Scenario Planning: Concealing Heavy Duty Body Armor And Sidearms

Last week we talked about whether a long gun was appropriate to carry, and which ones are somewhat concealable. This time we’ll talk about methods I’ve used to conceal a handgun. We’ll also review what heavy duty (rifle plates) body armor and long gun ammo rigs can be concealed, and how to do it. Concealing your gear and weapons in the “In between” time period of bad times could mean the difference between life and death. At a minimum, being seen wearing heavy duty body armor will probably bring unwanted questioning by those in authority, so concealment is the way to go if at all possible.

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Level 3A soft body armor. A full size pistol (Beretta M9) in a paddle holster (two mag pouch on off side). The pancake is one of the best external belt holsters for concealing a pistol, especially a full sized one.

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Side view pancake holster

Loose fitting shirt over the soft body armor and full size pistol with extra mags.

Loose fitting shirt over the soft body armor and full size pistol with extra mags.

100_0248The first thing we’ll look at is typical soft body armor, and what I believe is the best type of external belt concealment holster for full sized pistols. I’ve carried a lot of pistols over the last 28 years, and have used both inside and outside the waistband holsters. I can’t stand inside the waistband holsters. First, because I will not carry a pistol without a reload, and to conceal the reload, that also has to go inside the waistband. Between the total lack of comfort (I don’t mind a little discomfort, but that’s ridiculous), the extra size you have to have in your pants waistband (and belt), and a lack of mobility, due to your belt being uncomfortably tight to keep the holster and mag pouch and your pants in place, it’s a non starter for me (don’t tell me about how comfortable your rig is, most people I know that wear IWB holsters do not carry an extra mag concealed, unless it’s in a pocket….no thanks).

Typical pancake holsters (pictured is an Uncle Mikes) make the pistol butt hug the wearers side, and brings it in close. Paddle holsters will conceal a pistol butt, but will not bring it in as close to the side as a pancake holster will. Pictured above is a Beretta M9 in an Uncle Mikes pancake holster. The pics below it show how easily it is hidden by a button down shirt.

Typical paddle holster (blackhawk Serpa). The profile is a little bigger than the pancake holster, but they are convenient for quick on and off.

Typical paddle holster (blackhawk Serpa). The profile is a little bigger than the pancake holster, but they are convenient for quick on and off.

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Side view, paddle holster

Sub compact Keltec PF9 (left), Full size Beretta M9. Both 9mm Nato pistols

Sub compact Keltec PF9 (left), Full size Beretta M9. Both 9mm Nato pistols

The body armor in the above pics is standard soft body armor, and if the threat you believe you face is pistol or shotgun, it is the lightweight, streamlined way to go. As armor goes, it’s not really uncomfortable, but wouldn’t be what I’d call comfortable, especially on really hot days (bullets through the torso are worse, right?). Soft armor can be concealed under a typical button down shirt, as long as it isn’t too snug.

Interceptor Body Armor with a pancake holstered M9.

Interceptor Body Armor with a pancake holstered M9.

Side view IBA and M9

Side view IBA and M9

Next on the armor list is heavy armor. Usually this comes in two flavors, either a plate carrier, or full blown integrated full body soft and plate armor (Interceptor body armor). If they are stripped down both are concealable under a typical outdoor type button down shit, fleece pullover, or light jacket. Pictured is only IBA. considering if you can conceal that, a plate carrier will be just as concealed.

Shirt over IBA (front)

Shirt over IBA (front)

IBA side view

IBA side view

IBA with fleece pullover

IBA with fleece pullover

IBA with fleece pullover, side view

IBA with fleece pullover, side view

IBA with lightweight goretex jacket

IBA with lightweight goretex jacket

IBA with light jacket, sideview

IBA with light jacket, sideview

Do you need to wear heavy body armor in public? Well, if you think you need to carry a long gun concealed like we talked about in the last post, then I’d say “Yeah, you might need it.”. OK, so we’ve talked about handguns, we’ve talked about long guns, we’ve talked about body armor, now let’s talk about long gun ammo conveyance. There are not many ways to carry a decent amount (this starts with three mags for me) of ammo for long guns, while still keeping it hidden. You can either carry an exterior “battle bag” as they call it, or you carry it on you person. The best way I’ve found to carry at least three mags concealed for a rifle is the lightweight VC style chest rig. I’m not really a chest rig guy (wore one about 25 years ago in the mil with an H harness LBE, and just never fell in love with it), but in this application, it’s the best option going. You’ll notice a big difference in torso thickness and overall “printing” when you have six mags in the rig, and as opposed to only three. BTW, a modern variant of this rig is manufactured by my friend John at UW Gear has a similar rig, so you should definitely check out his site.

