Concealed Carry

Concealed Carry — It’s a Way of Life

Alien Gear IWB holster is being worn at the 4 o’clock position

Carrying a gun on your person for self-defense and the defense of others is a commendable action that requires a serious commitment to learn or improve skills and acquire knowledge. However, having a handgun and knowing how to load it, aim it, and pull the trigger is not enough.

If your reason for getting a gun and a rig for carrying it are based upon a recent scare or someone’s urging, I want you to take a few minutes and read this story about Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs. It’s important and will be the foundation for much of what I will share here. If you’ve read the story and know in your heart you are a sheepdog, read on.

several people at a table eating and paying attention to their cell phones
Awareness must become a way of life and doesn’t involve being so absorbed in your phone you’re not aware of your surroundings.

Sheepdogs, if you are serious about making the daily concealed carry of a handgun part of your life, we need to talk about software and hardware. The software challenges to daily carry are commitment, awareness, practice, and legal protection. The hardware challenges are the gun, ammunition, and concealed carry method.

Throw into the mix whatever training and license your state requires, and you can see it’s not something you just decide to do one day, and it automatically happens. Even if you live in a constitutional carry state that requires nothing in the way of a license to carry, doing so without some type of training is naïve. And even if you grew up hunting and shooting, carrying a gun for self-defense is not the same.

Commitment

Imagine a scenario where someone very close to you is killed. You could have prevented it, if only you had not left behind the handgun that you normally carry — just this one time. We can all think of reasons why we might leave our gun behind, but it usually boils down to the commitment simply wasn’t there.

None of us have a crystal ball, if we’re going to do this thing, it’s got to be all the time. You can’t decide when and where the bad guys are going to show up. That’s on them and fate. You may be thinking it’s hard to carry a gun while wearing certain clothing. We’ll address that issue when we move from software to hardware in our discussion.

Awareness

Just having a gun isn’t going to protect you. As a sheepdog, you must be diligent — like my little Pomeranian who can go from sound asleep to full bark in about half a second when a noise is heard around our house. A sheepdog doesn’t bury its head in a cellphone, texting or posting to Facebook, while a potential assault is lurking just over its shoulder.

sheep dog running through a grassy field as a metaphor for being vigilant
Having a Sheepdog mentality is the first step towards being able to protect yourself and others when it becomes necessary to use a gun for personal defense.

Paying attention to your surroundings and playing little “What if?” scenarios in your mind might enable you to take the necessary action to protect yourself and your loved ones. Many of you know of the old cowboy tradition in which you never sit with your back to the door of the saloon. Extend this to any public place you go by noticing all the exits as you come in and sitting where you can survey the room including entrances and exits.

To really practice awareness, think of yourself as a potential target wherever you go. Stay away from places where you know danger lurks. Keep an eye open everywhere for possible escape routes, suspicious-looking people, and areas of approach that are not open enough to give you time to react to an attack.

Practice

It’s critical to practice how you will respond to a threat. In the security of your home and with an unloaded gun, practice drawing your gun from its hiding place and getting it on target. Practice this over and over until it becomes second nature. Break it down into steps such as uncover, grasp, pull, rotate, join both hands, extend, aim, and fire. Wow! That’s a lot of stuff to do in the one or two seconds that might be all you have before you’re dead.

Four semiautomatic handguns and one revolver
When picking a gun to become your daily companion, it’s important to pick one you like and that is suitable for self-defense.

Practice doing it smoothly and the speed will come. This is a perishable skill. Just because you could do it a year ago doesn’t mean you can do it now. Dryfire practice is so important. For me, it brings about more improvement than just firing at paper targets at the range.

Speaking of the range: If you can find a setup where you can fire at moving or pop-up targets, do that. Even some of those software programs that measure your firing skills on a TV or computer screen and offer various scenarios are good.

Legal Protection

If you’re ever in a situation where you must use your gun for self-defense, there is a possibility you will be charged with a crime or sued. It’s not fair. However, it’s the world we live in. Unless you’re independently wealthy, investigate the various organizations such as U.S. LawShield, Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, or NRA Carry Guard. Find the one that’s best for you and join. If you pull your gun for defense, even if you don’t shoot it, call your legal defense representative before you engage in any question-and-answer session with the police.

