Four Tips for Driving While Armed

 Car carry (courtesy ConcealedCarryAcademy.com)

Jason R. Hanson writes:

In this month’s American Rifleman, The Armed Citizen section tells of a woman and her son cut off by a vehicle. The car suddenly stopped in front of them. A man got out, ripped the woman from her vehicle and put a knife to her throat. Thankfully, a concealed carry licensee witnessed the incident and intervened. When the perp saw the Good Samaritan approaching with a gun, he ran away and was later arrested. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how irrational people can become behind the wheel. All it takes is one lunatic to come after you. Which is why it’s critical to always have your gun with you while driving . . .

When I’m carrying on the road I put my Ruger LCP in my pocket or my Glock 19 in an inside the waistband holster. Depending on how far I’m traveling and where I’m going I’ll have a rifle with me too. (I live in Southern Utah and spend a lot of time in the mountains.) Of course, our guns are tools of last resort. We pray that we never have to use them. But worst sometime comes to worst. Here are a few things to keep in mind to drive safely while carrying your gun.

1. Sit Properly

The proper seating position improves your driving abilities and makes it easier to draw your firearm. If you carry your gun in your front right pocket (as I do) and you’re sitting too close to the wheel, it’s extremely difficult to quickly access your gun. Find the right seating position for visibility and comfort and control and then practice your seated draw (with an unloaded gun).

[To find out if your seat is properly adjusted, put your arm forward over the steering wheel. If your fingers barely touch the wheel move your seat up. If the steering wheel touches your elbow then you’re sitting too close and you need to move the seat back. Ideally, your wrist should rest on the top of the steering wheel.]

2. Stay calm

I’ll be the first to admit that when someone flips me the bird or drives slower than continental drift in the left lane I’d love to give them a piece of my mind. As I’m always carrying my gun I remember to have self-discipline. I just smile and let it go. I know that controlling my emotions is more important than defending my territory or keeping to a time schedule. On the road as elsewhere, the only gunfight you’re guaranteed to win is the one you never have.

Situational awareness helps you maintain your composure. If you keep Jeff Cooper’s color code in mind while driving it will keep you aware of your surroundings. This proactive approach obviously beats a more reactive emotional response. You’ll notice danger—and have a chance to avoid or escape from it—before it’s too late.

3. “Tarmac and tires”

Whether you’re driving in traffic or stopped, leave enough space from the car ahead of you to see both the pavement and the rear tires of the vehicle in front. That way you’ll leave yourself plenty of room to drive around the vehicle and escape, rather than get into an ambush or trapped when a road rage driver loses it. Depending on circumstances (e.g., bad neighborhoods), you might want to avoid lanes that leave you hemmed-in by vehicles on both sides.

4. Consider caliber carefully

When I go run errands later today with my Glock 19 on my hip, it’ll be loaded with 115 grain 9mm Speer Gold Dot. The round performs well in FBI penetration tests, which include laminated windshield glass. Your ammo should do the same. If you shoot a round smaller than 9mm, keep in mind that a window will deflect the bullet’s path. (Hint: fire follow-up shots through the hole created by the initial bullet.)

Bottom line: Defensive gun use is less important than defensive driving—until it isn’t. Always have your gun on your person or within reach when driving and make sure it’s loaded with a round in the chamber.

Jason R. Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He also runs the Concealed Carry Academy. He can be reached through www.ConcealedCarryAcademy.com

comments

  1. avatar William Burke says:

    Rule 0.5: Be armed when driving.

  2. avatar imrambi says:

    If you have to draw while driving there are a few things to make sure you can do.

    1. Be sure you can get out of your vehicle quickly if you can’t drive away.
    2. Make sure you can draw and “get the beat on the perp”

    First Person Defender series has a good video about carjacking.



    1. I don’t think carrying your firearm holstered in the vehicle is a good idea. It is difficult to unholster quickly when sitting in a car seat. Best to leave it easily “grabbable” when in the car seat.

      1. avatar scottlac says:

        Call me crazy but I carry crossdraw on the 10 o’clock. My IWB let’s the barrel rest along the outside of my left leg. The grip drops over the right side. I spend lots of time driving so that is what makes sense. It’s like the opposite side of appendix carry without a muzzle in my junk.

        I also have long arms relative to my torso so drawing from the 4-5 o’clock is like trying to draw from my armpit. Very awkward. With my body type in a seated position, crossdraw puts the muzzle toward the driver’s side door instantly.

