IDPA Vest: Not All Vests are Created Equal

Over the past few weeks, I have been shopping for a concealment garment for IDPAOpens in a new tab.. I realize that this isn’t necessary and that most people have a variety of items in their wardrobe that would work just fine. I have a number of button-down shirts that could easily serve as a concealment garment and plenty of long shirts that would do the trick as well.

One quiet morning while I had the house all to myself, I belted on my holster and stood in front of the mirror. Concealing the gun wasn’t an issue. An unbuttoned shirt had more than enough length to cover my gun and holster. The same was true for a handful of polo-style shirts.

In terms of the Polo, I didn’t feel comfortable with the motion of getting to the gun. Using my support hand to lift my shirt was fine for daily carry, but re-holstering was cumbersome. I didn’t want to get into an awkward situation at a match and be that guy that requires the helpful hand of the Safety Officer during the “Holster” command.

A button-down shirt, on the other hand, was easy to manipulate. It moved out of the way with a flick of the thumb when drawing and easily moved for re-holstering. The only thing that I didn’t like was how wispy the shirt felt when moving it out of the way. While this may not be an issue most of the time, I could imagine a breeze blowing in from behind me, keeping the shirt from being flicked away.

Aside from the draw, I found that when pressing the gun out, the shirt would pull tight across my back. We aren’t talking about Incredible Hulk action where the shirt would rip apart, but it was tightening up and became mildly annoying. This annoyance was compounded if I moved my upper body while the gun was at full extension.

Not to sound like a whiner pointing out all of these annoying traits of my wardrobe, but there was a simple solution. All I had to do was invest in a vest. It would act like a button-down shirt in the sense that I could sweep it away, but, unlike the shirt, it would have a little more weight and be less wispy. Not to mention, the lack of sleeves would reduce its tightening across my back.

Enter The Vest:

Unfortunately, I’m not makin’ mad cheddar, yo! (bonus cool points if you can make the connection there), so I did what anyone on a budget would do. I took a ride to Walmart in search of an IDPA Vest. My first stop was in the Men’s Apparel department, followed by Sporting Goods. I struck out in both departments and wound up leaving empty-handed.

As I walked to my car, I decided to make my way to the shopping complex next door and give Tractor Supply a try. After all, they were my saving grace when I was in the market for a Gilligan style hat to keep the sun off of my face and neck; what did I have to lose? I had better luck than Walmart, but Denim or Camo wasn’t the fashion statement I wanted to make at my next IDPA Match.

IDPA Vest - Denim or Camo - 1

On my way home, I stopped at Target for my final attempt at obtaining an IDPA Vest. Much like Walmart, they had nothing that would suit my needs. Lacking time to drive out to Cabela’s, I went home and decided to track down something online. My first stop was Amazon, and the options were plentiful. I added a vest to my shopping cartOpens in a new tab. and began to have second thoughts. I’ve ordered clothing online before, with great success, but something told me to try on the vest before I bought it. I canceled the order and decided to make the trip to Cabela’s when I had more free time.

Not All Vests are Created Equal:

When I had the time to make the trip to Cabela’s, I went with a recommendation to look at their Safari Series Vest. I began looking around and found vests o’ plenty. I tried on a number of them, some lightweight and comfortable, others heavy and perfect for the winter months. Despite all of the good qualities of these vests, every single one was too short. The bottom of the vests stopped at my belt line, which would have left most of my gun exposed. This wouldn’t cut it as an IDPA Vest.

At this point, I couldn’t find the Safari Series vest and was trying on Carhartt and Under Armor apparel. Before leaving another store empty-handed, I tracked down an associate. I pulled the Safari Series vest up on my phone, showed it to the associate, and she took me to the near-empty rack where they were stored.

The associate was able to track down one in my size. I tried it on and was relieved that I finally found a vest that was long enough to cover a holstered gun. Finally, my search was over, and I had an IDPA Vest.

IDPA Vest - Cabelas Safari Series - 1

Try Before You Buy:

The moral of the story here is simple if you are going to buy an IDPA Vest, try it on before buying. Had I ordered online, I probably would have wound up with a good-quality vest, but it may not have been long enough to cover my gun. By the same token, the Safari Series vest I purchased was almost dismissed because it looked too heavy and bulky online.

