Gun for Beginners: Three Things To Look For In A Concealed Carry Rig

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There are a large number of variables for gun owners shopping for a concealment holster: price, quality, carry style and more. But there are three major, over-arching considerations for any aspiring every concealed carrier . . .

ACCESSIBILITY

Most defensive gun uses end without a shot fired. The good guy shows the bad guy his gun, the bad guy abandons the attack. If lead does fly, the person who sends bullets at their target first is the likely winner. Accessibility — how quickly you can get to your gun — is a far more important than the type of gun you carry. Provided you keep control of your firearm, you can’t get to your gun too quickly.

When shopping for a carry system (gun + holster), look for a combination that gives you rapid, efficient, controlled and instinctive presentation. That could be an inside-the-waistband (IWB) or outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster positioned on your hip, your center line (a.k.a., “appendix carry”) or your ankle. It might also be a pocket carry holster.  Or a holster inside a specially-made garment.

While there are plenty of viable options I do NOT recommend off-body carry. Off-body carry (e.g., in a handbag or briefcase) isn’t ideal for accessibility and it’s inherently dangerous. By the same token, not every carry system is suitable for every person, given their body shape, dress, motor skills, etc. The only way you’re going to know what works for you: try it.

If you can find a friendly gun store with a suitable holster selection, ask the owner if you can try various options with your safety-checked firearm, wearing the clothes that you intend to wear when you’re carrying. If not, you may have to join the tens of thousands of gun owners who’ve got shoeboxes stuffed with holsters that didn’t work out.

CONCEALMENT

A lot of gun people say “concealed means concealed.” In other words, they don’t want people to know they’re carrying a gun — especially in places where “gun muggles” might freak-out if they suddenly realize that they’re carrying a gun. If that’s you, choose a carry system (gun + holster) that hides your gun without “printing” (revealing itself by making an impression on the cover garment).

Again, it’s a process of trial and error, using various carry system with your normal clothes. All your clothes. You may have different clothing for different occasions that require different carry systems. A scrub-wearing doctor with an ankle holster may switch to an IWB holster when he changes into casual clothes. Women wear dresses, skirts, shorts and pants; all of which may require a different carry system.

That said, “printing” isn’t illegal, even in open carry-restricted areas. Second, 46 states allow some form of open carry, where you can wear your gun in plain view, without compromising accessibility for concealment. You can, for example, wear an OWB holster openly and cover it with your shirt when the law requires you to do so.

COMFORT

Gun guy Clint Smith once said a gun should be comforting not comfortable. Wrong. If your carry system isn’t comfy to wear, there’s less of a chance you’ll wear it. You may find yourself violating the first rule for winning a gunfight: carry a gun.

How do you know if a carry system will be comfortable all-day, through a range of activities (driving, walking, shopping, working in the backyard, carrying a kid, etc.)? You guessed it: you have to try it. Bringing us back to your personal Land of Misfit Holsters — an expensive place to visit.

It took me several holsters, a couple of hundred dollars and almost three months of concealing to be able to wear any outfit I want while concealing effectively and comfortably. It’s worth it. Good luck on your journey!

comments

  1. avatar Bourbon guzzler says:

    Who is that Clint Smith fella anyway? What does he know?

    1. avatar Del says:

      He coined the phrase “Incoming rounds have the right of way”. LOL.

    2. avatar Woody from ny says:

      Clint smith is a smart gun trainer, retired cop, ex soldier. He carries a 5″ 1911, not my gun of choice but I respect a man or woman who is willing to suffer some discomfort to carry the best tool possible. I myself compromise by carrying a G26. I don’t however laugh at those that carry a full size and extra mags…..and a first aid kit and flashlight and knife. No one needs these things until they do. Carry on.

      1. avatar Marc says:

        Question was rhetorical. Thanks for participating tho.

      2. avatar efred says:

        I’m partial to my XDm 3.8 in 40 S&W; it’s not wider than a 1911, but carries 16 rnds, is nearly indestructible, and has a grip safety. It’s securely stowed in a Crossbreed Super Tuck, with an extra forward rake, so the butt of the gun is no farther back than the muzzle. I believe it makes a high-waisted draw easier because you’re moving the gun forward as well as upward, at roughly a 45 deg angle.

        I have no bias against 1911s; my wife carries a Kimber CDP, and is very accurate with it.

  2. avatar Michael says:

    Off body is inherently dangerous but no discussion about retention holsters?

