There are many “influencers” in the self-defense or, dare I say, “tactical” community that espouse always carrying a full-size pistol. Those who claim to do so are either exceedingly fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective) so as to never need to interact with other human beings in a professional capacity or in any sort of social contact outside of the county fair. I, frankly, don’t believe those who claim to always carry a full-size gun; either they don’t always carry, or they don’t go many places in public.
Smaller guns are a reality, at least on certain, likely many, occasions for those who live and interact in the real world. Along with smaller guns, however, comes the often-necessary step of changing our carry mode to accommodate different than usual clothing. Generally, the deeper the concealment, the slower deploying the pistol becomes. We strive for a balance; it is better to remain armed when possible and to sacrifice some speed of deployment. However, if the gun becomes too difficult to deploy quickly, we start to sacrifice the benefits of having it in the first place. I find that most concealed carriers, myself included, don’t spend as much time practicing from the selected deep concealment mode as we do from our standard carry mode, and this is obviously a training oversight.
Select the Alternate Carry Mode
Now, I remain an advocate for carrying “as much gun as possible,” but I concede that most concealed carriers need a small, deep concealment gun for many life commitments. Along with the smaller gun usually comes the need for a deeper mode of concealment. The individual must choose what works best based on life commitments, dress requirements, and other factors. As an example, I carry almost exclusively in the AIWB position for concealed carry under an untucked shirt. When I must attend formal occasions, I need to wear a tucked shirt. For the past several years, I have just used a belly band (I now use a Philster Enigma) to wear a smaller gun in the same location and under a tucked-in shirt. So, even though the body location is the same as my typical carry, the mode is entirely different as the draw requires the ripping of the tucked shirt out of the waistline, making it significantly slower and more difficult.
A belly band type apparatus to carry the gun in your usual waistline position under tucked shirts is certainly a good solution that works well for many. However, there are different alternatives. Most who subscribe to the practice of carrying a full-size or compact auto loader typically do so on the waistline but may choose to carry somewhere off the waistline when accommodating deep concealment. The two most typical on-body alternate carry modes are pocket carry, and ankle carry. Both serve a purpose and work well for many people. Both have pros and cons. Both, however, are entirely different draw strokes and presentation techniques than anything coming off the waistband, and practicing from these alternate carry modes is important if you are going to use them.
Whatever alternate carry mode you choose, consider how it interacts with the clothing you wear. If your clothing of choice is not suited to the carry mode, then you face issues deploying the gun efficiently, as well as issues concealing the gun. For example, if you wear shirts that hug the body very tightly, a belly band worn gun under a tucked shirt may not conceal adequately. If you wear pants that are cut too tight, a pocket-carried gun may bulge and may be difficult to deploy. Pants that are cut a bit too short, or are too tight, will not conceal an ankle gun and holster. The first step in determining what alternate carry mode to use is to assess the way you dress and work around it or change the way you dress.
Likewise, consider your physical abilities and your common environment. If you choose to ankle carry when dressing formally, can you actually get down to a knee and quickly deploy the gun? I would suggest that this is a mode better served for people who are a bit athletic. If you are an individual that would go down to the floor to retrieve the gun and not make it back up, perhaps it is not the carry mode for you. However, if you are always seated in a vehicle or at a desk, the ankle gun becomes very viable, so it all depends on your lifestyle and needs. A pocket gun works great for people always on their feet and on the move. You can discretely acquire a grip on the gun, and it looks normal. However, if you are always seated in a vehicle or at a desk, it might not be optimal as drawing from a pocket while seated is doable but challenging.
Training with the Alternate Carry Mode
Obviously, once you select your alternative carry mode, you need to train to deploy the gun from that location. If you choose to keep the gun in the waistline, at the same location as your primary carry gun, then you at least have the familiarity of the location going for you and decreasing your cross-over training commitment to some extent. However, again, to accommodate formal clothing, you likely need to tuck in the shirt, and this significantly changes the manner in which you deploy the gun. You need to practice this, and it can be tedious, as to do each draw stroke, you need to re-tuck the shirt.
If you pocket or ankle carry, you need to practice these very different draw strokes, but a definite benefit of embracing pocket or ankle carry as an alternate carry mode is that it will give you not only the deep concealment solution you may often need but it will also give you a backup gun solution. Most concealed carriers rarely carry a second gun on-person. However, there are times you may find it useful. If you get proficient with deploying your deep concealment gun from the pocket or from the ankle, you will be able to add that gun to your body as a backup to your primary waistline gun any time you want. This is a benefit as certain occasions or environments may foster your desire to carry a backup gun.
Whatever carry mode you choose, you need to spend time practicing with it so that you can, indeed, deploy your primary defensive tool from any dress.