Friday, December 28, 2012


When the rise of the pocket .380 took off a few years ago it was an attempt to answer the common man's problem with carrying concealed. They sold like a house-a-fire (as did the ammo). Easy to carry and weighing next to nothing it can be easy to get lured into such an attractive package.

I don't ever really preach against one gun or another for one reason, it's your life and you are an adult you should carry what YOU want for your own reasoning. That said one has to concede that some are simply more limited than others. Don't misread the intention there, all are capable of putting holes into the anatomy of a miscreant.

The problem arises with the circumstances in which that miscreant presents himself. While virtually sightless pistols like the Ruger LCP, Kel-Tecs or Beretta cats can serve well for the "street mugger"  or "backed into a corner" scenarios where the distance may be just a few feet; little guns with little sight don't serve well for contending with a spree shooter where you need sights desperately as you are shooting around other people.

Dry wall doesn't forgive. And while intentions to stop a bad guy are good a missed round that zips through the wall behind him and into someone is never okay as we don't hold to a collateral damage philosophy.

That is not to say you can't miss with any gun, but the bigger the gun, the better the sights, the more control we have on the grip, coupled with good training and even better marksmanship on the range increase our propensity for a solid hits on the bad guy.

The challenge to carrying conceal though is often the concealed part, especially when we start looking at mid size and full size framed guns. Something I learned early on in executive protection. One Principal that I worked exclusively for an extended period of time was a VP on the payroll for corporate America, which meant so was I. So those workaday dress codes applied to me.

In the bodyguarding world your manner of dress generally reflects that what the Client is wearing (though you don't ever out dress a Principal). So if the Client is in a suit, you are in a suit and, frankly this is the most ideal circumstance for concealed carry because the jacket affords a lot of latitude in what can be concealed.

Ironically enough so does uber relaxed summer wear like bowling and Hawaiian shirts that are expectantly worn un-tucked. So while your client is at the beach in swimwear you can appear to the casual observer like another noob on the beach but still be heavily armed.

My challenge while working that Principal in particular was in fact corporate casual, where I was expected to wear my shirt tucked in be that a polo or a button down dress shirt. While those instances made for a more relaxed setting from the suits I wore the absence of a jacket meant all guns had to go internal. 

Thus my form of holsters went to things like ankle rigs, pocket holsters, and Thunderwear (don't knock it till you've tried it). No doubt there are tuck-able IWB holsters I've just never really cared for them as a whole (attribute this to muscle memory). Needless to say these were all small framed and short barreled guns. While I have absolutely nothing against them and carry them regularly through out the the summer months they just are not my preference for working a protection detail.

This rolls over into other aspects of work and of course personal life as well. While It's easy to wear my Woolrich Rhodesian Army or Carhartt jacket or even just a shirt untucked there are times when the Wife likes a little more effort put in for an evening out. And of course there are client meetings that don't necessarily require a suit but there still needs to be a professional appearance.

Hence about three years ago I started wearing and utilizing a variety of vests and it has worked out very well on numerous fronts.

"Vests?" You ask

Yep. Not the notorious photog vest that everyone has (they do work in some environments after all) but rather a variety of suit style vests to heavy wool vests from Filson and Orvis.

The obvious benefit is the ability to cover, in most cases, the grip of a handgun carried in the waist band with some vests cut long enough to cover the traditional hip carry.

The not so realized benefit to the vest is the flexibility it allows the wearer. Take for instance the colder weather of the winter, coats and jackets allow for easily concealing practically any handgun the individual so desires....until one becomes to warm. Take your pick from the perennial problem of the winter coat vs the movie theater, the mall, the cafe....the drive across the state. The moment you become to warm in your coat and in public you get stuck with the choice of either suffering through the ordeal and looking somewhat out of place two hours into a movie and still in your parka or going into the bathroom and un-tucking your shirt that was previously nicely tucked in.

I get it. You're saying "geez what a prissy SOB doesn't want the world to see a wrinkle in his shirt tail". I assure you my I like my Triumph motorcycle shirt and my ten inch topped boots very much but I also have a damn practical streak I can't shake either.

