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.

45 Responses to FNS-40 Contest Entry: Confessions of a Concealed Carry Noob

  1. Aww, this was going to be my piece…but you covered most of the points I would have made had I actually sat down to write instead of boozing and archive-binging on webcomics.

    OWB wasn’t really an option for me in Texas, especially since my handgun was a full-size XD with a five-inch barrel, the last inch of which would sneak out of all my jackets and sweaters. And I only have the one longcoat, but it’s kinda fitted to me and the grip prints.

    IWB was considered, until I tried my friend’s M&P compact. Appendix digs into belly fat, side digs into hip and sidefat, and back just isn’t comfortable especially when sitting down.

    So I finally got an LCP for pocket a week ago…and am now finding out that pulling it out of my pocket can be a real pain in the ass, especially in jeans or gym shorts. I have a…70% success rate in getting it out and ready to rock, but the rest of that time either my hand gets stuck trying to pull out, or knuckles get caught on the seams trying to go in, or I pull the pocket holster out with the gun (this is especially the case with gym shorts).

    So really, all my concealed carry journey did was make me completely support Open/Constitutional Carry.

  2. 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 . . .

    That’s okay, Paul. They may not realize it, but neither does anyone else here. The gurus think they’re being objective when they tell you that an attacker will laugh off anything smaller than a 10mm auto or that Brand X would be the only type of gun anyone carried if they weren’t hung up on things like image and cool factor, but these people are imbeciles who couldn’t define “objective” with both hands and a flashlight.

  3. I want to get a concealed license badly but Im a skinny athletic guy who doesnt wear very loose clothing…I have tried out several methods of carry of a P238 and it prints badly…not sure what to do…

        • I have 3 of them. Here in Florida, being comfortable while carrying is difficult. Finding a rig that’s comfortable in the heat and humidity of summer is a challenge, depending on your specific conceal options. It’s an elasticized snug shirt, which is not so popular in the summer, but is quite tolerable when the days cool down to the 70’s and low 80’s like they are now. That’s 8-9 months of prime Undertech carry. That said, a compression shirt isn’t for everyone. One thing for sure, it will show you how out of shape you are. A check of the Undertech torso shells they stretch their shirts over will tell you what body type they are aiming at, but you don’t have to be at 1% body fat to wear this comfortably. After that, an unbuttoned, light-weight, 100% cotton over shirt completes the subterfuge.

    • I’m a skinny guy.

      I started off carrying a Glock 19 (which is pretty comfortable to carry around and easily concealed) but lately I’ve just been carrying a Ruger LCR .357 in my pocket. It works well with pants that have deep pockets but sucks with jeans.

      I’m considering going with a .380.

      Anyone know if you can conceal one of those Ruger .380s in the front pocket of Wrangler blue jeans?

        • The LCP is certainly not the most comfortable shooting gun, but I figure in a pinch it’s better than nothing. I wouldn’t like to spend the day shooting hundreds of rounds through one, but a couple dozen isn’t going to ruin your day, and you can aim pretty well. The advantage is the ability to slap it in your back pocket and in a good holster it looks like a wallet and is easily accessible. In hot weather, it’s a good way to go. I can’t wear a shirt untucked where I work.

      • I have an LCP. It’s not as nice to fire as my M&P 9 or XD but it conceals easily. I can fire it accurately out to 25yards so bad breath distance should be no problem. I could easily put it in my pocket and I am a big guy with a squat and deadlifting problem. I IWB the gun right now and it disappears in all if my clothing. I want to get a pocket holster and carry it in my back pocket. I keep my wallet up front.

      • I’ve pocket carried a baby Glock 27 this past summer/fall and before that a Smith J frame in .38. IMHO, pocket carry is a lose/lose proposition. In even reasonably snug fitting jeans, any gun prints plus it’s difficult to clear leather. If your jeans are so hiphop baggy that the gun doesn’t print it flops around like a beached bluegill in your pocket. In cargo shorts, if the pocket is not positively stitched to the short material the holstered pocket pistol swings like a ballsack, especially if you’re running. Don’t ask me how I know. While pocket carry seems like a viable carry method, I’m leaning toward IWB carry where the piece doesn’t move. If you’re a skinny dude (I’m not) you might require an ever so slight wardrobe change with some larger shirts.

