The Concealed Carry Shirt: Buyer Beware
As I’m sure many of us have heard of the “concealed carry” or “tactical” shirt, what really struck me as being off was that they seem to be getting a lot of good reviews online. Naturally this made me curious.
About five weeks ago, I decided to pop into the bloated corpse of my local ‘Gouger’ Mountain to see if anything was worth snagging. As I quickly glossed over the sea of L, XL, and 2XL targeted towards their usual customers I stumbled on the holster shirt from 5.11 Tactical for about 50 bucks. With a price lower than Amazon, I figured it was worth the price to give it an honest review.
As it is in good fashion to begin with the positives in any review, we will start with the few things they got right. The first thing that comes to mind is that these shirts have an athletic cut that really fits snug to the body and leaves no wrinkling. While that can make it tricky to get off, it also makes for a more comfortable fit.
You can also fit a full-sized handgun into the shirt (not that you should). Other than that, you could throw a wallet, some cash, or your phone in there and it would work well enough as an extra pocket. That is, if you’re really up to wearing this shirt just for such miscellaneous usage.
However, this really is all there is to the upsides of this shirt. It does not really impress me and the above sums up every “positive” or “5-Star” review on the 5.11 web page and Amazon.
Here’s where we dive into the bad, and how I think it could be improved.
Immediately, I’d call into question their design choice of using velcro to lock the holster.
This may allow for quick access, but at the cost of poor retention. Such retention issues came up any time we tested the shirt with a handgun that has a metal frame or receiver. If you so much as lean forward even a little bit, the velcro would come open and you could feel the grip of the gun slide out. When this happens and you’re a skeletal manlet like I am, you print, and it looks like you grew a single lopsided boob, as you can see above. This issue could easily be resolved by using covered buttons in place of the velcro tabs.
The next issue is the collar design. It is very odd to see that they chose somewhat of a turtleneck for this shirt. This design choice lends itself to making the user look unflattering should they choose to wear any normal t-shirt over top. It may lend itself well to regular collar and polo shirts better, if you spend your time around the fashion illiterate. Should they have gone with a traditional crew neck the shirt might have been able to go under a standard t-shirt or Henley without its collar showing, since some people are adverse to v-necks.
Not to be content with simply ripping on the shirt, I decided I needed to take this further and see how guns besides the six handguns I own work with it. I asked Niodox if he’d mind me testing the shirt with a few of the handguns in his collection in addition to those in mine, and he was happy to help.
The first thing we tried was his P38 and it did okay given the circumstances although it still felt like I was printing.
As you can see, a single stack, full-size handgun will still give a noticeable bulge. This is despite the narrow barrel, but hey, at least you can do the one-handed Wehrmacht stance after you draw (he wrote while posing like a character out of FNV).
We also tried pocket guns like the Jennings in addition to my Sterling, and the results left much to be desired. Sure you could easily hide these kinds of pistols anywhere on your person, but when using the shirt you really had to reach far to get to them. The overall result was that using this shirt is incredibly impractical for these guns.
Afterwards we tried to hide a 26.5mm flare gun in there because why not? Do you not have a flare gun?
Hey.. You can’t say we didn’t try to conceal it, but you can only do so much with such a large piece. Besides, if you’re crazy enough to use a flare gun as your daily carry I doubt you care much about concealment anyways. Just be sure to take pics and be sure to wear a go pro. Though since we’re on crazy, who still carries a Makarov anyway?
Finally, we tried a Kahr Arms subcompact, and I can finally say, that we have a winner.. If you are going to use or consider this shirt, please for the love of God, plan to use a compact, single-stack gun with a polymer frame. Any other style of handgun simply will not work. We’ve tried, and the single stacks performed a whole world better than the double stacks, and compacts better than the full and subcompacts. It’s like the Goldilocks of gun sizes. Look below if you don’t trust me. You’ll see the bulge owo.
I know I’ve probably upset a few people, but the shirt isn’t the greatest. Maybe you guys will point out that it’s because I’m a hungry skeleton. Maybe that’s the case, but I don’t really have trouble with pocket carry or holsters. To make this shirt work 5.11 would need to redesign it to allow the user to wear more than just untucked polos and collared shirts over top. I also would question the use of velcro but this is more likely up to people’s personal preferences as I have no issue using the button-secured Makarov pockets on East German field jackets. If you need a way to conceal a firearm, there are better options out there than this 5.11 shirt.