Monday, September 29, 2008

How To Comfortably Carry Concealed

(Note that this article is for product review purposes only. Carry laws are enforced state-by-state and it’s up to you to know your states policies and laws. Please do not take any of the written comments as legal advice.)

After my last entry a comment was left, “Can you tell me how you would conceal carry a heavy .45 caliber like this one? How do I wear a normal shirt and pants and still conceal this thing?”

Great question! Let’s back up and then in this article I will show you several ways (with photographs) that I carry the Kimber Ultra Carry II and my other carry gun, an Ultra Light Taurus Model 85 .38 Special. I’ll also be discussing one of the big questions that are frequently asked. “Of all the conceal carry options out there, which ones work the best?” I’ve done the research for you and might be able to help you decide.

According to the NRA’s nraila.org website, “There are 40 Right-to-Carry states. Thirty-six have “shall issue” laws, requiring that carry permits be issued to applicants who meet uniform standards established by the state legislature. Three have fairly-administered discretionary-issue carry permit systems. One, Vermont, respects the right to carry without a permit (Halleluiah, a true constitutional state). Alaska, one of the “shall issue” states, has its permit system for the purpose of permit-reciprocity with other states, and also adopted a no-permit-required law in 2003.”

I have memberships a both an indoor and outdoor range that hold CCW classes and I’ve noticed these classes are quite full. If 40 state allow it and the classes are full then who’s carrying? Who’s using the license that they paid $125+ to get? Do you see people walking around with holsters or do you see guys with untucked shirts that are obviously hiding a suspicious hip hump? Personally, I don’t see that many.

In most cases people that can do it don’t. They have a gun and the permit but for one reason or another leave the gun locked in a safe at home. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having a permit and not carrying on a daily basis. I applaud anyone for going through the course and having the card. For a while I was one of those people.

I actually tried carrying a concealed gun to see what it felt like. Let me tell you, it’s a weird feeling. You feel like everyone can tell, you overly cautious about keeping it hidden and as you walk around the grocery store (or where ever you are) you can’t seem to forget you’re packing! That on top of your wife saying, “Do you really need to carry that thing?” and you can easily give up.

After having my CCW for several years now, I’ve tried to identify the reasons why people don’t carry even though they can and I’ve narrowed it to these:
1) They feel funny walking around with a loaded gun even though it’s well concealed. If you aren’t at ease carrying, don’t carry. Don’t ever let anyone encourage you to carry if you don’t feel compelled to do so.
2) Some find it awkward or uncomfortable to have a heavy piece of metal strapped to their bodies all day long. Having a loaded weapon loose in your purse or sitting in a car with a holster in the small of your back or feeling like you have to wear baggy clothes can encourage you to rethink the whole CCW thing.
3) It’s a pain. Many people don’t want to deal with the daily hassle of concealment, or they don’t have the right set up (we’re going to talk about this in depth).
4) Lastly, some people don’t have the right sidearm. If you’re 5’9” like me and try to hide a full-sized Springfield XDm on your body, you’ll find it awkward, uncomfortable and a pain.
Item 1 speaks for itself so we’re going to cover items 2-3 all at once. Remember, this article isn’t written to encourage you to carry if you’d rather not; it’s written for those that want to carry but haven’t found the right conceal carry system.

First, if you’re going to seriously carry on a regular basis, get a light-weight, well-built pistol that’s designed to be carried close to your body and out of sight. There are so many of these on the market that the decision is usually very easy (S&W makes an Airlite .357 revolver that’s as light as a plastic toy). There are only a few generally accepted rules. 1) Carry as much power as you can comfortably conceal. 2) when your life depends on it, a .22 in your hand is better than a .45 ACP locked in a safe at home. So buying a comfortable .22 that you’ll carry everyday is better than an awkward bazooka that you’ll leave at home. If you point a .22 at an attacker and start popping off rounds, most will be taken by surprise and will run for cover allowing you to run for safety and call 911. 3) Comfort will keep you carrying. Uncomfortable holsters will only piss you off and make you wonder why you spent the money on getting your CCW.

Once you find a gun, you’ll need a couple of good, comfortable, easy to use holsters. Yes, I said a couple of holsters (maybe more). I have FOUR different ones. NOTE, many experts say that you should carry the same way every day so you have an automatic draw response to any immediate threat situation. I actually agree with them…IF THAT WERE PRACTICAL! I wear everything from shorts and a T-shirt to a suit to jeans and a casual shirt all in one week! So how can one system be perfect for all those clothing options? If you’re comfortable keeping your gun tucked up against your crotch, Thunderwear (thunderwear.com) can be worn with almost any type of clothing (even skirts or kilts). Fortunately for us that feel funny about keeping a loaded gun pressed tightly against our genitals there are other options.

I’m about to reveal my carry secrets in hope that you find a system or two that works for you. One thing I need to point out is that no one system works all the time and none of the holsters are without their flaws.

Chest/Belly Band:
This is one of my favorite ways to carry one of my two carry guns. In this picture you can see that with a crisp starched shirt tightly tucked in, there isn’t a good way to wear an exterior or IWB (inside the waistband holster). The comfortable solution is the chest/belly band. There are several companies that make them but mine’s an Underwrap Belly Band from Galco.

