Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve
By Chuck Hawks
The Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve that is the subject of this review is a black, lazy "S" shaped stainless steel clip permanently attached to a wide elastic band made of material resembling tire inner tube rubber. The band is slipped over the butt of a small pistol and the metal clip can be clipped over the waistband of trousers to allow inside the waistband (IWB) carry without a holster.
Universal Sleeves come in two sizes, small and large. These fit a wide variety of .22, .32, .380, 9mm, .40, and .45 caliber pocket pistols and sub-compact autos with single stack magazines and back straps no wider than 1.18".
The idea of using some sort of clip attached to the pistol to stabilize IWB carry is not a new one. The Barami Hip Grip, introduced decades ago for snubby revolvers, pioneered the modern intrepertation of the concept. only the hip grip required replacement of at least one grip panel with a Hip Grip panel that has a built-in hook that can be slipped over the waistband. The Hip Grip is still available from Barami Corporation.
Covert Carrier, in fact, offers replacement grip panels for North American Arms ACP and Guardian pistols, with replacement panels for the Beretta Tomcat and Bobcat to be available soon. Covert Carrier also sells add-on clip fasteners that, with minor modification, can be attached to the existing removable grips of many small auto pistols.
The Covert Carrier approach allows a reasonably secure version of what has traditionally been called, but is now probably politically incorrect to refer to as, a "Mexican carry." In other words, a gun simply stuck behind the waistband of your pants.
Any variation of the Mexican carry involves certain drawbacks if the gun is to be truly concealed, beyond the obvious possibility of it falling down your pant leg onto the floor. (This actually happened to an off duty Marshal friend of mine while he was dancing.) The Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve makes that reasonably unlikely as long as you avoid strenuous activity.
The chief benefit of the Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve is that it completely eliminates the bulk of a holster. The flip side is that there is no holster to soften the lines of the gun, which is therefore even more prone to "print" through the trousers or dig into the wearer. And, the gun is not held in place as securely as it would be in an inside the waistband holster.
The Covert Carrier makes the weapon slow to get into action, as it keeps the entire butt below the top of the pants and there is very little to grab onto to draw the pistol. The off hand, if available in an emergency, can be used to push the pistol up a bit for the strong hand to grab.
I have generally found any sort of inside the waistband carry to be uncomfortable, so I am probably not the best person to review the Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve. I am 5' 10" tall and weigh 175 pounds, reasonably normally proportioned. But, no matter where I place a pistol inside my pants, the thing either prints, or pokes into me, or makes it uncomfortable to sit down. A car seatbelt can become a torture device. Believe me, I have tried every common IWB strong side and cross draw location (spleen, kidney, etc.), including in front of and behind both hips and the small of the back.
I carried a Kahr PM9 via Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve for a day. A good quality belt and pair of pants are a must to properly secure the pistol. The manufacturer recommends carrying the pistol with the Covert Carrier clip directly beyond the first belt loop of the pants, which should be about 3" to the strong side of the zipper. They warn that the positioning is important so that the pistol does not get dislodged when sitting down. If the belt loop is too far to the right of the zipper the upper thigh can strike the muzzle of the gun and push it out of its proper resting position.
Unfortunately, I found that position untenable. No matter where the PM9 pistol was positioned on that quadrant of the waistband of my Dickies work pants, the muzzle printed through my pants when I moved and/or dug into my thigh when I sat down. If I slid the pistol too far around my waistband, the butt dug into my hip.
Even though the little Kahr is a true sub-compact 9x19 auto pistol, I finally had to resort to small of the back carry, with an un-tucked work shirt over my Tee shirt in order to make it reasonably unobtrusive. (It was a warm day and a jacket would have been uncomfortable.)
Driving and sitting in a restaurant booth thus became uncomfortable experiences that simply had to be endured, with the little pistol digging into my lower back. By the end of the day I had a backache and was grateful when I arrived home and could remove the pistol. All of this is typical of my experience with any sort of small of the back carry, or inside the waistband carry, period. Others seem to get by with IWB carry, so it must be a personal problem.
The thin metal clip that is the essence of the Covert Carrier allows the gun to move through an arc around its attachment point on the waistband, so it is a good idea to check occasionally to see that neither too much of the butt or the rear of the slide has become visible to others. Bathroom mirrors can help here.
Another drawback is that the metal clip is definitely in the way if the gun is actually fired with the Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve in place. Small auto pistols like the Kahr have undersize grips, so there is nowhere to position the clip so that it is not in contact with the shooting hand, where it can gouge the middle finger or palm (bend the clip so that it doesn't). At the very least the Covert Carrier results in a less comfortable and/or less secure grip on the pistol. It does not make the pistol unusable, but it is an additional distraction.
On the plus side, the Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve is about the minimum possible way to "holster" a gun. It adds very little weight and bulk, which is always desirable. And, no modification of your gun or its grip is necessary. If you can keep the gun positioned perfectly level with the waistband of your trousers, it is unobtrusive as long as it doesn't print through your pants and you refrain from excessive movement. Avoid bending over, twisting your body, sitting down, driving (or riding in) a car, reaching backward or for something on a shelf over your head if you are using a Covert Carrier device to hide your pistol.
The Covert Carrier Universal Sleeve comes with an excellent instruction booklet that is illustrated with full color photos. Kudos to Covert Carrier for their clear and easily understood instructions. For more information, visit www.covertcarrier.com
Copyright 2006 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.