Concealed Carry

Quick to Action: The Overlooked Carry Option

Colonel Jeff Cooper meme about tactics

With all the current instructors and instruction available, there is no end to the advice new shooters interested in concealed carry get exposed to. I am sure that you are all familiar with the expression that states, “Opinions are like #$%!@~&* everybody has one.” That is surely the case in the shooting community.

Unfortunately, most instructors come from the military or law enforcement. That colors how they see things. Civilian shooters must look at being armed in a completely different light. Civilian training needs to be tailored to the rules and the way a civilian has to play the game.

Man pulling up his shirt to expose a Kimber K6S revolver in an appendix carry holster
Appendix carry with a Kimber K6S riding inside the waistband.

Civilian Concealed Carry

Civilian CCW holders don’t have backup, or reinforcements. They don’t have uniforms bristling with equipment and body armor. Additionally, they are not subject to constant training to stay sharp, because gun fighting is not part of their job description.

Even the most dedicated civilian does not have the same training and mindset as the professional. Most will only take a class or two, read some articles, or browse the internet. New shooters talk with friends to form their opinion as to what might be their best choices. What to carry, where to carry, what to carry it in, decisions, decisions.

To make the best decision, let’s first look at what you are going to concealed carry. For most civilians, it will be a medium to small, easily concealed handgun that you can shoot quickly and accurately. OK. That makes sense. Then, consider where you are going to carry the pistol and in what. This is where things get a little muddy.

Why do you suppose that is? Maybe, it’s because you are not part of a military unit going into combat or an LEO patrolling the streets. That’s right you are an accountant, business owner, doctor, painter, mother, housewife, caregiver, or whatever… I think you get the point.

Your primary job is not to go looking for trouble. In fact, you want to avoid trouble at all costs. So, the gun you are going to carry needs to reside someplace comfortable, concealable, and accessible. The truth is that you will have it with you always and hopefully never need to use it.

Nighthawk Talon carried strong side at 3 o’clock outside the waistband carry.
A Nighthawk Talon carried strong side at 3 o’clock outside the waistband carry.

Carry Options

Inside the waistband is currently popular for concealed carry. It is concealable and not too uncomfortable, except when seated or driving — when it can be difficult to get into action. Depending on your wardrobe, it can require additional actions for you to access your firearm.

How about outside the waistband at the 3 o’clock position? That is comfortable and accessible from almost any position but requires layered clothing to conceal it effectively. Again, wardrobe modifications will most likely be necessary.

Remember, you are a civilian. If anyone can tell you are carrying, even if unintentional, it’s called brandishing. If convicted of brandishing, you could lose your ability to carry (in states without open on constitutional carry). Behind the back is sexy but much too limiting. I got it… Ankle carry!

Smith and Wesson Model 60 carried on the weak side ankle.
A Smith and Wesson Model 60 carried on the weak side ankle.

Ankle carry is great when seated, but you need to be pretty agile when standing. It also takes longer to contort yourself to get it into action. No, I got it, a shoulder holster à la James Bond. All you must do then is wear a jacket all the time and figure out how not to muzzle sweep a million people with your presentation.

There are other methods, but they all present some presentation problems for the civilian CCW holder. To help find a solution, let’s examine the needs of those who want to carry concealed and present their handgun quickly.

The best way to approach this is to dissect the problem. First, the firearm needs to be well concealed — both for safety and to be protected from brandishing charges. Furthermore, that means that you may not present your pistol and point it at anyone until and unless you are in fear of your life or grave bodily injury to yourself or loved ones. How does one reach that threshold?

Man with the outline of handgun concealed under his shirt
This is called printing or brandishing, and it is what you might look like without knowing it.

Timing Is Key

Wait, for me to be in fear of my life, some deviant has to be threatening me in a way that any reasonable person would also feel threatened. Holding a weapon capable of inflicting injury or death and pointing it at me should cause someone to believe they are in such danger. They might already be in the process of shooting at me. What if they lie in wait and then jump out surprising me?

Herein lies the concealed carry holder’s dilemma. If you wait for the “in fear of your life” threshold to be met, you are at least 3–5 seconds behind the curve before you can even begin to react. Three to 5 seconds is an eternity when someone is trying to hurt you. Okay, so my slow mind finally recognizes a threat exists.

Now, I must determine what action to take. Next, I must ‘will’ my body to start doing something. That is one helluva deficit to overcome when bullets are coming your way. If I am carrying in any of the previously mentioned positions, I have to start by clearing the garment or garments, depending on how I dressed. Then, and only then, can I start my presentation. Depending on how dedicated I am at practicing, we can add another 3–5 seconds.