Notice that with the flick/rip of one button you have access to your sidearm. The draw isn’t fast but your gun is with you and not in your dresser drawer while you’re being violently pulled into a white delivery van with no windows (maybe I’ve seen too many CSI episodes). I’ve worn this way for a year without being “outed”. Your wife/significant other will like this rig too because the only thing that will give you away is carelessly hugging people.
At first, it felt like I was wearing a bra or something. It took a few weeks to get used to. Then as the day wore on, it would slide down a bit so I tightened the Velcro. Bad idea, at the end of the day I felt like I had been squeezed by a boa constrictor. I’ve now found the right tension and find it so comfortable that I forget I’m wearing it (key trick is to let is slide down a bit. It’ll find a good resting place and stay there).

There are other options like holsters built into undershirts but unless you’re willing to buy 10 of them, don’t buy one. The reason is that unless you want to wear the same undershirt day after day or spend lots of money buying multiples, you’ll find yourself without a holster every other day while you’re washing it. The band works with any and all undershirts and you only need one of them (I paid $35 for mine). When you do the research, do the math.
Remember I said no holster is without its problems? There are TWO problems with the chest band system though, one is that it won’t work under a casual t-shirt and the other is that you can barely see it through a white dress shirt (barely too risky for me, I don’t wear it with white) - even a nice quality pinpoint oxford. But I have a solution for those problems coming up.

Ankle Holsters:
When wearing a suit and white dress shirt, the only acceptable option I’ve found is an ankle holster. This one is a Galco specifically designed for Taurus small frame revolvers and S&W J-Frames. It came with a thumb break style retention system that drove me nuts. So I cut the damn thing off. If you look closely you should be able to tell. Being that the revolver cylinder fits so snugly in the leather, the guns stays in place very well. Learn from me and buy the version without the thumb break. The elastic ankle band is lined with a sheep’s wool lining and effectively keeps your ankle bone pain free.



It too takes a few days to get used to but once you get the appropriate tension figured out, a good quality ankle holster is quite comfortable. Cheaply made ones can really hurt your ankle bone. I find the optional Velcro Calf Strap helps keep the holster from sliding down into view. It also works with boot cut jeans. Problems are that it won’t work with tight-legged pants, high-water pant legs (clam-diggers) or shorts. And, drawing is about as slow as the belly band.
The secret to an effective draw from an Ankle is this. Wear the holster on the inside of your weak leg. While keeping your eyes on the “bad guy”, lift your leg while pulling your pant leg up with your weak hand and drawing with your strong hand. The wrong way is to bend over and taking your eyes off your attacker and putting yourself in an even MORE vulnerable position.

Pancake:
There are several good options for casual t-shirts. One is the small-of-back holster (aka, SOB), the tight and tight pancake holster and the Inside-the-waistband holster (aka, IWB). This series of pictures show how a pancake holster works and how it looks with a simple t-shirt covering the sidearm. The one I wear is a Gould & Goodrich open top model made for a short model 1911.

Small-of-back:
This series of photos show how the small-of-back system works with both my Kimber Ultra Carry II (Gould & Goodrich SOB Holster) and my much loved Ultra Lite Taurus .38 Special snubbie (Galco SOB Holster). I bought one from each company so I could see if there was a difference in them and there really isn’t. They are both very well made and both keep the gun securely in the holster with a tension screw that you’ll tighten as the holster breaks in.
One professional criticism of the SOB is that if you fall backward onto your back, the gun could injure your spine. Good point but in all my life I can’t recall falling flat on my back like that. My tailbone’s taken a few unfortunate and painful hits but the small of my back has seemed pretty accident free.

Another comment is, “that can’t be comfortable sitting in a car with that thing back there.” Actually, it’s not bad if you keep the gun slightly off center the grip over your kidney (sounds bad but it isn’t). I sit down, shift around a bit then forget about it. Actually, if you’re ever car-jacked, having a pistol tightly wedged between your back and the seat isn’t a “fast access” location so I usually remove the gun from the holster and place it somewhere easier to access while driving.

As much as I like this system, it too has its flaws. When you bend over and your shirt rides up, it can sometimes reveal the muzzle portion of the holster or even show that tell-tell hip bump – the solution is to squat instead of bend when you can or wear longer shirts.

Inside-the-waistband:
From time-to-time I use a cheap Uncle Mike’s (uncle-mikes.com) inside the waist band holster and it’s a fantastic way to go. I think it’s one of the best ways to carry a gun as it solves some of the “peaking” problems created by a SOB and Pancake. Since the gun is tucked in your pants, if your shirt rides up the muzzle of the gun won’t get revealed. BUT it too has its issues. You must buy pants that are big enough for you, your holster and your gun. And gaining weight severely compromises your comfort and ability to carry. I would NOT buy a $10 Uncle Mikes like mine; they are flimsy and do a bad job of really retaining the firearm. Rather buy one from Gould & Goodrich, Galco or Cross Breed (as a reward for some weight loss, I’ll by myself one).
There are even tuckable IWB holsters. I have one made by Galco and don’t really like it. For me, it’s an uncomfortable, awkward option.
Yes, you can tuck in your shirt over it, but it’s very difficult to do. Since the shirt is pinched between the holster’s “V” hook, it can get twisted and bunched up real easily. Not only that, since it doesn’t have any leather between, you gun and your body, I found the abrasion to be irritating too. I wore it for five straight days to see if it’d grow on me and only found myself getting more and more frustrated. By the end of the week I was ready to throw it away.

