Holsters are arguably one of the most important accessories you can have with a gun, but it may not always be possible to carry with one, for a range of reasons including your situation, environment, and style of dress. Fortunately, there are other ways you can keep your weapon safe while still having it extremely accessible should the need ever arise, including trigger guards and even specialty CCW clothing.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can conceal your weapon safely when traditional methods of carrying are not available.
Why Not Wear a Holster?
Talk to anyone with experience shooting, and one of the first recommendations they will make after buying your firearm is to invest in a good belt and a high-quality holster for conceal carry.
They’re important, so why might you choose to not wear one?
The most obvious reason is if you need to secure a weapon that isn’t yours. Whether you found it on the street during a SHTF event, or are confiscating it from another person, we always want to keep the weapon secured by some means to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands or being lost.
Another reason, that perhaps applies to more of us in our daily lives, is that a holster is not always practical. For deep concealment, a waistband holster will likely not hold up to any real form of search or scrutiny meaning we need to come up with a more practical means of concealment.
We don’t typically recommend going without a holster, but if the need ever arises, it is important to do it correctly to protect yourself and others.
The Wrong Way to Carry
So if you aren’t able to use a holster, the most obvious way to carry a weapon on you is tucked loose in your waistband or pocket.
While this method can work extremely well (bad guys have been doing it forever), but it is not as easy as simply tucking the loaded weapon into your waistband.
The primary limitation of this method is how exposed it leaves the trigger and magazine release, meaning your weapon can either accidentally discharge or be left inoperable when needed.
This method is also incredibly weak when it comes to retention, meaning it is difficult to reliably move with a tucked weapon without the need to constantly readjust the pistol to keep it secure.
Not only that, but in loose clothing it’s near impossible to engage in any sort of active movement without having to put a hand on your gun to maintain it.
If you have to carry in this way, it is one of the few times we recommend carrying without an empty chamber in order to keep your weapon safe, but even without a holster there are many steps you can take to improve your carry.
Guard the Trigger
If the biggest concern when carrying a loose weapon is the exposed trigger, an easy way to solve this is with a trigger guard.
These are extremely affordable Kydex guards that slip over the trigger in order to protect against accidental discharges. This allows your weapon to be placed almost anywhere around your body or in a bag with extreme confidence that it is not going to go off.
While some trigger guards, such as the Vanguard by Raven Concealment come with a belt clip, a much more common approach is to tie the trigger guard off to your belt or somewhere in your bag.
This means that as you pull on your weapon, the trigger guard falls away leaving your weapon instantly ready to use.
There are some disadvantages to this method, as you will typically leave the magazine release exposed and potentially cause your weapon to be non-functional when you need it. Even with this risk, it is my personal favorite way to carry without a holster for several reasons.
Trigger guards allow an incredibly flexible method of carrying, meaning you can stash your weapon almost anywhere on your body. This makes it much easier to strategically position your weapon when undergoing searches, while still remaining reasonably accessible.
While commercial trigger guards are available, it is also possible to quickly improvise your own, such as by wrapping a thick piece of Velcro around the pistol and trigger.
The most important thing to remember when carrying without a holster is to take additional steps to protect your trigger and sealing it off from the outside world with a trigger guard is arguably the most effective method of achieving this.
Make Your Weapon a Holster
Trigger guards work very well to keep your weapon safe but tucking the weapon inside your waistband can still lead to various problems with your draw as the weapon is only held in place by the friction of your clothing.
If you want to take this technique to the next level, one way to achieve this is through installing a belt clip directly to your weapon.
For those looking for a cheaper option, high-strength adhesive clips are available from companies such as ClipDraw, but if you need to leave your holster at home on a regular basis, we recommend investing in a quality mod kit.
Techna produces a very functional belt clip that almost anyone can install on their Glock simply by replacing the slide cover and installing a few screws, although variants of this style are also available for other weapons platforms.
If you choose to go with this method, it is always worth adding Loctite in order to eliminate any play in your clip, but it can be an a very functional way to carry your weapon if going low profile is your top priority.
Wear Your Weapon
If a trigger guard does not sound like the best option for you, an alternative approach that has grown in popularity in recent years is to wear an integrated weapons pocket built into your clothing.
Arguably, the most popular style of these garments can be seen with the 5.11 Tactical CAMS Base-layer, but many similar styles of shirts and even underwear are available on the market for the purpose of CCW.
They’re essentially normal clothing, but with a dedicated elastic pocket to secure your weapon tight against your body and most importantly, protect the trigger.
While commercial options are available, if you truly love this style of carry, it is more than possible to make your own by sewing in a piece of elastic sized to your clothing that is appropriately to your weapon.
This method can work for carrying a concealed weapon, but in my opinion, feels gimmicky. It’s not that it won’t allow you to carry your weapon covertly or into a restricted area, but much like actual shoulder holsters, can severely limit your access to your weapon and therefore draw speed.
A much more practical approach may be to use a belly band holster, which we’ve discussed in-depth, that function through a similar retention means but keep your weapon in a much more accessible location.
Off Body Carry
We’ve looked at off-body carry extensively before, but this can be a very effective way to conceal carry if you do not have access to a holster.
For quick access, CCW bags typically work best when used with some form of integrated holster which will hold your weapon securely in place, but even without a holster, a CCW bag or even fanny pack can be very effective.
These bags work well as the dedicated weapons pocket is typically located in a fairly discrete location, allowing you to successfully conceal your weapon while also being separated from the main compartment.
This separation is extremely important as it keeps your weapon away from your other gear that may either interfere with the trigger resulting in an accidental discharge or slowing down your draw as you need to search through the clutter to reach your actual firearm.
If the option is there, it is normally worth using a holster or trigger guard but can work in a pinch and is far safer than simply tucking the weapon loose in your waistband.
We’ve mainly talked about the situation where you actively choose to ditch a bulky holster in favor of going low profile, but if you find a weapon you want to holster such as during an SHTF scenario, it is more than possible to improvise your own relatively easily.
Countless methods exist online with DIY options for holsters, but my personal favorite method takes inspiration from adjustable holsters, such as from Maxpedition or Hazard 4.
We’ve mentioned this method earlier when discussing trigger guards, but it really is as simple as wrapping and securing a thick piece of material around your slide and trigger.
Velcro works so well in this application because you can adhere the improvised holster to your clothing or bag if retention is a real concern, but even cardboard and duct tape can work in a pinch to secure a found weapon during an emergency.
There aren’t many occasions we recommend going without a properly fitted holster, but if the need arises it is important to keep in mind the potential safety concerns associated with storing a weapon improperly.
Whether you choose to buy a commercial trigger guard or improvise your own carry clothing, your biggest priority should always be protecting the trigger from accidental manipulation.
We hope these techniques will be useful to you and help to keep you safe and armed at all times, but if you are looking to learn more about actual holsters, be sure to check out our overview comparing the 9 most common types of holsters available today.