        1. avatar WFMAH says:

          I also have long arms…in my trunk.

      2. avatar Cliff H says:

        In Washington state, if you have a CPL and your psitol is loaded you must carry it on your person in the car. If it is located elsewhere in the car it must be locked and unloaded. This is what I understand from the pamphlet they hand out when you apply for the permit. If it is not correct, please somebody speak up, cause I like to keep a backup in the glove box.

        1. avatar Alex DeSurveyor says:

          It is NOT required to have it on your person in Washington State if you have a CPL; I’ve heard of others asking this as well and there are no RCW’s or WAC’s that I’m aware of which mandate this. If you leave the firearm in the vehicle it must be locked and out of sight but it can be loaded or unloaded. If I recall correctly the state AG wrote an opinion some years ago that the law meant the vehicle itself was required to be locked and the firearm could not be visible from the outside.

      3. avatar Lionel Burnette says:

        The one thing you need to do if you carry off-body in your car is to secure it. If it’s just laying on the seat, even a small accident can sent it flying elsewhere in the car. Just like your cellphone, if it’s not on your body, it needs to be in some vehicle-mounted retention device, such as a mounted holster.

  3. avatar Roll says:

    You guys actually wear your guns(holstered) while in the car? Mine always went in the center storage console while driving…I may have to rethink this…

    1. avatar imrambi says:

      I can say I do. Some holsters are easier to get to. Say a thigh holster (or in a pocket) would be tough to get to and you are sitting. An IWB, OWB, shoulder, or ankle might be easier. I usually have a shoulder and OWB roughly at the 4 position. The biggest downside that I’ve noticed is that I have worn a hole in the seam of the drivers seat due to carrying a 4.5″ XDm. If I shift the holster back to 5ish position, it sits more flush.

    2. avatar DonS says:

      When I’m driving, my Glock 27 is in an IWB holster at 4 o’clock. Driving for hours is quite comfortable. I can remove the gun from the holster quickly and easily.

      Re-holstering, though, is a bit more difficult. It’s tough for me to do it while sitting in the driver’s seat, so I’d have to get out of the vehicle with a gun in my hand, lift my shirt, and re-holster. Not something I want to regularly do in public; I don’t need to advertise that I’m carrying.

      1. avatar BDub says:

        Same experience here. I carry an XDS 45 in crossbreed IWB between 4 & 5 O’ clock. Works fine in an upright position in a toyota truck. And I am a heavier guy 5″11, 260.

      2. avatar Robert Farago says:

        Kydex?

        1. avatar DonS says:

          Half-and-half. Comp-Tac Minotaur MTAC.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I wear mine holstered in the car simply because it is safer. If I were to store the gun somewhere in the car, that requires taking the gun out of its holster and then storing it as well as retrieving it from storage and reholstering it upon exiting the car — a process that almost always involves sweeping the barrel across someone.

    4. avatar Hobbez says:

      I went so far as to bolt a Fobus paddle in the center console of my Tahoe. When I get in, the firearm on my hip becomes my backup and my snubbie in that paddle in the closed console is my primary.

    5. avatar Rick says:

      Yes. One of each. A Ruger SP-101 in .357 in a bolted-in holster that stays in the console all the time. And whatever I’m carrying that day, (P-64, CZ-82, etc.) in an IWB holster.

      I don’t worry about the console being broken into. Disclaimer: I’m only a satisfied customer.

    6. avatar Jason says:

      Try drawing (unloaded, of course) from your holster while seated.
      Between the wrap around seats (I tend to buy performance oriented cars), the seatbelt anchor point, and my shirt/jacket/etc., I find it nearly impossible to draw while seated in a car.
      As I get in the car, I pull my IWB out and clip it to a reinforced section of the map pocket on the door. And as soon as I shut the door, I lock it. I know for righties, there are many companies that sell holsters, or holster mounts that mount near the shifter.

      1. avatar DonS says:

        I can do it easily in my vehicle. I experimented quite a bit when choosing a holster.

        I do have to lean forward a bit (or at least get my hips away from the seat back), but I can still draw without lifting up or releasing the seat belt.

