“I’d like to carry a full-sized gun, but I’m too small.”
“I carry this pocket .380 because I have to keep it concealed.”
Generally speaking, I call BS on all of these types of comments. Yeah, I know, we’re all shaped and sized differently, so it’s impossible to make a universal statement. It’s also wrong to buy into the “universal” myth that if you’re smaller in stature than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson you can’t carry a full-size gun.
The bottom line is that you almost certainly can. Will it be easy? Not necessarily. Will you know you’re carrying a large gun? Of course. It won’t get lost in a pocket as easily as a Ruger LCP. But, as instructor Clint Smith likes to say, “Carrying a pistol should be comforting, not comfortable.” Even that’s not a binary issue, carrying a large gun can be surprisingly comfortable if you do it right.
While we’re going to focus on methods to accomplish this task, I’ll briefly mention that there are many significant benefits to carrying a larger gun.
A larger and heavier gun is much, much easier to shoot accurately while under stress. Try unloading a magazine as fast as you can at a target even just a few yards away using a pocket pistol. Now do the same with a full-size gun. Measure the groups and you’ll see a big difference. Not only is felt recoil less with a large gun, enabling faster follow-up shots, the sight radius is longer, making aiming easier.
No one that’s survived a defensive encounter has been disappointed that they had more ammo in their gun than was required. Face it, this world is getting scary. Even if you don’t believe that terror attacks are headed to a mall near you, evil dudes are getting smarter with their tactics. Many criminal encounters involve more than one perpetrator. Warranted or not, I’ll always feel better with more rounds at my disposal.
No handgun is a magic monster-stopper. Handguns make relatively small holes. That’s it. A larger gun gives you more options that help mitigate the inherent compromise of handgun calibers in general. In a magical world where all sizes, weights, and felt recoil impulses were equal, wouldn’t you rather carry a larger caliber? If capacity and size weren’t issues, I would always choose 9x19mm over .380 ACP and .45 ACP over 9x19mm.
With all that said, let’s consider ways to carry even a large handgun on your belt.
Outside the waistband (OWB) is a really great and comfortable way to carry a large gun, but since we’re focusing on concealed carry, we’ll set that one aside. Yes, I know you can conceal an OWB gun under a shirt or jacket, but for brevity, I’m going to focus on even deeper concealment options.
If you’re carrying inside the waistband (IWB), there are only two “size” issues to consider: grip length and thickness. Assuming you carry in a three to five o’clock position on your waist, you don’t have to worry about barrel length. The barrel will be behind your pants or skirt, and since it’s on the outside of your hip, you don’t have to worry about it getting in the way when you bend or sit down. All you have to hide is the grip. Most of the slide, cylinder, and frame will be hidden behind your pants.
Thickness is the easy one to understand. The fatter the gun, the larger waist size you need in your clothing. For example, If you’re a size 30 waist, you might need size 32 pants to fit a larger gun inside your beltline. Gun width also impacts the potential “bulge” showing through your shirt or other cover garment. Whether you can conceal the thickness bulge doesn’t have much to do with your size. It’s more a function of your cover garment. A larger-fitting cover garment is more effective than a slimmer-cut shirt or jacket. Also, try using fabrics that are “stiffer” as they won’t follow the contour of your gun like a poly polo shirt might. Last, use patterns. A solid color cover garment is more likely to highlight creases and wrinkles caused by the underlying gun.
If you want to keep your clothing trim, consider carrying a thin gun design like a 1911. If you don’t care for .45 ACP, that’s OK, there are plenty of 9x19mm 1911 pistols on the market now. I find that 1911s are some of the easiest guns to carry IWB as they’re so thin compared to other designs. You don’t even need to limit yourself to a 1911. Other guns with single-stack magazines can be equally narrow.
The grip-length challenge is a little less intuitive. Imagine looking at the side profiles of two people, one with a 30-inch waist, and another with a 42-inch waist. If you used giant calipers to measure the “depth” front to back, the skinny one would have a lot less space to hide a protruding gun grip. If the grip sticks out farther than their back, it’s gonna be harder to conceal, especially when that person bends forward.
There are a couple of ways to address this difference in body “thickness.” Try a holster with a more aggressive cant, or forward-leaning angle. As the rear of the gun moves forward while the muzzle moves back, the grip starts to point more upward than backward. As a result, less body thickness is needed to hide it.
Next, experiment with holster type and position. A good holster can encourage your gun to follow the contour of your body. Placing it a position behind your hip bone will direct the handgun grip to follow the curve of your body towards the kidney area rather than sticking out straight backward. I have great success with hybrid designs like the Galco KingTuk. The belt loops are far apart, so they encourage the holster to wrap around your body, pulling the gun in closer. You’ll find other benefits to the hybrid design. The large back panel helps distribute the weight of a larger gun across more of your midsection while protecting your tender parts from gun metal. As they use Kydex gun pockets, they’re also surprisingly thin.
Whatever you do, don’t blindly succumb to the myth that it’s impossible to carry a full-size gun if you’re smaller in stature. Yes, it will be heavier than that pocket .380, but that’s what proper belts and quality holsters are for, to distribute that weight.
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