CONCEALMENT 11 (Fire) Power Suits Tom Marshall Join the Conversation Photos by RCP Photography The image of the dapper shootist has been hard-etched into firearms pop culture. From the well-dressed lead slingers of the old west to high-fashion gunfighters like James Bond and John Wick — the latter being well-known to modern moviegoers as “a man of focus, commitment, and sheer will.” The big screen facsimile is plenty good fun, but there are thousands of real people who wear both suits and guns to protect their country, community, or loved ones. While plaid shirts, cargo pants, and trail shoes make far more comfortable fighting attire, one may not be afforded such luxury when that really bad day comes knocking. SUIT MAN Tactical Suit $350 suitmanusa.com (516) 395-4844 RESCO INSTRUMENTS RTAC $1,205 rescoinstruments.com VERITAS TACTICAL Micro AR Pistol from $1,400 veritastactical.com GREY GHOST GEAR Wanderer Messenger Bag $200 greyghostgear.com Detectives, agents, lawyers, or entrepreneurs, if your daily routine calls for shiny shoes and jackets with buttons, a number of carry options are out there regardless of whether your EDC calls for a fashion-conscious pocketknife or discretely packaged firepower and protection. This guide is by no means comprehensive, but we hope to touch on the full spectrum of possible self-defense requirements while staying focused on dressing in and around formal business attire. Base Layers The cornerstone of our ensemble comes from The Suit Man in New York City. The Suit Man makes the first dedicated “tactical suit” — at least, it’s the first that we’ve heard of. The pants feature an extra layer of material from the knees down for increased wear resistance. The jackets are specifically cut to hang closer to the body, and include side vent slits to aid access to equipment. These suits are currently being used by a number of law enforcement and government agencies, but are available to the public. Their lightweight tri-blend suits retail for $350 or $400 for the 100-percent wool version. They’re not bulletproof, but are durable, comfortable, and affordable. Our sample came in charcoal, but black and navy blue are also available. These are two-piece, two-button, single-breasted suits with a tapered fit. The overall style is conservative, somewhat athletic, and flattering, but still professional. These are workingmen’s suits. They may not quite fit in at the Casino Royale, but the wearer will have a solid, functional piece of professional wardrobe built to handle daily use. They’re sized off the jackets and only available in even-numbered sizes. Our pants came with a waistline 6 inches larger than the jacket size and unfinished hems. This leaves some room (see what we did there?) for custom tailoring. Prefer cuffed pants? Need the waist taken in? Sleeves slightly too long? All easy fixes with a quick trip to your local seamstress. We think this setup strikes a nice balance — it looks much better than the one-size-fits-most suits you find at big-box retailers without requiring the time and money of fully bespoke formalwear. But the most tactical suit in the world isn’t much good if you slip and fall on a gravel path or patch of ice while moving to cover. We upped our formal footwear game with 5.11 Tactical’s Mission Ready Oxford. These are the mullet of dress shoes — business on top, tactical on the bottom. They feature a traditional-style leather dress upper mated to the lightweight foot bed of their Recon boot with an aggressive traction sole that looks like an off-road truck tire. The Suit Man tactical suit is comfortable and lightweight, while also aiding concealment. The author is wearing his Glock 19, two spare mags and ankle med kit in this photo. 5.11 Pursuit Oxfords $50 511tactical.com OAKLEY SI Crosshair $163 www.oakley.com FIRST SPEAR Holster $94 Tactical Dress belt $73 first-spear.com US PALM Ankle cargo cuff $40 rykernylongear.com HIDDEN LAYERS Proper gear selection and a little bit of fashion sense will allow you to conceal everything from Band-Aids to body armor under formal businesswear. We rounded out our base outfit with a First Spear Line One belt. The Line One is a simple belt made of BioThane, a nylon core covered with urethane. This creates the feel and look of leather, while also being impervious to temperature and moisture. We modified our sample belt by applying a few short strips of hook-side tape to the back of the belt, to more securely hold up some of our additional equipment. More on that in a bit … Everyday Equipment For the vast majority of us, a couple pieces of well-selected gear will do wonders in an emergency. A fully charged cell phone, quality knife, and powerful pocket light will be enough to extricate yourself from a broad spectrum of urban mishaps. If you can wear a gun, do so. Any quality leather or Kydex holster that sits tight to the body will do. The side slits in our