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How to Concealed Carry a Full-Size (Or Even Larger) Gun

Sometimes you don’t want to just carry a pocket pistol.

Instead, you want to be able to feel the weight of that 1911 as you walk around, and hear it clunk on your nightstand when you take it off for the evening.

You just want to carry something big.

gun recoiling into shooters face
Well, Something Big – Within Reason.

Now when most people think “big gun,” they think 1911 or a long barrel revolver, but unless you’re the Joker, you probably aren’t going to carry a Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum with the 6.5-inch barrel or a full-size Desert Eagle.

Instead, you might want to carry a Glock 17, H&K VP9, Kimber Stainless II 1911, or something similar.

While some of these have shorter barrels than others, they are all full-size guns, and none of them are small.

CCW Full Size 1911
Concealed Carry 1911. Because You Can.

Of course, carrying a bigger gun brings a different set of challenges that you face when you carry a subcompact or even a compact handgun.

To help you out, this article is going to go over some of the things you’ll want to consider when you are thinking about or having trouble carrying a big gun.

Now, as you read below, it may come across like carrying a big gun is not a good idea.  That’s not the case at all; it’s totally up to you what you carry.

I do, however, want to discuss the pitfalls of carrying a big gun so you are aware of them before you go out and spend 1200 dollars on a sweet 1911 and realize you can’t appendix carry it like you saw in a movie.

So let’s get started.

Size Matters

Let’s compare some guns so you can see the size difference.

Springfield 1911 A1
Springfield 1911 A1

Compared to something like the Sig P238 in .380, a standard 1911 is 3.4 inches longer and almost twice as thick.  Even compared to a Glock 36 (their .45 ACP subcompact) you aren’t gaining much other than more gun to carry around.

Is one round worth hauling around the extra 15.5 ounces?  That’s almost an extra pound… for one bullet.

So what do we gain with the bigger gun?

For starters, you get a slightly larger round if you go with a 9mm version of the Kimber.  But, if you are carrying a 1911, most wouldn’t bother with 9mm and instead, go with the .45 ACP. This gives you a much larger round, obviously.

9mm Will Kill Your Body, .45 ACP Will Kill Your Soul

So yeah, you get one more bullet with the .45 ACP version, but the gun is almost twice as wide.  It’s even wider than the Glock 36 which is 1.10 inches wide and holds 6+1 rounds also.

Carry Positions for a Large CCW

Now that you know what you’re getting into, let’s talk carry positions for your big CCW gun.  Your carry position will greatly depend on your body type.

For example, if you are 5’11” and weigh 180 pounds, you’re more limited than a guy who’s 6’5” and 280 pounds.

Of course, your clothing choices will also play a large part how and where you carry a big CCW gun.

Do you wear tee shirts all the time?

Do you wear a jacket and dress pants?

Carrying pistol concealed
How You Dress Affects How You Carry

A smaller frame pistol will be easier to conceal in the summer and in thinner, tighter fitting clothing.

Furthermore, your full-sized gun isn’t something you’ll want to carry in an ankle holster or even appendix carry.  It’s not going to be comfortable and is unlikely to even fit in the first place.

All that said, let’s look examine what options you do have.

Wear a Jacket

Depending on the occasion, you could wear a jacket.  This would allow for an OWB holster anywhere from the 3-6 o’clock position.  Most jackets will easily hide even a full-size gun in a holster.

Plus, even if you are able to comfortably carry your sidearm of choice in an IWB holster, adding another layer of loose-fitting clothing will help you ensure that you won’t print.

If you do choose to use an OWB holster, be sure not to keep it in a spot where it can easily be accidentally exposed.

Carrying a Glock
Carrying a Glock Under a Jacket

Making sure your gun isn’t an attention grabber will also help.  If you have a nickel plated something or other with a mural painted on the slide, it’s going to be a lot easier to spot if your jacket opens in the wind.

