In some places, keeping your gun out of public view is the law. However, whether it is or not, I prefer not to advertise than I’m carrying a firearm. A handgun carried for self-defense is your ace in the hole, and you don’t want to show that card right away.
It should be your last option—or the second-to-last option if you’re also carrying a knife. Many times, and depending on the situation, avoidance, retreat, negotiation, deception and distraction are better choices… unless things escalate to deadly physical force so quickly that you have to jump over those options and go directly to your gun.Also, carrying a gun doesn’t make you invincible. If you’re in a physical struggle, emotions are often out of control. If your adversary sees the gun, he’s apt to grab for it in the heat of the moment.Additionally, thugs won’t necessarily leave you alone if they see you’re armed. Sometimes, it will make you the target of those who want your gun. Someone walking past can suddenly restrain you until they are aided by several of their nearby buddies, who’ll take your gun before you can even clear the holster.
While the first rule of a gunfight might be “Have a gun,” another tenet high on the list is “Don’t get shot with your own gun.”
I don’t like being a walking billboard for any company. If you’re wearing a hat, t-shirt or jacket with a picture of your favorite gun or the name of a gun company, you’re not just advertising for the company; you’re advertising the higher probability that you’re armed. Save the NRA cap and pro-Second Amendment shirt for the range and backyard barbecues with like-minded friends. Out in public, avoid wearing any clothing with any references to guns on them.
WHILE THE FIRST RULE OF A GUNFIGHT MIGHT BE “HAVE A GUN,” ANOTHER TENET HIGH ON THE LIST IS “DON’T GET SHOT WITH YOUR OWN GUN.”
The type of clothing you wear also makes a difference. Dress appropriately for the weather. If you’re wearing a heavy coat in warm weather, you will stand out in a crowd, when blending in should be your goal.
Photographer’s vests and fanny packs—both popular at one time—are seldom seen these days, although they are dead giveaways to other gun owners. People not accustomed to thinking about guns are more likely to think you’re merely odd.
A lightweight blazer or sports jacket is often an excellent cover garment in situations for which business attire or fashionable casual wear is the standard. Loose-fitting polo or t-shirts or squared-off button-down shirts commonly worn untucked can work in very hot weather.
Some inside-the-waistband holsters are designed so your shirt can be tucked in. However, this does bring the shirt in closer contact with the gun and makes it more likely for the gun’s grip to poke against the shirt, thereby announcing you are trying to conceal some object there.
If your belt and holster don’t fit properly, you’ll constantly be tempted to adjust them. Even when your holster is covered by a shirt or jacket, constantly adjusting it, checking it and hiking it up are telltale signs that you’re carrying a weapon.
If you’re wearing a short, waist-length cover garment, be aware that lifting your arms above your head to reach for something might also lift the garment enough to expose your gun.
When you’re carrying in a small-of-the-back holster, be aware that bending over might expose more than just plumber’s butt.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
When you’re carrying strong-side hip, either inside or outside the waistband, the thing most likely to show through your cover garment is the butt end of the gun’s grip. If your gun features magazines with flat and extended baseplates, carry the gun with the shorter magazine, and keep an extended magazine on the opposite side for a quick reload.
Also, if the grip tends to stick out, you might be able to resolve that by moving the holster forward (more like appendix carry) or back, closer to the small of your back. You might want to consider holsters specifically made for carrying those ways. Some holsters are also adjustable for cant—your gun is angled forward about 15 degrees. This can also help avoid the grip poking your cover garment.
A HANDGUN CARRIED FOR SELF-DEFENSE IS YOUR ACE IN THE HOLE, AND YOU DON’T WANT TO SHOW THAT CARD RIGHT AWAY. IT SHOULD BE YOUR LAST OPTION …
If you carry in a pocket holster and the outline of the gun still prints on the outside of your pants, simply place several 3×5 index cards in the pocket on the outside of the holster. This can help break up the gun’s outline without interfering with drawing the pistol when needed. The resulting outline will be more rectangular, leading anyone carefully looking you over to conclude that you have a cell phone in your pocket.
If pants or shorts with cargo pockets is part of your attire, a gun larger than a typical pocket pistol can sometimes be carried comfortably and unseen in such a pocket.
Of course, all this concern might be for nothing. Most people pay little attention to their surroundings these days. They’re occupied with their own concerns—their faces buried in their cell phones and/or earphones that cancel all outside sounds. The butt of your gun poking against your shirt is virtually invisible to them.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.