Some of us believe that brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tarts contain all four food groups. Some of us work out by watching American Ninja Warrior on TV. And some of us are just born this way.

Yes, I’m talking about us guys that are on the larger side of large. Or portly. Or maybe just big-boned. However you define it, size and shape have a big impact on concealed carry. Sometimes, size is better, as there is more room to carry a concealed gun. Sometimes, size is a drawback, but that’s usually when volume and shape create unusual combinations, like beer bellies. Whatever the situation, we thought it might be helpful to explore some options and things to consider about how to best carry a gun concealed if you’re super-sized.

Oh, and ladies, we’re not ignoring you here. While this is mainly aimed at men, because I can make fun of my own gender, there might be some tips you can take advantage of, too. But, for the most part, we’ll talk about men’s concealed carry here. Having a different set of parts and an incompatible dress code, I’m just not qualified to go into the nuances of female-specific concealed carry methods. We’ll get into that in a future article, preferably one written by a knowledgeable member of Team X Chromosome!

So with that said, here are a few thoughts about concealed carry, for those of us who are, umm, big-boned.

Fishing shirts!

It seems like fishing shirts are all the rage these days. You know, those Columbia and Simms ones with all the neat pockets and nylon loops. Apparently you’re supposed to hang hooks, lures, and shark boom sticks on them. For me, they make great CCW cover garments. They’re fluffy and baggy by design and are natural to wear untucked. Better yet, whether long sleeve or short, they’re lightweight and cool on hot days. You can actually wear and outside-the-waistband (OWB) or inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters in the summer heat with this type of cover. I love them.

A beer belly can work to your benefit!

Some carry methods actually work better if you have a bit of an overhang. The SmartCarry system is a gun pouch that hangs in front of your man parts. It’s secured by a belt with a Velcro attachment. You wear the whole mess under your clothes, so it’s completely contained inside of your pants. The lower you wear it, the better, as that position allows you to sit down without interference from the gun.

This method has never worked very well for me, but thousands of people, men and women both, swear by it. The key is to wear pants loose enough in the front area to allow room. From my casual observation, many of the people who like this method have a bit of a beer belly. That makes sense, as the “overhang” tends to imply that there is some room in the pants area. With this carry method, the muzzle is positioned below anything important, and aimed at the ground between your toes, but be sure to exercise extreme caution holstering and unholstering.

If you can’t see your shoelaces…

While I only prefer ankle carry for a second gun, or as a rare option for particular situations, lots of folks rely on it as their primary mode of gun transport. However, there’s one thing for those of us on the heftier side to consider. If you can’t easily see your shoelaces, or if you get just a little winded when putting on your shoes, then ankle carry may not be your best choice. While it’s comfortable and convenient, fast access under stress is the key. Newton’s 9th Law of Body Physics states that speed of draw from an ankle position is directly proportional to waist size. If you can’t easily see it, you can’t easily reach it.

Depth rules!

A smaller gun, like this Walther PPK/S, virtually disappears when you've got some depth to work with.
A smaller gun, like this Walther PPK/S, virtually disappears when you’ve got some depth to work with.

By “depth” I mean the measurement from your bellybutton to the back side of your kidneys. For belt carry (IWB or OWB), the biggest challenge is the grip of your gun. Even when tucked in close to your body, it’s gonna want to protrude, especially when you bend forward. If your front-to-back depth resembles that of a lean marathon runner, you just don’t have as much room to work with. If your “depth” measurement approaches sumo wrestler proportions, you can tuck away a Desert Eagle and the butt of the grip still won’t stick out the back.

Appendix carry

Most people assume that appendix carry is only suitable for skinny, athletic guys. But I’ve seen it work for people like me that carry a few extra pounds around the waist. The secret is taking a little liberty with the location of your appendix.

If you’ve got a bit of a belly, then you don’t generally want your appendix to be well to the front, like the one o’clock position. Keeping a gun there will remind you of its presence every single time you bend forward or sit. However, pretending that your appendix is really at a two or two-thirty position can make all the difference in the world. You might find that the grip of your pistol or revolver tends to be enough to the side to naturally slide right past the gut parts as you bend forward. It might be worth a try for you.

