“Protect yourself and those you love. Choose your personal handguns carefully. Then shoot your weapons, clean them lovingly, and carry them religiously.” ‑ Dr. Eimer’s Law
If you carry a concealed handgun for self protection, you need a secure, stable and safe way to carry it. That is the purpose of a holster. In this article, we shall focus on senior citizens, since many seniors, such as yours truly, have special needs that call for a holster designed to meet these needs. But first, let’s get two things out of the way: number one, I am a holster enthusiast. I have tried a lot of holsters. I own a lot of holsters that I don’t use. For years, I searched for the “perfect” holster. That leads us to number two: I have not yet found the perfect holster! Actually, I don’t think it exists.
Although there is no perfect holster, don’t give up on holsters! Holsters, just like firearms, are personal items. You should choose a quality holster that meets your particular needs. There are an abundance of excellent holster manufacturers nowadays that cater to different budgets and user needs. In fact, there are so many manufacturers who make quality products, and therefore, so many choices, that choosing a holster can be difficult. Hopefully this article will help you make an informed choice.
One thing is for sure. Carrying a handgun without a holster, either loose inside your waist band or loose in your pocket, is a bad idea. Holsterless carry does not protect the trigger. Therefore, the trigger is free to get caught on clothing or other things. This could be a recipe for an accidental discharge. Also, with the gun in your waistband, it could get dislodged and end up in your socks or on the floor! That’s not something you would want to happen on the street, at work, or at a party. A loose handgun in your pocket could come to rest upside down, muzzle pointing up at your head. Then, when you reach inside your pocket to grip your pocket blaster, you’ll end up grabbing the wrong end of the gun! That’s a bad thing.
Carrying a concealed firearm on a regular basis requires commitment and discipline. Training issues aside, this is because concealed carry is not convenient. Carrying a concealed handgun can be a pain, and the last thing we seniors need is more pain! We each need a concealed carry system that is well suited for each of us as an individual, and that will offset and alleviate the pain and strain of carrying a concealed handgun. My goal here is to help you design such a system so that you don’t end up accumulating a box or chest of drawers full of unused holsters like I did.
What do we seniors need to consider when looking for a functional concealed carry holster? The answer depends upon our physical issues—and many of us share some common issues. However, all concealment holsters should be designed to perform certain basic functions:
Fit: Your holster should fit your particular handgun just right—not too tight and not too loose. Holsters should be molded to a specific handgun.
Retention: Your holster should retain your handgun securely until you decide to present it. If you are running or moving around a lot, you should not have to worry about losing your gun. So holsters should be molded to fit a specific handgun.
Access: When you need to present your handgun, your holster should permit you to access it rapidly. If your
gun gets stuck in your holster when you need it, you might end up dead.
Stability: Your holster should ride securely in place wherever it is designed to stay, with no movement of the holster. It should be stable, and it shouldn’t shift around because if it does, when you need to present your gun, it may not be there.
Low profile: Your holster should have a low profile so it can be concealed effectively. Concealed means out of sight. If your holster is too bulky, if it pulls your pants down; if it leans too far away from your body, or if it flaps around, someone will be screaming, GUN!
Comfort: Your holster should be comfortable to wear, otherwise you probably will not continue to wear it. I know some handgun gurus have said that carrying a gun should be comforting and not necessarily comfortable, but let’s be real!
There may be other individual considerations, but these pertain to most people.
For this article, Tom Kulwicki, President of Alessi Holsters, was kind enough to furnish me with a number of holsters that met my criteria, and that I did not already own. I have always been an Alessi holster fan, so I have owned and used a whole bunch of Lou Alessi’s holsters for years.
By way of background, Alessi Holsters was founded in 1974 by legendary holster craftsman, Lou Alessi. Lou made holsters the old fashioned way and mentored many of the newer generation of custom holster makers. Sadly, Lou passed away last year and his company temporarily became dormant. However, after a period of regrouping, the company was reborn under the leadership of Lou’s daughter Alexandra and long-time family friend Tom. Tom has severe back problems and understands what is involved in carrying a gun or two every day.
As part of the company’s rebirth, many of Lou Alessi’s holster designs are now available that formerly could only be obtained through a limited number of channels, as they were sold mostly to U.S. Government military, security and law enforcement agencies. Alessi holsters are certainly not the only brand of holsters that meet the criteria I shall describe, but they nicely illustrate these criteria.
As we get older, the cumulative wear and tear on our bodies takes its toll. This can lead to the development of arthritis and other ailments. The end result may include physical issues such as fatigue, stiffness, diminished range of motion, decreased hand strength and manual dexterity, overall weight gain or loss, weight gain in specific body parts such as the belly or waist, postural imbalances, muscle weakness, and chronic pain such as chronic neck, shoulder, arm, hand, and back pain. These physical issues can make carrying a concealed handgun more uncomfortable than it might be for the average bear. Even the process of putting on and taking off a holster can become difficult. If it hurts to carry, most people won’t do it. The old adage that a .22 in your pocket is better than a .45 in the drawer at home is true; but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to painlessly carry a .45 or whatever caliber you are comfortable handling? Of course it would.
If you carry your concealed handgun with a holster that helps you compensate for your physical problems, you will have less discomfort, strain and fatigue when you carry. As a result, you will enjoy carrying more regularly. So, let’s examine the types of holster designs that might allow you to accomplish this.