That’s 6–10 seconds before you are responding, moving, and/or returning fire. That is way too long, and you are probably wounded or dead by now. Have we been fooled into thinking that if we carry, we are safe? If we are properly trained and think things through beforehand, we might prevail.

Ed LaPorta wearing a tactical vest with a handgun in the pocket
The “Shoot Me First Vest” makes it impossible to tell whether one is armed. In this photo with two friends, I am carrying everything described in the text and more.

My Solution

You are probably saying, OK wise guy what is your approach to concealed carry to stay ahead or even with the reaction deficit. Before I answer, let me say that I have carried concealed for over 50 years and have tried every concealable method with every practical handgun from a .32 Seecamp to a .44 Magnum Mod. 29. I have carried off-body, in a man purse, and even in a hat like I saw once in a cowboy movie. This is what I know after all that.

You can only beat the curve if your hand is already on your handgun before the attack starts. How do you do that? Pocket carry, that’s how. The best type of pocket carry is in what used to be called the old “shoot me first vest.” I mean who feels threatened by someone with their hands in their pockets — especially if it’s an old fat guy, right?

‘Hands in pockets’ is the least threatening pose you can take because it takes time to extricate your hands to hit someone or defend yourself. During military training, if one was ever caught with their hands in their pockets, they were punished — usually by doing push-ups. All sorts of martial arts disciplines discourage having your hands in your pockets. That all changes if the hand in your pocket is on a J-Frame .357 Magnum or an Officer’s Model .45 ACP.

Man with a hand in the pocket of his vest clutching a concealed handgun
I ask you, “Who is alarmed by an old fat guy with his hands in his pockets?”

Let’s once again assume you are on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood going to a swanky restaurant and you parked on a side street. You are walking to or from your car. To be on the safe side, you put your hand on the gun in your pocket.

Because your hand is already there and you are in condition yellow or orange, if someone jumps out of the shadows and demands your Rolex watch, all you need to do feign a heart attack while aiming at the threat through your pocket and press. Granted you will put a hole in your favorite vest, but you’ll also (most likely) put a hole or holes in your assailant. Boy, will your attacker be surprised.

I admit that at times I will also carry in my strong side pants pocket if it is large enough to accommodate my firearm of choice for the day. Let me also be clear about pocket carry. Nothing but the handgun rides in that pocket, nothing. I also routinely and compulsively clean the handgun of dust and lint.

Another plus to the vest is that you can carry everything you might need without anyone being any the wiser. That’s right. I carry my main defensive weapon in my large strong side pocket. In the small pocket above and behind that I carry a knife. In my large weak side pocket I carry my wallet, and keys. In the weak side small pocket, above and behind the big pocket, I carry extra ammo and a tactical flashlight. In the inside pocket on the weak side, I carry medical supplies. My phone rides in my weak side breast pocket. As you can see, without anyone being aware, I have a full load out.

This fade away photo shows how you can be targeting an assailant from inside the pocket, without them knowing it.

There are lots of different types of vests out there for men and women to accommodate your fashion needs. Additionally, many types of pants have pockets that can accommodate a firearm. If you are not convinced pocket carry is for you, consider it for your backup gun, and see how you like it.

What do you consider the best method for concealed carry? How long would it take you to recognize the thread and successfully deploy your concealed firearm? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Man pulling up his shirt to expose a Kimber K6S revolver in an appendix carry holster
  • Nighthawk Talon carried strong side at 3 o’clock outside the waistband carry.
  • Smith and Wesson Model 60 carried on the weak side ankle.
  • Man with the outline of handgun concealed under his shirt
  • Colonel Jeff Cooper meme about tactics
  • Ed LaPorta wearing a tactical vest with a handgun in the pocket
  • Man with a hand in the pocket of his vest clutching a concealed 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 (30)

