My husband and I both carry concealed just about every time we leave the house. Sure, most people who know us assume we each have a firearm—but only because they expect it; not because they saw something to make them suspicious.
I’ve seen the telltale signs of concealed carry and called people out on it. Yep, the person with the gun will most likely be target #1 in a confrontation. I have even picked out Air Marshals in an airport, and these people have training far above and beyond the average citizen.
Part of the problem is that some people think the practice of carrying a concealed firearm in public begins and ends with taking a course and becoming certified. The assumption is that the license and card they carry make the “concealed” handgun invisible to all those around. Wouldn’t that be nice?
However, because it’s not true, we have to work hard at keeping the secret.
“Deep concealment will almost always slow you down, so you might have to change strategies and tactics.”
There are many choices in concealed-carry gear. Just pop into the local firearms store and ask a salesperson to walk you through the options. I’m pretty sure you’ll get an earful about what they prefer. However, keep in mind that holsters are personal. Different styles work with different lifestyles. Before you make a purchase, try on a bunch of different brands and styles. Make sure the one you choose is both comfortable and functional.
As for spare magazines, some people carry them in pockets; others might not carry any at all. I’ve personally found the NeoMag pocket clip works very well for pocket carry. It keeps the magazine in the right place and right position for easy access when needed.
Finally—clothing: Carrying concealed might require adjustments to your wardrobe. Patterns and darker colors help keep the outline of the gun from printing. Pants are another consideration. If you carry inside the waistband (IWB), it could require buying pants a size larger or CCW-specific pants with flexible/adjustable waistbands.
The Internet is a great place to shop for holsters. Unfortunately, with online shopping, you can’t try items before you buy them. It’s the nature of the beast … and also why most of us have a box full of holsters in various stages of use. Regardless of which belt or holster you choose, make sure it is high quality. Also keep in mind that a gun belt is thicker and sturdier to keep your holster and gun in place.
You now have all your gear; so, of course, practice, practice and more practice is in order. Work on your movements—standing, sitting, reaching up and down. If you do a lot of sitting, make sure you can sit comfortably. When you stand up, make sure the gun doesn’t move. Practice getting into and out of your car. Your holster shouldn’t shift when you do; if it does, correct it. Have someone observe as you reach for a high shelf and a low cupboard. If they can see your holster, consider how you’ll fix it; or avoid those situations for which you have to reach.
Practice drawing from concealment with an empty gun. Before you do, visually and physically check to make sure your gun is unloaded, remove all ammo from the room, and be sure to follow the four firearms safety rules.
With an unloaded gun, and using all your gear, practice drawing from various positions, wearing different clothing. If you wear a coat, also practice while wearing it. Find out what works best. Deep concealment will almost always slow you down, so you might have to change strategies and tactics. That’s why it’s best to first dry-practice at home.
Keep the Secret
As children, it was always fun for us to say, “I know something you don’t know” (traditional sing-song voice is implied). As an adult, you should keep that in mind when you carry concealed. By keeping the secret, you maintain the element of surprise. Don’t let others know when or how you carry. Honestly, it’s none of their business. It is about your personal safety and protection.
Be wary of telltale movements. These are movements that would cause a trained observer to know you are carrying a gun. Avoid bad habits, such as constantly pulling your shirt down and/or pulling your belt up. Trust that your cover garment will keep your firearm concealed. Remember: You tested it before you left the house.
If you are in public and feel something has moved or shifted with your gear, go to a private area and make your adjustments there. Whatever you do, keep your hands off in public. Some people are so obvious that almost anyone could tell they are carrying a firearm. Be more circumspect, and keep everything under wraps.
“Carrying concealed might require adjustments to your wardrobe.”
There is no reason to feel nervous when you are in public. You already trained with your firearm, have practiced with your gear, and, hopefully, had someone observe your movements. Before you walk out of your house, ask yourself, Do I look or act like I’m carrying a gun? Remember how important it is to keep the secret!
Changing the way you move might help you feel more confident when you carry concealed. If you’re carrying on your strong side, start training yourself to reach for things with your weak-side hand. I carry on my right side at 4 o’clock, so I generally try to reach for everything with my left hand.
When you’re at the grocery store, think before you reach for that can of soup, especially if it’s on the top or bottom shelf. For the bottom shelf, don’t just bend over. Instead, bend at the knees in front of your shopping cart. For the top shelf, I would straighten my right arm against my gun and reach with my left.
If I have a cover garment that requires my support hand to clear it before drawing, I try to carry bags in my strong hand. Should I have to draw my firearm I would drop what’s in my strong hand while I clear my shirt or coat with my support hand. Although it is not always easy, I try to tailor my movements to my concealed-carry needs.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all that goes into carrying concealed. Take time to learn the ins and outs. Then, practice and train. You will soon be comfortable and confident.
Michelle Cerino is both a firearms trainer and the president of Cerino Consulting and Training Group, LLC—a firearms training company she built with her husband, Chris, in 2011. She writes, hunts and competes in major 3-gun matches nationwide.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.