    1. avatar Kenniec47 says:

      I’ve tried several iwb holstgers and have settled on the Versacarry.

      1. avatar Richard says:

        Versa carry are fine except for those of us that carry Glocks. I am sure some out there use a Versa carry with a Glock, but it makes me nervous.

    2. avatar H says:

      I feel retention holsters are effective yet at a CC class the instructor asked why do we need retention if no one knows you have a gun.
      There’s a balance between these approaches because were I to end up upside down I don’t want anything falling out. 🙂

      The Aliengear IWB seems it would hold when upside down.
      The Safariland retention holster is excellent.

      I’d say taking CC courses from an experienced instructor is the best defense.

      1. avatar Michael says:

        Ever been in a CC class where the instructors tried to take your gun?

        1. avatar Somebody says:

          That seems rude – he should have one of his own!

        2. avatar Michael says:

          @ somebody. ….lol.

          Seriously though, I look at CC carriers with open top holsters and want to take their guns and beat them with them. Good thing I am a good guy I guess.

        3. avatar Hannibal says:

          Retention holsters add time to draw and some bulk. If you’re trying to conceal both work against you. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the retention when you firearm may become visible or you’re open carrying…

        4. avatar Don from CT says:

          Hanibal,
          You clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Yes, they add bulk. Sometimes. I bought a Safariland ALS holster about two years ago for open carry use. I’ve used it in every practical shooting and steel match I’ve shot in the last year and a half. I also used it in two 2 day classes that I took at Sig. Guess what. Its just as fast and instinctive as a standard holster. Your thumb naturally falls on the release then wraps around the grip as the gun comes up.

          If you don’t want to practice, the Safariland GLS is completely transparent. No training needed. Really. Its also no more bulky than a non-retention holster. I have a problem with it because it makes it difficult for me to get as high a grip on the gun as I like. But its a solid alternative for someone who wants some security without all the investment in time, as well as the extra bulk.

          I do use my GLS when I’m carrying a G19 under a T shirt in CT, where OC is legal. I call this casual carry. Anyone looking can clearly see that I have a gun. But nobody ever notices.

          I do this because this is the simplest way for me to carry. OC is a chore because I usually wear an untucked shirt. So whats simplest and most comfortalbe for me is an OWB holster with a polo or t shirt over it.

          Don

        5. avatar Partigiano says:

          How is an attacker going to take your gun away from you when it’s concealed under a shirt? If they can get under your shirt and successfully yank your pistol out of a tight Kydex holster, you’re probably screwed anyway at that point.

      2. avatar Don from CT says:

        Because sometimes you are “made”. Also, there is a chance you will end up with someone’s arms around you, at which point he will know you have a gun. Now the fight is for the gun. You can’t plan for everything, but you adjust your wear for conditions.

  3. avatar The Watchman says:

    Wow. Dumping on Clint Smith? But I’m sure you’ve been carrying much longer than he has. No gun is “comfy” to carry. The best gun is NOT the one you have with you. The best gun is the one capable of stopping the threat.

    Being adequately armed, looking fashionable, being “comfy.”

    Pick One.

    1. avatar Kyle says:

      I would disagree with that statement. After all, if you don’t have your gun at all then you can use the said gun to stop the threat. Ergo, the best gun to stop the threat is the gun you have with you. Aside from the caliber debate which is irrelevant to the topic, any gun in this case is better than no gun at all. That being said, you SHOULD carry a gun that is best capable of stopping the threat. You can always find a balance.

    2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      My bet is the best gun to stop a threat will not be in hand gun form. I mean, they make 300 win mags based on the AR-10 platform………….

    3. avatar max says:

      My 9mm “pocket rocket” (Kel-Tec PF9) is plenty comfortable to carry in several different modes of carry (pocket, iwb, owb). After 5 years with this gun I hardly notice it being there, but I definitely notice when it is not.

      But it can be hard to find pants with big enough pockets. I am not a “high fashion” person by any means, but easy enough to find clothes that work well and look good enough.

    4. It’s amazing how people will rationalize anything.
      Don’t use the most effective carry option because it isn’t the most comfortable but squeeze your feet into 6″ stilettos.
      Ask Ralph.

  4. avatar scooter says:

    642 in a Galco in my pocket in dress wear, 9mm Shield in a Spectre Concealment kydex for casual. Even though one is a revolver and one a semiauto, both are draw, aim, bang as needed.