    7. avatar dan is fire formed says:

      I always recommend on body carry. In a vehicle, one of your many tactical options should include leaving the vehicle in a hurry… without stopping to get your gun on the way out. That being said, drawing from a concealed 4-5 o-clock position is mostly impossible for most people in most vehicles. Almost everyone ends up pinning their shirt against the seat and drawing involves leaning the head and shoulders toward the door (where the threat is most likely to be). For those of you who can draw comfortably from the seated spot, I recommend trying to draw while leaning away from the window as if someone is reaching in for you. This simple and reflexive action typically eliminates the few others who would have been able to draw normally.
      Crossdraws are ideal for driving, but terrible the rest of the time (in my humble opinion). I imagine appendix carry would work for some people as well, and if I could find a holster that made it comfortable, I would give it a more serious look. I would never recommend unholstering and stashing/ retrieving and reholstering every time you enter/exit your vehicle. The chance of an ND or of the cops being called is just too great. A BUG in the console is a good idea, but I dislike leaving firearms in vehicles. As with everything involving concealed carry, a compromise must be made and made up for with an increased level of SA. For what it is worth, I leave mine in the OWB holster I carry it in on my strong hip. It is difficult to get to so I practice it frequently and I adjust my expectation of how long it may take me to get to it. My hierarchy of preferred options when driving is to flee in the vehicle, flee from the vehicle, fight with the vehicle, fight from inside the vehicle. I do not wish to draw my weapon from the drivers seat because I prioritize movement over shooting and it is difficult to get off the x when you are literally a sitting duck.

      1. avatar David Franco says:

        Great reply. Extremely helpful. Thanks!

  4. avatar rammerjammer says:

    #2 is the most important. Since I started carrying years ago my driving has changed drastically and I have calmed down in the car. I am prepared to react to road rage but will not be the one to instigate it in any way shape or form.

    1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      exactly – now when someone cuts me off or is rude. . . I just smile and think to myself: I could run a Mozambique drill on you in less than 2 seconds using these Hornady 115 gr . . . have a nice day. I have mellowed a lot since I started carrying 12 yrs ago

  5. avatar joe says:

    i practiced shooting with my left hand, i set the pistol in the door, and lock the doors. i can get to it without any hassel and very quickly. just make sure you holster before exiting the vehicle, last thing you need is someone getting paranoid for no reason

  6. avatar Gregolas says:

    Rule # 6: ALWAYS be the first one to call the police! If some guy cuts you off, stops to confront, etc, , Don’t stop to confront! Get on the horn and call cops! If HE gets the first call he can claim you pointed your gun at him or any other lie he wants to tell. Get your story in first!

  7. avatar Vhyrus says:

    depending on the law, i usually keep my gun in the map pocket of the driver door. its very easy to reach and wont become uncomfortable during a long trip. its also very well concealed.

  8. avatar Roscoe says:

    I have twin .50’s mounted behind the grille under the hood.

    Makes for a pretty crowded engine compartmant, though, and leaves quite a mess when I clear a raging driver off the freeway.

    …If only, I sometimes wish.

    1. That all? I have heat seeking missiles, you know, for the “Just in case” moments.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        You guys must have gotten a Shaguar. I can’t find a dealer.

  9. avatar Jan says:

    Here in CA my gun is in a lock box in the trunk or back of the van, with ammo in a separate container. 🙁

    1. avatar Greg says:

      Ammo can be in mags and stored with gun. Just not in the gun itself. I use a gun vault that can open with key or biometric, so one swipe and I am in. It works 95% of the time with one swipe.

    2. avatar DonS says:

      The ammo doesn’t have to be in a separate container. You can have loaded mags in the same locked container as the gun.

      Greg beat me to it. I was looking for the CA court case that discussed it (IIRC, it referred to shotgun shells in a storage device – not a magazine – that was actually attached to the gun; the court said the shotgun was not “loaded”, because the shells were not in a position where they could be fired).

  10. avatar JohnB says:

    Another RULE. Install a dash cam that looks back into the driver compartment as well as forward.

    No officer, I was not waving my gun at other drivers. Would you like to see the video?

    1. avatar Rick says:

      Good idea; my next project…

    2. avatar Matt in FL says:

      But then there’d be video of me picking my nose…

      1. avatar jwm says:

        The video would prove that your booger hook was holstered and no where near your bang switch.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    If you’re going to have a loaded pistol tucked into the center console, car holster or door pocket, be sure that it’s legal to do so in your jurisdiction.

  12. avatar racer88 says:

    Holstered, as always, IWB at 4:00. Work days, shirt is tucked. I don’t want to be unholstering and reholstering. Gun goes in the holster at the beginning of my day and stays there until I’m ready to call it a night.

