I grew up in a no-gun household. I’m not sure that was intentional—we just never had them. Sure, I shot .22 rifles at summer camp and loved that, but at home, my “firearm arsenal” consisted of a Daisy Red Ryder. That was the status quo into my adult years. I never had any thought of owning guns.
That all changed in May 2000. At the time, I co-owned a neighborhood restaurant in a very suburban part of town. You know, the classic “safe” area where bad things just don’t happen, except when they do. One Saturday morning, my business partner and a teenage employee were beginning the opening routine when two gunmen burst in demanding money from the safe. One thing led to another, and they shot my partner 11 times for no good reason. After that, one tried to execute the teenage girl by putting a pistol to her head and pulling the trigger. Thank God for stovepipe jams and the shooter’s lack of understanding about how to clear it.
Through a series of events too detailed to go into here, the young woman was uninjured and my partner not only survived, but is thriving. Oh, and fortunately the perpetrators were apprehended, tried and jailed for life, thanks to the tireless efforts of local police.
When the police told me I was also a named target, and that these guys had murdered someone else the night before, reality hit hard. I realized that I had absolutely no ability, and no plan, to protect myself and my family. At that moment, my thinking started to change. Before too long, I bought a Beretta 92FS and started to learn how to use it. More importantly, I became a serious student of crime, concealed carry, defensive strategy and tactics, Second Amendment rights and firearms in general.
Now, nearly 20 years later, I earn my living helping others learn how to protect themselves. While I’m a big proponent of the one-gun theory—carrying one type and getting proficient with it—I have to alter my rig to test out new gear because of my job. Right now, I’m carrying a SIG Sauer P320 XCompact with a Trijicon RMR optic in a Clinger No-Print Wonder inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. I’ll also carry a Beretta PX4 Storm Compact Carry and SIG Sauer P229 using either the No-Print Wonder or Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB holster. In some cases, I’ll carry a Smith & Wesson (S&W) Model 642 Performance Center or Springfield Armory XD-S in a leather Galco pocket holster. I’ve tried appendix carry and some other methods, but I guess I’m destined to remain a strong-side IWB kind of guy.
That has been the evolution of my carry methods, but people have different needs and body types and live in different climates. To help you find what’s best for you in various scenarios, we reached out to a cross-section of normal Americans who’ve chosen to take responsibility for their safety and perhaps for those around them. For obvious reasons, we’re using pseudonyms to protect the “concealed” nature of their carry methods and habits.
An Outside-the-Waistband Carry Devotee
Ben is a car guy in the business of repairing, maintaining and restoring luxury automobiles. It’s no big surprise that he also appreciates fine engineering and metalwork, so he appreciates classic revolvers. The one he carries dates back to 1971 just because he wanted the “original” model.
He has a young family now and plenty of firearms, but it wasn’t always this way. He grew up in a home without guns. But, as he is part of the video-game generation, he built his knowledge of various makes and models while building a virtual understanding of their capabilities. When Ben headed off to college with his twin sister, he started to see a new side of the firearms world.
First, he enrolled in a rifle class, where he learned gun safety and basic marksmanship with the always-enticing .22 LR rifle. Through that class, he also learned that he could buy his own at age 18, so he did. Ben’s first purchase was a Savage Model 64. After his sister encountered some sketchy nighttime scares at a nearby gas station, he started to think about firearms in a self-defense capacity. He realized he was unprepared to do anything to protect his sister or himself. He also realized that he was the real first responder. While the police do outstanding work, officers who are 5 or 10 minutes away couldn’t have helped his sister deal with those suspicious characters had things turned bad.
On his 21st birthday, while still in college, he sent in his concealed-carry application and purchased a Taurus 92. He wanted a Beretta, but like most of us, he wasn’t rolling in cash at that age. Since then, Ben has become a collector and enthusiast. He still appreciates a fine revolver, so a 1971 S&W Model 60 is what he opts to carry often. The holster is a high-ride outside-the-waistband (OWB) Bianchi Black Widow leather model. With the positioning and short barrel, he has little trouble concealing this OWB rig with an untucked shirt, so it’s his go-to configuration.
In sportscoat season, Ben also likes a Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster with a S&W model 4506, inspired by the 1980s TV show “Miami Vice.”
An Appendix-Carry Practitioner
Chip grew up hunting with his dad, so there were always firearms in his house—mostly hunting rifles and shotguns. Like many of us, he started out with a BB gun and learned gun safety at an early age. He graduated to hunting with shotguns at about age eight. Into his adult years, he never thought about using guns for self and home defense, but while living in Texas, his awareness started to change. He became friends with some Dallas law-enforcement officers, and it was through their eyes that he began to realize how much was going on in the world around him. Like most of us, Chip didn’t personally see and experience crime in his immediate surroundings; however, through the perspective of people who knew all the local secrets and the real events occurring daily, he began to think about how he would protect his family.
