Jason R. Hanson is author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry: Confessions of a Former CIA Officer. He also runs Concealed Carry Academy based in Cedar City, Utah, which teaches Americans how to confidently protect themselves and their loved ones. Hanson is also a contributing writer to Concealed Carry Magazine, Combat Handguns Magazine, and Personal and Home Defense Magazine, to name a few.
As a CIA field employee, Hanson spent a lot of time at The Farm, the agency’s self-defense and hand-to-hand-combat training facility. “That’s where I learned how to properly shoot, and that’s where I learned the fundamentals that will hopefully help me stay on this earth for years to come,” he told the Cheaper Than Dirt! Chronicle. “I spent countless hours training, and I was fortunate enough to learn how to shoot from some of the best in the business: Other CIA officers and ex-Navy SEALs. After all, to become the best, you must learn from the best, work with the best and surround yourself with the best. It’s that simple. I am extremely thankful to have the training, knowledge and ability to protect myself, and I want to pass along that knowledge.”
Some of that knowledge is contained in Chapter 9 of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. In that chapter, entitled “You Can’t Be Cheap If You Want to Become a Covert Action Agent,” Hanson covers various holsters and carry solutions and offers advice on what he prefers and why. Chapter 9 is reprinted below, with permission.
— Cheaper Than Dirt! Chronicle staff
The Agency’s annual budget is classified. But as you can guess it’s a huge sum of money, because protecting our country is of supreme importance. The Agency spends millions of dollars every year on training employees and gives them the best equipment in the business. I remember looking at some of the gear they bought me and thinking about how much it costs to “outfit” employees. But again, I realized they spend so much money on training, on recruiting, and on paying assets because this was the best way to protect the country and run a successful Agency. If you didn’t invest in your employees, or invest in the best equipment, or pay top dollar for the best intelligence, then who knows what language we’d be speaking right now.
The good news is that you don’t need millions of dollars to properly equip yourself to protect your family. (Although, don’t let my wife know I told you that, as I have to convince her that every gun I buy is critical to the safety of our family, even if I already own five copies of the same gun.) But as I mentioned in the last chapter about not being cheap about ammunition, you also don’t want to be cheap about any of your personal protection gear, especially when choosing your concealed carry holster. This holster may save your life one day, so make sure it’s quality.
Also, remember that choosing a holster is like choosing a gun. There is no right holster for everyone just like there’s no perfect gun for everyone. You’re probably going to have to go through a lot of poor and uncomfortable holsters before you find “The One.”
For example, one holster we’ll look at is a cheap inside-the-waistband model made of cloth. The problem with this holster is that when you draw your gun it collapses, so when you go to re-holster you can’t get it back in the holster easily and have to use two hands. In other words, this is a bad choice for a holster because you need to be able to holster the gun one-handed without taking your eyes off the threat.
This leads me to my personal favorite holster. The holster I like best is an inside the waistband, leather holster. The reason this is my favorite holster is because it does an excellent job of concealing my gun. I think sometimes people need to be reminded that the keyword when carrying concealed is “concealed.” People should not be able to see your gun in any manner and it should not be printing through your clothes. Another reason I like the inside the waistband holster is because it gives me quick access to my gun. This is important because when someone comes at you with a knife at the ATM machine, or comes to carjack you, you’ll only have seconds to react, so you need to be able to get to your gun quickly.
My next favorite holster is an outside the waistband holster. However, if I were you, I would only wear this type of holster when you have a jacket or a vest concealing the gun. I would never, ever wear this type of holster while open carrying. For example, in the state of Virginia, Utah, and a few others, it’s legal to open carry. But, I think this is a terrible idea and I would never recommend it.
You see, when I’m carrying a gun I don’t want anyone else to know I have it on me. I don’t want to be standing in a 7-11 one day and have some criminal run in and shoot me first because he sees that I have a gun on my hip, therefore I’m his biggest threat.
Also, I don’t want to be standing in line at Wal-Mart and have to worry about some dirt bag grabbing my gun from behind. When you open carry you have to be very aware of your surroundings at all times. Law enforcement officers are well trained in this, but I’ve seen the “average Joe” open carry and far too many of them have no awareness when it comes to their gun. Plus, if you open carry you’d better have a retention device on your holster, but this still doesn’t mean someone can’t try and take it.
