Tyler Kee writes to RF and me:
What gives guys? Both of you carry OWB. How do you keep things tucked away and hidden from view?
Let me in on the secret.
The first handgun that I ever carried concealed was a CZ-75 that my friend let me borrow for a night. I had just applied for and received my Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms that morning without ever having fired more than eight rounds from a handgun and receiving no training whatsoever, and I wanted to take my new license for a spin. So Nick let me borrow his CZ-75 and IWB holster and off to Wal Mart we went.
Walking around with a loaded handgun for the first time is an interesting experience. Even though it was the dead of winter and I had on a Soviet greatcoat for warmth, I was constantly thinking that people were noticing that bulge in my waistline. That constant fear of being singled out and identified as carrying a firearm was the biggest thing on my mind, so much so that I left without the box of Pop Tarts I had gone in to get (I was in college, cut me some slack on the food choice).
After that experience I decided that the deeper I can conceal my gun the happier I will be, and that IWB carry was comfortable enough to work while providing the proper ease of access and level of concealment.
The first handgun I purchased was a SIG SAUER P226, a monster of a handgun that was once accurately described as a boat anchor. I wanted something primarily for competition shooting and wasn’t thinking about concealment or comfort at all when I bought it. But naturally since I already had the permit I wanted to carry the P226 as well. I purchased an IWB holster with a thumb break snap from Cocnealco, stuffed it in my pants and carried like that for months. During that time I learned a few things about carrying IWB.
The first thing I learned is that carrying a handgun around inside your pants is generally uncomfortable. You have to remember that you’re adding an inch or two to your waistband when you pop a gun in there, so any pants you have now that are close fitting will be even tighter and your belts need to be able to go a notch looser or else you risk cutting off some blood supply to your legs. I fixed that issue by losing some weight, but for the lankier variety of humans that might not be possible.
Speaking of comfort, there’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as trying to drive a car with the muzzle of a SIG P226 digging into your leg and some hard gun leather rubbing against your skin. With an OWB holster you might be able to preposition the gun, but when carrying IWB you’re more or less stuck with the position you started the day.
The second thing I learned is that normal people don’t really go around and actively look at people’s waistbands to check to see if they have a gun. I do, but the average American doesn’t. I was shopping at a Target in Virginia one day and passed a guy with a Ruger SP101 open carrying through the store and had to point it out to my (ex) girlfriend when we passed him for the third time. She hadn’t noticed, and neither had anyone else. He just strode around confidently and no one seemed to notice.
But the most important thing I learned is that drawing from and holstering to a leather IWB holster is downright impossible to do quickly for me. The thumb snap wasn’t the issue — getting all of the clothing out of the way was.
When I got my hands on the Wilson Combat 1911 I started carrying OWB (Outside the WaistBand). Not because I made a conscious change (at first), but because the holster that came with it was an OWB leather holster. I had never really spent much time carrying concealed with an OWB holster, so I started carrying only when wearing heavy coats. And then light coats. And then sweatshirts. And then loose dress shirts. And now I’m down to t-shirts.
What I realized is that in this age of cell phones and pagers and blackberries, whenever someone sees something in black leather attached to your belt the first though is “tech” and not “gun.” And while I still try to keep myself from printing in public as much as possible, I’m comforted by the knowledge that even if a little of the holster protrudes from the bottom of my shirt the chance of someone seeing and the police being called are pretty darn slim.
Having done both, OWB carry makes a lot more sense to me than IWB carry. You can reposition your holster if needed to make it more comfortable to carry, you can draw a lot faster than typical IWB holsters and you don’t usually need to go fishing around in your pants to holster your gun.
The only downside is that it’s a lot harder to carry firearms with longer barrels if you’re carrying OWB. That’s where IWB shines and the only situation where I would prefer it — concealing longer barreled firearms. For every other situation OWB seems like the better option for me, especially with my snubby 1911. Comfort is why I started but speed is why I keep doing it.
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