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Helping to Choose A Concealed Carry Handgun For a New Shooter

If you’re a handgun owner and you have friends who are not, you may often find yourself looked to as an expert on the subject. A common question I find myself faced with by new shooters is: “I want to get a handgun for concealed carry and personal protection. What should I get?” It’s a very personal question, with no one right answer. There is a very good reason there is such a broad selection of handguns on the market, and that is that different people look for different qualities in a defensive firearm.

The first thing a new shooter should do is become familiar with pistols in general. One major mistake experienced shooters make is recommending their personal favorite firearm as the gun of choice for a new shooter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the range and seen a husband encouraging his wife to try out a lightweight .357 Magnum snub nosed revolver. Don’t get me wrong – small hammerless big bore revolvers are carried by thousands of women. Their light weight and small size makes them easy to conceal, and they still pack a wallop. But starting a new shooter off with such a firearm can be a mistake. When dealing with a new shooter, start small by renting something like a Ruger .22 pistol so that they can get used to practicing proper shooting technique. Firearms are intimidating, and starting a newbie off with a fire-belching magnum is a sure-fire way to intimidate them so much that they conclude that they are incapable of handling a firearm.

Once your new shooter is comfortable with a .22, step up and try out a soft shooting .380, 9mm, or .38 Special. Try a wide variety of handguns and let them find out what they like as well as what they don’t like. A shooter looking for their first carry pistol should find one that fits them well. Grip size, grip angle, overall weight and balance, muzzle length, and caliber all play into this complex equation. Be sure to consider the human factor: how intuitively can they manipulate the handguns controls? Is the safety easy to reach? What about the magazine or cylinder release? All of these things contribute to the overall suitability of a pistol to a particular shooter. There’s no set equation for figuring out what pistol fits best – you’ve got to take some for a test drive.

Most pistol ranges have a variety of handguns that can be rented for a small fee. Don’t bother renting full size handguns – these are usually not suitable for concealed carry. Stick with compact and subcompact firearms. Try a variety of actions and calibers. Don’t place too much emphasis on finding a large caliber pistol. While a .357 Sig or .357 Magnum may be your choice as the best carry caliber, it may be a handful for a novice shooter. The ability to maintain consistent and accurate shot placement is far more important than the “stopping power” of any particular caliber. As instructor Greg Hamilton said, “Do you know how to double the effectiveness of any bullet? Put another round through your target.” Two .25 ACP rounds that land solid hits on the target are much more effective than two misses with a .357 Magnum.

Consider also the price and availability of your ammunition. Practice is key to maintaining proficiency with any firearm. Your new shooter may love their .380 subcompact, but with the current ammunition shortage, will they be able to find enough .380 at a reasonable price to practice with? Many pistol models are available in a variety of calibers. If your new shooter falls in love with that Sig 229 in .357 Sig, but you’re concerned with ammo availability, have them try a Sig 229 in .40 S&W instead.

The overall reliability of a handgun is also very important. Many handguns are picky about what type of ammunition they will digest. Ask your local range if you can try some standard pressure defensive rounds through their rental guns. Most ranges will gladly let you give it a test drive if you purchase the ammunition there (most will not let you run +P high pressure rounds). In addition to their ability to feed ammunition, some firearms are simply more reliable than others. Talk to an experienced shooter or range master about the reliability of the pistol your new shooter is considering for purchase. Pistols that are carried regularly are exposed to all manner of fouling media. Lint, dirt, and dust can collect on the pistol, and rust can be an issue in high humidity environments or during the summer. Some handguns are simply better suited for concealed carry. Look for polymer, stainless steel, or other frames that will resist moisture, dirt, and dust.

Once a new shooter has settled on what gun is right, the pocket book comes into play. Firearms are not cheap as a general rule, and it’s possible to find that the right pistol for your new shooter is out of their budget. If that is the case, talk to your local firearm dealer about layaway plans, or consider buying used. Many manufacturers like Sig Sauer offer factory certified used firearms that come with an excellent warranty and are priced at a significant discount. If a factory certified used firearm isn’t a possibility, have a gunsmith inspect the potential purchase. They can spot excessive wear and abuse and can tell how well a used handgun has been cared for.