Being one that’s on the heavier side of the 200-pound line on the scale, I’ve always found concealed carry, even with larger guns, fairly easy. It’s not necessarily comfortable, but easy in terms of concealment options. Simply put, when you have more body, there’s more surface area to hide a gun. Consider some of these methods, always paying careful attention to safety and muzzle discipline with whatever method you choose. If you’ve found your own successful methods for portly carry, I’d love to hear about them!

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

Images by Tom McHale

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17 thoughts on “The Big Man’s Guide to Concealed Carry

  1. Bulldog “cell phone” case holster. Carries your 380 or other small pistol horizontal, slide down, butt up, muzzle back. I have carried my P3-AT in the black vinyl model for nearly two years daily. I usually just use the belt loop but sometimes also use the metal waistband/belt clip depending on how likely the pants of the day are to slide down. I am the founder and President For Life of BOBUM — the Brotherhood of Buttless Men. I have no keister, just a divided lower back. Family Trait.
    I gave the pack cloth Bulldog model to two relatives when I got mine and they love them. The flap is held down with two magnet “snaps” that hold on like a, err, uh Bulldog but let go when you want them to. I have never had a question asked or a funny look. You can open the flap and press up on the bottom of the slide on the draw stroke and retrieve your Little Blue Friend with ease. Invest in a good belt and practice sitting down in the car and in dining room chairs with arms. I also carry my spare mag in a pocket knife pouch on the opposite side of the belt. Regards to Successfully Built Men everywhere.

    1. I use a Miami Vice shoulder holster with a fishing shirt that has snaps for quick opening. I carry a Springfield XD- 40 full size with two spare magazines. Most people don’t know I am carrying. When I wear a suit I put on a Tee shirt then my dress shirt and tie, followed by a suit jacket. Again most people don’t know I carry. OregonianKid

  2. I tried Appendix and it was not comfortable, the IWB at 5 o’clock was OK… but the way I carry my Springfield XD Mod.2 ( ) Pocket carry. Yeah it sounds like it would be too big but with the large pockets on the 5.11 and some of the big pants and shorts it easily fits with the standard mag. I wear my shirts untucked and it covers the pocket. I can put my full meat hooks on the grip and slightly break retention when I have situational indicators of needing to draw it.

  3. As a “2XLT” sized guy, I found Columbia hiking/fishing shirts about 5-6 years ago and they are FANTASTIC for everyday wear and as pointed out, they look good tucked in or left out. I carry a Glock 26 (Gen 4) in a Comp-Tac Minotaur IWB (4-5 o’clock position) and nobody (including my wife) can tell that I’m carrying. It does not print and is easy to draw & re-holster. I frequently use this set-up for weekly IDPA competitions and I have no problem with it.

  4. When I first got into concealed carry, I was surprised that there weren’t places that had “fitting rooms” where they would be helpful getting you setup that worked. None to be found. I wondered for a while trying to find the right holster, by look, that was going to work.

    I finally decided on a crossbreed for my Kimber Master Cary. I do the 5 o’clock IWB deal and it really seems to work well for me. I replaced my t-shirts that I normally wear to the tall version and I am good to go.

  5. All my life I’ve tried to stay in shape; 6-ft, 185, etc. For me carrying at 4:00 o’clock is the easiest and fastest, either IWB, or OWB, depending on circumstances, cover-garment, etc. Long driving-days make 9:00 o’clock handy. A really good shoulder-holster, with a carrier for extra magazines to balance, can be the best way with an inconspicuous cover-garment. I’ve tried just about every form of belt-case that’s not supposed to look like a gun-container. All cops know what you have, and a growing number of “Perps” do too, so be careful. Appendix carry makes me extremely uncomfortable for several reasons. (Remember safety-rule 2, “Never point the weapon at anything you don’t want to destroy.” Those are my jewels down there!)

  6. It is UNSAFE to carry in an elastic bands if you are carrying an automatic without manual safety. DAO guns that most people want and carry require a trigger guard between the gun and the corner of your office chair. If you sit down and catch the trigger…I have done this…you will get a surprise.

    An option to consider is the Executive Duty Deep Cover Holster that comes with a trigger guard.

