Which of the following statements about summer concealed carry is true?
- Concealed carry in the summer requires a different approach to handgun and holster strategy.
- Concealed carry in the summer isn’t any different from other times of the year.
The answer? Both. And that’s what makes summer carry a topic unto its own. Sure, our wardrobe changes in the summer. We wear shorts and shirts while shoving the coats and jackets into attic storage. We also engage in different activities that might impact our choice of gun and carry method.
We often base decisions on convenience rather than necessity. Can you carry a normal compact or full-sized gun in the summer? Yes. I usually do. I wear shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops as much as the next guy. And with the right carry choices and commitment, I have no trouble concealing a “winter” gun in my summer attire.
With all that said, here are a few tips to consider when developing your summer concealed carry equipment and strategy choices.
Prioritize Saving Your Life Over Convenience
A concealed carry gun is only as good as your ability to use it to positive effect while under stress. Simply having a gun means nothing if you don’t shoot it well. While much easier to carry, small guns are harder to shoot. Even the famous snubby revolver is now considered by many to be more of an “expert’s gun.” That short sight radius, light weight and associated recoil require practice to master. The problem is that easy-to-conceal tiny micro-weight pistols aren’t much fun to shoot on range day, so most owners don’t practice with them as much as they should. So, like at any other time of the year, choose your gun first based on your effectiveness with it, then architect your carry wardrobe around it — even in the summer.
Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) Carry Tips
Inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry offers a big concealment benefit right off the bat. At least half of your handgun is naturally hidden by your pants, shorts or skirt. That means all you really have to worry about hiding is the grip.
With the right holster, hiding the grip of even a full-sized handgun is easier than you might think. Some holsters, like the Clinger No Print Wonder, have specific features like a combination of fixed and flexible belt attachments that pull the grip in close to your body. That enables easy concealment, even when your covering garment is just a T-shirt.
Try a Belly Band for Concealed Carry
One summer carry challenge is that your clothing may not support traditional carry methods such as IWB carry. For example, if you’re wearing a bathing suit or workout attire, there’s not a heavy gun belt on which to hang a traditional holster. Fortunately, there are some alternative carry options to consider.
A belly band is exceptionally versatile. As it requires no belt “anchor,” you can carry it with virtually any type of clothing. An additional benefit of a good belly band like the Galco Underwraps Belly Band is that it allows you to carry in a variety of configurations and at different ride heights. Angled gun pockets allow strong-side, appendix or cross-draw placement. By reversing the band inside-out, you expand your options for placement and cant angle of your handgun. Worn at waist level, it acts like an IWB holster with its own self-contained belt. In that configuration, it’s even tuckable. Worn higher, it’s a good solution for various outdoor activities.
Got Yoga Leggings?
Apparently, yoga leggings are the hot, new, general-purpose casual-wear option. To enable easy carry, enterprising holster companies like Dene Adams have created yoga pants with a self-contained holster system. These leggings have multiple carry-position options and optional Kydex trigger guards or full Kydex holster inserts for extra gun security.
Underwear Carry (Compression Shorts for Concealed Carry)
Another ultimate flexibility alternative carry method is a pair of compression shorts. Available for men and women, these shorts have elastic holster pockets sewn into the hip area. If you’re wearing gym shorts or any other attire without a belt, this can be a good alternative. As with traditional IWB carry, you’ll still need a shirt to cover the handgun grip. Check out UnderTech UnderCover for options.
Concealment Garment Tips
In the summer, a simple shirt cover garment has to do more work, as you won’t be relying on outerwear to help conceal those gun bumps and bulges. Shirts with patterns tend to help hide the outline of a concealed handgun, as does material with a little more structure. Those nylon tees and polos, while comfortable, like to wrap themselves around the shape of your concealed firearm.
Take a look at dedicated concealment shirts from Blackhawk. These shirts are designed to hide your gun, and they contain a hidden feature especially useful for alternative summer-carry methods. The “buttons” are actually snaps. To access a handgun concealed underneath in a compression T-shirt or belly band, you can just “rip” the shirt open, and the faux buttons will unsnap. While ripping through real buttons works great on TV soap operas, it’s much harder in real life (hence the snaps).
Choose the Right Hybrid Holster
Hybrid holsters are great for summer use, although they’ve been getting a bad rap in recent months. By “hybrid” I mean an IWB design that has a large back panel, shielding the handgun from your body, mated with a thin Kydex shell that secures your handgun. In theory, this is a great solution for hot summer months. The panel separates your sweaty body from your handgun, and the Kydex holster shell helps keep the overall package thin and concealable.
There are a couple of potential “gotchas” to consider. A leather back panel can get soft with heavy use in humid conditions, causing the upper part to “droop” down over the holster pocket. This can be a bad thing when trying to reholster. There can also be challenges with retention. That half-backing, half-Kydex design doesn’t always secure the gun when you’re engaged in vigorous activity — like fighting for your life.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t hybrid holsters that will work. As an example of one model that overcomes both challenges, take a look at the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5. The back panel contains a thin sheet of steel to keep it from drooping. The backing material is a bit “sticky” (for lack of a better word), so retention is excellent. I can turn mine upside-down and shake and the gun stays put.
Get Creative With Concealed Carry in the Summer
Yes, there are some differences to consider for summer carry. Sweat and humidity can wreak havoc on holsters and guns. You’ll be wearing fewer clothes, so concealment takes more forethought and planning. Sometimes, you won’t have the option of wearing a belt, so alternative carry methods might be in order. Just remember, few things in life are required. While you may want to choose a micro handgun for summer use, it’s certainly not a necessity. A little creativity and commitment will help you carry the firearm with which you are most comfortable.
About Tom McHale
Tom McHale is a perpetual student of all things gun and shooting related. He’s particularly passionate about home and self-defense and the rights of all to protect themselves and their loved ones. As part of his ongoing training, Tom has completed dozens of various training programs and is a certified National Rifle Association instructor for pistol and shotgun. He’ll be completing his USCCA Certified Instructor program in the near future.
Tom is a professional writer by trade these days and has published seven books on guns, shooting, reloading, concealed carry and holsters. He’s written two books for the United States Concealed Carry Association: Armed and Ready, Your Comprehensive Blueprint to Concealed Carry Confidence and 30 Days to Concealed Carry Confidence. In between book projects, Tom has published somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 articles for about a dozen gun and shooting publications. If he’s not writing, you can probably find him on the range.