There are over twenty million issued carry permits now in the United States, and bear in mind that this is in a nation that now has over half of the states honoring Constitutional Carry, thus requiring no permit at all to carry concealed. This is a good thing. On any given day, there are millions of American citizens carrying guns, and the majority of these guns are being carried concealed.
Despite these epic numbers, the amount of people who actually practice with their defensive firearm on a regular basis is depressingly small. Among even this small minority, the amount of people who practice from concealment, the way that most actually carry the gun, is even smaller. I have frequented many public ranges, and I rarely see anyone drawing from a holster, in general, even at ranges that allow it. And, while the unusual individual will be drawing from a holster, it is almost always an openly-worn holster rather than from concealment.
It is amazing that, while so many people have a carry permit, so few actually train with the gun from concealment. I realize that firearms are almost similar to automobiles in some regard; while most American adults drive a car, there are very few professional racecar drivers. At least with cars, most people actually drive, even if not at a high level. With firearms, it is far worse as even though a huge percentage of Americans not only own but carry a gun, few practice much with it, and far fewer practice realistically from concealment.
The ability to draw the gun from your concealed holster safely, efficiently, predictably, and quickly is the single most pressing skill directly related to using the gun itself in a defensive capacity, yet it is the skill least practiced by most concealed carriers. Those who take self-defense with a firearm seriously should devote considerable time to the craft of deploying the gun from a concealed holster, and there are a number of ways to maximize this proficiency within the limits of time that life imposes.
Prioritize the Concealed Holster
To begin with, most gun carriers have only one relevant carry mode, and that is concealed. If you open carry a duty pistol as part of a law enforcement or security job, then that setup is relevant to your life. For most civilians, however, the concealed gun is the only relevant carry setup. Despite this, I find that a majority of people will practice from openly carried holsters at the range or in a shooting class, even though they never actually carry a gun in this way. This practice, quite frankly, is an effort spent on a carry method not relevant to the lifestyle of most.
I find the obsession with the battle belt among many shooters particularly egregious in this regard. Many shooters will go to the range and strap on a “battle belt” with a full-size pistol and do all their practice with such, only to put a pocket pistol in their pocket when leaving the range. While a battle belt and full-size gun might be more fun to train with than a small gun from concealment unless you are wearing the battle belt around town, you are spending your training time, money, and effort on something that is not relevant to your life at all. Practice with what you carry, from the holster that you carry in. Any holster that you would not use to go to the grocery store is probably not relevant to your life and should go in your abandoned holster drawer or maybe the trash can.
Dry Practice is Your Friend
Many concealed carriers live where they have limited range options and may only be able to shoot at ranges that prohibit drawing the gun from concealment. If this is your reality, I have good news for you; the vast majority of your training for proficiency with the draw stroke can be done in dry practice at home with an empty gun (follow all the rules of safe dry-fire). The mechanics of getting the gun out and presented can be practiced and improved with dry practice, and many repetitions of drawing the gun from your real carry holster, from under your real concealment clothing, will get you proficient with this essential handgun skill.
There is no doubt that drawing a gun from under concealment is much more difficult than drawing from an open holster, thus the reason that so few shooters actually practice it. But spending a good amount of time on this skill in dry practice will not only make you better at it but will illuminate the challenges involved. Your holster may need to be adjusted or changed. The cover garments you use may need to be tweaked. Only time spent, particularly in dry practice, will reveal these problems and lead to a resolution of them.
Train and Compete from Concealment
I am often dismayed to find so many shooters attending shooting classes and other training with open holsters rather than their real carry gear. Now, granted, some instructors require an open holster, but if this is not the case, why would you not take a class with your real-life concealment gear? Your performance from an open holster that you don’t really use does not matter. Now, if you are a competitive shooter, then training with an open holster might be very relevant to you. However, most concealed carriers are not shooting enthusiasts, let alone competitive shooters, so open holsters have little relevance for most. And, even if you do compete, there is the option to compete with your real carry gear, which is extremely beneficial for the defensive shooter and concealed carrier.
Both major handgun action shooting sports, IDPA and USPSA, typically allow concealment. Even if shooting IDPA, which is concealment oriented, be sure to shoot from real concealment rather than the token concealment used by the gamers in the form of a glamorized fishing vest. Do you really wear a vest like that in public? Probably not, so shooting from such gimmicky concealment is not relevant to your needs. Shoot competition from your real concealment mode, if allowed. IDPA has recently allowed the ever-more-popular appendix carry, which is a great thing. Those who carry in the appendix position under a t-shirt should be competing from this exact setup so as to maximize their training and practice time with their real toolset.
Drawing a pistol from concealment is considerably more challenging than from an open holster, yet it is the only method of carry that is relevant to most armed citizens. Prioritize training with your real toolset by embracing your reality and live concealed carry rather than avoid it.
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