I’ve spent a large amount of my life believing myself invincible. No matter the injury or damage, I just wrapped it up, sucked it up, and kept running. There’s a mindset among many of us who have served that there isn’t anything more powerful than iron will. It was the Riddle of Steel. You know, Conan the Barbarian? The answer to the riddle is that steel is nothing compared to the flesh that wields it. The thing is, we’re all falling apart, some faster and sooner than others.
My downhill slide began after I turned 25. It was little things here and there that I began to notice. Soreness. Strain. Just general pain. Eventually my right knee went. It began as a little clicking at first. Then it became a full-on grinding in the joint. My ankle was next, followed by my hip. A short while later, my whole lower spine became enflamed and I was essentially immobilized and unable to even walk comfortably.
The problems that I began to encounter were many and varied. I had a layer cake of multiflavored crap on my table and I didn’t even know where to begin eating it. I required a leg brace on my right knee. That wasn’t so bad because Mad Max wears a leg brace and he’s about as badass as they come. Or so I told myself.
The compounding complications were a result of years of neglecting a huge number of serious injuries and poor workout habits. I was super strong for my size and extremely fast, even capable of running a near-four minute mile back in my heyday. But I never took the time to properly stretch and build all the little micro muscles along the spine and other areas of my body. The problems stacked up and the camel’s back eventually broke. I can’t run any longer. I can’t lift like I used to. I found myself with diagnosed hypomobility, worn cartilage in many joints, and no way to carry a gun comfortably.
I never imagined that my lower leg injuries would have an impact on my ability to carry a gun. I’ve carried since the day I turned 21, always inside the waistband on my right side. Wearing my pistol became a lesson in self-torture. It eventually got so bad that I stopped carrying a gun at all.
I needed almost a half a year of physical therapy, chiropractor visits, and daily maintenance to become healthy again. In that time, I stopped packing and began doing research into carry with disabilities. I don’t consider myself to be disabled, but I was certainly not able to do the things I was used to doing. What follows are some of my findings and opinions on carry with a disability and how to transition your mind when adapting to a challenging physical situation.
ON BODY OR OFF BODY?
When I began this ordeal, I only owned full-size pistols. All my guns were large and heavy SIG SAUER .45ACP P227 or 1911 models. I’d given up on GLOCK a while back and taken a liking to the SIG brand.
This wasn’t a bad decision. I loved .45ACP and I loved what the guns offered. I carried a 1911 in a shoulder holster for quite a while. It was my favorite way to carry the large pistol and made me feel pretty cool. But back problems tend to work their way up your spine, and I was unable to deal with the weight on my neck after a serious tear happened one day out of the blue.
Since carry on my hip was already out of the question and shoulder carry was nixed, I began to carry off-body. This made it so that I didn’t have to worry about concealment, but it presented other problems.
Carrying a backpack around isn’t all that much fun and neither is toting a man bag. You get weird looks and it just gets in the way all the time, at least it did for me. I discovered that many places don’t bat an eye at a woman with a large purse, but they pay very careful attention to a guy with a bag. Having eyes on you isn’t the point of carrying concealed. There are also many places that don’t allow bags or backpacks.
I practiced with draws and speed. After nearly a month of dealing with it, I concluded there was arguably nothing redeeming or worthwhile about carrying off-body. Some will debate me on this, but it’s not a smart thing to do and is a bigger liability than it is a benefit. Having the gun and being able to draw the gun are very different things, I discovered.
There are professionals who say you should always carry no matter what, but these guys are basically the same mall ninjas that carry around an AK-47 and ten mags in a racket case in public and act like that’s a normal thing to do. Other pros say that carrying a gun should be comforting, not comfortable, but that advice is also a six-piece serving of chicken McBullcrap. Don’t harm yourself with the idea that you will prevent future harm by having your gun. Accept your limitations and adapt.
BULK AND WEIGHT- THE CROSSROADS OF CCW
I ended up selling off all my SIGs. I don’t hold onto guns emotionally and decided it best to move them along to fund other options. The first thing I had to do was rationalize weight and power. I had gone months without a gun and I found my psychology was altered as a result. I’d grown dependent on my pistol to feel alright in public, but the sensation of nakedness passed after a while going unarmed. I was far happier to not have that brick on my hip or in my bag.
It’s my opinion that if you’re carrying with physical weight limitations, your pistol must weigh a pound or less loaded and be of .38 caliber or similar. I have found that the .38-bore cartridges available today offer the best power-to-weight ratio. My favorite cartridges for carry are 9×19, .380ACP, and .38 Special and my research into other people’s carry methods proved this, but more on that later.
