Make Ready: Dress for Summer CC Success

Hot weather concealed carry ideas, solutions, and reminders for women from someone who knows.

The high heat of summer is very much upon us, which means different things depending on what state you live in. One thing that’s universal, though, is the heat. As the weather warms up and the layers come off, we’re faced with the issue of how to properly conceal our EDC; for women this problem is compounded because our clothing tends to be tighter and thinner than men's clothing.

How to carry during the summer months while remaining at least somewhat cool is something gun owners struggle with on a regular basis, so I thought I’d offer some ideas, solutions, and reminders of what not to do.

Making Concessions

Before we dive into this, let’s touch on the fact that you will, indeed, need to make some concessions in your wardrobe. You might need to go up a size in skinny jeans and you will absolutely need to make the change to a sturdy gun belt.

Crossbreed Classic Gun Belt
The Crossbreed Classic Gun Belt.Crossbreed Holsters

Those things are minor concessions to make when compared to the importance of making sure you have the ability to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones. Would you rather wear that skin-tight top or throw on a slightly looser one to conceal a handgun?

Here’s reality: this is one of the most oft-repeated problems I hear women bemoaning on social media.

Whether it’s the claim they cannot carry because they’re wearing whatever outfit, or the belief it’s just impossible to conceal anything but a pocket pistol it is repeated ad nauseam. I’m here to tell you not only is it doable, it’s vital. Take carrying seriously. Priorities, people. Priorities.

Belts

Let’s start with belts. There has been a flood of images on social media recently of women with holsters clipped to the sagging waistbands of their pants and shorts or wearing skinny dress belts sagging almost as much as the belt-free versions.

Those images are usually captioned with something cute and social-media-enticing hashtags like #girlswhocarry, #ccwfashion, and #gungirl. Ladies, please do the gun world a favor and start posting images using proper belts and holsters.

Crossbreed Cobra Nylon Belt
The Crossbreed Cobra Nylon Belt.Crossbreed Holsters

Your belt should be sturdy enough to hold up your holster and gun with no sagging or slipping. That tends to mean either a reinforced, thick leather belt like the Crossbreed Classic Gun Belt or a good nylon design like Crossbreed’s Nylon Cobra Belt (pictured above).

The Classic comes in 1-¼" or 1-½" widths and is offered double-stitched. The Cobra is made using two layers of 1-½" thick nylon. Crossbreed also has a Western Belt with a more decorate buckle and stitching. If you must have a dress belt, Galco Gunleather does make reinforced dress belts such as their SB1 Dress Belt which is 1-¼" wide and designed to look like a dress belt, only tougher.

Galco Gunleather SB1 Dress Belt
The Galco Gunleather SB1 Dress Belt.Galco Gunleather

There are good belt options out there; there is no excuse for using a flimsy cloth or thin leather belt. Get a good gun belt. This is not optional, consider it mandatory. Not only does a proper belt support your gun, it helps hold it in tighter to your body which, in turn, makes it easier to conceal.

Holster

A few weeks ago I listened to someone who is fairly new to the gun world say how she could not carry a gun because it was too uncomfortable.

Look, your holster matters, and in reality the only person who can tell you which holster to use is…you. Everyone’s body and needs are different and although I and others can certainly recommend better-quality designs to try out we can’t tell you with absolute accuracy which one will fit your body, your draw stroke, and your wardrobe best.

Crossbreed Classic Gun Belt and Crossbreed Supertuck Holster with Glock 48
Crossbreed Classic Gun Belt and Crossbreed Supertuck Holster with Glock 48.Kat Ainsworth

A few things to be aware of: quality leather and Kydex holsters are your best bet for long-term durability. Hybrids work as well but do tend to be more prone to failure points and cracking. Of course, Kydex isn’t without its faults, either. A friend of mine who is a firearms instructor recently broke yet another Kydex holster due to rigorous use in classes for demos and daily carry. This will rustle some jimmies but here’s reality: there is no perfect holster. There are too many variables and we are all much too different. That said, here are a few suggestions.