        • Try Wrangler Five-Star Premium Denim relaxed fit jeans. They’re sold at Walmart, Target, and other places for like $15. The jeans fit nicely and my J-Frame slips easily in and out of it. I can also easily get a full grip around the handle and the gun does not flop around. The gun “prints” but for all anyone knows it’s a wallet, or a phone, or a notebook. Nobody is going to think it’s a gun.

          The only con is it is possible for your hand to get caught up slightly when trying to get into the pocket and slow you down, if only slightly. On the other hand, pocket carry allows you to have your hand around your gun in situations where it’s not at the point where drawing is a good idea, but things look like they might possibly be heading that way. And no one will be the wiser.

      • I have an LCP and it pocket carries in my Carhartts just fine.

        The LCP is not the most comfortable to shoot, but its a tiny pistol, whattayawant?

        Having said that, Galloway Precision makes some aftermarket parts for the LCP that do wonders for shootability, most of them inexpensive (the trigger kit is $45. I don’t have it, but with the new rod and springs, I don’t really feel I need it, either).

      • I live in Sarasota Florida so light clothing is the norm here, along with some concealment challenges. I don’t have an LCP but I do regularly carry a S&W Bodyguard 380, which is only a little bit bigger. Front pocket carry with a slim pocket holster isn’t usually a problem, especially with a longish shirt to help deflect attention. I wear cargo shorts most of the time and often carry in a cargo pocket using a Safariland wallet profile holster. The gun is totally invisible but, depending on the fit of the shorts the right leg does swing a bit like a pendulum. With my not-very-fit 63 year old body inside the waistband carry depends entirely on the fit of the pants. I usually carry IWB using a Galco Sof Tuk at about the 4 o’clock position. With the right shirt there is no printing at all. Bottom line, no one, not even my wife, ever knows when I’m carrying concealed.

      • Walther PPS. Basically a single stack Glock only with a trigger guard mag release. I find it’s easiest to drop the mag with my thumb.

    • Yes, it IS possible to front-pocket carry if you’re lean and wear fitted clothing. The holster makes a difference. A good leather holster reduces printing (or at least makes the gun look like nothing more than a wallet or a phone in your pocket) and is rigid enough for a clean draw. The slimness of the gun also makes a difference.

    • Ive got the same build and honestly, the time came to wear larger shirts than I used to wear to carry comfortably (where I was comfortable not printing in public). I went from wearing a L to an XL and not wearing those super soft super thin cotton shirts and it helped a bunch. I appendix carry a subcompact XD with the full size 12 rnd mag with grip extension in the 1-2 o’clock and a good holster allows me to carry it a little deeper and not pinch the children when I bend over or squat.

    • Rugby shirts and Hawaiian print shirts–fits with the athletic personna but gives you lots and lots of coverage. And you can still wear those too tight jeans, you just have to give up on flashing your pecs. The ladies are more interested in your ass anyhow (so I’ve been told).

      • I’m in a 2xl shirt and 40″ pants 😛 Trust me, too tight isn’t my preference, but if I get jeans that AREN’T tight on my thighs they’re giant on my waist. It’s damn annoying. Then stack a beer guy on top of that.

        • < female and has that same problem.

          To get pants that fit the thighs, you need to get something huge in the waist. I end up wearing a belt and it bunches up my waistband and it sucks.

          I just need to figure out now where I'm going to stick my M&P….

    • I’m not as skinny as I used to be, but as much as everyone seems to hate it, I like carrying in the small of my back. The hollow of your back right there is perfect for putting a pistol.

      Years ago when I was much thinner, my USMC unit was ordered to Desert Shield in the very first days of the buildup. We got delayed leaving several times so the commanding officer told us to just take our pistols home and bring them back each day to make it easier on the armorers. Rifles were stacked in the hangar deck. I stuck my M9 in the small of my back and no one ever noticed, no matter where I went through southern California for about a week. I only weighed 125 pounds back then.

      I still prefer that mode of carry and in the cooler weather that’s what I do, with a good holster now. In hot weather, I carry an LCP in my back pocket.

    • Appendix carry. Best place I’ve found to carry a small gun, and happen to be not overweight.