Why those options? Why not .40S&W or .357 Magnum? In short, the types of guns that allow for what I’m going to call ‘effortless’ carry generally don’t lend themselves to these more powerful rounds.
Since I know you all love it when I write about calibers and velocity, I’ll give you a little bit to chew on: .357 is a waste in a snubby. The .38+P is a better option given that there’s virtually no difference in projectile velocity and you’ll only be using said gun at nearly point blank range anyway. Plus, many .357 snubs weight much more than their .38 brothers and that is a point of concern.
So how come a pound or less is the magic number? I’ve found over months and many different guns that a pound or less is the amount of weight that carries in a standard pant pocket without causing irritation or fatigue. Everyone carries weight differently, but weight adds up quickly in your pockets.
When I figure in my phone, keys, wallet, and a 642, I’m looking at about two pounds. Any more than two pounds causes sagging of the pants and thus strain on the lower back and hips. Balancing the weight is also critical in preventing pain. You don’t want one side dragging and causing irritation and then more actual problems.
OPINIONS ON POCKET CARRY
I’m going to put it right out there: I don’t carry with a pocket holster or any holster at all. I carry Mexican with my G17 all the time and pocket carry my 642 and G42 daily. I’m not a member of the camp that believes you need a holster for daily carry.
Now is the time when you reference some “look at that idiot” article you saw on MSN or tell me that I got my cues from the set of Sons of Anarchy. But you know what? Holsters are slow when you pocket carry.
I tried out a variety of pocket holsters and found that nearly every single one was a massive pain in the ass and a hindrance to a smooth draw. That may sound like an over-generalization, but pocket holsters are a gimmick and a waste of money and may actually be as bad an idea as off-body carry. I’m a pretty good evaluator when it comes to analyzing gun products, and I couldn’t find a pocket holster that I could recommend and keep a straight face.
The only thing that a pocket holster does is keep the pistol straight in the pocket…sometimes. Over several pairs of pants and shorts, there wasn’t one brand of pocket holster that didn’t rotate, come out with the gun, or cause a malfunction. My advice is simple. Slide that piece into the pocket and go about your business.
When it comes to pocket carry, smoother is better This may seem like obvious advice, but you wouldn’t believe how many people ignore it. Buy a smooth gun. No exposed hammers.
I want to pull my hair out when I hear salesmen tell inexperienced shooters that they can shoot their snub revolver single-action since it has a hammer. That hammer is 100% a liability. It’s a backwards-facing barb that catches on just about everything. A pocket gun needs to be light and smooth.
Minimalism is key to keeping weight down. I hear guys complain about the 642’s small fixed sights. If you want a target gun, get one. If you want a self-defense gun, keep it simple. My biggest complaint about the SIG P938 and P238 are their safeties, sights, and hammers. I hate safeties on my guns and a pocket gun is no different. I want a trigger. Only. No bulky sights, no sharp corners, no bells, and no whistles.
So here’s the deal. This advice goes against much of what you may know and understand about carry. There are gentlemen I know personally who carry a full-on RMR-equipped G34 with a cut down grip, three mags, and an assemblage of assorted garbage with them wherever they go. I’ve seen everything in this industry and most of it makes me cringe to the point of breaking my teeth. I will tell you now that pocket carrying a five-shot revolver is simple, fast, and pain-free.
Now, since nearly all of you have likely found something to disagree with in the above opinions, let me break it down for you in terms of numbers. I spent a large amount of time in various area gun stores or ranges looking for disabled people. That sounds like a weird thing to do, but sometimes you just have to make everyone a little uncomfortable.
I interviewed exactly 100 people who I observed to be physically disabled in some way. Demographics of these people were as follows: 35 people 21-35, 30 people 36-60, 19 people 61-80, and 16 people over 81. Of the 100, 20 were women and at least two were in each category.
I asked the people a few questions about their methods of carry. They were simple questions and gave me a good amount of data to work with. I asked:
-Do you carry concealed?
-How do you carry?
-What type of weapon do you carry?
-Why do you carry the weapon you do?
-Do you feel comfortable with your ability to defend yourself?
I’ll sum this up in easy to digest chunks with no graphs. The information may surprise you, much as it did me. Don’t get on me about percentages, either. I rounded to make it easier to read, so you’re welcome in advance.
-80% of women carry in my sample. 80% of women surveyed who carry a gun carry a revolver, and out of that 90% carry a .38 Special. 100% of the women who carry do so off-body in a purse or bag.
-The primary reason for off body carry was comfort. However, a 60% majority of those who carry off-body feel that they would have time to draw when in danger.
