If I ever go to Fallujah or someplace really dangerous, like, say, Dorchester, I’d like to be packing some serious heat. Along with other potentially destructive devices, I own a snub nose 638 Smith & Wesson .38 revolver and a compact Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber pistol. I carry the snubby all the time, the .40 not so much. The .40 has more power than my snubby and carries more rounds, but the snubby is more comfortable and easier to carry covertly. There’s the conundrum . . .
I tried carrying my pistol in my front pocket the way I carry the snubby (in a pocket holster, of course), but the pistol was neither invisible nor comfortable. It was just too heavy for pocket carry and the unsightly bulge made me look like I was auditioning for the male lead in a revival of “Boogie Nights.” Admittedly, that’s not the worst thing in the world and might burnish my already stellar reputation on Cape Cod. But if my honey was to ask, “is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me,” I think it would be rude to reply, “nah, it’s just a pistol.”
To balance firepower with concealment, I vowed to acquire and try various carry options for the pistol and to share my personal observations with y’all. My only criteria were that whatever I chose (i) had to be a commercial, in-stock item and not an artisan, custom or special order product, (ii) had to be wearable at the 3:00 position, and (iii) had to have a street price of thirty bucks or less, because I’m cheap thrifty.
My first experiment was with an outside the waistband concealment holster, which for a heavy-set guy like me is a total oxymoron. Fobus makes a contraption called the Roto Paddle Holster, which is their marketing guru’s name for a piece of plastic that’s made to be slipped over a belt and stuffed with a gun. The basic black Roto Paddle Holster matched the finish of my pistol, creating a classic ensemble that lacked only a strand of pearls for perfect evening wear. I decided to give it a try.
According to Fobus, their products were designed in Israel for military applications, so I figured the holster would be right at home as I ride my camel among the shifting sands of Cape Cod. Actually, the marketing gurus at Fobus seem to think that the company’s military connection is important, so I thought I’d mention it here.
What separates the Roto Paddle from some other plastic holsters is versatility. It can be worn in almost any waistband position one might choose. Three o’clock carry? Check. Cross-draw? Check. SOB? Yeah, and the same to you, pal. Upside down reverse between the legs? Check, check and check again. Loosen a screw, adjust the cant of the holster, retighten the screw and away you go. You can adjust the retention with another screw and you’ll only need one standard-size screwdriver to fine tune this holster to your liking.
How did the Roto Paddle work? Fairly well, though it could have been better. I was able to switch quickly from 3:00 carry to cross draw for use in my car, even without a screwdriver. The adjustable retention was a snap and the holster was so supremely comfortable, I hardly knew that I was carrying. Unfortunately, everyone else did. Fobus says it’s a “low profile” holster, but this Israeli rig sticks out like a pork chop at a seder. In fact, it was so obvious that I’d be better off duct-taping the pistol to my forehead and calling it a tiara. Still, I liked the Fobus. It’s my range holster of choice, and its Israeli military nexus will serve me well if I ever decide to invade Syria. It’s just not a concealment option for me.
My second experiment was the Galco Tuck-N-Go. The Tuck-N-Go, unlike the Slip ‘n Slide or the See n’ Say, is not sold at Toys R Us. I believe it was named either by a five year old or by a marketing twinkie who, at the time, was seriously abusing the chronic.
Since the Tuck-N-Go is an IWB holster, it gets carried inside one’s pantaloons. To secure the holster, the Tuck-N-Go boasts an ingenious fastening device called a J-Hook. In fact, it’s more properly called a “patented Generation III J-Hook,” according to the mastermind who wrote the copy for the Galco brochure. Foolish me, I thought that adding a numeral to a name lost its luster about the time of Police Academy II.
Galco properly advises that the holster may need a touch of break-in, and they really, really mean it. Like, really. When I first received it, the holster was tighter than a mouse’s . . . uh, let’s just say it was really tight. It took a few dozen attempts with an unloaded gun and a rubber mallet before I managed to ram the pistol home. Removing the gun took twice as much effort and a judicious application of Hoppes Elite Gun Oil. Retention should never, ever be an issue for this holster. Like, never. It took two days of working the holster to mold it to the gun. Holstering remained tough, but drawing was easy.
