Thursday, February 27, 2014

Concealed Carry: Dressing to the Gun

In today's society, it's best to carry a weapon any and everywhere you go (that the law allows of course).  Protecting you and your family should be your highest priority.  The weapon I am going to focus on here is the handgun.  Pistols come in various sizes, but mostly the same shape.  We won't get into handgun selection here as I've already covered that in a prior blog.

As the title of the blog states, we will talk about dressing to the gun.  I could write a book on this topic and give hundreds of examples, but this will be a general overview.  Carrying concealed doesn't mean you have to dress like you're in a 5.11 catalog, you can wear almost whatever you want as long as you're smart about it.  There are several factors to be taken into consideration when dressing to the gun.
  • Size of the Gun:  Full size handguns will provide challenges when deciding what to wear, while compact handguns are easier to conceal.
  • Body Type:  Slimmer people like myself will have a tougher time concealing larger handguns, but it can be done.  Larger framed people will have a less tough time.  We all come in different shapes and sizes, some of these will present their own challenges.
  • Activity:  What will you be doing?  What kind of movement will be required?  Are you going to be in close contact with people who don't need to know you're carrying?
  • Weather:  Hot weather can mean dressing in clothing that doesn't conceal as well.  It can also mean more perspiration, which can provide challenges.  Cold weather will obviously make it easier to conceal, but can provide the challenge of having more layers to get through to the gun.
  • Holster:  If you want to read more about this, read my blog on it by clicking here.  
  • Purpose:  Business?  Pleasure?  Do you need to blend in?
These are just some of the general considerations when dressing to the gun.  As I said before, we could write a book on this.  The idea here is just to throw some out there and get you thinking.  

The best practice is to go through your clothes and find what conceals your firearm best so you have a good idea of what you can and can't wear.  When you go shopping, think of your considerations for carrying.  

When I took this picture originally I posted it and jokingly said, "always bring your gun when trying on new jeans".  I was really serious though, as I do believe you should make sure whatever jeans you buy have enough room for you to comfortably carry.

When I teach carrying concealed, I usually am talking to "alpha males".  Some of which like to dress to show off their work in the gym.  I usually tell these folks they are going to have to learn to be less vain and dress less to show off their muscles and more to conceal the firearm.  This doesn't mean you have to dress baggy, you just can't wear compression shirts.  Below there are a few examples of clothing that's good or bad to wear.

 While black is one of the better solid colors to wear, moisture wicking garments like Under Armor is not a good choice.  As you can see here, my M&P9c with Raven Vanguard 2 is easily shown due to the fabric hanging over the pistol. 
Lighter color fabrics are best when they have a pattern.  A pattern is good with any color as it helps break up the outline of the gun or whatever you may be carrying.  
Again, black is a good color for solids, but not the Under Armor type fabrics.  As you can see here all I had to do was bend forward a little and when I stood back up straight the fabric was hanging on the pistol.
Again, a pattern works great for hiding the outline of the pistol.
The best practice is to use a mirror and check to see how well your carry gun shows with whatever is in your wardrobe.  Colors, patterns, and fabric all play a role in how well you're able to hide the firearm.  Some sweaters easily snag on the edges of some pistols as well.  When you do this, make sure you move around to see how well your outfit does.  If you're going shopping for instance, make sure the firearm won't show when you do things like bend over, reach up, or squat down.  The length of your shirt can come into play if it's short enough that when you put your arms above your head the shirt comes up enough to show the firearm.  

So that's your intro on how to dress to conceal a carry pistol.  Maybe when I have more time on my hands in about 4 years I'll sit down and write a more lengthy bit of instruction, but this will get you started.  Most folks will be able to figure it out from here.  Feel free to comment below if you have anything to add or if you have any questions.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Crossbreed SuperTuck Deluxe

When you decide to carry a concealed firearm, holster selection can be key.  It can also be a little overwhelming with all the options out there.  Often times you have to spend a little money getting the wrong products before you find the right one.  In my case, I happened to get lucky and got it right the first time.  My first concealable inside the waistband (IWB) holster was a CrossBreed.  If you know me, you know that I'm a fan of Raven Concealment holsters as well, but if you're looking for the ultimate in comfort, then a CrossBreed SuperTuck Deluxe is the way to go.  I won't go into a Raven's Phantom vs SuperTuck debate because they both serve different purposes.  The SuperTuck is a dedicated IWB, whereas the Phantom is a versatile platform that can be used IWB or outside the waistband(OWB).