Before long, Chip acquired a concealed-handgun license and started finding the right carry gear and holster setup. Since he started in the late 1990s, when .40 S&W was the “latest and greatest” caliber, he chose a Glock 23. After further experimentation with a Glock 19 and a S&W M&P Shield, he settled on the SIG Sauer P365 as his primary everyday carry pistol.
Chip ended up choosing appendix position, IWB carry as his primary method. Why? Two features stood out in his benefit analysis. For him, the draw is faster, as the motion required is minimal. It’s easier to clear the cover garment since he doesn’t have to reach as far across his body with his support hand.
He also likes the security of the gun in the appendix position because it can be easily accessed while seated, and, if in a physical confrontation or a hand-to-hand combat situation that could end up on the ground, he feels the gun is more protected and more accessible.
His most frequently used holster is the Tulster IWB/AIWB Kydex model. He likes its minimalistic design, as well as its quality fit and finish. He also uses a Tier 1 Concealed AXIS SLIM appendix holster when he wants to carry a spare magazine.
In Chip’s words, “The reason I choose to conceal carry regularly is that I would rather ‘have it and not need it’ than ‘need it and not have it.’ Plus, I feel like it is a duty I owe to my family and community because, in my opinion, the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
An Off-the-Body Carry Person
Samantha is a professional in the home construction business. She’s married and, at this time, has no children. She works in a design showroom, usually alone, where she meets with recent homebuyers to help them customize and outfit their new-construction homes.
She grew up exposed to firearms in the home and learned basic gun safety and shooting skills at an early age. Her first range time dates back to age 10, give or take. She got a single-shot .22/.410 rifle and shotgun with interchangeable barrels not long after. During her early teen years, she joined a local youth shooting team and competed regularly in steel-challenge events with both 9 mm pistols and rimfire rifles and pistols. Samantha took her state concealed-carry class prior to her 21st birthday and sent in her application the day she turned legal. She’s had a concealed-carry license ever since.
Samantha has experimented with different guns and carry solutions over the past few years. While for recreation, she shoots 9 mm and larger calibers in bigger gun sizes, her first primary carry gun was a Ruger LCP .380 subcompact pistol. Finding a workable carry method was a challenge. Like many women, she didn’t have the option of relying on tactical pants or even a consistent two-piece skirt and top combination. Dress codes for her work make the standard IWB carry—that’s often so easy for men—difficult for her. She tried the Flashbang Holster, but even that couldn’t be a consistent option—full-length dresses present all sorts of concealment challenges. By necessity, she gravitated to a purse holster for her primary carry method. For her, the advantages of carrying with any outfit type outweighed the disadvantages of having to use different holsters for different wardrobe configurations.
While the Ruger LCP is small, light and easy to carry, she soon found she wanted something larger and more hand-filling. That tiny pocket pistol just wasn’t as easy to shoot proficiently as a larger pistol. She moved to a Springfield Armory XD-S 9 mm for a while before settling on the Springfield Armory 911 .380 with an integral Viridian green laser grip.
An Inside-the-Waistband Carrier
While Scott spent some time in the U.S. Air Force earlier in his life, he didn’t have a lot of exposure to firearms, especially the defensive-use type. He never thought about getting a firearm for personal protection until some strange things happened at his job. Scott works in the transportation business, and thousands of shipping containers pass through his location regularly. Along with that come plenty of new faces, including contract drivers, shippers and the occasional suspicious characters.
One day, two men came into the business and started to ask unusual questions. They wanted to know how the operations worked, how long containers might stay in the lot, whether employees were on duty at night, if camera systems were in place and other “unusual” information. Scott’s radar immediately went on full alert and he wondered if he might be dealing with potential terrorists, smugglers or something different. After calling the police, he found out that the men in question had been visiting similar companies in the port city where he lives.
It was during his discussions with the police about this incident that an officer asked if he carried a gun while on the job. Scott didn’t at that time, and the officer suggested that he might want to look into it. He gave Scott a quick education on the local gun laws and told him he could legally have a gun at his place of work as long as he transported it to and from home properly—even without a permit. He also suggested that Scott consider getting a concealed-carry license.
Scott did, and, as he learned more about using a firearm for self-defense, he grew his toolset and started to volunteer on the security team at his local church. His first carry gun was a S&W Shield, which he still frequently carries using a Sticky Holster in the two o’clock position inside the belt. He’ll also use a Springfield Armory XDM 45 with a similar holster on occasion. In the summer months, when wearing shorts and light clothes, he defaults to a smaller and lighter S&W M&P Bodyguard 380.
Scott’s attitude toward concealed carry is realistic and right on target. In his words, “I don’t want to have shooting somebody on my conscience, but I want to be prepared to defend my life.”