Concealed Carry

Driving with a Handgun: Best Practices

man driving a car with gun on hip

We live in a mechanized society and have adapted every part of rural and urban life to the automobile.

As concealed carry permit holders, we often drive and ride armed. This brings us to a certain amount of concern.

When seated in the home or a restaurant, most of us are able to shift, adjust and find comfort. Vehicle seats are difficult, in that they are stiffer.

We also must be strapped-in at all times when driving. A perfectly comfortable holster may become a pain when driving!

Pocket holsters may dump our pistol on the seat or worse, the floorboard. A well-designed inside-the-waistband holster may begin to abrade the skin.

A big rule that must be obeyed, is never simply leave the pistol loose or laying on the seat.

I am aware of two officers that were wounded, one fatally, as a result of leaving the gun laying on a car seat.

One was jolted during a felony car stop and his pistol rolled under the seat. It had been on the seat beside him.

In another case, an officer on a long stakeout had removed his SIG P220 from behind his back where it was cutting into his ribs and placed on the car seat.

He spotted his man, finally, and went chasing after the felon forgetting the gun. The felon turned and shot and killed him.

Off-body storage is a bad idea. We won’t discuss under the car seat or in a special under-the-dash holster. These are illegal almost everywhere.

Glove compartment carry is sometimes legal, sometimes not. I carry on my body, and if another gun is in the car, it is in the trunk, secure. 

gun on car seat
Leaving a gun laying on the vehicle seat is a very bad idea. 

Maintain a Proper Driving Posture

A big concern is posture. We all learned correct posture in the first grade.

In a vehicle, keeping control of the vehicle demands we sit straight and remain alert.

This also helps keep the handgun in its holster off the back instead of pressed into the back.

It is best to maintain an alert, upright posture when driving. In general, it is best if the wrists lay along the line of the steering wheel.

Driving and shooting are skills that demand safety and discipline. I cannot imagine doing both at the same time.

If you are in danger, then put the pedal to the metal! Get away.

The vehicle is heavy and will shove another vehicle, although you are asking for collision and mass casualties.

Unless you have been to a professional driving course and driving a specially-equipped cruiser or humvee, driving and shooting simultaneously are out of the question.

Responding to a carjacking that occurs when you are stopped in a parking lot or red light is another matter.

ankle carry holster while driving
In a pinch, an ankle holster is a fine choice for driving use. 

Keep Road Rage In Check

When I was a cop, it was pretty easy to figure how many traffic cases we would see in one day. Most drivers are good drivers, some are excellent.

About one in 25 break the law and about half those really deserve a traffic ticket. (Unless you live in a speed trap!)

That is one hell of a lot of bad drivers considering the numbers on the road.

Every week, if not every day, I spot drivers doing things that put the rest of us in danger.

My wife and I have seen three accidents in one hour of travel just recently.

But I don’t lay on the horn unless it may actually avoid an accident.

Like the girl on a cell phone that drove into my truck in a parking lot, hitting me in a parking space — with no harm done to me!

Even the horn did stop her. Rude gestures and hand signs don’t bother me. Keep your awareness high and watch for real danger.

Remember, if you have any part in the fight, it isn’t self-defense, it becomes mutual combat.

Keeping a tactical space between the other vehicles and you is important.

Don’t ride the bumper so close you can smell the drivers after shave.

After driving and carrying a gun for about half a century, I can state that without any shadow of a doubt, defensive driving is far more important than any chance of gunplay on the highway.

If it happens, stop and get behind the car if you cannot get away quickly.

A vehicle will stop most small-arms fire, and the engine block will stop a .308 every time.

A pistol may penetrate a car door and maybe not, there are a lot of braces in a door. A .30-30 and up will go through two car doors. 

semi-auto SIG pistol and revolver
Relatively compact handguns are best for vehicle use. Longer barrel handguns tend to push up on the belt and into the ribs. 

Think Defensively

In short, evasive driving is most important whether you are armed or not.

Keep your eye on the road and develop the ability to think a few seconds ahead.

When you are trapped in traffic or in a parking lot is when you are most vulnerable.

I repeat, keep the door locked until you have scanned the area for the all clear to exit. Most carjackers grab the door handle to attempt to gain entry.

All are not armed, but many are. If you are able get the car in drive or reverse, get it moving!

