By Paul White
I’m new to the concealed carry world; in fact I’m still waiting for my license to get back. It should arrive in late December–a great Christmas gift! So I’m not some experienced hand at this. I’ve been attacked when I was much younger, but I’ve never been shot at. I’ve never been in law enforcement or the military. I’m not some grizzled old guy that’s going to tell you to carry a full sized 1911 with 2 spare mags and a compact 45 as a back up because nothing else is big enough, or to carry a gun that has a capacity of at least 12+1 because that’s the minimum bullets you need, or that you have to carry XYZ type of gun. I don’t have the standing to be able to do that . . .
What I am going to do is enumerate some things I realized while shopping for a concealed weapon, and working out carry options.
1) Decide roughly what you can carry (weight wise) and what you can shoot (recoil wise).
Well, I decided that I wanted something reasonably heavy because I hate shooting light guns (I’m a wuss). I wanted something reasonably concealable but it didn’t have to be tiny–I’m a very large dude; I’m a recreational powerlifter (and have a beer gut but I’m working on that). So I have a bit of leeway space wise too. But whatever. That’s what I did. Your solution might well be different.
I’m using a compact 1911 because it was affordable, it’s hefty, but it’s concealable and I shoot well with it. But that is MY choice, it may not be yours. Try a few different guns. If you have friends that concealed carry, ask if you can try their rig out in their house or yours; see if the gun is heavy. See if its uncomfortable. Then try to find a place to try out the gun. Can you shoot it? Try a box or two of ammo and see how you are with it. People will tell you that less than 12+1 isn’t enough rounds or that anything under a 9mm is too tiny. But if you don’t have the gun on you or can’t hit the broadside of a barn with it, it doesn’t matter how many rounds it holds or how big a bullet it’s shooting.
2) Different carry options will work better for some builds than others. My concealed carry instructor is a very thin guy that apparently actually enjoys massive cardio workouts. He’s got no gut at all and carries a GLOCK on his strong side at about 1 o’clock.
I tried front carrying when I got home from the classroom session because I’d seen him do it. Well, my beer gut sagged right over the grip of my handgun. Sitting down was massively painful and I think I bruised my bulge (but how the hell would I check?).
I’d heard pocket carry was good. I borrowed a friend’s J-frame (see point 1) to try it out. Well, it turns out when you have big thighs, pocket carry is incredibly awkward, too. I work legs 2 times a week in the gym (squats, deadlifts, lunges), and I store fat in my thighs, so they’re huge. I could barely get a J-frame out of my husky-cut jeans pocket.
So before you write off a gun, try a couple different options. I found that while I couldn’t pocket carry or front carry, I found a position between 4-5 o’clock on my strong side worked VERY well for me with a long T-shirt. My wife didn’t even realize I was carrying when she got home a couple of times.
3) Practice. Practice carry–while you’re waiting on the permit, wear it around your house. Get used to how it feels. Practice drawing from concealment (after a safety check). Practice firing at the range. It’d be great to go do a 5-day course at Gunsite, but Pistol 250 is something like 1,400 bucks plus 1,000 rounds of ammo plus travel expenses. Most of us can’t afford that. But maybe you can find a local instructor who can at least work on decent pistol technique with you.
I know that there’s plenty of cases where people with little or no experience have saved themselves with a gun–but I’d rather stack the deck in my favor by getting familiar with how my gun works, how to handle it, all that good stuff. Plus, hell, the shooting part of it is fun, even if it has been expensive going through lots of .45 ACP. But this will allow you to establish that your firearm is reliable and get used to how it works. And it’ll let you blow some holes in paper.
So to recap: gun choice is largely individual. Carry positions are individual. Practice with whatever setup you use. And don’t continually nitpick your choice or worry about what one internet guru or the other says about your caliber/handgun/carry option. Practice with it to make sure you can draw it, practice firing to make sure that your gun is reliable and that you can accurately shoot it, and that’s a damn good start. Don’t fall prey to information overload. There’s a ton of information out there and I don’t know how many internet gurus, but none of them know you as well as you know you.