We all know that we can shoot a full-size pistol better than we can a smaller pistol. There’s more to hang on to, better sights, the trigger is typically easier to manipulate, and the list goes on. It is obvious that full-size pistols should be the gun we carry concealed, but a lot of concealed-carry users think full-size pistols are heavy and harder to conceal. Sure, a typical full-size 1911 in .45 ACP weighs about 40 ounces, or about 2.5 pounds. Add about 5 more ounces for ammunition and that brings the total weight of a typical 1911-style pistol to just under 3 pounds.
Think a polymer pistol of the same caliber is lighter? Not so. Full-size polymer-framed pistols like the Glock 21 SF pack on the weight due to their higher magazine capacities. The 13+1 capacity Glock 21 SF weighs 38.3 ounces loaded, or nearly 2.5 pounds. These pistols are also long and thick, typically about 8 inches long and up to 1.25 inches thick. The trick to carrying and concealing a large semi-auto pistol is the belt and holster. Pairing up a belt and holster will make your concealed-carry gear easier to pack, conceal and ready to perform the moment you need it most.
The first thing you need is a really good belt. I’m not talking about a belt that you picked up at a flea market that has “Bad To The Bone” or “Good Ol’ Boy” stamped on it with a screaming skull belt buckle. Hiking up your drawers to reposition your concealed weapon every few minutes is unacceptable. A good gun belt is a belt that is wide and sturdy. The buckle needs to stay buckled, even if you scramble over a chain-link fence or belly crawl. A holster needs to be accessed in a hurry, so it needs to stay put in a consistent place on your hip. If you pair a holster with a lousy belt, you will have inconsistent draws and probably be fumbling when you should be shooting. A holster should hold the pistol close to your body, allowing the print of the pistol to blend with the lines of clothing and your body type. It should also offer a degree of comfort to avoid chafing skin, protect the weapon from perspiration, and be easy to put on and take off. Here are some holster/belt pairing choices I have used for everyday carry.
Kydex is a thermoplastic that is vacuum-formed around a mold to form a rigid skin that will not stretch or shrink. Holsters made of Kydex have a slick quality that translates into the pistol unholstering fast. The Bravo Concealment Adaptive (BCA) holster is made of .08-inch-thick Kydex. It’s tough stuff, as I purposely stood on the BCA with no ill effects. This is an outside-the-waistband (OWB) option that sits snuggly against that body and is very comfortable. Bravo Concealment will build the BCA to your specifications, so I ordered 1.5-inch belt loops, a 10-degree cant and a medium sweat guard. I carry a Glock 20 Gen4 in mine. That’s approximately 39.5 ounces of loaded, full-size pistol.
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The belt is a Galco 1.5-inch Reinforced Instructors Belt that is made of Type 13 nylon webbing. There is an internal polyurethane insert that reinforces the belt to make it rigid. The buckle is a drop-forged parachute type and uses a hook-and-loop closure. This setup secures the big Glock pistol to my hip like it was epoxied on, and it’s comfortable to wear without any movement. For casual wear, this is a great combination.
The DeSantis Inner Piece holster has long been a go-to IWB holster for 1911s. I like the leather snap loops and the old-school saddle leather. A stabilizer wing built into the back of the holster keeps a 1911 in position. I also like the reinforced mouth so I can reholster a 1911 with one hand. I use a Galco SB3 Dress Belt with the Inner Piece when I dress business casual with khakis or wool slacks. The 1.5-inch-wide Galco looks smart, and since the belt is rigid, it can carry the weight of a 1911 and look ready for the 10:00 a.m. standing meeting.
The BlackPoint Tactical Mini Wing holster is a hybrid inside-the-waistband (IWB) design constructed of Kydex and small leather tabs that connect to the belt loops. The Kydex parts hold snug to a Springfield Armory TRP while the leather tabs (or wings) easily adjust to the belt. These wings are small and thin and are perfectly comfortable. This IWB has a small footprint compared to other IWB holsters so it feels less bulky.
For a belt I use the TUFF EZ-Feed 1.5-inch Ranger belt with Cobra buckle. The TUFF belt is double layered for durability. It uses mil-spec scuba webbing and has a Keeper Retaining System so it secures the heavy TRP to me during whatever I happen to be doing. The belt needs to be adjusted, and that can be slightly complicated if you have never done it before, but once sized to the Mini Wing holster I find it fast to put on for all-day carry. The TUFF Ranger belt is rugged looking and hugs the Springfield Armory TRP and Mini Wing to my torso.
A Sig P226 weighs 34 ounces unloaded, but add 15+1 cartridges and that is considerable weight. The DeSantis Intruder is an IWB hybrid that is made with Kydex and leather. This holster is designed for comfort and uses a wide leather body to distribute weight. This holster is tuckable, meaning the plastic loops allow the wearer to tuck their shirt over the pistol. The DeSantis E25 Econo Belt is 1.5 inches wide and has a rough-textured inner surface that sticks to fabric. When teamed up with the Intruder, they pull the P226 to my body. This is a very comfortable setup, and with the medium sweat guard, it works very well in warm weather conditions.
BlackHawk offers a number of civilian-style casual shirts, including the Lightweight Tactical Shirt, that are good looking and cover your weapon completely. The shirts can be tucked or worn out. I’ve used the button shirts and polo shirts. Beltless options exist, and in a pinch they work.
A system that combines a holster and a concealment garment is the Rivers West Full Metal Jacket. This lightweight fleece has a built-in shoulder harness that connects to a holster. The holster uses a concealed plate so it doesn’t print. There are two hand-warmer pockets, but a unique feature is that the holstered weapon is accessible via a hidden pocket. In fact, you can shoot through the garment with the weapon completely hidden. I’ve worn the Full Metal Jacket this past fall and winter carrying a Glock 17 and no one was the wiser. I’ve been told the slide won’t hang up in the garment, and the way it is constructed I’m inclined to believe them. I like the jacket so much I don’t want to shoot through it.
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The Remora “No Clip” IWB holster does not need a belt. The outer skin of the holster is a rubberized, non-slip material that clings to fabric. I’ve tucked a Glock 21 in the Remora holster and then slipped the rig into my waistband and can attest that the weapon stays put.
Pairing up a sturdy belt with a well-made concealed carry holster is the best method to ensure your concealed carry rig offers you access to your full-size pistol when you need it.
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