Black gun, black holster, black pants; even a darker shirt helps.  And, of course, just keeping your jacket zipped or buttoned makes a huge difference.  If black isn’t your thing…check out our Gray Man Loadout.

Shoulder Holster

A shoulder holster is an alternative to a waistband holster if you are wearing a jacket.

This kind of holster isn’t for everyone though.  Those of us who have a thinner build might need to position the holster more to the vertically to hide the gun.

Regardless, the barrel could poke at the rear of your jacket or the grip might print out the front.

Shoulder Holster
Shoulder Holster and 1911

When holstering your gun under your arm, make sure you practice your draw. If you aren’t accustomed to it, you may fumble or have an otherwise difficult time if you need to pull your gun under pressure. This also goes for t-shirt holsters.

Inside the Waistband Holster

An IWB holster is also an option.  Like a shoulder holster, using a holster inside your waistband will really depend on your body-type.

You will also need to make sure you wear the appropriate clothing to conceal your gun.  A tuckable holster can help when you aren’t wearing a jacket or some other outer layer like a sweatshirt.

The position of your carry will also greatly depend on your body shape.  If you are on the leaner side, you will probably need to carry at the 4 or 5 o’clock position.

If you have a little more mass to you, the 3 o’clock position might be easier for you to hide and still draw your gun easily if you need it.

We can help you find the right IWB holster for you in our Best Concealed Carry Holsters review.

Final Thoughts

When you choose the gun you are going to carry every day to protect yourself, you need to make sure you can handle it well, so be sure to consider why you want to choose a large CCW weapon.

I prefer to carry for safety, but don’t like to have the inconvenience of a large gun where I need to change the way I bend or move or wear different clothing.

On the other hand, some people prefer the feeling of security that goes with a weightier weapon or feels more confident carrying a larger caliber.

Looking for more options? You should take a look at our other Best CCW Guns articles, we’ve looked at a huge range of guns from full-size to revolvers to subcompacts.

What about you?  What’s your CCW sidearm of choice?  What are your thoughts on big guns for CCW?  Have any advice for those looking for concealed carry larger sidearms?  As always, share your thoughts in the comments!

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42 Leave a Reply

  • les

    I carry a full size 1911 and I am 6 ft and weigh 195 I mostly wear tee shirts because I live in California and it is mostly hot I carry it in a iwb holster with mag pouch I wear 34 in the waist but I buy 36 to carry my 45 . I have been carrying it that way for 20 years . A smaller gun is probably just as good but I just feel better with the 45 plus I shoot it fairly well it is an everyday carry . I have a kimber ultra carry ii but it always stays at home .

    August 9, 2021 10:32 am
  • Rob

    So the article about how to carry a larger gun was written by someone who prefers to not carry a larger gun.

    March 25, 2021 6:42 am
    • the_dude_abides

      lol, so true! I got a couple of sizes, and sometimes I wanna have the performance SW with 8 rounds.

      July 20, 2021 12:34 pm
  • Burdo

    I never realized finding the best match was so complex. I had thought about a longer barrel for better accuracy, but am thinking in a real emergency use, it would be a 3 to 10 feet away scenario, so now I'm wondering about going shorter for ease of carry and concealment. Thank you for your ideas.

    October 18, 2020 8:33 pm
  • jc

    I carry my P220 in a tshirt holster with spare mag and that works fine for me. Yep gotta practice drawing it, AND the shirts are sized to fit tightly so comfort might be an issue for you.

    September 22, 2020 5:58 pm
  • Archangel

    Carried a 1911 a long time ago (since converted it to a carbine), now prefer 9mm with tactical ammo in 20+ round mags - in a simple one on one, 45acp might have higher knock down but if the SHTF in a place like Chicago, fire supremacy (maximum available rounds down range) is more valuable than single round momentum

    August 16, 2020 5:40 pm
  • Archangel

    I'm 5'10" 195#, except for absolute dead of summer when I'm wearing very light clothes (at which time I carry a Sig P232 .380 with Sig defensive rounds) - I carry my full-size H&K VP9 tactical w/ MRO in an IWB without issue- if I need to be in Chicago at night, I may also carry by Beretta M9 in a small of back or shoulder holster as a backup, just in case

    August 16, 2020 5:32 pm
  • Darrell Ashby

    Could you please tell me the name of that black holster pictured with that Glock in this article?

