If you’re going to carry a concealed firearm, there are certain things you really must have. Recently, I was asked to mention what I considered the essentials for a man going about town with a concealed firearm. I’m going to assume you already have a gun, of course, but if not then the discussion of what to look for is a whole other topic for another post.
Ladies, don’t worry. There will be a version coming up specifically tailored to your needs. While many of this will translate over for either sex, I’m not about to tell women how to carry concealed. There are unique challenges there that I don’t understand at this time.
But for the guys? I understand that better, what with being a man and all. So, without further ado, here are my concealed carry essentials presented in no particular order.
1. Legal Authorization To Carry Concealed
Yes, this is perhaps the most obvious one, but if I don’t put it here, someone will think I’m too stupid to realize this is a requirement. The joy of the internet.
For most of us, this means a valid concealed carry permit. For others, you live in constitutional carry states and don’t need one. Either way, you need the legal authorization to go about in public while armed, meaning felons and other prohibited people are out of luck. Boo-freaking-hoo.
Each state has its own rules and requirements, and it’s far too varied for a single post to encompass. Check with your state to find out the requirements first. After you do that, get your permit, then continue on.
2. Low-Profile Holster
When I first started carrying, I wasn’t too worried about concealment. After all, Georgia law allows me to carry concealed or open with my permit, which meant my firearm occasionally “printing” or being visible wasn’t the end of the world. That was good because while the CZ-75B is a great gun in a lot of ways, it kind of sucks for concealed carry.
Back then, I liked leather for my carry needs because, well, it just felt right. Holsters were supposed to be leather, in my mind, so that’s what I used. My Galco didn’t do a half bad job of keeping the CZ close to my body and minimizing its bulk, but it was a pain to put on and take off, which often meant leaving my firearm behind.
Regardless of what you carry, you need a way to carry your firearm that will make it practically invisible to other people. That is the idea of concealed carry, after all. That means you need a slim holster that won’t show a bulge regardless of where you’re carrying.
My opinion on holster material has evolved over the years. While leather is still an awesome holster material, I’ve come to appreciate kydex. It’s thin, sturdy, and can be molded in ways that help aid in weapon retention.
Plus, if you’re like me and you want some personalization and flair in your setup, kydex holsters can be made with numerous images. Mine boasts the Gadsden Flag, but the options are pretty much limitless.
Other options do include thin leather and hybrid systems that use kydex and leather to create something that’s supposed to be the best of both worlds. A lot of people try different holsters before they find the right setup for themselves. I recommend trying different positions with low-cost holsters, and once you find a place you like, then upgrade to higher end holsters, unless you know someone who has already spent the money and will let you try theirs, which is the best possible option.
3. Gun Belt
When I first started carrying, I just slipped my holster onto my Target special belt and thought I was good to go. I blamed the diagonal tilt of my beltline exclusively on the weight of the pistol and not my choice of belt.
Then I got an actual gun belt, and it was like the heavens opened up, and a choir of angels started singing.
OK, maybe not, but it was a drastic improvement. The belts are built far more sturdy than your mass produced belts and are meant to handle the weight of the weapon as well as anything else you feel the need to attach. They’re also just better-built belts, in my opinion.
Belts designed for use with firearms come in the normal leather colors of black and brown. Different makers use different buckles, so you can find something to fit just about every look out there.
Frankly, these are great even if you can’t conceal carry for whatever reason.
My advice to you is to hit up either Google or Amazon if you don’t already have a vendor in mind and find a dedicated gun belt. However, many holster manufacturers also sell quality belts. This is true even if they don’t use a lick of leather in their holsters. The reason is simple. You need a good belt to go along with your quality holster.
They all know it and they’re eager to provide it, so check it out. However, don’t be afraid to shop around and ask for suggestions. Lots of folks have different opinions, so listen to them and make your decision.
I personally argue that you should feel free to ignore anyone who says they use a regular old belt without any problems. My guess is they’ve never used a real gun belt before and don’t know what they’re missing.
4. Spare Magazine/Ammo
The average gunfight only lasts for about three rounds, according to at least one study. That’s good news, right? That means whatever you’re carrying in your gun is plenty.
Except, it’s not.
You see, there’s a funny thing about averages. While we can say the average gunfight lasts for three rounds and takes place at seven yards, you could easily find yourself in 100 gunfights in your life and never replicate those numbers. An average is that, an average. It doesn’t account for what the majority of anything is.
While some gunfights do last for just three rounds, others only require one shot. Still, others require a dozen shots or far more. Frankly, you don’t get much of a say in the matter. Unless you kill him, it’s up to him when he stops fighting. He starts the fight, but he also gets to end it. Lucky him, right?