-A surprising 60% of men with disabilities carry, but just not often. Primary reason: ‘the guns I have are hard to conceal’ or ‘small guns aren’t good for self-defense’. Let me run that past you in layman’s terms. That means that a majority of disabled men would rather have no gun than carry a small gun.
-A full 100% of the disabled men age 61-80 and 81+ don’t believe that anything less than .45ACP is adequate for carry. However, these two groups had the lowest rate of carry at only around 20%. The guys in these age categories again stated that they would carry, but the size and weight of the weapons they owned made it prohibitive.
-Most people in the 21-35 group had injury-related disabilities from accidents or sports with most expecting to eventually recover. People in the 61-80 and 81+ groups had a majority with degenerative conditions or permanent disabilities.
-Pocket carry in a holster was rare. Only three individuals carried in a pocket holster. Their reason for the holster? Printing.
-Men and women in the 21-35 group had a fascination with ‘fat’ guns like the GLOCK 26.
-Turns out I’m not crazy when it comes to holsters. Of the individuals that carried in the pocket or bag, only 10 individuals used a holster, including those using pocket holsters. Sure, you could skew it and say that 33% of those who carry in a holster use a pocket holster, but it was only 3% of my sample.
-Curiously, the 61-80 and 81+ men groups had a nearly universal opinion that marksmanship was more important than capacity and had a very positive view of the 1911, but didn’t think that modern pistols or .38s are worth anything for self-defense. However, they are the group that is least likely to carry.
-When asked about caliber and capacity and their comfort with their weapon, 100% of women felt that their weapon was suitable for the task and didn’t carry additional ammunition or magazines. Of the men who carried, fully half didn’t feel that their weapon was suitable or their caliber powerful enough, but only a third carried an additional magazine or extra cartridges. Additionally, all the women interviewed felt that they could operate their firearm under stress with ease, while less than half of the men felt the same way.
-Unlike women, nearly all men who carry tote a semi-automatic.
-Sadly, only 10% of all people, so 10, felt that the gun industry had caught up with their needs.
I began to form a pretty good picture of carry for a surprisingly large number of people based on my results. I found that many men who suffer from physical disabilities don’t feel safe. I think this is based on a feeling of vulnerability or being stuck and unable to fight back.
The men I talked to didn’t feel that carrying ‘only’ five shots was enough and that even .38+P would simply piss a bad guy off. On the flip side, women who carry felt bolder and more confident with their gun and carried on a far more regular basis.
I noticed a very distinct trend among men in that there was a reluctance to ‘downsize’ in terms of gun and caliber. I really imagined that this survey would result in nothing but a catfight between fans of the .380 and the 9×19, but I was wrong.
This is much more of a standoff between those who actively carry the .38 Special and those who can’t give up the idea that .45ACP is the end-all, but don’t do anything but carry an opinion.
Unlike me, it seems people didn’t have problems with off-body carry. Its such a common carry method that I’d say it was the norm for virtually all women, disabled or not.
Most women are also more gun-savvy than I’d imagined. Of those who carried revolvers, Smith & Wesson and Ruger hammerless models were the most common. It’s safe to say that there is a strong likelihood that the quintessential carry gun of the modern woman is the hammerless .38+P.
Another difference between men and women in this sample was their impression of carry. Those men infected with a bad case of the Brownings were very concerned with accuracy at distance and firing after presenting the gun.
In a sense, the men were virtually all under the impression that it was about the fight, as if they were imagining that there would be time to aim and shoot at a torso at seven yards or more. Nearly all men were at least somewhat concerned with their sights or accessories.
Women were almost universally under the impression that their situation would be close and violent and preferred guns that wouldn’t malfunction when pressed into a body or were difficult to operate under stress.
My eyes have been opened. As it turns out, physically disabled women may be some of the most practical concealed carriers around. Keeping with that, I also found that there were little things that I hadn’t considered. One young mother who had a complicated pregnancy stated that she carried her Smith 442 because the heavy pull made it safer around her other young children in her mind.
Men are a sensitive bunch. Many are stuck in their ways or are reluctant to make a change in their lives to protect themselves. Please, guys, don’t let ego get in the way of you carrying. Accept your disabilities and move on.
My physical limitations have made me see the carry idea in a different light. It’s my belief that every American has a right to carry a weapon, especially those who have disabilities that make them more vulnerable to attack. I would love to see the gun industry take the steps to produce weapons and products that cater to those who are sometimes silently suffering or avoid aspects of their lives because they feel they can’t protect themselves.
In my next article, I’ll explore a variety of products that have been specifically recommended to me by people in my sample group. Stay tuned and carry on.