Deciding what gun to carry is only part of the equation, you also need to make a choice on where you are going to carry it on your person. Combined with a holster and a belt, it becomes your carry system.
There are an infinite number of ways to carry your firearm, ranging from the practical to the “you must be kidding.” At least once a week I see some new exotic deep concealment option, most of which in my opinion is snake oil. As Col Tonn frequently told me, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you oughta.”
Check out all the episodes in this series:
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 1 Stop The Nonsense!
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 2 Revolver or Pistol for CCW?
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 3 Fighting with Edged Weapons
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 4 Lights and Lasers!
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 5 Holster Selection & Where to Carry
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 6 Red Dots vs Iron Sights
Small of the Back
There is a natural hollow in the curve of your back, though that hollow gets a little harder to see as you get older. Many people see this area, commonly referred to as “small of the back” (SOB), and think it is an ideal place to carry a gun. Provided your clothes stay in place, it does hide a handgun quite well and allows you to carry a larger gun with no consequences. Because the grip of a pistol ends up facing up your spine, above your gun belt, it is just as easy to carry a Glock 17 as a Glock 19, for example.
I actually carried this way for awhile when I was younger. At first glance, this method works great. Spending some time doing it, however, rapidly exposes weaknesses. First, the draw is slow and from an unnatural angle. If you are at contact range when you need to deploy your weapon, your odds of getting it out and in use are slim.
Next, it is very easy to muzzle yourself when you draw, particularly if you are trying to draw fast. I am not saying that can’t be overcome with practice, it can. You can draw safely from SOB. It’s just unlikely when the shooting starts.
It is also very easy to start printing with this method. If your shirt rides up in the back even a little, your business is on front street. SOB is loud if you sit in an unpadded chair, such as those commonly found in a diner. That might sound stupid sitting at your computer, but in the real world, people notice.
Last but certainly not least, SOB increases your odds of hurting yourself in a fray not involving a gunshot. If you fall backward, you are now landing on a thick piece of steel or polymer placed directly over your tailbone. That fall is not going to feel good and may take you out of the fight before it starts. Since I live in a place prone to ice, I say “no thanks” to SOB.
Probably the most common method, this is the gun tucked behind the hip bone on your strong side hand. It usually rolls out of my mouth as “strong side FBI.” The “FBI” in that means a slight forward cant to the gun. Straight up and down is fine too, but I find the cant hides the gun a little better for me.
I like strong side because it is the most comfortable for me and of the three methods I’m discussing today, it has the second fastest draw time. If I am carrying a bigger gun, like a Glock 23, I use a Crossbreed holster. If it is something smaller like my XDS or XDE, I like a clip on model made by Jacksons Leather Works. I have been using the same Jacksons holster for four years and it is awesomely durable.
Why do I favor comfort over fastest draw strokes? It makes me more likely to carry the gun, and I can do so longer. That might not matter to Vin Diesel or John Wick, but it matters when you do this every day.
Carrying the gun at the front of your body in the twelve or two o’clock positions is not without controversy, and not my favorite method, but it does have advantages we must acknowledge.
First, there is no question it’s the fastest way to get your gun in the fight. Not only is this true tucked in your pants, look at the competitions where they have a choice of holster placement. All winners at Cowboy Action end up with the gun basically at or near the appendix carry position, albeit a bit modified from a traditional concealed carry setup. And those guys draw quick.
From a carry perspective, I challenge you to try this with an empty gun if you haven’t already. It is noticeably faster, even with minimal training time. It has the shortest path to employment, which also means you are arguably more likely to be able to use it if an assailant is already on top of you.
There are, however, two main drawbacks. If you are a Calvin Klein model, this might be comfortable. For a plus-sized gun model like myself, not so much. I have found one holster setup that makes this tolerable, and it is also the only one I would trust for this style of carry: The Desbiens Gun Leather HardCore #4 Reverse Cant.
This brings us to negative point number two. Appendix carry is basically pointing a loaded gun at your twigs and berries, and femoral artery — all day long. I did a 100 empty gun draws and reholsters before I was willing to try this live, and I never had a firing pin fall. Still, it makes me nervous and I am not alone in feeling that way.
Worst case scenario with strong side, a negligent discharge blows my butt cheek off. Not fun for certain, but not likely to kill me. Appendix, you are playing with coffin nails. I have patched a couple of femoral bleeds in my days as a soldier, not pretty. Not something I would gamble on to save a half second of draw time. This is a personal decision, though, do what your pay grade can handle.
Whatever you decide, your holster is not the place to cheap out. Make sure you buy high quality, your life might depend on it. Buying a cheap holster is like having a Ferrari that you only fill up with E-85 fuel. The system can’t work if all the parts aren’t up to the task. If you have opted to use a laser or flashlight on your concelaed carry gun, Crimson Trace® has a fantastic holster finder on their website.