Finally, once the new purchase has been made, practice! Practice is critical to being able to properly employ a firearm in a self defense situation, so continue to encourage a new shooter to accompany you to the range and practice with their new pistol. If they’ve chosen a handgun that suits them well, practice will be an enjoyable pastime that the two of you can spend together.

Freeze Dried Foods

When stockpiling food, savvy survivalists often advise buying basic ingredients in bulk. Fifty pound sacks of hard red wheat, rice, pinto beans and other grains and legumes are given as examples of staples that a preparedness minded individual should invest in. Regardless of what you are preparing for, whether it’s economic disaster, earthquake, pandemic, or the zombie apocalypse, having a well stocked larder is important. But don’t neglect to give some thought as to how you will prepare your meals in the midst of a disaster.

In any disaster, electricity is one of the first modern luxuries to be lost. Severe thunderstorms can knock out power for a few hours or days, while earthquakes and hurricanes can leave some areas without electrical utilities for months at a time. This means that most of your food prep appliances will be inoperable. Microwaves and electric ranges are useless in a disaster without a generator, wind, or solar energy to power them. Even natural gas appliances can be rendered useless if gas lines are ruptured and pressure is lost. Propane may be available for a short period of time, but your ability to refill your propane tanks may be curtailed. Any of these problems can make it more difficult to prepare food, especially if all you have is basic staples and unprocessed raw ingredients.

Ease of preparation is also important if you have other concerns, such as performing critical repairs to your house or quickly evacuating the area. In the case of an evacuation or “bug-out” food portability is also important. It’s not very easy to quickly load up a few dozen 5 gallon buckets of flour, pasta, and other bulk ingredients. MREs are one easily portable option that can be quickly prepared, but many people find them to be unpalatable. While they can be safely stored for 20 years or more, depending on the ambient temperature, MREs can actually lose nutritional value over time.

Such is not the case with freeze dried foods. Freeze dried foods are normal fully cooked foods that have gone through a cryodesiccation process whereby all of the moisture is completely removed. The process of freeze drying involves lowering the temperature in a partial vacuum and then applying a small amount of heat which causes the now frozen water to sublimate from ice directly to a vapor. The areas where tiny ice crystals once existed is left porous, an important property that allows water to be quickly reabsorbed when reintroduced to the product.

Many hunters, backpackers and hikers remember Pilot Crackers, at one time one of the only staples that could remain edible over a few days or weeks. Though Mountain House still packages this traditional snack, their menu includes much more gourmet meals such as lasagna with meat sauce and chicken teriyaki with rice When all of the moisture is removed from food it is made much lighter. Freeze dried foods can be easily transported due to their light weight. Understandably this makes them extremely popular with backpackers and campers alike.

Mountain House packages a number of freeze dried food products in convenient #10 cans and guarantees a minimum 25 year shelf life. Stored in cool dry conditions, they’ve tested products that were freeze dried more than 35 years ago and still tastes fresh when rehydrated. You’ll be hard pressed to find any MREs or rations that can can last that long. Even after opening the resealable plastic lid included with each can allows it to be used for up to a week without any loss in taste or nutrition. Unlike other methods of preservation, nutritional value is fully retained in freeze dried foods.

The only drawback to freeze dried foods is that they require water. Hot water is preferable, but given a long enough soak even tepid water will rehydrate a freeze dried meal. For backpackers, hunters, and hikers procuring hot water is not terribly difficult. Water supplies are usually carried along with food and gear with resupply locations planned in advance and filters brought along to ensure its cleanliness. In a survival situation you may not always have convenient access to water. If you plan to add freeze dried meals to your list of equipment stored for use in an emergency, make sure to store water along with it. Freeze dried foods don’t require much water, generally only a cup or two per serving, but having water and the means to heat it is necessary.

If you’re seeking foodstuffs with the longest lasting shelf life, most nutritional value, and best taste, you can’t do much better than freeze dried foods. Though they require a bit more preparation planning than canned foods or MREs, they make up for it with a shelf life in excess of 30 years and superior taste. Zombie apocalypse? No problem: if you’ve got freeze dried foods and a bit of water socked away for just such a situation you will dine in style.

Reloading, A Beginner’s Guide Part II

In the first installment of our series on reloading, we discussed the methods and procedures for cleaning, depriming, and reloading straight walled cases. In this article, we will discuss reloading bottle necked cartridges. Most necked down cartridges are rifle calibers, but there are a few notable exceptions, notably .357 Sig and Tokarev. The FN 5.7mm cartridge is bottle necked as well, but it is a proprietary round and is very difficult to properly (and safely) reload.


