One common approach to everyday carry of a handgun involves carrying a different model or even different platform in different carry positions or using different carry methods, all depending on the circumstances, weather, and clothing. There is some concealment logic to this approach, but I’m going to argue against that as a long-term strategy. Instead I advocate carrying a single larger gun model, no matter the context or your clothing. There’s a learning curve and experience factors involved, but I believe that anything else introduces unacceptable compromises of concealment and defensive capability.
First, the problem. A common, contextual approach to everyday carry typically involves something like this:
- a larger gun and a backup magazine in winter, carried in one’s default carry position, when heavier clothes make concealment easier
- a smaller gun and no backup magazine in summer, when lighter clothing make concealment more difficult, possibly carried in a different position than in cooler months
- a smaller, single-stack gun and no backup magazine for formal dress, when a tucked-in shirt and thinner fabrics make concealment and carrying extra gear more difficult, possibly carried in a different position than with informal attire
- a larger gun and one or two backup mags for potentially more dangerous contexts (like going into the city or to a movie theater with the family)
Surely not all concealed carriers do all of these things, but my reading and conversations indicate that almost all concealed carriers make some or all of these contextual changes (and I was one of them). For many people, however, these changes are unnecessary. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe they work against better concealment rather than helping it. Moreover, these supposedly advisable contextual changes are in many ways detrimental to competent self defense.
I advocate for a larger size carry gun (the largest you can carry), carried one way, in one position only, in all contexts and weather, and with all kinds of clothing. Having done this myself, I can tell you that it is economically beneficial and enhances concealment, confidence, and competence. It makes my everyday concealed carry lifestyle simple and reassuring. In peaceful times, this approach offers fewer opportunities for me to exhibit physical behaviors (telltales for concealing something) that pique the interest of those looking at me. Should violence threaten, it offers surety and the opportunity for an unambiguous and unfettered automatic response.
Aside: Note that in the hero photo for this article, I’m carrying my Glock 19 (a 15+1-capacity, mid-sized pistol) right in front in appendix position. No one in public would know.
Why a larger carry gun?
Concealed carry is not about what is likely to happen. As I’ve observed before, one carries a concealed weapon for what is highly unlikely to ever happen. When something terrible or threatening does happen, we have no say in its context or severity. It’s easier to be competent with a larger gun than with a smaller gun, especially as the number of threats and the engagement distance varies.
The rise of Islamic terrorism means that we are living in a war that could erupt at any time in any public place. Concealed carry used to occur almost exclusively in the context of providing a means of defending against, most likely, one or two threats at very close range. Modern concealed carry is wartime concealed carry. It is potentially about defending yourself and possibly your family against five or six terrorists armed with automatic rifles and suicide-bomb vests, at ranges far greater than 5 yards. In such a horrible scenario you may not be able to escape and instead have to fight your way to safety. This is not to say that one must approach concealed carry to account for such a scenario, but rather that the potential exists and one may want to responsibly prepare toward the needs of a difficult and unthinkable context.
Why one carry position/method only?
If you carry your primary concealed handgun in different locations and with different carry methods depending on context or clothing, that means you have to train to be subconsciously competent bringing your gun into the fight from each of those positions and methods, with all of those different kinds of clothing—AND—defending your gun in all of those positions (retention against an attempt to take it from you). It means you have to have to accumulate thousands upon thousands of practice reps from each of those positions, with all of those different kinds of clothing; dry reps and live-fire reps.
As one who trains almost every day, I can tell you that I barely have time to keep up with requisite training and practice from just one carry position and method (with all kinds of clothing). If I had to multiply my training by two or three different positions & methods, there’s almost no way I could develop sure competence and confidence. But even if I could, there would be one issue remaining: my unthinking, automatic response in a panicked moment of crisis. I simply wouldn’t have a sure response to get to my gun.
When I began competing in pistol competition, I trained to get my draw from holster smooth, fast, and sure as I began to engage targets. What I found, though, was that my training to draw from my OWB holster on my hip conflicted with my training to draw from my IWB concealed holster in front of my body for everyday carry. By training, I was effectively muddying the waters and ensuring I would be confused, wrong, or tentative when it came to drawing the right way from the right location depending on the circumstance. My training two different ways made sure I had no proper, automatic response. I faltered in both situations on a regular basis.
Because of this and because my life was more important than my match results, I resolved to compete only where I was allowed to run from concealment at all times. That way all of my training was concentrated on the one way I would get to my gun should a deadly threat arise. I put it to you that if you practice getting to your primary gun at different carry locations, you’re training your mechanics, but destroying any chance of an automatic response in a moment of crisis.
Practice makes permanent. For your emergency draw from concealment, when you’ve no time to think, you’re going to have one and only one intuitive response. If you train to draw from two or three carry positions, which one is going to be the one you go to in an unthinking, panicked manner? Will it be the one where your pistol is right now? No, there’s no way to know that. It’s going to be the one you practice the most. Therefore, there should be one and only one carry method and position for your primary defensive weapon.
Many of us carry more than one defensive weapon, even more than one handgun at a time. A backup gun means carrying in a different location than your primary, but the defensive context is different for a BUG and is not contextual to or compromised by what I’m advocating here. With a primary gun of a single model, a BUG should be of either the same model or at least the same platform as your primary.
