Concealed Carry: What Works, What Doesn’t

Guest post by Mike Harlow.

Harlow Holsters.

Edging close to four decades, I have carried a concealed weapon as a combat rescue air crewman in the Navy; as a police officer, then as a P. I. and bodyguard, and finally as a civilian with a concealed carry permit. During the journey, several attempts were made to rid the earth of my shadow. Because of this (and for no other reason), a gun is always within reach. I like to clank when I walk. My bed clanks. My shower clanks. When I pushed a stroller, the stroller clanked. My car clanks and my dog clanks. I think you get the picture.

This journey required a lot of holsters. In 1980, I made my first one. I even did it in basket weave. It was one ugly holster, but it worked. It was sewn by hand, as were the following nine. When I realized I wasn’t going to make money that way, and doing it by hand is hard, I got a sewing machine. The rest is history. Twenty-seven years later, I am still carrying concealed weapons and I am still making holsters. I have used every type of holster known to man, and I formed some opinions by having been there and done that. My gun has dropped out of holsters and hit the ground three times. I’ve been on the ground wrestling for my gun three times and have had to take bad guys down by the horns at least a hundred times. I have used leather, plastic and nylon holsters from some well known makers. Some good, some bad.

As a lot of the readers of this magazine are new to the habit of carrying a concealed weapon, the editor and I thought we might be able to save you a lot of time and money learning holsters other than by the Braille method. If I had the money I have spent on holsters over the years, it would probably pay for a vacation. I will cover the various types starting with the most popular.

This is one of the Harlow's concealment holster. As you can see, this offers two loops (hidden in this case) spread out for stability and can comfortably hold large frame revolvers all day.

As you can see, this offers two loops (hidden in this case) spread out for stability and can comfortably hold large frame revolvers all day.

Strong Side, Belt  For good reason, this is the most popular option. Properly done, it’s fast, concealable, and comfortable. Do not overlook these three reasons for choosing a holster. If one of these three elements is missing you won’t own the holster very long or it will find its way into a closet never to be seen again. The one-loop affair is “Old School”. It is a bad choice in most cases because it allows the gun to flop around on your belt and sometimes slide either forward or backward. Roy Baker showed us a better way with his “Pancake” design. It has two loops to stop the holster from rocking and spreads out the load over a larger area. Every current holster maker copies Roy’s design in one way or another, including yours truly. The design pictured below is my BS-1. It is my best seller.

As you can see, this offers two loops (hidden in this case) spread out for stability and can comfortably hold large frame revolvers all day.

Inside-The-Pants

This is a terrific holster for the gals. It holds full-size fighting guns with good concealment. Because of those wonderful curvy hips, a strong side belt carry puts the gun handle into your ribs.

This is a terrific holster for the gals. Because of those wonderful curvy hips, a strong side belt carry puts the gun handle into your ribs.

Mike’s Insider  The holster that is second in orders (for me) is the inside-the-pants rig. It places second in popularity for good reason;it holds full-size fighting guns with good concealment. It is not without its problems, however. Sticking a gun in your pants can be less than comfortable. Some guns are thicker than others. Add to that a holster with snaps over the gun and now you have several layers of leather plus the gun, plus the snaps and wow! You have to buy pants one to two inches bigger in the waste to accommodate this rig—not to mention a bigger belt.

If the concealing shirt or jacket rides up, passersby can see the straps, hooks, snaps, clips or screws used to secure it. Any smart cop (or criminal) will know you are carrying. Some makers even reinforce the top of this holster with steel (and even more leather) to make re-holstering easier. Now it’s about as flat as a fireplace log. A hideout holster counts more on its ability to hide the gun and afford a fast presentation. Fast re-holstering never won any gunfights. Because of this, I never could stand the things and never wore them—until recently.

I knew I wanted it thin and with no giveaway clips, straps, hooks, snaps, etc. It absolutely had to remain in the pants when the gun was drawn, or you and I would be a laughing stock when the holster came along for the ride when we drew our gun. Not only does it look comical, but it refuses access to the trigger, and that could get us killed. I tried a few methods and materials to keep it in the pants with varying degrees of success. Not good enough. I realized that the slick, stitch pattern following the line of the gun gave it a “bitchin‘ look and fit” but was still allowing the holster to come along for the ride. So I dumped the bitchin’ look and made it into a simple leather bucket that did not hug the gun.

