There’s a great number of things to consider when carrying concealed handguns, but number one and number two in terms of importance have to be where you wear your gun as determined by your clothing, body shape and your place of carry (and consequently what gun/holster you wear) and your ability to quickly and easily draw this weapon from concealment. Let’s briefly examine these:
The Gun (and Where you Wear it)
Your physique and body type should be deciding factors when you consider where to wear your concealed carry piece, meaning I cannot tell you the best place on your body to concealed carry. Of course, the size of the gun matters too, but the size of gun you chose should also be informed by where you intend on carrying the pistol, not the other way around, and depending on your specific circumstances, it will be up to you and you alone to figure out the best place to hide your heater.
The next thing you have to consider is the importance of hiding the weapon verses the potential chance of you needing to draw it, which you can file under the more sweeping skill-set of threat assessment. A favorite military axiom rings true here, that if you follow me on Guns.com, you’ll know it by heart: situation and terrain dictate tactics. As a result, try to evaluate any carry options you’re considering adopting as to how well they fulfill these two criteria:
Strongside Hip Carry
One of the quickest and most effective places to rapidly access a firearm is on the strongside hip, just behind the hipbone. Sporting a coat or jacket will keep it outside the waistband (OWB), and inside the waistband (IWB) gun/holster combos are hidden well enough, but more importantly, they present a relatively unobstructed area during a draw.
Keeping a gun on the hip gives you an opportunity to keep your gun mid-size or full size, both of which allow a) more ammo in the magazine, and b) a better sight radius, which helps accuracy. Other places on the body can only accommodate small calibers.
The downside of strongside hip carry is that it is very weather dependent and the careless CCW holder can go from concealed carrying to open carrying in a heartbeat (sometimes without the carrier even realizing it) and it’s shortcomings like these that can make a strongside carry simply impractical for some shooters. Why would you wear a jacket during the summer months in Florida, Texas or Nevada? Unless you’re on a U.S. Secret Service presidential protection detail, you probably don’t wear a suit coat everyday, and if you do wear a suit coat, you probably want to take it off occasionally. Taking off your outer layers while carrying on your hips will likely expose your weapon.
Forget about it. I generally discourage crossdraws—holstering your gun on the off-side of your body so that you reach across your torso to secure and draw the weapon. Rigs like these usually place the weapon on the hip or detective style, under the support shoulder and small of the back holsters would also fall under this category.
This method of draw suffers from the same exposure problems as a strongside hip carry (and requires a coat). It is also in fact a slower draw method (though it may seem more theatrical) and can be unsafe as there is a tendency to muzzle (a.k.a. laser or flag) innocent bystanders or good guys during the draw.
I can see a taxi cab driver, who sits in a driver seat all day, carrying crossdraw, but for anyone else who isn’t driving all the time, there are too many negatives associated with the crossdraw for me to ever recommend it.
Although ankle carry is usually associated with fairly deep concealment, carrying a gun on the ankle makes for much slower draws and the gun is often necessarily smaller, usually something like a Beretta nano or other so-called pocket pistol. Accordingly, ankle carry is best reserved for situations that require heavy concealment or as the location for backup weapons.
The shoulder rig means carrying under the support side armpit, and no, the type of concealment I’m referring to here is not just another form of crossdraw nor does it mandate a suit coat or a jacket. I’m talking about wearing a shoulder rig under a button down shirt or a tee shirt. Often these systems utilize holster-undershirts complete with a sewn in holster or some form of girdle.
Like ankle carry, this manner of carrying a handgun lends itself to deep concealment as these holsters can make a gun virtually disappear on certain body types but sacrifice speed of draw as they make access to the weapon very difficult.
Of all concealed carry rigs out there, wearing your gun in the pubic bone area (i.e. your crotch) allows for the some of the best weapon concealment and retention. Depending on the type of holster, the handle of the weapon can be above or below the beltline—for example SmartCarry (who possibly makes the most well known versions of this style holsters) or Thunder Wear are both designed for wearing just below the belt, but it’s possible to cinch the belt tight so the weapon handle is above the belt.
The nice thing about the latter two holsters is that they both allow the user to tuck in their shirts. Tucking in the shirt offers better concealability and it throws off anyone who may be looking for someone carrying a gun.
It’s worth mentioning here that it’s vitally important to not telegraph the location of your weapon by touching it often (which with the Smart Carry or Thunder Wear would make you appear to be a pervert) or allow the holster to “print”. Printing is any sort of visual indication on the outside of your clothes that would lead someone to believe you have more than yourself under your threads. Anybody with serious training in self-defense will notice printing, be it that the clothes don’t fit right or that the weapon is outright bulging.
Inside the Waistband vs. Outside the Waistband
The leather or kydex debate aside, in my expert opinion wearing a concealed carry firearm inside the waistband is the way to go. Though not the perfect solution to every situation, I think IWB holsters offer CCW holders the most overall: good concealment meets solid accessibility.
Carrying inside the waistband allows the gun to get closer to the body. This allows for good—or at least better—weapon retention. Having an IWB holster allows you to let your shirt hang over your gun, as demonstrated with my new custom-made Cardon Holster in the video.
Depending on your style or choice of clothing, tucking in your shirt may be important. There are tuckable IWB holsters (e.g. Blade-Tech), but tuckable holsters can sacrifice rapid access.
Concealed Carry Draw
Whenever you go for your concealed weapon, wherever on your body that weapon may be positioned, you’ll need to move your clothes to get to it—it doesn’t matter if you’re sporting a bra-holster or a small of the back holster, to get to your gun, you’re going to have to clear obstructions.
When clearing, remember, in a deadly encounter you’ll be under stress so use gross motor skills—deliberate movements that use large muscle groups like your whole arm or body. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shirt is tucked in or not, to get to your hipside gun, just grab your shirt with your opposite hand and pull the clothes as far off the weapon as possible—it’s better to over clear the your gun than get hung up on clothes during the draw because you weren’t forceful enough.
In the same vein, if you’re sporting a button-up shirt and happen to be wearing a belly band or a shoulder rig, you may consider busting through a button or simply leaving it unbuttoned.
Concealed Carry Reholstering
Unfortunately, too few people make reholstering a part of their CCW draw practice routine and too many people tend to point the muzzle of the weapon at their own hands when reholstering. Reholstering should be a part of any concealed carry draw practice regimen as it is essential, in those frantic moments after a self-defense shooting, you know exactly where your gun is.
Remember to decock the gun, keep your finger far away from the trigger and the holster. Be careful when holstering into a worn holster or a flat, pancake-style holster as these have caused accidental discharges in the past (floppy leather wedges in the trigger guard and depresses the trigger upon reholstering). The last thing you need is a hole in your leg.
Finally, practicing the draw (with the gun totally empty, of course) is very important. And, one other thing’s for sure: we are all creatures of habit. It’s a good idea to carry your weapon in the same place every time so in the heat of battle, the location, at least, will be known.
Until next time, continue to hone your skills and keep adding to your tactical toolbox.