Why only one model, or at least one platform?
For the same reasons mentioned earlier; training allows us to develop competence with automatic, subconscious technique. We can develop one automatic response, but not two or more. Different platforms (e.g. 1911 and Glock) demand different initializing actions as we bring the firearm into the fight and as we reholster. As responsible gunmen, it is required that we accomplish these tasks automatically, correctly, and safely. We can think our way though variations, but only if we remember to do so (which, as history shows, doesn’t happen in a stressful situation).
Therefore, the vast majority of our training should be with a single platform and, ideally, a single model of handgun. Only in this way will one be able to develop safe, subconscious, automatic competence.
Toward Better Concealment
Concealment is as much about skill as it is about anything else, including clothing and gun size, but it helps when you can concentrate on a single firearm model, a single carry method, and single carry position. By skill I mean competence with how to stand, how to walk, how to run, how to work, how to engage in all manner of physical activity without betraying your concealment and without looking odd doing it.
With experience one can learn to determine the optimal carry position for all circumstances, the optimal gun angle for that location, and the optimal ride height for the gun, all to maximize concealment and comfort with any kind of clothing. Skill and experience aside, equipment can contribute substantially to proper concealment. Here are a few advisable components:
The Right Holster:
Concealment for any firearm will be impractical or even impossible without a holster of proper quality and geometry. The right holster should be 100% Kydex and not leather or some combination of leather or rubber and Kydex (“hybrid” holster). The holster should be one that has a proven track record of retention, longevity, proper belt grip, location stability (stays where it’s put), and it should provide proper angle on all 3 axis—inherently or with built-in adjustment.
Very few holsters meet these important requirements. In my experience, for IWB, only the Incog Eclipse and Incog Shadow Eclipse holsters and the Raven Concealment Eidolon holsters are made to conceal properly, retain well, and stay in place. Moreover, they’re adjustable. Note that only the Incog holsters are comfortable to wear and easy to don and remove. It is also easy to train with (for repeated draws and reholsters). The Eidolon conceals very well, but it’s rather less comfortable and difficult to put on and take off. It is also not so great for repeated draw-reholster reps in training. In time you will learn from experience exactly what suits your individual preferences and needs, and you may discover a suitable holster I’ve missed here, but for now you might simply start with one of these systems as a first step.
One must have a reasonably flat belly to find the greatest advantage to appendix-position carry. This position allows for a larger gun because the front of your body is squishier than the side or back of your body. The position allows for a natural, fast, and easy deployment of your gun and is far easier than any other position for defending your gun from someone trying to get it. Note that if you’re a man you will have to learn how to arrange your anatomy to maintain comfort when carrying in this position (I see many who neglect this aspect and needlessly reject appendix carry).
Caveat: I recommend appendix carry only for experienced, safe gun handlers who train every week from concealment. If you don’t get a hundred or so live-fire reps from concealment every week, choose a different carry position. It could save your life.
A Rigid Gun Belt:
A belt made specifically for everyday carry allows for better concealment and easier belt-carry of a heavier gun and items like backup magazines, trauma gear, or a phone (or all of these).
Backup Magazine Pouch(es):
Habitually carrying backup magazines is a baseline responsible approach to EDC. Two magazines is no more difficult to conceal than one, so carry two as often as you can (I do this every day). Get good, concealable pouch models, like those from Gunfighters, Inc. and Bravo Concealment. Since these are OWB items, they’re not appropriate for when you’ve tucked in your shirt. In such cases, pocket carry of a backup is a good option.
Advisable Clothing Conventions:
Learning to carry concealed well means learning to adapt your wardrobe to your responsible purpose and lifestyle. Concealed carry is easier when you wear darker and/or patterned shirts that are un-tucked, and pants with more/better pockets. Practice concealing your pistol with a tucked-in, more formal shirt. Yes, practice matters and the confidence you’ll gain will help, too.
You may have to adopt some changes in your clothing routine. You may have to start wearing an undershirt every day. You may have to stop wearing white shirts. You may have to switch your brand of jeans or other pants. You may even have to change the size of t-shirt you normally wear. These are small things in the face of a choice between a responsible or irresponsible lifestyle.
Make This Your Everyday Approach
One carry gun in one position for all contexts means 1) less money spent on other guns, 2) less money spent on ammo of various calibers, 3) no need to feel less competent with a particular gun at longer ranges, 4) focused and practiced competence for concealing your firearm (individual skill), and 5) Surety for reacting successfully and safely when you need to deploy your gun for defense.
If you live in one manner most days then abruptly change your clothes and/or physical mannerisms, people in your life tend to notice. You don’t want people to notice conspicuous differences so don’t portray conspicuous differences. It is advisable that if you’re going to live responsibly armed, adapt your daily conventions to accommodate your approach, holistically.
Make these aforementioned components your conventional, daily norm and you’ll find it easy to live more responsibly while having the mental surety and physical reliability of having but one habitual response for deploying your weapon should deadly circumstances arise. Moreover, you’ll find that you’re able to settle on a single, larger, more accurate firearm with better capacity for all carry contexts.
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