Lyman Classic Tumbler

As with straight walled brass, make sure that your bottle necked brass is clean and free from debris. With bottle necked rifle brass, it’s generally a good idea to run your brass through a polisher. This cleans off powder residue as well as any dirt or corrosion from the brass. Make sure that once you are done polishing and cleaning your brass that there is no polishing media left on the outside or inside of the brass. Polishing and cleaning the brass helps make resizing much easier. Dirt, grit, or corrosion on your brass can scratch or damage your steel dies. Carbide dies don’t have this problem, but having nicely lubed clean brass means that you don’t have to pull so hard on the press lever when resizing.

Reloading bottle necked cartridges is actually fairly easy compared to reloading straight walled brass, but you do have to take the additional step of utilizing case lube. The primary difference between reloading straight walled cases and bottle neck cases is the resizing process. Bottle neck dies perform a lot of work with a single pull of the press lever. When resizing brass, the die not only resizes the case and deprimes the brass, it also has an expander ball that is plunged down the neck of the case so that new bullets can be seated.


Hornaday One-Shot Case Lube

When lubing your rifle brass, it is critically important to spray your case lube all around the outside as well as down the case mouth. This lubes the inside of the case for the expander ball. To properly lube the cases, set them all in a loading block with the mouth of the case up. Spray the cases on one side and from above at an angle so that the lubricant not only goes on the outside but also sprays down inside the neck. Turn the loading block so that all 360 degrees of the cases get lubed. Don’t be afraid of over lubricating the cases. You CAN spray too much (though it’s difficult), but it’s far better to use too much lube than not enough lube. Failure to use enough case lube will result in your case becoming stuck in the die. Getting a case stuck in a die is a nightmare scenario, so don’t do it! If you think you’ve got enough lube, go ahead and give the cases one more spray, just for good measure.

Once your brass is cleaned and lubed and you’ve got your resizing die properly adjusted and locked down as we discussed in our previous article, place your brass on the shell holder and lower the ram. You’ll begin to feel resistance as the expander ball is plunged through the neck of the case. One of the reasons that reloading necked brass is a bit easier than straight walled brass is that the dies for your necked down brass perform more operations with a single pull of the lever. The resizing die decaps the primer, resizes the brass, and expands the case neck to receive a new bullet, all in a single stroke.

Now that your brass has been resized, clean off the lubricant and inspect the brass for any cracks, creases, or bright spots near the head. A bright ring around the head at the base of the cartridge indicates stressed brass that will result in a case head separation. You may notice little dimples on your brass: this is not a big deal, and it occurs from using too much case lube. Large dimples occur when you have managed to use far too much lubricant. Brass with large dimples should be discarded.

In my experience, it is not usually necessary to measure and trim pistol brass after resizing. The same cannot be said about rifle cases. Use a dial caliper to ensure that all of your brass is the same correct length. You can also load the resized brass into your firearm to make sure it will chamber. Use a case trimmer to trim off any excess length.

Priming your rifle brass is the same procedure as priming your pistol brass. First, make sure that your primer pocket is cleaned out. Make sure that you have the correct size primer – large pistol and rifle primers can appear to be the same size, but they are not! Using the correct size tools and primers, prime all of your brass and make sure that the primers are seated to the proper depth. Primers that are set too high can be slam-fired in semiautomatic rifles.


Hornaday Seating Die

When loading your powder, make sure that you have the right kind of powder. Using pistol powders in a rifle case can result in over-pressure and detonation, potentially destroying your rifle and injuring or killing you. It is very difficult (though not impossible) to double charge a rifle case if you are using the correct powders. Still, pay close attention. When developing a load, always double check your loads against a current reloading manual. Start at 50% of the manual’s recommended load and work up from there. Once you have a load developed, make sure to periodically check your powder measure against a scale to ensure that it remains consistent and accurate.

