Like millions of Americans, I carry a concealed pistol daily for self-defense. My reasons for carry are numerous. But likely similar to why most of you have taken the responsibility to protect yourselves and your loves ones. What I carry, however, has been ever-evolving. My concealed carry preferences, needs, budget and tolerances have changed with experience. We at Personal Defense World would like to share our carry journeys with you. What we’ve chosen, why we’ve chosen and why what we carry may have changed. And we present some anecdotes that we can all learn from as well.
My Concealed Carry Preferences
Pistols are a lot like automobiles, in that there are hundreds of choices out there. And aside from some brand loyalists, we tend to change what we drive depending on our needs, preferences and budget at the time of purchase. My daily drivers have been two-door hatchbacks, classics and V8-powered 4x4s. What’s on my hip has changed just as much.
Significant relevant training courses:
- Center-T Pistol Operator
- Front Sight Four-Day Defensive Handgun Course
- International Tactical Training Seminars (ITTS) Handgun II
- Various training events during 15 years of active duty in the U.S. Army.
Carry position & why: Carry positions have somehow become a topic of nearly political or religious heat and taboo for some people. If you don’t carry like someone else, it’s because you’re a fool. I view it more as a matter of personal preference based on training and experience. I carry inside the waistband (IWB) and strong-side, on or just behind my right hip. For me this makes a logical place, as I typically stand bladed when talking to people. I don’t spend my entire day seated and reaching for my firearm is the same motion as it would be to reach for my wallet.
Springfield XDM 3.8-inch .45 ACP
Searching local shops for something more concealable and with higher capacity than my 1911, I quickly learned that I’d likely have to choose a striker-fired gun. That transition was not welcome, after I’d learned to shoot with and enjoyed the crispness of a hammer-fired gun.
The XDM’s shorter barrel tucked more easily into a holster. Also, the option of a compact or full magazine size means I can change what I carry and train with. I quickly learned that double-stack .45 ACP was not going to be much lighter, even in a polymer frame. The XDM still carried more comfortably than my 1911, but I was also getting smarter about holsters.
Inevitably it was the caliber that led me to move on from the XDM. I looked for a caliber that was less expensive to practice with. I learned that a shorter-barreled .45 was not what I was looking for ballistically.
Everyone else has one—maybe this is my “just-right porridge,” too! The guy at the sales counter talked me into a lightly used Gen3 Glock 19. After owning it for a few months, he was correct. The pistol was accurate, reliable and easy to maintain, but unfortunately never quite fit my hand right.
After spending more money on aftermarket parts than I did on the original purchase price of the gun, I had learned a lot about what I liked and didn’t like. But I nearly built a race-ready gun no longer appropriate for daily carry, and sadly still not a good fit. I retired the Glock 19 to range use and began looking for something with a more natural fit.
Walther P99 AS 9mm
“I think my hand might get pregnant if I hold this gun too long,” I thought to myself the first time I picked up the P99 AS. The ergonomics were absolutely perfect. It was like someone had taken a mold of my hand grip and built a pistol around it. I fell in love with the pistol’s controls and controllability.
The P99 AS is a striker-fired gun, running either DA/SA, or with an “Anti-Stress” physical check before the first shot. About the time I discovered the P99 AS, I had been getting smarter about my carry. I realized the potential life- and wallet-saving properties of a first shot not happening the instant you touch the trigger.
It really was a tactical epiphany for me, despite my combat experience as a soldier. Civilian shootings include very different legal realities. The P99 AS had everything I wanted, but carries more like a duty gun than a concealed companion. It was time to look for something more compact.
Walther PPS M2 9mm
This pistol offers great ergonomics in a compact package. The PPS M2 is one of the few single-stack 9mm pistols that I can shoot comfortably. Some might say that shooting comfort isn’t a big deal with a carry gun. But I prefer to train with my carry pistol, and that means range time.
With the eight- or nine-round magazine, all fingers have a place to call home. Additionally, the trigger has just that little extra bit of resistance that I consider safe under duress. This helps while making split-second decisions that could change or end lives. This pistol serves well when concealment is difficult, such as wearing office attire or in hot weather. The only drawback I found was when my personal preference once again shifted toward capacity and muzzle energy.
Diamondback Firearms AM2
Only slightly larger than the PPS M2, the AM2 added a considerable percentage to my carry capacity with the 12-round magazine. Though the barrel may be only 0.3 inch longer, it feels more like a full pistol than a compromise.
By the time I moved to the AM2, my entire wardrobe had evolved with carrying a firearm in mind, and so I found it just as easy to carry a slightly bigger gun and enjoy the extra carry capacity and sight radius. Though I still prefer a DA/SA to a striker-fired action, Diamondback did well in designing a striker-fired pistol with a responsive trigger.
