There are many reasons for carrying a sidearm, most stem from one’s line of work or simply the protection of one’s home and family-the fundamental tenets of the Second Amendment. Choosing the right gun and method of carry, however, can depend on many varying conditions. Outside of military and federal service, where specific makes and models of guns are either issued or required, finding the gun and carry method that best suits an individual is a lot like buying a suit or a pair of shoes-it has to fit.

The general theory for CCW is “one gun, one method of carry.” The fundamentals come down to four things: gun, caliber, carry method, and comfort. With today’s modern concealed carry holsters, surprisingly size is rarely a factor. Choice of caliber (based on one’s skill level and ability to manage recoil) and the best means of carry for individual needs are still significant factors in choosing a “rig.”

Carry Large

A full-size or “Government Model” is the best option for combining stopping power and standard or extended magazine capacity. The most commonly carried .45 ACP is the Colt Model 1911 or current variations of the 1911-style. Other notable options in .45 ACP are the Glock 21 and 21SF. To carry any full-size handgun there are three traditional choices-a shoulder holster, a belt holster, or an IWB (inside the waistband) rig. The most comfortable is a belt holster that can best support the weight of the gun and, when worn at the 4 o’clock position, be well concealed by a long shirt, jacket, sport or suit coat.

Suitable for any large-frame semi-auto is the Galco FED Paddle (800-874-2526; galcogunleather.com). This holster has two exceptional features, an easily operated thumb break retention strap and a cant-adjustable paddle that allows the wearer to angle the gun to particular needs from vertical to 45 degrees. The beauty of a paddle holster is that one can use it without a belt and easily move it around the waist to suit different needs and conditions. It is, in this author’s opinion, one of the best choices for carrying a large-frame pistol.

Packing a Government Model 1911 has been easy since the late 1950s, when John Bianchi pioneered the Speed Scabbard. The look is unmistakable as is its ease of use. John Bianchi still makes them at Frontier Gunleather (877-877-4704; frontiergunleather.com) and the design has never been surpassed for making a full-size Government Model easy to carry. There is also a new version of the Bianchi Speed Scabbard called the Stryker.

Full-size semi-autos are equally suited to yet another style of concealed carry rig, the Kramer MSP (800-510-2666; kramerleather.com). This is an all-leather paddle holster with safety belt retention strap. The MSP holster not only looks great but also provides any pistol with a solid platform for concealed carry despite the size of the gun. Constructed from premium cowhide rig the MSP has a large leather paddle that curves around the waist with a hand-stitched leather catch smoothly pressing against the inside waistband behind your belt. The comfort factor is the all-leather construction, which has no hard edges like injection-molded paddles. In addition, the MSP has a belt loop retainer to ensure the holster stays put. The Kramer is a perfect fit for most large- and medium-frame semi-autos; it is also the current issue holster for the plainclothes officers of the Michigan State Police.

One other way to carry a full size semi-auto is the SOB approach, which has nothing to do with one’s personality. SOB stands for “small of the back,” and this carry method has less to do with gun size than comfort. The small of the back is a natural curve that allows placing a firearm, semi-auto or revolver, well out of sight covered by a shirttail or jacket. Most rigs place the grips at an upward angle for a more natural draw; grip’s down requires the hand and wrist to rotate in order to draw the gun, whereas a grip’s up requires only a single, linear motion. The only issues with SOB carry are the fact that the gun is behind you and less protected, and depending upon one’s build, sitting with a gun against your back can be uncomfortable. This is less so with small, narrow subcompact semi-autos.

There is also the crossdraw approach, which is considerably more limited with large frame semi-autos because the grips face butt forward and are more difficult to conceal. Crossdraw holsters are much better suited to subcompact and smaller semi-auto pistols and revolvers.

Glocks With Lights

The Glock has become one of the most popular semi-autos in the world. They are available in multiple calibers and frame sizes. A Standard or Compact Glock, regardless of caliber, can also be equipped with the Glock GTL 21 or GTL 22 laser sight/tactical flashlight; an excellent and potentially life-saving accessory for concealed carry. The problem with GTL-equipped Glocks has been holsters, there are very few available. The latest is a brand new CCW belt rig from Chisholm’s Trail Leather (678-423-7351; westernleatherholster.com), the Arc Light Tactical. It is designed specifically for concealed carry of any full size or compact Glock model fitted with a GTL light/laser. The basket weave pattern gives it a law enforcement look, and although it appears big, the holster is just slightly larger than the gun, making it suitable for concealed carry. The Arc Light uses a wide, double-stitched heavy-duty belt loop to keep the holster and gun close up to the body. This is the only all-leather, handcrafted Glock carry holster of its kind with a sturdy build that makes it possible to carry models as large as the G21 SF with a GTL light/laser mounted on the dustcover rail.

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