tactical suit jacket seemed to let it fall a little more freely around the pistol. We don’t wear suits very often, but this one seemed to print less than the rest of our selection from discount suit warehouse. While the author’s daily setup makes extensive use of G10 and webbed nylon, he decided to pursue slightly more refined hardware for this ensemble. On a practical note, be mindful that the gear you carry in your jeans may not be the same you want to put into suit pants. Knives with super-grippy scales or lights with heavily knurled bodies will tear up the edges of your pockets before you know it. The last piece of vital EDC is a quality med kit. We took advantage of the growing trend in ankle-borne trauma kits. Ours came from the now-defunct US PALM. These are no longer for sale, although you may be able to trade a buddy who still has one. Nevertheless, a quick Internet search will turn up a number of high-quality alternatives that achieve the same end. The cut of our Suit Man suit pants were loose enough to make a well-stocked ankle kit all but vanish. If ankle cuffs aren’t your style, shop smart and you can strip down the bare components so that they’ll fit in the back pocket of your pants, or the inside pocket of your suit jacket. Flat-rolled duct tape, a clotting sponge, compact chest seals, and a SWAT-T tourniquet can be rubber-banded together in a footprint not much thicker than a full wallet. Full Fighting Load The simplest way to carry your gun under a suit may be a belt holster. If that’s all you need, and the last paragraph answered all your questions, more power to you. But start adding things like rifle mags, radio, fixed-blade knife, grenades, and so on until your pants sag like those kids at the mall your granddad always yells at. So how do you carry full kit when you can’t really wear a proper kit? While the First Spear Tactical Dress Belt is far from invisible, it does provide low(er) profile load carriage when additional firepower is needed. SUREFIRE EDCL1-T $165 surefire.com FIRST SPEAR MultiMag Rapid Adjustable pouch Pistol/Rifle starting at $51 Line One Belt $73 first-spear.com CITIZEN ARMOR T-shield $310-590 citizenarmor.com Enter the First Spear Tactical Dress Belt. Think of the TDB as a slightly toned-down battle belt. It’s shorter and thinner, while offering the same degree of modularity. The 6/12 pouch attachment system uses laser-cut slits in the fabric instead of MOLLE loops, making the design a little sleeker. The attachment points are separated so you could thread a belt in and out to accommodate traditional belt holsters or pouches. The back side of the Tactical Dress Belt also has loop-side Velcro. Our sample Tactical Dress Belt came with a belt holster and two of their multi-mag adjustable pouches. These pouches, a double pistol mag and single rifle mag respectively, use a unique ratcheting system to tighten or loosen the pouch body, accommodating a wide array of magazine types. We also took advantage of the Velcro backing to store our Colonel Blades Low-Viz dagger. Its short blade and pistol grip handle gave it a natural fit for this application. There are some trade-offs to using a system like this. On the plus side, it’s easy to ditch your gear if you don’t need to have it on you full time. Even fully equipped, it can be rolled up and kept ready in a bag, large desk drawer, or hanging on a coat hook. When the balloon goes up, click it on and you’re good to go. It also doesn’t put weight directly on your pants. But even though this system was specifically designed with formal wear in mind, it adds more bulk around the waist than we had hoped. Perhaps different pouches, or different placement, would help out some. We loaded the sides of the belt to keep the back clear so that we could still sit in a car or at a desk without anything digging into our spine. Arranged this way, even our Tactical Suit had trouble keeping the loadout discreet. There’s no doubt that the Tactical Dress Belt is going to be a bit much for the armed citizen, but for professionals required to be well dressed in a high-threat environment this may be just the thing. After all, wearing Multicam with formal attire is a tactical fashion faux pas. Off-Body Carry Some folks prefer carrying their emergency supplies off-body in a pack or bailout bag. There are enough options for shoulder bags and backpacks to fill several separate articles. We tried out a Wanderer Messenger Bag from Grey Ghost Gear. We appreciate the Wanderer’s waxed canvas construction, waterproof zippers, and glorious lack of MOLLE webbing. It’s a low-key, fashionable bag that fully eschews the “man purse” paradigm. The First Spear Slick and Grey Ghost Wanderer provide rifle-plate protection and the ability to conceal a rifle-caliber PDW with folding stock (or brace). We wore the Slick over our dress shirt for demo purposes, but wearing it underneath is equally as