If you are carrying a handgun for defensive purposes, you need to be able to get to it when you need it. On the market today, there is a vast variety of holsters to choose from that vary in price from a few bucks to a few hundred; some are worth it, many are not. What most people forget when considering carry techniques for a handgun or any weapons for that matter is that they are going to have to be able to access the weapon in all environments with both strong and weak hands.
The criminals or terrorists will always try to set you up to ensure they have the advantage. This is where you need to have a strategy already worked out for deploying your concealed carry weapon in a hostile situation. If the criminals have you held at gun or knife point at close quarters, and they are serious people, the chances are if you are seen trying to deploy your weapon you are going to get shot or cut. This is why you must be aware of your surrounding at all times and never caught off guard.
You need to be able to access and use your weapon with both your strong and weak hands from whatever position you are in. It is very easy for your strong hand or arm to be injured in a confrontation. Think about how you could access your handgun with your weak hand, without the help of your strong hand, and put multiple rounds into a target 5 yards/meters away. If you can’t or have not even though about it, you need to re-think your personal protection program quickly as you’re working at 50% capacity. When buying a holster and deciding on how you’ll be carrying your handgun you should take into consideration the environment and climate you’ll be operating in, the size of the handgun and what type of clothing you’ll be wearing.
Inside or outside the pants holsters
The best method of concealing a handgun is to carry it inside the pants. This ensures that the handgun has a very low profile and is as close to the body, as it can be. The primary problem with carrying a handgun, especially a full size handgun, inside of the pants is that it can be uncomfortable. If you are considering carrying inside of the pants I recommend that you buy a holster made of soft leather or material that will not cut or rub you when worn for extended time.
The most favored method of carry is to wear the holster outside of the pants on the belt or a holster fitted with a paddle. Most quality holsters will keep the handgun close to the body and will afford you a good grip on the handgun. A disadvantage with holsters that sit outside of the pants is that they can be difficult to conceal in hot climates, but we’ll discuss this later.
I recommend that holsters for defensive purposes do not have any thumb breaks or retention devices apart from tension screws. Most quality holsters will hold the handgun firmly without a thumb break, allowing you to draw the gun quickly and smoothly. Such accessories will do little to stop anyone with half a brain from taking a holstered handgun from you and will only give you a false sense of security.
Strong side or cross-draw
The most favored method or carry is to carry the handgun on the same side as the dominant/strong hand (strong side). It is believed that this is the safest method of carry, because, when the handgun is drawn from the holster, it points in a straight line directly at the target.
Cross draw is where the gun is on the opposite side of the body to the dominant hand so you have to reach across the body to draw the handgun. Personally I see no problem with cross draw; many people claim that cross draw is dangerous, as the handgun sweeps through a 180 degree arc to get from the holster to pointing at the target, which could mean the handgun pointing at bystanders, as is it sweeps through the arc. For many this is a major safety violation, for me it’s what you must to in reality. If you cannot draw your weapon without fear of shooting yourself, you should not be carrying it!
However, it must be remembered that whatever method of carry you use, before you go on the street, you should practice, practice and practice. As I have said before; If you do not think you can draw your handgun without it going off by accident, you should not be carrying it.
It is easier to take a handgun from someone carrying on the strong side than cross draw. To take a handgun off someone carrying strong side you can come up behind them and take it, thumb break or not. To take a handgun from someone carrying cross draw, you will need to come at them from the front or possibly the side. This means they will see you going for their handgun and can then take evasive measures or use unarmed techniques, if they let you get that close in the first place. If the gun is carried cross draw, you have easy access to it with both your left and right hand and you have better access to the handgun when seated, especially in high-sided chairs and when in vehicles.
