The majority of people who carry a handgun for self-defense within the United States do so concealed. While some cling to open carry, arguing that there are benefits to that solution, most who carry a gun do so under cover garments, obscuring the pistol from common observation. There are significant tactical benefits to carrying the gun concealed, but concealment introduces a host of complications to the ability to deploy the gun when needed. This inherent complexity turns many off from practicing with the gun the way it is actually carried. Most people don’t even work from the holster when going to the shooting range, and those who do use a holster most often utilize an open holster, as it is simply much easier to draw from a holster that is not concealed.
However, practicing from concealment is essential since that is how concealed carriers, hence the name, actually carry the defensive handgun.
The challenge that concealed carry poses is not just that clearing a cover garment makes the process slower, but, more importantly, it introduces the single greatest point of fumble to the draw stroke. This is, to some extent, inevitable. If you compare even the top practitioners who can draw very quickly and efficiently from concealment to top shooters who work only from an open holster, you will observe an undeniable increase in fumble from concealment. While there are techniques that lead to the best possible consistency, there remains an increase in fumble factor when working from concealment as compared to an open holster.
Therefore, how can we best address this increased propensity to fumble the concealed draw? Should we simply not practice from concealment? The issue with not practicing from concealment should be obvious; it means you are not practicing the only draw stroke that actually matters in real self-defense. Therefore, we must dedicate ourselves to practicing with the gun from concealment, and to do this, we can minimize the fumble factor as much as possible.
Consider the Cover Garment
Before even addressing technique, it is essential to consider the cover garment you utilize. Part of concealed carry is the careful analysis of what clothing you wear, not only concerning how well it hides the pistol but also how well it clears from the pistol on the draw. A very important aspect of concealment is selecting and maintaining the use of similar, consistent clothing. Differences in tightness and fabric length between one shirt to another or one jacket to another greatly influence the draw stroke. Consistency in garments allows you to practice a draw stroke that will work most of the time.
To begin with, avoid garments, jackets, or otherwise, that have drawstrings along the hem in any location. Drawstrings are a significant safety hazard, as they can get caught in the holster and actuate a trigger press upon re-holstering. If you use a garment with drawstrings or tassels or anything that hangs off the main garment, cut it off. This is a real safety concern.
The tightness of shirts or jackets can vary greatly, and moving from a tight-fitting shirt to a loose-fitting one dramatically changes how the shirt behaves when clearing it for the draw. Such differences can easily complicate a draw stroke and lead to fumble. Select shirts, or hoodies, etc…, that are of a similar fit so that you will be able to clear the garment in a predictable way.
The length of the cut of any shirt, hoodie, jacket, etc…, also influences the draw stroke. The exact amount of variance that you can get away with in garment length has a lot to do with where you carry on the body. For example, if you carry on strong-side under an open-front shirt, the length of the shirt may not matter much, but if you carry in the appendix position under a closed-front shirt, the length will matter greatly. When sweeping the garment up to expose the gun to establish a grip, an inconsistency in the length of the garment will result in an unpredictable draw that can easily fumble.
Consider the Holster
An essential ingredient in a consistent draw stroke with minimal room for fumble is the use of the same holster consistently. A holster should facilitate adjustability, such as cant angle and ride height, and finding a compromise between good accessibility and good concealment is an individual endeavor. The ride height of the holster over the belt line is very important for any inside-the-waistband holster, as it is important to leave enough room for the hand to access the grip. Going from one holster to another, with varying ride heights, will greatly diminish the consistency of the draw.
Also, be sure to use a holster that does not shift around during body movement. A holster should anchor to the belt in a way that eliminates shifting around throughout the day. For example, a holster that attaches with only a single clip or loop can often tilt so that the grip gets buried into the belt line after movement. Obviously, the draw will be fumbled greatly if the grip is inaccessible when you go to draw the gun.
The Same Technique, Every Time
Finally, and most obviously, to minimize fumbling the concealed draw, use a predictable technique that you carefully vet for your own carry mode and concealment garment preference. For example, if you carry appendix under untucked shirts, settle on one consistent way to grab the garment for clearance. Always get a consistent and predictable grip on the gun by determining index points with your hand so as to train the exact motion and feel involved with establishing that grip. Upon gaining confidence in a standard draw stroke, move to practicing from seated and compromised positions and when moving.
The truth is, a concealed gun is simply more prone to fumble on the draw than an openly worn gun, but concealment is an incredible advantage, so the extra effort is well worth it to gain proficiency in this critical skill.