    July 21, 2020 4:53 am
  • Cody Starner

    5'11", 150LBS after an eating spree. Like, I'm a small guy. I carry a Glock 22, appendix, all day, every day. I've hidden it IWB pretty much everywhere from 12-6. Well, anywhere that the holster clips will co-exist with my belt loops. It pokes me on occasion but generally I don't have any issues.
    I don't know why people think that a smaller frame calls for a smaller framed handgun. If anything, the opposite is true. Skinnier builds like myself have big hollow spaces in basically the exact places you'd want a holster. Fat guys can't do it, the rolls get in the way.

    May 25, 2020 11:56 am
    • DJ

      That’s impressive bro, I was thinking about doing the same, although I’m not the thinnest fellow in the world.

      August 17, 2021 3:24 pm
  • Matt

    I'm 5-10, 165 with my shoes on. My usual carry gun was a CZ97B, until I switched to carrying a Colt Delta Elite. Carried both IWB in a Kramer holster, spare mags opposite side. In Arizona. Under a shirt tail. Key to this is wearing a tucked t-shirt under the golf polo, then the grips aren't sitting against bare skin, and having a double thickness horsehide gun belt, and you must successfully fight the temptation to wear tight pants/shorts.

    With the Colt, when I get in the car, for trips over about 20 minutes, I switch the gun to a paddle blackhawk serpa holster, rotated for cross draw, that I leave in the driver side door pocket when I'm not using it. Very doable.

    My next mission is to figure out how to conceal a full size 357 with 5-1/4" barrel. To the guy that carries a 45 AND a 10mm, my hat's off to you.

    May 15, 2020 7:20 pm
  • Ace-Shooter

    I'm 5'10" and weigh around 212-215 depending on the week. I live in Las Vegas NV where there are two seasons........HOT and COLD. I carry a G19 with an extra 17 round mag w/ a Taran Tactical mag extension on it for a total of 22 rounds in that mag plus the 15+1 I carry in the gun. All wrapped in a Tier 1 IWB appendix and have no problems. I usually wear shorts and a t-shirt, dark colors, usually black. When I'm not carrying my G19 I carry a S&W Shield 9mm 7+1 with an extra mag in my front pocket. When I carry the S&W it's wrapped in a AIWB Vedder holster. I prefer the G19 over the S&W. I have tried before, and it wasn't very comfortable, carrying my Walther PPQ Q5 Match w/ a Trijicon Type II RMR on it and that gun is quite long for appendix. The Q5 is wrapped in a Tier 1 AIWB holster as well.

