The Times, They are a Changin’
As additional states (thankfully) adopt more civilized firearms laws such as Constitutional Carry or Shall Issue legislation, I thought I would share with you some thoughts and advice about carrying concealed that I have found quite helpful over the years.
Since there have already been good posts on this blog in regards to some of the shooting drills that can facilitate concealed carry shooters, I thought I would focus on the practical concealment portion instead of adding to the growing list of additional drills.
While this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide to concealed carry, it should get you moving in the right direction, and – as always – I welcome your thoughtful input in this blog, or via email. Your suggestions and improvements are always welcome and will be added to updates of this article and its sister white paper as they come in.
Let’s begin with a definition – The dictionary defines conceal as • to keep from sight; hide: • keep (something) secret; prevent from being known or noticed.
To refine this definition to better meet our needs as concealed carriers, I would point towards two key concepts: i) keeping your firearm hidden and secret until, ii) you make the decision that the benefits of having the gun in your hands outweighs the benefits having it concealed.
Reason for Concealment (the Why)
Because of the hoplophobia displayed by much of society today, it would be a bit of an understatement to say that carrying open would make most people uncomfortable… especially those who have been brought up in areas where a citizens rights have been denied and open carry is an unusual sight. Because of these facts, and because we are civilized and rational men, it behooves us to modify our behavior to the extent that such modifications don’t place either ourselves or our loved ones in greater jeopardy. Therefore, carrying concealed is certainly a very viable option. And, to be perfectly frank, it’s an option I would want even if one could carry open legally. Therefore proper concealment allows us to fulfill our responsibility to ourselves, our family, as well as society, all the while gaining us the advantage of convenience in carry as well as the all important tactical advantage of surprise.
For instance, with a long gun of any kind, eating dinner at a restaurant is made much more inconvenient (storage vs. accessibility) and doing so would certainly be conspicuous. However, by carrying concealed, weapons retention while eating or moving is not a problem at all.
Also, by easily blending in with society, concealed carry gives us the element of surprise when we need it the most, while at the same time giving the bad guys a lot more potential threats to worry about.
Thus, carrying a handgun concealed lends itself much more readily to being practically armed with minimum inconvenience and fuss to all concerned parties (except for the bad guys of course).
Ralph Waldo Emerson once pointed out, “As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods.” I couldn’t agree more, so let’s begin with some simple Principles of Effective Concealment.
Four Principles for Effective Concealment
To achieve the goal of total concealment, it would be helpful if your chosen equipment would meet the following four main criteria:
- Use clothing and equipment that is comfortable enough to wear all the time.
- If what you are using is so uncomfortable that you either wear it less, or gradually quit carrying altogether, you have defeated your primary purpose in carrying – That being said, don’t expect to begin carrying without a certain degree of initial discomfort, as it takes time to adjust your body to carrying a firearm.
- Your selection in clothing and equipment should effectively conceal your firearm.
- Because people can (and have) learned to see the tells (subconscious fidgeting and adjustments of clothing or equipment) of concealed carry, your choice in clothing and equipment must leave no doubt as to is ability to effectively keep your firearm concealed. If you are continuously fidgeting to check yourself because you are afraid you equipment or clothing isn’t keeping your firearm concealed, then your clothing and equipment is not meeting this principle. For your own sake, find the appropriate clothing and equipment that will give you confidence in your ability to effectively carry concealed.
- Equipment should be simple and practical enough to help you fight effectively
- This means that your equipment needs to retain your firearm during jostling, yet be easily accessible when you need it.
- Like anything else in life, in order to get better, you need to practice properly
- Once you make the decision to carry, and have obtained your license, find a range where they will allow you to practice concealed. Then practice under the same conditions you would normally find yourself in.
- While I fully advocate a citizens constitutional right to carry (even without training), I would encourage you to attend training beyond your states minimum required training to obtain your license. Whether this training is with us or not, get the best you can afford, because it is the single most important thing you can do for yourself and loved ones once you have made the choice to carry concealed.
One of the ways that we achieve concealment is through the wearing of appropriate equipment and clothing. Appropriate equipment and clothing will give you the confidence to carry concealed without the worry of unintentionally showing your firearm. Most often, this unintentionally show of firearms is caused by wearing inappropriate clothing or equipment which allows an outline or bulge in clothing, this is what is termed as “printing.” Often printing is a product of improper holster placement, a stock that is too long, or an extended magazine which in effect, lengthens the profile of the stock under the concealment clothing. Another way you could show your firearm is an unintentional uncovering or exposing it. This could happen when you stretch or bend over and your clothing exposes the firearm.