    1. avatar Jack in the Crack says:

      +1

      Remora right against the skin. You’ll forget it’s even there.

  13. avatar mediocrates says:

    I have a nice little sleeve between my seat and center console that will hold my Desantis Nemesis and little LCP just fine while I drive. I’ve learned to point the handle towards the window because that helps me get a better grip on the pistol faster.

    I have to always remind myself of #3, and am working on the wife to do the same.

  14. avatar Lance says:

    Very good post. I prefer if you go with 9mm rounds use 147gr they beat whimpering 115gr loads everyday and night.

  15. avatar Rich Grise says:

    #3 won’t work in Southern California. If you leave a car-length gap while in a traffic jam, some idiot is sure to pull in and occupy the space. Also, when passing a big rig, I try to leave a safe stopping distance in front of the rig before pulling back into the right lane, and nine times out of ten, the aforementioned idiot will occupy that space as well.

    But I think that in So, Cal, driver licenses come in Cracker Jacks boxes. You don’t even have to be in the country legally! Admittedly, the illegals usually drive pretty well – no point drawing attention to themselves!

  16. Important point here to consider:

    If you have never taken a defensive pistol/combat pistol class that drills you in how to deploy and use your weapon seated and inside a vehicle, please do so! And the drills should be far more extensive than the typical IDPA scenario. Various techniques are used for a variety of situations you may have to face in your car.

    So…training, training and more training.

    Here’s one place that covers this very well: http://www.asymmetricsolutionsusa.com

  17. avatar MentalCelt says:

    I tend to wear in a crossdraw holster when I am going to be on the road much. That with an untucked button up shirt has always been enough that I have never encountered a problem.

    1. avatar scottlac says:

      So, I’m not the only one. Crossdraw is perfect for the driver’s seat.

  18. avatar Chas says:

    Safepacker. That is all.

  19. avatar RobertD says:

    That report was about a friend of mine. I sent the link in to NRA. He was shook up. He and the others are alive. The bad guy is in jail.
    Argue all you want, all that matters is that you know where it is, how to get it and how to use it.

    His was in the glove compartment of an econo-box car.

    R

  20. avatar Matt says:

    What would you suggest for us fat guys? It’s kind of hard to drive with a holstered gun all up in your gut. And yes, I know losing weight is the solution, but what about in the meantime?

  21. avatar Accur81 says:

    I carry a Glock 27, 23, Smith 4000 TSW, and / or Smith 340 PD OWB in the 3′ o Clock or 4′ o Clock position. It works pretty well, other than the black marks and dents in my grey leather seats.

  22. avatar Nyoka Tisa says:

    My solution?: Shoulder holsters. They were invented for Horse Soldiers, Pilots and Tankers and still do the job for drivers. I have several shoulder holsters to fit different pistols. Tradeoff is conceal-ability vs. virtually instant drawstroke if someone is coming at you. Remember what happened to Bill Cosby’s son and wargame in your mind “what would you do in a similar situation”?. For long trips, always have a carbine handy in the trunk, again, the Cosby scenario applies.

  23. avatar Gtfoxy says:

    Doesn’t this fo hand-in-hand with the question you posed about CC holders intervening in situations not involving ourselves but only as bystanders?

    We are said to have a “Choice” in my state to intervene but I see it more as an obligation to defuse the situation if at all possible.

    Another reason to keep the doors locked & have a contengency plan in place and practiced.

  24. avatar Jonathan says:

    The best way to carry while driving is the way that is most comfortable to you. For me, I prefer having my gun in the center console. It’s easy and quick to access and its not going to go flying if I am in an accident. I also use the map pocket on the door sometimes. I have tried IWB holsters and pocket holsters while driving and they are both uncomfortable to me and make it more difficult to draw the weapon if needed. The most important thing is to carry if you can do so legally.

  25. avatar Shaky Dave says:

    Because I have to wear ties about every day I ordinarily carry in an elastic body-band shoulder rig. Mine holds a medium or large frame auto tight in the weak-side armpit and two mags in the strong-side armpit. There are several on the market.
    I find that it’s perfect for inside the car. A belt holster is too uncomfortable and awkward, and I don’t have a console with a lid. If I’m in a truly dicy neighborhood I unholster and keep it under my thigh.
    I’m fully aware of the disfavor toward shoulder rigs, and the logic is sound, but doesn’t outweigh no blaster a’tall.

