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All across the nation, tens of thousands of citizens are attending state-certified CCW programs, obtaining their permits and resting a bit easier as they go about their daily business. Yet, many fail to realize that getting a CCW permit is only the beginning of the concealed carry process.

Though dozens of states offer CCW permits, their training and testing requirements are geared more to mitigate the state’s criminal and civil liability than the CCW holder. And once this fact is understood, the vast majority of responsible CCW permit holders attend additional training to build their knowledge and weapon skills as well.

Though you’d think it would be the heart of the CCW program, most state-certified CCW courses don’t require the student to utilize his or her weapon from concealed carry, instead allowing them to present their handguns from open carry. Consid- ering the somewhat severe civil liability hazard these days of not having received formal instruction in concealed carry weapon presentation, I find this to be curious, and frankly a little alarming. One would think that the need would be obvious and proper instruction on how to quickly and safely access and bring it into action would be mandatory.

Though the idea of accessing and presenting a conceal handgun isn’t intrinsically complex, if incorrectly considered, it does pose some poten- tially dangerous hazards.

Carry Concerns

First, we must consider how the weapon itself is to be carried—strong or weak side? Second, there’s the matter of how it will actually be con- cealed—beneath an open or closed front garment? These two issues are not only important, they’re critical, not only to achieving the best possible concealment, but quick access to and presentation
of the weapon upon demand as well.

Concealment garments are typically of two types—open and closed front. Most often, open-front garments take the form of a vest, sport coat or jacket. It’s true that all of them have some means of fastening the front closed, but far more often than not, particularly when a concealed handgun is involved, the garment is intentionally left open.

This type of garment is at least marginally comfortable in warm weather and has the advantage of being what I call “socially invisible.” Almost everybody in the business community wears either a suit or sport coat and slacks, and the so-called “photographer’s vest” is widely utilized in more casual situations.

Weapon presentation from an open- front garment is a little quicker (about two-tenths of a second) than from a closed-front garment, because the gar- ment is swept clear of the holstered weapon by the ring and/or little finger of the firing hand as the presentation pro- tocol begins. However, weapon conceal- ment beneath open-front garments is slightly diminished, particularly if the gun is carried on the strong-side, thus requiring more cognizance that you can’t “belly up” to the bar or lean over precipitously or the butt of the gun will “print” clearly through the garment.

Strong-side carry beneath open-front garments also requires that something with a small amount of bulk (not weight) is located low on the firing side to give some mass to the garment. Otherwise, it will often merely wrap itself around the ring and/or little finger of the firing hand as the shooter attempts to sweep it clear and “buckle,” rather than swing clear.

Back in the “good old days,” the FBI used to tell their agents to sew a few OO buckshot pellets or fisherman’s “split-shot” into the firing side hem of their coats. However, as an alternative, placing a wallet in the pocket of the coat or vest also works quite well.

Garments of the closed-front variety usually take the form of an oversize Hawaiian shirt, or a baggy sweatshirt or T-shirt, with the hem worn outside the waistband. Because they allow better airflow through the garment, these are more comfortable than open-front gar- ments and, if two or three sizes larger than normal, more concealable.
As mentioned before, they’re a little slower than an open-front garment, but for many (especially those who live in warmer climates), their superior comfort and concealability is more important.

The Draw

Strong-side presentations from beneath a closed-front garment will faster and more consistent if you begin the procedure by grasping the hem of the garment in front of the firing side hip and briskly pulling it up to the vicinity of the pectoral muscle. The firing hand then releases the hem and moves to access the holstered weapon.

If only the non-firing hand grasps the hem, it often fails to pull it high enough to stay clear as the gun leaves the holster and starts to move forward, causing it to drop too quickly as the non-firing hand moves downward and forward to intercept the firing hand. This results in the garment snagging the gun, with potentially dangerous consequences.

Two hazardous things can happen:

1) The force of thrusting the weapon for- ward is considerable and if the gun snags in the hem of the garment, it can quite literally by wrenched from the firing hand and sent spinning forward to the ground.

2) Unless the operator is trained to keep his trigger finger clear of the triggerguard area until the gun has cleared the body and been brought under complete control, snagging the gun in the hem of the garment can cause a negligent discharge, with potentially catastrophic results.

You’ll see the fastest, safest and most consistent techniques for presenting for strong side and crossdraw carry from beneath open and closed front garments. They’ve been tested for more than three decades in actual confrontations, taught to thousands, and saved the lives of several hundred of my students, military, police and civilian alike.

Their performance speaks for itself and they work well because they reflect real-world needs and are thus simple to understand and execute under stress. They’re not competition-based, nor are they the result of the firing-range mindset that afflicts so many shooters and instructors these days. Conversely, they’re intended for use in a purely tactical environment, where deadly stress has debilitated the shooter to his lowest common denominator (50% skill degradation is common) and life a death truly hang in the balance.

Techniques

I’ve intentionally stopped the pre- sentation at the Ready Position because the techniques represent a general- purpose weapon presentation that’s intended for use whenever the gun is removed from the holster. If there is an immediate need, the weapon is simply brought upward from Ready to Point and the target engaged. However, the operator could also challenge a potential threat, begin a building search or perform a number of other functions. It’s also appropriate to mention that the trigger finger isn’t placed inside the triggerguard until the weapon is brought upward from Ready to Point. Any other time, it remains in place on the frame of the weapon above the triggerguard area. In virtually every instance of ac- cidental or negligent discharge, this cardinal rule is violated.

Mechanical safeties are disengaged only after the weapon is brought to a point where it is clear of the body. This prevents any possibility of the weapon being fired in the early stages of the presentation, where nearly all negligence discharges resulting in personal injury occur.

Last, once target engagement is com- plete, always return the weapon to Ready to allow a visually unencumbered assessment of the situation. Typically, this means that the Ready position itself is about 40-degrees below your line of sight to the target. If your gun has a mechanical safety, do not re-engage it until the event is concluded and re-holstering of the weapon is imminent. Because of the debilitating effect of the extreme stress inherent to a deadly encounter, too many have gotten hurt utilizing the concept of “safety off as gun comes up, safety on as gun comes down.” When the chips are down, keep it simple! You won’t be sorry.

These days, if you carry a concealed handgun, not only tactical, but also crim- inal and civil liability hazards demand that you learn your presentation tech- niques well. Failing to do so when all three hazards can be reduced through proper technique and understanding to manageable levels is asking for big trouble.

As you examine the accompanying techniques, I think you’ll find them to be simple, easy to understand and highly effective. Rehearse them via both dry- practice and live-fire until you can perform them with little or no conscious thought. Then you can justifiably breathe easier and go about your daily business know- ing that you can handle any kind of concealed carry emergency that may come your way with maximum efficiency.

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