The final process in reloading rifle ammunition is seating and crimping the bullet. Since rifle cases are not flared, it can be more difficult to seat a flat based bullet. Boat tail bullets are much easier to seat. If you are loading flat based bullets, it helps to have a bevel cut in the case mouth using a chamfer or deburring tool. While crimping is not necessarily required for rifle rounds, it definitely helps when you are loading large caliber or magnum rounds. Crimping is definitely necessary if you are loading for a tube magazine fed rifle, as it will keep the bullets from being set back. Some bullet seating dies also crimp at the same time. Seat the first bullet, then measure your overall case length. Once you are certain the length is in spec, lock down your bullet seating die and proceed to seat bullets in the rest of your cartridges.

As always, observe proper safety procedures when reloading ammunition. Make sure that you have a clean and organized work area that is free from distractions. Never try to watch TV or listen to the radio while reloading – you’re working with potentially dangerous explosives that require 100% of your attention. Always wear proper eye protection when reloading. Remember that lead and primers are toxic and wash your hands every time after reloading.

Reloading – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 1

Ammunition prices continued to rise and show no sign of falling anytime soon. Even prices for primers, brass and bullets have gone up significantly. So, what’s a shooter to do? For myself and others, reloading is one solution.

Reloading involves recycling spent brass and prepping it to reload with new primers, powder, and bullets. But where do you begin?

J-Frame carry gear Part 1

Last Tuesday, we talked about some of the accessories you’ll need if you choose to carry a pocket sized .380 ACP pistol. But what if you’re one of the old school guys that carries one of the jillions of S&W J-Frames out there? I still carry a Model 60 when I need to conceal my firearm, and have never felt under armed with 5 shots of .38 Special +P in the chambers. There is plenty of gear that you are going to need though if you do make the decision to tie on a wheelgun as your defensive firearm. The first decision of course being “what kind of holster should I get?” On the blog yesterday we had a great look at inside the waistband holsters, which are probably the best option for concealed carry for a compact revolver. Another option of course are pocket holsters; however these will only work if you have large pockets and choose to carry one of the superlight aluminum framed guns or the polymer framed Ruger LCR.

The J-Frame and Ruger LCR are best carried in an inside the waistband holster like this Bianchi Holster pictured.  The small size and weight of the gun can be concealed even on the hottest of summer days under an untucked t-shirt, and unlike the equivalently sized .380 ACP pistols, the DA revolver offers the option of .38 Special rounds or hot .357 Magnum rounds for personal defense.  Admittedly, a small revolver isn’t the best choice for everyone, as the DA trigger is difficult to master.  They require practice and training to be used to their full potential, but once you do reach that level you’ll find that your little J-frame is an incredibly accurate and powerful defensive firearm.

Next Tuesday, we’ll continuing looking at essential J-Frame gear, with the focus being on methods for getting your little gun back in the fight after you’ve depleted your five rounds.  This is one of the most critical skills to work on if you carry a roundgun, so make sure you check back next week for more!

Inside the Waistband Holster

One of the frequent questions we get here at Cheaper Than Dirt! comes from customers seeking ways to carry their pistols. There are quite literally dozens of ways to securely carry a firearm, but today we’re going to address one of the most common: the Inside the Waistband Holster.

Inside the waistband holsters (often referred to as an IWB holster) are holsters that, as the name implies, keep the pistiol tucked inside your pants or shorts, between your waistband and your body. They usually have some sort of belt clip that keeps the holster attached to your belt or waistband in order to prevent the holster from slipping down.

IWB holster users generally fall into two categories: Love ’em or Hate ’em. Not many people are ambivalent about them. Of those who despise IWB holsters, the comfort factor tends to play a big role. These users just can’t abide having the holster digging into their side for the better part of a day. Comfort is a huge factor when choosing a holster. If it’s uncomfortable, most people will stop using it or stop carrying their firearm all together. Obviously, a firearm is useless if you don’t have it with you. Fans of the IWB holster tend to laud the concealability of firearms carried in this manner. They also love the fact that, being so closely carried to the body, it is more difficult for any potential bad guy to disarm you.

There are three main types of IWB holsters: Leather, Kydex or Plastic, and Nylon. Leather and nylon tend to be the most comfortable of the three, but they have the disadvantage of collapsing after the pistol is drawn, making reholstering more difficult. Kydex and plastic holsters are rigid and hold their shape even when the gun is drawn, but can become uncomfortable during extended use due to the firm unyielding material. Depending on your body type, IWB holsters can be even more uncomfortable due to the the way it is held so close to your body and the pressure of your waistband and belt.

