Tailoring a Suit to Conceal a Firearm

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There's a slight bulge in Sean Connery's suit concealing a PPK
There’s a slight bulge in Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair suit concealing a PPK

In every Bond film except Moonraker, James Bond carries a small pistol, and it’s usually in a shoulder holster concealed under his suit jacket. The pistol is either a Walther PPK, a Walther P99 or, in Octopussy, a Walther P5. Due to the magic of filmmaking, the prop department can hold onto Bond’s gun and place it and/or the holster inside the jacket only when needed. Consequently, Bond’s suits usually do not need to tailored to fit a gun underneath. Bond only needs to wear his gun inside his suit jacket when he’s about to pull the gun out or when he removes his jacket. Many of Bond’s suit jackets could not realistically hide a gun.

The-Man-with-the-Golden-Gun-Concealed-Carry
There’s a noticeable bulge in Roger Moore’s Cyril Castle jacket, which clearly isn’t cut to fit a gun.

Sean Connery’s, Timothy Dalton’s and Pierce Brosnan’s suits would be the best at concealing a firearm since they are cut full in the chest. Anthony Sinclair specifically tailored Connery’s suits to conceal his PPK, at least in the earlier films. The closer fits that George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig wear would not be so effective at concealing a firearm. A fit that hugs the body won’t leave any room for a firearm, and the tight suits in Skyfall that hardly leave enough room for Daniel Craig certainly won’t fit his PPK. An open jacket can conceal the gun well and also allow quick access. Wearing the jacket open works better with suits made in heavier cloths that won’t blow open in the wind. A three-piece suit is more presentable when the jacket is worn open

Roger Moore's double-breasted dinner suit has a low button stance that allows easy access to his PPK
Roger Moore’s double-breasted dinner suit made by Douglas Hayward has a low button stance that allows easy access to his PPK

High-buttoning single-breasted suits and double-breasted suits are the worst for carrying a gun in a shoulder holster because the smaller opening makes it difficult to access the gun. Roger Moore manages to pull his PPK out from inside his buttoned double-breasted suits on numerous occasions with impossible ease. Lower-buttoning double-breasted suits like Roger Moore’s dinner suit in A View to a Kill aren’t so much of a problem.

When a suit is tailored for concealed carry, the chest has extra fullness and is shaped around the gun. A stiffer canvas like what English tailors traditionally use helps prevent “printing”, which is when the gun leaves a visible imprint in clothing. Anthony Sinclair’s suits had the characteristics that a good suit for concealed carry should have. Sinclair spoke about his suits in a GQ article in 1965:

If you use a good woollen, tailor the insides properly, you should be able to take the suit, roll it into a ball, shake it out and have it fall into perfect shape. It’s the fabric and canvas and inner work you invest in a garment that should do the work.

Notice the bulge in Pierce Brosnan's dinner jacket
Notice the bulge in Pierce Brosnan’s Brioni dinner jacket

This kind of resilience will also help to hide a firearm. Softer Italian suits need to be cut even fuller to better conceal a firearm.

I have never carried a gun myself, so I do not write from personal experience. If you have personal experience in concealing a gun under a suit, feel free to share below.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Matt,
    “Consequently, Bond’s suits usually do not need to tailored to fit a gun underneath.”
    – On the bonus disc of “Dr. No” (Special Edition) you find an excerpt from an interview with Sinclair and he says that indeed he always cut the jacket “a little bit fuller” in order to hide the shoulder holster carried underneath. This interview also contains his statement you cited (i.e. “You have to put guts into it” – i.e. into a well-made suit). So at least in the first Bond movies they tried to get a close as possible to “reality” – even with regard to the cut of Bond’s suits.

    Best, Renard

    • I thought about that featurette when I first started reading this post. I’m pretty sure they abandoned that bit of realism later on in favour of movie magic. Connery’s jackets appear cleaner in subsequent films.

  2. Hello Matt, I believe there are several times that Bond ends up placing his gun in an inside chest pocket. DIAMONDS ARE FORVER and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN are two examples. Most likely to move the filming forward and not mess with a holster.

  3. The Walther P99 is a full size combat pistol and is neither designed for, nor ideally suited for concealed carry. It’s doubtful that it could be concealed properly, even under Brosnan’s fuller cut suits. The only aspect of the P99 that is advantageous for concealed carry is the light weight due to its polymer construction.

    With today’s shrunken suits, even the PPK would be almost impossible to conceal in a shoulder holster and would probably need to be worn on the small of the back to have any chance of concealment. For those who favor today’s trendy style, something like the Beretta that M orders Bond to stop carrying in Dr. No is a better option.

