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“It’s not comfortable.” These are the three words I most commonly hear from both men and women when it comes to carrying a firearm concealed. When you ponder this a bit, the blatant irony really begins to stand out. You are taking a piece of steel or polymer—materials that don’t bend or give in any manner—and strategically placing it under your clothes to hide it. This is after you’ve given it the added weight of ammunition.

No matter where you carry your gun, it will never mesh or mold with your body. People begin sacrificing size and capacity for something a smaller gun that’s more comfortable to carry or easier to conceal. But a wise man once told me, “Concealed carry should be comforting, not comfortable.” Once we are honest with ourselves about why we carry, we can then begin to tackle the obstacles of concealment.

So Many Experts

After many conversations with various people in the firearms industry, I have found that everyone is wholeheartedly passionate regarding their personal carry methods. Everyone is an expert, and they’re very eager to persuade you to see their side regarding what they carry and why. Some will tell you to go with a smaller gun, especially if you are a woman, so that it’s easier to conceal. Others put forth the argument that a larger gun is far better, as it gives you the advantage of having more rounds on tap. Truth be told, this is a personal decision that each and every one of us must make.

That said, I also believe that prior to making this decision, we need as much information as possible—and an open mind to process that information so we can make the best, most educated decisions for ourselves. If you truly feel that a smaller gun is what works best for you, I highly encourage you to always carry a spare magazine or two. The argument that you will only need one or two bullets simply does not apply to every threat situation. There is no guarantee that an attacker will be alone. There may be multiple threats.

But even if the assailant is alone, you may be at a disadvantage, and your rounds aren’t guaranteed to make contact or actually stop the threat. Worse yet, with adrenaline flowing, your attacker may not go down even after getting hit seven or eight times. But when you’re out of ammo, you’ve lost an advantage in the fight. No, this isn’t a happy or warm scenario, but it’s worth considering.

All Shapes & Sizes Carrying Concealed

I also want you to remember that we’re all human and come in an assortment of shapes and sizes. What we carry should never be determined by our size or gender. I have seen people, both male and female, who are small framed but stunningly carry full-sized guns concealed. I have also seen larger-framed people who only carry micro guns. If you’re a person who is carrying a small gun for the sole reason that it’s “easier to conceal,” this does not have to be the case. I believe that mindset plays an enormous part when it comes to concealing a firearm. There are those who choose the gun they carry based on their clothing, and others who choose their clothing based on the gun.

We need to maintain a mindset where we dress around our guns. When you decide to carry, you must understand that certain concessions must be made to accommodate that decision. This in no way means you cannot be fashionable, nor are you required to purchase a new wardrobe. There are wonderful products on the market that are designed to solve this very thing. My hope is to present new and insightful information so you can see that concealing a firearm is far more achievable than you may realize.

Endless Options

There are far more concealed-carry options than I could even begin to cover in a single article. For women alone, the possibilities seem endless. From thigh holsters to bra holsters and even control-top Spanx holsters, the choices are far and wide. Here I will highlight options for both men and women. These are just a few of the many choices available.

Let’s start with holsters. There are approximately 1.9 billion holster companies to choose from. Okay, that may be a whimsical exaggeration. It can seem that way, though. So many have flooded the market that trying to find a good holster can be overwhelming. Holsters are very personal items. As mentioned earlier, people are not made with cookie cutters—we are all shaped differently. What works well for one person may be horrendous for another. A good holster should fit your gun well so that it does not move inside the holster at all. It should also cover the gun’s triggerguard to prevent anything from catching on the trigger. The holster should fit snugly and close to your body. A close fit lowers your chances of “printing,” or having your gun show up through your clothing.

The Right Combo for Carrying Concealed

A good holster goes hand in hand with a good belt. Your belt should be rigid and sturdy. It needs to support your holster and gun. A belt that is too thin, flimsy or pliable will not retain your holster. And the last thing you would ever want is to draw your gun and have your holster come with it. So test your belt out. Everything you utilize, as far as gear is concerned, should be tested by you, with your gun. To test your belt, simply wear it with your holstered gun and practice your drawstroke. Draw firmly, quickly and with intent. If your holster moves, shifts or goes with the gun on the draw, you need a better belt.

At this point, you might be thinking, “But Karen, not all my pants have belt loops to accommodate such a belt. In fact, some of my pants don’t have belt loops at all!” This is very common for both men and women. Whether it’s due to the type of pants, such as gym shorts or yoga pants, or how they’re made, some attire simply won’t accommodate a good belt. Fear not, for you do not have to resort to off-body carry. This is where I had my “hallelujah” moment for concealed carry: the UltiClip.

The UltiClip is a very strong retention clip that attaches to your clothes without the need for a belt. You can purchase holsters with the UltiClip already installed, or visit ulticlip.com to get one and attach it to current holster. Once the UltiClip is in place, the retention is phenomenal—your holster stays put. This is a great way to carry in gym shorts, yoga pants, joggers and even skirts. It’s also convenient; you literally just clip it on and go.

Belly Bands

Another great avenue to venture down is belly bands. This ingenious invention is a wonderful alternative for men and women. The belly band typically expands up to 44 inches and can be worn around the hips or waist, up toward the ribcage or anywhere between. They breathe well and tend to offer a level of comfort unlike other carry methods. This is a great way to carry when exercising, hiking or running, or if you’re just lounging in athletic wear. For women, a belly band is a wonderful carry option for skirts or dress clothes. There are some people who just love the feel and choose to wear them every day.

Belly bands typically have a place for your gun and additional pockets for an extra magazine, a cell phone and anything else you’d like to carry. This is a great way to keep all of your essentials concealed on your person. As with holsters, there are many belly bands to choose from. I would encourage you to do your research and decide which belly band best suits your needs. A wonderful place to start is 10X Tactical.

Dress For Success

No matter what gear or carry method you choose, the most important thing to remember is to learn to dress around your gun. Choosing to carry a firearm for protection is a serious responsibility. It shows you are serious about protecting yourself and the ones you love. Dressing around your gun means choosing clothing that doesn’t enable printing. It means playing around with your clothes and experimenting with different concealment strategies.

For men, sometimes it is as simple as how you tuck in your shirt—blouse it out a little and voilà, the gun is hidden. For women, simply adding a tight camisole as an undershirt might help smooth out the gun’s edges.

Apart from clothes and gear, the best tip I can give you is to make eye contact and smile. You’ll be very aware that you are concealing a gun, but other people won’t give it a single thought. If you make eye contact, other people’s eyes will stay up as you pass by or engage in conversation. This is just another way to dress for success.

This article is from the 2019 Conceal-Carry Handguns issue of Personal Defense World magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com. For digital editions, visit Amazon.

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