Concealed Carry and Winter Clothing

Whether you carry a firearm for personal protection or professional reasons, concealment is always a concern. You need to consider many factors when deciding what to carry and how to do so. The weather is one of the most important ones. While warm weather may make concealment difficult, colder weather shifts the focus to not only concealing the firearm but also to actually being able to deploy it if the need arises.

After a few decades in law enforcement, I have learned that the only thing worse than the need to use your firearm is the need to use it and not have it. For this reason, I carry EVERYWHERE I legally can, EVERY day of the year. At first, I thought that summertime carry was a challenge. Light-weight clothes, and less clothing overall made it hard to hold a holster in place and prevent printing. But I soon realized that winter carry was a much bigger concern. Not only do you need to conceal the firearm, but you also need to be able to access it quickly and safely at the same time.

Over the years, I have learned some tricks, often through trial and error, that assist me in carrying a concealed firearm effectively during the colder months. Here, I will share some tips that will hopefully help you as well.

Concealed Carry Clothing for Winter

One of the first concerns whenever you carry a concealed firearm is the clothing you choose to wear. Regardless of the season, you want clothing that supports your selected holster and prevents accidental loss of the firearm. Next, the clothing should fit in a manner that prevents unnecessary printing. Otherwise, what is the point of concealing it to begin with? At the same time, you don’t want your clothes to interfere with your ability to access your firearm in an emergency. Winter clothing, with its heavier, bulkier nature, is generally not a concern when it comes to support or printing. But at the same time, these factors can make access difficult.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this issue.

Accessible Clothing

You can purchase specially designed clothing with access panels, pockets, and similar features strategically placed to allow easier access. This type of clothing ranges from coats with side zippers—similar to patrol coats—to hoodies with openings inside the front pocket. They are designed to let you access your firearm without removing the garment. I have tried many and currently use some, and they work well in the right situation. But they are not for everyone. Not only do you need to purchase special clothing, but even then, you only have access to certain areas, usually along your waistline.

You can alter your clothing and wear items that are less likely to interfere. For example, instead of wearing a bulky winter parka, you can opt for layers. By layering, you can lessen the amount of clothing between you and your firearm. If you wore a light shirt or thermal underlayer, a heavy button-down shirt, and a vest, your firearm could be carried in a variety of locations and never be more than one or two layers away.

Carry Position

But what if you do not want to, or cannot, dress like a lumberjack? For those who must wear the bulkier outer layers, or even multiple heavy layers, the answer is to alter where you carry.

    • Shoulder holsters may not be as popular anymore as they were during the Miami Vice days, but that does not mean they are not functional. Although difficult to conceal in warmer months, they are easily hidden under bulkier winter wear. Plus, many models allow for convenient opposite side carry of your spare magazines.
    • You can go low and add an ankle holster to your arsenal. Many overlook the ankle holster as being to uncomfortable or difficult to access. However, if paired with the correct small-frame firearm, a quality ankle holster can easily provide both security and ease of access.
    • A third option, which has also lost a bit of its popularity, but not its functionality, is the small-of-the-back holster. Between its location and the canted position, it is not perfect for every situation, but it does provide an excellent option when it comes hiding it under bulky jackets.

Method of Carry

Finally, you can alter how you carry your firearm. Instead of using a standard holster, look for an option that keeps your firearm close at hand but not under your clothing at all. If you are going with one of these options, test it for security prior to hitting the street. You do not want to be the star of the next YouTube “I dropped my gun in public” video.

    • Drop it in a pocket. A firearm can be safely carried in a pocket; there are several models specifically designed to be carried in just such a manner. You will be limited to small-frame models and probably will not be able to include common accessories. A hammerless model works well for this option.
    • Carry it in a bag. Women successfully carry firearms in their purses everyday. This option exists for men as well. Many tactical backpacks, attaché cases, and messenger bags are not only well suited for secure carry of a firearm, they actually include special pockets for doing so.

Tips for Successful Winter Carry

After reading this, you have probably realized that carrying a concealed firearm during colder weather is more than likely going to involve changing your standard method of doing so. Whether it is your clothes, holster, or location, you are probably to change how you carry. Here are some tips for making the transition as seamless as possible.

  • 1. Make sure you are comfortable. If your carry method or location does not feel comfortable, it is unlikely you will carry as often as you should (which is every day, everywhere). Start out by wearing your new holster or clothing around the house, doing routine things. Go on short trips to the store or run quick errands before committing to a full day of carrying at the office or on the town. Do not forget to consider how your new carry method will feel while driving.
  • 2. Practice, practice, practice. Prior to going out in public using your new carry method or equipment, it is important that you practice. Practice accessing the firearm. Practice drawing the firearm. Practice holstering when you are done. Once you are comfortable with the basics, hit the range and start over. Do not forget to practice accessing your spare ammunition and reloading as well.
  • 3. If you have a piece of clothing that you need to sweep out of the way, and it has a pocket near the front, add a small weight to it. Placing a spare magazine, speedloader, keys, or even loose change in the pocket will make it easier to sweep. It also provides greater clearance.

Safety is always first. While there are some methods that may appear easier to perform or provide faster access, do not sacrifice safety. However you choose to carry a concealed firearm, it must be secure—from both accidental loss and intentional grabs—and not put you at risk for unintentional discharge.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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