  1. The author makes a few good points on reaction time and then slips into a pretty amateur dissertation on carry/weapon. To be clear – I agree on the basic differences between carrying “on the job” (Military/LEO) and CCW civilian carry (I have done both) and reaction time, training and weapon selection tend to be much different. Having said that, reaction time is influenced most heavily by one thing – preparation. Preparation (for this post) = mindset (am I really ready for what could happen?), training (have I invested in reliable training?), practice (have I invested in enough training for there to be a degree of muscle memory to help me when the time comes?), planning (have I considered HOW the bad situation I am preparing for could happen and mad the right choices for those scenarios?).
    Mindset is the hardest – I can honestly attest to the fact that while the other 3 aspects of prep help, you will not know how it will go down until you are there – but without the other 3 aspects it can be as reliable as playing the lottery to achieve financial security – very long (and bad) odds.
    Training is critical and somewhat difficult because of all the drugstore commandos out there claiming to be experts. And what are they expert in? An expert at 1″ groups with a 44mag at 20 yards may not be an expert in carry/firefight arenas. Test them for their experience and accuracy/shot placement.
    Practice is dependent on the first 2 aspects – if your mindset does not make training and practice a priority you will fail (at anything).
    Planning is the easiest – but entirely dependent on the first 3 aspects of prep. Going over the crime reports, knowing what the “most likely to least likely” types of assaults are will help. Talking with others (knowledgeable others!) about how toi handle such scenarios will help – and then (and only then) should you start working on the exact weapon, holster/carry solution, and clothing.
    My weapon solution is entirely dependent upon the planning aspect AND the 3 aspects prior to planning. There is a hook here though – this is not a stagnant, do once and feel good exercise – it is iterative. For example, if all your work up to the planning stage is perfect, but you realize in the planning stage the most likely assault type has not been covered in your first 3, you have to start over and make ready for the new information.
    One thing on weapons selection and carry that I want to offer (that is contrary to the author’s thoughts). Carry is subjective, and I am not suggesting a right or a wrong carry option – but pocket carrying a weapon that has an exposed hammer can be extremely problematic as the hammer can easily (and almost assuredly will) hang up in the folds of fabric and make any draw difficult.
    Hope this helps.

  2. I love seeing the different ideas of concealed carry, but I’d like some ideas about concealed carry while wearing overalls. I’m 6’7, 433 lbs and wear overalls 99% of the time and I haven’t figured out a good way of carrying concealed yet other than pocket carry, but as for speed that in no good because of my larger hands. Any ideas or recommendations are greatly appreciated.

  3. What good advise from this article. I always have this issue, where to carry. I’m impressed by all the methods and counter points in the authors article. Because I live in Southern California, it will have to be a J frame in my front pocket, unfortunately in the summer, without a vest..

  4. Mr. Most Interesting Man in the World strikes again with a flash of absolute genius. Someone give this man a medal!

  5. The author provides solid, ‘technical’, advice. However, their knowledge of the law doesn’t meet standards. Brandishing a weapon is not simply having another person on the street recognize that another is carrying a concealed weapon. For example, the carrying party may reach up in a supermarket to grab an item off a shelf and quickly show the lower end of a holster or the handle of a pistol to another party. This is not brandishing. Period. Not a good idea, but not illegal, either.

    Brandishing is displaying a weapon, or stating that one has a concealed weapon to another party, to intimidate or threaten another party. It is NOT the accidental disclosure of a weapon to another party for brief duration when conducting normal physical activities.

    The author provides, again, solid technical advice on firearms. But he needs to get his legal facts straight. He’s done this in another articles, as well.

  6. I saw several assertions in this article that bothered me. Some of them have been commented on, e.g., what is brandishing. That might be true in California, it is not true in many other jurisdictions. As was pointed out by DARRYL brandishing is to display a weapon in a manner that could be interpreted by a reasonable person to be done in a threatening way or to intimidate someone. In states with Open Carry, if someone were to complain, they would be told to grow up. Another comment was on the vest. There is a reason that many people refer to it as a “Shoot me first” vest. To many people outside the CCW community, it says “I have a gun and this vest will keep it hidden (wink, wink)” It is an advertisement that in order to be more obvious would require lights and sirens.

    The author talks about civilian instructors tailoring their instruction to civilians. Sounds good, but I have known civilian instructors who had no clue what it is like to actually be in the situation where there is incoming or there is a need to draw a weapon and shoot. That is important. Your world changes when the real thing happens. I have heard instructors give a very unrealistic portrayal of real human responses in that kind of crisis, and yes it is a crisis, and one that will change one’s life. Anyone who would seek to minimize it is someone to be avoided at all costs. Too many people want to treat it like it is something that will be a breeze.

    I would remind people of a phenomenon most people know as BUCK FEVER. It is a physiologic response to stress as the sympathetic nervous system takes over and a number of hormones are released. Big note, we do not have control over this reaction. A short list of responses over which you have no control are, in no particular order, your pupils dilate, you develop tunnel vison, your heart and respiratory rate increases, one may have butterflies in the stomach to the point of vomiting and the urge to urinate. Tunnel vision can develop and that is a problem as it becomes difficult to apprehend the sights on your weapon. There may be dizziness and/or lightheadedness. People may develop sweaty palms to the point that they are unable to hold items or pick them up. This can cause people to be unable to hold a weapon correctly. As a veteran, I can attest to the fact that engaging another person with a firearm leads to much more pronounced responses than when shooting deer or any big game for that matter. I have done both.

