Apache holster may be over engineered; comfortable, but with less “give” than the Galco, the holster wrapped securely around my leg and pulled the 340 PD in tight. Similar to the Galco, a sheepskin lining protected the gun side of my ankle from any pain or chafing. The holster portion of the Apache was so tight, however, it was difficult to insert the 340 PD into it. Again, a retention strap seemed unnecessary, but was available for added security.
DeSantis offers a strap that wraps around the calf and connects to the Apache for added stability of the holster. I didn’t find this to be necessary as the Apache held firm on its own.
If I wanted to be dressed to defend and could pick only one of these four, it would be the Galco Ankle Glove on the merits of its excellent concealability and comfort and the fact that it would work with all the dress pants I already own.
[ Mark Kakkuri is a freelance writer in Oxford, Michigan. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri ]