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After seven years of being a concealed-carry permit holder and carrying concealed pretty much daily, I have learned a lot about myself, a lot about other people and a lot about the ups and downs of concealed carry. This isn’t something you half-ass or just add into your current lifestyle. I tried that, and I failed epically.

I didn’t grow up in a household with guns. In fact, I really knew nothing about them until I turned 21 and got my license out of necessity. At the time, I was working in Detroit in some really rough areas. I’d been threatened before but never really took it seriously. The first time I had a gun pulled on me, my life changed. I realized that this is the real world, and this stuff really does happen. As I was staring down the business end of that revolver, I remember thinking to myself, “I really wish I could protect myself right now.” That was the moment I realized the only way to do that was with an equalizer — a gun.

Concealed Carry Tips — Apparel Awareness

Luckily, I survived the encounter unharmed, but I was definitely a little shaken up mentally. The very next day, I went out and purchased a gun. Like so many others, I knew nothing about guns when I bought that first one. I took a crappy eight-hour CCW permit class that didn’t teach me much. It was only the second time I’d shot a gun, but I got my certificate and applied for my license. When I received that license just a few weeks later, I immediately attempted to integrate the gun into my clothing and lifestyle. However, I quickly discovered that wasn’t going to work for me. Concealed carry is something that will make you change your wardrobe and lifestyle, and in a hurry, too.

I learned that none of my cool fabric belts could support the weight of a gun on my hip or hold onto a holster. So, I needed to replace them with some nice, sturdy leather belts. I also discovered that all the jeans that fit me so well would need to be replaced with jeans that were at least two sizes bigger in the waist to be able to fit the holster inside my waistband. My funny themed shirts also had to be replaced with shirts a size larger than normal.

For me, just one size larger gave me extra length and a bit more adjustability for outside the waistband carry. Form-fitting clothes, while fashionable, are the worst to wear when carrying, as they will print. For the first year or so of your concealed-carry experience, it is normal to be paranoid and suspect that every person can see that you have a gun on you. The truth is, people in public really aren’t that observant. In fact, most aren’t worried about you at all.

Choosing the proper holster for your needs is a very important lesson I learned the hard way. You have shoulder, OWB, IWB, pocket, ankle and even bra holsters on top of purses and bags. All of these options have a specific purpose and a proper time for use. I prefer to carry inside the waistband most of the time, as it is the easiest way to conceal my sidearm. And with the proper holster, it’s surprisingly comfortable.

Also, I have tried just about every kind of holster you can imagine. This proved to be a very expensive mistake when I was first starting out. I fell for just about every marketing gimmick imaginable and kept buying holsters that claimed they would be the most comfortable. After a while, I found that CrossBreed’s leather and Kydex hybrid holsters worked best for me. However, the choice is yours when it comes to your ideal holster. Don’t always listen to your friends; everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for you.

Combining the right clothing with the right holster should keep your concealed-carry gun easily hidden. The most important thing to remember is that your gun needs to stay concealed. Use caution when reaching to the top shelf at the grocery store or bending over to tie your shoe.

Case in point: A friend of mine was putting his kid into the car one day when he felt a tap on his gun. An off-duty police officer walking through the parking lot glanced over right as my friend bent over to buckle his son into the car. The motion had caused his shirt to lift just enough to reveal his sidearm. After drawing attention to my friend’s obvious concealment fail, the officer told him he may want to be a little more aware of what he was wearing or consider a different holster option. I don’t think my buddy ever wore that shirt again.

Concealed Carry Tips — Best Behavior

Whenever I start something, I normally go all in. Carrying a gun was no different. I wasn’t happy with the CCW class I took, so I became an NRA instructor. Also, I applied for my Federal Firearms License and started a new business. In my efforts to market my new venture, I also learned that there’s a lot of stupidity out there. When I set up a booth at a local festival to try to drum up some new business, multiple people approached me and pulled up their shirts to show off their concealed-carry weapons and to tell me, quite unnecessarily, that they already carry. These fools flashed the entire festival — brandishing firearms in front of multiple people — and just thought nothing of it. I guess they must have gone through the same crappy class I first attended. Keep that gun concealed!

I carry my gun pretty much every single day and have learned a few other lessons as well. My son is 4 years old, and I discovered that his head is the same height as the grip on my gun when holstered. Yes, he has knocked his head on it while running up to hug me multiple times. Also, my son knows what it is that he hit his head on, and he understands why daddy carries a gun.

I tried to hide it from him at first.  But he saw me put it on my hip one day, and I decided to explain it to him. He knows it’s a secret that no one but us can ever know, and he understands that I carry a gun daily to protect him, my wife and myself against bad people. It’s very important to make your children aware that you carry a gun and educated them about why.

Recently, I attended the Second Amendment March in Lansing, Mich., to cover it for multiple media outlets. I am a professional photographer and was carrying my gun inside my waistband with multiple professional cameras hanging from my neck and shoulders. A camera was bouncing off my gun all day, but I didn’t really think anything of it until I got home to find a giant hole in the side of my favorite shirt. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson for future media events.

Carrying a gun is a huge responsibility — one that will change your life. You must take the time to learn your local laws and understand how those laws affect you. Really studying the laws will also serve as a reminder that your gun is not the solution to every problem you encounter. Concealed carry doesn’t obligate you to act, even when you’re a witness to a crime that would justify the use of deadly force. If you’re at the gas station while it’s being robbed at gunpoint, you don’t have to act. Use your judgment. Remember that you’re not a police officer, and you don’t have to be a hero. Sometimes your best response is to be the most valuable witness you can be when the police arrive. Concealed carry is a lifestyle. Once you choose that lifestyle, make sure you carry every day.

This article was originally published in Gun Buyer’s Annual 2019. To order a copy, please visit outdoorgroupstore.com.

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