Of course, in general, I just don’t want to make a spectacle and draw attention to myself. When I’m out and about running errands I want to blend in with everyone else. If I’m ever face to face with a criminal whose about to take my life or someone near me I want him to look at me and think I’m some harmless guy in jeans and a T-shirt. I don’t want him to know that if the situation calls for it he’s about to see the business end of my Glock. Plus, we all know that many cops and other law enforcement officials don’t know state laws when it comes to open carry. As fun as it is wasting half my day while some cop hassles me, I’ll pass. But whether you choose to carry inside or outside the waistband let me show you how to properly draw the gun so you can get it out of your holster and on the threat as quickly as possible. The first and most important thing to do is to get a firm grip on the firearm. Remember, you want to go high up on the tang (get a high grip), get a firm grip, and make sure your finger is straight and not anywhere near the trigger.
Next, you’re going to pull the gun straight up to clear the holster and rotate the gun toward the target. Then get a two handed grip on the gun as you push out and acquire your sights and prepare to shoot, if necessary. Once you’ve taken care of the threat safely re-holster. An important thing to remember is that most accidents happen when people are holstering, so go slowly. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get your gun back in the holster because you should have your eyes on the threat the entire time in case you have to quickly bring the gun back on target. Also, as I mentioned earlier in this book, there have been times in my life where I’ve had to draw my firearm, but thankfully I’ve never had to use it. However, I remember these instances like it was yesterday and I remember having severe tunnel vision.
That’s why every time you draw your firearm, before you re-holster you want to scan to your left, scan to your right and then quickly check over your shoulder to make sure there are no other threats around you. Scumbags travel in packs, so just because the main threat ran away, he could have two buddies standing right near him. Or, he could have a buddy coming up from behind you. Drawing While Wearing a Jacket Now I’m going to show you how to draw while you’re wearing a jacket. What you want to do is sweep the jacket back with your hand, get a firm grip and then come out on target. Of course, remember to always go back in the holster slowly and keep your finger off the trigger.
Make sure your jacket does not have any lose strings or any draw strings at the bottom. You don’t want anything to slow your draw or to get caught in the trigger guard. Also, a trick that some folks use is to sew a fishing weight into the corner of the jacket so that when you sweep it back the weight gives the jacket more momentum. I have never had the need to do this, but if you have an extremely lightweight jacket it may be something you want to consider.
Don’t forget to practice drawing with every jacket you wear while carrying concealed. I only have two different jackets that I wear so it’s easy to practice and see how each one sweeps back differently. However, if you’re the type of person who has 10,001 jackets you need to practice with each jacket before you wear it carrying a gun for the first time. In fact, I would practice the draw with a safe and empty weapon in case you didn’t realize there was a string or other item on the jacket which might get in the way during your draw. By the way, in addition to using your hand like a claw to sweep the jacket back, you can also use your thumb like a hook to sweep the jacket back too. Drawing While Wearing a Sweatshirt As I write this, I’ve got my Agency sweatshirt on. I bought this right before I left the Agency in the gift store. It’s a comfortable sweatshirt and I like it. This particular sweatshirt doesn’t conceal my outside the waistband holster too poorly. But, with most clothes, an outside the waistband holster is just not practical because it’s going to print. What that means is you’re going to see the outline of the firearm through your clothes and you obviously want to avoid that.
When you’re drawing wearing a sweatshirt, what you’re going to do is reach over with the support hand. Pull the garment out and then up towards your chin, so that you make sure and clear the holster. Then acquire your firm grip with your gun hand and go through the complete drawing process. When it’s time to holster the gun you need to reach over again with your support hand and lift the garment up and out of the way. Drawing While Wearing a Button-Up Shirt and Jeans With an outside the waistband holster, drawing while wearing a button-up shirt is pretty much the same as when you’re wearing a sweatshirt. You’re going to reach over, pull the garment out and up to clear the holster. Then when it’s time to re-holster just reverse the process and go as slowly as you need to. Drawing Using an Inside the Waistband Holster Now we’re going to talk about the inside the waistband holster, which is my favorite way to carry concealed. I prefer this type of holster because it conceals the gun very well, it doesn’t print and it’s comfortable to wear.
The draw technique with this holster is the same as with the outside waistband holster. If you’re wearing a T-shirt, you’re going to reach over with your support hand. Pull the shirt out and then up. Get a firm grip on the gun, clear the holster, rotate toward the target and extend your arms while getting a two-handed grip. Once you’ve taken care of the threat, scan from side to side, check over your shoulder and slowly go back into the holster. If you’re wearing a jacket, you’re going to sweep the jacket back, with your gun hand and then lift up your shirt with your support hand.
Now, if you’re a businessman who’s going to be wearing a suit all of the time you’ll need an inside the waistband holster that allows you to tuck in your shirt. These holsters take a little bit longer to put on, but if you buy a quality one, it will do the job and nobody will ever know you’re carrying, even if you take your suit jacket off. The important thing to remember is that drawing wearing a suit, with your shirt tucked in is a little more in-depth than when wearing jeans and a T-shirt. First, you must sweep back the suit jacket. Then with your left hand you must untuck the shirt and then draw the gun with your right hand. With a little practice in front of the mirror it becomes easy to do, and if you’re a businessman who wears a suit, I encourage you to practice this until it becomes second nature.
Also, don’t forget that if for some reason your shirt gets in the way as you’re trying to draw your gun you need to “fight through it” and get the gun on the threat as quickly as possible. In other words, always train like it’s real life and don’t stop your draw because you’re afraid of ripping or damaging a shirt. Drawing Wearing a Shoulder Holster Safety rule #2 is never point the muzzle of the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy. That’s why, if you want to get a shoulder holster and practice your draw, I would start out using a blue training gun. The reason being is that a lot of time people will accidentally muzzle their arm as they draw the gun from this type of holster. In addition, if you have to draw with people around you, you could muzzle them as you get the gun on target. It’s critical to make sure that as you draw the gun you keep it pointed at the ground and then bring it up on the threat.
I’m not a huge fan of the shoulder holster. I understand that it looks cool and makes people feel like they’re in “Miami Vice.” But remember, you’re not carrying a gun to look “cool.” You’re carrying a gun to protect your life. Unless you’re part of a protective detail and do a lot of driving, I would not recommend a shoulder holster for the average person carrying concealed. In other words, if you’re driving a vehicle, the shoulder holster allows you to quickly get the gun up to the window if someone is trying to carjack you, but again, I would not recommend this for the average gun owner. Drawing with the Cross Draw Holster Put simply, the cross draw holster is on your support side, and you reach across your body to draw– think of how cowboys often wear their guns in western movies. However, the problem with the cross draw is the same problem with the shoulder holster. If you don’t know how to properly draw, you end up muzzling yourself and those around you.
Just remember to keep the gun pointed at the ground until you’re ready to come up on target. So why wear a cross draw holster? Just like the shoulder holster, it’s good for people who do a lot of driving, such as protective details. While seated in a vehicle, the cross draw gives quick and easy access to the gun in case somebody was trying to car jack you. Drawing Wearing an Ankle Holster The ankle holster is a great place for a backup gun. I wouldn’t use it for a primary gun because the problem is you don’t have quick enough access to it. You’ve got to reach all the way down to your ankle to get to the gun. Remember, quick access to the gun could mean the difference between life and death.
With the ankle holster draw, the way you want to do it is you’re going to bend at the knee a little bit. You’re going to grab your pants with both hands around your calf and pull up. Then get a firm grip on the gun and come up on target. It’s up to you whether you want to take a knee or stand straight up. Also, if you’re right handed you’ll carry the gun on the inside of your left ankle and do the opposite if you’re left handed.
The snubby revolver is great for a backup gun and for wearing on your ankle. If you get into a gunfight and something happens to your primary gun and it’s out of service, then you can immediately transition to your backup gun and take care of the threat. Or, if you only carry one magazine for your semi-automatic (which I wouldn’t recommend) and you run out of ammo, you can do a “New York” reload and grab your backup gun.
But remember not to carry your primary gun on your ankle. In fact, recently, my brother graduated from the police academy out in Utah. He called me on the phone and told me he was going to buy a snub-nosed revolver to carry in an ankle holster and it was going to be his primary gun while off duty. I told him this was not a good idea and I wouldn’t recommend it. Of course, since I’m his brother he didn’t want to listen to me and told me he was going to do it anyway. Well, about two days later I got a phone call from him and he said, “Jason, I asked one of my instructors at the academy what he thinks of having my primary gun in an ankle holster and he told me it’s not a smart idea, so I decided against it.” (Again, what do I know, right?) Drawing Using a Pocket Holster Ever since the first concealed carry permit was issued, we’ve been trying to perfect the whole “concealed” part, which includes making smaller and smaller firearms. These days there’s an endless array of pocket guns such as the Kel-Tec PF9… Glock 26… Kahr PM9… Ruger LCP… and the snub-nosed revolver, to name a few. But just because a gun is small enough to fit in your pocket, does that mean you should carry one there?
Well, the advantage of pocket carry is that it’s easy and comfortable. You don’t have a gun on your hip or strapped to your ankle that might cause you a bit of discomfort.
Second, if the hair raises on the back of your neck and you feel like you’re in a dangerous situation you can reach in your pocket and have your hand on the gun without anyone being the wiser. For example, let’s say a guy pops out of nowhere with a knife and says, “Hey, buddy, give me your keys,” or “Hey, I’m going to kill you if you don’t give me your money.” You could reach in your pocket and come out with a nice surprise for him.
However, in my opinion, those are the only advantages of pocket carry and there are a lot more disadvantages. First off, it’s tough to draw a gun from your pocket while sitting down. Just try reaching in your front pocket and pulling out a large object while you’re driving. It’s not easy to do.
Next, one of the biggest problems of all is the gun itself. The itsy bitsy guns that fit in your pocket are obviously more difficult to shoot and have a heck of a lot more recoil. Plus, there’s the confidence factor. If you’re ever in a gunfight and your life is on the line, do you want to draw a tiny gun from your pocket that’s more difficult to shoot? If you can honestly answer yes and have practiced with the gun, then go ahead and carry it. However, if the thought of drawing a Seecamp .380 from your pocket makes you shudder, then find a gun you’d be willing to bet your life on.
If you do find that gun, then always use a pocket holster. Never, ever, carry in your pocket without one because something could get in the trigger, plus the gun could get all kinds of gunk and lint in it. Also, be very careful of muzzle control when the gun is in your pocket. You don’t want to be sitting at the dinner table across from your spouse with a loaded firearm pointed directly at him or her.
Last, make sure you’ve got the right type of pants on. Most jeans pockets are too tight and you’ll have a giant bulge in your pocket. You’ll likely have to wear either khakis or some type of cargo pants. Of course, before you stroll out of the house make sure you don’t look ridiculous and that the world can tell you’ve got an abnormally large object in your pocket.
That brings me to my final point on carrying a gun in your pocket. I know this is common sense, but since there are a lot of knuckleheads in the world: Pocket carry is for pocket guns. In other words, if your full-size 1911 is protruding from your pocket, it doesn’t qualify as pocket carry and should not be in a pocket holster. Less Conventional Holsters We’ve just covered the most common holsters for carrying your concealed firearm. However, if you’ve ever searched online for holsters, or you’ve been to a gun show, you know there are about 10 million and one “gimmicky” type of holsters out there.
For instance, there’s a type of underwear you can buy with a built in holster where the gun points directly at your private parts. Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to have a firearm pointing in that direction? I have no idea. There are also devices which look like cell phone cases which turn into holsters and there are special T-shirts with built in holsters under the arm.
Remember, for concealed carry you’ve got to be able to access the gun quickly. If you’re reaching around in your crotch trying to find your gun down in your underwear, or you’re trying to have this neat cell phone device that you’ve got to fiddle with to get to your gun, this is not a situation you want to be in when your life is on the line. You don’t want to die in a gunfight with your hands down your pants trying to get your gun out of your underwear. Sure, these types of holsters may sound cool. Sure, they make look neat. But if you use them they may cost you your life because you can’t get to your gun fast enough or you’re not able to establish a firm grip on the gun. The bottom line is, I believe most people should carry in an inside the waistband holster because that gives you the quickest access to the gun, while providing the most concealment. But whatever holster you choose, make sure you practice your draw often with a safe and empty weapon.