Tell me if you heard this one from other CCWers: ““I’d never wear a vest. It screams ‘Shoot Me’ at the top of the building.” Or this one: “Fanny Packs? Only people carrying a gun use fanny packs in this day and age.” Or even this one (my favorite): “I can tell who is carrying by the way they (dress-move-walk).” Welcome to the wonderful debate on concealment garments.
To the uninitiated, carrying a concealed weapon requires a deep change in a person’s way of life. A sidearm is not an “accessory” but a life saving device that should be carried every day and not just whenever you feel like or “think” you might be in danger. You cannot predict when you will be a victim of a crime because if you could, Why would you go there? You avoid it altogether and that’s it. So, as stated initially you have to have the gun with you in order to have an effective means of self-defense and that will force you to change your life style and that includes what & how you carry plus how you cover it.
And I have news for the anti-vest crowd: Civilian Non-shooters do not know you are packing just because you have a 5.11 Vest. Some in the know may suspect you are carrying, but unless you display the weapon, they only suspect, not know for sure. How do I know this? Guess who is been carrying a gun covered by a vest for a decade in a very hot, very humid city? Yep, you’ll see me strolling the streets of Miami with the ubiquitous khaki vest with the temperatures in the high 90s and the humidity up there to cook broccoli. Have I been “found out”? Twice that I know of and both times were by fellow Concealed Carriers that were dressed “suspiciously” enough that I noticed. We made eye contact, looked at our waist areas and smiled at each other as if saying “Yep, me too! Nice seeing you Brother!
I was not going to mention it because I have not seen a civilian yet making that mistake, but make sure your cover garment is loose enough not to print by just breathing. Civilians tend to overdo in size and length but I have seen undercover cops not quite paying attention to what they wear. I remember one time an undercover police officer wearing a light blue sweater during a summer night in Ft. Lauderdale (blending, you are doing it wrong) and the sweater was so tight that not only you could tell he was packing a 1911 in an outside the belt holster, but you could almost read the serial number in the gun.
Am I ever asked about wearing a vest? Yes. 95% of the people who ask will inquire if I am going fishing or am I a professional fisherman. The rest will ask if I am a photographer but most people and I mean 99 out of 100 don’t even care what I am wearing. I have the advantage of wearing some sort of vest for the last 30 years as part of my regular wardrobe so it is second nature for me. And this is the key: Second Nature, be comfortable with what you wear and carry.
The first important item about carrying a gun is to have a good belt and a good holster. A belt that can handle the weight and a holster that is comfortable will do wonders for your carrying pleasure. Flabby belts that let the gun flap around and a cheap holster that loses shape and cannot retain the gun properly are a constant reminder that you are carrying. The more you are aware that you are packing, the more you will messing with the gun in public places and you will out yourself. Using the same principle, the fanny pack you bought at Walgreens on sale for $5 that is so thin and feeble it looks like you are wearing a cheap candy wrapper will have you adjusting it every 5 minutes or less.
And yes, it is important point is to somewhat blend with your surroundings. An orange and yellow Hawaiian shirt covering you gun in a funeral or awards ceremony might attract unwanted attention and then somebody might notice you are carrying (or may make them blind and won’t see a thing). Please choose a hawaiian shirt with muted tones for such events. If you want to wear a vest but are afraid that it may scream GUN! you may want to use a bit of camouflage in the form of non-gun related patches or pins. It helps that you actually know about those non-gun related themes so, if you don’t fish but know cars don’t use anything fishing but use some racing stuff. People will focus on the patches and pins and will not even think about what is under your vest.
In the end, the most important thing is the way you carry yourself. If you act like you are not carrying a gun (again, get good comfortable equipment) your body language will show that and people will “know” that you are not carrying. And that’s the name of the game.