Pants On, Gun On – Then and Now

I regret that this may be my last post reporting insights I gained from reading Lee Kennett and James LaVerne Anderson’s 1975 book, The Gun in America: The Origins of a National Dilemma (Prager). (Search the tag “Kennett and Anderson” on this site for more posts.)

Discussing the “omnipresence of firearms in the nineteenth century,” Kennett and Anderson quote the Annals of San Francisco for 1854 as reporting: “It has always been a practice with a large proportion of the citizens to carry loaded firearms or deadly weapons concealed about their person, this being, as it were, a part of their ordinary dress” (p. 120).

They reinforce this point by quoting a man from El Paso as writing, “I would as soon go out into the street without my pants as without my Colt” (p. 120).

This reminds me of a contemporary phrase coined (as far as I know) by Paul Lathrop of the Polite Society Podcast: Pants On, Gun On (POGO).

Photo by Nate Schultz, courtesy of

Of course, as many people have observed, this is easier said than done. In my book chapter, “‘The First Rule of Gunfighting is Have a Gun’: Technologies of Concealed Carry in Gun Culture 2.0,” I suggest that countless Americans who are permitted to carry a handgun in public do not do so because they cannot comfortably fit the gun into their everyday lives.

So, we see the proliferation today of clothing that is conducive to carrying concealed weapons. This, too, is an old idea. Kennett and Anderson write, again of the 19th century:

The habit of going armed was now a recognized custom in the civilized East. Tailors supplied men’s trousers with a “revolver pocket” placed on the right hip, whether it was to be used for that purpose or not.

p. 156

In the shall issue era, a great deal of design and engineering goes into developing holsters and related accessories that allow armed civilians to carry their handguns in a way that is concealed and accessible, safe and comfortable.

A recent example is the Enigma from Jon Hauptman’s PHLster Holsters. Most holsters are belt mounted, but in recognition of the “casualization” of everyday life in America, many people do not wear pants with belts. Many people do not wear pants at all, but opt for sweats or shorts or pajamas. Moreover, much women’s attire is not conducive to holsters designed with men in mind (or, to be honest, with women out of mind).

The Enigma is, according to PHLster, “the world’s first concealment chassis.” It is designed to accept various different holsters and to be worn under whatever clothes the person has on.

Demand for products designed to make it easier to observe Lathrop’s dictum — Pants On, Gun On — is high in certain corners of the gun carrying population. To wit: When it was released in November, the initial production run of Enigmas sold out in an hour.

I am happy to say “I got mine” (at full retail pricing) and am looking forward to giving it a try as soon as I can, even though I am not big into the whole casual attire thing.

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