Leather holsters are often the most comfortable of IWB holsters. Holsters such as Bianchi’s Professional Inside-the-Pants holster are immensely popular with undercover law enforcement, private investigators, and civilians who conceal on a regular bases. It does an excellent job of concealment by carrying the pistol low with the butt of the gun barely peeking above the waistline. If you choose to wear a leather IWB holster, be aware that extended use during the heat and humidity of summer can cause the holster to retain moisture from sweat, possibly damaging the pistol. Because of the proximity of the firearm to your body, you will want to clean and oil your handgun more often, usually once a week or more, in order to clean out salts, lint, rust, and to re-oil.

Despite their drawbacks, IWB holsters are one of the easiest ways to carry concealed. Many are even known as “tuckable” holsters and have features that allow you to carry your pistol in the IWB holster and tuck in your shirt at the same time. It features a leather panel that has a belt clip attached to it that allows the wearer to tuck their shirt in between the panel and the main body of the holster, as illustrated by the photo at left. As you can see from the photo, the belt clip is still visible, but the firearm itself is neatly concealed.

If you choose to use an IWB holster, there are a few things you can do to make it work better for you. First, select pants slightly larger than your normal size. This provides the extra room for your firearm, and decreases stretching and wear and tear on the garment. Make sure your shirt, vest, or jacket you use to conceal the firearm is cut a little long. The bottom of your cover garment should hang at least 6 inches below your belt.

Whether you go with leather, nylon, or kydex, an IWB holster will provide you with an efficient way to carry concealed. IWB holsters may not be for everybody, but that’s just the nature of holsters in general. Ask any old gunny, and they’ll tell you that somewhere they’ve got a box of old holsters that they ended up not liking for some reason or another. Me? I’ve carried in a kydex IWB holster for the better part of a decade. Obviously IWB works for me. It just might work for you too.

Late Season Deer Hunting

As deer season progresses, deer become scarce quickly. It seems that as soon as the rut ends, they all just up and disappear.

Obviously, they’re still there, but where and how do you locate deer that seem to have gone nocturnal? It’s not easy, but late season deer can be hunted with success, you just have to adapt your hunting strategy.

Many hunters fill their tags within the first few days of deer season. What’s more, fierce winter weather deters many hunters who don’t want to endure the elements in the late season. For the late season deer hunter, this is good, as it means that you won’t have to worry about large numbers other hunters being around. Deer are often pressured early in the season when there are large numbers of hunters eager to get their deer during the rut. In the past I’ve had great success hunting deer as late as January when they’ve had time to relax from the pressure of early season hunting.

During the rut, many hunters set up in the early morning in blinds and tree stands where they will be able to rattle or call up a buck. But the rut is a crazy time for deer, between intense hunting pressure and the powerful hormone drive to mate. When deer go nocturnal, relenting to the pressure of the onslaught of hunters, they are less active in the early morning. The midday and afternoon however can be more productive.

Too many hunters hunt the rut exclusively, thinking that deer behavior during that time is “normal”. It is not – deer are so caught up in their hormone driven activities, they throw caution to the wind. It is only as the rut fades that deer return to normal.

No matter how much or how little hunting pressure there is, deer still need to eat. After the rut, bucks turn their attention to food. All of the sparring and mating of the rut leaves most bucks run-down and searching for food. Likewise, does that have been bred during the rut increase the amount of food they consume. Though they remain bedded down during the day, by the afternoon they become hungry and are forced to head back to forage at nearby food sources.

Identify food and water sources. Deer will bed down nearby to established food and water sources. When the pressure is on, they won’t want to travel far for fear of being exposed. Fresh hoof prints and droppings are signs of activity that will allow you to easily identify where the deer are feeding, and which trails they are using.

Once you’ve identified a food or water source, find the deer trails that lead back to their bedding areas. Bedding areas are carefully planned by deer: they are extremely good at choosing bedding locations with multiple escape routes. It is extremely difficult to stalk a deer that is bedded down. A bedded down deer that scents you will explode out of the bedding location and all you will see is the white flash of tail as it bounds away at breakneck speed. Even if you do get the drop on a bedded down deer, it is still difficult to get a good shot at a vital area.