  7. As a 6’2” gentleman in the mid 300# range, I enjoyed this article. I am glad others are giving some serious thought to ccw for the belly endowed man. When I began carrying, I gave a lot of thought to the subject, even making homemade rigs and tentatively planning to start a company devoted to firearm retention for portly individuals. I figured there were plenty of fat guys that carried, and we were all in the same boat. My interest waned, unfortunately, when I found the following combination successful. I wear an iwb holster on a good gun belt with suspenders under my shirt. I wear an undershirt with suspenders over the undershirt and an untucked cover shirt. The gun rides around 3 o’clock with a slight forward cant. The grip of any gun is obscured by my love handle. The cover shirt can be anything from a simple T-shirt to a button up camp shirt to a golf shirt. It works. There’s no printing. Most importantly, I don’t need to constantly pull up my pants on my strong side because a 2# piece of metal keeps defeating my belt on my pear shaped midsection or cinch my belt so tight that sitting down might suffocate me. The drawbacks are chairs with armrests and guns with ambidextrous magazine releases. More than once, I’ve partially ejected the mag from my Springfield xdm inadvertantly. When I wear pants that don’t accommodate a belt, then I still wear the suspenders and carry the gun in a good pocket holster. Big man equals big pockets. Anyhow, I hope my story makes another big guy’s carry experience a little more comfortable. Carry safe. Shoot straight.

  8. A 320# jeans and T-shirt guy I start with a muscle T -shirt to keep the metal of the slide off my skin ( LCP) – Stoner OWB holster with a 5xl T shirt untucked. Normally I wear 3 XL size.

  9. I carry everything from an LCP, to a Sig Sauer P938, to a Ruger SR1911 Commander Lite, to a Sig Sauer 1911 Ultra Compact, to a Ruger LCR .357, to a Ruger LC9S, to a Walther PP. I have IWB holsters from Crossbreed, Aliengear, and Old Faithful, ankle holsters and fanny packs, and I have off body carry Maxpedition Jumbo Versapaks. Of all the possible combinations of guns and holsters, the IWB hybrids work the best for me at about the 1630 to 1700 position. The best thing I’ve done for myself as far as this setup goes is to invest in the Ulticlips for the IWB holsters. These actually make the holster stay with the pants no matter what, instead of sliding off of the belt when nature calls. Dark colored golf shirts or tall t-shirts that fit or are a little big work best for concealment and can be easily tucked around any of the hybrids. When riding a motorcycle I use an Active Pro Gear Jogging holster that puts the gun against my chest and the shoulder straps distribute the weight across both shoulders. It also has a front pocket for your wallet and extra mags.

  10. I prefer the Secret Pete and similar pockets. Outside, but concealed. Easy to access. Comfortable. I’ve worn mine for 6 mo everywhere and only 1 person has asked about the pouch, and he already knew what it was.

  11. My favorite and most used method of carry is OWB, about 2 to 3 o’clock. I use a pancake style holster that holds my Shield or 9c close to me. I cover it with a tail out shirt. My shirt is a size larger which provides good cover, is way comfy, and does not look out of place. I try to get straight tail shirts, as they are designed more for untucked wear, but the other works good also. I also get a tall shirt. This give me more vertical cover and reduces the chance of accidental exposure. It also provides enough tail so your shirt does not come out if it is tucked in. My alternate carry is a Kahr P380 in my pocket. This is for places like Dr. visits and other situations where OWB is not practical or being outed is a possibility. I am very comfortable going in places that have the criminal welcome signs.

  12. Let me start my saying that I am a big guy. At 6’4” and 300 lbs I have all the real estate needed to conceal just about any practical gun. Working as a holster maker has given me the opportunity to acquire the box o’ holsters at breakneck speed. Subtle changes to the geometry of the holster can completely change the feel and comfort level for us big guys. Especially when your front side is bigger than your back side AKA flat butt syndrome.

  13. Great article!! I’m pretty big and belt carry is uncomfortable most of the time. Nowadays I have an EDC cross shoulder bag, like a small messenger type with Velcro inserts for all my gear. I can draw pretty quick and it keeps me from having to worry about my wardrobe issues for concealment. If I know I’m gonna be in a jacket all day or night, I put on a shoulder rig. By the way, my carry is a Beretta 96 Vertec .40…certainly not a compact. Carry on!!

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