    May 9, 2020 11:48 am
  • Rick

    Up until this Covid-19 thing I’ve carried a Kimber Pro Carry II in .45 acp in a holster with a extra mag pouch built in. This was carried in my man bag or I carried a Colt Gold Cup Trophy National Match in .45 acp in a custom Galco Miami classic rig horizontally under my shoulder and two vertical mag pouches under the other. Since the virus has changed everyone’s lives I carry the same Colt Gold Cup .45 horizontally under one arm and a Colt Delta Elite 10 mm horizontally under the other since I’m truly ambidextrous and can shoot just as well with either hand. As for as extra mags, this custom holster allows me to carry 4 extra mags, two for each gun stacked vertically in the small of my back. Like the Galco this holster from lone star was custom built for my 6’3” 225lb muscular frame. They are both so comfortable that I forget I’m wearing them, even driving with four mags in the small of my back. Why so much firepower? Normally I would never carry this, but given the fact that my beautiful, loving, wife & I are battling her stage 4 metasticized rectal cancer and I am her only caregiver, formerly a nurse and NEC 8403 SOIDC, I gave my wife two daily injections and others at different intervals during the week &month. I give her an I.V. if & when she becomes dehydrated. I organize & distribute her truckload of medications. I cook, clean, arrange for groceries, do laundry and all other chores. You ask why would anyone need 50 pistol rounds or plus another 17 if I also happen to be carrying my man bag? The answer to that question is simply
    1.) I cannot allow myself to be incapacitated or killed where that I could not continue to give my wife the level of care that I do.
    2.) I cannot bring home so much of a sniffle home to her immunosuppressed, frail body. Meaning I cannot allow for any situation where that has the possibility of happening.
    3.) I cannot allow anyone to enter the “ plastic bubble “ environment that we now live in.
    4.) I cannot allow myself to be robbed of the medications she has to have when returning from the Pharmacy nor Hospital depending on the medication. Given that we live in a relatively small college town when the students are gone. People know my wife ( public figure for 30 years and someone who was born and raised here ) and they know she has cancer. A meth-head convicted felon tried to kick-in my front door a month ago & some other ex-con tried to rob me at an ATM 2 weeks ago. Neither attempts were successful.
    I’m sure some of you still do not understand my choices of carry. I was able to have a front-row seat to the apocalypse after hurricane Katrina. I saw first-hand what people who are hungry and have no source of water will do. I’ve also seen first-hand what people will do when they realize there is no law. After the hurricane looters broke into liquor stores, pharmacies, and then gun shops. We were trying to bring food, water, and medical supplies to these people and in their drunken, stoned, decreased physical state these intoxicants hit them even harder than normal, so while trying to help, they shot holes in our Blackhawk helicopters. I’ve seen this type of behavior around the world. ( if I mention individual countries or even regions my comment will be deleted again. ) I carry what I do to protect my wife.
    Thank you for the privilege of answering this question and I apologize for the long diatribe.

    April 24, 2020 9:29 am
    • David, PPT Editor

      Hey Rick, thanks for sharing that. Really. Stay strong out there and fighting the good fight. The whole Pew Pew team really appreciated your comment. Best of luck to you, friend.

      April 24, 2020 1:01 pm
      • Rick

        David, Thank You. Thank you much for sharing with the team! I don’t want anything for myself but if any of you believe in a higher being, I would appreciate you mentioning Karen.

        I appreciate your product and thank you.

        May 25, 2020 3:11 am
    • Ace-Shooter

      Rick, God bless you and your wife! I hope things gowell for you! Your story qwas def worth the read.

      May 9, 2020 11:00 am
      • Rick

        Ace, Thank You very much! I appreciate the blessing for my wife! That caught me off-guard. Thank you again.

        May 25, 2020 3:05 am
    • DJ

      Very impressive, keep doing what you do my man, and my prayers are to your wife.

      August 17, 2021 3:30 pm
  • shootit

    Notice critics already have a solution for “themselves”. Thanks for the info and found it very informative. i do carry a Kahr and love it, but am looking to get a more generous capacity. Thyinking about a Sig 365 XL.. I do like the pocket conversion but I do wear different types of pants here in Florida, but good idea.

    December 20, 2019 9:40 am

    What they wrote is nosense . if you are thin appendix carry work fine with a 1911 . I can carry it crossdraw ,3 O'clock. Or at the 4 O ' clock and I can hide it under a tee shirt. Then if you still want a full size in all steel gun . get a Kahr . it is very thin. It is striker fire has a trigger that will make your glock friend cry . down side is if your a capacity junk.

    June 23, 2019 5:41 am
  • 9x25J

    You forgot to mention pocket holster! I carry a glock g40 (long slide 10mm) with a 7" kkm 9x25 Dillon barrel every day. A desantis nemesis holster is what i use and it works great. I simply opened the seam at the bottom of my jean pocket and hand stitched a piece of old denim to extend and custom fit the pistol / holster. Took 30 minutes with a needle and thread. Gun sits 100% concealed in front of thigh. Can EASILY tie shoes and jump in car with comfort. The ONLY way to carry any gun - pocket holster. When I need to be super concealed, g19 glock in same holster. Always with underwood ammo.