It's been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  If that statement is true, then CrossBreed should be extremely flattered.  There are several copycats out there from small companies to larger holster makers such as Galco.  Some have slight differences or claimed "improvements" on the design, but there's only one original and that's CrossBreed.

CrossBreed is a company that anyone with values, namely Christian values can get behind. From the packaging the holster ships in to the crosses on the belt clips, I'm a fan. In this day and age it's rare for any organization to stick to it's guns when it comes to religion. I believe in acceptance, but I also believe in live and let live. A direct quote from CrossBreed's website states that when the inventor Mark Craighead was asked about the origin of the name CrossBreed holsters, "he was never ashamed to answer that, although there is some reference to the hybrid nature of his designs, the larger meaning behind his company’s name references the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice upon the cross which was made for all mankind."

Even the packaging shows they are a Christian company.

The customer service I have received from them has always been great. Their holsters also carry great warranties. Directly from the website:

LIFETIME WARRANTY: Once you receive your holster you have two weeks to try it out,
if it doesn't work for you, simply give us a ring and we will buy it back. Even after your
two-week-try-it-free period is over, the holster still carries a lifetime warranty and we will
repair or replace it as long as you own it if it fails you in any way under normal use.

My experience with CrossBreed holsters has been both abroad and at home. I've used one for carrying in the Middle East for about 8 months of carrying a full sized handgun concealed and more recently I've been utilizing one to carry my every day carry(EDC) handgun. This holster has performed well for me in temperatures reaching 120 degrees all the way down to the recent "polar vortex" temperatures in the single digits.

The holster's hybrid makeup combines leather and kydex. As I've spoken of before, I'm sometimes not a fan of all leather holsters because they can get flimsy and when worn IWB can make it difficult to re holster your handgun. That being said, CrossBreed has given us the best of both worlds. The comfort of leather and the stiffness of kydex. The leather backing on the two holsters I've used has been the standard black cowhide. They also offer premium hard rolled tan cowhide and horsehide. I didn't have any issues with the standard black cowhide on the first one, so I stuck with that on the second one. Those options come at an additional cost, but I'm sure they're worth it for some folks. I don't perspire as much as some people, so with those types the different leather may be a better option.

The holster on the left was carried by me on deployment
and the one on the right is one of my current options.

                                This just shows where the kydex meets the leather and some of 
                                       the shape of the kydex. Notice how it's shaped for the 
                                      gun to beat a slight cant. Also notice the tall sight notch 
                                              to accommodate different sizes of sights.

The backside may appear uncomfortable because of
the hardware, but you can't feel it once it's on.

The holster is adjustable for ride depth and cant utilizing the SteelClip clips. These clips are mounted with a spacer so as to allow for better "tucking" capability. The clips slide over your belt and hold the holster securely in place. There is plenty of room and flexibility to tuck your shirt in behind the clips. As always, when carrying concealed you need to ensure you have a good quality, stiff belt on. That is essential with any holster.

Notice the small gap between the clips and the leather backing.

The holster comes with the option of having what they call a "combat cut" or not.  My M&P9c holster does not have it yet, but I cut the other one myself.  Way back when I ordered the first one I was given the advice to get it without the cut and send it back to get it done if I wanted it, or try it myself.  I cut that one myself because I didn't want to send it back and wait on it while in the Middle East.  This second one I plan on doing the same thing.  I have no doubt CrossBreed does a great job with the combat cut, but I prefer to cut it myself and tailor it to my needs.  When you make the cut it does take away a slight bit of comfort factor, but it's worth it to me to be able to get my hand on the gun better.  Be aware that this holster does hold the gun very tight to the body in case you're one of those folks who like aggressive stippling as it could provide some "red skin".