Next I added a 2×2 inch square of thin synthetic material that was grabby to the inside of the waistband. That was it! I put several of them out in the field for research and development and all worked perfectly and still do. This new design is so successful, I am dropping the traditional small of the back holster because Mike’s Insider can be worn inside (small of the back) with much greater comfort and concealment. It is also an easy-on and easy-off holster. I normally hate these because if it’s easily taken off, guess where it is when the defecation hits the fan? The upside of mine is that it is so comfortable, you don’t need to take it off. If you weigh seven hundred pounds with half your butt crack showing, this is not the holster for you. God only knows where it might wind up. It requires a tight belt. If you want to try this one in a SOB(small of the back position, get it in an opposite draw model. Righties get a lefty holster and vice versa. More good news is that the gun can be accessed by either hand. Murphy’s Law states that if you get into a gunfight you will start the fight with a broken strong hand. Fight over? Not by a long shot. Draw weak hand and seize the day! This is a terrific holster for the gals. Because of those wonderful curvy hips, a strong side belt carry puts the gun handle into your ribs. Front biased cross draws work but are impossible to conceal. If it isn’t concealed, you’re breaking the law.

Pocket Holsters

Concealment holster: These little jewels are twice as fast as the ankle rig and three times faster than the tuckable rigs and the crotch holsters.

These little jewels are twice as fast as the ankle rig and three times faster than the tuckable rigs and the crotch holsters.

Mike’s Pocket Rocket  These little rascals are so cool it nearly defies description. They make obsolete three holsters that I’m aware of. Namely the Ankle Holster; the Tuckable Holster and the Crotch Holster. Tuckables are an abomination if you need your gun in a hurry (if you need your gun, you need it in a hurry). I never made tuckables and I quit making the other two.

These little jewels are twice as fast as the ankle rig and three times faster than the tuckable rigs and the crotch holsters. It is not only faster than an ankle rig but you can wear this one with shorts. Oh sure, you can wear an ankle rig with shorts too, but you will attract men in blue suits. If you are large, you wear larger pants with larger pockets and hiding a five-shot .38 revolver isn’t difficult. This type of holster breaks up the outline of a gun. It keeps the gun upright and ready for a clean draw. It keeps lint out of the mechanism and prevents wear and tear on your pocket. Notice the stitch line does not hug the contours of the gun? Because of this, it won’t come along for the ride.

These holsters are good choices for you buffet champions. If like me, you are smart and have already obtained a Kel-Tec 380 auto. It is feather light, flat as a saltine cracker and holds seven rounds instead of five. This is a terrific way for cops to carry a second gun. A Kel-Tec in my Pocket Rocket holster means there is no longer an excuse for going around unarmed! If you have gone to the trouble of obtaining a concealed carry permit, you are no longer a grass eater. You are automatically enrolled in the heralded order of sheep dogs and as such, it is your responsibility to clank when you walk.

Shoulder Holsters

Front view of a horizontal shoulder holster. Smaller guns can be carried horizontal

Front view of a horizontal shoulder holster.

Mike’s “Murphy Rig”  These are great for just about anyone. The prices go anywhere from yard sale to the “Rob Report”. They are made of all three materials; leather, nylon and plastic-fantastic. There are two types: horizontal and vertical. Big guns need a vertical carry and belt tie downs. Smaller stuff can be carried horizontal as long as it doesn’t print through clothing. Autos are more flat therefore more comfy when under your arm in a horizontal carry. Never buy a holster that doesn’t include at least two reserve magazine pouches on the off-side for a balanced load. You will immediately notice something about the mag pouches. They are either horizontal or vertical. If vertical, you will know that the maker doesn’t carry a gun. Vertical pouches are nearly impossible to reach unless you have spider monkey arms.

Rear view of the horizontal rig. Smaller guns can be carried horizontal

Rear view of the horizontal rig.

Porkers rejoice! Shoulder holsters will not pull your pants down any further than your gut already has. If you have to use a public toilet, you already have a safe place to hang your gun. It won’t fall in the toilet or be left on the back of the toilet when you leave. It didn’t happen to me, but it has happened—a lot.

If you opt for elastic tie downs, it can actually be used as suspenders. You will lose some of the concealment value of this rig if you do. Used without tie downs you can put a shirt on over it and actually tuck it in (leaving one button open for the draw). It isn’t super fast, but it’s way faster than a tuckable, a crotch rig, or an ankle rig. It’s not as quick as a strong side, but it’s pretty quick. I used one for a week long summer bodyguard job years ago on private property where guns were prohibited. I had to be armed, and it absolutely could not show. It didn’t.

