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The concept of concealed carry of weapons has been with us since ancient (prehistoric, even?) times, and is a common trope in medieval-fantasy universes as well. Characters in various stories have used a wide variety of means of concealment, and there are several common tropes surrounding placement of concealed small blades; however, it is not touched on how effective these tropes actually would be.

So, what are the pros and cons of the various places on one’s body one could conceal a dagger of modest size (blade of 10–15 cm minimum, total length 30 cm max)?

Assume this is a mid-to-late medieval fantasy setting — thin blades are forgeable, but gunpowder is but an alchemical curiosity as elemental sulfur and/or saltpetre/nitre aren’t available in the quantities needed to make it useful. Also, the wearer is only needing to evade casual searches, not a determined “find-the-hidden-dagger” effort.

Last but not least — you can consider three different concealed-carry applications:

  • The thug, trying to sneak a weapon past casual inspection for a quick draw in the heat of the moment
  • The merchant, who wants something unobtrusive but available to deal with the occasional bandit
  • The lady, who hates how open carry spoils her looks but has to have something on her for safety’s sake
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  • $\begingroup$ Hrm -- could the close-voter explain the off-topicness of this question to me? (Are they trying to say I should be asking about historical medieval practice on History.SE instead of asking it as a medieval-fantasy reality-check here?) $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Aug 26 '16 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's a question to be closed, but it is a mighty big one, so the close vote might have been "too broad." The art of concealing changes with the times and with the individual. A soldier concealing a knife for a quick draw is going to have very different requirements from a young woman who just wants something on her body so she feels safer. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 26 '16 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ Convenient location: There is one story from the biblical book of Judges where a man named Ehud successfully assassinates a king by with a weapon conceaned on his right thigh. He was left-handed, and the guards only examined him on his left side. Difficult location: I've heard of an assassin who swallowed a dagger with a string put around a hole in loop in the sheath tied one of his lower front teeth. $\endgroup$ – Itolet Aug 26 '16 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Itolet comments are intended to help improve the post to which they're attached; yours reads much more like a small answer. If you can help Shalvenay focus his question enough to get it reopened I suggest you post as such. $\endgroup$ – nitsua60 Aug 27 '16 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ Do some research on this. The only weapons banned from being carried really were swords and only from being carrying around town like a moron. People generally wouldn't carry other weapons because of how much of a pain they were and knives and daggers weren't banned at all, because everyone needed them for tools and this was the case till late 1800s. If you can conceal carry a sword I'd be might impressed, but everything else was just a matter of style or preference. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Aug 27 '16 at 22:45
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The thug

  • Caneswords; a thin rapier can easily be hidden by using the cane as a sheath.
  • In the Boot; since it is only a light search, a large knife could be hidden in the boots.
  • In the trousers; a small, sheathed knife can easily be hidden under a belt buckle to avoid detection.
  • Prison; If the blade is small enough, you can "easily" hide it by hootering it in the anus.

The Merchant

  • Under a cloak, simply equip the sheath underneath a cloak or coat
  • Caneswords; a thin rapier can easily be hidden by using the cane as a sheath.
  • In the Boot; since it is only a light search, a large knife could be hidden in the boots.

The Lady

  • In the Boot 2.0; high heel boots are practically built to conceal weapons.
  • Under the dress, a small knife can easily be strapped onto the thigh.
  • Japanese war fans; just like normal fans, but made of sharpened steel.

enter image description here

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Artificial limbs make excellent hiding places. I've seen historical exhibits of wooden legs that had hollows inside of them.

The best recommendation I can think of is to see what modern clothing is doing with cell phones -- extra pockets, hidden folds, under arm and belt holsters... Cell phones are about the same size as daggers, the person needs to have them in all the cases you listed, and there are plenty of times when they need/want to be smuggled into somewhere.

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I thought there was an accepted answer already for this question, but I see now that there isn't. So, what's the best way to carry a weapon unobtrusively in the mid-late Medieval period? The answer is surprisingly simple:

The knife.

Unlike today, people in the medieval routinely carry knives everywhere with them. Knives weren't weapons per se, although they could certainly have been used that way. The reason was that knives were versatile tools. You can use it to eat, open crates/packages, cut stuff, pry stuff loose, dig (somewhat), etc. etc. As such seeing a merchant, or a commoner, or even a nobleman walk around with a knife sheathed on their belts were very common and would not attract attention. An assassin wishing to assassinate someone would be much better off using this because: a) It doesn't attract attention (unlike something very specialized like a thrust dagger) and b) The wound it causes is so common that (with medieval technology) Camelot CSI couldn't begin to tell you which specific knife caused this specific wound.

I suppose for ladies there were always the 'bosom knife' or 'bosom dagger', which were knives/daggers concealed in the..well..bosom to be pulled out in case some inbred noble decided to get fresh.