While this unintentional showing of the firearm is something we need guard against, it is not what is termed as “brandishing” a weapon. Brandishing would be when someone either opens their concealment garment on purpose or otherwise shows their firearm to another person with the intent to threaten or intimidate. While an accidental exposure of your firearm is both tactically unsound as well as a potentially embarrassing faux pas, it is not necessary illegal (unless of course you are carrying illegally), however; brandishing a weapon is illegal, and shows both a lack of tactical soundness while also demonstrating poor judgment.
While holster placement is a personal preference, I personally recommend keeping everything from just behind the point of the hips, at about the 5 or 7 o’clock position (avoiding getting your handgun or magazines on or too near the spine).
By keeping the handgun in this position, it becomes near invisible when viewed from the front, even if a breeze should blow open your cover garment. Additionally, with this type of a configuration you are setting yourself up for success when you add long guns to your repertoire – because you will be able to keep your holster and magazine pouch in the same place as you sack your long gun equipment forward of your established positioning for your handgun.
Remember: if you are showing or printing, you are losing the benefit of total concealment and giving up your advantage of surprise.
Does the above suggestions mean that you can’t wear your handgun near the front?
No, it doesn’t, provided that doing so doesn’t impede your movement or inadvertently expose your firearm should your cover garment flap open.
I have seen people draw quite effectively from forward carries… Just ensure that before you carry towards the front, you do plenty of bending and squatting to ensure you aren’t restricting your full range of motion and that it fit’s your lifestyle. You are an adult, so you figure out what will work be best for your lifestyle and start working it.
While being visually concealed is good and important, I believe that an even better policy to adopt when carrying concealed is keeping the fact that you are carrying concealed a complete secret. What I am getting at here is – don’t even talk about it. Not even to your friends.
Concealed carrying is for your benefit, for your safety, and the safety of those around you. Once you start telling people that you carry concealed, you may as well carry in the open. So even if you are considering carrying concealed, or you are about to commit to carrying concealed, don’t be a “chatty Cathy” and begin telling everyone about it. If your friend asks you if you have started to carry, you can simply smile and say something like “Well Joe, if I told you whether or not I carried concealed, it would defeat the purpose of carrying concealed now wouldn’t it?”
Along these same lines, be cautious of those seemingly unintentional bumps around your firearm or magazine pouch, as it may indicate someone is trying to gather information.
Am I being paranoid? Not at all, as I learned this trick from undercover police officer who use a casual brushing glance of the hand/arm/hip to test for concealed carry if he had a suspicion of someone carrying. If the police do this, one can safely assume a criminal whose life may depend on your carrying will be equally clever.
I am not saying that you need to over-react here, just be aware.
Which Holster May be Right for You?
I assure you that I am not trying to be evasive when I tell you that you will be the best at judging which holster is ideal for your lifestyle. While I can’t tell you (nor should anyone else) what you should purchase, I can give you some basic ideas behind what may help you to shape a more appropriate decision. First, I would recommend that once you figure out your needs, you commit yourself to purchasing the best holster you can afford.
Unfortunately the holster is sometimes a distant second thought after the purchase of the handgun and ammunition, and it shouldn’t be.
I personally would rather have a generic handgun with generic (yet dependable) ammunition with a quality holster, than having a top of the line custom made handgun, with the most recently lauded ammunition, and a poor holster.
While expensive holsters do not necessary equal quality, often the very cheap means… well, exactly that. Remember – a quality holster can save your life and spare you countless hours of frustration due to improper practice that you will be forced to deal with if you select a poorly made/designed holster. So it is in your best interest to purchase a quality holster that will fit your lifestyle and be an item that you can rely on for years to come.
Next, consider what it is that you do on a daily basis. Do you do a lot of walking and standing around? If so, then you may want to consider carrying your firearm concealed around your waist. If however, you find yourself sitting in a chair or vehicle most of the time, you may find that reaching your firearm in a timely manner becomes substantially more difficult (nigh impossible) when it is concealed around your waist, hidden by a blazer, and trapped by a seat-belt (especially when it’s carried behind the point of the hip).