An example of the advantages of cross draw
My preference of cross draw was reinforced when I was working as a security operative in South Africa in 1994. My day usually started in the evening, when the first task was to provide cover for the staff of a liquor store when they closed up and left with the day’s takings. The store was in a colorful area just outside of a large township and I would say that mine was the only white face for a good mile or so. I took it for granted that everyone knew I was armed. I would not be there, if I wasn’t. The store also closed at the same time every day, so there was a pattern set to within an hour of when I would be dropped off close to the store. To get behind the grilled counter of the store, I usually had to push through a crowd of semi-intoxicated people spending their day’s pay. It was my driver’s job to cover me until I got behind the grill, which depending on the driver, did not always happen. Putting me at greater risk was the fact that after I entered the crowd there was little support the driver could supply me with, anyway.
Initially, I carried my 4 inch .357 strong side but soon changed to cross draw, when I realized that, when in the crowd, it was easy for someone to bump into me and feel where I was carrying my gun, allowing them to grab it from behind. If I got into a physical confrontation with someone who would require my gun hand to deal with it, I would not be able to reach the .357 with my weak hand. At least with cross draw, I stood a better chance of getting to the gun, if I was not dropped in the initial attack. Realistically, in retrospect, I would have stood little chance, if I had been attacked in the crowd by two or three assailants, with blunt or edged weapons I would have been lucky to get the .357 out.
What many people seem to forget is that carrying a handgun can actually make you a target. In places like Africa, Latin America and in some Caribbean Islands, where people live in extreme poverty, a handgun is a very valuable commodity; criminals routinely target and attacked people simply for their firearms.
Even in developed countries, a criminal can make money from a handgun: They can commit robberies or settle scores and then sell the weapon etc. The tell-tail lump under your shirt could be there to show your friends that you have bought the new Glock or to warn others that you are armed and dangerous, but to a professional it just means you have a gun they can take off you, if they want to. If you carry a weapon no one else should know and don’t think all criminals or terrorists will be intimidated because you flash a gun at them. If you’re not going to draw it to shoot to kill, keep it concealed!
Small of the back carry
The small of your back is very good location for concealing a weapon and enables most people to reach the weapon with both strong and weak hands with ease. I would not carry small of the back if I knew I was going to be moving through crowds or bumping into people because of weapon retention issues. If moving through crowds or bumping into people is not an issue for you this can be a good carry technique.
I have heard people state that carrying a handgun in the small of the back is dangerous because you can injure yourself if you fall etc. To me this is more over protective nanny-state bulls##t; you can hurt yourself if you fall anyway and get killed if you can’t access your weapon when you need it. Plenty of military personnel, me included, have carried and those serving still carry belt pouches in the small of the back, what’s the problem?
Alternative methods of carry
There are many other ways to carry your handguns. However, I would not recommend accessories such as ankle holsters, because it is actually difficult to get to the gun while holstered on your ankle and takes a lot of body movement. It is also difficult to run with an ankle holster on and even a light gun needs to be very well strapped into the holster, so it doesn’t fall out. One method of carry for your compact or sub-compact firearm is in your pocket. There are pocket holsters available, which disguise the outline of the gun in your pocket and keep it secure. Reaching for a gun in your pocket is a natural body movement; we often reach into our pockets daily for coins, keys and wallets, so the muscle memory is already there.
If you are carrying a handgun for professional reasons, you should be comfortable drawing from both cross draw and strong side and any other methods you use. If you choose to carry two handguns and keep your primary or backup handgun strong side, make sure that it is well concealed and be wary of people getting close to you.
I am in favor of fanny packs for a method of carry and own several. I have heard fanny packs referred to many times as suicide packs by gun store commandos as they claim it takes too much time to get to the weapon. In reality if you are in a situation where a criminal has you at gun pointed at you, you will have to rely on your personal strategies; it’s a lot quicker for a criminal to pull a trigger than for you to draw a gun, period! Fanny packs are not slow to draw from as long as people know what they are doing and practice. You must always be aware of your surroundings and be looking for potential threats; the wise and aware criminal with a rock can be far more deadly than the unaware person with the tricked out 1911 and Gucci holster!