    December 27, 2018 5:11 pm
  • Frank

    Most of these carry discussions don't address what most of us do everyday. Driving. The only way I found to quickly access a firearm while in the driver's seat is weak side so the seatbelt lock isn't in the way of the draw which is anathema to concealing a full sized pistol.

    December 3, 2018 7:15 am
    • DBH

      You can use a shoulder holster for driving.

      November 12, 2019 8:55 pm
    • shootit

      Just use an auto type holster for dash or console. Just make sure if stopped, you have window rolled down part way with both hands on 10 and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel. First words out of your mouth should be I do have a CCP and a handgun visible. Have done this exactly, twice with no problem. Infact if it is a gun free state, it will be appreciated by the police.

      December 20, 2019 9:48 am
  • zebra dun

    I have carried both a full size 1911A1 and a Commander Concealed and on duty open carry.
    I prefer something smaller and lighter but it can be done.
    I carry my Colt Gov now open carry when I ride Horseback.

    October 26, 2018 10:04 am
  • MugsMalone

    I have carried full size service handguns for 41 years in law enforcement and now retired. That include four inch S&W .357, 1911s, Sig Sauer P220, and more modern S&W M&P .45 ACP. I live in SE Texas where there are two seasons, Summer and August !! I have no problem carrying inside the waste band with any of those firearms. I carry the S&W M&P .45 99% of the time. I'm 5'7" and a stocky 200 lbs.

    It can be done. What I have found from reading most forum is people want to carry a handgun but they do not want the carry to be cumbersome. Larger firearms reduce recoil.

    Great article...food for thought.

    October 20, 2018 12:44 pm
    • Juan Mercado

      What holster do you use? I live In Houston and I am looking to carry a full size 1911

      May 18, 2019 7:54 am
  • zookeeper

    Found the article very informative. I used to carry a Dan Wesson multi barrel .357 revolver and loved it. But now in my late 60's and with a bit of nerve damage and loss of some strength in my hands I'm hoping to find something a little less expensive to shoot and something I can carry. I'm right handed, stand 6'2", 300 lbs. and have large hands so sub-compacts are out. Also my left hand has a lot of nerve damage and not much strength for racking an auto, but have read that the Bursa is easiest in that department. Any suggestions you have to offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much and keep up the good work.

    September 11, 2018 11:03 pm
    • Ron Herrin

      I am 5'-10" and 249lbs. I own a S&W M&P Shield Performance Center .40, 7+1, 3.1" barrel and a Springfield Arms XD-M 3.8", 16+1, .40. I wear either one concealed using an Alien Gear IWB holster. They are both very comfortable sitting or driving when worn in the 4 o'clock position or the 10 o'clock position in a right hand cross-draw. I actually prefer the XD-M.40 when driving and traveling. Hopefully this will help.

      February 23, 2019 6:22 pm
  • no spam

    OK, fine. Enough with the "some people prefer" crap - I was expecting a solution. Not happening.

    July 10, 2018 4:02 pm
  • cecil works

    I agree with everything you said. The pistol , holster and carry location is a mixture of Your height and shape along with your weapon you can comfortably conceal , draw and control during high stress situation. Now for me it is a Glock 21 with two extra magazines and I have no problem with it. The question is , what can you properly conceal, safely draw and engage your target effectively. I would like to add that a good sturdy belt is essential as well as a good holster.

    May 24, 2018 5:38 pm
  • Andrew

    I have found barrel length and overall gun width to be less of a factor than grip height. Currently I carry a S&W Shield and absolutely love the gun, but have considered going to a double stack G19 or S&W M&P 2.0. I am the 180 lb 5-11 guy in the article, and I always worry that the gun could print at the 3 O'clock position as the grip base to slide top is longer than my waist is deep. Regardless of what you decide to carry, be comfortable carrying and spend time at the range becoming proficient.