When you are stiff, your range of motion is limited and it is difficult to twist your torso. This can make it hard to put on and take off an outside the waist band (OWB) slotted belt slide or scabbard holster, or a snap-on inside the waist band (IWB) holster, because you have to twist your body and maneuver your belt to do so. Typically, the belt fits tightly through the slots on the belt slide or scabbard making it tough to position the holster in just the right spot on your belt. And, if there isn’t a tight fit, the holster will flop around on your belt—not a good thing! Typically, the snap-on belt loops on many IWB holsters are difficult to snap shut. By the time you snap them shut, if you can, and position the rig where you want it, you are all tuckered out! There are two solutions to this problem.
One solution is an OWB snap-on holster that is easy to snap on and snap off your belt with one hand so that you do not have to twist much. A second solution is an IWB clip-on holster which is easy to clip on your belt or pants when you position the holster inside your pants between your pants and shirt. Imagine that you are standing in the very center of a clock face, with your belly button facing 12 o’clock. Either of these holster types may comfortably be worn on your dominant side at around the 3 o’clock position if you are right handed, or at around the 9 o’clock position if you are left handed.
Additionally, either type of holster can be comfortably worn in the appendix position at around 1 o’clock if you are right handed or at around 11 o’clock if you are a lefty. However, appendix-carried holsters should be cut so they ride straight up and down vertically. If they are instead designed with a butt-forward cant, this can make it uncomfortable and difficult to execute a smooth draw. Another solution would be to dispense with either of these types of holsters altogether and instead carry a handgun suitable for a pocket holster.
If you have diminished hand strength and manual dexterity, you may not be able to operate the slide on a semi-automatic pistol. You might think about purchasing a pistol with a tip up barrel, such as the Beretta Tomcat .32. Such a pistol allows you to chamber a round without manually racking the slide. Alternatively, consider carrying a snub by revolver. However, with a revolver the trigger pull may be a problem. This is a topic for a future article.
Either of these handgun choices can be carried comfortably in a good pocket holster that stays inside your pocket when you draw your gun. You might also do well carrying a revolver or semiautomatic pistol in a snap-on-the-belt holster similar to the Alessi CQC-S or in a vertical ride inside the waist band clip-on holster such as Alessi’s Deep Cover IWB, or similar rigs made by other holster manufacturers such as Don Hume, Galco, Gould and Goodrich, and Kirkpatrick Leather.
Many of us who have senior citizens’ paunch also have difficulty carrying in certain positions. A potbelly can make appendix or cross draw carry uncomfortable. If you are built like an apple, holsters that do not snug close up into your side are likely to sag and print. To avoid this problem, you might try pocket carry. If you want to carry on your waist, try a belt holster that rides tight and close to your body. If you want to carry inside your waist band, you may have the best experience carrying between 3 and 4 o’clock on your strong side. However, if you list to one side and are ambidextrous, you can figure out which side you need to carry on to keep your holstered gun closest to your body.
If you have back problems and are hunched over, or you have other postural imbalances such as a list to one side that places strain on your neck, shoulders, back, hips and legs, a heavy gun worn on your side may create even more strain on your body. Consider carrying a relatively lightweight handgun in a snap-on belt slide or inside the waist band clip-on holster. Or try carrying a lightweight pocket handgun that does not drag down your pants. Another option: try wearing a well-balanced shoulder holster with the handgun on your non-dominant side and spare ammunition on your dominant side.
If you experience frequent neck pain, or shoulder pain on your strong side, you may have difficulty drawing your handgun. Consider carrying a relatively light handgun on your dominant side in a holster that rides lower on your hips, so that you need not raise your arm and shoulder too much on the draw. As a second alternative, you may choose to carry a light handgun in your pocket in a good pocket holster. A third option: carrying in the appendix position often eases shoulder strain during the drawstroke.
If you have back or hip pain, and you want to carry in a traditional strong side carry outside the pants belt holster (such as a belt scabbard), you will want a holster that snugs up close into your body like the Alessi CQC-S. This puts less strain on your back and hips.
Another viable alternative for some people might be a belly band holster such as the one made by Gould and Goodrich. A belly band holster keeps your handgun very close to your body and well concealed. In addition, on some level, it can function like a back brace. It also generates heat which can be a good thing for sore backs. Another holster in this genre, offered by Stealth Defense Holsters, consists of a holster mounted on an elastic band that wraps around the torso. It is held in place by a Velcro hook and loop closure and a plastic strut that hooks inside the pants and onto the belt. The holster can be worn cross draw or at the appendix and a shirt can be tucked into the pants and over the rig. This setup will accommodate a Glock 23, but it works better with lighter, thinner handguns.
In this article, we examined some solutions to the problems many seniors have in finding an optimal concealed carry holster. The solutions offered are meant to serve as a guide to choosing the right holster or holsters for you from the plethora of choices out there. Ideally, it would be best if you could try before you buy. Unfortunately, this is typically not the case. Many folks nowadays need to order on the internet. If this is true for you, you may want to refer to this article when you read holster descriptions online. Make sure that the company you choose to purchase from is reliable and that they have a reasonable return policy if the holster you purchase does not work for you. Some companies have well educated helpful phone personnel to help you choose the best holster for your particular needs. Others do not. Finally, consider taking this article with you to refer to if you go to a gun shop that sells quality concealed carry holsters. Stay safe.
[ Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D., psychologist and NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, trains law abiding citizens in the defensive use of firearms. His company, Personal Defense Solutions, also runs the classes required to obtain the Florida, Virginia, and Utah non-resident multi-state CCW permits. To learn more, visit: www.PersonalDefenseSolutions.net and www.DefensiveHandguns.com. ]
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