Concealed Carry Options: Where and How You Should Do So

Despite what many new CCW holders may think, deciding where and how you will carry your firearm involves thinking about comfort, concealment, draw speed, and security. It also involves determining if and when you will need to carry, to begin with. Looking at each of these individual factors, you can determine which options are best for you.

Comfort

Comfort is high on the list of considerations. It must be; otherwise, you will quickly grow tired of carrying your firearm and end up leaving it at home. The biggest issue people tend to have is finding a holster that is comfortable. First, you need to consider your body type, build, clothing you would be wearing, and what you will be doing physically while carrying your firearm. For example, the holster that works well walking around town with the family may not be suitable for long drives. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to tell whether a particular holster or location will be comfortable until you try it out.

Concealment

For those who live in a state prohibiting open carry, concealment is a must. It allows you to retain the element of surprise should that firearm ever be needed. Fortunately, most off-duty style holsters are designed to provide concealment, although some are definitely better than others. Look for those that are held tight to your body or are placed where there is a natural curve that can easily camouflage the holster.

Draw Speed

Draw speed is one of the areas most overlooked, and it usually has nothing to do with the location or holster. It has to do with the wearer’s lack of experience. Generally, there are a few locations that are easier to draw from than others, such as from the waist. Other areas, such as the ankle, can be drawn from efficiently if you practice.

In terms of placing your firearm, you need to select a location that allows you to be aware of the firearm. If someone attempts to take it, you have to be able to notice it and react accordingly. Finally, it should be in a location that allows you to properly secure and position the holster. That holster should be fitted with strong, properly functioning points of attachment, and a means of securing the firearm when you are moving, reaching, running, etc.

How to Carry Your Firearm

There is a wide range of options when it comes to where you can carry a firearm, and some are better than others. Let’s review some of the more popular carry options and the positives and negatives associated with each.

WAIST

The waist is by far the most popular option when it comes to carrying a firearm, concealed or otherwise. Not only is doing so easy, but it is also easier to reach as your hands hang in this area naturally. There are two types of ways to wear your firearm around your waist:

1. Inside the Waistband (IWB): This holster sits inside the waist of the pants and is secured over the belt. Locations, where this could be worn, include behind the back, primary side hip, or cross draw from support side front.

PROS

  • Majority of firearms is inside the pants, so it is secure.
  • By adding a shirt or jacket, you can easily secure even a large-frame firearm.
  • Provides multiple location options.
  • Easily accessible if needed.

CONS

  • May require pants a size larger than normal.
  • In warmer weather, an untucked shirt is necessary.
  • Depending on body type or activity, it may not be the most comfortable method.

2. Outside the Waistband (OWB): This is similar to the IWB method, except the holster and firearm rest outside the pants.

PROS

  • Favored by plain-clothes law enforcement officers.
  • Works well with a suit, or when baggy trousers or untucked shirt is not possible
  • Easily accessible and provides fast drawing time.
  • Allows firearm and/or holster to removed and reattached quickly.

CONS

  • Easily spotted, as holster and firearm print on clothing.
  • Can be visible if cover garment moves.

SHOULDER

Although this may not be as popular as Hollywood would have you believe, it does have a time and place. The holster is suspended under the support side armpit and secured by a system of straps or a harness that stretches across the back. Many shoulder holsters include the ability to carry spare magazines and handcuffs on the opposite side. Accessing the firearm is done via the cross draw method.

PROS

  • Works well with a suit or other options where trousers or belt will not support the holster.
  • Most holsters will allow adjustment to fit many body types.
  • Easy to access, although some practice may be required to become comfortable.

CONS

  • The firearm is exposed every time jacket opens or is removed.
  • Large-frame firearms can be uncomfortable without a counterweight on the opposite side.
  • The muzzle is pointing at those behind you.

ANKLE

This method of carry is more common with off-duty law enforcement, many of whom use it as a means of carrying on-duty backup weapons. Although it is not widely utilized by civilians, it does have its advantages, especially when it comes to small-frame weapons. The holster is strapped to or around the leg and worn on the inside of the support side.

PROS

  • Excellent for those who drive, sit, or kneel a lot.
  • Best suited for small-frame firearms.
  • If worn with high-top boots, the holster can be attached directly to the boot for added support and comfort.
  • Well suited for those who do not wear a jacket or other outer garment for concealment of waist area.

CONS

  • May take time to grow accustomed to extra weight on the ankle.
  • Not the most secure option if you run, jump, etc.
  • More difficult to access, and even with practice, is slower to draw.

POCKET

It may sound like an amateur means of carrying a firearm, but a pocket is always a viable option. Many firearms and holster manufacturers create products specifically designed with this method in mind. The most common placement is in a front or cargo pocket. Depending on the pocket chosen, this can be a very secure method, making loss or theft nearly impossible. Obviously, it can only be used with small-frame firearms, such as derringers or snub nose revolvers.

PROS

  • Very secure, almost impossible to lose or be stolen.
  • Allows a very covert means of carrying a firearm in a location most will not expect.

CONS

  • Probably the easiest way to shoot yourself during a draw.
  • Some holsters must first be removed from the pocket, then from the firearm before use.
  • Although not the slowest location to draw from, it is not the quickest either.

OTHER BODY SITES

Many manufacturers offer non-traditional holsters that allow carrying in other than expected locations such as belly bands, holster shirts, and even pouches that hang inside the trousers. These methods are not for everyone and offer some specific challenges, but in the correct situation and with the proper application, they can be beneficial.

PROS

  • Allows for deep cover options.
  • Allows carrying of a firearm with athletic gear, shorts, or without a belt.
  • Excellent when involved in running, jumping, or other physical activity that comes with the risk of losing your firearm.

CONS

  • Can be uncomfortable, and some methods can restrict movement.
  • Very difficult to access.
  • The firearm may shift throughout wear.
  • Extended exposure to body and sweat may increase wear and rust.

OFF-BODY OPTIONS

There are times when carrying a firearm on your person is not possible, but that does not mean you need to place yourself and your family at risk. There are several off-body carry options available that allow you to have your firearm close at hand, even if it is not immediately on your person. Whether you choose a backpack, briefcase, purse, or fanny pack, it is important to select something that is specifically designed to conceal a firearm. It is also important to remember that your firearm is more susceptible to loss or theft with an off-body method.

PROS

  • Allows carry in almost any situation.
  • Works well with a large selection of firearm shapes and sizes.
  • It does not matter what you are wearing or what your individual body type is.

CONS

  • Not as secure from loss or theft.
  • Slow to access and not usually possible in a covert manner.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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