To hunt bedded deer, set up near the identified food source, or along an active trail to and from the food source. Pay close attention to the wind direction to avoid alerting the deer to your scent.

Finally, it’s not unusual to have a second, or even third rut. Though not nearly as active as the first fall rut, secondary ruts can still bring out the bucks and does who have not been bred in the first rut. Does will reach estrus every 28 days, so if you’ve pinpointed the first rut, knowing when the second rut will come is a simple calculation.

In a secondary rut, rattling will not be quite as productive as grunting and calling, but you can still rattle up the odd buck or two. It’s not unheard of to find two or even three of four bucks chasing a doe during the second rut, completely oblivious to anything going on around them. Giving a few soft grunts or a short rattle can bring the deer your direction and present you with a shot.

If you don’t mind facing harsh weather and deer who are back to their usual cautious ways, then the late season is for you. Scouting ahead to identify where the deer are and where their trails are is key, but once you’ve identified them, you can rest easy in the fact that the deer will come.

Picking a pocket .380

Is your .380 enough gun? Lately, the market has been flooded by compact .380 ACP pistols, from the brand new Diamondback .380 to the Sig P238 there are a ton of options out there for shooters looking for a compact pocket gun. In fact, Cheaper Than Dirt! recently went over some of the more inexpensive pocket .380 pistols available. Having carried a .25 ACP in a pocket for quite some time, it’s safe to say that I’m a firm believer that the .380 you carry is a step above the 9mm or .45 ACP that you leave at home because it’s too heavy.

The current generation of pocket guns have some serious strengths and weakness as well.  Starting with the Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec guns, the sights are essentially non-existent.  Both the Ruger and the Kel-Tec sport what is commonly called a “gutter sight” which means that instead of the traditional 3-post set up we’re all used to, there is a trough down the middle of the slide.  All of these pocket pistols benefit greatly from the addition of Crimson Trace Lasers, but this goes more so for the LCP and the Kel-Tec.  By adding the Crimson Trace Laserguard for the LCP to your gun you then greatly improve your ability to hit close targets faster and to hit distant targets period.  Using a Crimson Trace equipped Sig P238 (pictured above) I was able to make consistent hits on an IPSC A/C zone target at 25 yards.  The Sig P238 doesn’t even need the Crimson Trace as much as the LCP as it has excellent factory night sights; and yet even on this gun it just makes sense to add it.

The next issue that you’ll encounter on these pocket guns is the trigger.  I like the Ruger LCP – I think it’s a great defensive firearm.  I don’t like the trigger very much.  The same can be said for the Kel-Tec, Diamondback, Bersa, and pretty much all the pocket .380s with the exception of the Sig P238 (again) which has an excellent single action trigger.  But that’s not without problems of its own, as the Sig P238 must be carried cocked-and-locked with the safety on…in a pocket.  That might be an area of concern to some gun owners, in which case a double action gun such as the LCP might be a better bet.

Of course, the most critical issue with the .380 is ammo selection.  The debate will continue to rage whether the .380 is “enough” gun, and whether or not you should use ball ammo to get more penetration or use JHP ammo to get more expansion.  The BVAC ammo at the right is a 90 grain JHP at approximately 1000 FPS using a Speer hollow point bullet.  I tend to prefer hollow points for .380 ammo not because I think they improve my stopping power but rather because a hollow point bullet is less likely to glance off the hard bones in the rib-cage if used in a dynamic critical incident.  FMJ rounds are great for practice and training, but for defensive carry I definitely want the heaviest, fastest hollow points I can get for my .380.

The final thing to consider for your defensive .380 is reliability and learning curve.  Your gun must run the ammo that you choose for it reliably.  If you carry the BVAC ammo above, it needs to work in your gun.  You also need to practice with you gun, and not just standing on the range.  A .380 that’s carried as a last ditch defensive weapon needs to be something that you can draw and get quick, accurate hits with.  Would you take a defensive shooting class with a Ruger LCP?  I honestly don’t know if I would, but it’s something to think about.

When selecting a defensive pocket gun, remember that the first rule of a gunfight is “have a gun”.  The .380 you have beats a .44 at home, but if you have the wrong ammo or can’t hit with your .380, it’s not much better than a magic talisman.  Carry your guns…but make sure your gear is the best you can get.  After all, your life may depend on it.

