How to conceal a full size pistol

an unidentifiable person shoots a high power pistol. low depth of field photo so the background in out of focus and focus is on the gun

Those of us who are serious about carrying everyday so we never become a statistic, know how hard it is to conceal a full size pistol. Although a full size pistol wasn’t really designed for concealment, there are times when we want to carry the big boy

But when you do, you feel like you are walking around with an AR15 in your pants. Without a doubt, a full size pistol prints more than smaller ones and because of that, draws more attention to you, or at least you feel that way.

Carrying a full size pistol requires adjustments to both your equipment and wardrobe but done the right way, it is entirely possible to conceal a full size pistol.

I will assume that you have considered all of the reasons why should carry a small pistol. But, I realize there are times when a full size pistol works best.

Why carry a full size pistol?

Hand Fit

For all of those who learned first to shoot using a full size pistol, the smaller compact and pocket pistols just never seem to fit the hand correctly. Your pinky finger kind of just dangles free in the air and much more trigger finger is inside the trigger guard and on the trigger when shooting them.

In pistol shooting competitions, full size pistols are mostly used. Why? Because the shooter can be more accurate due to the longer sight plain and the ability to obtain a better grip.


Because of the lighter weight, these little pocket pistols are like wrestling a small bear. They can be ferocious when firing. Most people think it’s just the opposite that smaller pistols have lower recoil. It’s actually just the opposite.

One factor that reduces recoil is the weight of the pistol. With a given round, a heavier pistol will recoil less.

Mag Capacity

The number of rounds you have available to you is drastically increased with full size pistols. My M&P 9L for instance holds 17 rounds in the mag but my Ruger LCP 280 will only hold 6.

If you are expecting a gun fight with a mass shooter or a platoon of invaders, or a SHTF scenario, you definitely want your full size gun with as many mags as you can carry.

Odds are you won’t find your self in this situation. Most self defense scenarios are over in seconds with only 1 or 2 rounds fired. But for those who want more, I understand wanting to be prepared for anything.

As a solution, not a perfect one, I keep my full size pistol in the car, and carry the smaller pistol. At least if a special situation takes form, hopefully I can get to the car. I carry the smaller pistol with one additional mag as a routine.

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Longer sight plain for better accuracy

One reason that any of us can shoot more accurately with a rifle vs a pistol is because of the longer sight plain. It inherently makes you focus your aim within a smaller area. The same goes for longer pistols.

Why to not carry a full size pistol?

More powerful gun

Many believe that they must carry a Dirty Harry 44, or 357 magnum to have enough “knock down” power in order to effectively defend themselves. Knock down power is somewhat of a misnomer.

These larger heavier bullets do deliver more energy to the target, but to have enough power to knock someone off of their feet, like you see in the movies, that same shot would also knock the shooter off of his feet. This is just simple physics. Ask Albert Einstein. Something about equal and opposite reactions.

The more energy delivered by a bullet the larger the wound channel. The wound channel is enhanced when the bullet expands. The new developments in ammunition make bullets better for self defense because of the improved expansion and penetration qualities they have at pistol velocities. Even for smaller calibers.

Data proves that more important than bullet caliber is shot placement. If it makes you feel better to carry a bigger boom go ahead. Just realize the shot must be in the right place no matter what you carry unless you carry a Barrett 50 cal. Good luck with that.


This is why we have a “concealed” carry permit. It allows us to conceal our weapon. That is literally the name of the game.

I support open carry but most of the time I personally prefer to conceal my weapon. Why? In a true self defense situation, just as in war, the element of surprise is a huge advantage.

Surprise is not the only advantage of no one knowing your are armed. If you are open carrying or your large full size pistol is printing enough to make it obvious, you may be the first one shot by a bad guy who know what he is doing.

During a premeditated attack, you can be hit or struck 4 times per second by an attacker partly because you didn’t know it was coming. Imagine how that will play out if the other guy has a gun and a plan of attack.

Speed of access

As you will see below, to carry a full size pistol requires you to dress around the weapon. It has to be covered with something like clothing or it has to be carried off body.

In either case time to access the weapon and present it when stress is high, will be hindered by clearing whatever is used to cover it. Even pocket carrying a small pistol requires time to access but in a real life situation fractions of a second could mean the difference in living and dying.


Carrying a concealed weapon to use to defend your life and the life other innocents should the need arise has no room for ego.

If you see yourself as Dirty Harry and plan to use force to straighten out all of the weaknesses of our society and laws, you will probably end up in jail. Not that those desires aren’t noble but nobility taken too far sometimes works against good citizens in today’s world.

