One of the challenges facing many people who decide to carry concealed daily is modifying or adapting their wardrobe to facilitate carrying concealed. Some choose holsters that will work with their normal wardrobe. Others elect to carry in non-traditional ways using belly-bends, ankle holsters or even a pocket holster.
One option that appeals to many people is a concealed carry vest. Vests offer an interesting mix of possibilities for concealed carry that can be easily adapted. Many manufacturers of outdoor clothing are now offering vests in different designs, specifically created for concealed carry. Before rushing out and purchasing a concealed carry vest, there are some things to consider. This complete guide to concealed carry vests should help you make a good decision if a concealed carry vest is in your future.
Tactical or Casual
The very first consideration before shopping for a concealed carry vest is which style do you prefer. Typically, concealed carry vest designs fall into two categories. Most vest designs target those involved in tactical operations, but there has recently been a huge increase in the number of concealed carry vests designed for casual wear entering the market. They can be divided up into two main categories – tactical and casual vests.
Tactical vests have a wide range of styles and designs. Usually, tactical vests are not what we would consider a truly concealed carry vest. For the most part, these tactical vests are heavy with exterior pockets, utility loops, and gear attachment points. Wearing a tactical vest to the park is probably not considered a discrete method of carrying a gun.
I see lots of tactical vests on the pistol side of the range where I shoot regularly. While practical and functional, they don’t help you fly under the radar.
Casual vests are more focused on being discreet, while still functional. They should generally look more subdued and not reveal that you may be carrying concealed. With that in mind, let’s think about what to consider when choosing a concealed carry vest.
Contemplate the Options
Several considerations should play into choosing a concealed carry vest.
- What material is best suited for your needs?
- What style fits your lifestyle best?
- How do you want to carry? Underarm? Cross Draw? Outside pocket? Inside Pocket?
- What else do you want to carry?
Materials and Weights
Concealed carry vests come in almost every material imaginable. The material you choose for your vest is as much personal taste as it is functional. You should ask yourself several questions before you start choosing the material and the weight of the vest.
Material is easy to understand. You may prefer a leather vest or something a bit more laid back, such as a cotton/polyester blend fabric. What may not be so easy to understand is the weight consideration. Weight speaks to the thickness and breathability of the fabric and may be a bigger issue than the actual material.
If you live in Southern Arizona, a fleece-lined biker style leather concealed carry vest may not be a good choice, given Arizona’s climate. Leather doesn’t breathe well, and a fleece lining certainly isn’t too comfortable in 100-degree heat.
This is, of course, an extreme example to point out why considering the material and weight of the vest is important. If a concealed carry vest is going to be a part of your everyday wardrobe, it must fit the conditions in which it is worn and function comfortably for the wearer.
What is your lifestyle? Are you an active outdoor person who hikes, camps, and skis? Or are you more of an urban-type? Are you more apt to be seen at the art gallery, the local garden club, or attending a lecture? Your lifestyle is a big part of determining which style of vest works best for you.
Styles of concealed carry vests run the gamut from those that are at home in the backcountry to styles that can function under a sports coat as an accessory item and not cause a second glance. Picking the right vest for the right time is important to making the concealed carry concept work for you.
How Do You Want to Carry?
You can find concealed carry vests in almost any configuration of concealment that you can imagine. Many manufacturers are now making vests with multiple holsters and concealment methods built into one vest. This versatility offers the best value and allows you to decide which method of carrying works best for you.
What Else Do You Want to Carry?
Most of us don’t just carry a concealed gun. Think about what else you have added to your everyday carry since you started carrying concealed. Just a few of the things that I see when comparing everyday carry items with others are:
- A tourniquet
- First Aid Kit (Trauma Kit)
- Extra magazine (or two)
I don’t know which, if any, of those things you carry or what else you might add to the list, but a concealed carry vest can be an advantage if you do carry extra cargo. Most concealed carry vests have both interior and exterior pockets that allow the easy and comfortable carry of many other items.
Our Top Picks
There are a few outstanding and notable manufacturers and models of concealed carry vests in the marketplace today. A complete guide to concealed carry vests would not be complete without mentioning at least a few of these choices.
