Choosing the right method of carrying a concealed gun from the myriad of options isn’t a big deal, right? After all, the only downside of making the wrong choice is that it can get you killed.
That’s a harsh statement, but then again, carrying a gun is serious business. The various methods of concealed carry have pros and cons that you need to carefully evaluate and weigh against your particular routine. Choosing a carry method based on convenience or comfort alone can lead to a false sense of security, and that’s where the danger lies. If you ever need to use your gun in self-defense, your carry method needs to facilitate the act of you getting fast, reflexive, and consistent access to your gun in time to do something about the problem at hand.
For example, a gun stored in deep concealment under four layers of clothing will be secure and hidden, but if someone surprises you with a tap on the shoulder from behind, demanding your money or your life, is that buried gun going to help you? If your gun is in your purse on the passenger side floor, and a carjacker flings open your door at a gas station, is your gun going to help you? Those are just two simple examples among a universe of scenarios. It’s up to you to balance your daily routine against your carry method to make sure your choice makes sense.
With that said, let’s take a look at ten possible approaches.
Inside the waistband
This classic method works with pants, shorts, or skirt. Your clothing helps secure your gun to your body. As half the gun is underneath clothing, it’s relatively easy to conceal your handgun. Some inside the waistband holsters are “tuckable” meaning that you can tuck your shirt in over the gun’s grip. Belt clips will still be exposed, but most people won’t be staring at your midsection to notice. You will need a jacket or loose shirt to cover the grip of your gun. Access is quick and easy with training because the gun is positioned right near your shooting hand.
Outside the waistband
Offering access even easier and faster than inside the waistband carry, outside the waistband provides excellent access to your gun. On the downside, it takes more effort to conceal your handgun because none of it resides inside of clothing. You’ll need a longer jacket or shirt to cover it all up. If you choose this method of carrying without concealment (where the law allows) you run the risk of advertising your gun to those with less than reputable intent, so you’ll also have to worry about retaining control of your gun.
Bellybands are great options where you need total concealment but want to keep the gun accessible near your midsection. Bellybands also provide great flexibility for wardrobe choices as there is no need for a gun belt to provide support. The large band wraps around your midsection and features built-in pockets for the gun. You can wear the bellyband low or up higher to fit your clothing of the day. Be aware that to draw you’ll need to rip away your shirt or blouse to access your gun. As a result, bellyband carry may provide slower gun access than traditional belt methods.
If deep concealment is a requirement, check out undershirt holsters. Available for men and women, these compression shirts feature holster pockets under the arm on the side of the torso. The pocket, with or without a Velcro retention strap, offers great gun security because your arm covers all or most of the gun to help keep it protected and in place. The drawback is that it takes some work, and time, to reach your gun. You also have to train to avoid muzzling yourself, and whoever might be standing next to you during your draw. Lifting your shirt to access the gun is harder than you think and if your plan is to simply rip away the buttons, you might get a rude surprise. Unlike in the movies, it’s harder than you think. Consider replacing buttons with “faux” buttons that are really snap closures. Some defensive clothing vendors sell shirts made this way.
Ankle carry is a great option as long as you’re realistic about the pros and cons. Concealment is great if you carry a small gun. Who looks at other peoples’ ankles? Access is awkward and requires two hands and some moderate gymnastics, so don’t count on this method for speed. However, it is a fantastic way to carry a second backup gun – many law enforcement officers do exactly this. It’s also a good option for those who spend most of their day driving. Seatbelts can make waistband holsters problematic and uncomfortable, but it’s easy to reach an ankle holster from a seated position in a car.
Pocket holster carry also gets an A+ for convenience assuming you use a small handgun. As with pocketbook carry, always, always, always use a proper pocket holster to protect the trigger and keep the gun oriented properly for consistent access. Be sure to avoid putting anything else like keys or change in your gun pocket. It’s important to test (with an unloaded gun) the draw from each clothing pocket you intend to use. If a pocket opening is too small, you may not be able to remove your gun with your hand wrapped around the grip.
Remember that TV show Miami Vice? And perhaps every other classic cop and detective show? Many of those folks used a classic leather shoulder rig to carry a service revolver or pistol. It’s a comfortable setup, although you need to wear a blazer or jacket to conceal everything. Here are the issues to consider. With most rigs, your gun is pointed behind you, so you are muzzling anyone in that position. The potential for muzzling yourself or others exists when you draw as well. However, if you spend a lot of your day sitting or driving, it can be a great option.
While purse carry gets a gold star for convenience, there are serious drawbacks. Your gun is not always under your direct control. Anytime you set your purse down; it’s technically up for grabs to anyone from a thief to a child. You also run the risk of losing not only your valuables but your gun to a purse snatcher. With that said, if you choose to carry this way, always use either a purse with a purpose-built holster or a holster insert. It’s imperative to always use a proper holster in a dedicated pocket to protect the trigger from miscellaneous items and keep the gun consistently accessible.
No snickering, this method has some big benefits. Many of the companies that make undershirt holsters also offer compression shorts for men and women with holster pockets sewn in. The pocket material is thick, which protects the trigger, and you don’t need a belt. It's a great solution when you're wearing loose clothing to exercise. The idea is similar to that of a bellyband, but you save a step, so to speak.
While appendix carry is an inside the waistband method, we’re listing it separately as there are different pro and con considerations. This method uses an inside the belt holster placed in the front, around the one or two o’clock position. It works best for those with more slender frames. If you have some extra pounds around the waistline, you might find sitting uncomfortable when using an appendix holster because the gun grip can jam into your gut. Gun concealment and security are excellent, and the draw is exceptionally fast. On the flip side, you’ll want quality training to learn how to draw and re-holster safely. In the appendix position, the muzzle is pointed right at your femoral artery. When holstered, that’s largely irrelevant; it’s the process of drawing and holstering that you need to do correctly.
There are other options are out there, but these are the most common concealed carry methods. I don’t like to think of different carry options as “right” or “wrong.” The real answer is that which method is right for you depends very much on your lifestyle and daily routine. For example, if you spend your days on your feet, different methods may work better than if you are a full-time desk or vehicle driver. The important thing is to think through your carry method and potential threat scenarios, so you have a very realistic picture of which type of defensive actions your concealed carry method will support. Having a gun means nothing and won’t necessarily help you simply by its presence. Being able to retrieve and use it in a split second is what can make the difference. By all means work with a reputable defensive trainer to help make your carry decision, learn how to do it right, then continue to practice relentlessly.