Here’s a tip for the gun cognoscente who may not know proper holstering technique for pistols. Using a conventional grip, move your thumb to the rear of the slide and use the thumb, not just the meat of your hand, to push the shootin’ iron into a tight holster. Your thumb will prevent the holster from inadvertently racking your slide, which could cause a jam. That could be dangerous, although it’s probably not as dangerous as frying bacon in the nude.
How did the Tuck-N-Go work? The first time I “tucked” this rig, I had to first cram the gun into the holster, then jimmy the holster into my trousers with the patented Generation III J-Hook properly positioned while sucking in my gut long enough to make room for the whole shebang. After performing several gyrations and throwing my back out, I managed to get everything together. The second time I wore it, I did not tuck it at all. Instead, I snapped my pants closed, positioned the holster and then cinched my belt as the grand finale. That method worked perfectly. Despite its name, this holster was not tuckable for me, but for skinny guys it might be.
Concealment was great. Covered by even a light shirt, the unobtrusive bulge near my right hip would be overlooked or, at worst, presumed to be an unusual cellulite deposit. But there was a rub, literally. For ease of re-holstering, the Tuck-N-Go is equipped with a sewn-in device that prevents the holster from collapsing even without the gun to hold it open. As an extra added benefit, the “reinforced mouth” fills out your belt to keep your pants up when you draw. That’s very important. If you don’t believe me, try running and gunning with your pants down around your ankles. It totally ruins your aim.
Unfortunately, the exposed seam of the reinforced mouth made the rig about as comfortable to wear as a length of concertina wire. You will need an undershirt between the Tuck-N-Go and your baby-soft skin. Also, ditch the banana hammock and buy some big-boy underwear. You’ll need that polished cotton to protect your skin everywhere that it might come into contact with the rough holster or your gun. I also advise anyone with a bit of girth who wants to carry IWB to buy their pants from the end of the rack, because they’re going to need extra-roomy duds.
As for the J-Hook, it works, and works well. The little hook of the J captures the bottom of the belt, so when the gun is drawn, the holster doesn’t come along for the ride. That’s a good thing, since brandishing a loaded holster is a felony in most states, a capital crime in Massachusetts, and in parts of the Ozarks it’s a marriage proposal. The top of the J-hook slides over the waistband of the pants, carrying the weight of the holster and gun. Finally, there’s enough space between the J-Hook and the body of the holster to tuck in one’s shirt, promoting the well-tailored look to which every stealthy gunslinger aspires. With a shirt tucked in, the little hook of the J is the only thing that shows, and with a black belt it’s unnoticeable.
Despite its shortcomings and with the previous cautions in mind, you will find that the Tuck-N-Go is very wearable, very concealable and reasonably comfortable. It’s a good holster, it’s cheap inexpensive and gets the job done.
Finally, everyone knows that carrying properly requires a purpose-built gun belt. My choice was a BlackHawk CQC, which was crafted in lizard-looking synthetics by the superb artisans of – wait for it – China! Yes, China, the home of children’s toys lovingly slathered in lead paint and dog food delicately seasoned with poisonous building materials. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Chinese quality is a contradiction in terms. However, despite my trepidations about Chinese products, the belt looked both handsome and well made.
How did the CQC work? Fine, and thank you for asking. Keep in mind that a gun belt isn’t intended exclusively for the menial task of maintaining one’s trousies in the fully upright and locked position. A gun belt needs to be sturdy enough to hold up a duty or off-duty rig complete with holster, gun, extra mags burdened with heavy ammo, a two hundred dollar rechargeable LED flashlight, pepper spray, a two-way radio, handcuffs, taser, laser, phaser, tricorder and perhaps a light lunch.
So, like many gun belts, the CQC is about as flexible as a steel barrel hoop and twice as thick. That’s as it should be. Only time will tell how well this belt will mold to my body and how durable it will be, but otherwise the CQC seems like a good bit o’ kit. Best of all, I got it on sale, so it was cheap inexpensive. Order yours a bit oversized so that it will accommodate your gear.
My compact Smith & Wesson .40 has finally been promoted from target-happy safe queen to every day cary. Still, for my money, nothing conceals better or more comfortably than a classic snub nose in an inexpensive Uncle Mike’s #3 pocket holster.