What are the best gun vests for CCW?
Over 2 months, we sent 15 concealed carry vests out with 6 EDC enthusiasts and law enforcement professionals across 3 states to tackle the kinds of tasks you’ll do every day with a vest like these – shopping, hitting a sports bar, going out to dinner, sitting, standing, and general running around – to find the best CCW vest for keeping your handgun concealed while out and about.
The Cinch Men’s Concealed Carry Vest is the perfect Goldilocks vest for any EDC fan—we even used it while tackling some barn chores to make sure it’ll work for more active users.
Its higher carry position makes it easy to carry on either side while its practical style means it can work for a variety of situations, translating well between performance/active scenarios and everyday commuter or around town use.
Quick List: The 6 Best Concealed Carry Vests:
- Top Pick: Cinch Men’s Concealed Carry Bonded Vest
- Runner-up: Venado Concealed Carry Vest for Men
- Also Great: Wrangler Men’s Concealed Carry Stretch Trail Vest
- Best Outdoor Style: Rothco Plainclothes Concealed Carry Vest
- Best Western Style: Wyoming Traders Men’s Texas Concealed Carry Vest
- Best Soft Shell: Cinch Men’s Bonded Softshell Vest
Our Top Pick (Best Overall):
If you know you want a more neutral look with slightly more water-resistance, the Cinch Men’s Concealed Carry Bonded Vest is our recommendation.
Our testers didn’t overheat often in the Cinch Bonded Vest, and its style worked well with a broad number of jackets and undershirts.
Generous pockets & better wet performance
It has some of the most generous gun pockets of any of the vests we tested and the fleece backing adds comfort without adding much weight.
It’s less expensive than our top pick, and offers more weather resistance – both in terms of exterior fabric and the higher collar, which did a great job of keeping wind and rain off our necks – but we found it worked best with smaller handguns as the lighter fabric tended to print more readily with larger pieces.
Benefits from the addition of a velcro holster
The large pockets have no securing strap, so this vest would benefit from the addition of a velcro holster. But this vest felt warm, cosier, and higher quality than many of the other options we tried.
The design does make it a little harder to layer over, so the Cinch Bonded Vest is a good option to use as an exterior layer over a long-sleeve shirt.
- Ambidextrous carry position
- Thick but light cotton exterior
- High carry position
- Multiple interior and exterior pockets
- Larger guns can print slightly
- Pistol pocket will not conceal when unzipped
- Some testers wanted more trigger protection
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After weeks of running around town, hiking through a few trails, and tackling farm chores in all sorts of weather, we think the Venado Concealed Carry Vest is a good runner up concealed carry vest.
Strikes a great balance
This high-quality concealment vest strikes a great balance, keeping you warm but not overly hot as to overheat.
When it’s raining the heavy cotton fabric does a good job of repelling wind and droplets, but even when the vest gets wet, the quilted lining insulation still keeps you warm and relatively dry.
Since it isn’t too heavy, it works well in all kinds of climates and as a top layer over long sleeve shirts (or even under a larger jacket). It adapts nicely whether you’re driving around town running errands or out on the trail.
A lot like a Carhart but with a bonus
Our testers really liked the look, which reminded them a lot of a heavy-duty Carhart vest but with better pocket positioning – as well as the fit, which didn’t ride up or bunch when on the move, and left plenty of room around the chest and midsection without binding.
In our tests, the higher conceal holsters made it easy to carry without printing and the ambidextrous carry position was easy for every tester to carry and draw from.
Larger pistols did print slightly, but compacts were easily concealed. Some testers did want for more trigger protection.
Useful holster position
The vest features 4 interior pockets, with the upper gun pockets (one on the left, one on the right) built for concealed carry, but given most people carry with a single pistol you have room for a phone or wallet in the opposing pocket.
These carry pockets also have a velcro/spandex strap that secures your weapon nicely.
These interior pockets are 7″ x 4.5″ which, along with the strap, should accommodate most handguns with ease. Below these you’ll find 2 6″ x 2.5″ lower interior magazine pouches with snap closures, so you can carry with a pair of extra magazines.
Exterior pockets are nice, too.
On the outside there are two front exterior pockets positioned right over the interior carry pockets, which helps to prevent printing.