Growing up hunting here in the Midwest I learned early on the value of dressing in layers, something that has applied well to work life. One of the first vest's I got was a heavy wool western cut style from Filson. Not long after getting it I had to make a long single day drive to locate a few individuals and gather varying pieces of information from them. That morning when I left it was somewhere in the mid 20s outside so I threw on some light weight long underwear, jeans, a long sleeve waffle shirt, a button downed winter weight shirt, slipped on my Combat Commander and then put the vest on, I tossed my wool pea-coat in the back seat and headed on down the road as they say.

As the day progressed through a series of in an out of the vehicle to talk with people, get fuel and coffee it was nice to be dressed in such a manner that I could drive with the heat on and not burn up and get out and not freeze to death. This I realized when walking with a guy through a largely abandoned warehouse as it snowed outside and he kept asking if I was cold without a coat on. I never really was.

Fast forward to late Spring when the Wife and I went to wedding of a friend that was going to be a rather formal affair..even as weddings go. A few days before the event I picked up a black suit vest that I could wear under my jacket (and lest you think this was some overly priced one I think I picked it up at Target for around $25). At the reception as dinner was served gentlemen were told they could remove their jackets (this is actually proper etiquette of a host for formal events......and no I don't frequent such events normally unless I'm getting paid). Me being the proper guy I am for such an occasion wanted to wear my "nice" Colt 1911 (read: Combat Elite) as opposed to my workaday one. Thanks to my $25 vest I was able to dance with the Wife throughout the evening while being well heeled and no one the wiser.

The one piece of advice I will pass along that I learned from my first vest, which led to the choice on my fourth or fifth one, of which are both of the Filson wool variety. When I paired my collared western cut vest with a coat like my Carhartt or Pea-coat the collar cause the jacket to ride high on my neck an shoulders. It fit fine it just looked a little odd so when I got around to the next one I purposely went with a collarless version. Problem solved, the jacket sat on my shoulders as normal.

It's not so much that it's trial and error as it is more of a "not a one type fits all solution". Just something to keep in mind.

So how does this apply to you?

Vests like an individual's preference for manners of dressing come in a variety of....fashions. Maybe you're a cowboy or rough neck who spends most of his time in Wranglers and pickup trucks, or a pro-gun urban hipster who likes skinny jeans, rolled up long sleeves and baby Springfield XD's (I actually didn't intend for that to rhyme btw), or you are a corporate creature where work allows conceal carry but you just have to do in khaki pants.

More hand waving, "wait a minute I'm a stay at home mother of three" or maybe you're a self-employed woman with a business to run and a CCW permit to use. Don't worry there's a vest for that.

Like everything else in the CCW game you have to do your own work. Find out what might be too short or too thin and might leave you with an exposed gun.

Look it's easy to get lazy in carrying concealed because "nothing has ever happened yet" but, I caution you this, if that is your philosophy on carrying a handgun you've turned it into a talisman not a gun.

"but you just wrote about carrying a .22 pistol a couple of posts ago". Indeed I did and if you read it carefully you will see that I don't ever say it's the best solution only that it can be "a" solution or even a intentional secondary piece for varying occasions.

Personally I'm not a fast successive know the guys who knock down all those pepper poppers at lighting fast speed...yeah it ain't me. I am however pretty decent in the accuracy department and when the barrel is longer and the sights are bigger I tend to do better. While you might envision all sorts of positive aspects of yourself in an imaginary gunfight let me assure you, the hands shake, the pupils dilate and you seriously think about not fucking up. Because while you and I might be exceptional on the pistol range you can bet you are going to be mediocre in the fight. So give yourself every advantage on an increasingly frequent basis to up the odds of winning and keeping your life.

Here is the endgame. We are so inundated with "tactical everything" and then mocking each other for it that we have forgotten that OUR included needs to fit the specs for our lives and their varying degrees of living.


Seabat said...

Good posting again. I've been carrying concealed on my badge for almost 40 years and the clothing is probably the hardest thing to convince people about. I've found a WALLS brand wool vest (from PFI) with a collar allows me to do all the things you talk about in cold weather. The important thing is always carry, everywhere, all the time. There are no safe places.

chuck brick said...

