Wearing undershirts while dressed formally with button-up shirts is nothing out of the ordinary, but most people don’t wear an undershirt below a simple t-shirt or polo. Most would consider this too hot in the warm weather, as adding the extra layer will increase discomfort in the summertime. Long ago, when I was in college, I had a friend from the Middle East, from a place that knows heat. I noticed that he always wore a white cotton t-shirt under his regular shirt when it was hot out, and in the south, where we were, it was quite warm and humid. He said that the layer of cotton against the skin actually keeps you cooler in the heat. I tried it and have done so ever since. The added benefit of this practice is that carrying a concealed handgun has been much more comfortable.
With a layer of fabric between your body and the exposed parts of the gun, typically the grip and tang, all-day wear of an in-the-waistband pistol becomes much more comfortable. I find that many concealed carriers, however, don’t do this. Wearing an autoloader without an undershirt can be extremely uncomfortable as the rear sight and other parts dig into me (a small revolver is comfortable even without an undershirt). However, the undershirt makes all the difference. A side benefit is that you don’t get as much sweat on the gun either. If you think that it will make things too hot in the summer, give it a try, I find that my friend from many years ago was right in his assessment; the undershirt actually keeps you cooler.
However, there are some significant considerations with the use of undershirts while concealed carrying. The garment itself can cause problems and obstruct a good draw or a safe re-holster. Therefore, the use of undershirts needs to be approached cautiously. It should also be noted that an undershirt may work well for concealed carry and prove serviceable for several draws from the holster. Yet, they often prove detrimental during training when you are drawing many times from the holster, over and over again. Therefore, the primary concern is the use of undershirts that remain safe and efficient for at least several draw and re-holster processes.
A Tight Fit is Essential
The first consideration is this: the undershirt needs to be tight and cling to the body. The typical cotton white under t-shirt does not work well. Unless the fit is skintight, it will cause problems. A loose-fitting undershirt will pull out of the waistline and bunch up around the gun, thus obstructing the draw stroke and making re-holstering dangerous. I find that the more modern compression-type shirts work the best here. These tend to be made out of synthetic material of some kind, not just plain cotton. These sorts of undershirts hug tightly to the body, and they do not work themselves up and out of the waistline.
You must thoroughly test any undergarment that you use to ensure that it does not make the draw and re-holster hazardous. Check that the undershirt does not shift around during daily movement and activity and bunch up around the gun. If the garment slips up over the top of the pistol’s tang and back strap, then it will interfere with your grip and can also make the draw stroke dangerous. The right undershirt should stay flat against your sides and abdomen and never ride up over the top of the gun. Ensure that you can efficiently draw and re-holster the gun at least several times in a row without the garment moving in place and interfering with either process.
Other Benefits Offered
An additional benefit beyond comfort is concealment itself. A black undershirt, worn beneath an overshirt of any color, can aid in concealment when the gun is exposed. Even those who do their best to be careful and not expose their concealed firearm can, occasionally, mistakenly uncover the gun. A black-colored undershirt makes the black grip of a gun much harder to notice. Now, if your gun has a grip that is not black, this benefit is diminished, but if you have the ubiquitously black colored grip on your carry gun, then the black undershirt can further mask its presence in the event that the overshirt rides up to expose it.
Beyond this, the undershirt does, indeed, shield the gun from body sweat. While you will certainly sweat through the undershirt on a hot day during outdoor activity, it will serve to greatly reduce the amount of moisture that accumulates on the gun. Even with modern, polymer-framed guns that prove quite impervious to rust, there are still parts of the gun that will rust. In particular, I find steel sights tend to accumulate rust quite quickly. You must monitor your gun for rust, regardless, but an undershirt reduces the issue.
Finally, the single greatest benefit provided by the undershirt is comfort. Having even the thin layer of fabric sit between your gun and your skin makes for a much more pleasant carry experience. I find that the sharp edges of sights tend to annoy me when carrying the gun against my skin, but an undershirt alleviates this. However, this is not the only benefit of undershirts concerning comfort. The draw is also made a lot more comfortable as your fingernails do not dig directly into your skin when drawing the gun. This is a benefit. However, even the tightest fighting undershirt will usually shift around after more than a few draw strokes, so an undergarment may simply not work for you during prolonged practice sessions.
If you deal with discomfort when carrying a concealed handgun inside the waistband and pressed against your bare skin, consider using an undershirt. However, be cognizant of the potential downsides and dangers of doing so and use the right fit and the right material, and thoroughly test your ability to safely draw and re-holster with an empty gun before walking out the door with your new skintight undershirt on.