Concealed Carry laws in the United States have gone through a great deal of change in the past 10 years. As of this writing, at least 39 out of 50 states have what is known as “shall-issue” laws on record with regard to issuing concealed weapon permits.
This means that a law-abiding citizen who is not prohibited from owning a firearm can successfully apply for a permit to carry one. Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming and Vermont do not require any permit for concealed carry and a handful of other states may be following this lead.
Of the remaining states, Illinois is the only one which completely prohibits concealed carry. Concealed carry permits may be applied for in New York, California, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Massachusetts; however the applicant must meet additional conditions or show a “need” to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. This can range anywhere from exorbitant fees, to proof of transporting large sums of cash, celebrity status, or the applicant having their life threatened.
With most states becoming more concealed-carry friendly, reciprocity between the states honoring each other’s’ permits has gained momentum. Making concealed carry no longer just relegated to your home state, but many others. Leaving a gun at home while going on vacation or travelling for business is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Holster makers have stepped up to the plate with regard to meeting the needs of concealed carry everywhere. Long gone are the days of simply shoving a pistol in your waistband and hoping it stays in place or having to wear a long overcoat to hide a pistol and praying that it goes unnoticed.
IWB (Inside the Waistband)
Inside the waistband (IWB) is by far the most popular method of concealed carry. Concealing the firearm is attained by the holster being worn in the waistband with only the butt of the gun being visible above the belt line. This in turn can be concealed by a shirt or jacket.
Some holster makers such as DeSantis and Galco have taken this a step further by providing off-setting clips to attach to their holsters to allow the shirt to be tucked in while wearing these IWB holsters.
IWB carry, usually entails that the wearer go up a size or two in pants size to accommodate the size and bulk of the pistol and holster.
Some popular IWB Holsters include DeSantis Sof Tuck, the Insider (also made by Desantis), The Don Hume H715M, and the Galco Stow N Go.
Outside the Waistband
Outside the waistband (OWB) is another alternative and the choice of many. Proper concealment requires an untucked shirt at the very least, but more realistically: a jacket or a vest which will hang lower than the bottom of the holster.
The key component to either an IWB or an OWB holster platform is a quality belt which will support the weight of the gun, keep it in a consistent position and prevent the pants from sagging.
Shoulder holsters date to the 1800’s. During the latter half of the 19th century, belts were not fashionable and most men held their pants up by wearing suspenders. The alternatives were wearing an external dedicated holster belt, which told the world that the wearer was carrying a revolver (or two), or a shoulder holster of some type which concealed the revolver under a jacket and utilized the upper body for support.
Shoulder holsters are popular with people who spend long periods of time seated, driving, or riding; as the gun can be drawn with ease from the seated position as opposed to a holster worn on the belt. A classic example of the practicality of the shoulder holster was displayed by Detective Fish, portrayed by actor Abe Vigoda on the television show, Barney Miller, as the aging detective often made trips to the lavatory. Often the first time an IWB carrier sees the practicality of a shoulder holster is when answering a call of nature in a public restroom stall.
The primary weakness of the shoulder holster is having to keep on a jacket or vest to hide it, which may not be practical all of the time, especially during the summer. Although this never seemed a problem for Sonny Crockett on the television show Miami Vice (who wore the Galco Miami Classic); in actuality, the actor did not wear his gun in the holster under his jacket for 90% of the shooting of the series. A “wardrobe assistant” toted the actor’s gun for him until there was a need for a close up shot.
Colonel Jeff Cooper once wrote that the best handgun in the world was “the one you have on your person at the time”. As most service-size handguns have considerable weight or bulk, many concealed carriers rely on smaller “pocket pistols”. It is generally considered unsafe to drop a small automatic or revolver in the pocket as the trigger is unprotected and these small guns are prone to shifting while in the pocket, making a consistent and safe “draw” unreliable.
Enter the pocket holster; which holds the gun securely in place in the pocket and helps break up the distinctive outline. Most pocket holsters are meant to remain in the pocket while the gun is drawn by having a rough or rubberized exterior to prevent the holster from being drawn with the pistol. Such as the El Paso Pocket Max, the DeSantis Superfly and the Galco Pocket Protector.
DeSantis has recently unveiled a unique pocket holster called the Pocket Shot, for several small 380 ACP handguns that resembles a wallet and is intended to be drawn with the gun and fired while still in the holster.
Miscellaneous Concealed Carry Modes
There are several holsters and products that allow different methods of concealed than the aforementioned types. Examples are: concealed carry jackets, purses, day planners, fanny packs and even a concealed carry bra for women.
These products are made with hidden places in them to easily conceal carry, and give quick access to a gun without having to carry it directly on your person. The advantage is primarily comfort and the article may be stowed in a vehicle if the bearer is entering a courthouse, airport or other place where weapons are not allowed.
However, the use of these options is inherently risky as a jacket containing a pistol can be left behind in a restaurant or a purse or planner toting a concealed handgun can be stolen or grabbed by a criminal, giving them access to a weapon.
Gone are the days of being relegated to carrying a small pocket pistol or wearing a trench coat to hide your lawfully carried firearm. New holsters are made from lightweight materials such as kydex and are designed to minimize bulk for the first time in decades.
The choices are unlimited and it now comes down to finding a mode of carry that suits the carrier’s lifestyle rather than a complete lifestyle change in order to carry comfortably.