Chest rig with six AR mags in place

Chest rig with six AR mags in place. Shoulder rig is a Galco Classic Lite for the PF9 and works very well under most non dress type clothing

chest rig side view (six mags)

chest rig side view (six mags)

Chest rig under shirt (six mags)

Chest rig under shirt (six mags)

Chest rig (three mags)

Chest rig (three mags)

chest rig side view (six mags)

chest rig side view (six mags)

Chest rig side view (three mags)

Chest rig side view (three mags)

Last, but not least on the list is something a Buddy asked me to include in this post, simply because he knows I won’t write a post specifically geared towards deep concealment type rigs. The Tru spec holster shirt is one of the best items I’ve used in a while to conceal a pistol. It not only conceals my Keltec 3AT, but it will even conceal my Keltec PF9. As long as you’re not wearing a shirt that is too tight that would cause “printing” it will conceal most compact pistols better than most other holsters. Another great feature of this shirt is that it doesn’t transfer sweat to the weapon through the fabric (like underarmor) like a lot of holsters (bellybands etc.) will.

On the left is a Keltec 3AT (.380 ACP), and a Keltec PF9 (9mm)

On the left is a Keltec 3AT (.380 ACP), and a Keltec PF9 (9mm)

P3AT in holster shirt with extra mag on off side

P3AT in holster shirt with extra mag on off side

P3AT under a polo shirt with Tru Spec holster shirt

P3AT under a polo shirt with Tru Spec holster shirt

PF9 in holster shirt with extra mag on off side

PF9 in holster shirt with extra mag on off side

PF9 in Tru Spec holster shirt under a polo shirt

PF9 in Tru Spec holster shirt under a polo shirt

As I’ve said, these are just things that I’ve used and tried to develop for certain contingencies. See what works for you and your body build, this just happens to be what has worked for me.

JCD.

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

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8 thoughts on “Scenario Planning: Concealing Heavy Duty Body Armor And Sidearms

  1. For the ladies, I’ve found if you put a belt cinching your soft armor just under your bust, you can preserve the appearance of a bust under your clothes. You might not be able to breathe that well, but if stealth is key and you’re not going to have to wear it all day, then this little touch of vanity might be a good idea. You might need to sew belt loops to keep it in place. I suppose one could also make one’s own tailored soft armor, which would be more comfortable than trying to force men’s flat armor into a womanly shape. This generally consists of 18 to 20 layers of Kevlar fabric, which is generally yellow and looks like burlap but has a silky hand. It can be cut with a wheel cutter much more easily than with scissors. You would want as few cuts in it as possible, so just fold the darts and don’t cut away the extra material. The layers of Kevlar are then quilted with big stitches and then stuffed into a covering with closures on it.

    You can buy Kevlar fabric on ebay. Any reasonably competent seamstress could make these.

    You could also take panels from soft armor and sew them into the panels of a jacket. With a wheel cutter you could cut one panel in half and have a jacket that closes in front, with slightly overlapping armor. The problem being when you are socially expected to remove your coat. But, could come in handy for some things.

  2. Great analysis – thanks for taking the time to include photos that clearly demonstrate the point.

    Also note that concealing like this is far easier if your chest is larger than your waist. So, go PT.

  3. The only thing I would want to add for your consideration is cross-draw carry vs same side carry. My 2 cents.
    In same side carry, when you bend over, even with all the extra layers of armor and/or concealment, your gun’s butt will “print” through the clothing.
    In cross-draw carry, your gun’s butt is up against your ribs, and when you bend over,will not “print”.

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