Concealed Carry

Everyday Carry Gear: Where to Begin

Concealed Carry Revolvers

A handgun carried concealed affords the user a great deal of security and peace of mind. In recent months, many have made the decision to take charge of their own safety.

If you do not consider your needs carefully and make intelligent decisions, you may find yourself in a position of being armed with a deadly weapon but not able to defend yourself well.

Going around armed is a great responsibility. Considerably more research is needed than when purchasing a lawnmower, and less outlay is required than purchasing a Harley Davidson.

The bottom line is, this is serious business and demands study and research. A handgun isn’t there to enhance your ego or extend your will, but to protect you and your family in a life or death situation.

It isn’t there to save you a few bruises and it doesn’t eliminate the need to defend yourself against a less than lethal attack. Choosing a firearm, ammunition, holster, accessories and non-lethal devices need not be stressful.

Choices need to be well thought out. The first thing to do is conduct research. The local library is one place. Books by Massad Ayoob are in-depth and required study.

Garbiel Suarez is another credible author, and a subscription to Concealed Carry Magazine is a great idea. This is a specialized magazine, without any interest in hunting and target shooting, well worth a look.

When you have made the decision that concealed carry is for you, be certain to study the laws and mores of the state and city you live in.

Beretta 9mm handgun
This Beretta firearm a thin handgun that fits most hands well.

Qualifications and Quality

Most states require some type of training and a certification process to obtain a concealed weapon permit. Be certain to choose a respectable trainer for the CWP class.

There are many that have no background other than going to several schools to be certified. Others have a tremendous law enforcement background, others have attended many national and local training schools.

Choose the most experienced, not the cheapest with the easiest course. Next, you will choose your concealed carry gear — the handgun, holster, ammunition and necessary accessories.

Buy cheap means buy twice, so get proven gear in the first place. The default choice seems to be a striker-fired, polymer-frame 9mm. The pistol should be neither too large nor too small.

The handgun should fit well in your hand and a good set of sights. Reliability is most important. This means CZ, GLOCK, Smith and Wesson, Springfield, HK and Walther to most of us.

Beginners have a more difficult time discerning quality. Price isn’t the only indicator, but if something is too cheap to be good, it probably isn’t good. You may end up with a handgun that isn’t reliable and doesn’t suit your needs.

The GLOCK 19, Springfield XD-S and CZ P-10 C are similar handguns. While one or the other may appeal to you on some basis, when you master the handgun you will find that in a very real sense, one is as good as the other.

There is little that may be done tactically with a quality handgun that cannot be done with the other. One handgun may fit your hand better than the other, and the trigger action of one or the other may have a greater appeal to the shooter.

But if you practice with a Springfield XD-S or a GLOCK 48, you will be able to perform tactically well with either. Choose a quality firearm that fits your hand well, has good sights and features a trigger action to you are able to use well.

I am not downplaying the differences in a handgun, finding the lifetime gun that fits you well will demand study and trying other handguns. But in the meantime, others will serve and you are not significantly impoverished.

man reloading handgun
A shortcoming of many shooters is absolute familiarity with the handgun. Learn how to load, unload, fire and field strip the handgun.

Up Your Practice Time

The bottom line is that if you practice and get good training, you will be on good stead with a quality firearm. Good training and continuing training is the single greatest predictor of survival in a critical incident.

Although some handguns feature both good handfit and high capacity, in general, handguns with eight to 10 rounds in the magazine fit better in the hand for most shooters.

While higher capacity is good to have, it isn’t viable at the cost of good handfit and recoil control. A wider grip is simply needed to accommodate all those cartridges.

Having eight or nine rounds you are able to deliver accurately is more important than having 15 rounds in a handgun you cannot control well. The 9mm is a viable choice and the everyman’s caliber these days.

If your practice time is limited, a revolver with a much simpler operating system may be preferred. Soon, we are going to introduce articles on revolvers that will cover choices.

A double-action revolver in .38 Special is a reasonable choice for most shooters. A revolver will not malfunction, even with a less than perfect grip, and offers a simple manual of arms.

Browning Hi-Power and Spare Mags
A self-loading pistol needs plenty of spare magazines. These are from MecGar.

Concealed Carry Holsters

Before choosing your holster, you must consider where and how the handgun will be carried. First, a good quality gun belt must be acquired. This belt will support the weight of the handgun, a spare magazine and other accessories.

A cheap or a simple dress belt will not carry this weight in comfort. Without a tightly cinched-up gun belt that has a tight fit in the belt loops of the holster, the holster will move around on the belt.

In the beginning, only one firearm and a single holster may be acceptable, but if you live in a true four-season climate, you will probably need more than one holster.

There are choices in holsters. The holster that most of you need will be a quality inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. This holster rides between the body and the trousers.

This allows you to conceal a handgun without having a dedicated covering garment draping over the handgun. A pulled out polo shirt or heavy T-shirt will be enough to conceal a handgun in an IWB holster.

If you are able to wear a concealing garment and the holster doesn’t extend beyond the covering garment, then a standard outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster is a viable choice.

A cross-draw holster is another choice. Some holsters and holster positions will be more comfortable than others. Take a triple-checked unloaded firearm and place it in the waistband, and determine which carry position and which draw is more comfortable.

The holster must hold the handgun secure, but allow the shooter to draw the handgun with a fast tug. A holster that is designed for a specific handgun offers good security and a good sharp draw.

Revolvers and Holster
Revolvers are a viable resource. That is a Blackhawk! inside-the-waistband holster.

Other Necessities

There are other things you need — a quality gun safe, large or small, depending on your needs, should be obtained to keep the firearm secure when it isn’t being worn. (A tip: don’t go cheap on this one. The Hornady RapidSafe is a great option for quick access.)