Galco Gunleather, Blade-Tech, and Crossbreed feature largely in my holster wardrobe. The Galco Gunleather Combat Master is a leather OWB design I favor and own for many of my handguns and the company’s Corvus is a Kydex OWB I also have more of than I care to admit. I’ve used both with a variety of handguns in high-round-count classes and for extensive use and continue ordering new ones when I receive new guns to review.

crossbreed classic gun belt holster
Crossbreed Classic Gun Belt and Crossbreed Reckoning Holster with Glock 27.Kat Ainsworth

Blade-Tech’s holsters can be found in the Gunsite Academy Pro Shop and, in fact, I have more than a couple emblazoned with Gunsite’s Raven. I’ve used the Blade-Tech Total Eclipse, an OWB holster, and the Klipt, an IWB holster, for quite a few guns. If you want a good Kydex design, check them out.

Crossbreed makes what is currently my favorite IWB hybrid holster for my Glock 48: the SuperTuck. I pair it with their dual magazine holster when I’m running drills. They also now make leather holsters that perform such as the Open Top Pancake Holster (I love pancake designs).

Be prepared to go through a lot of holsters searching for the right fit. Just because one is uncomfortable or fails to conceal your gun well doesn’t mean you should give up it simply means you now know that design is a no-go. Move on. Try another one.

Belly Bands

A word on belly bands: Although belly bands are not ideal due to their slower draw time and the incredibly poor design of many of them, they can be workable. There are situations where a belly band becomes your best choice to keep your firearm on-body. Remember, on-body carry is always preferable to off-body carry, such as in a purse or another type of bag.

crossbreed holster
The Crossbreed Modular Belly Band.Crossbreed Holsters

The Crossbreed Modular Belly Band is one of the better options on the market. The belly band itself is four inches wide, elastic, and breathable. It’s offered in multiple lengths. Those aren’t the winning features of this belly band, though.

What makes Crossbreed’s design better than so many others is the fact it is made for use with a Kydex holster made specifically for your gun’s model. The holster protects the trigger guard, holds the gun in exactly the right position, and provides a smooth draw.

There is no fumbling, no blind groping, and no exposed trigger. If you are going to use a belly band make sure it has an actual holster as opposed to the cloth pockets most seem to consider sufficient. Guess what? A cloth/nylon/spandex/lace pocket is not a holster.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: that belly band also tends to be my go-to while wearing leggings (I own a lot of leggings). Some leggings are thick enough and have belt loops, but most do not.

In addition to the inclusion of a real holster, the Crossbreed Modular Belly Band has a sewn magazine pouch that also happens to be good for flashlights and a hook-and-loop fastener for your cell phone. A Modular Magazine Carrier can be included for a little price bump. This is what a belly band holster should look like.

Guns

I almost hesitate to include the actual gun here because it's such a subjective area. If you’re looking for a highly concealable pistol that works better in the summer heat, you’re going to want to go smaller, plain and simple. There are myriad 9mm micros on the market that are reliable, accurate, and affordably priced. Some of the most fitting guns to consider – pun intended – include the Glock 43, SIG P365, and Mossberg MC1SC—all of which are extremely compact and easy to conceal while remaining comfortable to handle and shoot.

glock 48 mossberg mc2sc handgun
The author is currently carrying the ne Glock 48 9mm (left) as her summer EDC pistol. She rotates it with the new Mossberg MC1SC.Glock & Mossberg

The Glock 48 and 43X are also more concealable than you might believe. The G48 is currently my summer EDC although I do have the Crossbreed Modular Belly Band for the Mossberg MC1SC. I rotate guns. It’s part of my job but also part of dressing around my guns. Sometimes the gun needs to change.

Do not go too small. Tinier pistols are not easier to fire, they’re more difficult. Mouse guns are harder to grip, have far greater and sharper muzzle rise, and are accurate only at closer ranges. Although the aforementioned pistols are also better closer-up, they have a bit more range than the truly tiny pistols do. Whatever you do, practice, practice, practice. Understand the capabilities and limitations of your chosen pistol.

Clothes

Now we get down to it. Dressing around your gun is a concept that can be hard for new shooters to accept, but it’s an important one. What is more important, that cute, tight top or carrying your gun? If you’re serious about concealed carry this should be a no-brainer.

appendix waistband handgun
Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) is a popular carry method for women that works with a wide variety of clothing, but the author cautions against relying on clothing with integrated cloth or nylon holsters instead of an actual holster and a belt.Pinterist

Depending on where on my body I am carrying, I can wear just about anything. This will depend on your body type, of course; my curvy hips and significantly smaller waist actually make it harder to conceal a lot of guns because the grip stands out from my waistline.