If someone has invaded your vehicle and gained control, get out of the vehicle and run! Don’t think more of the vehicle than your life.

Above all else, do not go along with them. Your chances of dying in a wreck, or being killed or raped, are very high if you are taken with the vehicle.

If they take you with them, the situation is no longer a carjacking, but a kidnapping and assault. 

Kershaw Emerson CQC Wave Knives
These Kershaw/Emerson wave knives could be plenty useful for stopping a carjacking. 

Get the Right Tools and Skills

There are tools that may be used to deter a carjacking. If the assailant has his hands and arms in the vehicle, you are perfectly justified to use force.

A jolt to the hands or wrists works well. With the forefinger and small finger extended, grab the adversary’s hand and press the knuckles together.

This is very painful, yet the pain is gone in a few minutes.

By the same token, you can use the vehicle to escape and toss the hijacker around a bit better than shooting him.

It is, overall, a very bad idea to fire from a vehicle.

Think about it, the adversary or the team will have plenty of room to maneuver and hide behind cover while you are a sitting duck!

And glass doesn’t stop bullets. Spalling from exploding glass may get in your eyes and put you out of the fight.

If you must exit the vehicle and take cover, get away as quickly as possible, don’t stay behind your vehicle.

It will be difficult to find you in a parking lot.

As for the specific gear for carrying a handgun, some of the best concealed carry rigs don’t work as well when seated.

The inside-the-waistband holster or strong-side high-ride are not as well-suited to vehicular carry.

A simple Galco bellyband works for keeping the gun concealed and is easily moved to several different positions — slide the gun to the front or even crossdraw when driving.

For a short pistol, appendix carry works well. A crossdraw or shoulder holster is ideal for vehicle carry.

Each offers a good sharp draw when seated. An overlooked combination is the ankle holster.

Very slow from a standing position, the ankle holster is handy when seated.

Cross the legs in a parking lot and the ankle holster places the handgun at your fingertips. 

As for specific handguns, this brings us to some interesting history.

During the early part of the 20th century, most folks wore larger revolvers with long barrels and heavy frames.

Recognizing the need for a more urban revolver, ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald developed the first in a long line of Fitz Special revolvers.

There were short-barrel handguns that were more easily handled in a vehicle.

Tom Threepersons cut away the unnecessary parts of a leather holster and created the Threepersons holster, the first truly suitable holster for wear under a suit coat and while driving.

Conclusion: Driving with a Handgun

The rest is history. A relatively compact handgun and a suitable holster are real needs for those who find themselves behind the wheel often.

Another important tool is a good quality knife.

Keeping a knife where it may be drawn and used quickly may be useful against a carjacker who isn’t armed with a firearm.           

Keep all of this in mind, but above all, be alert and stay safe!  

Do you have any tips for carrying a firearm in a car? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (18)

  1. Why do you say that under the seat or dashboard options are illegal almost everywhere? That is certainly not the case for NC, provided you have your concealed carry permit. I don’t see any reason why most states would prohibit that as long as you have a CCP.

  2. Handled security in the Wild West Wyoming oilfield
    Quickly discovered being right handed couldn’t draw with seatbelt
    Cross draw solved problem
    Played basketball with both hands so I taught myself to shoot left handed
    Not as good as with right but ok

  3. question:
    If pulled over by law enforcement, (for whatever reason) should you informed the officer that your carrying?
    Should you hand your Carry Permit along with your License to him? Your Carry Permit Assures the officer that that you have been (Totally Background Check)!!

    If asked by the officer if you have a gun in the car (Don’t Lie) (DON’T RUN!!) Don’t be a Smart-A !!!

    If you tell the officer that you have a gun on you or in your car, TELL Him/Her where the gun is located! Don’t just REACH FOR IT. Ask them “what do you want to do”?

    “JUST everybody Calm Down” and stay safe!


  4. As a lefty, I find that practicing shooting right handed with one hand is very important. Not just for shooting from a vehicle, but in case your primary arm is somehow injured, or your only cover requires returning fire from your right hand. Practice, practice, practice.

  5. Just a thought for better safety when you’re on a long road trip, place your license and registration (perhaps in your wallet) in the cup-holder or similar readily accessible portion of your vehicle. That way, if you should be puller over (for whatever, or even no reason) and an officer asks for your license and registration you don’t have to fumble around for them and you don’t need to be opening a glove box. (Exceptionally dangerous if a handgun is also inside with the registration) A traffic stop can be stressful for both driver and officer so anything to keep all the interaction simple and straightforward will likely benefit both.

