Concealed Carry Basics

One question you must answer should you decide to carry concealed is: how will I carry the handgun? This section addresses some of the options available in that regard and provides some guidance as to how to make the choice that works for you.

The interest in concealed carry has produced a flood of different devices to help you carry concealed. This section covers some of them. But we want to start the section with a couple of emphatic concealed carry DON’TS.

Concealed Carry Don’ts for Pockets and Purses

A lot of folks who carry get a pocket pistol, stick it in their pocket, and go about their business. At Straightforward Shooting, we were at the range when someone shot himself this way. Let’s look at why.

A gun in a pocket has no protection against objects getting between the trigger guard and the trigger. If that happens, standing up and sitting down can easily discharge your gun. In addition, the gun can turn any which direction in your pocket. So when you need it in an emergency, it may well be pointing the wrong way. Even worse, when you pull the gun out of your pocket, how easy is it for your finger to pull on the trigger? Take our word, it’s really easy.

There’s a similar problem for purse carry. It is so tempting to drop the gun in your purse—after all, everything else goes there too! How do you prevent the same problems that arise with pocket carry? Do you want to be fishing around between Kleenex and your kid’s ruler in an emergency? Do you want to have to clear a paper clip out of the barrel before you shoot?

The problem here is not pockets and purses. It can extend to any device in which you conceal a firearm and it arises from three fundamental issues:

  1. The gun is not holstered. That leaves the trigger exposed to stray items and stray fingers when the gun is being drawn. A good holster will always cover the trigger guard. You should never carry without the trigger guard being covered.
  2. The gun is not secured in a predictable spot. This means you cannot get to it quickly in an emergency and might discharge the gun while fishing for it.
  3. The gun is not isolated from other items. So stray objects can get into the trigger guard or down the barrel.

So let’s apply these principles to carrying in your pocket. If you carry in your pocket, you should have a pocket holster that both covers the trigger guard and secures the gun in a predictable spot. Other than the gun and the holster, your pocket should be empty.

So there’s nothing inherently wrong with pocket or purse carry—as long as you do it correctly.

You can apply these key principles to any form of carry. Is sticking the gun in the waistband of your pants with no holster a good idea? Why not?

Practice, Practice, Practice

It’s a lot harder to get a handgun out of a holster safely and quickly than it looks. It’s also a lot harder to re-holster the gun without shooting yourself in the leg than it looks.

If you are going to carry, you owe it to yourself to learn how to safely draw and re-holster your gun. Knowledge is not enough. You have to practice these procedures over and over until they are automatic—until they are lodged in “muscle memory.” And, you need to practice them in the way you are going to carry. For example, if you intend to carry a semi-automatic with a round chambered and the safety on and to wear your holster under a loose shirt, you need to practice that way. Your hand needs to remember how to get the shirt out of the way and to take the safety off. Otherwise, in an emergency, you will be tangled up and end up holding a handgun that is no more effective than would be a very short metal club.

Those skills are taught in Straightforward Shooting’s Confident Carry™ Workshops. It is best to learn those physical skills in a classroom setting from an instructor who can guide you through the learning and practicing of those physical skills.

Carrying Concealed Is a Fashion Decision

In deciding how you will carry, you are making a fashion choice centered on concealing your handgun, not necessarily based on what is most fashionable or on what you would wear absent the decision to carry.

Many of the carry options available require you to wear specific types of clothing (for example, jacket or loose shirt) to conceal the handgun. That pretty much eliminates tank tops with exposed midriffs. Others require you to wear a fanny pack or carry a specific type of purse or briefcase.

When deciding whether and how to carry, you have to determine how important it is for you to carry and what kind of trade-offs (fashion-wise) you are willing to make to carry effectively.

Choosing your Concealed Carry Method

The principal goals in choosing the option that is right for you are: Concealment, Comfort, Convenience, Accessibility, and Retention.


Colorado law requires your concealed handgun to be concealed—that means, a reasonable person looking at you would not know you are carrying. If people can see your handgun, that is “open-carry” and has a completely different set of rules (almost always more restrictive) than concealed carry for a permit holder.

Comfort and Convenience

Don’t underestimate these factors. If you are uncomfortable or it is too difficult getting strapped in for the day, you won’t carry that way long.


Ideally, you want a carry method that lets you get the gun out and deployed quickly and with a minimum of unzipping, reaching inside clothing, or bending over. This is both a safety issue and a self-defense issue. In an emergency, not having to fuss with a lot of stuff to get your gun out makes for faster self-defense and for a lower chance of accidental discharge. However, accessibility is often traded off for concealment.


Your carry device should securely hold the gun, without dropping it as you move around during the day.

Common Concealed Carry Options

Here are some of the more common concealed carry options you will want to consider.


Holsters come in many and various packages and configurations. We’ll describe some of them here. One feature that you should always look for in a holster—it must cover the trigger guard of your gun when you draw. This is a key safety issue and must not be ignored.

Inside-the-waistband-holsters fit between your body and your pants or skirt. These holsters are often carried in the small of the back or just in front of or just behind the hip bone. These must be worn with a coat or loose shirt covering them. These keep the gun close to your body—so the profile of the gun is fairly minimal. Some people find them uncomfortable. But they are easy to access. These holsters can be set for your shooting-hand hip or for cross draw across your belly.

Outside-the-waistband-holsters fit outside the waistband and usually require a sturdy belt and a jacket or a loose shirt. The gun’s profile is usually larger than with inside the waistband holsters. But accessibility and comfort is better. These holsters may be found in configurations that sit on your shooting-hand hip, for cross-draw across your belly, or for draw from the small of your back.

Ankle holsters strap around your ankle under your pants. This is very comfortable and retention is great. But it is hard to get to in an emergency.

Shoulder holsters fit the gun under your arm and support it with a strap over your shoulder. A jacket covers it up. You draw from a shoulder holster across your body.

Pocket Holsters allow you to put a gun in your pocket. The holster covers the trigger guard and keeps the gun oriented with its grip up. Remember, the only things in your pocket should be the gun and the holster.

Belly-band holsters use a wide elastic band to hold the holster under a shirt or other clothing. Your gun is somewhat difficult to get to with this mode of carry.

Bra holsters secure the gun between or under the breasts. Your gun is somewhat difficult to get to with this mode of carry.

Underwear holsters fit under pants and look somewhat like a cod-piece. These work well for carrying under elastic-waistband pants or sweat pants. However, your gun is somewhat difficult to get to with this mode of carry.

Purses, Fanny Packs, Briefcases and other Accessories

For this style of carry, it is important that the handgun be carried in a compartment devoted solely to the handgun and holster. The better products have Velcro in that compartment that you can use to keep your holster in a fixed position.

An increasing number of companies are marketing attractive purses and briefcases with a separate compartment for carry. Of course, if there is a zipper between you and your handgun, it is not as easy to get to as it would be in a traditional holster.