As it turns out, the Safari Vest has a variety of pockets, but they aren’t nearly as bulky as they appear online. The vest itself is vented and should serve well in the warmer months. In the winter, I’ll wear a jacket or coat.

One thing I wish I had done was to bring an empty holster to the store with me. It would have been nice to have an actual holster to gauge vest length.


Hi There, My name is Walt White and as the name of this blog suggests, I am a Pennsylvania resident. In addition to having numerous hobbies that I discuss on my blog - I’m also the father of three little girls and a pitbull.

14 thoughts on “IDPA Vest: Not All Vests are Created Equal

  1. Remember, the gun must not be visible when doing the scarecrow check. That includes visibility through any mesh parts.

  2. So here’s my two cents on the whole vest thing. The 5.11 Tactical vests and Woolrich Elite vests are common. You see plenty of them at any given match. Their nice because they are designed specifically to be a concealment garment. Also, they’re made from a heavy, stiff material that is easy to sweep out of the way when you draw your weapon. I have two problems with them though. They’re HOT and EXPENSIVE. $70 is simply too much money for a vest. After months of searching and trying on and adding the Woorich to my shopping cart, only to delete it after pondering the cost plus shipping fees, I finally found one that I deemed suitable.

    I found it in the Men’s clothing section at Bass Pro Shops. It’s not a fishing vest. USPSA shooters love to make fun of IDPA “fishing vests”, but fishing vests are too short to conceal a weapon. This particular one is made of a lightweight rip-stop cotton/poly blend material that is much cooler and dries quicker than the 5.11’s, Woorich’s or other heavy cotton canvas type vests. It doesn’t sweep away as well on the draw, but a set of car keys in the strong side pocket solves that problem easily and the weak side cargo pocket can be bloused out to aid in a fast reload-with-retention. Best part is; it was only about $30. It’s the Bass Pro Shop’s Red Head brand. I’ve been using it for several months now, and I like it a lot.

  3. I’ve had great luck with good IDPA gear by hitting up my local Army Surplus store. Pants with extra wide pocket openings, rain coats and concealment vests.

  4. I found a vest at the local Army/Police store. It’s an outback vest. Sounds alot like the one you got. I needed a big size and they were $25 where as the 5.11 was $89. It doesn’t flip back as good as the 5.11 but it works for my big belly.

  5. I started out with a $100 trap-shooters vest marked down to $25 at Bass Pro. Works well, is comfortable, and within my cheep price range. I carry it in my truck as a backup in case I or another shooter forgets theirs. Eventually upgraded to an Eotach that an eBay company was clearing out (Eotach is out of business). Very similar to the Woolrich tactical series but less expensive and longer. Won’t touch 5.11 stuff after poor longevity from their pants and a belt.

  6. i have a 5.11 tactical sitting in a bag on my couch. can’t decide whether to keep it or return it….

    i’d prefer to just wear like a bdu/work shirt style top. but they do seem slower…..

    what to do, what to do….

  7. LOL You went to ALL that trouble…to finally buy something made in China. Hope that makes you feel good when you’re at a shooting event. Duh.

    1. Just a little info on concealed carry vests designed for IDPA shooting, I own a company that is solely dedicated to concealed carry vests. I might recommend We have a line of vests specifically designed for IDPA shooting. They are of a good weight, long enough to cover any handgun and are very comfortable. Check it out. Oh!just so you know, all of our vests are made in house right here in the USA. You can shoot proudly.

  8. “One thing I wish I would have done was bring an empty holster to the store with me. It would have been nice to have an actual holster to gauge vest length.”

    Dude, you live in PA. Bring a filled holster with you.

  9. I went to Goodwill and found countless options…. for $4.99 each! Came home with two button down, pocketed shirts, slightly oversized for me so they cover. One is a lighter color and material short sleeve for hotter months and the other is a dark color and heavier material for cooler months. They had various “vests” as well.

  10. Just a little info on concealed carry vests designed for IDPA shooting, I own a company that is solely dedicated to concealed carry vests. I might recommend We have a line of vests specifically designed for IDPA shooting. They are of a good weight, long enough to cover any handgun and are very comfortable. Check it out.

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