Concealed carry is a complicated endeavor, with all sorts of things to learn and think about in order to do it successfully. For the practical issue of how you actually strap that gun onto your body and keep it hidden unless and until it’s needed, here are five tips to get you well on your way to successful concealed carry
The Top Priority for Concealed Carry
Tip I: Safety, Safety, Safety
Safety is always number one when it comes to guns, and concealed carry doesn’t change that. It’s highly preferred to not just stick a gun in a pocket or waistband and carry on. Your top priority needs to be ensuring that you put the gun in a holster that protects the trigger from being accidentally pulled. A hard-sided holster made out of Kydex, plastic, or stiff leather is a good start, to ensure that some foreign object like a grabby child’s finger or the corner of a table can’t press the trigger. The holster should also hang on to the gun so it can’t fall out when it is properly worn and you are moving around, which usually means picking a holster that is specifically made for your firearm instead of a generic or universal option.
For concealed carry, using friction to keep the gun in the holster is normally fine if you’re sticking with hard-sided holsters. Soft holsters require extra features to protect the trigger and keep the gun in place, so staying away from them is easiest when you’re just starting out. You also will want a holster that stays firmly attached to you or your clothing. It’s not helpful if the gun stays in the holster if the holster itself doesn’t stay secure. Finally, it’s important to be able to quickly and safely access your gun if and when you need it, so no wondering where your holster is on your body and no digging for the grip, which can make you fumble the gun when you draw it. If you decide you want to carry in a purse or bag, there’s extra work to meet these requirements and to keep the entire bag under your control at all times. Since that’s hard, start by focusing on carrying on your body, especially because you can be successful with that option using the rest of these tips. All of these features, and any new piece of concealment gear, are best tested with a completely unloaded firearm, while following all of the standard gun handling safety rules.
Where To Start With Concealed Carry
Tip II: How to start to carry
Start your concealed carry journey by addressing what’s known as the “80% problem.” It’s tempting to try to find the concealed carry solution that will work with every type of outfit you wear, in every situation you might want to have your gun with you. Let me ask you something, though: how many outfit types do you wear more than a few times a week? Chances are pretty good that there are only a few that are seen on you most of any given week, and maybe even less if you take out clothing you only wear in places where you won’t carry due to law, policy, or personal choice. Those everyday clothes are where you should start and focus your concealed carry journey. If you can make your holster and gun combination something you can shoot well, and be comfortable and well-concealed with what you wear the most, you’ll have a solution for the majority of your time. You’ll also have learned a little bit about what you need to do to get comfort and concealment in general, and be able to apply those principles to your other outfits. This way, you won’t spend lots of effort chasing a solution that’s truly only necessary or workable for special occasions. Instead, for those times, you can choose a holster or carry method that won’t work in your regular life but might be okay for just a couple of hours or within those specific settings. Just like you might choose to suffer with uncomfortable shoes for a special date night, you might also compromise with a smaller, more difficult to shoot gun in a less accessible holster to go with your little black dress.
Concealed Carry is a Math Problem: Here’s How to Solve It.
Tip III: How to Solve for physics
Learning physics and geometry will help you figure out almost every concealed carry challenge you run into. Wait! Don’t click away in disgust quite yet. I’m not talking about the boring and difficult classes from school, but the physics and geometry of concealment. Making concealed carry work for you is as much science as art, and there are rules and principles that you can learn and follow to get the best possible results relatively quickly. See, it’s all about managing the interaction between your body and your gun, using the holster and other tools. Placing the gun on your body so that the gaps between them are minimized or filled in is key, both to keep the gun from sticking out too far away from your body, and to make you more comfortable with fewer edges and protrusions poking at you. While it seems like the most minimal holster you can find would be ideal here, that’s usually not the case. Instead, you should focus on placing the gun in a “sweet spot” where it lies flattest across your body, then use tools like wedges and wings and belts to fill in the spaces between the curves of your body and the flatness of your gun, and to support the holstered gun in that position. With very small guns, you may also need to try longer holsters, to counterbalance the weight of the gun so that it is correctly supported behind a belt and doesn’t start tipping out (the so-called “keel effect”). Together, this all means that yes, certain guns can be too large for certain individuals to easily conceal because of the proportions of their bodies, but it also means that you can make surprisingly large guns hide on small people if you know exactly how to apply the rules. As you work through applying these rules and principles, remember that even small adjustments can have a big effect.