  26. avatar David says:

    I have also found that carrying holstered while driving is difficult but all in the same I am a police officer ad I have to keep it holstered at all times until the need arises. But I had a situation a week ago where I was out in BFE and a car was parked on the side of the road and a guy came out in the middle of the road waving me down, now you have a decision to make go around or stop and see what’s wrong now being a police officer I stopped but I had my glock 22 drawed and laying across my lap pointed at the inside of my drivers side door, pointed at the stranger the whole time an the rounds I carry would tear through my car door easily, I just smiled at the guy and realized he was lost but he had no idea that he had 16 rounds of .40 cal pointed at him. Moral of the story have your gun ready at all times, be nice to people but always have a plan to kill them

    1. avatar Rich Grise says:

      According to “A Child’s Garden of Grass, a Pre-Legalization Comedy,” one of the ways of acquiring pot is (spoken in The Simpsons’ Apu accent) “Be very very nice to everyone you meet.”

      I’ve found that that’s good advice under just about any circumstances. 🙂

  27. avatar JP in Tennessee says:

    I tell my daughter repeatedly, it doesn’t cost anything to be nice – being nice is free.

  28. avatar C says:

    Are a lot of you you out there carrying while driving even though you may not have a concealed carry permit? The article states that we should all carry a loaded gun while driving and I agree. Problem is that I live in a may issue state so the average joe blow ain’t getting one of those anytime soon. I know safety comes first with or without the little permission slip you bug big brother to give you. Just curious what your thoughts are on making the decision to protect yourself regardless of what he says?….

  29. avatar William Fail says:

    I drive a Pontiac Solstice Convertible and have a pouch between my legs on my seat, MY S&W M&P 9mm sets in there perfect, all you can see is the metal and is covered by my leg out of site. If I am in a questionable area, I always turn the grip up or at an angle.. Works for me”.

  30. avatar DT says:

    If anyone is seriously saying that a cross draw holster doesn’t work, or isn’t comfortable, I would submit that they’ve never really given that style of holster an honest try.

    After extensive hip surgery on my right side several years ago, I found that carrying in my normal 4-5 o’clock position was no longer comfortable, and even painful. One day, I took my Galco soft suede leather right side IWB holster (with no cant) and clipped it on my left side at the 10:00 o’clock position between the outside of my pants and inside my belt, with the wide metal clip over the belt…… Bingo, it was very comfortable, and my Kimber 9mm was very easy to reach.

    I practiced this method at the range with many different handguns of mine, from 9mm to .45 ACP….. all work good for me as long as I stay with shorter barreled guns, a Govt. Size 1911 tends to get in the way, but any of my 3 inch Kimber Ultras work just fine.

    The secret is to find out what works for you, overcomes any limitations, then practice until it’s second nature to you.

  31. avatar Eric says:

    Or you can have a dedicated car gun, I have one that stays in the safe under my seat unless I am driveing and then it goes in a holster between the seat with a watch cap over it. Also I picked a caliber that can more the. Easily go through a windshield, 10mm and it is the only 10 I own because other then for this reason and hunting I don’t see much use for it. I picked 10mm because I get 15 rounds in a semi auto alowing me to reload without much difficulty while driveing. Also I took in to account the fact that you could have to shoot trough two windows/windshields (yours and your attackers) imagine someone sharts shooting at you from the car behind you by sticking their gun out the window. You now have to either do the same and fire basicly randomly behind you or turn and shoot trough your back window and into theirs. Can this happen? Probably not but I would rather be able too if needed. It also makes the shots through one windshield look like child’s play. Oh and before you say (10 mm is two powerful if you are not shooting through a windshield and may over penatrate) if I did not need to shoot through the window I am probably not in my car, thus I will just use my normal carry… Let’s just say I like to be prepared

  32. avatar David Franco says:

    I have thought about this for a long time. For to and from short distances, I find the alien gear IWB holster just fine. I am planning a long road trip with my family, though, so I can’t take the butt of my glock 19 in my back that long. I have kids so concealment and safety is key. I have opted for a fanny pack at 3 o’clock (don’t laugh…or do so; I can’t hear you). You can carry it inside (I place it inside a simple galco holster for trigger guard) and drive all day long with no problem. When you step out of the car, you can put the firearm in between your outside waistband and the area where the fanny pack belt meets the pack (assuming your shirt is not tucked in). It is surprisingly stable, fast as hell to draw and the fanny pack removes the imprinting.

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