In the first part of this two part series on basic concealed carry ideas, I covered the Four Principles for Effective Concealment, the definition of concealment as it pertains to our needs as concealed weapons carriers, and I finished up with writing about some considerations for what you might want to take into account for your holster.
We will finish up this introductory series covering the topics of firearms considerations for carrying concealed, retention for holsters, giving you some ideas of how to adjust your body to this new way of living while keeping the concept of complete concealment at the forefront of your mind, and I will conclude with some ideas for concealed garment modifications that any alteration shop can help you with.
Factors in Handgun Selection
Selecting a firearm could be it’s own large blog post… heck, it could be a series. Fortunately, there are already numerous good articles out there on this topic. Yet, since I have cracked open the door with my previous comments on holster selection, I should at least touch on handgun selection as it relates to practical concealed carry.
I would like to point out here that I am not professing to know your situation, and what will ultimately work best for you. Again, I am simply asking you to consider the Principles for Effective Concealment (see part one).
With the above in mind, I would offer the following ideas:
It does matter. Both in the caliber you are going to be shooting, as well as the size of the frame you will be trying to conceal with your clothing and equipment.
If you are larger in stature, you do have more options, if you are smaller/slimmer you will have some limitations on the size of frame you will be able to hide. If you choose too large of a size, you won’t be able to effectively conceal it. Too small and we will run into the problem below…
The handgun you are looking for needs to be large enough to fit your hands well enough to allow for manipulation without having the firearm pinching your hands when you load or perform various reloads. At the same time, the stock (pistol grip) needs to be short enough as to not “print.” This is a delicate balance and should be given your full consideration. As a short stock means fewer rounds and easier to conceal; yet if it is too short it could be horrible ergonomically for you. Conversely, if you are wanting more ammunition, you will be going with a larger stock that may be more ergonomically suited for your frame, yet will be difficult to conceal.
Here we run into the principle of duality, which states that most tactical principles and techniques have two sides that can be exploited to your advantage depending on where you find yourself in the tactical situation. As with most things in life, these principles and techniques have give and take; that is you are gaining something while at the same time you losing something in the process.
While a few oz. here and there doesn’t seem like much, after 12 or more hours you will feel it. Can you learn to deal with it? Certainly. However, if it causes you to wear your firearm less… well, you know where that goes.
How to say this tactfully… in my opinion (this is my opinion, so please don’t send me hate-email or comments), safeties are overrated. You – the end user – are the one safety feature that must be in place. If you have poor safety habits, the number of safeties on the firearm you purchase will make no difference, as you will still be a danger to both yourself and everyone around you regardless of the number of safeties on the firearm. Conversely, if your safety habits are well ingrained, you can confidently carry any unmodified handgun, even without any safeties or with broken safeties you will keep yourself and all innocents safe.
Revolver or Semi-auto
Completely a matter of personal preference and how much you are willing to put into your training. Either type of firearm will work well – if you will train how to use it properly.
If you feel you need more information on firearms selection, just do a quick search on this blog or go to Google and get to it.
If you have never shot before (or shot very little), I would recommend that once you have narrowed your potential candidates down, you schedule a half day at a local gun-shop that has an indoor range where you can both manipulate and test-fire different handguns under basic supervision. In your manipulations you are checking to see if they meet the above requirements (not pinching your hands on loads/reloads).
I would also recommend that you shoot the heaviest caliber you can shoot comfortably. Comfort is a concern, because if the caliber is too big and scares you too much to shoot, you will shoot less, and that’s not our goal as it’s not conducive to wining a fight for life.
Also keep in mind that if you receive proper training on a good combative fighting grip, you will be able to manage greater recoil than you may currently believe yourself capable of, so don’t necessarily turn down something that seems barely manageable, because with the correct grip, barely manageable becomes manageable.
Many shops have this type of service available, and you should take full advantage of it.
Finally, don’t let someone sell you anything you don’t need or that is not right for you. Many people give advice, and all advice is not equal. Press for a fair trade, and understand that you may make decisions today about what to buy that you may soon regret. Not a problem, just like with the holsters, there is a huge market out there for used products.
Retention or Not?
When we talk about retention in holsters, it generally refers to some type of device on the holster that you must first manipulate in order to free the handgun from the holster. This device could be a push button, a snap, or any other device that must first be manipulated before allowing the handgun to be drawn for use.
As mentioned in the third of the four principles for effective concealment, your equipment should be simple and practical enough to help you fight effectively.
The idea here is that the holster effectively contains your firearm even through a jostling (running, falling, punching, being punched and falling, etc.,) yet; allows you to access your firearm in a timely manner.
If you are fiddling with numerous retention devices instead of drawing when you need to have the gun out and going to work, you could be in a world of hurt in short order.
Does this mean that your holster should not have any type of retention?
Certainly not. One of the most effective draws is to already have the handgun in your hands just before you absolutely need it. Yet in those instances when you don’t have that luxury, it’s best that the retention you do have is minimal enough to deactivate in short order.
Currently many Kydex holsters are manufactured with enough tension around the trigger guards to meet the need of retention.
Don’t Change – too Much, too Soon
When it comes to effectively concealing your firearm, it would be ideal if you were able to carry with the clothing you normally wear in your daily life.
If, for instance, you normally wear jeans and a polo to work, modern day holsters and fashion options allow you to adapt to your current clothing style to a concealed carry without a dramatic change in your appearance.
Why do we want to avoid any dramatic change in your appearance? Because a sudden change in clothing suggests a sudden change in lifestyle… which again brings up questions in peoples minds, something we are attempting to avoid when it comes to total concealed carry.
Next, you wear what you wear for a reason – because it is both functional and comfortable, and through your life experiences you have found what works best for you on a daily basis.