      Unless someone is a cockgazer printing or anyone noticing printing is a non-issue.

    • I’m 6’9 215, so I’m no stranger to that problem. That all aside I do manage to carry a full size 1911 iwb. I just got my permit this year maybe two months ago, and have been carrying since. The position that works best for me is at about 330-4 o’clock. I use a white hat holsters hybrid holster (essentially a crossbreed) that i got for 60 bucks, AND I still wear my same wardrobe of fitted jeans n fitted tees.

  4. I ended up appendix carrying because it works with my body type and I can see if my gun is printing or shirt gets moved. I was very nervous about standing in line and the people behind me seeing my gun through a t-shirt because Im a casual dude and dont really wear anything but t-shirts. Also wearing a “wife beater” type undershirt A-frame etc under my shirt allows me to tuck it around the grip frame and holster clip to hide it if my shirt came up.

    I had to practice, practice, practice about making sure I was aggressively pulling my garments out of the way when drawing, but its worth the peace of mind.

  5. I pocket carry a j-frame in blue jeans. For me, the key to effectively drawing without getting your hand caught is to line up your thumb with the back strap and not try to wrap your hand around the grip before you’ve pulled the grip out of your pocket. It also helps to have a good holster that protects the trigger but doesn’t grip the revolver too tight.

  6. I so badly wanted to carry my Kimber, but after three completely different holsters I gave up, never being able to successfully hide the end of the grip. Your shape is everything to your carry choice. Middle aged and short waisted, my shapelessness tends towards pear. As a result, appendix was out, IWB at four o’clock was out, and an OWB wouldn’t keep the gun tight to my side. I recently got a skinny little Kahr CW9 that literally disappears under an overshirt or jacket.

  7. conceal carry for me, was and is a learning in progress // I explain: started with a Blackhawk serpa, but it tends to have too much plastic on top and the butt of the gun sticks outward, don’t like that at all.
    Then I went to a DeSaint’s and that in waist holster was great, until the sticky started to fade, then the possibility of slipping down my pants was there.
    Went to a Blackhawk sportster// I know worse ever holster made // but something kept nagging at me about how it was made, until it hit me.
    For a right side carry; take the clips and straps, switch sides and you have an IWB holster that stays with your pants // lol// I used the DeSantis for a year and then some. This new adjusted BH I’ve been using it for about a couple of months and really like it.
    I am not tall, 5′ 7″ and used to power lift a lot during my time in the military, later I switch to more cardio.
    After the military I started to work for the Post Office and the cardio was there, with a vengeance, lol.
    But from experience I love the holster with a safety lock built into it, like a BH or a FUBUS, it gives me a warm fuzzy knowing that it’s not going anywhere soon.

  8. I can’t get a carry license until I move to a free state in a few years. I have recently acquired a Ruger LCR .38 for “home carry” but that really doesn’t require all the same considerations.

    I appreciate the “noob” perspective on this. Good write-up. Thanks.

  9. This is something that I’m working through as well – I recently passed my CCDW class and am waiting on the paperwork to go through for my actual license, so I’ve been doing a lot of comparing and contrasting of firearms lately. Only problem is I’m a thin guy, so that rules out anything too large in size (except for winter). Been wanting to try out a Beretta Nano (or something in that size range), but was really impressed by the compact px4 Storm I had rented.

    Haven’t even thought about how I would carry it yet – it’s easy to get overwhelmed when there are so many options out there and you’re just starting out. That holster shirt up above looks very promising though…

  10. As the guy that wrote this; that above is *almost* how I carry, I just push it back a little further. It works for the compact 1911 I wound up using. I really wanted pocket carry to work but the only thing I could do it with was cargo shorts.

    I used the 1911 because it was affordable, it’s worked flawlessly with a couple hundred rounds thus far, and I like them. If pocket carry had worked I probably would have gone with a small .38 or .380. That’s the extent of my justification!

    Thanks for the positive feedback! I haven’t written non-fiction since college.

