After Missouri passed its Shall Issue law a few years ago, I observed many friends regularly carrying a gun for the first time. A lot of us hang at a local gunshop where many of the regulars are current or retired law enforcement—we had carried guns for most of our lives. The first thing we noticed was that many new concealed-carry licensees had chosen to carry their favorite big guns—Colt 1911s, S&W Model 29s and so forth. The second thing we noticed was that after a few months most of them switched to something smaller, as was to be expected.

Naturally, there is a learning curve for those who are carrying concealed for the first time. With that in mind, I and a friend from the gun shop thought it was a shame that most concealed-carry trainers didn’t devote time to weapon retention (we had both taught weapon-retention classes in the past). So whenever I had the chance, I taught a few basic techniques for preventing weapons from being turned against the user.

I’ve taught military and law enforcement personnel methods for retaining their weapons, some of which applies specifically to those who carry concealed. By no means do I have the definitive system for weapon retention, and some reading this may have learned other techniques as effective as mine, but going over these techniques is worthwhile.

Job One: Conceal It!

First, a major aspect of retaining your weapon is not letting anyone know you have it in the first place—the only time someone should know you’re armed is when a life-threatening situation requires you to draw. Next, choose a carry method that keeps your weapon well concealed, and be aware of situations that are likely to reveal it (when reaching for a wallet or grabbing for something on a high shelf). Certain carry methods are better than others.

For belt guns, I dislike small-of-the-back carry for a few reasons. In a vehicle accident it can drive a hard object into your spine—not a good thing! And when the weapon is in the small of the back, it’s easier for someone else to take and harder for you to see that someone when he or she is behind you. Based on my experience, a jacket or coat is more likely to ride up over the gun with this method of carry. If your gun is in the small of your back and someone does go for it, my best suggestion is that you backpedal as hard and fast as possible to drive them into a wall and knock them off balance.

I’ve found the best belt-carry method for retention purposes is the strong-side hip carry. Whenever you’re near someone, you can keep your elbow or arm against the gun, ready to press tight. Don’t overdo it, however: this can result in a stiff-armed tell. Experienced cops can usually spot someone using the elbow gun-check (experienced criminals probably can too).

When I worked on security teams I sometimes used the cross-draw. It allowed faster access in a crowd and retention with my support sidearm. However, the cross-draw also presented the butt of the handgun to an assailant, giving them a better opportunity to grab the gun.

Shoulder holsters are good for retention but may require a heavier jacket to conceal.

As for ankle holsters, I never liked them, but they are good for concealment and retention. Unless you practice, getting to an ankle holster is somewhat slow. Going to the opposite knee and drawing is better: it speeds things up and makes you a smaller target. A friend who was on the local FBI bank-robbery detail used to carry his backup S&W Model 60 in an ankle holster. One day when he stopped by while working a case, my Airedale, who adored him, had noticed the ankle holster and tried to pull it away but didn’t succeed. We concluded that was good weapon retention if it could resist a 70-pound dog!

The carry method likely the best for retention purposes is the side-pocket carry, though it’s slower on the draw. There are full-power handguns that fit readily into a pocket. I carry a Heckler & Koch P2000SK 9mm loaded with 11 CorBon 125-grain JHPs in a Don Hume pocket holster. When passing through parking lots and the like, I casually walk with my strong hand inside my pocket.

For female concealed-carry licensees, I do not recommend carrying the handgun in a purse, as an attacker may steal the purse or otherwise impede a draw. It is far better to carry a smaller gun which will fit in a pocket. But if you prefer a purse, get one of the excellent carry purses (for example, a Galco) that has the zip pocket on the side enabling you to keep you hand on the gun. If the purse is snatched, the gun will come free.

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