THE CONSCIOUS, AFFIRMATIVE DECISION to take personal responsibility for one’s own safety and one’s family’s safety is a major milestone. The responsible citizens who make this decision go on to learn about and obtain appropriate firearms, acquire firearms training, continue to learn and practice, and incorporate what they’ve learned into their daily routines and habits.
What many encounter when they begin to integrate a firearm into their daily routines (and wardrobes) is that it can be more complicated, nuanced and uncomfortable than they first thought. Unfortunately, this causes many to lessen their commitment to daily carry. Some will even have a select few articles of clothing that are their “carry clothes” and will not carry unless it is when and where they can wear those outfits.
The real danger here is that these folks will get up in the morning and think about whether or not they will carry at all. Too often, they elect not to, usually because of inconvenience or inappropriate equipment. This usually leads to more decisions not to carry and, ultimately, almost never carrying at all. It is a discouraging reality that I have seen time and again, and to ignore it is to do less than we otherwise could for our students.
I understand that accepting responsibility for personal security is a lifelong training journey and that a good student will maintain highly perishable skills and keep expanding his or her skillset and knowledge base.
While some of those who seek concealed carry instruction have extensive experience with firearms and shooting — and some even have combat experience — very few have any significant experience with the day-to-day realities of carrying a concealed firearm. As such, instructors need to go beyond rudimentary discussions of holster options.
One frequently overlooked fact is that one single gun rarely provides the flexibility necessary to facilitate everyday carry in all situations. Neither is there one holster or one belt that will get the job done every time. I understand that an instructor’s time is limited and valuable and that it is never possible to cover everything. I understand that accepting responsibility for personal security is a lifelong training journey and that a good student will maintain highly perishable skills and keep expanding his or her skillset and knowledge base.
Given that, instructors should provide at least a familiarity with steps that can be taken to enhance a student’s ability to carry all day, every day — and even pass the knowledge necessary for that daily carry on to others.
Dressing to Carry
The firearm itself is only one part of the equation; responsibly armed citizens need to carefully consider how they usually dress, where they usually go and how many seasons of the year they experience in their region. In short, the more consistent the environment, the fewer carry and clothing options needed.
In an area with hot summers, cold winters and distinct spring and autumn seasons, one firearm and a couple of holsters will not get the job done. Some products are simply better than others, and some work well for some people and poorly for others. My training partner and I show and discuss a variety of specific holsters and accessories in our classes. We point out which ones we like and which we don’t like and why. We don’t always agree, and we address handguns in the same manner.
The ultimate goal is to make concealed carry seamless, efficient and habitual.
Many people come to training with a preconceived notion that everything must be a specialized piece of after-market equipment. What I emphasize is that the entire concept of concealed carry isn’t to load up almost as much as a patrol officer and then attempt to hide it all. The ultimate goal is to make concealed carry seamless, efficient and habitual. Your daily routine and concealed carry should be a symbiotic relationship, not a clash of cultures.
A certain instructor of great renown famously stated that carrying a gun should be “comforting, not comfortable.” While I believe he meant that a person must be committed to making the conscious effort to carry every day, some have taken that quote and twisted it into the odd position of embracing discomfort, almost as if it were some badge of honor. That is self-defeating and will quickly stymie a newcomer’s efforts.
More is always more. There’s no way around it: Concealed carry adds guns, holsters, ammunition and other equipment to our daily clothing. Although another accessory or piece of gear might have some positive attributes, it still adds weight and bulk to what is already a foreign situation to many new students.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that the objective is to incorporate concealed carry into our daily routines, and “incorporate” is the very important and oft-overlooked word here. To that end, I’ve found that one of the greatest allies in this quest can be your local tailor. Simple modifications to the way you tailor your clothing can go a long way in facilitating smooth daily carry.
Ankle holsters are not uncommon. Besides their obvious and well-known limitations, one that is rarely discussed is that they frequently become visible by sliding down. I recall one instance when, after a meeting, someone asked me if my leg injury was healing well. When I asked what they meant, they told me that they saw the brace on my ankle and thought I had injured myself. What they had seen was my holster; it had peeked out when my pant leg rode up while I sat.
