June 2005

Shirt-Tucker Holsters: Are They Practical, or Just Pipedreams?

It’s just about summertime again, and as the jackets come off, the ability to hide one’s weapon becomes more difficult. Here are three ways to do it from Galco, DeSantis, and Hoffners.

The $65 Hoffners Ultimate Shirt Tucker Holster (center) is bracketed by the $31 DeSantis Tuck This on the left and the $80 Galco SkyOps holster on the right. We found that each holster required a careful choice of garment and some time in front of a mirror to hide the gun with the shirttail tucked in. All three provided a lower profile than standard IWB holsters when worn beneath a sweater or untucked shirt.

Wearing your shirttail out, putting on a vest that is hopelessly out of style, or strapping on a sagging fanny pack sounds the alarm that the host is packing heat. Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways around this problem, but one solution is the shirt-tucker holster.

A shirt tucker holster is an inside the waistband (IWB) holster that allows the shirt to be tucked into the pants over the gun, thereby hiding the weapon from view. Shirt-tucker design calls for the gun to be encased in a holster that is connected to the waistband or belt in such a way that creates a narrow V-shaped channel between the outside of the holster and the inside of the pants. The shirttail is tucked into this channel, hiding the holster and gun.

We had to wonder if we really could make a gun invisible with this type of holster. We also had to ask if adding the extra step of getting the shirttail out of the way to complete our draw was worth the increase in stealth. To answer both questions, last spring we acquired three different shirt-tucker holsters for a .40 S&W Sigarms P239 and wore each of them throughout the summer months. Our holsters were the $31 Tuck This from DeSantis Leather, the Hoffners’ $65 Hybrid Ultimate Shirt Tucker, and the $80 Galco SkyOps Sky296B.

Keeping in mind that gun design and body type are major factors, we rated each holster for comfort and fit, concealment, stability, speed of acquisition, and durability. In wearing each of our three holsters, we found that shirts with shorter tails were the easiest to deal with. Furthermore, knit or heavier-weave shirts that tended to drape naturally worked best, and we were surprised to find that cotton T-shirts did just as well as many button-down dress shirts. When used simply as an IWB holster and covered by a sweater or sport jacket, all three holsters provided excellent concealment. Otherwise, it can take some time in front of a mirror to make any of these holsters work as a shirt tucker.

Here is what we found:

The Galco SkyOps Sky296B was rock-solid, thanks to the Y hook design matched up to Galco’s solid 1.25-inch-wide S.B.I. belt, $80.

Galco SkyOps Sky296B, $80
The Galco SkyOps holster was designed to federal law-enforcement specifications and can be connected to belts up to 1.25 inches wide via a “Y” hook. This design captured the belt at one point on the lower edge of the belt and at two points at the upper edge, to prevent tilting. A screw connected the polymer Y hook at the bottom of the holster to create the channel for tucking in the shirt. Angle of cant was adjustable. The Y hook did a good job, and the gun never shifted angle on the belt.

The depth of the channel on the SkyOps measured only 3 inches, but the material left untucked was useful for billowing out and hiding the butt of the gun. We found the only telltale sign left by the SkyOps holster was an irregular bulge in the waistband. The leather on this holster made it comfortable to wear even against bare skin. Acquisition was fast because, with the holster sitting low, we did not have to raise the shirt much higher than the belt line, and the grip of the gun was easy to reach. The gun could also be re-holstered with little effort. However, the depth at which the SkyOps holster settled below the waistline meant that placement forward of the hip would interfere with seated carry. Overall, we thought the SkyOps was a very classy holster and worked well with the shirt tucked in or left out.

DeSantis Tuck This, $31
The DeSantis Tuck This holster was a low-cost holster made of ballistic nylon. It had the bonus of a magazine pouch along the front edge. Gun and spare magazine are usually carried on opposite sides of the body, but we have heard that many professionals like this arrangement because they can keep their holster, pistol and spare magazine all in one place. This style of holster has also been referred to as a “Grab and Go” model.

The Tuck This offered a 3-inch-deep shirt channel, which in effect was deeper than that of the Galco holster because the mouth of the holster sat about an inch higher than the belt. The Tuck This holster connected with the trousers via a “J” hook. The J hook fit underneath the belt so that the holster could not be pulled free with the gun during a draw. In addition, the J hook clamped over the top of the waistband with springlike tension. Like the Galco product, cant was adjustable where the J hook connected with the holster.

The Tuck This holster kept the gun closer to the body than the SkyOps, and it did perhaps the best job of concealment. Its soft construction gave it the ability to conform to the body, but we could feel the gun constantly shifting. We never really knew where the butt of the gun was going to be, and the nylon holster collapsed when empty, making reholstering very difficult.

With the Hoffners Ultimate Shirt Tucker holster worn in front of the hip, we found it was easy to conceal the gun under any garment that did not fit closely to the body.

Hoffners’ Hybrid Ultimate Shirt Tucker, $65
The Hoffners Ultimate Shirt Tucker is referred to as a “hybrid” because it contains both leather and Kydex construction. A tension-adjustable Kydex body held the pistol. Its high-ride position helped assure grip acquisition, but if carried too high, lifting an extensive amount of shirttail could slow things up. We found it best to grab a fist full of material. But the back of the holster was higher than the front to guide the pistol into place, making reholstering fast and sure. The holster body was connected to Kydex belt loops by a leather shield that helped the unit conform to the body. Each loop could be raise and lowered to adjust depth in relation to the waistband and angle of cant. Body type will determine if you want the gun to ride behind the hip or in front for appendix carry.

Our choice was to wear the Ultimate Shirt Tucker forward of the right hip with the butt of the gun canted slightly forward. This hid the butt of the gun and pretty much pasted the pistol to the body of our tester. From this position, the left hand did not have to reach completely across the body to lift the shirt and expose the weapon.

Gun Tests Recommends
• Galco SkyOps Sky296B, $80. Buy It. This is an upscale-looking holster that is more solid than most IWB holsters. The Y hook provided stability and a low profile. Reholstering was not a problem, and it didn’t fade with sweat or become uncomfortable. For more information, log on to www.usgalco.com.

• DeSantis Tuck This, $31. Conditional Buy. We generally do not like holsters that make restoring the gun difficult, but in terms of providing concealment, this budget product did a very good job. However, the lack of support by the J hook, combined with the slippery finish of the ballistic nylon, allowed the Tuck This to swim along the waistband, giving the wearer an insecure feeling. For more information, contact www.desantisholster.com.

• Hoffners Hybrid Ultimate Shirt Tucker, $65. Buy It. Body type is key to shirt-tucker holsters, and this holster offers a lot of ways to conform. The ability to re-holster without looking made practice drills that much easier. For more information, consult www.hoffners.com.

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