Is That a Gun on Your Belt?

Concealed carry means your gun should stay hidden until it is needed to save a life. But what should you do if your gun becomes “exposed” and there is no life-threatening emergency?

In gunspeak, something like this is typically called “printing.” Officially, a gun “prints” when the outline of the firearm shows through the cover garment. I don’t really have a word for what you call it when someone can actually see some of the gun or the entire gun. “Flashing” just doesn’t seem appropriate. “Peeking” just isn’t right either. Printing can be a big issue. Some people don’t like guns. Some people, if aware that you have a gun, will try to take it from you. Some states call even accidental display of a legally permitted firearm “brandishing” and you can be charged with a crime. Massachusetts! I’m looking your way on this one!

Prevention is the key. Put on your clothes. Put on your gun. Stand in front of a mirror or a friend and see if your gun shows up. Bend, stretch and move around, trying to mimic normal, everyday activities. Make note as to whether or not your gun starts peeking out. I have a standing rule I employ with my kids; it started when they were very young. If they notice my gun in any way, they are to grab my hand and whisper, “Cover that up.” The phrase was important, because I didn’t want them saying the word “gun” in our local department store.

So, what do you do if your gun prints? Well, you have a couple options. You can get a different gun. You can get a different holster. You can get a different cover garment. You can change where you carry the gun.

My first choice to prevent printing is to carry my gun in an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. This means the holster, along with my pants and my shirt, cover the gun and break up the outline. The downside to IWB carry is that one must typically buy pants one size larger to fit the gun inside the waistband. Those who are slaves to fashion may not wish to do so.

Switching up your gun or your cover garment are also options. Try to match your everyday carry gear to the environment. I don’t think you will carry a full-sized pistol while wearing shorts and a tank top in the heat of summer.

Changing where you carry can also be a big help. If you consider your nose at 12 o’clock and your right arm at 3 o’clock, it is pretty clear that a gun carried right at 3 o’clock will likely print more than a gun carried at 2 or 4. Move things around so you can be comfortable and discreet.

Effective concealment is a matter of trial and error. You have to match your desire to be protected with your fashion sense, your comfort and, in some cases, your budget. You will never know what works for you until you try it.