comfortable. CARBON TACTICS BadgerStrap Magnetic Tactical Belt $65 carbontactics.com FIRST SPEAR Ultra lightweight plate carrier $99 first-spear.com We used our sample bag to carry around a Micro AR Pistol from Veritas Tactical. Veritas is run by a veteran with years of Executive Protection experience and specializes in subcompact AR pistols. We’re talking 5.56mm builds with 5-inch barrels and folding pistol braces. If you need rifle firepower in a package the size of a shoe box, Veritas might have just what you’re looking for. Our test gun sat inside the Wanderer bag with enough room leftover for a laptop and a pair of tennis shoes. As much as we like the Wanderer, it’s not as purpose built as a gun bag. There’s a compartment on the body side of the bag lined with loop side fabric. Go nuts filling it with whatever hook-tape-backed pouches you need. The vertical pocket on the end is perfect for medical supplies. However, the rest of the bag isn’t particularly accommodating to your danger gear. There are some pouches in the front pocket that are sized just right to hold AR mags. But these pouches have no retention whatsoever and we dumped our combat load in the dirt several times when picking up the bag by one end or moving too aggressively. But there’s enough opportunity here to make it work while maintaining a passive, non-tactical appearance. While the selection and stocking of go-bags is well beyond the scope of this guide, we wanted to outline potential setups for the sake of due diligence. Up-Armored Options Beyond Hollywood gunmen, we suspect the most common stereotype for the combination of dress suits and armor would be bodyguards or law enforcement. What about district attorneys on high-profile cases? Or businessmen traveling to high-risk countries to scout out “emerging markets” or bring manufacturing jobs to “developing economies?” Do you work at a bank in Chicago or Detroit? Our point is that the idea of so-called everyday people wearing body armor isn’t nearly as paranoid as it seems on first glance. We looked at two different types of armor carriers, one each for plates and soft panels, specifically designed for minimum bulk and visual signature. Our sample soft carrier comes from Citizen Armor. Their Civvy concealable soft-armor carrier is incredibly low-profile while still offering full coverage in either Level II or Level IIIA protection. Our sample was a Level II vest listed as only 0.19-inch thick, doing away with the stereotype of the bulky Kevlar that shifts and bunches during daily wear. The Civvy also features cloth “tails” in the front and back that can be tucked into your pants to keep the vest from sliding around as much. Different sizes are available, but the vests are also highly adjustable thanks to Velcro and elastic straps for both waist and shoulder adjustment. For those who need hard plate protection in their lives, First Spear once again comes through with the Slick Ultra Lightweight Plate Carrier. It’s as simple as simple can get. The plate pockets are made of Tweave material, with both the cummerbund and shoulder straps being Velcro adjustable. It’s not meant to carry anything but plates. We’re not sure how well this carrier would do with the ultralight Level III plates, which are often more than an inch thick. For that matter, we also don’t think AR500 plates will function well, on account of the amount of stretch in the Tweave. Then again, we didn’t try it either. Our experience with the Slick was that it’s comfortable and incredibly breathable, a feature we very much appreciated while testing all this gear in Southern Arizona. In June. Plates were held tight to the body and there was no bouncing or shifting while moving. Hanging it on the Rack While there’s no way to reasonably cover every permutation of suit-suitable carry gear, we can provide at least a sampling of both the products and techniques available to those of you who must dress to impress without sacrificing the right to self-defense. The Suit Man tactical suit is a purpose built, reasonably priced starting point when the dress code requirement is professional and prepared. Beyond that are myriad options for accessorizing, depending on the level of protection you require. Use this as a starting point to figure out what works for you and to build yourself a sharp-dressed solution to keep safe from boardroom to barrio. Well-appointed accessories are just as important as your choice of suit or holster. They provide fight-ready functionality while seamlessly integrating into your more formal wardrobe. MICROTECH Ultra tech D/E $360 microtechknives.com DREW ESTATE Undercrown Shade: $8-9 drewestate.com Explore RECOILweb:Blade-Tech New Hybrid Tuckable HolsterPreview - Marching OrdersBuy the gun that killed Bin LadenHeckler Koch VP9-B Introduced NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. 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