I carry AIWB most frequently, but sometimes carry between 4 o’clock and 5’clock on my strong side (behind my right hip, not on it, and not at the small of my back). The biggest downside to carrying behind my hip is the slower draw stroke, but the fact you are sitting back on your gun when seated is a problem as well. AIWB has always worked for me, and allowed me to conceal a vast variety of handguns.

When working to carry in the summer, don’t limit yourself to one carry position. Try other positions—and train from them—to find out which one works for you.

Carrying AIWB I can conceal my gun while wearing form-fitting tops. You don’t have to give up flattering shirts to carry a gun. It is possible you’ll have to size up—that depends just how tight you’ve been wearing them—but you are not going to be forced into baggy, oversized tops. Tank tops work, too; select a style that has more flow at the waist or size up so it isn’t skin tight.

Most of my pants have been just fine but remember that adding an IWB holster and gun adds inches to the waistband, so if your pants do not have any stretch to them, you’ll probably need a larger size. This is not the end of the world.

Runners

It’s cold reality that approximately half of women who run or jog have reported being harassed in some way, while only 4 percent of men who run report similar issues. How do runners cope?

a woman jogging
Female joggers often make for vulnerable targets.Wiki Commons

According to Runner's World, a magazine I've been an avid reader of for years, 73 percent of women decided to run with their cell phones due to fear of harassment and assault, 60 percent opt to run only during the daylight, and 52 percent choose routes they consider somehow safer. All you have to do is peruse a women's fitness magazine or website to find endless suggestions to carry rape whistles, scream "fire," and turn and physically confront a harasser.

So much no. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Here’s an idea: carry your gun.

Carrying your gun while running is best accomplished with either a belly band or fanny pack holster. As I mentioned before, you want a belly band with a real holster that provides retention and protects the trigger. This is doubly important while running thanks to all the jostling and sweat. As for fanny pack holsters they are overwhelmingly lacking in real holsters in their interior. You’re likely going to have to modify that fanny pack, even CCW models, to contain a proper holster.

There are workout clothes and base layers being marketed to women for concealed carry with leggings or while exercising, all of which involve a cloth pocket with no reliable retention or protection for the gun. Sure, you can use them, but do you really think you should?

Same goes for so-called holsters that are really only a clip and clip-on trigger guard covers attached to paracord or string. Just because you can do something does not mean you should. Put thought and care into your carry selection.

Training

I’m going to hammer on a touchy subject for a second. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen among women who carry is a severe lack of training. There are way too many women out there who think tossing a pistol in their purse is a good idea and far too many women who clip a holster onto the waistband of their shorts—sagging and all—instead of bothering to learn about safe, responsible carry.

kat ainsworth firing a handgun
The author practicing shooting at moving targets.File Photo

I’ll keep it simple: knock it off. Get yourself trained. There are endless options out there for classes on defensive handgun use including training to draw and fire from concealment. This is your life and the lives of your loved ones we are talking about. Don’t you think it is worth the time and expense of proper training?

Takeaway

You can carry in the summer. It’s easier than you think. Find a well-made holster that’s comfortable and holds your gun close to your body and complement it with a sturdy gun belt to further enhance security and concealment.

Try carrying on different spots on your waistline. Wear shirts with slightly looser waistlines that are made of thicker material (thinner material causes more printing issues). Be willing to have a gun specific to summer carry. If you wear a dress, learn to draw quickly from the belly band holster and avoid dresses with skin-tight tops. Just say no to flimsy, unsafe pockets, Velcro loops, and clips. Above all, commit.

Commit to carrying your gun for self-defense purposes. Train. Make concessions in your wardrobe. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it because you just had to wear that super-tight top or midriff-baring shirt. Choices must be made and priorities must be set.

This column brought to you by someone who has remained armed doing yoga, running, hiking, and while wearing sundresses (hey, sometimes I girl). You got this.

Kat Ainsworth
Kat AinsworthFile Photo

Kat Ainsworth is an outdoor writer from an eclectic background in K9 Search-and-Rescue and emergency veterinary medicine. As a freelancer she writes for an array of industry publications covering topics from hunting to self-defense. Kat is well into her second decade of concealed carry, has been hunting for more than 20, and has never met a firearm she didn’t want to run. She can be found hunting everything from feral hogs to pheasants but is also regularly at the range honing Mozambique Drills and shoot-and-move techniques. Email her with gun and hunting-related questions at ainsworth.kat@outlook.com.