Back in the day, there weren’t many resources for questions about concealed carry. Simple trial and error taught me what did and didn’t work. These days, the Internet offers an enormous amount of concealed carry advice; some of it bad, most of it good, all of it fragmented.

The most important feedback I can give a new concealed carrier: think of concealed carry holistically. Think of carrying a firearm as a three-part system, where each part connects to form a comfortable, safe, secure and efficient whole.

Part 1 – It’s All About the Base (No Trouble)

Like layering in inclement weather, a good concealed carry system starts with your base. Your base includes the firearm, holster and belt.

Gun

Carefully consider what firearm you will start carrying. I emphasize “start” because your choice of handgun will evolve as you become a more experienced shooter and gain experience with the ins and outs of everyday carry.

A compact 9mm handgun holding a minimum of 10 rounds of ammunition is a great jumping off point. A small-but-not-tiny 9mm gun loaded with 10+1 rounds of powerful-but-not-overwhelming self-defense ammo enables reasonable concealment, controllable recoil, considerable accuracy and more-than-merely adequate “stopping power.”

Holster

There’s a huge not-to-say bewildering variety of holsters from which to choose, made from a wide range of materials, using a number of attachment systems.

IMHO new concealed carriers should stay away from anything other than a traditional holster worn on the hip (i.e., apex, pocket, shoulder and ankle holsters). While outside-the-waistband holsters are the open carrier’s friend, inside-the-waistband holsters offer optimal concealment.

Find a store that lets you try holsters before you buy. If you can’t — and even if you can — understand that holster selection is an ongoing process. Most gun owners have a shoebox or two full of rejected holsters. While it’s both expensive and time-consuming, it’s always best to leave uncomfortable and/or impractical and holsters behind as soon as possible, and move on.

Belt

A concealed carry belt needs to be rigid enough to support the weight of your gun and holster and hold up your pants. That’s not going to be your everyday dress belt. It’s a belt designed for the job. Gun belts come in several different widths and styles, many with built-in reinforcement. A good gun belt isn’t cheap but it’s well worth the money.

Part 2 – Your Lower Body 

Whether you wear dress pants, khakis, blue jeans or shorts, your pants should support the size, weight and shape of your gun, holster and belt.

If you’re carrying a gun in an inside-the-waistband holster, you may need to buy your pants a size larger than normal, to create enough extra space to fit your firearm. Make sure there are enough belt loops of the appropriate width (in a suitable position) to accommodate and support your gun belt.

Ideally, your front pockets should be horizontal to conceal supporting equipment such as knives and flashlights. The back pockets should be patch pockets without flaps or closure options, for those times when you need to carry additional equipment.

If you can’t or won’t change your wardrobe to “dress” around the gun, you may need to forgo my advice on the ideal starter gun and buy a slimmer, lighter gun in a smaller caliber with a lower capacity (e.g., a 7+1 Ruger LCP II). Or opt for an outside-the-waistband holster.

[Obviously this advice doesn’t apply to women carrying in a dress, skirt, yoga pants, etc. That’s the subject of a separate article.]

Part 3 – Your Upper Body

What you wear on the top half of your body helps conceal your gun and holster. There are two main considerations: visual and practical.

When someone can see an outline of your gun (or a part of your gun) even though it’s covered, that’s called “printing.” It’s not illegal, but it’s not ideal. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid “printing.” Shirts in a dark or neutral color are better for disguising a firearm’s bulge or sharp corner, as are shirts with stripes or broken patterns.

Whether your upper body’s covered by a single layer or multiple layers, whether your shirt is button down or open front, you need to be able to retrieve your firearm from under your cover garment quickly and efficiently. That takes a careful combination of gun, holster, belt and clothing — and a lot of practice.

Many people decide to carry a concealed firearm without realizing that they have to create a discreet, comfortable and efficient concealed carry system. A goal that requires an interplay of equipment and dress, and a great deal of experimentation. Trial and error. Time and money. Given the stakes, both well spent.

12 Responses to Jeff Gonzales: Concealed Carry For Beginners

  1. The two that stand out to me are…

    Belt—I use to run through the 20 dollar belts in about 3 months. They would deform, bend, or break and never did a good job of supporting the weight of the gun. I finally ponied up for a 60 dollar purpose built and properly reinforced belt about 2 years ago and have still yet to replace it.

    Holster—I also made the mistake of thinking I could skimp on the holster with the 20 dollar Uncle Mikes nylon specials. After much trial and error I found that holsters are another “buy once cry once” item. Any of the 40-80 dollar kydex jobs will do from G-Code, Bravo, or your local quality kydex magic man.

  2. Tulster or Yeti Holster
    Mean Gene Leather — MGL “Victory Aegis” Belt
    Normal pants and shirt — don’t be the “shoot me first” guy

  3. Thanks for a good article. Actually just bought my first pistol. Taurus PT111 G2. Checked a lot of my boxes including a series of generally positive reviews and excellent price for this newbie.

    I am not overly anxious and am willing to put in time to learn the basic techniques of shooting in concert with concealed carry. I appreciate good shooting sites that are thorough with reviews but would like to follow a few of the channels or people you all respect as it relates to advice/pitfalls, drills and routines that I can incorporate.

    Thanks again for a really solid article.

    Cris (48)
    Florida

  4. Not mentioned is where to carry the gun on the waist. Many folks find the appendix placement the most comfortable with best access standing or sitting, most concealable and most secure (from being snatched). The absolute worst place to carry is the one most often seen on TV or in movies, tucking it into the back waistband over the spine. It’s difficult and slow to reach, the extra movement required gives the bad guy ample warning and time to react and anyone can come up from behind and snatch the gun away because the shirt or coat can ride up exposing the gun to view without your knowledge.

  5. Crossbreed has a 2 week holster trial period. Their holsters are well constructed and come with a lifetime warranty. I’ve carried a 1911 in one along with a Belt Man reinforced belt for 7 years and both have held up fantastically.

  6. A good, informative article. A couple of issues I think should have been included: 1) Fit of the gun to the user’s hand. This is crucial to proper technique and accurate shooting. I don’t see nearly enough information about how to choose a gun that fits your hand. 2) Recoil management. Not everyone can handle the recoil of a compact 9mm. Some people are better served by a .380 or even a .32. As Clint said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

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