    This is not a comprehensive list, but I speak from personal experience and these things have been related by many other veterans and police officers in the aftermath of a live fire situation. I have heard people try to minimize what their response to something like this might be. Back 50 or so years ago, there were too many young men who thought they were exempt from these human physiologic responses and they came home in a box covered by a flag. Disregarding these things frequently have a poor outcome as in someone may die.

    Engaging another human being with a firearm in a possible life of death struggle is a very big deal. It is NOT like in the movies or on the TV. No matter how horrific the scenes you have watched on the screen, when you walk away, you know it was not real. When you engage someone, it is TOO real and your life will never be the same. Do not lust for the experience or the chance to do so. Be prepared but do not seek it out. The genie that is released is evil and will never go back in the bottle, but will appear again and again to haunt your memories. This is from someone who has looked on too many dead people, who has watched the aftermath in people’s lives as they tried unsuccessfully to reintegrate back into the world they had before their engagement. I have also been haunted by ghosts that refuse to die. There is a reason 22 vets take their own life every day.

    But what do I know? I am only an old man who, 50 some years ago, placed my life on the line every day for several years. I still remember the sights and sounds of that time, although it has been several years since I woke up dripping with sweat after reliving segments of that very dark time.

  7. I found this article to be both informative and very helpful. Bob Dylan once said, “you can’t please all the people all of the time, you can only please some of the people some of the time.” That holds true with LaPorta’s article. If you don’t like his recommendations just “suck it up” and move on. Personally, I learned a lot as it offered me some insight into things I hadn’t really focused on. The only thing that I didn’t like was the bellybutton looking me in the eye! lol

  8. I enjoyed this article. Thanks for publishing it where it can be easily accessible to people around the world. Looking forward to visiting the US again this winter.

  9. The old fat guy wrote a pretty good article with some very good solid advice!! Thank you. I shall be more wary of peeps with their hands in their pockets from now on

  10. 6-10 seconds before you are able to return fire?

    My maw in law is 83 and can cut that in half or more! She practices a bit though.

    While ridiculously fast times are often quoted 2 seconds from under a covering garment is average if you practice daily as you should.

    Unless you adopt a ponderous slow tuckable or ankle holster.

    Or just dont get it.

  11. Overall (no pun) this is a good article to think of different options. The two considerations are 1) Weather and where you are going. These dictate how you will carry.
    Summer, hot, desert weather does not lend itself to a vest of any sort.
    This fishing vest is a dead giveaway IMHO. First if you didn’t suspect a concealed carry, the vest is just too uncommon to go unnoticed. During summer you might consider a Joey Pouch or bellyband which works well under very light clothing and even shorts- no belt needed. They make undershirts with carry pockets. We have lots of choices.
    In cold weather any jacket can easily conceal a J frame or small semi-auto.
    Lots of choices. This article shares one mans opinion but opens the discussion for CC to think about the many options.

  12. Currently I live in Nevada and don’t have a CCW permit. Looking to get one.

    However, in general terms I’m curious if the handgun you qualify with is the only handgun you can legally carry concealed?

    Do I have to re-qualify if I decide to carry a different handgun?


  13. Remember, Mr. Cooper is telling you what works best for him ! Most of the comments are what works best for the commenter ! You have to decide what works best for you ! Winter, summer, spring and fall are all different in the Northeast as far as what type of clothing you wear. Where are you going ? Are you going to be sitting or standing ? Are you going to take your jacket off ? Do you carry the same firearm all the time? What I’m saying is…… THINK !, before you leave your home and what you will be doing. Above all else, Practice , Practice, Practice, for all situations, with an UNLOADED firearm . Remember, be prepared and observant at all times and hope you never have to pull you firearm.

  14. The slow old fat guy says it all , just wish this was the way in Australia too ! Good points to go by pay the guy his dues !

  15. Your comment that someone is brandishing in the event someone can see you concealed handgun is absolutely false in most states. A visible handgun on your hip is called open carry. Brandishing typically involves displaying a gun in a threatening manner to intimidate or threaten and would typically apply to holding it in your hand, not in a holster.

  16. I wear Levi’s 5 pocket jeans almost every day. The 5th pocket serves as my holster for a ruger lc9, fits perfectly, rides comfortably, even sitting in a car. I know a lot of people wear 5 pocket Levi’s, I wonder how many others have used this carry method?

