Dressed to Carry

Today’s tactical clothing offers useful features without the military look.

Dressed to Carry

Tactical clothing typically comes in black or camo, sports dozens of pockets (mostly for AR-15 magazines) and offers additional loops or webbing to attach tactical gear. Each of those features has its place, of course, provided your customers actually need them and don’t mind looking the part.

For those with tactical clothing needs who are looking for a more subtle look — or, to look as civilian as possible — manufacturers have finally been producing better clothing choices. These garments offer innovative tactical functionality without the tell-tale look. In fact, durable and stylish options are available today, suitable for everything from civilian concealed carry to just about any other shooting sport. Here are a few options and how to sell them.

Undershirts with Built-In Holsters

While variations on this theme have been around for years, early undershirts were 100% cotton with a sewn-in elastic sleeve under one or two arm pits. The fabric choices oftentimes resulted in the shirt sagging, the elastic holster bunching up, and a generally poor carry experience. More modern built-ins took a different tack, featuring stretchy nylon shirt and holster materials. This boosted stability, helping to keep a hidden handgun securely in place — usually directly in the arm pit. These shirts generally form fit to the wearer and depending on size and build, can result in a very tight fit. While that increases stability, it decreases comfort. Also, while the handgun is hidden and covered by the wearer's arm, it also took up space under the arm and could feel bulky over time.  

As this product category evolves, the fabrics again changed: Now they are generally a polyester and cotton blend for comfort and stretch and stability. Instead of the holster being directly in the arm pit, some manufacturers have moved it forward and lower. Worn with the right type of covering garment, the handgun is well hidden and easily accessed. 

Undershirts with built-in holsters generally assume the presence of a covering garment and the need for deep cover over a long period, so the keys to selling these products include knowing how your customers will actually use them and making them aware of factors including comfort, stability of the gun or gear carried, and ease of access to it. Additionally, if a customer plans to wear the shirt regularly, remind them of the hardships of daily use and encourage them to buy more than one.


Underwear with Built-In Holsters

Similar to undershirts, underwear with built-in holsters provide a good reason to sell in multiples as opposed to just one. While a few versions of this type of holster exist, they may seem largely to be a solution in search of a problem, unless the wearer is insistent on beach wear or other garments that don’t require use of a belt and thus don’t call for a more traditional belt/holster rig. 

Offering a variation on inside the waistband holstering of a handgun, primarily for concealment, underwear with built-in holsters usually includes a sewn-in stretchy holster or two. Sometimes a stretchy retention strap is included. Generally the fabric of this kind of underwear is thick and robust — meant to provide overall support for holding a handgun in place. As such, underwear like this provides more warmth but less breathability, which can be a difficult mix especially when the wearer is operating in warmer climates. 

The covering garments here are loose-fitting pants or shorts. As you understand a customer’s interest, be sure to point out how a traditional belt/holster would not be needed but also how more than one pair probably would.

Button Shirt

It’s difficult to imagine a more innocuous piece of clothing than a basic button shirt. Worn buttoned and tucked in, it can hide a handgun concealed in an undershirt or in underwear with built-in holsters. Worn unbuttoned and untucked, it can also hide a handgun carried in a traditional holster near the waist. The latter is not only more informal but also typical, offering concealability that manufacturers have improved on over time.  

In traditional button shirts, the shirt tails are longer in the front and back and shorter on the sides. In some shirts designed for concealed carry, the shirt tails are more even lengths all around and often cut longer. This seemingly simple design change allows for not only a neater look but also more functional operation. More importantly, a longer cut all the way around allows for more clothing to drape over a concealed handgun carried inside the waistband. Less importantly, a more even cut all the way around (even though there may be some variation) allows a user to go through the drawing motion knowing that he or she will have to clear the same amount of fabric no matter where they grasp with their weak hand or thumb away with their strong hand. 

In addition to the longer and more even shirt tails, tactically minded shirts often come with more thoughtfully designed pockets. Chest pockets may not only include a traditional flap and button but also a second set of pockets behind the flap pockets. This second set of pockets may sport a vertical access slot with a hook and loop or zipper closure, offering a place for additional gear. Finally, tactically minded shirts are often made from more robust materials that may shed water or rain easier, stretch with movement and better hide a concealed weapon. 

When selling tactical shirts, keeping their versatility in mind is key. Make sure your customers understand they’re not just buying a shirt with a lot of tacti-cool features, they’re also buying a high-quality shirt that actually looks good and wears well.


Tactical Pants

Some tactical pants offer built-in concealment holsters. One variant places a gun under the pant fabric in a special neoprene holster on the inner part of the thigh where it is accessed by placing a hand in the pocket, grasping the stocks, and then pushing the back of hand (now holding the gun) out and away from the thigh. This effectively releases a snap which opens the pocket up wider, allowing a hand (around a gun) to exit and be presented. Another variant places a gun in a special holster carried under the pant fabric on the outside of the thigh. Access comes via unzipping a small, hidden zipper so that the wearer can reach inside and draw. Other tactical pants offer sewn-in inside the waistband style holstering with an elastic patch holding the gun at the ready.  

These are all interesting choices and it’s up to the users to determine their value. The best features of tactical pants, however — and the ones you should sell them on — are not their ability to creatively hold/hide a handgun but to hold/hide all the other accoutrements of concealed carry and self defense — items such as a reload, folding knife, flashlight, etc. That means not only additional pockets but also well-designed pockets. Cargo pants take this to a functional extreme. They have their place but there are better options. Modern tactical pants have extra pockets, sometimes hidden, in which to store items such as spare magazines and tactical flashlights. They may feature pockets with reinforced mouths to withstand the wear of a folding knife’s pocket clip. They may also offer a subtle loop or ring for a key chain or to serve as some other attachment point for a tool. Additionally modern tactical pants may be made out of a stretchy but durable fabric that resists tearing and sheds water but still looks professional. 



Jeans or other denim-style pants are an obvious part of our modern clothing culture and, thankfully, some manufacturers of tactical clothing have added several options to make them even more functional. Similar to the tactical pants mentioned above, they can come with an array of pockets and other features to make tactical and shooting sports and concealed carry easier. But the most helpful improvement is the simple fact that customers can get pants that are both stylish and functional. 

When selling tactical pants or jeans, be sure to point out the comfort these afford due to their stretchability. It’s not only comfortable all around, but more accommodating of gear carried inside the waistband.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.