The following will be a brief introduction into the art of concealed carry of a handgun. Ever since Florida introduced a Carrying Concealed Weapons (CCW) Permit, with the other 49 states following, more people are legally packing heat as they go about their daily business in this country, and you need to be one of them, too.

Concealed Carry vs. Open Carry

Concealed carry is when someone cannot observe that you are carrying a gun. This can vary from lightly concealed, with your shirttail flipped over a semi-noticeable bulge on your hip, to deep concealed under a tucked in shirt. If the outline of the gun is visible, this is called “printing” and may be illegal in some states, whereas if the gun becomes exposed for any period of time, and that is illegal in some states, too.

Open carry is when you are not attempting to conceal a weapon. Some states allow open carry; some don’t. As an example, a policeman in uniform open carries; a detective in a suit carries concealed. Open carry is a personal choice that cannot be taken lightly, as I’ll explain later. Here, we will be discussing mostly the mechanics of concealing a handgun on your person.

Open Carry, properly done. (Dress nicely, and be discreet.)

You’ll note that I have said “legal in some states” a few times. Folks, you MUST know the laws of all states you intend to carry in. Cops can and will be ignorant of the laws they are supposed to enforce, and you could well end up dead if you don’t know them. Please do your research on the laws, and I recommend handgunlaw.us as your first stop. It will tell you what you can and can’t do, what states do and don’t have reciprocity with your own, and where you can and cannot go with your gun.

Methods Of Carrying A Handgun

I’ll touch briefly on the four popular carry methods: on your belt, suspended from your shoulder, in your pocket, and on your ankle. There are also “belly bands” for under your shirt deep carry, and there is even “codpiece carry” devices like Thunderwear if you want your junk to be of a higher caliber.

Women sometimes use “bra carry” and “purse carry” and I suppose a man can use “bag carry,” but I hesitate to recommend depending on a gun you have in a bag as you ‘re going to put that thing down at some time.

Belt Carry

The most popular method is to belt carry, and what position you use will depend on your style and your body. “Strong hand” or “trigger hand” means what side is your dominant hand, and “off hand” or “support hand” is your other side.

Starting at your front and going around your trigger side, we have Appendix Carry, 3 o’clock, and 4 o’clock. These are all variations of carrying near your hip bone. Appendix is in front of your hip, 3 o’clock is on it, 4 o’clock is just behind. Appendix and 4 o’clock are easier to conceal than it being right on your hip, and allow you to sit in vehicles with a little more clearance, and 3 o’clock is a good one for large, open carry holsters.

The pistol can have varying degrees of cant, from forward to neutral to reverse.

Outside the waistband (OWB) holster at the 3 o’ clock position. Neutral cant.

Crossdraw is slightly ahead of appendix carry, but on the weak side, with the butt of the gun facing your belt buckle so you can draw it across you. This one is really good for sitting in a vehicle. Small of the back (SOB) carry is often the most concealable, but can be hard to draw fast. Sitting while wearing a gun like that can hurt, and, if you fall on your back with one there, the chance of back injury is higher.

Do not carry Mexican, which is not using a holster and tucking the barrel of the gun into your pants with the butt hanging out. Pretty much every thug out there carries without a holster, and the prevalence of Glocks and their clones means that piece can and will blow your dick off while you’re fumbling for it if you hit the trigger.

The Mexicans had a legitimate reason to not use a holster during their revolution; if they got caught with a gun, they went to prison, and a holster meant “gun.” Same thing with thugs today, and you find guns everywhere from their shoes, their hoodies, and some women have even done “vagina carry.” Criminals don’t use holsters, law abiding citizens do; use a holster.

Homes here might be doing us a favor by carrying this way and possibly shooting his balls off; don’t be like him.

Let’s discuss “Outside of Waistband” (OWB) and “Inside of Waistband” (IWB). OWB means the pistol holster is either hooked to your belt via loops, or is attached to a paddle shaped piece that hooks over your pants. OWB is more comfortable than IWB, most people find, but you have to cover the whole gun as opposed to what sticks out above your pants in IWB. That means a long shirt or a jacket. OWB holsters carry bigger guns, have drop leg variants, and sometimes have retention latches.

In Waistband (IWB) 4:30 position carry with a slight forward cant.

IWB holsters fit inside the belt, and usually use belt loops to attach to your belt. You can flip your shirt over the whole thing, or tuck in behind the gun for partial concealment and wear something on top of it. “Tuckable” IWB holsters are relatively new, use clips, and allow room for the shirt to be tucked in in front of the gun. IWB holsters are a lot easier to conceal, but they do take some room in the pants.

Shoulder Carry, Pocket Carry, And Ankle Carry

The most common alternative to belt carry is shoulder carry. Shoulder carry relieves a lot of the space and ergonomic problems of belt carry and is done via a harness you put on like a backpack which holds your gun in a crossdraw position, and your spare magazines on the opposite side.