  4. No one I know uses a shoulder holster when carrying. They all use belt holsters, usually with larger belts to handle the weight. Has Bond ever carried on his hip?

    Oh, no one has a drop of alcohol when carrying.

    • In the novels, Bond switches to an inside the waistband holster in Dr. No when he gets the PPK because the soft leather shoulder holster he used with his Beretta was known to snag. It is how he almost was killed at the end of From Russia With Love. As a result, the most accurate depiction of the literary Bond’s armament is Quantum of Solace where Craig carries his PPK in an inside the waistband holster.

    • Sadly, it is only in the ideal world that no one has a drop of alcohol when carrying. A lot of states do not even prohibit drinking while carrying.

      I have carried with a shoulder holster and my full-size M&P under an Indochino suit I deliberatly had a bit fuller in the chest. That said, I always prefer to carry inside-the-waistband (IWB).

  5. I carry most days, typically inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters or ankle holsters, although I have worn a shoulder rig on occasion. My Browning Hi-Power is slightly larger than a Walther P99; although not as visible from the front, it is very obvious from the rear when I wear it under a suit coat with a shoulder holster. Interestingly, the Hi-Power conceals well in the IWB worn on my rear right hip with a large-fitting polo shirt.

    My Bersa Thunder 380 (closer to a PPK) conceals well in both a shoulder holster and an IWB, although it breaks the smooth lines on the left side even when the bulge isn’t as noticeable. Indeed, a lower button stance makes it much easier to draw and conceal since the fabric isn’t pulling around the gun area.

    Different style holsters have different results as well. I once acted in an amateur film directed by friends where I carried a full-size M1911 pistol in a vertical-shaped shoulder holster with a single-breasted three-piece suit. I wore the jacket open most of the time, and – as you mention, Matt – this made both concealment and access much easier.

  6. With a properly designed belt and holster, it would be quite possible to conceal a P99 under a suit. The P99, while full size, is not an overly large handgun. With Daniel Craig’s tight suits, however, it seems it would be difficult to hide a pack of gum, but maybe all those pulls and stretch wrinkles would mask the printing. Regarding ‘Small of the Back’ carry, the natural curve of the back can be used to prevent printing, as clothing drapes from the shoulders and doesn’t lay across the firearm. Shoulder holsters, like the ones James Bond wears, are most often used to carry larger handguns; they distribute the weight across the shoulders rather than on one hip, and there is more room between the arm and the hip for large or long barrelled guns.

    • I own a PPK and have difficulty concealing it with a suit due to my small frame, hence my view that a P99 would be very difficult to conceal. You are correct though that it wouldn’t be impossible. I suppose the takeaway is that a one’s build has as much to do with what type of weapon one can conceal as tailoring and the size of the gun.

    • Good thing he carries a PPK then! But really, I wish they’d switch him over to a PPS. The PPK, aesthetically pleasing as it is, is a bit of a relic and wouldn’t be assigned to anyone today. The PPS also lies flatter for concealed carry.

    • I suppose I am also taking my frame for granted- I ‘m roughly 6’ and fairly lean (although not as athletic as I once was) so I can fully conceal a 4.25″ service pistol in a properly supported owb pancake holster at 5 o’clock, even with a casual button-up (unbuttoned) or a jacket. Other people, whether shorter, more muscular in the torso, or with less hollow in their back, could have difficulty with the same sidearm. This is why I feel it is as important to have a customizable (or, preferably, a custom or ‘bespoke’) conceal holster- I make my own, but that is not feasible for some. With proper gear, it should not be difficult for a good tailor to fit a suit around your sidearm.

  7. As someone who carries everyday, I wondered if this topic would ever come up. Movie guns certainly have a habit of magically appearing and disappearing when needed. Carrying a gun in real life is a chore and one must use a variety of holsters depending on circumstances and clothing. I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error over the years and now use in-the-waistband, ankle and shoulder holsters. My shoulder holster is very comfortable and can comfortably accommodate a full size pistol but only under something like a loose casual jacket. The IWB works with just about any jacket that isn’t fitted around the waist but you have to buy your pants one size larger and wear a sturdy belt. The ankle holster is the only one I can wear with any type of form fitting clothing like a proper suit. And what about spare magazines? It seems that the world’s top agent carries just one and sometimes none.

    • Interesting comment re: the ankle holster. I find that I have more difficulty with pant legs, especially Bonobos slim straights hiding my ankle holster than I do concealing my IWB holster.