Know the law in your state and locale and stay level headed enough to follow them.

Some guys just want to carry a full size gun because those little pocket pistols are girl’s guns and I am a bigt macho man. When preparing to defend your life best results are obtained by being smart, not macho.

You will only be effective in a stressful situation by having the element of surprise, being able to access your weapon quickly, and deliver a shot on target over and over until the threat is ended. The question you must answer is, will I be able to do this better with a full size or a smaller carry size pistol.

If, after this discussion, you have definitely decided that you need to carry a full size pistol, then read on. Below are several options for method of carry and the equipment needed to accommodate concealed carrying a full size pistol.

How to conceal a full size pistol

Below the waist jacket

High mount outside the waistband holster that allows adjustment of carry height in relation to the belt. The height adjustment is important so you don’t have any of the holster or firearm showing below the jacket.

This is especially important in states where they do not allow open carry. A firearm that is showing in these states could lead to you being arrested. Wearing an owb holster higher helps prevent this.

Inside the waist band holster at 3 or 4 o’clock. A full size pistol inside the waist band is going to make a pretty large lump in your pants. The below the waist jacket will help cover this. Note that a full size pistol in an iwb holster tends to be pretty uncomfortable.

Possum holster inside outer garment. A possum holster is similar to a belly band holster but the band is narrower and is not quite as hot or binding. The gun is held in a pouch which moves freely. This is not really a holster that you can use without an over garment like a coat or jacket.

Shoulder holster under jacket. This is the old Joe Friday Dragnet type holster. They work well as long as you don’t remove your coat where you don’t want to announce that you are armed.

They are fairly stable but do tend to wear on your shoulders after a while. Using the provided stomach strap makes the holster more stable but shows when the jacket is open.

Carry coat

These carry coats are designed with carry loops for all size pistols and work well as long as you plan to wear your coat all day or spend time without your pistol.The last thing you want is to need your pistol and it is inside you jacket which is hanging on the coat rack in another room.

Untucked shirt

Belly band holster high under a T shirt in summer. Worn at waist level an untucked shirt conceals a full size pistol but if the shirt is not very loose or too tight, you will get printing.

Another draw back is in the summer the wide belly band is hot.OWB or IWB holster at appendix carry position, 3, or 4 o’clock. This is how most people carry full size pistols. As long as the shirt covers it and there is no printing or obvious bulge you are ok. It is hard though to prevent a bulge with a full size pistol.

Tucked shirt

Total concealment urban carry holster with very quick access. In my opinion, if you are going to carry a full size pistol and don’t want anyone knowing that you are armed, which you shouldn’t, this is the best option available.

There is a leather handle that attaches to your belt and looks a lot like a small cell phone or key retain device. The entire pistol is inside your pants encased in soft supple leather that gets better every day it is used.

All it takes to access your weapon is a quick pull up on the handle attached to your belt. The holster and your pistol are pulled above your belt in the appendix area right where it needs to be for a quick draw.

Some people say that this holster prevents a fast draw. My experience is completely opposite of that and I love the fact that there is complete concealment.

Concealed Carry under garments

The shorts can be used as an option in warm weather for men and women. Actually they can be used in both warm and cold weather. The advantage to these over an iwb holster is you are minus the holster. No hard plastic being forced into your skin by a heavy duty belt. These things are also designed to breath so they don’t cause sweating and will accommodate most size pistols.

The shirts are best used with open collared shirts in warm weather that you wear unbuttoned down the front and wear a t shirt underneath. Otherwise to access your pistol quickly you have to unbutton your outer shirt or rip the buttons off which I wouldn’t hesitate to do in a dire situation. You can also feel the firearm underneath your arm and it takes some getting used to.

Concealed carry purse

There is a huge selection of carry purses here on Amazon that all accommodate full size pistols. Although off body carry is not recommended, it is an option to accommodate a full size pistol.

Purse inserts are designed to convert a normal purse with a large pocket into a carry purse. The linked insert will handle all sizes of pistols

Pack Holster

Although off body carry is not optimum due to time to access the pistol and the possibility that your pack may be in the other room when you need your pistol this sling pack is designed to accomodate up to a full size pistol -A durable back pack designed for concealed carry and every day use.


The suggestions are above are mean’t to give you ideas on how to carry a full size pistol along with some of the drawbacks to each option. You will need to make the decision on which option works best for you. Good luck on your choice of equipment and method. Remember, the police are only minute away when seconds count. Happy carrying.