So you’ve got your concealed carry license, your holster, and your gun. Now all you need, is the right pants for the job. But, what’s the considerations should you make when choosing pants for concealed carry? When choosing pants for concealed carry, you’ll need to go up in size. For those carrying an IWB holster, you may need to increase the waistline fitting of your pants by 2 inches or more. Avoid using any pants with a drawstring or held up solely through an elastic waistband when wearing your holster. Pants with belt loops are preferred, as a belt adds rigidity to the waistline when carrying concealed. Finally, avoid excessively tight pants in the waist or upper thigh.
Whether you’re wearing a belly band low on your waist, or a different style of IWB holster, you need to account for the holster width in your pant size. Typically, IWB holsters will add 1/2-1 inch into the waist measurement of your pants. If the holster consists of a molded plastic or polymer with a rigid shape, chances are it will be closer to the one inch mark.
However, belly bands and other soft pliable holsters won’t take up as much space. Nevertheless, the width of your firearm is the biggest determining factor in how much additional room you’ll need in the waist.
If you carry an automatic, then you’ll need to check out the width of your slide to calculate the added space. Generally, this is the widest point of the gun that will actually be below the waistline on your pants. For those opting to carry a revolver, depending on the type and how low the weapon is seated below the waist, you may need to add additional room.
Adding 2 inches (or one size larger) onto the waist of your normal fit pants is generally enough space to allow for an IWB holster. The inseam measurement for your pants should not be affected.
Pant Styles For Concealed Carry
If you’re planning to carry a gun on your hip, appendix, or anywhere else on your waist line, you should avoid wearing any pants with a drawstring. Drawstrings are a poor method of retention when carrying a concealed pistol. They are flimsy, and prone to snapping.
Pants held up solely by elastic are not a good choice for concealed carry. The elastic tends to sag, and you have no way of assisting with the added weight of a gun, such as a belt. However, with a small firearm, I have known women to wear yoga pants while carrying.
Although, with elastic waist pants you will need to account for printing by selecting the right shirt to accompany and ensure the elastic band is not slender. I recommend at least a 3 inch tall (top to bottom) elastic band for concealed carry.
Avoid any fitment that is too tight around the upper thigh area. Any style of pant with “slim” or “skinny” in the title is likely not good for concealed carry. Excessively tight pants are prone to printing, and are not very comfortable when carrying concealed.
Stick to relaxed or athletic fit jeans and pants when carrying a pistol using an IWB holster. If you’re able to find pants with a flexible waistline, I highly recommend them for carrying your pistol inside the waistband. Our weight fluctuates, and some flex at the waist can help alleviate some pressure around the mid-section following meal time.
Concealed Carry With Traditional Holster
Should you opt to use a more traditional holster that sits outside the waistband, then your current pants may be sufficient. However, if they are already snug, you may need to add an inch to the waist measurement. This will allow clearance for the clips or other holster parts that hang over the waistband.
Similar to the IWB method of concealed carry, you’ll want to avoid drawstrings and elastic waistbands. Pants with belt loops are ideal as they allow you to add a sturdy method of holster retention, that is not likely to sag.
When carrying with a traditional holster, you’ll want to have some kind of outerwear, like a jacket to help conceal your gun. At a minimum, a shirt that extends 4-5 inches below the waistline should be worn to cover the holster.
Pants With Built In Holster
I’m not a big fan of the “built in” holster on pants. The “holster” is little more than a glorified pocket. While it does offer some features that allow easy access to your firearm, it is not worth the risk. I cover this topic more in this article. If you opt to give these pants a try, make sure there is adequate space and some form of cushioning to avoid printing when carrying concealed.
Choosing The Right Belt For Your Pants
I noted earlier, that you should strive to find pants with belt loops when carrying a pistol at your hip. A belt is vital to prevent the waist of your pants from sagging. Belts should be of high quality leather, or other durable material that won’t stretch out or disintegrate after repeated use. Should you fall between sizes, a belt will help keep your pants from falling by tightening up any excess space you have allotted for your holster.
Having a belt with a sturdy buckle or retention system is also of paramount importance. Your concealed carry belt should be at least 1/8″ thick. Additionally, the belt should be 1.5″ wide, which is more or less industry standard. Having your belt loops closer together means the fit will be truer to your needs, but requires a more accurate length measurement. Once you’ve selected your pants, measure your waist with the holster in place to find the appropriate belt length.
Carrying An Extra Magazine Concealed
While some concealed carry holsters have a spot for an extra magazine, many only accommodate your pistol. Some apparel including pants, and the 5.11 tactical shirt have pockets specifically designed for concealing a spare magazine. Additionally, many shoulder holsters have a mag pouch on the non-dominant side.
However, you’ll need to build in an extra 1-1.5″ into your pant waist if you plan to carry an IWB mag pouch. If you are going to be carrying your magazine holster OWB then it is even more important to select a quality belt. The weight of a fully loaded magazine and pistol can weigh down the waistline significantly.
Choosing the right pants is a big part of the successful experience of concealed carry. Finding the right setup may take time, you may go through several different pants, holsters, and belts before you find your preferred setup. Once you do, it’s worth investing in at least one other set of each item. Do you have another method for determining the proper sizing and fitment for your concealed carry pants? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.