When it comes to inappropriately showing your gun booty, there are two different scenarios. One is a legal issue and the other a tactics consideration.

In most states, if you have a concealed carry permit, it’s against the law for your gun to show. It must be invisible to others, or concealed, at all times. That’s the legal issue. The other scenario involves whether your concealment strategy is obvious to people “in the know” or otherwise. For example, gun folks poke a lot of fun at what they call “shoot me first” vests: those bulky photographer’s vests with more pockets than talk show hosts recently fired from MSNBC. Others insist that fanny packs are a dead giveaway that the wearer is carrying a gun, assuming they’re not trying to win the award for Ultimate Disney Tourist. In these scenarios, your gun is completely invisible, but there are other clues that you’re carrying—at least to people familiar with concealed carry strategy. We won’t get into those discussions here. Instead, let’s focus on ways that you might be showing more than you know.

Bending over

People that sell those industrial back-support belts you see at warehouse stores make a living talking about the dangers of bending at the waist to pick things up. People like me derive untold hours of free entertainment trying to spot other concealed carriers when they bend at the waist to help their child, tie shoes, or pick up that heads-up penny in the street.

Why? Bending forward at the waist can not only put strain on your back, but on your concealed stealthiness. When carrying anywhere on the waist behind the three or nine o’clock position, the grip of your gun will show a picture perfect imprint as the back of your shirt gets drawn in towards your body.

So what to do? First and foremost, make a habit of bending at the knees. You can also try a holster that is more aggressively canted—one that angles the rear sight forward, thereby minimizing the distance the grip extends to your rear. You can carry a gun with a smaller height, meaning the distance from the bottom of the grip to the top of the slide. Some guns like the Smith & Wesson E Series 1911s have a rounded butt, which minimizes printing and improves firing-hand comfort. A number of the new Walthers (and other models of course) also feature rounded butts. Eliminating a sharp corner at the rear base of your grip makes a surprising difference when it comes to hiding a giveaway imprint.

Reaching for the stars

Remember that scene in the movie Animal House when Donald Sutherland walked into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long cable-knit sweater and reached up high to get a coffee cup? Yeah, I know, that was really disturbing. But it provides a great example of the dangers of over-reaching. So bending forward isn’t the only activity hazardous to your concealment strategy. Depending on the type of holster you use, reaching up, or even forward, can out you.

A holster with aggressive cant, or forward lean, can help with a lot of hiding as the grip is angled more vertically. Note how severe the cant is on this BLACKHAWK! Check-Six holster for a full-size 1911.
A holster with aggressive cant, or forward lean, can help with a lot of hiding as the grip is angled more vertically. Note how severe the cant is on this BLACKHAWK! Check-Six holster for a full-size 1911.

Why? If you are endowed with a long barrel, your cover garment needs to hang low enough to cover the gun in all of your daily poses. When you reach for that last box of Twinkies on the top shelf of the local Mini-Mart, your shoulders can raise your shirt or jacket several inches, thereby exposing your barrel. I think Donald only exposed his butt, but only because the shot was from the rear. When it applies to you, it’s embarrassing, and sometimes illegal!

What do do? Not much. Carry inside the waistband for more vertical forgiveness. Or reach with your support-side hand and monitor the gun side with your other. The important thing is to be aware of how your clothes get along with your daily body positions. Don’t be a Donald. Please. For the children.

Wearing sexy

Except for winter months, when the static electricity drives me crazy, I love wearing that plasto-spandex stuff. You know, polo and t-shirts made from some combination of space shuttle heat shield tile shavings and House Speaker John Beohner’s hair gel. You don’t have to iron it and whether it’s loose or form-fitting, it tends to make people look pretty good.

As comfortable as they are, those types of shirts are not the best for covering up a gun. The material is too soft and the plastic construction tends to mold to your concealed handgun like Kydex.

So be careful of your cover garment material choices. Strangely enough, the more uncomfortable, the better for concealment, generally speaking. Stiff and crinkly shirts are far less likely to conform to the shape of your gun. As Clint Smith says, “carrying a gun should be comforting, not comfortable.” I like box-cut button-down shirts made from a fairly heavy material. Patterns help a lot also as they are more forgiving when your gun does print.

Blowing in the wind…

If you’re as ancient as I am, you might remember a happy jingle called “Blowing in the Wind.” Released by Bob Dylan and shortly thereafter by Peter, Paul, and Mary, the song promises that’s where the answer is—blowing in the wind. However, when it comes to concealed carry, the answer will get you an F- and a retraction of your certificate of participation.

Using an inside or outside the waistband holster with a jacket or sport coat is incredibly convenient. Concealment is pretty good and access to your gun is fantastic. The only thing you need to worry about is movement, whether it be yours or Mother Nature’s. An open coat just wants to, well, open, when you move or the wind blows.

There are a couple of ways to help maintain your coverage. You can try putting your car keys in your gun-side jacket pocket to add a little stability to that side of your coat. Or, for a more permanent solution, sew a couple of fishing weights in there so you don’t have to remember to weigh the pocket each time. Or, you can adopt a method acting solution and get yourself in the habit of striking a good Napoleon pose using your gun-side arm.  That not only makes you look important, but it keeps your jacket closed, covers the area and helps hide your gun. Just a thought…

The important theme here is awareness. Try some different movements and clothing combinations at home, where it doesn’t matter. You don’t want to have your spouse or significant other tell you in the middle of a Wal-Mart, “Ummm. Honey, you’re printing.”

Images by Tom McHale

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16 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: Showing Your Gun Booty

  1. If you live in a state like PA where there is no legal issue, who cares? Really, printing or revealing your CC accidentally is not a big deal where there are no legal issues.

    1. Revealing you concealed weapon is just something you need to be conscious of. Why else are you concealed if you don’t care if others see your firearm. The number one reason to stay concealed is safety. You make yourself a target when you reveal your firearm. To criminals and to overbearing social hero’s who like to make a scene. It’s about the responsibility of having and carrying a gun.

  2. IF your State punishes you for carrying a gun (Texas), regardless of if it is for imprinting (Texas), or for just Open Carrying (Texas), maybe you need to work of fixing your gun laws (Texas). If it is legal for a cop to do something, but not the public, than you have a problem (Texas).

  3. I am somewhat disabled from Viet Nam and need oxygen, which I carry in a Maxpedition Sling Pack. There is no way someone can spot a firearm in this or back packs. Since I have an oxygen hose going into my nose, I believe people would not expect firearm carry. Yes, it is slower to present your weapon but for the sake of concealed carry, it works.

  4. Purchase TALL shirts, instead of regular. By purchasing a LARGE TALL instead of a LARGE, you gain 3 inches or more in length with no change in how it fits up top.

  5. > In most states, if you have a concealed carry permit, it’s against the law for your gun to show.

    What? That’s not the case at all.

    1. Sure it is. Many states consider it “brandishing” or similar terms. Concealed carry does not allow visible carry, even inadvertently. States vary widely on whether this i a significant issue or not.

  6. Where are the remaining six of “The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry”? Showing your gun booty is only one of the sins.

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