If you are one of the millions of gun owners in America that wishes to defend yourself when you are out in public, you likely have considered looking into your state’s carry laws. As of this writing, 49 states allow concealed carry of firearms in public (Illinois is the only state that does not allow it, although this ban was recently overturned in a federal appeals court).
To someone who has never carried their firearm in public before, there are some things that you should know prior to doing so.
**Important note: the information contained in this article is true to the best of the author’s knowledge as of the time of it’s writing. Do not rely on this information as legal advice.**
Concealed Carry Laws
Laws regarding concealed carry vary from state to state. Some states, like Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming, no permit is required to carry a concealed handgun. Other states have what are called “shall-issue” or “may-issue” laws. Shall-issue states basically lay out criteria that one must meet before obtaining a permit. If all those criteria are met, the state’s issuing authority shall issue the permit. May-issue states allow the issuing authority to use their discretion on issuing a permit after certain criteria is met. It is important to know which distinction your state follows in the event your permit application is denied.
Many states require permit applicants to undergo some training to certify that they can safely handle a firearm. The National Rifle Association has a comprehensive concealed carry course that covers firearm safety, terminology, concealed carry techniques, and legal issues that one might face in that particular state. Some states recognize prior military or police service as evidence of meeting the training requirements.
Each state also has varying rules with regards to where you can carry a firearm. Places such as public schools, establishments that sell alcohol, and political venues are off limits in many states. Certain states also allow private businesses to identify themselves as a no gun zone, and that they prohibit concealed carry on their property. The requirements vary from state to state on how it must be communicated from business owner to concealed carry gun owner that the business is a no gun zone. On a Federal level, you can’t carry a firearm into federal buildings (post offices, court houses, prisons, etc.).
First Time Concealed Carry
Assuming you meet your state’s requirements and have a permit to carry a concealed weapon you may feel a little nervous. This is normal to many people who have never carried a gun in public before. Before you do go out into public, be sure you know your state and local laws concerning concealed carry of firearms. There are too many variations to list them all here – do your homework!
Concealed carry of a firearm requires at a minimum three tangible things from the gun owner.
- Firearm: This one is a no brainer. If you are going to carry a concealed weapon, you need to first have the gun, right? But it is important to note that not just any gun will do. You need to choose a gun that you are comfortable shooting. Practice with it a fair amount before taking it out in public so that you are absolutely certain you know how the gun works, how to clear any malfunctions, and perhaps most importantly giver yourself the confidence that you can shoot accurately.
- Holster: While holsters may not be a legal requirement in order to carry a concealed firearm, I would suggest having one. Holsters are designed to keep a gun in place, and keeps you from accidentally brushing up against the trigger. The type of holster you use will depend on the type of gun you are carrying, and what type of clothing you are wearing. This leads me to the next point.
- Comfortable Clothing: This is a must! If you aren’t comfortable carrying then you won’t be carrying for too long. Think about a pair of shoes you bought that were just a bit too small. If they are uncomfortable to wear, you won’t wear them for too long. The point is to be able to carry comfortably so that you don’t become discouraged and eventually just leave the gun at home.
Concealed Carry Equipment
Choosing the right caliber gun is also important. A .22 simply doesn’t have the same stopping power as a 9mm or a .45. On the other hand carrying a heavier, larger gun like a 1911 .45, may prove to be uncomfortable for you depending on your body size. There is not right answer as to which caliber gun you should carry. The right caliber for you is the one you feel most comfortable with.
You may also consider having several different concealed carry options. In the winter months, for example it may be easier to keep a larger gun concealed in an inside the waistband holster due to the typically bulkier sweaters, sweatshirts, or jackets that you may be wearing. In the summer months, this may be a more difficult if you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Summer months may require a smaller gun that fits into a pocket holster so that it remains concealed. Again, comfort will allow you to carry more frequently.
There are a wide variety of holster options available these days. This will potentially allow you to carry the same gun in several different configurations. Just like choosing the right caliber gun is important, choosing the right location on your body to carry a gun is equally important.
Several common concealed carry holster configurations include:
- Shoulder Holsters: These holsters are probably the best for drawing your gun while seated. If you are doing a lot of driving (taxi driver, delivery person), you may want to consider a shoulder holster. Be sure to choose a shirt that allows you to easily access the gun.
- Ankle Holsters: These are holsters that strap to your ankle, and are designed to be worn under long pants. If you choose an ankle holster, choose an appropriate pair of pants to wear. Jeans sometimes tend to be too rigid at the ankle to effectively pull the pant leg up to access the gun. Dress pants tend to be a better option for this type of concealed carry method. Also, be aware that since your gun is down near your ankle, it will be a little more difficult for you to retrieve it quickly.
- Inside the Waist Holster: This is an ideal choice if you have a larger gun, but don’t want to wear an unusually long shirt to cover it up. Smaller guns fare well with inside the waist holsters as well. Just be sure to wear a size up on your pants from what you normally wear, as you will most likely feel like you’re going to burst through them with a gun taking up the extra breathing room.
- Outside the Waist Holster: These attach to your waist in a similar manner to a cell phone clip. They offer you the ability to carry a larger caliber without feeling like you’re busting out of your pants. The trade off is that since the entire gun is outside of your pants, you need to be sure to wear a long enough shirt to cover the whole gun.
- Pocket Holster: Only use a pocket holster for smaller guns. Larger guns simply won’t fit, and can be made easily visible. They are also rather difficult to draw from in a seated position. Also, be absolutely sure that you don’t place anything else in the pocket with your gun. Loose change, car keys, pens and the like can all become accidentally lodged inside the trigger well, or knock the safety to the fire position, causing an unsafe environment.
- Off the Body: There are many different varieties of “off the body” holsters, which I am lumping into one broad category. The holsters previously discussed are all “on the body”. Off the body types include specially designed purses, backpacks, fanny packs and other similar configurations. The advantage to these are you are free to wear whatever you like without having to take your firearm into consideration, and they tend to be more comfortable. The disadvantage is that if you were to put down your off the body holster, it should be locked up securely. It also may take a bit longer to draw your gun from in an emergency.
Do you have any favorite concealed carry techniques? Be sure to share them in the comments to help out some first timers.