  8. For me, IWB is the way to go when wearing a suit or jacket. I have been using a leather IWB holster for a Bersa Thunder CC (excellent ppk clone) for several years and it has been great for concealment and comfort. Carrying anything larger than the Bersa, with my body size, would compromise the concealabilty of the pistol.

    • I wear a 38R and I can usually conceal my full-size M&P while carrying IWB with no issues. I can even shoulder holster it under an Indochino jacket I had cut a bit bigger in the chest.

      I find it’s more the shape between the bottom of your ribcase and your hips that affects concealibility of IWB carry.

  9. When tailoring a suit for concealed carry you need to bring the weapon and holster you will carry with you and get measured while wearing them. Also you would want the tailor to reinforce the jacket where you wear the gun as the constant rubbing against the fabric will wear through quite quickly.

    • “I’m not expecting a fire, but I still have a fire extinguisher.” – is how I explain why I carry a firearm in the USA.

      I sincerely hope my pistol never has to leave its holster in a dire situation. But, I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

      I pass hundreds of people walking through malls when carrying, and since I carry concealed, no one even knows I have it.

      It’s really not that strange. The rest of the world including where I come from (Canada), has this fear of armed Citizens. I don’t really understand why. Legal individuals carrying are not criminals.

    • I couldn’t agree more. As an American, I’m ashamed that we’re a society that feels the need to be armed to the teeth. I lived and worked in New York City for 30 years and never once had the impulse to “pack heat.” These people who believe it’s perfectly natural to walk around with a gun in their pocket are paranoid nuts.

  10. I am very interested to know why my fellow comment-writers here carry concealed handguns. Are you all in law enforcement, or are some of you (just maybe) real-life, make-believe, wannabe superhero spies?

  11. I carry cross-draw in an IWB holster, over the shirt and under a suit jacket, or under the shirt “tucked” if I’m not wearing a jacket. Faster and more concealable than a shoulder rig, though not as comfortable in some circumstances.

    Interestingly enough, Fleming was notoriously ignorant of firearms and accessories, considering the .32ACP to be a “real stopper.” Also his “Berns-Martin Triple-Draw” holster was apparently selected for Bond’s use because it sounded cool. In reality, it won’t fit a Walther PPK, because it’s made for a revolver and uses the bulge of the cylinder to hold the weapon in place.

  12. They’re gonna have to get more creative with how Bond manages to be an international traveller yet never gets stopped by TSA agents!

  13. Yes, all Americans are superheros with guns. Remember 1917, 1941, and 2019? Oh, wait…Putin hasn’t… well, just wait, you’ll be calling us again.

    As for carrying a pistol, yes, we have many criminals kept in check by a small percent of the population. We are not an island.

    A P99 carries in a Alien Gear or Crossbreed holster just fine. One former AF Col. on YouTube carries a PPQ in a shoulder holster, but he is not a black tie guy.

    I always say my Walther PP in 7.62 is for social occasions. And my guns have killed fewer people than Bangers and Mash.

    • I’m assuming your date of 2019 is when America joins in, rather than when war starts (remember that WWI started in 1914 and WWII in 1939) which would mean war for us is just around the corner – and if it is, yes, we will be very grateful of your help once again.

    • “Yes, all Americans are superheros with guns. Remember 1917, 1941, and 2019? Oh, wait…Putin hasn’t… well, just wait, you’ll be calling us again.”

      Reasonably sure we called you in 1914 and 1939 but by all means, big note how for 2 years you sat on the sidelines and made tidy profit selling materiel to the allies as they were butchered. I’m sure those Allies who died in 1914, 1915, 1939, 1940 and let’s face it, 1941 are brimming with gratitude.

    • AJ, you are an insulting , ignorant fool. First, no one “called” in absolute terms. Many, many Americans volunteered in both wars before the US officially entered the war. Much material, arms and otherwise, in many cases heavily subsidized via the lend-lease program, and American sportsman even donated personal rifles for the disarmed British to defend their homeland when it appeared Hitler might invade. Look up the destroyer for bases agreement. Do some research before you shoot off your mouth. BTW, if was up to me you’d be speaking German now.

  14. You don’t have to be retired military or law enforcement to carry a sidearm. In Virginia open carry and concealed carry are very common, more people should carry trust me things would be different

  15. I can’t believe it had never occurred to me to try, but being near in height and shape to any given Bond actor (closest to Connery, to be sure) and owning a replica Walther PPK pellet gun, this is an easy enough thing to test.