Choosing the Right Clothing for Carrying a Concealed Handgun

Many customers of Cheaper Than Dirt! legally carry concealed handguns. But often, we get questions on the best way to carry concealed. While holster selection is important, equally as important is the clothing you choose to wear.

It’s important to note that if your carry method is uncomfortable, or if it is a struggle to keep your firearm concealed, more often than not concealed carry licensees will instead choose to leave their firearm at home. Therefore, special consideration must be given to the method of carry and the clothing used to conceal your firearm.

Carrying a concealed firearm in the winter is usually not a problem. Heavy winter garments provide a number of ways in which you can easily conceal a firearm. But when indoors, or in warmer weather, keeping a firearm concealed can be problematic unless you have an appropriate wardrobe.

Remember – the whole idea of carrying concealed is to not have your firearm detectable. What’s more, you don’t want to advertise that you might have a concealed firearm by wearing the ubiquitous tactical vest or fanny pack. While these methods are fantastic for concealing a firearm, they are also universally recognized as being worn by individuals who are armed. The same goes for most tactical BDU-style cargo pants and tactical style shirts.

So, how do you conceal your handgun without looking like some suburban tactical operator?

First, let’s take a look at pants. Many who carry concealed use an Inside-the-Waistband-Holster (IWB). These style of holsters fit between the waistband of your pants and your body, holding the firearm very close to your body. Having a firearm carried in this fashion reduces the chance of “printing” (having the outline of the gun show through your clothing). But using an IWB means that the waist size of your pants will have to be slightly larger. I find that pants one size up (ie: 36″ waist instead of 34″) help to accommodate the extra bulk of having a firearm tucked in your waistband. Tactical style pants such as Tru-Spec’s 24-7 Ripstop Pants are great for carrying a concealed handgun. They feature elastic comfort stretch waistband, and have lots of pockets for spare magazines and a tactical flashlight. The best part is that they don’t scream “Tactical” – instead, they have the appearance of more conservative Docker-style khaki pants.

If you choose to wear jeans or slacks, pay attention to the construction of the waistband and belt loops. Make sure that they are sturdy enough to bear the extra weight and strain of a holster. When choosing a belt, you will also need to select a sturdy belt that can stand up to the extra work. This Ranger Belt by Triple K is a great example. It is specifically designed with belt holsters in mind, but it is still stylishly designed so that you can wear it anywhere.

Your upper garment takes a bit more time and consideration to choose properly. If you are carrying a compact handgun in a “tuckable” holster, you will have more leeway in your choices. Tuckable holsters are IWB holsters that have belt clips which allow a shirt to be tucked in, concealing the handgun. Still, this method does not usually work as well with full size autos.

In the summertime especially, selecting an appropriate cover garment can be difficult. My standard summer carry method is a t-shirt tucked in, a handgun in an IWB holster, and a loose-fitting Hawaiian-style shirt over that. Something nondescript with longer shirt tails for better concealment, such as our Tru-Spec 24-7 Field Shirt would also work fine. Again, I usually purchase shirts one size larger than normal. A good cover garment should hang 5″ – 8″ below the waistline of your pants in order to adequately conceal your firearm while kneeling, bending, or reaching up.

When choosing a shirt for a cover garment, pay close attention to the fabric thickness and color. Light-weight and loose-weave fabrics can print easily, and some are so thin that they will even show a visible outline of the firearm. Light-colored fabrics can also show the darker outline of a firearm. In the summer, look for fabrics like linen or cotton which will not only keep you cool, but will also be able to conceal your handgun.

Choosing to carry a concealed firearm is a big responsibility. Part of that responsibility is following your state’s laws on keeping your firearm concealed, and that means choosing your clothing carefully. It may take a few additions to your wardrobe, but with these tips and a few extra pieces of clothing you will have no problem carrying concealed, no matter what the weather or occasion.

Cleaning Your Molle Gear

You’ve got the gear, you’ve assembled your kit, gone out into the field, and now you’re back, and your gear is covered with all manner of dirt, mud, leaves and brush. How do you safely clean your MOLLE gear?

Red dummy bullet

Dry-Fire Training at Home

I recently shot a local IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) match. I did OK but noticed a couple of problems that slowed me down significantly—namely, quickly and smoothly drawing from the holster and pressing forward to the target.