Grand Power K100 & K100D
Life in the Pacific Northwest means it’s easier to get away with carrying a larger firearm (rain jackets and such). The Grand Power pistols have long been “range favorites” of mine, so it made sense to try carrying one.
I had long been pressured to believe that hammer-fired guns were things of the past or prone to stoppages. But hadn’t experienced a failure. On the contrary, the hammer serves as an extra layer of safety while holstering. You can simply rest your thumb on the hammer to prevent movement should something snag on the trigger. The double action also offers a second chance on a tough primer.
As I matured as a shooter, I gravitated more toward the double-action first shot, and so swapped from the basic K100 (safety only) to the D model, which features a lever that can decock the firearm or engage a manual safety. I carry the gun in double-action, and I proved myself to fast enough with it at a four-day defensive shooting course where every first shot had to be done in double-action.
Early in my daily carry experience, I went to the airport to pick up my sister, who lives outside the Constitutional United States. I was proud and eager to demonstrate what life in free America was like.
Just after parking my SUV, I remembered I’d need to knock down the second-row seats, and so in the parking garage leaned in to reach the takedown levers. I heard a gasp and turned to see a woman scurry away with her child while digging in her purse. Thinking nothing of it, I finished my task before heading in to meet my sister, and of course readjusted my shirt to ensure my pistol was covered.
While waiting at the baggage claim, I noticed a sudden increase in police presence as a couple of officers walked the rows of conveyer belts, visually scanning every patron. More officers arrived kitted up in their body armor, then more with rifles slung tight to their chests. I moved to a vantage point near cover and began to wonder if something had either just happened or was about to happen.
Which Way Did He Go?
“Did you call?” Another group of officers had entered through a door I hadn’t ever seen used and flanked me. “Did you see the guy with a gun?” he repeated.
My mouth moved faster than my mind as I instinctively responded, “No.” Still a bit edgy from my Iraq deployment, I immediately scanned the room once more, looking for who it could be. Meanwhile, the back of my brain instantly connected the startled woman in the parking garage with “a guy with a gun” and slapped my psyche with the fact that I was the guy with a gun!
My next thought processes reminded me that I had done nothing wrong and was completely within my rights to be in the baggage claim area with a firearm at this particular airport. I moved to an area already screened by the officers and leaned my right hip against the wall while waiting for my sister to arrive. Those next five minutes felt like an eternity.
TIPS & TRICKS
When nature calls, “dropping trow” is a must, and sometimes that means in the stall of a public restroom. What many people do not think about until the very moment is what to do with your gun when your pants go down. Horror stories abound of guns spilling out of holsters onto the floor at the feet of the patron next door, and guns forgotten in stalls.
What’s worked for me depends mostly on the pants I’m dropping and the holster I’m wearing. One easy trick, assuming your holster has good retention, is to let the holster roll the pants inward. Ideally this results in the holstered gun resting on the crotch of your pants—perhaps not so great for those who “go commando.” This keeps your gun in your area of control and also out of view should wandering eyes decide to check out your shoes under the stall wall.
Another method is to first lower your pants and underwear to about mid-thigh, then lift and stretch the waistband of your underwear over the top of the gun and waistband of your pants. Then finish lowering your pants and take care of business. If neither of those works for your wardrobe choice, the “stress sit” is a fallback option.
For this setup, use the outward pressure of your knees to retain your waistband at knee or mid-calf level while doing your business. This isn’t the most comfortable, and requires remembering to grab your pants before standing up again, but it works regardless of clothing and holster choice.
Secret Joys Of “Stretchy Pants”
When a classic American jeans company spent money to fight against our Second Amendment rights, I decided it was time to stop spending my money on their products. Having essentially worn only the one brand my entire life, I asked some friends if they knew of any jeans meant for us deplorable liberty lovers. Tactical Distributors was brought to my attention, and I hesitantly ordered a pair online.
What I received were “jeans”, but not the denim I was accustomed to. Instead, these jeans are made of a highly flexible fabric that stretches so generously that I often forget I have things in my pockets as the fabric stretches to accept wallets and keys instead of forcing them against my body.
The big benefit, however, comes in terms of carry comfort and concealment. Because the fabric is so accommodating, I find I don’t need to order the next size up to comfortably fit a double-stack pistol inside the waistband. And I have long forgotten the pains of a waistband trying to cut way through my personal energy reserve. The stretch also prints less obviously with longer-barreled guns, as the material compensates easily when you’ve got a little extra in your pants.
This article was originally published in the Personal Defense World June/July 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email email@example.com.