Bullard Leather Company holster, brown with a springfield XD pistol
A good holster will retain your gun while making it easy to draw. This Bullard Leather Company holster can be set up to war IWB or OWB.

Concealed Carry Gun

What works well for carrying doesn’t always work well for shooting. In the past two years, I’ve evaluated seven small guns designed for concealed carry. Of those seven, there were only two I could shoot well, and I’m a professional. Shooting, evaluating, and reporting on guns is my business. So many guns are picked because they’re easy to concealed carry. Carrying it is not what’s going to save your life — using it is.

Guns that are very small and lightweight are not easy to shoot, plus they may not have enough power to stop a threat. Unless you’re feeble, forget .380 caliber or smaller. If you can carry and shoot a .45ACP pistol well, do so. Within the 9mm world, there are several classes of pistols: single stack 9mms (S&W Shield; Glock 43, 43X, Springfield XDs, Bersa BP9CC), micro nines (Springfield Hellcat, Taurus GX4, SCCY DVG-1, Ruger Max, S&W Shield Plus, S&W CRX), mid-size nines (Glock G19, S&W M&P, Taurus G3, Beretta PX4, Mossberg MC2C, Sig P229, Walther PDP) and full-size nines (Beretta 92, SIG P226). None of my lists in parentheses are complete, just some examples.

I’m personally most comfortable with the mid-sized pistols, but I’m a big guy and have a lot of room for concealment. If you don’t already have a gun, handle as many different guns as you can before making and choice and purchasing one. If you have access to a range that lets you rent guns, try a few that are on your short list and see how well you can shoot them. Buy the gun that you like. Don’t let anyone else choose it for you. The bottom line is to get a gun you’re comfortable shooting and is of a sufficient caliber and capacity to stop bad guys.

SIG Sauer V-Crown JHP 9mm Luger 124-grain ammunition box with three loose cartridges
Ensure the ammunition you carry in your gun is a good defensive ammo and your gun feeds and ejects it properly.

Ammunition

Improvements in ammunition have been amazing during the past several years. Where we used to preach that you needed a .45 to put someone down, there is a lot of good 9mm offerings available now. I have no reservations about recommending it to others, as long as you understand the difference between target/practice ammo and defensive ammo.

Practice ammo is typically Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) or some composite makeup. Defensive ammo can be Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) or one of several types of fluted ammo. The spinning flutes create lateral dispersion of energy with the forward dispersion along the bullet’s path causing a significant wounding effect. These bullets are lighter than normal which means they require less propellant to drive them. The end result is less recoil on the back end and a more destructive wound channel on the front end.

Carry Method

This is where people seem to struggle the most, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For the guys, it starts with a belt. Most holster manufacturers sell them. A gun belt is 1.5–1.75 inches wide and is thick. It is designed to support the weight of a holster with a nice-sized gun in it. If you’re not willing to spend the money on a good gun belt, you won’t be successful in carrying a gun on your waist. Of course, there are shoulder holsters. Your wardrobe will determine if that works for you.

Leather gun belt coiled, brown
A good gun belt is imperative and the first step in carrying a gun in a holster around your waist.

Next comes a holster’s construction. Preferably, it can be made of leather, Kydex, or both, but it needs to be made for the gun you’re wearing. I personally like to wear IWB or inside-the-waistband holsters even though I wear polo shirts about 90% of the time. If you must tuck in your shirttail, you can generally do it around an IWB holster. Some OWB holsters work and still conceal the gun with your shirttail worn outside.

I wear polo shirts by Propper. This company has men’s and women’s clothing that is comfortable, wrinkle-free and snag-free, and somewhat tactical without looking tactical. Once I started wearing Propper’s shirts, I gradually changed practically my entire wardrobe over to its clothing. The brand is not what’s important, but the mentality of dressing for how you concealed carry and being prepared is.