  5. avatar Paul says:

    The biggest problem for most of is at work where concealed means concealed for real. Short of an entirely new oversize wardrobe I cannot conceal a double stack pistol. Even under an open sport jacket at a five o’clock location the piece bulges through, especially the grip. My solution was a TCP 738 in an open top Wallet holster (not one of those silly shoot through things). Not the largest gun nor the quickest for retrieval but workplace friendly. Fits in any pocket without looking like a gun. Second mag drops into an exterior jacket pocket. Any small .380 should work the same. I have decent aim within 10 yards and don’t mind the recoil.

    1. avatar Kelly says:

      In the suit and tie world, pocket carry is just the most practical. With a good “shrink wrap” polymer-style holster in the suit jacket or pant pocket, I find it the most comfortable while not being obvious. Just remember, you’re always wearing your pants, so favor the pants pocket!

  6. avatar Accur81 says:

    I think the only way to cover all the carry options is to have multiple guns and holsters. 9mm’s, .38’s, and .380’s come in small packages. Larger 9’s, .357’s, .40’s, and .45’s have more size, power, magazine capacity, and intimidation factor. And if trouble is eminent a good 12 gauge or AR (or both with AR-500 plate carrier loaded with spare mags) is the way to go.

  7. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    “Gun guy Clint Smith once said a gun should be comforting not comfortable. Wrong.”

    I don’t think Clint is wrong, I think you’re interpreting his meaning improperly. I don’t think he means you have to carry some 5 inch barrel hand cannon.

    I think he mean the mindset is suppose to outweigh the physical inconvenience. If you think carrying a gun is inconvenient, enough, no matter the size of the gun, then you won’t do it. I’ve known people who won’t constantly carry a pocket .380, which has nothing to do with the gun, and everything to do with the person’s mindset.

  8. avatar Fred says:

    Pretty much all you need is the Alien Gear IWB, OWB two-pack and Safariland 578 and you have concealed carry IWB, OWB and OWB open carry covered for pretty much any pistol on the market. My only gripe with Alien Gear is they don’t offer Velcro clips so new carriers need to buy the clips from Cross Breed. I am a professional and dress with a tucked in shirt and no jacket 5-7 days a week and conceal a P-07 without issue. If you really need concealment a belly band works pretty well in my experience. The most common mistake I see with concealed carry is getting a simple IWB clip holster that doesn’t spread the weight or bulk evenly. It’s amazing what a difference there is between the Alien Gear and a Safariland single clip IWB holster in terms of comfort and concealing.

    1. avatar Curtis says:

      Fred, what is better about Velcro clips versus the clips the Alien Gear holster comes with? I just got a pistol but I don’t have a holster yet, so I’m still new to all this.

  9. avatar docduracoat says:

    I carry a Thunder.380 cc after my wife took back her Walther PPK/S.
    I take it everywhere, including gun free zones.
    Going to the theater, I keep it in an ankle holster.
    I figure I will mostly be sitting and that makes for an easy draw while sitting.
    I mostly carry it IWB on my left hip in a sticky holster
    I am amazed about how well the sticky works with no clips or hooks.
    Spent the entire day at the fair with the kids, walking, sitting, even going on slow rides and the sticky worked great! It can also be used for pocket carry and keeps the gun from printing.
    At work I wear scrubs and violate my employers no gun policy by keeping it in my laptop case. I understand everything you say about off body carry, but I can’t take any chance of anyone seeing it…ever.
    Better to have it at hand in a case than not have it at all.
    That laptop is always in my hand or on the table next to me.
    I am certain that other workers violate the no gun policy as well.
    What do TTAG readers say?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “I am certain that other workers violate the no gun policy as well.
      What do TTAG readers say?”

      The wise ones won’t say anything… 🙂

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        Gun? What gun? I don’t own no guns.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      I am certain that other workers violate the no gun policy as well

      Inconceivable.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I don’t think that word……ah, nevermind.

  10. avatar Larry says:

    It’s easy for us men. I have two daughters an RN and a CPA, neither owns one pair of jeans like that with wide belt loops.

    Their work clothes are difficult to carry in , not that the RN would carry in the hospital anyway . Off the clock its gym clothes and yoga pants mostly , or dresses when going out .

    They’re armed at their apartments , and if they carry its a coat pocket or fanny pack which we all snicker at but does serve a purpose for some , some times I guess.

    1. avatar JW says:

      Scrub pants with front pockets, super fly holster with G26 works for me and others – either a stethoscope or a Glock is in the front right pocket. The Velcro attachment prevents printing. Yes, I have reached for my stethoscope, had to excuse myself, and then walked back to the helipad and exchanged the two at my car.

