“Doug Carlton” on Concealed Carry

Jim asked me a while back to write a piece on carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) in hot weather and damp climates. I failed. What you have here simply has to do with CCW overall. I tried to limit it, but after a few false starts I realized there was no way to keep it confined to hot weather without covering the basics anyway. I’m no expert. I’ve carried concealed both in the USA and overseas, and have done so daily (almost without exception) for the last 20 years. In every class I take I usually learn something new, and always learn something old. I’m no expert in guns or writing. So here you go.

The first and most important thing about a concealed weapon is to understand what it does and does not do for you. Having a gun and be willing to use a gun are two different things. It has been rightly said that “A sheep with a gun is still a sheep.” Also, if you carry a concealed weapon, you may still be attacked. After all, the attacker doesn’t know you have one. So just having a gun on you does not stop crime. Think of the concealed weapon as a spare tire. It won’t prevent flats, but it can certainly help out if you have one. The first step is to develop the mental attitude required to carry a gun. Once that’s done, proceed to step two. That second step would be dependent upon your state’s laws. Obviously some places are easier to legally carry, but they all have some odd-ball codes and laws, and you need to know them. Often times a class may be required, but often times it’s not. The laws still apply, so it’s up to you to know them. Hey, it’s part of your responsibility anyway. So now you have your CWP, CHL or whatever you want to call it, or you live where you don’t need one, and it’s time to start packing. Obviously the first thing you need is a gun. Now gun choices are a personal thing. I could pontificate about one gun or another, but in the end it’s your hide, and your choice.
Choose something that you like. The reason for this is you’ll practice with something you like more than something you hate. You’re also relying on this for your life, so you might as well like it. King Arthur probably didn’t hate Excalibur, and you shouldn’t hate your carry gun either. Carry a gun you like, it makes life easier. What’s good for one person may not be suitable for another. So don’t get too wrapped around the axle about when anyone tells you that, “you need to carry X…blah, blah, blah.” Advice is great, but it’s your life that we are talking about here. Choose based on what you need, not on what someone else needs.
Carry a gun that you’re comfortable with. You want it to be as easy as grabbing your cell-phone or car keys. It needs to be easy to live with. It also needs to be good enough to put a quick end to your problems too. I’m not as dogmatic as some in choosing a particular caliber. A good hit in any decent caliber will do the job. Making a hole that’s one tenth of an inch bigger will not make up for a poor hit. I guess I’m from the Shot Placement party. I wouldn’t go smaller than a .38+P, and I wouldn’t go larger than a .45ACP for most applications. I’m not going to get into any pissing-matches on the subject either. Choose what you feel is right for you. In the sticks or in the city, you may have to also deal with animals of pretty good size. Dogs, big cats, lions, tigers and bears, whatever, just remember you might have to deal with something other than a two-legged assailant.
I’m not a big fan of specific guns for limited applications. I don’t have a “car gun”, a “nightstand gun”, a “house gun”, a “cold weather gun, nor a “hot weather gun”. I have one gun that I carry. It goes with me out the door, into the car, around the town, back in the house, and there it is. If you have guns stashed all over the place, that’s your business. That works for many just fine. I just feel that if the gun I’m carrying is good enough to trust my life to, then it’s good enough to trust it in the house, in the car, et cetera.
So now you have your gun. How will you pack it around? There are several ways to do it. One is “off-body”. This is the fanny pack, gun purse, briefcase, portfolio, etc. option. While they do indeed easily conceal a good size gun, anything that’s not strapped to your body securely increases the risk that you won’t have it right when you need it. A purse snatcher may render someone weaponless. It’s fairly common in tourist areas to “snake” a fanny pack off of someone and run off as well. Unless you maintain positive possession of that portfolio at all times, then your gun isn’t secure. There are some good reasons to use off-body, but a lot of bad ones too. I’d do some serious thinking before using one of these methods.
Another common way is to carry it in your pocket. Yeah, it works but the gun is rarely secure, so drawing it is slower since it’s not in the same place all the time. When it’s flopping around in your pocket it can become uncomfortable as well banging around in your pocket. It also wears on pockets something fierce. There are pocket holsters, and they work, but pocket pistols are usually small, light, underpowered affairs. There is always the shoulder holster. It’s not all that popular generally because it’s a hassle to put on and take off, and you have all sorts of adjustments. Women can find the shoulder holster more useful, because hip holsters are often made for men, and a lady’s hips just aren’t the same. If you have to use the toilet a lot, a shoulder rig makes the process easier though. If you sit a lot at a desk, or drive a lot, they can work as well. Then there is the ankle holster. You need to dress right for it. Obviously shorts won’t work. Neither will close fitting, boot cut jeans. The biggest drawback with them is it takes two hands to draw, and it takes time and space. The most stable way to do it is to go to one knee, pull up with one hand and draw with the other. There are variations, but it’s going to be hard to do if you’re in contact with a mugger, or have one arm fending off a knife or herding a child. As a back-up, I’d say it’s a great place. As a primary, it’d have to be a situation where I couldn’t carry on my belt. Which brings us to the waist carry. Inside the belt, outside the belt, tucked in the waist, “Mexican string”, clips, whatever. Most people carry this way, and there are a large variety of holsters available. The most important thing about carrying on the waist is the belt, not the holster. You can get away with a cheap holster if you have to, as long as you have a good, stiff belt to support it. If you have a $150 holster, it will still suck if it used with a flimsy belt. Get a good belt! This is where your money should go.
Obviously for the gun to be concealed, you need to hide it some way from common sight. Try to blend in. Wearing a police raid jacket in 110 degree weather isn’t blending in. A lot of people have gone to vests. How successful that is will depend on what people wear in your area. Darker colors will hide the profile of a gun better than light ones. Also watch how you move. Bending over, reaching up, etc may expose your sidearm. If you pick an inside the waistband system, remember to have room in your waistband. The first couple times you carry, you might feel like a gun with a person attached to it. Once you get used to it, it’s no biggie.

Practice the way you will be using the gun. If it’s cold and you’re wearing gloves, then you need to practice with them on. The same goes for drawing from under a coat. Practice with what you’ll be wearing. If it’s hot, practice when it’s hot. Sweaty hands can make things different. Inspect your gun regularly. Yeah, it sounds odd, but people forget to re-load their gun after cleaning it, or worse yet don’t clean it until they shoot it. Get in a habit in the way you do things. Stick to those habits.
Practice in situations that are real-life threats to you. Americans spend a great deal of time in and around cars. In fact, statistically, most gunfights in the USA occur in and around cars. So practice from the driver’s seat with the seat belt on. You should practice getting out, getting in, and moving around a car.
Training is the key. Get professional training. OK, I won’t harp on it, but if you don’t have training, you’re counting on luck–and that’s not what you should be counting on. – “Doug Carlton”

JWR Adds: I wholeheartedly concur with Doug’s comments. My personal choice for concealed carry is a stainless steel compact .45 ACP such as a Colt Officer’s Model or even a trusty old Detonics. But YMMV. It is important to get top notch training at a place like Front Sight. That is money well spent. If you’ve never attended professional firearms training, you’ll find that you will learn more in one weekend than you picked up casually in your entire lifetime. Train as you’ll fight, because human nature dictates that you will fight as you train. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Rather, PERFECT practice makes perfect. Don’t scrimp on training!