Woolrich offers its boxy CCW short-sleeve shirt. Photo: Scott Smith
Any law enforcement officer who carries concealed off duty knows it can be difficult to find clothing to accommodate a hidden firearm, both visibly and functionally. That's why more manufacturers are stepping up to the challenge, creating shirts and pants that don't print and provide easy access to your weapon. These same companies are also creating footwear and packs that don't scream "cop," yet meet your needs.
While I am a fan of cargo-style pants for duty, training, and casual wear, there are times when they are not appropriate. Unfortunately, casual clothing from your favorite chain store is not designed to carry a firearm, magazine, possibly handcuffs, and other necessary gear.
An additional area that law enforcement apparel companies are finally addressing is the need for clothing to meet a woman's needs. There are more and more women entering the law enforcement and shooting communities. And it only makes sense that women want clothing cut to fit them, instead of having to make do with supposed unisex men’s clothing.
For every officer, when it comes to concealed carry, one of the most obvious pieces of clothing that must fit properly is a shirt. Most will drape over and print where you are carrying your handgun. The other issue with your average shirt is it's designed to be tucked in; wearing a shirt this way will only conceal a handgun if you wear an inside-the-waistband holster.
To effectively conceal a handgun, shirts need to be more of the boxy "Hawaiian" tourist style or cut like a baseball jersey. These shirts are designed to hang properly—loosely— to not print your handgun. "Hawaiian" shirts work well in warm climates, while I have found baseball shirts go unnoticed year round, especially if you choose a college or racing team, since those sports tend to take place year round.
Let's take a look at some recently introduced shirts from popular manufacturers that fit well and are designed to conceal a firearm, spare magazine, and even a phone or radio.
5.11 Tactical has added to its line of concealed carry shirts the Covert Casual Shirt and the Covert Dress Shirt. Designed to be worn untucked, the Covert Casual Shirt has a boxy cut with tear-away side flaps and snap fronts so you can easily access a shoulder holster or a belt holster while still not printing.
The 5.11 Covert Dress Shirt looks like a traditional button-down, but it allows you to access your shoulder holster or undershirt holster. This is accomplished by using snaps with fake buttons that simply pull away to grant you smooth access to your holster. You can also carry ID or a notepad in the concealed chest pockets, just like the boxy cut Covert Casual. With these styles, 5.11 offers you a choice of dress or casual to meet your needs on or off duty.
BlackHawk Products Group is making a play for the casual market with the 1700 Series Shirt for men and the Strenia for women. Polo-style shirts are also available for men and women. The 1700 and Strenia are cut boxy and designed to be worn loose. These shirts are sized comfortably, meaning they can be worn open over one of BlackHawk's Performance Polo Shirts. If you prefer to wear it on its own, it will look like any standard casual shirt you'd see the average civilian wearing around town.
A new player in the concealed carry/off-duty clothing market is Smith & Wesson. Yes, the same folks who manufacture the successful M&P. S&W has teamed with Wild Things Clothing to bring both men and women clothing that is cut long enough to conceal a holster, is tough enough to wear well when your sidearm touches, and fits the surroundings with barn-style jackets, winter quilted jackets, and more. This line will be out midyear.
Tru-Spec has become a popular supplier of tactical clothing and outerwear. This year the company added Concealed Designs shirts to its 24-7 line. These button-down dress shirts look like standard suit attire, but they are built to allow you access to a shoulder holster or IWB holster. Even the material of these feels like that of a true dress shirt; look for them this spring.
Woolrich's Elite Tactical Series of clothing carries the tradition of durable mission built clothing that Woolrich has offered hunters and others for decades. The CCW Short-Sleeve shirt is the latest shirt in the Elite Tactical Series. Like Woolrich’s other shirts the CCW looks good, fits well, and blends into any casual setting. Its modal/polyester blend wears like iron, drapes well on the body, and is resistant to staining. What I like about this shirt is that it dries quickly and looks good even on a hot, humid day.