Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nice Pants - For Pocket Carry

Mouse Guns and pocket carry are a natural for me.  Sure, I'll occasionally go with an IWB rig if weather dictates the need for a hoodie or more substantial jacket, but 10 months a year it's a long or short sleeve T-shirt and pants or shorts for me.  Over the years I've learned a few things about what makes a good and bad pair of carry pants.  I'd like to share some of that with you all.

If money was no object, I would have a closet full of 5.11 tactical pants, but at $50 or more per pair I don't want to make that commitment.  Sure, that seems like a reasonable price when folks have no problem shelling out $100 or more on a pair of designer jeans, but I'm not that guy.  I buy my pants at Kohl's, Walmart, or the Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger outlet stores that I visit when I'm up in NJ.  No tax on clothing up there so it's always nice to pick up a few things when I visit.  Also, some of the 5.11 stuff starts to look a bit too tactical for my tastes.  I want a comfortable pair of carry pants, but I'd prefer not to stand out from the masses like the guys and gals that wear their "photographer" vests when they are out and about.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out they probably aren't photographers and they probably have something strapped on their belts under that vest.  I'm glad that works for them, but as said before, I'd rather be less conspicuous.

It took me a little longer than it probably should have, but I finally figured out that not all pants are created equal.  You would think that something as generic as good ol' blue jeans would share some common design dimensions between brands, but I found that was not the case.  There are a few brands that are much better suited to pocket carry than others.  The primary factors are the size of the pocket pouch that you can't see from the outside of the pants, the slant of the pocket opening, and the quality of the material used to make the pocket pouch.

I've found 4 basic types of pocket openings in my wardrobe.  From top to bottom, I call them On-seam, 45 Degree, Open Top Small and Open Top Large.  There may be several other types, but this is what I had in the closet.  In general, I have found that 45 Degree or Open Top works better for me than On-Seam with most pocket holster types. 
Overall, I've found that most jeans will have similarly sized pockets.  They will vary by an inch or two in length and width so it's best to turn them inside out and really check them out before you buy.  The pair in the middle has the largest pockets.  They are the Sam's Club Members Mark brand and a great overall value.  The Levi's and Van's aren't bad, but can be problematic with some of of the larger pocket choices.

If you are a right-hander, you may want to pay attention to the rivets used on the watch pocket.  The Van's are my favorite because the watch pocket is sewn on.  The Sam's Club jeans on the right are next choice because the rivets are flush.  Last choice is the Levi's with their raised rivets they do a great job of pin striping your pistol slide with copper stripes if your holster doesn't fully cover the slide. 

I wear cargo pants and shorts frequently.  I like the option to carry in the cargo pocket or front pocket.  My favorites were Dickies Rip-stop Cargos that I was getting from Walmart until they stopped carrying them.  I found them to be super comfortable and incredibly long wearing.  Unfortunately, they are also the pair of pants with the on-seam pocket openings so the front pockets were best suited to the smaller auto pistols.  Carry in the cargo pockets was another good option since the pocket flaps secured with Velcro.  I've been on the look out for a new cargo pants option and recently tried the Wrangler Cargos available at Walmart.    The first thing I noticed was the front pockets were much larger than the Dickies.

The pants also have a small pocket sewn into the left cargo pocket.  Perfect for a spare mag or knife.  The G36 magazine just disappears while the knife rides low and secure.
Two of the larger pocket pistols I have are the Ruger LCR and Glock 27.  The Wrangler Cargo front pockets and the Sam's Club Members Mark Jeans front pockets are both up to the task of pocket concealment with these two larger options.  The thickness causes some printing, but is not very noticeable when wearing a hoodie or jacket.  The pockets are also deep enough that you don't run the risk of someone behind you noticing the pistol grip if your front pocket should gap open for a second.

If back pocket carry is your thing, the Wrangler cargo pants have a large flat bottom rear pocket that's a bit taller than your standard jeans pocket.  Now you see it....
Now you don't.......

I think the most important thing to remember when looking for pocket carry pants is to try the pants on.  It's no good to try this with the pants on the rack or shelf as they will change fit dramatically when you wear them. Stick your hand in the pocket you will carry in.  Now ball your hand into a fist and try to pull your hand out of the pocket.  Does it feel tight?  If so, move on to the next pants as this is how your hand will be positioned when grasping for your pocket carry pistol.

I've found that if you can find a good pair of pants that you are happy with, it's easier to adjust your pocket holster type than it is to find pants that work with a specific holster.  Open top pockets work great with most holster types, but I'm most partial to holsters with double wings like the flat bottom RKBA holster on the Glock 27.  The pistol draws straight up from this holster type so as long as the pocket opening is wide enough for the grip length, it's an easy draw.  For angled or on-seam pocket openings, I like the single wing holsters like the Remora holster on the Ruger LCR.  For pockets with angled openings, you will have to slightly rotate the pistol grip as you draw from the pocket.  The rounded wing shape makes this feel more natural.