    2. avatar joel says:

      my wife uses a pistol wear holster and it works fine with yoga pants and i imagine it would work fine with scrubs. (it’s basically a neoprene fanny pack that sits under an untucked shirt. super tight shirts are a no go however….

  11. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Its probably taken me 25 years. Over a dozen guns with 2 or 3 milk crates of now useless holsters.
    But Ive found one size gun. 1911 Officers size, 9mm or 45 doesn’t matter. That I can wear 24/7 if needed comfy and securely. One brand of holster and it better never wear out as long as Im alive. No longer available. IWB in a tee shirt and jeans, Or a P238 or P938 as a substitute, With SHTF IWB. Same dress.
    Anyone can be comfy with OWB any gun and a jacket.
    Try living in the heat and humidity of Florida. Choices are extremely limited.
    Most important element of the deal.
    A for real gun belt.

    1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

      ^ Yep! Real gun belt, cause even a great holster is crap if the belt that supports it is crap!

  12. avatar Shwiggie says:

    Do yourselves a favor: get a good carry belt and a N82 Tactical holster to hang on it, and carry on.

  13. avatar VF 77 says:

    Man, i hope stealthgear hurries up and makes an onyx IWB for the new PPS M2. (Well, i guess they have time because i have to find one first haha). I’m thinking thats gonna be a sweet set up. (Even though RF gave it a bad rating because it’s ‘ugly’ and doesnt fit in the front pocket of his goofy jeans) 🙂

  14. avatar Grumpy says:

    LCP in pocket holster in front right pocket, ALWAYS. Jeans, shorts, pjs, lounge wear. ALWAYS. And I do not go to no gun zones that carry a felony charge if discovered. ALWAYS. Except during sex, then on nightstand or other handy place within reach. 😉

  15. avatar Mikele says:

    Running the M&P Shield 9mm (no external saftey) in the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 ITW holster. Its super comfortable & concealed with minimum printing at my 4:00. I’m a slim guy 5’6″ 140 and you cannot tell I’m carrying even while wearing minimum clothing. Great holsters for a better price than most others of the same type. Check out their features on their website! ???

  16. avatar Stoopid1 says:

    If I had tits, I’d conceal under/between there.

    1. Have you priced tits these days?
      Not worth it dude. You could get select fire and ammo to go with it at that price.

  17. avatar Fred says:

    The mandatory uniform at my no guns allowed workplace is pleated chino dress pants and a tucked-in button down dress shirt. I have front pocket carried an LCP in a non-printing Recluse holster every day for all of the years I have been there, and no one has ever even asked what is in my pocket.

    1. avatar Kelly says:

      I agree. This is the minimalist’s solution to printing.

  18. If I wrote this article for beginners, my top three suggestions would be:

    Get a holster customized for your specific gun. Leather or Kydex or hybrid is personal preference but it should be molded to the gun.

    Carry on body. ‘nough said. I will add that a good sturdy belt that fits the holster loops is as important as anything.

    Do not carry SOB (small of back).
    That’s better than off body carry, maybe. But that position has your gun as far away from the fight as possible. And when you are seated in your car, fuggettaboutit. I recommend appendix or strong side. I know the appeal of SOB carry comes from standing in front of the mirror and not seeing a bulge. But everyone else sees it.

  19. avatar Michael says:

    Want a good IWB holster check this out https://youtu.be/7-hcS5hpMCM

  20. Just sharing, my wife sold her Nano to a friend of ours and replaced it with the GLOCK 43. I bought her a Crossbreed appendix holster and decided to upgrade my rig so I got the Super Tuck for my GLOCK 19.
    This weekend we home carried our new setups and she actually took a nap with hers on. Now she has purse carried for three years but we are sitting in the dermatologist’s office and both comfortably strapped.
    Best way to change a woman’s mind? Buy her something new.

  21. avatar Brad says:

    Come on guys! The retention on a concealed carry holster is there for a reason. It prevents the firearm to fall out of the holster if say e.g. you trip and fall, in a car accident, stumble etc. If you’re worried about a bad guy taking it, then open carry and get a duty level II or level III and open carry.

  22. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    I suggest that women who jog wear gloves. The conceal glove should be over size. keep a 25 auto with Red Dots tucked in your palm with your thumb out and wrapped around the grip. Simple matter of puling your glove off and it is already in firing position.

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