The handgun must have a minimum of three magazines — one in the handgun, one on the belt and one resting. The new generation of GLOCKs may come with three magazines, others makes do not.

Some handguns are delivered with only one magazine. You must have these for practice and as backups just in case. Ammunition is less complicated than you might imagine.

Training and practice ammunition need not be anything special. Any full metal jacket or round nose loading will do. Federal American Eagle, Fiocchi’s training ammo, Remington UMC and Winchester Active Duty are first-class quality and make good training loads.

When it comes to defense loads, the load must be qualified for concealed carry to make certain the handgun will feed and function with these loads. Very few modern firearms and ammunition are not compatible, but you must proof the loading.

Bullet performance in the terminal phase is important, but a clean powder burn and good accuracy are important as well. Personal defense loads must exhibit a balance of expansion and penetration.

Quality is important, and is often referred to as cartridge integrity. Federal Hydra Shock or HST, Hornady Critical Defense or Critical Duty, Fiocchi Extrema, Speer Gold Dot, and Winchester PDX are among the loads I recommend.

A general-purpose loading should penetrate 16-18 inches of water or ballistic gelatin, and expand at 1.5 times the original diameter. Training loads are great for practice, but a properly designed expanding bullet load is needed for personal defense.

Hornady Concealed Carry Gun Safe
Hornady’s safe technology is in a class all its own. If you own a handgun that is off your person at times, you must have a gun safe.

The purpose of this article is to outline a few resources and to instill thought on concealed carry. Get acquainted with the firearm, perhaps find a range with firearm rentals, and get competent instruction. It is all up to personal initiative.

What gear did you get for concealed carry when you were first starting out? Why? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (5)

  1. I like my SIG Sauer P229 in .357 SIG. Not to big so it’s easy to carry and fires a hot round (“9mm Magnum”) that will put the bad guy down. My backup is a P239 chambered for the same round, so I never feel out-gunned.

  2. I prefer a .45 acp to a 9mm for self defense. I can’t recall how many times I have watched the evening news and witnessed some poor cop have to shoot someone ten or fifteen times with a 9 mm to stop him from his hell bent homicidal intent. A .45 will generally stop any attacker with one or at most two hits. My favorite carry guns are Colt defender and a commander, both are versions of the old but effective 1911 designs and serve very well as defensive everyday carry guns.

    Most times I carry in a cross draw iwb holster as it is much more comfortable to me to wear all day and takes the weight of the gun off of your hip. It also allows you to draw and fire with either hand.

  3. One more note. Having just finished the excellent book ‘The Law of Self Defense’ by Andrew F. Branca, people thinking of carrying concealed, should read this book also. It is an in-depth look at what happens to you after you pull the trigger (from the police to the D.A, to the courts) and what you need to do to minimize your exposure to legal issues. This may dissuade some from getting that permit/not carrying. While I understand and applaud Mr. Vance on his moral values to protect others, there is great, great, personnel (from the point of legal punishment) and financial danger in doing so. So yeah, one of the first things someone thinking about strapping on a gun should do is read, Massad Ayoob has several very good books, and he wrote the forward for Mr. Branca’s. And concealed carry is a lot like school, it is an ongoing learning experience.

  4. My first, and still is occasionally, my Glock 23. My Glock 27 is my normal carry now. I use an IWB holster for both. I also use a shoulder holster (sometime), even in hot weather. I found a light T-shirt and an extra large ‘fishing’ shift (Columbia, Magellan, etc) do a good job of concealing without being too hot (I’m in South Louisiana, so it gets really hot). The big take away, is finding a gun that fits your hand. I have found thru several people that I have introduced to handguns, if the gun fits your hand properly, you will shoot it accurately, comfortably, and often as you will enjoy shooting it. Even recoil will be less of problem, possibly extending your choice of calibers. First time shooters should be urged to get some training and then try to find a gunshop/range that rents guns and try out several different models. Find the one that fits.

  5. Truly a great article as usual Mr. Roberts. This a very good in general article that I realize would take a lot more space to go into any detail.

    As a firearms instructor myself, I try to stress a lot towards keep the student out of trouble from the legal pitfalls as well as how to avoid situations that potential could escalate into life and death ordeal.
    I show how being armed does not keep someone from taking your gun from you and kicking your but or worse. Defending yourself is more than what gun and other equipment you have. Knowing how to recognize potentially dangerous situations and how to stay in control of them is very important. Nothing would be worse than finding yourself part of a Helter Skelter gun battle relying on luck for your survival.

    Training and practice to the point it’s a natural reflex. I don’t just mean simple basic pistol drawing and firing but combat training where your opponent is at arm’s length and about to kill you while he attempts to take your gun at the same time.
    That kind of training and practice. I also believe in practicing long distances shots at head size targets.
    Know your own abilities and your limits and strive to push them farther.

    In all honesty were talking extremely high odds that any of us will need to use deadly force to protect ourselves, but those odds are changing towards the worse everyday it seems, so it’s best to be prepared, just in case.

    I for one carry cancelled most of the time but always carry a back pack with a full size XD9, four magazines, flashlights for myself and my pistol, bandages, blood clotting agents as well as other item that would aid me if I needed to enter into a building with a Active Shooter situation, I for one will not run the other way, nor wait on the police while people are dieing, I could not live with myself if I knowingly walked away from a situation that I was more than capable of putting a stop to.

    While I do not, nor would I ever suggest anyone else to engage a Active Shooter situation, the equipment and supplies needed for those type of situation could save lives.
    In most if not all Active Shooter situations many of the victims bleed out from the lack of anyone stopping the bleeding, so think about carrying something to save lives not just taking them.

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