For me fanny packs allow me to carry a handgun etc. in hot climates and when I am not wearing a belt for example wearing a track suit or sports clothing. Also, when I am driving I can have my handgun concealed (check your local laws) on the center console or seat next to me. If I’m driving through a high crime area I can just unzip the pack and if required have direct access to my handgun or have it ready to go in my hand but still concealed within the fanny pack.
If you live in a temperate climate where you can wear heavy shirts, sports coats and jackets and so forth, you should have no problem concealing all but the largest handguns. If you live in a hot climate where wearing a jacket in 25+ degree heat is not practical, it is an option to wear an un-tucked shirt over a t-shirt with an inside the pants holster. It is also an option to carry a compact handgun: .38 special or .357 snub nose revolvers, Makarov, Sig 232, CZ-82/83, Walther PPK, Glock 26 or similar guns. It is not that hard to conceal such guns under a t-shirt with an inside the pants holster. It is also an option to wear a vest/waist coat but as everyone knows that only people wearing vests are usually FBI wannabes concealing handguns.
If you live in a cold climate, there could be problems getting quick access to your handgun, if it is under your sports coat which is under your overcoat. It is an option, therefore to carry a handgun in the pocket of your overcoat; a snub nose revolver is ideal for this rather than a semi-automatic. The revolver has the advantage of being able to be fired while still in the pocket, while the slide on a semi-automatic would have trouble cycling in such a small area. If the pockets on your coats are too small, you can get them tailored.
I have had females in my classes who have asked about carrying guns in their handbags, well there are positives and negatives like everything. The negatives are if the bag is stolen you lose the gun also if you’re in a confrontation and the bad guys grab the bag you may end up fighting over the bag without being able to access your weapon. The positive, like having a hammerless revolver in your coat pocket, is that if you in a potentially hostile situation you can have your hand on you weapon while it’s concealed in your bag, and if you have to shoot to defend yourself you can point shoot through the bag.
I remember one lady came through my classes who worked in a very high-end shopping mall where there had been several attacks on females in the mall’s parking lot. There were security cameras but people forget these are just a deterrent and are good for seeing who beat you to death after the fact. The mall had unarmed security guards, who, no disrespect intended, would I am sure get on an emergency as quick as their golf carts would get them there, but an unarmed 300 pound or 70-year-old security guard would be no match for a fit street kid with even a knife. The cops would have got to an incident, I am sure a bit after the security guards and would have written up the reports, viewed the security cameras and done their best to catch the criminal. Real world fact, your personal safety and security is your issue, no one else’s!
Back to the lady who worked at this mall, she had a hammerless S&W stainless steel snub .38 (nice gun) and we worked out the best thing for her was as she left her car in the morning and walked to her car in the evening was to keep one hand in her hand bag on the .38. If she was attacked she would be ready to react and could point shoot thorough her bag or deploy the weapon if she had time. Combine this with parking away from other cars so she could see anyone lurking around her vehicle, always walking in the middle of the isles away from the parked cars and having her keys ready she had a decent and simple security plan for that situation.
As a general rule, you want to buy clothes used to conceal handguns on the large side to avoid any conspicuous lumps. Patterned shirts, tweed sports coats and pin-striped suits are better than plain colors for breaking up the silhouette of anything you may be carrying under them.
Indications that someone may be carrying weapons include: Shirts that are untucked, jackets/coats are unbuttoned especially in cool weather, excessive clothing in hot weather, long cut suit jackets/sports coats, wearing baggy oversized clothing, lumps around the waist, in pockets or under the arm, wearing a vest, the person constantly touches the gun to make sure the weapon is still there or adjusting its position. If you know what to look for in others, you will know what others are looking for in you.
As I said concealed means concealed, if you have to deploy your weapon in a hostile situation you want to do so with the element of surprise! If the bad guys know your armed they will just use and indirect strategy or come at you harder with more weapons!