» QUESTION: The decision is made and I have decided to enter the world of concealed carry. On the advice of a friend, I bought a 1911 and have gotten my permit to carry concealed. Currently, I have a Blackhawk Serpa paddle holster with a magazine pouch that I have been using for the classes I have taken, but I have been told that they are only good for the range. I know that I am going to have to add to my wardrobe, not only in clothing but in tactical gear as well. I would like some suggestions as to what kind of tactical clothing and gear would be suitable for me to carry every day in concealment.
» ANSWER: Unfortunately, in many classes involved in obtaining a concealed carry permit, there is little objective information provided concerning carrying a handgun concealed. The first thing to remember is the word concealed, which by definition means “to hide or keep secret.” If there is the slightest hint of an imprint of your concealed carry tools or if your actions, such as touching or adjusting the equipment, even though it is covered, draw the attention of an observer, you have failed in your endeavor. Your goal is to carry on in your everyday life just as you did before carrying concealed.
There are a couple of points here that I’d like for you to consider. These points are basic tenets that go along with the fact and need for absolute concealment of your firearm and associated equipment. Accessibility with either hand quickly and covertly should be a prime consideration. There are no guarantees that your dominant hand will be free to access the gun in a physical confrontation. There could be cases where you will have to covertly ready the gun for the next step of engagement when the situation de-escalates to the point where it’s no longer required. There are fine lines to consider here, but more often than not, a street confrontation is not like being on the range waiting for the beep signaling you to draw and fire a specific number of rounds.
Covertly accessing your fighting tools might also require covert recovery to the carry location when the need no longer exists for their deployment. It is beneficial to be able to do this with one hand, as well, simply because having to use two hands attracts undue attention. Think about it: It is unlikely that you would remove or replace anything from your pockets — front or rear — with two hands. The same applies to the belt line and middle torso, such as accessing your cell phone from its carry location.
The less attention you attract in going about your everyday business, the higher likelihood of staying out of harm’s way.
Although some might argue, I contend that any holster used for carrying concealed should be constructed so the throat remains open when the gun is drawn to accommodate a single hand recovery for the reasons just stated.
Retention is a valid concern for the concealed carrier in that a surprise attack or circumstance might require the use of both hands, leaving the defensive tools unprotected. With multiple attackers, defense and retention of a firearm could be a real issue when both hands are occupied. If an attack goes to the ground, retention of the gun in the original location is all important after the situation allows it to be accessed by its owner.
You can get a sense of how this might go by dressing as you would to conduct your normal everyday business and vigorously jumping up and down, then going to the ground and doing a somersault, followed by rolling over then getting back to your feet. Pick your own series of movements that are realistic for you if these are too much. The bottom line is in a physical confrontation, the gun needs to be retained in the original location and manner until you can put it to use.
For safety’s sake, I would clear the chamber of your carry gun during this kind of practice, but maintain a full complement of ammunition; otherwise, the weight of the ammunition might have an effect on the stability of the gun and spare ammunition.
Unless your everyday dress is tactical boots, trousers with side pockets and a tactical flare topped off by a photographer’s vest, I would not recommend wearing this attire. It advertises what you don’t want to advertise — that you probably have a gun on you.
All too many people new to concealed carry want to let everybody know they are carrying concealed without actually showing the gun. Even worse, those who open carry in today’s environment create an attractive nuisance by drawing attention to themselves. It’s much the same thing either way. In my opinion, it is much better to keep your adversaries guessing about your capabilities than to put all of your cards on the table with the faces up. The less attention you attract in going about your everyday business, the higher likelihood of staying out of harm’s way.
Think about the situations in your life that have caused you to decide to carry concealed in the first place and you will be pointed in the right direction.
Now, before you spend a lot of money on a new wardrobe, there are a few more things to consider. Your hand size is a good place to start. If the gun’s size precludes handling, drawing, firing accurately and re-holstering with one hand, you need to find one that fits that bill. Carrying a gun that you can’t employ with one hand is a trap that many fall into. Keep in mind that you are not on the range shooting static targets when it matters the most. Think about the situations in your life that have caused you to decide to carry concealed in the first place and you will be pointed in the right direction. Know the difference between a street fight and going to the range for a little target practice.
After you find a gun that fits the hand and enables one-hand operation — as well as pointing naturally, as if you were pointing your index finger (multiple articles have been written in my column on this subject in previous editions of Concealed Carry Magazine) — you can continue to your physical size and shape as well as ranges of motion and capabilities of movement. One extreme example that I have helped to correct was a person who carried an ankle gun but needed help to be able to reach it because of physical size and bad knees. He could sit and reach it, but if a chair wasn’t available, he was out of luck. By following the guidelines that were presented at the beginning of the article, you can judge with your body type what is realistic for you and what might be the latest fad but ineffective for your purposes.
The convenience in carrying concealed has to be given strong consideration as well. If you have to go through a long ritual to don your concealed carry equipment, you will soon find excuses not to carry when it’s not convenient. It will become too much trouble to suit up just to go to the filling station for lawn mower gas or to pick up an item from the corner convenience store. In addition to the criterion previously mentioned, my experience tells me that your concealed carry tools have to be as convenient as putting your wallet in your pocket or hooking your cell phone to your belt. If your gun, ammo, knife, etc. isn’t easy to put on and take off, there is an increased likelihood over time of rationalizing the need as opposed to convenience in favor of leaving them at home.
When it comes to clothing, change as little of how your friends, neighbors and the general public expect to see you as you can.
In addition to convenience, comfort is near the top of the list as to whether you will carry full time or just when you think of it. Comfort is one of those things that you have to try for a while before determining if what seemed to be a good idea really was. I’ve got boxes of holsters that seemed like good ideas at the time, but through the daily use of moving, sitting, driving and whatever else I became involved in, they weren’t comfortable for continuous use. In remembering that circumstances change and we ourselves change as we get older, holsters originally rejected might fit the need in the future. When factoring in those changes, making the original investment might not be a loss in the long run.
When it comes to clothing, change as little of how your friends, neighbors and the general public expect to see you as you can. As an example, if you wear jeans most of the time and you have decided that inside-the-pants carry is right for you, buy the same jeans with an extra size or two in the waist and only you will be the wiser. For ankle carry, make sure to purchase the fuller leg cut for your trousers, even if you don’t wear cowboy boots, to enable easy access to the gun and holster.
Pocket holsters are popular for many people carrying concealed on a daily basis. There are at least three brands of concealed carry pants for men and women in a variety of styles that have pockets configured to conceal up to full-sized pistols. Even if a simple pocket holster is used with a smaller gun, the same guidelines apply as mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Carrying concealed is a series of choices and compromises that require a little personal effort and study to see what works for you.
As you can see, carrying concealed is not like flipping a switch and you’re there. Carrying concealed is a series of choices and compromises that require a little personal effort and study to see what works for you. Realize that it is an evolutionary process that changes as you and your needs change. It requires constant attention and, yes, practice to be successful at it. It’s not unlike lifting weights or using power equipment, which require repetitive action to maintain the desired level of proficiency.
From time to time, reconsider your objectives in carrying concealed. Review the guidelines that are previously listed as well as others you might find helpful. Armed with this knowledge and a little practical training, followed by regular practice to keep your skills sharp, you should be confident in accomplishing your goals in everyday concealed carry without the acquisition of the aforementioned tactical ensemble.