On my 21st birthday, the prospects of being able to finally purchase alcohol weren't nearly as interesting to me as my ability to now acquire a concealed pistol license (CPL) and carry a handgun on a daily basis.
So a couple of weeks after I turned 21, I received my CPL and strapped on my carry pistol.
At the time, it was a compact stainless steel 9mm. It didn’t take long for me to realize that, despite having been raised with guns and literally shooting my whole life, I knew nothing about carrying a concealed handgun for self-defense on a day-to-day basis.
Learning the Ropes
From that moment forward, I became a student of concealed carry, studying everything from shooting, tactics and techniques to mindset, modes of carry and how to function on a daily basis while carrying a concealed handgun.
While there are many variables to carrying and living with a concealed handgun, I have found that there are three basic areas that require thoughtful consideration before taking that first step:
- Holsters/supporting equipment
All of these subjects have numerous variables and facets that can vary based on the individual and circumstances. However, each will factor greatly in not only your ability to comfortably and conveniently carry a pistol on a daily basis, but also, potentially, your survival and dominance in a fight.
Simply put, your mindset is your thought process about how to go through each day responsibly armed. A proper mindset requires the discipline to be forward-thinking enough that, if an event occurs, you don’t have to hesitate as it is unfolding in front of you. This type of mindset can be hard to teach and instill, but, once in place, it is the greatest tool we have to not only to deal with potential threats, but more importantly, how to avoid them all together.
A major factor of a proper mindset is personal awareness, often referred to as situational awareness, and the general practice of staying alert to your ever-changing environment. It's about keeping your head and eyes up, looking for potential problems, anticipating how these problems may transpire and establishing various courses of action should they occur.
Think of it this way:
If you were driving your car and you anticipated a potential accident up ahead, logically, you would modify your route in an attempt to minimize or avoid the accident all together. Carrying a concealed handgun is no different. Everything you do as a responsibly armed citizen should be in an effort to avoid confrontation and the problems that will follow. The concealed handgun is a last-resort tool to solve a problem that can be solved by no other means. A mindset that supports and reinforces personal awareness and avoidance is the key. The more you use this mindset, the less you’ll be likely to have to employ personal tactics.
Depending on your preferred mode of carry, you may be required to change or alter certain clothing sizes or disregard some items you wear all together. One of the best examples of this is inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster users. If your pants fit your waist perfectly and do not require the use of a belt to hold them up, trying to stuff a gun and holster into your waistband might not be doable.
If you use IWB holsters as much as I do, selecting the correct pants size based on this mode of carry will become your new normal.
The same logic can be applied to correctly selecting shirts. Whereas you may not normally buy your shirts one size too big, it will quickly become apparent that tight-fitting or closely cropped shirts tend not to “drape” over the holstered pistol and thus reduce the concealment advantage.
In general, the key to successfully concealing a handgun is to dress around the gun.
It’s my recommendation that when you go shopping for new clothes, you should let logic be your guide and make sure to have your carry rig on or with you. This will help ensure correct sizing when considering new items of clothing and save you repeated trips back to the store to exchange items that "don’t work" or a closet full of items you simply can’t wear with your gun.
First and foremost, let’s establish that in order to safely and successfully carry a concealed firearm you must have a holster. In today’s marketplace, it has never been easier to buy a quality holster, and there is virtually an unlimited array of designs, materials, construction and pricing to choose from. Yet even with the countless options in holster designs available, I still encounter some people who simply shove the gun into a pocket or their waistband. Stupid.
A holster is a must, because it allows for constant and reliable positioning of the gun on one's body. A properly designed holster will retain and protect the concealed handgun while also allowing for a consistent draw stroke and relatively rapid access to the pistol if needed. Furthermore, a correctly designed holster will cover and protect the trigger from inadvertent access, something doubly important with guns that lack a mechanical safety.
Once more, let logic be your guide, and consider the fact that you’re not only going to have to live with this holster on a day-to-day basis, but you may also indeed bet your life on this holster in a fight.
So don’t be the guy who goes out and buys a multi-thousand-dollar pistol only to shove it in an ill-fitting and poorly designed “one-size-fits-all” holster. If your holster collapses every time the gun is drawn, allows the gun to flop around like a rag doll and costs less than a burger and fries at a fast-food restaurant, it’s probably not the best piece of kit for serious work. In most instances these types of holsters will not only prove less serviceable, but also less comfortable.
While a quality holster is important, a proper belt is key to making your concealed carry system work. It was once said to me that, "a good belt can make a less than optimal holster work, but a good holster can never make a bad belt better."
In the past, all of the good gun belts were crafted out of leather and made to size. While my personal preference is still a leather belt, the expanded use of nylon and other synthetic materials has made the availability and quality of size-adjustable belts better than ever before. The materials and construction of synthetic belts have also resulted in a comparatively lower price point. Simply put, it now takes minimal effort to get a good belt that is suited for everyday carry that is also able to support even the heaviest concealed carry loadout.
How you're going to carry your spare ammo is another consideration with a myriad of options. You can simply opt to put spare ammo in your pocket or choose belt-mounted magazine pouches, as is my personal preference.
In either case, you’ll have to consider what else might be carried in the same proximity and how that affects access to your spare ammo. If you carry spare magazines in your pocket, do your wallet or car keys get in the way? For belt-mounted magazine pouches, do the belt loops on your pants require positioning in one place or another?
No matter how you choose to carry spare ammo, its placement on your person should result in it being accessible, comfortable and consistent to carry.
ONE LAST THING
Even with the best equipment, most people who are new to concealed carry may find that it’s not tremendously comfortable at the start. I know that was the case for me.
There is a bit of a “comfort curve” when starting to carry a gun on a daily basis that will take some adjusting.
Much like the first time you ever wore a suit or put on a watch, when we strap on the extra weight and bulk of a gun and spare ammo it becomes immediately noticeable. However, once you get used to the feeling of the gun being on your person you’ll likely find that you really don’t feel it at all.