    My gut instinct was that a shoulder-holster position wasn’t conducive to concealment because a good suit is cut with a higher arm-hole for just that reason – so your arms aren’t swimming in the sleeve and your range of movement is greater – simultaneously your jacket will hug your torso better. However, and perhaps in part because of my thinness, I found I had exactly perfect space for a Walther. But with caveats – those being that the holsters commonly sold nowadays are big, chunky affairs, and that you’d have to compel the thing, fairly lightweight or not, to hug your chest and not flap around, in a softer holster.

    The inner waistband holster seems pretty workable. Details of unbuttoning and removing your sidearm from its holster qualify as odd since it’s not something that comes up a lot, the balance between being a well-dressed gentleman and a man of action … daily … is a bit fantastical. In a heavier jacket I’d say the PPK is about as large as you can go with just keeping a gun in your hip pocket, but possibly too large depending on the pocket stitching. But that was always the trade-off that Boothroyd mentioned – size versus stopping power.

    I’ll tell you what Bond wouldn’t be doing, and that’s keeping his .357 anywhere but his glove compartment. Those things require a small suitcase!

  16. This is about five years too late, but I cannot help keeping silence.

    I have three sidearms, a Sig Sauer P229, a Walther PP .380, and a 1917 M1911 pistol. True, apart from the Walther, theoretically, they all sound like terrible conceal carry choices, even for an Anthony Sinclair suit. However, Matt, your content well covered the garment, but lack that of the gear, because after all, the suit was not the only piece that was involved.

    I am in the process of procuring a custom holster, but before I get the custom holster, I purchased a stock holster for template. The way it went, I tried it with my 9.5oz Minnis Fresco suit, and with it, I find the make or break factor lies in with the holster in the following manners – fit, adjustment, position, and material thickness. I will never use something like the mythical chamois leather holster – because it snag the front sight – but it absolutely has to be a relatively light and thin leather. Something about the thickness of calfskin for shoes – 3 – 4 oz, or 1.2 – 1.5mm – will make it. 2mm, or 5oz, can also make it, but will need much work. The holster harnesses must also be as seamless, with hardwares as flat, as possible, so as to avoid any potential print. The shape of the holster, how it is positioned in relative to the harness, must also be taken into account. Where it sits – depending on height, could be anywhere from an inch away from the armpit, or hover around the ribcage – also play a major role. The harnessing system must also mitigate straining, and at the same time, be just tight enough to counter balance. That’s just how complex it is.

    That being said, provided that at least 75% of the criteria are met, the carrier should be able to conceal up to a full size, 5 inches barrel 1911 pistol, or even a double stack P229. It does take a lot of work, but in the end, it’s a system that is guaranteed to be successful.

    Please feel free to chime in. I’d like to know what you think, Matt, especially.

    • Thank you for your input. Please keep us informed of your progress! As this is a clothing blog, and I know little about firearms, I am afraid all I comment on is the suits that concealed Bond’s pistols.

  17. Having been a police officer for the past thirty years, I carried an Interarms Walther PPK in a Galco shoulder holster with an elastic half-harness under business suits in the ‘90s. My suits back then had a fuller cut and allowed the PPK to disappear even when the jacket was buttoned.

    Today’s trimmer silhouette however, make carrying the PPK in a shoulder holster almost impossible. I have since resigned the old PPK to the safe and have either been carrying a Glock 42 (which I feel is a suitable replacement for the PPK) or a SIG-Sauer P938 in a Milt Sparks inside-the-waistband holster. The side vent allows easy access to my handgun even with the jacket buttoned.

  18. When watching Craig, I have noticed that even when he is suited he draws from a 4 o’clock carry IWB. I personally do so when the jacket I am wearing is not cut with more room in the chest. I wear a 36R jacket and often find it difficult to carry with my Galco shoulder holster without printing. However, with proper tailoring it is easy and incredibly comfortable. Also, if considering the 4 o’clock IWB carry, having a jacket with a single vent is very helpful. Double vents have a habit of snagging on the grips of the firearm as you move throughout the day, making it incredibly obvious that you are carrying. A holster like Connery’s is what I desperately need in order to CCW with a shoulder holster more often! I love carrying with the PPK, and I find that the Vega holster Craig uses is a great one for 4 o’clock and appendix (with polos or more causal attire). I am working to replicate the Connery holster in the hopes of making vertical carry a reality! (Huge Bond/firearm nerd) Love the blog Matt, read it often and I am incredibly happy to have stumbled upon this article as CCW in professional dress is a passion project of mine!

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