  17. I learned a lot. It’s an excellent point about the vest. To the poo-pooers in the comments… yes, it can be difficult to aim perfectly through the vest, but if someone’s about to kill you, or you don’t reasonably have the second to draw your gun / it would alert the enemy, shooting through the garment could be the difference between dying and protecting your loved ones… I keep to the rules of safety myself, but when someone’s trying to kill you… It’s also a reason to practice firing from that close-ready position outside the garment. You’re welcome to think different. Maybe you can politely ask the assailant for a few seconds so you can draw and line up the sights and make sure the area beyond is clear up to 200 yards…

    Damn-good article. I need to try hat-carry next / a band under overalls as another reader suggested, or adding fishing lures on the vest as camo. Thanks again!

  18. When I first concealed carried, I was VERY self conscious of printing. After a few months I realized, people were too preoccupied with their smart phone to notice any “printing”. One carry position that really bothers me is; the one where my firearm, is pointed directly at my “gun” (for all you former recruits out there). Being from a machinist/engineering background, I know that in the best of equipment, with the best of people, sometimes “stuff” still just happens, and safeties fail (assuming your firearm is even equipped with one), so for me, the appendix position is NEVER an option. Just being a little self-centered here, thinking only of me, and trying to avoid any self inflicted, and unnecessary damage.

  19. I am retired Law Enforcement and have carried concealed 47 plus years. I have carried about every way possible. It was a good article except when it gets very hot in the summer the vest is not practical and they stand out as they are often known for being worn by Law Enforcement. The thing that bothers me most is the photo of a hammered revolver in the pocket. I would at least use a hammerless revolver. It would be very easy to snag the hammer in the vest especially after firing, possibly preventing a follow up shot. Also trying to draw it out of the pocket for follow up protection while under stress or struggling with an attacker.

  20. That said I carry a Commander .45 in an inside the waistband holster, a spare magazine on the off side, a very good belt, either a buck/tops or Randall knife, and the snub .38 is simple a close range option for a worst case scenario. The aptly named Shoot Me First vest is camoflauged as a fishing vest. I hope I have a two second warning to see it coming. Had I had more warning I would not have all these scars my doctor scratches his head over. Had a little skin cancer had to do a full body scan and the Dr asked me questions like I was the Illustrated Man. Since the Scot Irish are born with scars on their knuckles and a broken nose he should have known they would be there.

  21. One thought- I thought my vest looked like a gun vest. Nope everyone asked if I were going fishing! So I added a fishing lure on the pocket as more camouflage. Works just great.

  22. The gun in the pocket folks isnt aimed. If someone is pressed on your or stabbing you it is a great tactic. If you have time draw the gun of course! Good tactic.

    Just remember- the blast and heat inside the pocket is startling. Purchase an old jacket from Goodwill or something and try it a few times. Only concealed hammer revolvers need apply

    If you have one armed pinned by the bad guy or you are holding his arm with the other hand- things get that close really fast.

  23. This is awful advice. Carrying as the author describes will result in many ND injuries. Not to mention “aiming” through a pocket flagrantly ignores the basic firearm safety rule of “be sure if your target and what is beyond it”. Just because you’ve done something for over 50 years doesn’t make it right. Stop publishing dumb things that will get folks hurt.

  24. So shooting through your vest pocket, without lining up the sight to the target is the answer? I really liked the article up to that point. I was tracking with the logic until the very end. Kinda like a good movie with a bad ending.

    I get that you’ve tried everything and that there are pros and cons to each CC position. But that should be the lesson, CC is situational and there is no one size fits all. You choose the best carry solution for your situation and dressing needs. This requires perhaps a plethora of holster types and a few gun options as well. Guns and holsters are tools. Use the right one for the job.

  25. I’m an old 60+ year-old farmer in Georgia who has chosen a someone unique method of concealed carry that probably wouldn’t apply to most o’ y’all. As I often wear bib overalls, I tend to carry a small semi-auto in a belly band just above my appendix that’s accessible via reaching behind overall bib. A modicum of practice and one can have rounds on target in 2 to 3 seconds.

  26. With all due respect, and being retired LEO, the best is a terrible idea. Anyone who pays any attention to shooting, concealed carry, etc, knows that the guy with the vest is carrying. Same goes for the fanny packs. If you want/need to conceal a handgun, put some very deliberate thought into wardrobe. While it’s true that you need to be able to fairly easily access the gun, concealability is foremost (printing issue). I vary, and train with various holsters for whatever I’m going to wear. Yes, it expensive to do that, but this is a situation where one method doesn’t fit all. If you want to carry concealed, you have to do what you have to do to do it correctly. Great article!

  27. I Carry a Walther PPS M2 LE Edition.
    Single stack 9mm 7 round mags. With a Alien Gear Holster. Awesome for me as a little Guy. It’s able to keep me Safe! Bottom line!

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