    March 13, 2018 12:22 pm
  • John Grayman

    Invalid Reasons To Choose An EDC Pistol:

    1. Comfort

    2. Convenience

    3. Concealability

    4. Peace Of Mind

    5. Feeling Secure ~ [Because having a gun is better than having no gun, at all—Right? No, wrong!]

    None of the above five reasons are valid criteria for choosing which handgun to carry—None! It is a truism of EDC carry and handgunning that: The smaller, lighter, more comfortable to carry, and/or readily concealable a handgun is – no matter how secure having a gun might make you feel – then (Ready?) the more difficult it’s going to be to effectively use that handgun in order to try to save your life!

    Try this little test: If, by some miracle, you’re able to survive your first CQB pistol gunfight (or ambush) then, after the threat has passed, ask yourself this simple question, “Would my survival have been any more certain, or easier to accomplish if I’d used a full-size pistol?”

    Valid Reasons To Choose An EDC Pistol:

    1. High Magazine Capacity ~ [Because it may turn out to be a bigger, longer, or tougher gunfight than you ever expected to be in.]

    2. Large Caliber ~ [Because the other fellow, or fellows, might be tougher to stop, or put down, than you previously imagined.]

    3. Longer Sight Radius ~ [Because a pistol with a longer barrel is easier to shoot straight; and, within the time allowed, you may have to do some really straight shooting.]

    4. Heavier Overall Weight ~ [For a shorter (faster) dwell time between shots, and improved recoil control.]

    5. The added (realistic) sense-of-security that comes from going into the fight carrying a “real gun” instead of one of these adorable comfy little “pacifier pistols”.

    March 12, 2018 10:14 am
    • Eric Hung

      Thanks for your 2 cents, John...good points for anyone to think about!

      March 12, 2018 10:31 am
    • Anthony

      You make some good points. I am more accurate at the range with my glock 34 than my M&P Shield. This said if a gun is too uncomfortable to carry you may ask yourself in a CQB "Would I have done better if I was armed?"

      March 14, 2018 7:46 am
    • Mark

      Hello John. I liked your post and carry a G19. I’ve recently started to think about carrying a G17 or G20. What do you prefer?

      October 12, 2020 10:19 pm
  • Kevin

    I carry a Sig C3 1911 AIWB without any problems. And two spare mags. I do not find it uncomfortable or encumbering in any way. I can not imagine carrying behind my hip. 6'1" 160lb.

    March 8, 2018 5:08 pm
    • James

      That doesn't bother you getting into and out of a car or even while driving? How about sitting at a desk? I carry a Colt Mustang and I feel like anything bigger than that would be pretty uncomfortable AIWB in quite a few situations, like tying my right shoe. I agree 100% on the behind the hip, just doesn't work for me. Again, car and office makes that difficult..

      March 9, 2018 3:27 pm
      • Kevin

        The only time I have any discomfort is when tying shoes. It's still doable, but can get a little "pinchy." As far a driving I do not notice it much. I may have to adjust the gun up a bit but that is it. I do not set behind a desk, but sitting in general is not uncomfortable. The C3 (7+1) is a commander slide on an officers frame so the butt is a little shorter which helps.. I also carry a Shield (9mm) on occasions when I want a little deeper concealment and I do not even know it's there.

        March 10, 2018 6:13 am
        • James

          Do you mind if I ask; who's holsters are you wearing? I think I'm going to reinvestigate that and see if I can't find something that works better with my slightly larger CPX2 9mm. It's a double stack mag and that's part of the problem.

          March 10, 2018 8:59 am
          • Kevin

            Right now I have a Cook AIWB. I am looking at a Vedder because I have broken 2 plastic J-clips.

            March 14, 2018 4:17 pm
          • Sam S

            Don Hume leather holsters

            July 6, 2018 6:55 am