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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.