*Concealment Holsters and Special Rigs*
This article will address specific holsters as well as general carry tips, including some particular brands of holsters.
Concealed carry is always an art of compromise. If you knew you would be in a gunfight, you'd be carrying your AK or a shotgun if possible...but for concealment, you need a hideable, compact, not-too-heavy weapon, with reasonable firepower. The fact is, except for the most dedicated and serious packers, **if it is not comfortable and convenient, you won't always carry it**. A 380 in hand is better than a 45 that's not on you when you need it.
Having said that....I think .40 or 357 is about the best handgun calibers for defense. 45 or 9mm is good. 38 special, 380, or 32 ACP is better than nothing. As for 22 and 25 handguns...I'd rather throw rocks, but opinions differ.
Clothing is another key. If your gun will be riding on your belt or the waist of your pants, a sturdy belt is advisable, especially for heavier guns. Several holstermakers make double-thickness belts, and it makes a difference. Comfort is important, it helps keep you from giving away your carry with fidgeting. If you feel confident that your gun is well-concealed, you will act more normally...if you are worried about exposing your carry, your body language will change, giving you away to a sharp eye. You may have to adjust the way you dress a bit, depending on your carry method.
The average person, if you mention concealment holsters, probably thinks first of shoulder holsters. The shoulder holster remains a useful carry method, combining reasonable concealment, capacity and speed of draw. The obvious disadvantage of shoulder holsters is the need to cover them with a jacket....a problem in hot weather. The straps can become an irritant, also.
Kramer Leather has a product called the Confidant. It is similar to a shoulder holster in general principle, but it is worn under your *shirt*, eliminating the need for a jacket and therefore much better for hot weather. It is a T-shirt of extra-strong material, with a made-in holster under each armpit...you can carry two guns, or extra mags in one holster. It can handle autos or revolvers, including fairly large weapons.
Waist/belt carry has become one of the most popular methods of concealed carry. They primarily divide into IWB (inside the waistband) and belt holsters. In both cases, the gun must be covered by a jacket or an untucked shirt.
The IWB holster's advantage is the lower part of the gun is down in your pants, so there is less risk of exposing your carry by reaching, stretching or bending, and you don't have to wear as long of a jacket, sweater, shirttail, etc. The disadvantage is your pants need to be a size bigger than normal, and some IWB holsters are not terribly comfortable, jammed against your body....the kind with a stiff flap between the top of the gun and your skin is usually better, or padding between holster and body. Draw, with an IWB, may be a little slower than with a belt holster.
Belt holsters come in many varieties: speed scabbards, Paddle holsters, etc. They are a bit more comfortable than IWB's, and a bit faster on the draw, but you pretty much have to wear a longish, loose jacket, baggy sweater, or special vest to conceal them adequately.
Some special rigs that could be included in the IWB category include: Pager Pal, Thunderbelt/wear, money-belt/belly band rigs, and the UWB.
The UWB is the "Under the Waistband" holster...it clips onto waistline and carries a *small* pistol below the waist-level, allowing more thorough concealment...you may even tuck your shirt in and skip the jacket. Pager Pal is similar, but includes a fake-pager to conceal the belt clip.
Thunderbelt varieties include Thunderwear and Smartcarry. Essentially, an elastic band with velcro goes around your waist, over your regular underwear, and a semi-fitted pouch in the crotch area holds your gun and magazines. They are more comfortable than you think, and can conceal a fairly good-size gun.
Belly-bands or money-belts are somewhat similar, but usually ride above the waistline under your shirt. They squeeze across the belly more, shift around more via gravity and movement, and just are not as comfortable.
With all of these rigs, a big disadvantage is slow access; no fast-draws. This is actually a disadvantage of many concealed-carry holsters and methods: they are almost invariably slower than exposed duty holsters. Practice will help, but adjusting your tactics to "take cover/gain distance, THEN draw" is advisable.
Ankle holsters....the only thing I have to say is I am a holsterholic, I have several holsters for each carry gun, I have lost *count* of how many holsters I have....and I do not have one ankle holster. I suppose they are all right for a second, backup weapon, or if you just can't do any better, but I'd hate to bet my life on one.
Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to know what the state and local laws are of any jurisdiction you will carry a gun in, and keep in mind if you are "made" the local police will not be interested in any excuses.
One further point about holsters...whenever possible, if I am going to buy a holster, I ask the shopowner to let me bring my carry gun in (unloaded) and put the holster on with the gun in it. I then walk around, stretch, bend, bounce, etc. and see what it feels like, if it slips or digs...if it is the least bit uncomfortable, I don't buy it. Those slight discomforts magnify themselves over several hours to become major aggravations, and soon you'll quit using the holster.
As with everything, practice, practice, practice.
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