MOST PEOPLE WHO CARRY CONCEALED as a matter of everyday living will agree that consistency in where we carry and what we carry is the best course of action, but that idea goes out the window when everyday carry conditions and clothing change. Is it a cardinal sin to change where and what we carry from time to time as a situation dictates?
At an advanced-level concealed carry class I attended recently, I was fortunate to have a diverse group of students as fellow classmates. Every person there had a different gun. Some had more than one. Carry locations differed almost as much as the guns, some by a little and others by a lot.
Part of the learning process for the students was to have a discussion about why certain individuals selected particular guns and calibers as primary carry weapons. Students were also asked why they carried their guns in the locations they chose. Finally, this question was posed: “If, for whatever reason, you couldn’t carry where you normally do, what would your course of action be?” That third question took the class to another level of discussion in which we, in some cases, started from the ground up. It quickly became apparent that some students had never even considered such a circumstance.
Given the diversity of the class — some law enforcement, others military in and out of uniform, and a sprinkling of private citizens ranging from competitive shooters to those who carry solely for personal defense — the interaction became quite enlightening.
Everyone generally agreed that “carrying concealed” means negotiating everyday life (however that might be defined) while carrying a gun that only the carrier knows exists. All agreed that accessibility for the draw should be as discreet and easy as possible, and that, should the situation evolve to where the gun is no longer needed, the ability to recover to the carry location should be just as discreet and easy.
One of the students was particularly concerned with weapon retention, which stimulated additional conversation about carry location. His concern was the potential of a hands-on encounter with an adversary or multiple adversaries in an attack that initially might not warrant the use of deadly force. This generated some lively discussion about the best holster location for retention in a scuffle.
In all the back-and-forth within the group, one of the senior members seemed to be taking it all in but didn’t have much to say. When asked what his thoughts were, there was a pause and then he said, “None of anything you boys have talked about makes a bit of difference if you don’t have it with you!”
There was silence in the room, as this man was a respected member of the group. He went on to explain that carrying concealed is often a series of compromises, particularly in the case of the private citizen. Armed professionals usually have greater restrictions placed on their cover garments and carry systems, while the average concealed carrier is allowed to arm or dress himself or herself however he or she likes.
In his opinion, there were three key considerations that had to be discussed: convenience, comfort and environmental emulation.
Convenience is the ease and simplicity of securing the weapon(s) on one’s person. The senior student noted that the reason paddle holsters found favor in the law enforcement community back in the mid- to late-1980s was the ease with which the gun could be affixed and removed from the agent without removing the gun from the holster. This was viewed as a safety measure as well as a convenient method of arming up when time was of the essence.
Then he posed another question to the group: “How many of you are armed from the time you get out of bed until the time you retire for the evening?” His assertion was that, if the answer to the above question wasn’t in the affirmative, that meant many of us only carry when it is convenient.
There are numerous times when our normal mode of carry isn’t convenient because of the activity in which we’re involved, such as working in the yard, painting the house or washing the car. How many times have we gone to the corner store for a last-minute item and forgotten (or neglected) to arm ourselves? Convenience can be defined as donning your gun as easily as filling your pockets with your wallet, car keys or whatever is carried on your person over the course of a typical day.
Comfort somewhat coincides with convenience. If what you carry and how you carry it isn’t comfortable, you’ll quickly find excuses to leave your gun in the safe. For armed professionals, this might not be an option during working hours, but outside of those hours, there is often no requirement to be armed. It helps if alternate guns are allowed for off-duty carry, but if they aren’t comfortable to carry in most every situation, they are likely to be left behind with all the rest of the hardware.
The weight and size of the gun, the weight and size of associated equipment, and the body shape and size of the individual carrying — not to mention the location and method of carry — can all contribute to comfort (or lack thereof). Although there were no women in attendance, it was noted that the ladies have their own set of circumstances to negotiate when it comes to the convenience and comfort of carrying concealed.
Then came the topic of environmental emulation, which was an unfamiliar phrase for most in the class. As it turned out, the concept wasn’t totally foreign to the group when the gentleman, to whom the class’ attention was riveted, offered a simple explanation: Environmental emulation, in practice, is nothing more than dressing in a manner by which to appear no different than anyone else in the environment (whatever the environment might be).
To put it simply, as the environment changes, the mode of dress and the method of carry might have to change as well. His example was the transition from traveling in an official government capacity, with a gun in a belly band covered by a loose-fitting pull-over sweater, to a formal dinner party the evening of the same day, with a shoulder holster employed beneath a tuxedo. Climate, physical activity and geographic location are just a few things to think about when trying to blend in with the crowd.
WRAPPING IT UP
Sensitive to the time this was taking from the class, the senior member left us with one more little tidbit of wisdom. He encouraged the listeners to add a little flexibility to their thinking with regard to firearm selection and modes of carry. After all, he said, the first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun; even a .22-caliber rimfire beats a sharp stick! Be flexible if you are serious about carrying concealed and, bottom line, always have a gun.
Sage wisdom to say the least.
Related: Glock: Which Gun Is Right for You?