Because you have no say in the matter, it’s best to have some extra ammo on hand. Further, make sure it’s concealed as well. No one is impressed by your spare magazine or speedloader on your belt with a concealed firearm. You’re still telling everyone you have a gun. You might as well open carry at that point.
Personally, I think an inside the waistband magazine pouch is the best option, but use whatever works best for your setup. Just make sure you have at least one more magazine. I’ve never heard any gunfight survivor say they wish they’d have left ammunition at home.
Now, that leaves us with “how much?”
Honestly, that’s hard to quantify. In part, the problem is that you never know what you’re going to run into, but part is that it also depends on what you’re carrying.
For example, with my Glock 19, I don’t feel bad if I only have one magazine. Then again, it’s 15-rounds to go on top of the 15+1 in the weapon. If I need both of those and still more, I can officially say I’m having a bad day.
But for someone with a revolver, that gets trickier. A speedloader and a full cylinder won’t even equal one magazine out of a Glock, after all. Plus, speed loaders are hard to conceal.
As a result, I don’t have a hard and fast rule. If pressed, I’d say suggest making sure you have an additional 10 rounds, just to play it safe.
5. Loose Shirt
Loose clothing is, in my opinion, one of the more overlooked aspects of concealed carry. A loose shirt will help hide your gun, regardless of how you carry it. It’ll also allow you to draw your weapon the moment you need it, which is the point of having it there in the first place.
A loose, untucked shirt is one of the best ways to hide a firearm when used in conjunction with a good holster and belt setup. It can mask the additional bulk from your firearm, regardless of its location.
However, loose doesn’t mean “baggy” necessarily. A correctly sized shirt can have a loose fit, and that’s ideal. If you prefer baggy shirts, more power to you, but that offers challenges when trying to draw your weapon. You have to move the excess fabric to get to your gun, which slows down your draw and may mean the difference between life and death.
Or maybe not.
Either way, the extra material is a pain in the rear.
Instead, appropriately sized shirts with a loose fit–this includes t-shirts, mind you–can hide the weapon nicely without being a burden. However, you also have to consider your carry system. For example, if your shirt only covers up about half of your belt, an outside the waistband holster is probably not a winner of an idea. You’ll want something longer.
If that’s the case, some companies will manufacture extra-long shirts for taller folks. These might be an option. If the sleeves are a little long, don’t worry. They can be hemmed up just like pants, so don’t be afraid to give it a try.
6. Self-Defense Insurance
For the longest time, I thought that if you lived in a Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine state, you didn’t need to worry about something like this. However, there have been too many people put on trial in states with both of these laws for me to take that risk. That means some form of self-defense insurance like the NRA Carry Guard insurance is a must. (No, neither I personally nor Bearing Arms gets a kickback for the referral. I’m just a True Believer in better safe than sorry.)
“But, aren’t the odds of me ever needing it pretty low?”
Yes. It is. However, it’s going to happen to someone, and by putting your money into an insurance program like this, you’re also helping to cover that poor schlub who had to use his weapon and is now facing a whole pile of trouble because of it. I’m helping to subsidize his criminal defense, and I’m fine with that.
Plus, if the odds work against me, I’m covered.
Besides, the chances of needing a gun at all are pretty low. Why are you carrying if you don’t understand that low odds aren’t “no odds?”
Plus, the NRA Carry Guard program comes with free training available online that will help you build a better knowledge base should anything go awry. Many other self-defense insurance programs offer similar training.
Which leads us into…
For some, training was required to get their permit. For others, it’s not. Some of us live in free states that don’t try to saddle us with training requirements before we can exercise a constitutional right.
It doesn’t matter.
Either way, you don’t have enough training. I’m sorry, but you don’t. You need to go out and get some more. You need to take classes from a number of reputable trainers and learn as much as you possibly can. Then you need to take that knowledge to the range and hone it.
I don’t care if you were a Ranger-Seal-Delta-Ninja, you still have plenty to learn. We all do. Someone out there knows something you don’t, even if you’re the baddest of the bad. So be humble and learn some more stuff. At worst, with a reputable school, you get to spend a day at the range, meet new folks, and shoot a whole lot of rounds.
But most of the time, if you’re open to it, you’ll learn something new that you can at least use.
There you have it, what I consider the seven essentials for concealed carry. Of course, this is just one man’s opinion and, as I’ve previously noted, they’re in no particular order. Frankly, I think you need them all, though I will say training is an ongoing thing that you should do non-stop for the rest of your life.
So, what about you? What do you think are the essentials for concealed carry?