Whenever I teach a class or individual this question always comes up. What are the ways to carry concealed and what works best? If you are an avid social media person, blog reader, magazine reader or watch any of the many gun channels that exist you have been exposed to many opinions. It is my goal to put together a list for you with an explanation allowing you to make decisions that will directly affect your own safety and that of your loved ones around you.
With everything, there are basics or some type of baseline that can be used to establish ability and be the springboard for personal or social growth. Carrying a firearm is no different. Many of the people I have taught over the years have after a class or two been far more at ease with their personal ability to safely carry a firearm.
Daily carry of a firearm that is ready to be used when drawn is a large responsibility. Understanding that responsibility is an essential part of carrying in a safe, responsible and legal manner. When carrying for purposes of self-defense it is absolutely essential that you train in drawing, presenting and use of the tool being carried whether it is a firearm, knife or another defensive tool.
Concealing a firearm requires two things to be done safely every time. A way to cover or maintain control of the trigger, and a way to hold the firearm securely on or close to the person. A solid holster is a good start, though in some cases, a bikini style snap on trigger protector for pocket carry also works.
Some individuals carry “Mexican style” as well, this means that they carry the firearm bare behind the belt or waistband of the pants without a holster specific for the firearm. You will not be allowed to carry this way on any firearms ranges and or during legitimate training sessions.
I will say that I carry this way regularly while in my home as I am generally in my comfortable sweatpants or basketball style shorts. And yes, I carry in my home, after all, many use of force incidents occur within the home.
Let’s look at some facts, in 28% of all burglaries in the home the homeowner is home and 7% of the 3.7 million burglaries that occur every year in the United States the occupant has been attacked violently. (Catalano, 2010) This means that every year 259,000 people in the United States are victimized by violent criminals intent on stealing what is not theirs, or 710 violent attacks in a persons home occur every single day every year in the United States. In 2016, U.S. residents over the age of 12 experienced 5.7 million criminal victimizations. (Criminal Victimization, 2017) This means that every single minute of the year 10 people were victims of a violent criminal act.
This is why I carry, why my wife carries and why my children are taught how to defend themselves and what to look for so that if something happens they can avoid permanent injury or death. This is why everyone should be able to defend themselves and willing to do so with the judicious use of force should it become necessary.
So now let’s get into what is necessary for good concealed carry. It is essential to have a form fitted holster made from a stiff material that retains its shape while the firearm is not in it. This precludes the use of nylon holsters and in many cases also means that composite holsters made from two types of material may not be the best choice.
Personally, I only use molded Kydex or molded leather holsters when carrying. If you decide to carry off of your body, make sure you do so with a purpose-built purse, pack or case. There are several solid manufacturers of these carrying approaches. I have purchased two purses for my wife from Roma Leathers they can be found on Amazon and pricing is between $40 and $130 for a good item for carry.
It is important to understand that the reason she uses off-body concealed carry is due to her place of work. I do not generally recommend carrying off body as it is essential to maintain control of the defensive tool at all times!
If you choose to carry off body you can still control the defensive tool by carrying across your body, or maintaining a close grip on the carrying case/holster/purse at all times. This leads into on-body concealed carry and the different styles that exist, as well as what may be best for you. When carrying on your person there are a few commonly accepted and used styles.
- Waistband carry (several types exist for this approach)
- Shoulder holster carry there are two types of carry with this approach
- Ankle holster carry only one approach with many different holster types
- Thigh Carry this is specific for women with regards to concealed carry
- Jacket or pocket carry
Now we can go over each individual approach with the types and benefits of each.
Waistband carry is by far the most popular and safest approach to concealed carry. The most popular current approach is appendix carry, or directly behind the belt buckle above the groin. This is no more or less safe than any other method of carry, and while this approach is more suited for fit individuals I have several friends who carry this way and have quite a bit extra weight.
This approach suits right and left-handed carriers well and is extremely easy to conceal both a firearm and magazine in a combination holster setup. A version of this is found here on Amazon. I will say that personally, I find this approach to be difficult for myself at this time, given my shortened stature due to missing parts in my back and my rather odd shape overall, it is not a method I can comfortably carry in.