Make your clothing selection and/or modifications match your needs; if for example, you are planning on carrying a holster that you will wear outside of the waistband, you may only need to purchase larger shirts or vests in order to accommodate your new concealed carry location.
If, on the other hand, you are wearing IWB, you will more than likely need a larger pair of trousers to accommodate the additional equipment, and unless you naturally wear form-fitting shirts, you may be able to keep most of the shirts in your wardrobe.
My point here is change only what you need to, and then only change one piece at a time over weeks, while in keeping with the same style that your friends and co-workers are accustom to seeing you in.
So how does one stay as inconspicuous as possible? Begin by simply experimenting at home with what you already have. The odds are that all you will need to do is purchase one or two sizes larger to effectively conceal your equipment. If you find this is not the case, try a different, closer fitting holster and see if it helps. If not, perhaps you purchased a handgun that was too big to conceal effectively and it’s time to trade down in handgun size.
This concept of gradual changing your wardrobe coincides nicely with what we talked about under the first principle of effective concealment where we wrote “…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.”
This is especially true for first time carriers, as well as those of us who have carried concealed and then taken a break, as we too have the same aches and pains as the first time carrier (we just know what to expect).
I would recommend that you begin “breaking your body in” and changing your wardrobe well before you are actually licensed to carry legally.
How? By carrying in your residence (if lawful) to begin with and increasing the time you are carrying as you check the practicality of your wardrobe against your new equipment. This is a good habit to develop, the proverbial “home” carry can be a life saver and give you plenty of practical experience before you ever step outside of your home.
- Ensure you know what you are doing when fitting and dressing yourself. If you are the least bit unsure that you can do this safely, don’t do it, or follow your manufacturers instructions on unloading, and then only practice with an unloaded firearm.
- Ensure that you are disarming yourself BEFORE you leave your home! This means that you need to remember to unarm yourself before you step out to do mundane things like get your mail.
Ideally I would recommend that you start this transformation a few months in advance to your anticipated concealed carry course, as few people will notice your gradual change into looser clothing – one item of clothing at a time – over an extended period of time.
Therefore, by the time you are legally licensed to carry out of your home and in public, your transition physically, psychologically, and visually will be unnoticed by all, as your adaptation into the “new you” will have been made complete in the privacy of your own home over months, rather than the sudden change made quite publicly overnight.
This incremental and barely noticeable change is much more preferable to learning the hard way in public with an accidental exposures or fidgeting with your clothing and equipment which clearly marks you as a concealed carrier and such a dubious distinction will stick with you for life, as people that you know will never forget it (and will probably never let you forget it either).
Ideas on Clothing Modification
Much like your holster, a well built and thought-out concealment garment can make the difference between life and death, as the last thing you want to be fiddling with in a fight for life is a garment that is not sweeping out of your way easily; interfering with, or otherwise becoming entangled in your grip as you attempt to draw your handgun.
A good concealment garment will give you instant access to your firearm and your magazines, thereby shrinking your OODA Loop and giving you one less thing to worry about during the fight.
Let me clearly state that you don’t have to use these modifications. You can be an effective concealed carrier without them.
So why am I mentioning them? Well, consider them tricks of the trade that my friends and I have learned, modified, and adopted over the years. So please feel free to experiment with them and let us know of any improvements you make. We are sharing with you in order to make you better, so when you find something that works better than what we have, please share with us, and we will in turn share them with the community.
As you can see from the above to the right, a properly built garment is easily swept to the side out of the shooters way. If properly executed, the swept garment will reach the apex (see the arrow in the above photo) of its swing with enough momentum to provide what we refer to as “hang time” (the time from which the garment is swept to the side before it falls down again – potentially interfering with the establishment of a proper grip).
A few tips that we have found helpful are:
Have hook and loop (Velcro type) on your garment taking the place of most of the buttons on your shirt.
- Make sure the hooks are sewn on the shirt so that they are facing away from your body (see below).
Keep the hook and loop patches large enough to do the job of keeping the garment closed in a stiff breeze, yet small enough to prevent excessive holding during the sweep of the garment during the draw.
- We have found that about a nickel or quarter size is just about right (dependent upon the quality of the hook and loop material). Adjust this to your preference.
Make sure that the buttons on your shirt are re-sewn onto the outside of the garment above the loops giving your shirt the appearance of being a regular shirt.
Keep the top button or two in place without hook and loop – to better fit the way you would wear your shirts on a daily basis – and in order to give appearance of a normal shirt (see the below photo).
Consider having a small pocket sewn on the inside front, lower portion of the garment. Ensure that the pocket has a hook and loop closure as well (button will work fine), as this is where your cover weight (an item like a small pocket knife or such) will be inserted, which will ensure a good swing (and hang time) of the garment when you aggressively sweep the garment to the side (see below photos).
Please don’t think that these modifications are for casual clothing only; as any suit jacket can be modified by your tailor with the same goals in mind.
When modifying your suit, blazer, or sports coat, all that is need are replacing the buttons you normally would button up with hook and loop (hook facing away), and leave to non-buttoning buttons alone.
Finally, ask your tailor about reinforcing the back quarter of your jacket (where you carry equipment will rub) with additional lining material in order to help prevent premature wearing on the actual lining of your jacket, as this material can easily be replaced before wearing through the actual liner of your jacket.
A good looking, inconspicuous, and very functional concealment garment is an easily achievable goal. I have had custom suits specially made for concealed carry, as well as visited places like the Men’s Warehouse for fast, last moment alterations as needed.
As usual, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask, and I look forward to your comments and feedback.
Until next time, stay frosty.
This is the second post of a two part series covering the topic of Concealed Carry. For part one, please click here.
This blog post is 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 within 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.