I've been a fan of vests for a long time. Vest with short sleeves doesn't "look funny," with long sleeves is as warm as a light jacket but less restrictive, and with a light jacket over is warmer than most heavy coats but again, less restrictive. I live in Central Texas, so it's rare to wear a coat anyways; almost 9 months of mostly T-shirt weather makes it difficult at times to carry anything, but I can get away with a light vest for almost half the year.
As you mentioned, "Suit-Coat" is the best arrangement - as long as I can keep the coat on. Fortunately most such events seem to have better-than-needed air conditioning. Make sure your Lady always takes a sweater or shawl so that you won't feel the need to offer your cover - I mean, coat.

GunRights4US said...

I move in a long-sleeved shirt and tie world almost exclusively, and my carry rig for the last 15 years has been a G-27 on my ankle with extra mags on the other ankle. But deep down in my heart I want to scream out loud: FUCK IT - LET'S ALL CARRY RIFLES!!!!!


Anonymous said...

I decided early on that I would find a way to carry the same pistol the same way regardless of clothing.

The solution turned out to be a Comp-Tac tuckable holster. I wear T-shirts or tuxes, uniforms, tucked polos or button downs, always has worked. I had to learn some clever ways of tucking and blousing the shirt, which helps.

I really like vests, but even the lightest one is not practical in south Texas summer, especially when the majority of time is spent outdoors. I sweat way too much, and it just looks weird and obvious.

I can use one in the winter, then I don't have to tuck the shirt or let it hang out. But winter is not all that long down here... :)

I do love how flat the P3AT is, it is great to tuck in shirt...or vest...pocket. As a backup to the main pistol, of course.

Enjoy the posts, keep'em coming.


abnormalist said...

One observation that I found randomly.

My pocket 380 has been stupid accurate with the barely-there sights. Its a Gen 1 Kel-Tec P3AT with the "put the point on the pyramid" sights. I can regularly hit clay pidgeons off hand at 25 yards with it. Its crazy. I've half considered hunting deer with it :-)

I honestly find it amazing for such a small gun, with such a short sight radius that I can shoot it that well. I honestly shoot it better on slow well placed shots than I do my full size polymer 45.

abnormalist said...

I should have also added that when I carry the fullsize polymer 45, its usually in a Crossbreed Supertuck,and its often tucked.

I choose those as my primary holsters as my usual day to day attire is either a polo, or button down tucked in to khakis. The curse of the modern technical worker

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with your country?!?

Wraith said...

@ Anon 12:23:

What's wrong with our country? Not enough of us have guns.

David said...

What's the green wool-looking vest in the first picture? I like it.

GunRights4US said...

@anon 12:23 - What's wrong with our country? Too many pussy liberals who breath unicorn farts and sip the koolaide of socialism/communism.

Matthew said...

David, the Green vest at the start of the article is Filson's Mackinaw Wool Vest.

I highly recommend it. It works well for hunting or outdoor work and goes to dinner and show just as easy. I wore mine burning brush piles a few weeks ago and so I wouldn't have it smelling like a campfire the next day I left it hanging outside over night. Next morning smoke smell was gone.

Matthew said...

At Anon who wants to know what's wrong with "My country".

I don't address people's comment who make inflammatory remarks only to rescind themselves back into the dark corners of the internet. I hold such individuals to lack any sense of integrity or self-respect and therefore simply are not worth my time in some meandering attempt to hold a discussion with.

Anonymous said...

I like vests too. Down in only moderately cold south, a vest and a windbreaker can easily take most users above freezing weather, especially if they wear a hat and gloves.

I'm not a CHL owner, so your comments towards holster location and vest hem is interesting to read. What I hate about my Carhartt vest is that the back rolls up right near belt because of how I enter the car. I sink into seat, and the edge rolls up - looks kinda stupid really.

Do you have any pointers or modificiations for correcting that ?

Thanks again for your post on this.

Mike W. said...

Great post, and it's a good idea, but damn I look ridiculous in vests.

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