Some of you wear scrubs, overalls, or another outfit that prohibits a belt. Also, a lot of outfits you ladies wear don’t have an option for a belt. Two types of concealed carry will usually work in those cases. One is a belly band. This is an elastic band designed to fit around your body, above or below the waistline, with one or more pockets for your firearm.

MAn in workout clothing wearing a ComfortTac belly band holster with a gun and spare magazine
The ComfortTac Belly Band holster is a good option for those who wear scrubs or for some other reason are not able to wear a belt but still want to concealed carry.

The other option for beltless concealed carry involves using one of several types of specialty holsters such as the Sticky Holster which uses compression in the waistband or friction from the pocket if used as a pocket holster. Holsters by Blackhawk or Uncle Mike are lightweight, with or without clips, that can be used as either pocket or IWB holsters.

Texas and many other states allow for open carry. There are so many reasons not to carry openly. I don’t even know where to start the discussion in the short space I have here. Just don’t. It makes you a target. It gives anti-gunners additional arguments to use against us. Keep your gun hidden and keep the advantage of surprise on your side.

You can do this. Choose the right gun and become safe and proficient with it. Find the carry method that works for you and make the necessary wardrobe changes to accommodate it. Practice drawing and firing from concealment. If your range won’t let you do that, practice dryfiring from concealment at home.

Pay attention to your surroundings and play “What if?” scenarios in your mind. Make this your mantra concerning your gun: “I never leave home without it.” Someday, somewhere, you may save your own life or the life of someone very dear to you.

Have you committed to everyday carry? What does that mean to you? What tips do you have for maintaining awareness when at home or on the go? Which holster brand or model have you had success with? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • SIG Sauer Elite Performance ammunition box and three loose rounds
  • MAn in workout clothing wearing a ComfortTac belly band holster with a gun and spare magazine
  • Alien Gear IWB holster is being worn at the 4 o’clock position
  • Bullard Leather Company holster, brown with a springfield XD pistol
  • Leather gun belt coiled, brown
  • SIG Sauer V-Crown JHP 9mm Luger 124-grain ammunition box with three loose cartridges
  • Four semiautomatic handguns and one revolver
  • several people at a table eating and paying attention to their cell phones
  • sheep dog running through a grassy field as a metaphor for being vigilant
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. Thank you for your very informative article. While you speak from experience I’m wondering what my options are. I’m a 67 year old guy in very good health compared to others my age. I live in a small college town filled with homeless drug addicted scum in the Pacific Northwest so my wife and I risk our lives every time we go out. We live on social security and do not have a lot of spare cash. I can’t afford a $700 dollar gun, a hundred dollar gun belt with a hundred and fifty for a holster. I can not afford a training class with room and board and a thousand rounds of ammo and the cost of getting there. After reading I now know I’m screwed and can forget about concealed carry because of my bad luck financially.Thank you for opening my eyes to the futility of trying to protect my wife and myself, I will now accept our status as “victims”. Thank you.

  2. I would like to assure Jim, and anyone else with weak or arthritic hands, the S&W Shield 9EZ, is a wonderful gun to load, rack and shoot. My wife and I have enjoyed them since December. They also come in colorful models if you want.

  3. Yep, open carry is retarded. Anyone can snatch it, it makes gun owners look like bullies, and the guy planing to rob the bank knows he has to blow you away first. No brainier if you think about it. I think that people who open carry are usually trying to make a statement and show that they can. They carry for all the wrong reasons and are probably a danger more that a deterrent.

  4. Ruger LCP 380 is perfect for me. A pocket gun and an extra mag in jeans. Plus I always carry loaded but not chambered and I know the arguments. I am well trained and am cautious and always alert.

  5. Good information for the person considering carry for the first time. However, one item was not mentioned. Whether you’re shooting at a criminal or an outdoor range, you must ALWAYS consider where the bullet is going if you should miss. DO NOT SHOOT if a miss will endanger ANYBODY or ANYTHING else. Do all you can to shoot at such a close range (without endangering yourself needlessly) so you will not miss. This is where you will get into serious legal trouble if you shoot too much and miss too much. Therefore, practice, practice, practice.