The Remora Back Pocket Holster 2DC was a recent new acquisition for me and I find that it works really well in the Wrangler Cargos as it grips the pocket on the draw and provides a full lightly padded shield between your body and the slide.  It's a universal fit with most small autos with up to 3" barrels.  It's one of the most comfortable back pocket options I've tried.

Members Mark Jeans are available from Sam's Club for about $14.  Wrangler Cargos are available from Walmart for about $19.  One caution on the Wranger Rip-stop cargos.  They must come from a different factory because their front pockets run a shade smaller than the standard Wrangler Cargos.

If you've found other pants that work well for pocket carry, please leave the information in the comments so all of us can benefit from your experience.


  1. Check out Riggs Ripstop ranger pants and Riggs ripstop cargo shorts. Good pockets that are reinforced.

  2. Thanks for the tip. They look great so I've got some on the way to try.

  3. Bruce F.,
    Finally my search has paid off. I am going to carry a S&W Bodyguard, 380 ACP, semi-automatic in a DeSantis SuperFly pocket holster, in the rear pocket. I have already determined that my current jeans and cargo pants, (Dickies) do not have pockets large enough to conceal completely. Looks like the Wrangler pants will work fine for casual wear. However, do you have a recommendation for a more dressy pant with deeper back pockets?

    1. I really like Dickies Rip-stop cargo pants, but agree the back pockets are tiny. Unfortunately, I can't be any help on the dress pants question. Perhaps someone else will come along and make a suggestion.

  4. I bought a pair of the ScotteVest Flex Cargo pants. Not worth it for pocket carry. The pockets are light synthetic material, and very clingy for pocket holsters. I have a feeling the sharper edges of mouseguns would have a bad effect on the material. They have generous pocket room (their selling point) but not really good for pocket carry. One "set" of pockets is almost the perfect depth for carry, the other way too deep, but the pocket material is not conductive to easy draws. The pants print as much as any other type I have tried. A word of warning, if you want the most conventional looking pants they have, get the hidden cargo 2.0 version, the flex cargo pants have 5.11 style rear reverse slash "over pockets" that kind of look goofy, at least to me. It is not easy to see this on their website, so be warned. I am still searching for some "generous" front pocket cargo khakis, as I like to carry all my stuff front pocket anyway. I am sick of the short front pockets that seem so common recently.

  5. Bruce F,

    Have you had any newer insights on pants for pocket carry? I have some Carhartt pants that the pockets are excellent on, and have found that the dungaree and relaxed cut minimizes printing for me. Columbia pants seem pretty good as well, but their QC has me shaking my head, I recently tried on two pairs in different colors of supposedly the same pants. The results were night and day, one set had a different feel to the fabric, the front pockets were skinnier and the zipper fly was shorter.... the other pair was too short, same pants, same sizes only different colors supposedly.... The Wranglers and the Members-Mark jeans are both great for me, but for some reason I have been searching around lately for different brands that are not "tactical" looking, and available locally. The dress pants issue in my sizes does not seem to be much of an issue, it seems the dress pants with pleats have ample pockets for me, but that could be my size as well. Keep up the great work!

  6. I have found that Cabela's has some excellent pants for pocket carry or if you just like great front pockets. Their Trailhiker II cargo pants have some generous front pockets. The website has a tab on the page for their "house" brand pants that list the size of the pockets. The Trailhiker II have a front pocket size of: (Front slash pockets) H - 13 in. W - 8 in which is accurate. The Cabela's brand of Aged Khaki Side-Elastic Flat-Front Pants has a pocket size of (Front slash pockets) H - 13 W - 9.25, that is HUGE. I have a set of the Trailhiker II's and am very happy with them. They are both currently on sale for $29.99, so not as cheap as the Wranglers or Members Mark, but still not outrageous. If you want a pair of ultralight pants that have some great pockets, I have a set of the Lookout Peak Trail pants, they are on sale for $26.99 right now and the pockets are at least 13 H by 8 W and very comfortable. If you want a lightweight belt for any pants, check out the "sports belts" at in 1" an 1 1/2". I am not affiliated, except as a happy customer, with either of these sites, I hope this helps.......

  7. Dockers cargo shorts work pretty well with my LCP. Not too bad with the LC-9; still trying to adapt to the extra weight!

  8. Another couple of winners are "Columbia" cargo shorts from Academy Sports & Outdoors, and "Faded Glory" cargo shorts, which I saw at a Goodwill store for $3 and were (of course) not my size.

  9. Academy Sports & Outdoors also carries these shorts, currently on sale:

    They have front pockets deep and wide enough to carry a J-frame sized revolver. I like the "Columbia" brand too, they are on sale for about $25 right now, but their quality control has me wondering.

    I am looking at this pocket carry pants/shorts search as still being cheaper than a couple of good holsters that will sit in a drawer somewhere, when not being carried. After all, when was the last time you left the house without pants? If you are not using a holster, there is no utility to it, unlike good pants or shorts....