Below these, you’ll find 2 well-positioned pockets that sit right where your hands naturally fall, so you can use them to warm chilly hands. Of course, those big hand warming pockets have room for you to stash all your everyday stuff, too.
- Easy to wear
- Good weather protection
- Comfortable and warm
The Wrangler Men’s Concealed Carry Stretch Trail Vest is a stylish concealed carry classic for people who like the Wrangler brand and want a versatile, fleece carry vest.
Easy concealment & fleece comfort
If you’re looking for something that will really obscure the fact you’re carrying (very few people know Wrangler has a concealed carry line – most folks just think Wrangler means denim vests) and need a lightweight concealment vest that is designed for full-sized handguns – this might be the vest for you.
Great for full-sized handguns
In our carry tests, we found that since the carry pockets are not adjustable, have no retention straps, and are very large, small handguns will jostle around more than we’d like.
It’s really designed for full-size handguns, which sit naturally in the pockets without tumbling around like smaller pieces.
Strong stitching & nice color choices
It had some of the strongest stitching we saw in any vest, plus a warm fleece lining that minimized heat loss, and it comes in a broader variety of colors than many other options.
Its front pockets are positioned a little further out than where your hands naturally fall but aren’t uncomfortable to use.
They also do a great job of keeping your hands warm.
Unlike our pick, it’s too roomy to easily wear under a jacket as a mid-layer, so it’s a good option if you’re looking for an outer layer CCW vest.
- Firm, comfortable material
- Quality fit
- Recognizable Wrangler brand
- Better for larger handguns
- Longer fit
Best Outdoor Style:
- Cotton/Polyester Construction Provides A Comfortable And Lightweight Design For Everyday Carry
- The Multi-Functional Utility Cargo Vest Features Over 20 Different Pockets Including 2 Concealed...
- Two-Way Zipper With Center Button Closure Tab Allows Easy Access To Your Firearm And/or Other...
When you need a CCW vest for that works as well in everyday life as when you’re fishing or trekking through the backwoods, the Rothco Plainclothes Concealed Carry Vest will get the job done while offering twice as many pockets as other vests for roughly the same price.
Additional functionality for the outdoors
We don’t recommend it for hardcore outdoor adventures – and it’s a bit a style outlier – but it is a high-quality option for that’s easy to use and offers additional functionality that makes sense when outdoors. It’s a light, functional vest available in a number of colors.
But you’ll need to like the look (it has a Walter from The Big Lebowski quality to it) and have a plan for those 20 different compartments.
Light & compact
The Rothco Plainclothes Concealed Carry Vest was one of the lightest and most compact vests we tried.
The cotton/poly fabric is super light – so this options is less of an all-weather product, more for those spring/summer times when you’re outside in the heat as it offers both a vertical rear vent and an interior mesh liner. No fleece here.
Aced our carry tests
In our carry tests it worked well and we really liked that is had 4(!) interior mag pockets and a load of exterior chest pockets. One feature our testers really liked was the inside rear zippered pocket. It’s a big pocket on the interior back of the vest, which can only be accessed with the vest off your body.
It’s basically pickpocket-proof, and a really interesting feature that only the Rothco offered. Seems like the perfect place for things like a passport or traveller’s checks.
Can get heavy if you fill all 20 compartments
The downside of having 20 places to put stuff is knowing where things are. It was easy to get almost too much stuff into the pockets, which, when combined with a firearm can make the vest heavy and much hotter than intended.
- Absurd number of pockets
- Conceals a firearm well
- Perfect for Spring/Summer carry
- Style not for everyone
- Can get heavy with all those pockets full of stuff
- Not an all-season vest
- Can run large
If you like the Western look and want a vest that will work for your everyday carry needs, Wyoming Traders Men’s Texas Concealed Carry Vest did the best job of helping us balance looking sharp and keeping our pistol concealed.
The right amount of comfort
Unlike a number of our test vests, which either limited their use to specific seasons or were too big to use as a mid-layer, Wyoming Traders’ Texas Concealed Carry Vest kept our testers the right amount of comfortable on everything from dog walks to shopping trips and hitting the town.
The Texas Vest also blocked the wind nicely and was light enough to pull a jacket over during colder stretches, which couldn’t be said for some of the competing vests.
A very effective concealed carry vest
During our carry tests, the Texas Vest was among the most effective at concealing our test firearm due to the retainer straps which hold the grip into the holster snugly and a neoprene holster backing which helps further conceal the shape of the pistol.