UPDATE:  I emailed the staff at CrossBreed to find out what the best method was for doing my own "combat cut".  Copied and pasted below is their reply:

"The best way to combat cut the holster is to draw in the line that you want the combat cut to follow. If you have access to a band saw they work the best but you can use a good pair of shears or a carpet knife. After the leather is cut just use some 80 grit sand paper to round and smooth the edge and finish smoothing the edge out with emery cloth. If your holster is black cow just use some KIWI leather show polish on the edge to seal it and if the holster is natural horse just some Neetsfoot oil on the edge to seal it.
We can always combat cut your holster for you for ten dollars and this includes shipping back to you. Just send the holster back to us at 224 North Main Street, Republic, MO, 65738. Please be sure and include a note that you want the combat cut and ten dollars (cash,check,or money order) and your name,phone number and mailing address and we'll get it taken care of for you. Once we receive the holster in the shop we get it combat cut and shipped back out to you in three to five working days."

Here you can see the bottom holster without the combat cut.
And the top holster with my combat cut.

This shows the difference in the two and how the leather
may get in the way of your normal draw stroke. 

Below are some pictures showing the holster I used with my M9 Beretta while in the Middle East.  This is to show you just how well the SuperTuck will hide even the largest of handguns.  As most of you know, the M9 was not designed to be carried concealed at all.  I was able to carry for several months without even my linguist knowing until I drew it while training some folks one day and he was amazed.  So even as small framed as I am at 6 feet tall and weighing 170 pounds I was able to hide it.  When you look at these pictures realize that you know the gun is there, so it will be more easily noticeable.  I also noticed after taking the pics that I didn't do the best job at adjusting my pants, but you get the idea.  I would like to note that you don't necessarily want to be tucked in when carrying because it provides a slower draw obviously, but there are times when you can't get around it.  Just know that you need to practice some dry fire while tucked to ensure you're good to go if the need arises.  If you have dress shirts that are really long that could provide some challenges.  Some tailoring may be in order.

Here you can see it sticking out a little, but this isn't the preferred "garb" 
when carrying a full size handgun.

This just shows what it looks like revealed.

Here the shirt is tucked in.  The gun isn't noticeable, but you might notice 
the clips if you were really looking.  

This is where I could have adjusted my pants and belt better, but 
you get the point.  Even with this large of a handgun the SuperTuck
does a good job at hiding the firearm.
In the below picture you will see the M9 training gun in the SuperTuck.  What I would like to point out here is that the barrel extends well below the coverage of the holster.  This is one concern for me.  As you know if you've read more of my posts, I believe that the ability to holster is just as vital as the ability to draw the gun.  When shooting this firearm and then re holstering the hot barrel can become an issue.  I found this out the hard way.  Now, hopefully in a real situation you won't be firing that many rounds, but if you're training there's always that possibility. 

While a great holster, it can tend to produce a small amount of noise at times.  I've noticed in a quiet environment I can hear it as I walk with a noise I would describe as "creaking".   It's not a big issue because even with a small amount of "white noise" or background noise it becomes unnoticeable.  One other issue is that with my belt tightened up where I like it, it can compress the kydex slightly causing the slide on my handgun to creep back as the gun sets in place.  I remedy this by reaching down and pushing it forward.  Again, not a huge issue.  The slide only creeps back maybe 1/10th of an inch and if you don't notice and push it forward, it slides back forward when you draw the firearm.  I did quite a bit of dry firing and live firing to ensure this wouldn't be a problem.  Neither of these are "show stoppers", I just wanted to present them here for full disclosure.  I'm usually cautious of reviews that are all "sunshine and flowers".

So to wrap this up, in my experience the SuperTuck by CrossBreed is one of the best concealable holsters out there.  For a pure IWB and comfort, I don't believe it can be beat.  With a great product from a great company with values such as CrossBreed, you can't go wrong sending them your money.  Speaking of, this holster will run you about $70.  Well worth it.  Holsters are very important, so spend the money and get it right.  Please don't settle for something that's "ok" because it's cheaper and don't go for the copycats.  If you're looking for an IWB holster that has the option to tuck in, get a CrossBreed SuperTuck.  They also have some other great looking products on their website, so check them all out.  I would venture to say their other offerings are good as well.