What “Dressing Around the Gun” Really Means
TIP IV: How to dress to carry
It’s not what most people think. Shapeless, baggy clothing isn’t necessary to hide a gun and holster that have been set up for optimal concealment. In fact, clothing that is too oversize can snag on the gun and make it more obvious that it’s there, or look hopelessly out of place in your environment and make others suspicious about what you might be hiding. However, you also can’t wear skintight or otherwise revealing clothes and then complain about printing, which is what we call being able to see a bump, outline, or other indication that there is a gun you’re trying to hide under what you’re wearing. A good rule of thumb is that successful concealment requires clothes that don’t let you see features of your body or other clothing or accessories - like a belt buckle - underneath them. Instead, like the three bears, the answer is somewhere in the middle, with clothing that fits well and flatters your figure. After all, a gun and holster that are properly set up for your body are like another of your natural lumps and bumps, like the muffin-top we all have. Finding clothes that skim over or camouflage those normal imperfections will also help you conceal your firearm. You might need to experiment with design details like the rise of your pants so that the waistline places a belt-mounted holster at the level of your “sweet spot,” or the way the torso of a shirt is cut to be just slightly roomier at the waist. Fabric selection will also make a difference, with more structured choices less likely to print when you move around or if there’s a breeze. And of course, don’t forget that successful concealed carry includes choosing clothing that you can move aside quickly and consistently to access the grip of your gun to draw it from the holster.
The Secret to Successful Concealed Carry
TIP V: Practice makes perfect!
You will be able to carry comfortably and with good concealment as long as you have patience with the process. Concealed carry is a skill with a learning curve, so don’t give up if you can’t seem to make it work right away. It’s possible for you to find success early, especially if you soak up educational resources and get good advice. It’s much more likely to have some challenges, though, because making a gun conceal well is so very individual to your particular combination of body, gun, holster, and style choices. You also may not know right away if something will work for you. While carrying a gun should never be painful, it might not be entirely comfortable at first. You need to remember that you are strapping a several-pound metal and plastic object to yourself, and it can take time to stop feeling weird and self-conscious about it. Much like starting to wear a ring or watch, it can take a few days or more to get used to carrying a gun or to naturally make the small shifts that will get you to ideal comfort and concealment. If, after you’ve given your setup an honest try, you still aren’t finding success, it’s normal to need to look into additional gear. That might mean adding a wedge, trying a new belt, picking up a new holster, or even finding a gun that is better suited to your body type and clothing. In addition, what’s successful today can change over time, which may mean you have to adjust because you’ve gained or lost weight, started dressing differently, or decided you want to carry a different gun.
I wish I had a magic spell I could cast for everyone who wanted to carry a gun, so that they could have instant comfort and perfect concealment. Unfortunately, there are no complete shortcuts to any part of the process. You need to decide that carrying a gun is right for you and select an appropriate one (like the Beretta APX A1 Carry!). You need to learn how to use a gun, drawing it from the holster you’ve selected with the tips above and hitting your intended targets with it. You need to figure out legal issues like where and when you can carry, let alone when it’s legally appropriate to shoot someone. But have faith! You can work your way through all of these steps and become comfortable and successful with carrying a gun.
Author | Annette Evans
Annette Evans is the founder of "On Her Own," a project for women navigating the world solo, and is also known as the Beauty Behind the Blast. When not studying shooting and self-defense, she is a competitive shooter who goes to the gym too much. Annette is also an NRA- and Rangemaster-certified firearms instructor, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, the author of “The Dry Fire Primer,” and a commercial attorney in her spare time. Her cats are named Tuna and Goose.