This approach works well with training, I would suggest gaining some experience prior to use of this approach. I have seen people conceal full-size 1911s and long slide Glocks in this manner, though honestly, I am not sure how everything fits in some cases.
Next, you have the 1-3 or 9-11 o’clock carry. Assume your nose is 12 o’clock and your arms are 3 and or 9 o’clock and you get the drift regarding my use of clock based measurements. I prefer this approach and generally carry in a 2 o’clock position as I am right handed.
I have and can, however, carry on my left side and do so every once and awhile as I also train with that side. This method is comfortable for men and women regardless of size, what is important is finding a holster that allows for ease of use and comfort without pinching your side.
I use one with a sweat shield that extends above the back of the handgun, this prevents any pinching from occurring and promotes less potential for excess moisture buildup as during the summer months regardless your location you will sweat or get rained on. This carry method is by far the easiest to use for the novice through professional and with some minor adjustments can easily conceal even full sized handguns.
Here is a link to a solidly manufactured holster that can be found in your pistol size and will work very well, CYA Holsters costing around $40 apiece which is standard pricing these days for a good holster.
Lastly, with waistband carry you have behind the back or in the small of the back carry. This approach was made more popular with Hollywood than in reality. In fact, most people will find that having to reach behind your back is similar to reaching cross-draw and can, in fact, have detrimental effects on your ability to engage a threat easily and without wasting energy or time.
I have only met one person that could use this approach well, and I have met many who use it. I should add there is the bellyband as well, personally, I and several others who tested this approach did not find it to be beneficial.
It works well for very deep concealed carry, but not so great for advantageous judicious use of deadly force applications. Meaning, it takes to long to access and in fact in some cases caused malfunctions with the firearm with those who tested the ones I had.
Next, we look at shoulder holsters, this approach can be lumped in with jacket and pocket carry in that it requires you to have specially made clothing, tactical type clothing or to be wearing a jacket. Because the purpose of concealing your tool of choice is to prevent others from seeing it, I do not recommend these approaches except for pocket carry in a jacket, skirt or pants.
And I only suggest you use this approach when it is impossible for you to carry a full sized firearm, I sometimes utilize this when I am at home, though I prefer carrying my Glock 19 in most cases. When carrying a smaller handgun you can use this amazing little holster approach for pocket carry, the Desantis Nemesis approach works very well and I have used this with my P64 in the past.
There is one approach that fits in the shoulder holster category that works for some females. Flashbang holsters make an amazing setup that allows carrying under your bra, while this may seem difficult for some I can say honestly that both well endowed and less well-endowed females can, in fact, use these with good results. Again, like all methods of carry, not all will like this one. However, if you are interested here is a link to the amazing product on Amazon.
Ankle holsters and thigh carry, both methods allow for carrying of smaller than usual firearms. Both approaches are difficult to use with any real experience. Both approaches have a few different holster types available and the thigh approach actually works quite well for smaller firearms and women wearing dresses.
Again, I would definitely test this approach before settling on it as your primary carry approach. I cannot in good faith recommend any particular brands in these categories as I do not like or use them personally. This being said I know that there are a few solid carry options if you decide to go this route.
To answer the question, what works best is what will work for you. We are all individuals and while some approaches may work okay for all of us, to really get the best use of our defensive tools we should find what works for us. I prefer the second approach which is under the waistband at 1-3 o’clock though I have used many of the others quite successfully.
Train how you carry and you will quickly find what works best for you. Some ranges may not allow shoulder holsters or behind the back setups due to muzzle being uncontrolled compared to other approaches. Be aware of this and be safe.
Lastly, if you have any questions regarding carrying types please ask! This is an area I am extremely well educated and versed in.
Free the mind and the body will follow…
- Catalano, S. (2010). Victimization During Household Burglary. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/
- Criminal Victimization. (2017). Criminal Victimization, 2016, NCJ 251150. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/