When you step outside your threshold, are you ready for the possibility of violence? Even now, as crazy as the last year has been, most people live in areas of the United States where violent crime is very low. However, if you practice self-defense and personal protection to the point that you carry a concealed handgun, you realize that the odds are higher than most wish to accept, and the stakes are infinitely high, no matter the odds. Being prepared for violence, however, goes well beyond just wearing the gun.
Can you, at any moment, produce your handgun efficiently, safely, and quickly? The sad reality is that most people with a carry permit spend little time practicing actually getting the gun out of the holster. Serious practitioners, however, should have a well-practiced draw. Here is a consideration that even most who are more serious fail to consider:
How good is your draw stroke, right now, with the clothing you are currently wearing?
The cover garment that you wear, be it a t-shirt, a button-up shirt, a jacket, etc…, will throw its own influence into your draw stroke. I can tell you that I have a boring wardrobe consisting of shirts that I know the “behavior” of. I use t-shirts, long-sleeves, and sweatshirts that are predictable for my draw stroke. I am not a fan of button-up shirts as I don’t like the way they draw for my appendix-position inside-the-waistband concealed carry mode. Still, I need to wear button-up shirts occasionally, so I use those that I have tested and that work best. Many concealed carriers find that button-up shirts work best. So, as with anything else, the exact type and fit of the cover garment that works best will be specific to the individual.
If you wear a variety of shirt types and you don’t test your draw stroke with them you are possibly in for a rude awakening at the worst possible time. The carry mode you use, be it strong-side hip or AIWB, or any other variation, will determine to a great extent what sort of shirts work best for you. Beyond this, each individual shirt of a different brand and style is likely cut to a different length, different tightness, etc…, and these deviations pose the possibility of obstructing your draw.
If you are serious about not only carrying a gun but being able to use the gun should you need it, then you will come to select a certain set of clothing that you use. The cover shirt is the most pressing article of clothing for the most part, but if you pocket carry the individual pants and pockets matter. If you ankle carry, the length and tightness of the cuff of the pants matter. Any concealment mode on the person demands attention paid to the concealment garment.
Consider, also, how your concealment garment will influence your deployment of other tools beyond the gun. If you carry OC spray, where is it and how do you deploy it? Do you practice doing so? If you carry a knife that factors into your defensive plan, where is it and how do you deploy it? Does the clothing influence this ability?
I carry my handgun AIWB (Appendix Carry), and in vicinities where legality is not an issue, I also carry a small fixed blade knife in the appendix position opposite the gun, accessible to my support hand. Therefore, I most often have two defensive tools on the person, and the shirt I am wearing drastically influences my ability to deploy them. The majority of this issue is mitigated by the fact that I have tested all of my shirts numerous times at this point, and everything I wear generally falls into a known quantity. However, even so, I always test the exact garment I am wearing before walking out the door.
Vetting Your Concealment Garments
If you are serious about your personal protection you need to vet your wardrobe according to your concealed carry. Certain shirts are going to be a liability and interfere with your ability to draw the gun efficiently, but beyond this, some clothing may pose a safety hazard. A shirt or other cover garment that binds and obstructs a clean draw stroke can lead to a dropped gun or an accidental discharge. Shirts that are too tight to be clearly lifted away from the gun on the draw should be avoided. Jackets that have drawstrings that can find their way into the holster of the gun and cause a discharge should also be avoided. While every individual cover garment in your wardrobe should be tested you will find that there are general categories of clothing, or certain brands, that simply don’t work for you. Select your clothing accordingly.
The Daily Test
Before I depart the home I test the garment I am wearing, even though it is a garment that I have vetted. Every shirt tends to be a bit different and I don’t like surprises, especially if the surprise is a potentially fouled draw when it really matters. Therefore, at the start of the day, or before I leave the home, I go to my safe area in the house where I dry fire, and I draw my pistol two to four times to ensure my garment is doing exactly what I expect it to do. I do the same thing with my blade. I am ensuring that the garment does not bind, does not impede my draw, and certainly, that it does not cause a safety issue in some way. If there is a problem, I change the shirt. Be sure you do this test draw in a safe area, facing a safe backstop.
Wading into such details as tailoring your wardrobe to your concealed carry brings about criticism from many, even some who carry themselves, as being obsessive. I would argue that, if you carry a gun yet you put no thought and experimentation into your ability to be able to deploy that gun safely, efficiently, and with speed, then you are greatly undermining the advantage the defensive tool provides in the first place. If you are serious about using a concealed handgun as a defensive tool to protect yourself and your loved ones, you need to vet your clothing choices and test how each cover garment you wear behaves in that specific role.