Shoulder rigs are very comfortable, but they pretty much require a jacket or a heavy, unbuttoned shirt to be concealed. They can handle the biggest handguns out there; Clint Eastwood packed the S&W Model 29 in Dirty Harry in one.

Although the 70’s most powerful handgun is a bit much for anyone but Clint, you can carry it in a shoulder rig. Early Galco Jackass shoulder rig was used.

Pocket carry is for little pistols. They make holsters that basically occupy your pocket and have a rough surface and are a pouch for the pistol. Reach in, pull iron, and the pocket holster should stay put with the gun coming out. Be sure to practice this a lot, and do not carry other things in the pocket, or fail to use a holster (see above comments about getting dick-shot.)

Ankle carry has its pros and cons. It’s easy to carry pistols, doesn’t bother your hips, and is fairly concealable, but is hard to draw fast from and is fairly size limited. It’s a good spot for backup guns, or when you have to deep conceal.

Loadout

You need spare magazines (or speedloaders for revolvers). Whether or not you are a big firefight thinker, or just want to get back to your rifle you should have never left (both common arguments in the gun world), you AT LEAST want 12 rounds or so, which means a spare mag, and a mag holder for it.

Multiple mags are a good step up to aspire to, and you can generally put a two mag holder on your weak side opposite the gun. Be sure to practice mag changes.

Magazine pouch on belt. This one is angled.

What about a backup gun? Semi-derisively called the New York Reload, sometimes pulling more iron is faster than reloading, plus it covers mechanical failure of your primary gun. Backup guns are often smaller versions of your main carry gun of the same caliber, or a small revolver or semi-auto of a smaller caliber. Some modern semi-autos like Glocks will run their “duty size” pistol magazines in their compacts just fine, which cuts down on your mag count needed.

Holsters themselves come in a variety of compositions. Leather is traditional, Kydex is an alternative, and nylon is cheaper. Make sure, if the pistol HAS a safety, that the holster COVERS it. Another holster of somewhat minimalist thinking is a clip on the frame of the gun itself for your waistband. This works, but be sure to get a little kydex cover for the trigger guard with a loop to attach to your belt. You pull iron, the loop pulls the cover off as you draw, and you’re good to go, otherwise you might (say it with me) get shot in the dick.

A variety of holster materials: Kydex, carbon fiber applique over kydex, leather over plastic, and leather.

You’ll need some wardrobe changes. Definitely a strong, thick belt to hold the holster up, maybe some larger pants if you want to IWB carry. You may need to untuck that shirt, or wear a light jacket when you would normally forgo. Start small, and get into it slowly.

Legality And Mentality

Carrying a gun is your right, but it’s also a massive responsibility. The fifty shades of grey bullshit of passive aggressive society gets reduced to black and white in a real hurry. You will have the ability to kill damn near anyone you meet, but your ass will go to jail for at least manslaughter if not murder two if you are wrong in your actions.

The key words to remember here is “I was in fear for my life.” Someone jacking your car is not something for which you can blast them, except maybe in Texas. However, if you are fairly certain that you or someone in the area is about to get wrecked or killed, either by the fact that the soon-to-be perpetrators have weapons of their own, or there is something called “disparity of force” (five of them and one of you) going on, feel free to use that weapon.

I cannot, in this article, articulate what to do if you are involved in a shooting. Call the cops, file a complaint, remember to say “I was afraid for my life” or “he was going to kill me” and then shut up and lawyer up. Do not just run off and hope no one notices; calling in establishes you as the victim. I highly recommend ANYTHING Massad Ayoob writes on this; start with In the Gravest Extreme and go from there. I’m an engineer, not a lawyer, so do your homework.

Your carry piece is not a status symbol and is not for anyone to know about until you have to use it for defense of life. Never start stuff when carrying.

There are certain places you cannot go with a gun, and that varies from state to state. A good general guideline is no schools, no government buildings, no bars. Restaurants serving alcohol is ok, but you should really not be drinking while carrying.

Your place of employment is up to you and your corporate masters; I leave mine in the truck. If you open carry, be prepared for people to notice; bad guys will try to take it from you or shoot you first, and others might call the cops for a MWAG complaint (man with a gun.) Never be an asshole when you are carrying, and this goes double for open carry.

I’m not going to get too political here, but this country does not have a gun problem; it has a problem with a lack of respect for human life. I’m not a sociologist; I don’t know how to fix it, but we need more pro-gun good people out there who can stop bad shit as or before it happens. Carry legally and quietly, and don’t get into arguments and fights just because you “got yo piece wid choo.”

But, for the sake of the dwindling number of good citizens and the American Way, if you happen to be in the position to stop a terrorist, wait until he’s not paying attention to you, get a good shooting rest if you can, give him an “Aloha Snackbar,” and send him straight to hell.

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