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A belt. An ornamental belt buckle could hold a small dagger or punch dagger, that wouldn't be removable without unlatching it. This would be a simple stabby weapon.

For the more skilled martial artist - something like an urumi, I can't find a decent photo of a regular version but here's a video of them in use, while they need an expert to use, they're flexible and might be hidable in a belt. A short version might be usable as part of a corset or stay, or as part of a design of a purse.

A sheathed thin wire garotte might be a reasonable weapon as well, could be used to tie down hair, and be used to ensnare limbs.

And of course

Trained attack squirrels. Adorable pets. Then they go for the nuts.

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A folding blade would probably be impractical. It will be more fragile than a fixed blade, and without a spring mechanism it will be slow to use. That means a fixed knife. The length of the handle will add to the length of the blade.

  • For stabbing and slashing, look at the WWII SAS dagger. The total length is almost 30 cm.
  • A throwing knife may be somewhat smaller, but the total length will still be much longer than the blade itself.

Hiding either one against a determined, hands-on search will be impossible. At best, your character can hide it from a visual inspection.

  • I expect that a scabbard will prevent injuries. It will also increase the bulk.
  • Depending on cultural assumptions, females may be extempt of hands-on searches by male searchers. Female searchers may or may not exist. For a mixed party with non-traditional gender roles, hiding the weapon anywhere on a female may be effective.
  • If heavy boots are worn, the knife may be hidden in the boot.
  • The scabbard may be carried on the inner thighs. How accessible that is depends on clothing.
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The answer depends very much on the clothes and fashion of the people in this world. Generally the larger and more fluffy clothes the easier it is to conceal something. If the fashion is the same in your world as it was in medieval Europe the clothes would often be tighter trousers or breeches and more loose and larger jackets or doublets. I would suggest you do some image searching on 15th or 16th century clothing and look for good places in the clothing to hide your dagger.

Places I would recommend for men: - In the boots, if the boots are tall. - At the hip, if the blade is short and flat, and the person is wearing fluffy pantalons. - Vertical on his back with point up or diagonally upwards, if his wearing a cloak or a mantel.

Places I would recommend for women: - Inner calf if wearing a long dress (easier to draw from then thigh). - Under (or in) her hair and veil, if the blade is shorter.

As I said it is entirely dependent on the clothes, but something to keep in mind is that in a situation where people generally don't carry weapons (e.g. after being searched at the entrance to a ball or the like) a small weapon is as deadly as a large one.

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Let's start with the easy one - the lady. Hair pins, necklace dagger, anything hidden around or in the bust area. Umbrella rapier, purse dagger, etc., etc. A woman has so many places to hide something. The most effective locations will be those on the outside of the clothing, like the hair pin.

For men - thug or gentleman, the best concealed location is right out in the open. Consider the tactical pen. It looks like a standard ball point, but is hardened steel casing for quick retrieval and stabbing. I sincerely doubt a ball point pen will be common place, so it would have to be something else that is - a belt buckle for instance or a cane.

A thug might have a beer stein with a removable handle or leather wristbands.

A gentleman might carry a book - easy to hide something in there - or a satchel.

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The two rules of thumb are the better hidden it is the harder it is to get it in a hurry, and the better a weapon it is the harder it is to hide.

nearly every place on the body is an option, the back between the shoulder blades, under the arm in the small of the back, on the forearm, on the upper arm, the belly , on or inside belts, inside girdles and sashes, the crotch, inside and outside the thigh, the shin or calf, inside the side of a boot, inside the heel of a boot.

Then there are the off the body options blades have been hidden in all sorts of objects: umbrellas, brushes, makeup and sniff tins, canes, buckles, jewelry, candles, lanterns, hats, even inside food and drink. but consider that you were expected to defend yourself and carry a weapon in most societies, plus you needed a knife for everything and it was often the only eating utensil so not carrying one was weird. If anything Not carrying a knife openly might make people suspicious of you, after all they knew you had one so why were you hiding it? so consider having a open carry weapon and making concealed ones back ups.

a merchant in bandit country is likely going to have a weapon openly carried and available, a belt knife at least, why hide it? Plus merchants often wore layers of clothing and would have to carry a money purse and scales so hiding things is easy. Consider a jambiya, they were popular in the middle east for both the one handed draw and being unobtrusive.

As for your lady consider a purse knife or sash knife also remember you were expected to bring your own utensils to meals (they were not provided) so even to a dinner party she would still be expected to have a knife.
As for your thug unless he is in prison he would be allowed a knife, it might be partially hidden by putting it inside the belt instead of on top but that's about it. A thug would likely have little more than simple pants and tunic which does not provide many hiding places so he might be stuck with the boot knife if he has to hide something.

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