  6. I have heard the common sense argument before, but I have never seen a single verifiable incident of this happening. Remember we are dealing with a criminal and if they had common sense they would not be a criminal.

  7. My daughter-in-law has a slight frame. This makes it difficult for her to carry concealed. She would like to use a shoulder holster but there are NOT a lot of articles aimed at the female audience on concealed carry options. Can we get an appropriate (read female) article?
    Thank you.

  8. BUDD, THE ONLY REFERENCE YOU NEED FOR “NOT” OPEN CARRYING IS COMMON SENSE.
    Picture yourself in a bank, or store, and a desperate criminal is hell bent on getting money.
    I’d wager your going to get a bullet in the back of the head, to clear the way for the scoundrel to carry out his/her plan.
    How about Someone who is desperate to get a gun, and notices the one on your hip. A tire iron, baseball bat, any club, or brick to the head, and he’s got his gun. Your gun actually! Be safe, and carry concealed. Never underestimate the element of surprise in an attack/counterattack.
    Keep in mind that many anti gunners are very uncomfortable, if not terrorized, by the sight of a gun, so it doesn’t make sense to give them more fodder to bitch about.

  9. I became angry and disheartened and then apathetic and lethargic when I received a letter of denial from my county Sheriff for a CCW several years ago. I applied and even went the extra mile by taking a CCW class before applying. I spent over $300 and was committed to do all that I could to receive a CCW. I even prepared a conceal carry gun for that purpose. I later took classes but negative feelings and thoughts gradually set it. After recently getting sick with the covid and in addition having to take care of my elderly parents who got it worse that I did, I experienced a paradigm shift when I recovered. I decided to prepare myself to conceal carry despite permit schemes that allow only certain, elite and entitled people to get CCWs in my county. I am looking forward to it, especially after having experienced a few incidents–one where I almost shot 1 of 4 ex-cons attempting to do a home invasion while me and my handicapped mother were at home. That could have easily occurred outside of my home. No longer do I look with envy at those that can conceal carry. If you decide to become a sheepdog you make the decision to never become a victim nor to allow others you love to become victims. You do all to effectively prepare yourself. If that means violating lesser laws that trample on our rights to effectively defend ourselves and loved ones, then we must make that very difficult decision and accept the consequences whether they be good or bad. Choosing life is always paramount to inadvertently choosing to be a victim, which most likely leads to injury and death.

  10. l carry the feeble 380 in a glock 42 with norma mhp ammo, and iam sure that at 7 / 15 yards it will just fine.

  11. I have a Sig 365,226 1911’s in 9 and 45 as well as a S&W 3954 and a FN 30 Luger that I had converted to 9mm
    I carry everyday a (don’t laugh) Kel Tec .380 that I have fired without a malfunction over 400 rounds of JHP and FMJ.
    .Because of the size and reliability I always have it with me here in Florida whether OWB or in my hip pocket.
    I will admit my “experience” and skill level allows me to feel comfortable with those situations.
    When one carries a ” mouse gun” one has to be very aware of your surroundings and aware of the “quick draw” limitations and practice practice practice!

  12. I have two 9mm pistols Browning high power, SAR K2p both I like, I’ve been trying to find a 9mm revolver,(I’m more comfortable with them) but they seem to be hard to find? Reason being is that my hands are shot! Arthritis, etc etc once I rack them a get one in the chamber I’m fine, its the time lag racking one in that bothers me, my sister suggested of all things a lady’s pistol! She’s has a ezrack S+W?? Or is it a Springfield?? I’ve forgotten, ha feeling old!

  13. Great article and good thoughts to help keep CC citizens alert and consistently thinking about our safety and situations. Thank you.

  14. I have several ‘carry’ guns that I can handle and shoot well. Among them are a S&W 340pd 357. No hammer allows jacket pocket carry with no snags. A S&W 329pd 44 that I wear in a shoulder holster. 3 Glocks; a G19 9mm, a G21 45acp, and my favorite a G32 357sig. I also carry a 38 double barrel derringer as a backup.
    I certainly agree with practice.
    Always be aware !!!
    And ALWAYS be prepared !!!

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