Several years ago I was carrying a Glock 32 in one of those spandex undershirts that has a gun pocket. While bending over to pick up something off the ground, the spandex material and the polymer of the gun frame combined to create what seemed to be an anti-gravity effect, like a high-speed train speeding above a magnetic rail. The Glock launched through my shirt collar at warp speed and landed on the ground in front of me.
Since then I’ve found out a lot about the pros and cons of different methods of concealed carry. The most important thing I’ve learned is there is no one-size-fits-all answer. You’ll hear Internet couch commandos talk about belt carry as the “only” way to carry a gun. But people are different sizes, have different dress requirements, and perform different activities and all of these things determine which concealed-carry method is best for them. Additionally, there are always tradeoffs. It’s up to you to find the right balance of concealment, accessibility, and security.
A holster has three important functions, and your choice of carry should support all three: It must ensure that your gun remains in your control; it must protect the trigger; and it must allows safe and consistent access to your gun. Let’s consider a few pros and cons of some common carry methods.
Belt carry, either inside or outside the waistband, is a theoretically perfect option. Where you go, your gun goes. Your gun is easily accessible by your dominant hand, and gun security is very good. I also like the fact that at its worst position the muzzle can only point at your own leg, so safety is excellent. I prefer inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters, such as the Galco KingTuk. It’s stable, comfortable, and secure, and the IWB design allows for easy concealment.
But real-life issues can make belt carry a challenge. For example, if your work environment requires tucked-in shirts, you’d have to wear a covering garment all the time. If you’re a woman and want or need to have dresses as part of your wardrobe, then belt carry is out. And belt carry can be challenging if you spend long hours in a chair or car, because accessing your gun from your waist while seated is not particularly easy.
Drawing a gun from an ankle holster is comparatively slow and usually requires two hands—one to pull up the pants leg and the other to draw the gun. However, if your drive a vehicle for a living, or have deep concealment needs and an office job, it might be for you.
However, while access to your gun while seated will be fairly good, access when standing may require movement and time that you might not have. Also, crossing your legs may expose your gun as your pants leg rides up. There are many good options for ankle holsters, such as Galco’s Ankle Glove, which uses a wide neoprene ankle band with Velcro and a sheepskin backing.
Off-body carry is the least preferable primary option because it violates the first rule of holster design: keeping your gun secure and under control. By this rule, purse holsters, day-planner holsters, and bag or briefcase holsters all have the potential for a loss of control of the gun. A bag gets set down, left behind, or even stolen, and with it goes your access to the gun. That said, there are many occasions where I use off-body solutions. When riding a bike, for example, I often use a Vanquest Javelin V-Slinger pack with a concealed-carry pouch. Obviously, many women use purse holsters as a matter of convenience and/or dress code restrictions on more traditional types of carry.
If you choose to use an off-body-carry method, it is imperative that your bag, pack, or purse remains on your person and under your absolute control every minute of the day. Also, be aware that access might be slower, and in the event of an emergency, you may not have the luxury of the time required to access the gun.
While my undershirt carry mentioned early was not practical, makers have since offered improved designs. Master of Concealment, for example, makes undershirts that are holsters. If your primary need is ultra concealment and you’re in an environment that requires things like tucked-in shirts, a clothing carry might be your only choice.
It’s hard to beat the level of concealment offered by undershirt or even underwear carry options, but having your gun completely covered with your outer layer of clothing can hinder access. Don’t just plan on ripping away a buttoned down shirt to access your gun, because that doesn’t always work as effectively as it does on TV. You’ll have to practice reaching for and withdrawing your gun, or this carry method will be of little practical value.
With the growing use of micro-sized .380s and snub-nose revolvers, pocket carry is becoming more popular than ever. Concealment is good and access is fast. You can even have your hand on your gun if you’re nervous about your surroundings.
To make pocket carry as safe as it is effective, you always need to use a pocket holster. Remember the second rule of holster use: Protect the trigger! Also, be sure to keep your holstered gun in its own pocket so it doesn’t get tangled up with keys or other items. Also be sure to practice accessing the (unloaded) gun from all of your pockets. You may find the gun goes into a certain pocket easier than it comes out.
Women-Specific Carry Methods
A number of carry options that don’t fit into the categories we’ve already discussed. For example, the Flashbang and Flashbang Marilyn holsters are designed to attach to a brassiere. The Flashbang is designed for access from underneath a loose blouse or shirt, while The Marilyn is designed to be accessed from the top when wearing a gown or scoop-neck top. I’ve gotten rave reviews from dozens of women who use them. Perhaps it’s the ladies’ alternative to belt carry that men seem to like so much.
Finally, be realistic about carrying. As one shooting guru once said, “Carrying a gun is supposed to be comforting, not comfortable.” You may need to make your wardrobe decisions around your best carry method rather than the other way around.