Therefore if you do a lot of sitting or driving, you may choose to opt for under the arm type holster under a jacket or vest. I know that under the arm types of holsters have received quite a bit of scorn in the past. However, people can be safely trained to use their firearms in this carry, so unless someone can present a legitimate argument (based on reason and facts), I see no cause to avoid them if they give you a practical advantage in your situation. If you wear relatively loose fitting shirts, a holster that is worn outside of your waistband may be fine.
If on the other hand, you normally wear more form fitting shirts, you may want to consider an inside the waistband or “IWB” holsters, which tend to help conceal better because they are shaped to keep the handgun closer to the body.
Are the plastic type (Kydex) holsters better than leather?
Well, that mainly depends on your working environment, and to be quite honest, is simply a matter of personal preference.
Most plastic type holsters hold up better when repeatedly exposed to sweat and water. Also many leather holsters will collapse when worn IWB, especially once they become wet. However; leather is usually more comfortable because it is very flexible, and some leather manufacturers are now incorporating synthetics into their designs to keep the holster open.
Some holsters are simply more visually appealing than others. Visual appeal (in my opinion) should be your last consideration, but nonetheless visual appeal does become a factor in the process – I am not going to knock it – go ahead and get what works and looks good too. I have a good friend and fellow instructor that manufactures some of the most practical yet visual appealing leather holsters I have ever seen, and I admire their functionality, durability, comfort, and beauty… Yet I stick with the Kydex type because my work environment (hot and sweaty) is not leather friendly. Might I some day switch to leather? Sure, if the situation permits.
Companies like Raven Concealment Systems and Kaluban Cloak, specialize in the types of holsters which do meet the above stated criteria, as the are molded to fit closer to the body. An additional benefit that I have found with these types of holsters is that they are easy to modify from an inside the waistband holster (generally better for concealed carry or low-profile work with light body armor) to an outside the waistband holster (better for heavier body armor), in a matter of minutes with simple tools like a phillips-head screwdriver. Are Raven and Kaluban the only holsters on the market that you should consider? Nope, I have carried other holsters over the years that have served me well.
However, the purpose of this article is not to compare the virtues of the various holsters and their manufacturers out there, but to give you some basic ideas of what you should be looking for as a general fit for you and your lifestyle. You may find that a man-purse (Maxpedition a.k.a. “manpurse” type of bags comes to mind here) may suit your lifestyle best. If you are a woman you may find that a concealment purse is the ideal solution.
There are plenty of concealment purses manufactured today that are both practical as well as fashionable, and a good concealment purse will allow you to save the expense of modifying your wardrobe. One of the many wonderful things that the capitalist system provides is both variety and great customer service. This certainly holds true to for the manufacturers of holsters, as I have worked rather extensively with more than a few holster manufacturers to custom order as well as modify currently manufactured equipment to better meet my needs (I am sure that a concealed purse manufacturer would work with you as well)
These holster manufacturers can even make great Kydex inserts for your Maxpedition bags, and I am sure most other manufacturers who are firmly up and running (or just want a challenge) will do the same if asked.
Feel free to use the comment section on this blog post to keep us up to date with who is or who is not capable of working with you, and pass it on to your fellow warriors.
What the company can’t do at their facility – well, there is always the option of personal modifications once the product arrives at your home.
As long as you don’t defeat any of the built in safety features, you should be good to go. If you have any doubts about whether or not your modifications will negatively affect the safety features of your holster, either leave the product alone or contact the manufacturer for their expert advice and opinions. You may even be giving them a great idea for future models.
Finally, if you end up with a holster you don’t like or you find is not ideal as your were lead to believe it would be, it’s okay. You can always purchase a better one and sell the old one on eBay. The bottom line is – don’t be afraid to change out holsters and begin practicing with your new holster immediately… your life may very well depend on it.
Next blog posting…
In the next posting I will cover ideas for handgun selection in regards to concealed carry, retention systems, how to gradually change into a concealed carrier so that once you acquire your license you will naturally blend into your roll as a concealed handgun carrier, as well as some basic ideas for clothing modification if you need them.
These articles are not intended to give legal advice for carrying concealed. Just as there are a great deal of variance in the firearms laws between states, there are variances in counties within those states, as well as variances in each city. With this in mind we encourage you to become intimately familiar with firearm law as it applies to the jurisdiction in which you reside and carry in.