Whether teaching officers or concealed carry holders, the concept of concealed carry as a lifestyle has come up constantly over the years. It’s more than simply getting a permit and buying a gun—there has to be some thought that goes into the decision. In order to use a pistol to defend yourself or others, it must be with you, and carrying a pistol all the time is not easy; in fact it is very difficult and requires a significant adjustment in mindset and to your current lifestyle.

The most critical tenet in concealed carry is to actually carry your handgun. For the most part that means on your person. Having it accessible in the car is fine when you are in it, but leaving it in the car to go into the restaurant, gas station, or corner store leaves you at risk. The bottom line is simple—in order for the weapon to provide protection you must have immediate access.

Right Gun & Holster

Opinions abound as to which gun to carry, but in the end it needs to be the one that you will carry. Revolver or a pistol, they each have their strengths and weaknesses. My advice is to carry the biggest pistol you will carry all the time and that you can fire accurately under stress. Make it a caliber that has proven to be effective in the field. A 9mm or larger in a semi-auto is my preference. For revolvers, .38 Special +P would be my minimum. Some of the smaller magnums are fine, but hand cannons should be avoided. Having carried a 4-inch 1911 in .45 ACP or similar for decades, it is not about the size of the pistol for the most part; it is about your willingness to change your lifestyle and accommodate it.

At least as important as your choice in handguns is the holster. Put a $3,000 pistol in an inexpensive holster and it will still be uncomfortable, hard to access and maybe even dangerous. It is critical you choose the best holster you can afford that will allow you to conceal it well. It may never be completely comfortable; that is part of the lifestyle change. As Clint Smith so clearly stated, “It is not supposed to be comfortable, but comforting.” It needs to hold your pistol solidly on your person. It will require a real pistol belt designed to hold the weight of a pistol. Many companies provide nice-looking belts that fit into just about any clothing style these days.

Alternate carry positions are fine, but strong side hip is probably the best. Having carried a 3-inch 1911 in an ankle holster, I know it has its advantages but it is not for everyone. While working in an administrative position in a suit and tie these are very comfortable. Just make sure you clean your pistol regularly as it picks up all kinds of stuff from the ground. Bags and purses work, just make sure you practice accessing them. Shoulder holsters look really cool in the movies, but seldom end up anywhere other than hanging in the closet. They are great in a car, but present other issues almost everywhere else in my opinion. For the most part, whatever you decide to use make sure it holds the pistol in the holster. Your handgun is hardly concealed if it falls onto the floor in the restaurant when you bend over.

Clothing

Concealed carry is for just that, concealed carry. It means you will need to wear clothing to conceal your handgun under normal circumstances. Be careful when shopping for conceal clothing, as some custom apparel screams to everyone you are carrying a handgun. Winter is easy with coats and outer clothing—it is summer that is the issue. Loose clothing is going to be the norm, but it can be as simple as an oversized t-shirt.

There are a few really nice shirts out there that look normal and are cut to conceal a pistol. Dress shirts that are designed to be untucked work well. You can also get holsters that allow you to tuck your shirt over the pistol. They work well, but take some practice and forethought. If you are going to wear an ankle rig you need pants that are cut wide at the bottom. It depends on your ankles, but you may even need to alter them. All my duty pants were altered to conceal my back up handgun. Vests work, but sometimes they scream that you are carrying a handgun, especially if there are magazine pockets everywhere. There are normal vests that can be worn as well, and these can be fine. Just remember the idea is to blend in, not stick out. It is a big part of the lifestyle. If you do find yourself in a lethal encounter at the restaurant or mall, you do not want to stick out to the predator. You want surprise on your side for as long as possible.

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  • Cam

    Very good read! Look forward to seeing more articles