  11. Don’t get discouraged, it took me forever to find a holster/pistol combo that worked for me. I probably spent more on holsters than I did on pistols. Different body types will require different methods of carry. I won’t try to give any advice…You’ll just have to find what’s right for you. That probably won’t be one holster and one pistol unfortunately. After a while you’ll probably come to the realization that different circumstances will require different combos, especially if you live in a state with a dynamic climate like Florida. The gun I carry at work (Glock 26/crossbreed hybrid holster) isn’t the same one I carry while running (Kel-Tec PF9/Pro-Tech belly band) and I’ll usually carry a different pistol and holster combo when I’m just slumming it around town or at home (Glock 19/Holsterworks Custom IWB). One size fits all does not often apply when it comes to CCW. YMMV, what is most important is that you have decided to take control of your own defense and that is to be applauded. Find what works for you and go with it.

    • Ive REALLY been looking for something good to run with, so Ill have to try this out, thanks. Couldnt agree more about there being no one holster or gun.

  12. The best I’ve found so far is my Glock 19 or 26 in a Raven Concealment Phantom Holster worn IWB at 4 O’clock with soft loops attached to the Raven struts. Belt is The Wilderness Instructor (CSM model). I cover with regular camp shirts or 5.11 Concealment shirts. The benefit of 5.11 is that its cut just a bit longer/wider at the waist so you don’t have to wear a huge baggy shirt. Very very comfortable and holds tight into the body.

  13. Paul White,
    You mentioned that you are spending a fortune on .45ACP ammo. You need to get a .22LR conversion kit for your gun. It will cost about $300 for the kit, but you will probably save that much money back in a year or two. It is VERY easy to swap in and out. You can literally do it in less than one minute.

    The benefit is that you can practice more, and the practice is a little better, too.
    1. Your ammo costs are much lower. .22LR prices are 1/8 to 1/10 the price of .45ACP FMJ.
    2, Recoil is greatly reduced. So shooting is less stressful on your hand and wrist. There is also less tendency to develop a habit of “flinching” from anticipating the recoil.

    At the end of your range practice session, you should convert the gun back to .45ACP, and shoot 10 or 20 rounds. This will ensure that you are still doing everything alright when using the higher caliber rounds. So you may have shot 100 or maybe 200 rounds that session for the price you would have paid for 10 to 25 rounds. Win – Win!

    • I cant’ find any .22 ammo for reasonable prices locally. There’s scalpers happy to sell you ammo at 40 cents a round but at that price, I’ll shoot .45 ACP.

  14. Good article, I to put a lot of thought into my carry peace and settled on a LC9. Love the gun, the way it shoots and is everything I wanted it to be. However one thing I learned is buy the generic version of the gun you are going to use for carry. I say this is because the one I purchased has the carbon fiber finish. I knew at the time that it was a limited edition, however I did not know how limited. I have only seen 2 other carbon fiber LC9’s and those were both at the one gun show I purchased mine at. Knowing that EDC puts a lot of wear and tear on the finish of your gun and not ever seeing another one for sale since, this has become a safe queen / range toy. On the plus side after explaining to the wife that this gun is to nice to EDC and that the finish is a very limited production, I just had to go out and buy another gun to carry. Oh the things I have to do just to protect my family. We used this lesson when she got her permit and purchased her carry gun. Now she is looking for her range toy.

  15. For those of you looking for a slim, concealable, & shootable gun, pick up a 9mm M&P Shield.

    IMO appendix carry is the best way to carry- quick access, little to no printing, even when bending, and great for retention.

  16. I’ve been carrying a Kahr pm9 for 5 months now. In the summer, I found that the gun absolutely disappears in a cargo pocket. Easy solution.

    It fits OK in the front pocket of my jeans now that it’s cooler, but it looks a little big there. Not the best concealment. It also completely disappears carried IWB at 5. I’m in OK shape, but still working a bit to have enough room in all my pants for the gun and myself!

    Now that it’s even colder, I’ve also found jacket pocket carry to be easy and 100% stealthy.

  17. I carry a fns 40 I am right handed but I carry on my left side at the 10 o’clock position with the but of the gun facing out for a cross draw. I use a loop less sticky holster for IWB carry. I have never pulled holster out on draw. And the material inside the holster does not allows the gun to be pulled out with ease. By the way I’m a slim person now alien makes a IWB holster that you can wear for the guy that as to keep shirt tuck in at work.

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