Concealment holster: Mike’s “Murphy Rig” showing thumb strap under the tang.

Mike’s “Murphy Rig” showing thumb strap under the tang.

These rigs come in all kinds of different designs. Most have adjustment buckles and/or snaps, screws and what-not. I am currently the only guy on the planet using Velcro® for adjusting the straps. Now that Iran my mouth, this will change. I use straight straps instead of the cobra style seen on many TV shows. Next time you watch a cop show like Law & Order, observe how the wide part of those straps usually wind up wrinkled in the guy’s armpit. I even saw a TV detective wearing an upside down holster on the wrong side. He could not have retrieved his gun if a problem arose. I also neglected to use a cross over center piece where the straps cross in the back because they cause lumps. Keep the holster hung on a chair back while sleeping. Come morning, grab it off the chair and slip into it like a sport jacket (you remember those).

As many women’s pants and skirts have no belt loops, this is an excellent choice.

Concealment holster: Carry the big guns vertically. They conceal better than you think and believe it or not, this is a fast rig.

Carry the big guns vertically. They conceal better than you think and believe it or not, this is a fast rig.

Another easy give away clue that a maker “doesn’t carry a gun” is the absence of snap flaps on the mag pouches. When it hits the fan you might need to run, hurdle trash cans, dodge guard dogs, and scramble over fences including high ones with (oh yes) barbed wire on top. This is how you and your spare ammo part company. I don’t trust my life to an adjustable tension device. I also don’t trust my life to a horizontal rig with the thumb snap under the hammer. Why? Because I lost my .38 Super out of a snapped big name, holster twice in one day, that’s why. I threw it away that night and made my first “Murphy Rig” with the strap under the grip tang. This method will not allow the gun to slip from the holster while playing miniature golf like it did with me. That famous name holster maker and all the copiers are still making them the same way. Now you know.

Carry the big guns vertically. They conceal better than you think and believe it or not, this is a fast rig.

Concealment holster: a .40 caliber Kahr in a bra holster.

Yes, that’s a .40 caliber Kahr in a bra holster.

The Bra Holster  Now you’re seeing another holster aimed solely at the girls again because of the hip problem and the fashion problem (no belt loops). There is a holster that allows a girl to “carry concealed” on even the hottest summer days with excellent concealment and comfort. Fast draw? Not very, but it satisfies the first rule of gun-fighting—Have a gun. To my knowledge, I have never seen one advertised anywhere but my own website (www.harlowholsters.com). The holster is made of a soft polyester fuzzy material. It looks exactly like teddy bear skins. If it picks up a little sweat, it‘s washable. It has no loops as it doesn’t attach to a belt. It goes anywhere inside your bra that you find comfortable. Yes, you heard it right. Gals stuff bras with all sorts of gear outside the design parameters. Cigarettes, combs, decks of cards, dice, switchblade knives and crack cocaine are just some of the items I have found in bras. So why not a gun? If you’re pretty, I also offer free fittings. I’m seeing more and more women at concealed carry classes and I’m actually selling these holsters. I made one recently for a 40 S&W Kahr. She promised to send a photo but never did!

Hunter Style Holsters

Here is a Tom Three Persons design from way back. This design is great for big revolvers. It is a high ride with a decorative border.

Here is a Tom Three Persons design from way back. I made this one with an open muzzle, so as not to jab car seats as much.

Mike’s Hunter with Ruger GP100  These are old designs but still useful. Here is a Tom Three Persons design from way back. I made this one with an open muzzle, so as not to jab car seats as much. This design is great for big revolvers. It is a high ride with a decorative border. I use a solid brass button instead of a snap, because they are quiet and can’t be jammed by dirt or sand. This holster can be used for concealment if limited to revolvers with no more than a four inch barrel.

Well that’s all for now. It certainly isn’t all the styles available from me or other holster makers but it’s a compendium of what is working well for me after these many years of taking the road less traveled. I have dwelled on my having been a gun carrier as well as a holster maker. To me, buying a holster from a guy who doesn’t carry is like buying a parachute from a guy who refuses to jump.

 

 

For more information, visit: www.harlowholsters.com or call: 970-314-2059.