Being involved with Concealed Carry on so many levels affords me a great opportunity to share my experiences. Like many people my primary means of learning seems to be the hard way, through making mistakes.
On the job training
As I look back, I would have loved had there been some sort of resource to answer questions or give direction. There really wasn’t, many of the lessons learned were from trial and error. The number of holsters I have gone through is staggering, but each of them provided me valuable feedback. The most important feedback possible and what I share whenever I can is to define your mission. What are you trying to accomplish, what are your left and right limits. Those new to concealed carry typically look at everything like a nail with one big hammer.
Three part system
A better approach is to consider a system; where each part connects to form a complex whole. Similar to layering in inclement weather you have to start with your base. The parts that make up your base include, but are not limited to the firearm, holster and belt. When looking to carry concealed it behooves you to put much thought into what firearm you will start out carrying. I emphasize start because it is likely you will evolve as you become more experienced. Setting basic criterion such as compact frame holding a minimum of 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition is a great jump off point. Your next part is the holster and for optimum concealment it should be positioned inside the waistband. Some basic criterion for holster selection should be retains the firearm, protects the trigger and secures to your body. Lastly is the belt, it needs to be rigid enough to support the weight of your loadout and hold up your pants. You want to choose your base wisely since it will effect the rest of the system.
Hiding is key
The next part to your concealment system is your lower unit. Whether you are wearing pants, shorts or something else in between you want to choose wisely. Find wardrobe options that support your base unit, not the other way around. Ideally, since we are carrying inside the waistband adding an inch or two to your waist size will increase your comfort and provide additional options. Comfort is the first priority when selecting your lower unit wardrobe. They say the devil is in the details so belt loop width is important, it must match your belt. Front pockets should be horizontal to help conceal supporting equipment such as knives and flashlights. Back pockets should be patch pockets without flaps or closure options for those times you need to carry additional equipment. Not every piece of wardrobe will be the same so you will want to test each piece prior to relying on it for the mission at hand. Can you perform simple tasks such as bending over, squatting down and light activity, if not consider other choices.
Balancing concealability with access
Next is your upper unit; it’s primary function is to conceal your base. Since some will choose to carry on the waistband as opposed to inside they are relying on the upper unit for complete concealment versus sharing the task with the lower unit. Relying on camouflage 101 principles; such as hiding, blending and or deceiving are good reminders for concealed carry. Hiding your base from the casual observer is priority number one and what we rely on heavily when carrying concealed. Your upper unit wardrobe choices should be of a heavier material, cotton blends as an example. Dark or neutral colors, think earth tone colors over good old fashion black. Breaking up the silhouette with stripes or broken patterns only increase your ability to hide your base. Whether a single layer or multiple layers, whether button down or open front, your defeat methodology should be able to clear the cover garment. It’s one thing to do a good job of concealing, but you need quick access to your firearm so it will be balance you are constantly adjusting.
Carrying concealed is lifestyle where your ultimate goal is to carry everyday. This three part system approach will better equip and prepare you for that ultimate goal.