  6. Accessing a hand gun while driving can definitely be a problem. I address it by leaving my EDC in my IWB holster on my person and keeping a second, full sized gun carried on a gun magnet that is mounted on the side of the console in my SUV. That way I have a full sized handgun with a large capacity magazine that I can access inside of 3 seconds at need. I simply take it off the magnet and secure it under the seat when I leave my vehicle to go into a store or restaurant, all the while my EDC is on my belt where I need it to be when I leave the vehicle.

  7. I’m surprised at the number of items I see for sale that are illegal to use. The magnet mount so often is shown for vehicle use, but even in states where open carry is legal (like Washington state), being inside a vehicle changes that depending on visibility. I’ve recently seen a “Stock for a Glock” on sale as if that’s ok. It doesn’t even claim to be a pistol brace. Buyer Beware more than ever when purchasing firearms related equipment! Don’t bet your freedom on the seller’s claims!

  8. I am wheelchair bound. Therefore always seated. Good info. Ankle carry is difficult. Recommendation on knife will be followed.

  9. A tanker rig on the weak side chest is excellent for carry in all situations. Easy to place the weapon safely within, draw and re-holster and it’s adjustable for all size of person. These are now made for revolver, small and large frame semi-auto pistols. Drawing your weapon across your chest is a natural and safe option to consider. It’s worked as s military application for decades.

  10. My wife and I both keep a Remora type holster between the seats or seat and console. I keep my G30 there all the time, while she removes her 9mm Shield from her purse holster for easy access from the Remora holster. I’ve been doing this for some time, but she started doing it after her last ccw refresher class instructor suggested it.

  11. One of the most excellent short reads here on Cheaper Than Dirt that I have read, ever. Especially like the part of avoiding road rage. Only tip I can think to add is to make sure to buckle up every time, before the vehicle is in motion, if at all possible.

  12. What is the best solution for carrying and using while riding a motorcycle (in an extreme emergency) ?

  13. According to the author, a strong-side high-ride is not as well-suited to vehicular carry and that may be true. And except for perhaps a cross draw rig, the other choices do not seem comfortable for all day every day carry in my view.

    In my opinion, most OWB pancake holsters have widely spaced belt slots that allow them to be shifted from 3 o’clock to 4 o’clock, depending on your belt loops. And a 15 degree “FBI” cant will tilt the grip within one’s grasp while seatbelted in a vehicle.

    And if ordered out of the vehicle, attempting to unbuckle the seatbelt will look normal. Reaching anywhere else would look suspicious. But I could be wrong. I often am.

  14. I personally never understood the move from the larger revolvers. A high cross draw puts the grip directly next to your right hand, and the gun can be easily deployed out of either window with very good terminal impact. I vary my choice depending on the season. For summer, a concealable 9 mm in appendix is more comfortable. For winter or long trips off the main roads, a nice single action is still hard to beat. The larger barrel hangs to your side and the grip is more accessible. Also, there is a psychological impact to a big gun suddenly presented in conjunction with firm, loud commands.

  15. I am like you and have carried a gun for close to fifty years, a few few year ago I stumbled on the Air Marshal holster, and for driving I think it is one of the best around, I carry a colt 45 compact in it comfortably.

  16. When I approach my vehicle in a parking lot, after observing the lot from inside the store, I do not take a direct route to my vehicle.
    This lets me observe people who may have to adjust their route to follow me.

    I unlock the vehicle with the fob and load packages with my weak side hand.

    If I use a shopping cart, it is placed so there is only one approach to me.

    When I park the shopping cart, I relock my door then unlock it again when I get back to my vehicle.

    I use the fob to lock the door as I reenter my vehicle

    I do not roll down windows, fiddle with the radio, open a drink, etc. until I am free of the lot.

  17. How about shoulder holsters?-and fora lefthander with full sized hand guns?
    wonder if a marine distress flare pistol with magnesium flares is a viable option?
    A geology hammer,smatchet or kukri or short handled tomahawk-might-be a secondary option?

  18. Unless riding shotgun, a southpaw is at an even greater disadvantage trying to use a handgun in a car.

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