These felt much more like holsters than oversize pockets like some other vests tended to offer. That said, there are dual interior zipper pockets as well, so this vest has lots of room for all your goods.
Almost feels like an OWB holster
The Texas Vest’s hosters are slightly above hip level and to the rear of the vest, so this feels more like an OWB carry than shoulder carry like some of the other vests we tested.
Added bonus – it looks great and our testers really thought the western yolks added style that was fun to wear.
- Looks great
- Very well designed holster system
- Lots of additional pockets
- Works as outer layer & mid-layer
- Runs large
- Western style not for everyone
With the Cinch Men’s Bonded Softshell Vest we appreciated the mix of spandex with polyester, which give a generous amount of flex in the vest. It’s not unlike products you’d find from an outdoor brand like Columbia or The North Face: soft water-resistant exterior, YKK zippers, multiple zippered pockets inside and out.
Big, warm pockets
The handwarmer pockets are large enough to fit a phone, camera, sunglasses, checkbook-sized wallet, keys, and a couple of granola bars if you’re inclined. Only the Rothco vest had more pocket space.
Holsters are more like big pockets
The holster pockets are less holsters than oversized pockets, so while it was easy enough to draw and use the vest as designed, this is one CCW vest we thought would benefit from a velcro holster addition, such as the 511 Holster Pouch.
The exterior pockets were angled well enough that everything stayed put even after we loaded our truck with 4 50lb bags of feed, and unloaded them back at home, then moved 3 bales of straw into 3 different barn stalls. After which all of our phones, keys, and pistols were still in place.
- Good weather resistance
- Roomy with lots of pocket space
- Holsters could be improved with a velcro holster
What to look for in a concealed carry vest
To determine which vest brands and models to test, we talked to certified concealed carry instructors, consulted floor salespeople at popular outdoor & firearms retailers, and considered customer reviews. We identified 25 different potential test vests. From there, we narrowed the field down to 15 contenders to test based on criteria our CCW experts helped define.
Affordable price point:
We wanted to prioritize vests that were available for approximately $150 or less. None of the vests that made the final cut retail for more than our target range, and with sale hunting, you can often find them for considerably less.
Our experts recommended avoiding heavyweight vests for concealed carry. When it’s cold out a vest isn’t your best option for concealing a firearm – as you can use any regular IBW/OWB holster over a heavier jacket (plus if it’s cold enough that you’re reaching for a heavy vest you’ll be better served with a jacket.)
The best CCW vests keep your firearm concealed but aren’t so hot that you’ll want to remove them once you belly up to the bar. These tend to be lighter and will work best across the widest array of seasons. This is one of the reasons we avoided leather vests.
Comfortable, roomy fit:
A CCW vest is designed for concealing your pistol without making it difficult to use.
It should fit loose enough from the body so as to avoid printing the firearm and provide room to draw the weapon should the situation arise. You’ll also want room for a base layer (like a long sleeve shirt) or maybe a hoodie or sweatshirt.
An optimal vest will fit closely in the neck and shoulders without restricting movement or range of motion or pinch around the arms.
Performance is really the name of the game – but if that was all that mattered we’d all walk around wearing full riot gear.
We have to be able to blend in and conceal when carrying. This means in addition to effectively housing your firearm and avoiding printing, the vest should look like any other article of clothing, repel water and wind, keep you warm or cool, and translate to daily use, too.
These vests need to work well but be not so full of compromises or over-engineering that they feel fussy when you wear it at the bar. They should work for you in any reasonable situation.
Good closures & retention systems:
A vest’s closures (snaps, zippers, velcro) are the thing you will touch and use more than anything else.
They should be easy to open and close (even with big, meaty man hands) and hold your firearm securely within the designated holster or pocket. Closures should also include some kind of fabric over the top to prevent your hands or hairy arms from catching or scratching.
Each of these CCW vests offers EDC enthusiasts variety of different features but our top pick is the Cinch Men’s Concealed Carry Bonded Vest. We really like how it’s designed and looks like a regular heavy cotton vest.
It also met the criteria for any ankle holster we’d recommend:
- Light but quality material
- Good retention system
There are quite a few options out in this category, but we hope this article steers you in the right direction. If you have any questions or feedback please drop us a line.
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