Deputy's Observations: Concealed Carry
Back in the day I carried an S&W 4” Model 19 with an Airweight Chief Special for backup, but for tactical assignments I added a Government Model .45 under my chill-chaser. I carried an extra magazine for it on the tanker-style shoulder holster.
There is much discussion in law enforcement circles and among civilians with concealed carry permits about the best way to carry their weapons and which weapons to carry.
This is a subject that I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with myself during my law enforcement career, and I’m going to attempt to share some of my own experiences with you, hopefully to save you some time, trouble and money.
To start with, what is “concealed carry”? My department’s Policy & Procedure manual spelled it out pretty succinctly; the off-duty weapon was to be concealed from view at all times while being worn. Standing upright and stretching, bending over, seated; it was not to be visible to the passerby. From personal experience and my own research I have to agree with that statement. As others have said, there’s nothing that says, “Kill me” more than revealing a concealed weapon during a robbery or other violent encounter. If the bad guy is going to see your weapon, it should be while you are pointing it at him from a position of advantage and cover, not as you are lying on the floor of a bank.
Next, with my particular stocky frame I can conceal a howitzer, but is it accessible? I’ve seen different concealment rigs that just didn’t fit me because I could not access the weapon quickly enough or without getting half undressed. I’m not kidding. I had a really good concealment holster that put a 2” revolver on my calf inside the top of my boot. But I couldn’t get my pant leg up high enough over my stocky calves to draw my weapon. In a hurry I was better off dropping my pants to get to it but that led to other tactical problems. I sold that holster to a guy with a different body type than me, and he loved it. The holster has to be practical and accessible.
My department held us to the same standard when we carried a second firearm on duty: it was to remain concealed. Over the years I carried everything from a palm sized .25ACP auto to 2” .38 revolvers, compact .380 autos, to a full-sized 1911 .45ACP. In tactical situations I wore a tanker style shoulder holster for my .45 and put a chill-chaser on over it. It might be 100 degrees out but I had the weapon that I wanted to carry and it was concealed. I had met my department’s regulations. I looked like a dork and I might pass out from the heat, but I was in compliance and I was prepared.
Something else to be discussed here are the terms “backup” or “2nd gun” and “hideout weapon.” To my thinking a backup or 2nd gun fit one tactical niche, while a hideout gun is slightly different. There have been cases where an officer’s side arm has jammed or run out of ammunition and he had resorted to his 2nd weapon to finish the engagement. That is a situation that we should train for and prepare for. I had a friend who was at his department qualification course when his sidearm malfunctioned. He did not stop and put up his hand and call “alibi.” He holstered his weapon, drew his backup weapon from his ankle and finished that stage of the course. And then he continued the qualification shoot with his 2” revolver, just like he’d finish it in the field. When it came time to reload he opened his speedloaders inside the pouches and then reloaded his 5-shot revolver out of the pouches. That is the mindset of an officer who is going to win fights. And nobody told him how to reload; he figured it out right there how to do it. That’s the guy that I want covering me; calm, thinking and resourceful.
But to me, carrying a “hideout” weapon is in preparation for an Onion Field event. An officer is aware that he might be taken hostage and searched, and wants to arm himself for that possibility. We’ve all seen the movies where that situation happens and the bad guys take the officer’s backup weapon off of his ankle. The bad guys watch movies too, usually when they are up at state prison, aka “the gladiator school.” To my mind that’s where the difference in these weapons comes into play. To me, a hideout weapon is small enough and concealed well enough to be missed in a crook’s initial pat down of the hostage officer. I carried a .25ACP automatic in a wallet holster in my back pocket, and I practiced pulling it out and shooting it with my left (weak) hand, because that fit the design of the holster. The officer above carried a hideout knife with an armor piercing tanto point. His knife didn’t have the range of my .25 auto, but it had far greater penetration and never “ran dry.”
So when a police administrator berates an officer for carrying three weapons as being “paranoid,” he is showing his lack of understanding for the officer’s mindset and level of preparedness. He is also demonstrating that he is no longer a warrior, if he ever was one. My way around that was to try to comply with the Department regulations while still making my safety my primary concern.
The method of carrying is as important as the choice of weapon. And we will discuss that further in my next article. But let me cut to the chase and save us all some time; I have easily concealed not only a full sized 1911 .45 ACP pistol, but handcuffs, extra ammunition AND a 2” revolver and extra ammunition for it, a sap and a mini-flashlight underneath my clothing. At times I had so much equipment on my belt and inside my pants pockets that I had to wear suspenders to hold it all up. But it was concealed and at the time I felt that I needed all of it.
The point that I am trying to make is that you should not let your style of dress dictate how you carry or conceal your weapon. Decide what weapon you are going to carry and dress accordingly to conceal it. How fashionable you look will not save your life if you wander into harm’s way, but your equipment and training will.
Stay safe, and stay alert.