So there you have it, if you feel compelled and want to carry…carry. Don’t let lack of comfort stop you. There are too many options out there and several of them will more than likely work well for you no matter what your daily dress code is. So comfortably enjoy your freedom, comfortably enjoy your gun and comfortably enjoy your safety.


Did you like this article? Check out the PAST REVIEWS at the top of the page for several more. If you'd like to share your knowledge by posting an article or review, contact me at Kennard.yamada@gmail.com.

16 comments:

  1. Very well done. Thank you.

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  2. Great Overview Thanks !!

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  3. Hey bud.. nice job with the article. I've been "searching" forever now. I think I have about 6 different holsters and STILL cannot say for sure that i have "the one".. My fav so far is the Scorpion IWB for my glock compacts. It wont fit my glock 45 but my compact .40 fits well and in most cases this is my best and most comfortable option. I noticed you left out the pictures of the ankle holsters. was that on purpose or an accident?
    thanks again!
    al

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  4. Good job on the article. I'm a retired police officer and you hit many of the problems with carrying concealed. Now that I'm a private citizen with a CCW and dress in suits and ties, I'm rethinking my carrying options and considering a belly band. Thanks for the insite.
    Eric

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  5. Great post. Like the info. Thought I would share some of my own. I carry any one of combo of the following on any given day: a Kimber Crimson Pro Carry II, a Ruger LCR CTC, a Ruger GP100, a Ruger SP101 just to name a few. The biggest challange is the GP. I have found Simply Rugged holsters to be very comfortable and work great with all these applications. I have one for my LCR that goes in my front pocket "the pocket protector" and you forget its there plust the holster hides the tell tale outline of the gun very well. I keep the GP in an OWB sourdough pancake holster with inside out straps. You can find these @ simplyrugged.com. and they have the best costumer service I have ever dealt with.

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  6. Your review is great talking about various types of holsters, and for each type there are probably an infinite number of makers. Since I don't have to wear suits that often I can wear a IWB type that has really made wearing concealed a non issue. Look at the Cross Breed "Super Tuck" you can wear a XD comfortably and concealed without any problems. Just my .02cents.

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  7. Great reading....I have found that the SMART CARRY holster solves ALL of my carry problems. I now can dress from shorts/tshirts, to suit and tie, and my carry is still the same. Glock 26..Comfortable, Accessable and Undetectable...

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  8. I carry in the front right pants pocket with an Uncle Mike's pocket holster wrapped around a Kel-Tec P-11. It disappears in the pocket with no printing. Only problem is being unable to draw while sitting in the car.

    Perhaps I'll look into a Vampire cross-draw for long drives.

    Thanks for this article! Much food for thought...

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  9. I found the perfect solution to pocket/driving carry. Check out the Remora holster. No belt loops/slots, clips, etc.. Simply place the tacky material holster between pants and body with enough tension to hold it there (does not take much as it works with elastic waist pants). I use it as my pocket holsters and when I drive I take it out of my pocket and place it where I can reach it between my belt and body. When I exit my car it goes back into my pocket. Then if I sit down at a resturaant I can go to the restroom and put it back on my waist and so forth. All for about $29. Google Remora holster and see all the positive reviews and videos.

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  10. I have the Kimber Ultra carry ii and dont have a holster yet but find the Uncle Mikes #16 that I use for another gun works ok but is made for a little larger gun. What size is the uncle mikes holster you have in the pic? I like them because they can conform to the body and dont stick out like a sore thumb. Thanks for the review.

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  11. Great article, after getting mad I went searching for the perfect holster. I ended up stumbling upon Old faithful holsters. They are made here in the United States, and are very good quality. I am female, 5'6 and 120 lbs. I can wear a pair of shorts and a tank top and you can not tell that I have a gun, and I pack the pt709 in the small of my back. It is the most comfortable holster I have ever found, and they have a great warranty. Check 'em out

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    Replies
    1. OFH is a great holster for me too!

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  12. I've been carrying a Kahr PM9 in a Cattasi Holsters Zura Concealment System for about 9 months. I have not found anything that comfortably conceals my carry weapon that the Zura. If your daily attire is dress slacks and a button down, tucked-in dress shirt; you owe it to yourself to check out the Zura at cattasiholsters.com

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  13. I think it would be great to show pics & options of IWB 2-4 Oclock options. Am not carrying yet but plan to get the Kel Tec P11, am 5'7 150 lbs & seems the best way to go but have no experience.

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  14. Blackhawk IWB more comfortable because leather extends up farther than typical IWB's http://www.blackhawk.com/product/Inside-the-Pants-wClip-Holster,1517,1418.htm

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