Best Leather Concealed Carry Vest – First Manufacturing Men’s Buffalo Nickel Vest
The First Manufacturing Men’s Buffalo Nickel vest is a casual, everyday wear vest. This vest is stylishly cut and wearable with a sports coat for a less casual look.
As a concealed carry vest, the Buffalo Nickel vest has two inside pockets made of a special nylon material. These inside pockets feature snap closures and a built-in holster. Two pockets offer you the choice of right or left-hand carry – or if you are feeling adventurous, carry dual!
Two outside pockets offer additional space for other everyday carry items. By the way, the vest gets its name from the four buffalo head nickels that snap onto the front of the vest.
Best Fabric Concealed Carry Vest – Cinch Men’s Concealed Carry Vest
If you have a western bent to your wardrobe, the line of concealed carry vests manufactured by Cinch should be on your list. Cinch offers a whole lineup of concealed carry vests and jackets in a wide range of styles, weights, and colors.
The Cinch concealed carry clothing gets consistently high ratings from consumers who have purchased their products. The predominant complaint was that the sizing on the Cinch vests was consistently smaller than advertised.
The Black Bonded Concealed Carry Vest from Cinch is a wind and water-resistant material with a lightweight fleece bonded to the inside. The material makes this model of Cinch vest an almost year-round piece of apparel in all but the most extreme heat zones.
Dual interior side pockets allow for right or left-hand shooters and include a Velcro-backed holster. Two exterior slit pockets allow some everyday carry items as well.
Best Vest at Concealed Carry – Wrangler RIGGS Foreman Vest
If you are interested in the least conspicuous vest for concealed carry and you routinely wear a vest to work, then the Wrangler Riggs Workwear Men’s Foreman Vest is the choice in our opinion.
Now, this is not strictly a concealed carry vest. Wrangler did not design this vest for concealed carry and didn’t really advertise it as such. However, it does have a single inside pocket on the left side that, if fitted with a pocket holster, keeps your concealed gun safe and secure.
The left-hand only pocket is a drawback, but this is truly a working man’s vest. It is warm and comfortable, built of tough and durable fabric that is at home on a construction site or in an office. Add to this the fact that the material is machine washable and this vest becomes an everyday wear part of your wardrobe.
This vest just doesn’t look like a concealed carry vest. It isn’t the most versatile for concealing your gun, but it won’t give you away accidentally. That gets the Wrangler RIGGS vest a thumbs-up as the best vest at concealed carry.
Best Utility Vest for Concealed Carry – Gihuo Men’s Casual Vest
You won’t be wearing this vest under your sports coat to go out for the evening. On the other hand, the Gihuo men’s casual vest is an excellent compromise between a true tactical vest and a more casual concealed carry vest.
The Gihuo men’s casual vest does have a plethora of external pockets. In fact, there are 12 exterior pockets and four interior pockets. Still, the design and materials of the Gihuo vest doesn’t shout tactical at all. It looks more like a fisherman’s vest or a photographer’s vest than a tactical shooter vest.
The interior pockets are zippered shut making them ultra-secure for concealed carry, though you will need to add a pocket holster to whichever side you carry. That leaves 15 other pockets for you to fill with whatever everyday carry gear you deem necessary.
Denim is the only material choice, but it does come in 10 different colors. All the zippers and other hardware are metal for extra durability. The denim may be a bit much in extremely hot climates.
A Word About Everyday Carry
We have mentioned that you should carry a few extras to round out your concealed carry lineup. If you are carrying concealed regularly, it is in your best interest to add a few more things to your pockets on a routine basis. We suggest you carry the following items as well:
- A combat application tourniquet
- A small, tactical trauma kit
Also, you should train regularly with both items. We heartily suggest that part of your training regimen be some instructional time in emergency medical techniques, especially the application and use of a tourniquet in emergency conditions. Beginners first aid is also a recommendation.
A concealed carry vest is a fantastic way to have the comfort of safety without sacrificing style. If a vest fits your lifestyle, then add one to your wardrobe and wear it when appropriate. If you have never worn vests, consider giving one a try. They are a great way to conceal your weapon, while still being comfortable. For more getting started tips, check out our guide to everything concealed carry – it’s a great primer for beginners and experts alike!