One way to avoid this is to wear footgear with ankle-high tops. If your holster slides down, it will at least hopefully stop when it hits the top of your shoe. When you combine proper footwear with one of the above-the-calf support straps available with many of the ankle units, your firearm will likely remain discreetly stowed.
Another very effective way to mask anything you are carrying on your lower leg involves a simple trip to your tailor when you buy a new pair of pants. Buy them a little long, and then wear them around with your usual footwear. Do so until you have walked on the bottom of the pant legs long enough to make it clear where they are worn, and then go to the tailor and have the pants hemmed just barely above that point.
It’s easy, effective and you won’t have to worry about whether you have “no break” or a “slight break” in your slacks. The wear point will develop as you wear your pants naturally around your waist or hips — no guessing.
I have a friend who had her tailor sew a name-brand holster into the top of one of her cowboy boots. She also frequently carries another gun in a belly-band holster and, to facilitate easy access, she had her tailor sew small pieces of Velco behind the top few buttons of her shirts. The Velcro tabs are what actually hold her shirts closed; the buttons are merely cosmetic. A quick push with her hand is all she needs to do to reach her hidden firearm.
Pants pockets, even on jeans, are usually made of flimsy material and are relatively shallow. On some women’s pants, I wonder why they even bother with pockets. Have your tailor fix this. He or she can cut off the old pockets halfway down and build you new pockets with sturdy cloth and more depth. It is easy for your tailor to sew pouches into your new pockets for magazines, knives, credit cards and even pocket holsters. With proper planning and execution, you won’t get everything piled up at the bottom and end up looking as if you’re carrying three weeks’ worth of laundry change.
These kinds of modifications can make a huge difference in making your carry of arms, ammunition and accessories smooth, simple and — dare I say it? — comfortable.
Suit and Coat Solutions
Do you wear a suit? Many “suits” — and I am not infrequently one of them — carry a subcompact pistol in the left breast pocket of their suit jacket. They are easily spotted because the gun causes their jacket to sag on that side and, although they are walking straight, their jacket has a noticeable and hard list to port. They often will not carry extra ammunition.
The solution? If your suit jacket does not have an inside pocket on the right side, go see your tailor and have him or her build one into your jacket. Then, have your tailor place a magazine carrier on the opposite side. Your reloads will be readily available and your jacket will ride at an even keel.
If you live in an area that experiences actual winter, you will find that winter jackets with quilted liners often do not feature inner pockets.
Along those lines, if you live in an area that experiences actual winter, you will find that winter jackets with quilted liners often do not feature inner pockets. If this is the case, have your tailor add interior breast pockets. Your firearm in a flat holster can slide easily into such a pocket (which can be custom-sized for your gun), making it quickly accessible and inconspicuous. Ammunition, again, can go on the opposite side.
That brings us to long, heavy winter dress coats. While it might be easy to hide a gun under such a coat, it is not necessarily easy to retrieve one. Your firearm might slip into the outside waist pocket, but then you have a problem after you get inside. What to do with it? It’s certainly entertaining to watch Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer and Sam Elliott in the movie Tombstone sweep back their long saddle coats and reach for their hogleg Colts, but in a modern deadly force encounter, that is slow and impractical. Worse yet, if you sense a dangerous situation developing, such an arrangement does not allow for any subtle preparatory movements.
The solution is again at your local tailor’s shop. Have him or her place access slits inside your coat’s pockets that allow you to reach through your pocket to inside your coat. You can easily, without any unbuttoning or overt movement, access your gun, whether it is in an inside pocket or on your belt in a high-ride or inside-the-waistband holster. (Continuing with the Western theme, you might recall such an arrangement in “Blondie’s” greatcoat from the opening scene of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.)
These are just a few examples of what you can do to modify your daily wardrobe in the quest to make it more compatible with carrying your firearm, spare ammunition and other emergency lifesaving gear. We all understand that we need to carefully select our firearms, holsters, magazine carriers and other accessories, but we need a collective change of mind as well.
This isn’t just about hanging more stuff off of our belts and inside our pants and then trying to manage it all without looking like a novice shoplifter. Be creative! We need to think about actually incorporating our protective equipment into our clothing; it will help us smoothly and, yes, more comfortably incorporate it into our daily routines.