Ok, you’ve made the decision to carry for personal protection. Now what? Well, there are several considerations and compromises that need to be weighed. Putting the liability aspect aside of a defensive shooting, which is a separate topic all its own, what manner of carrying will you be utilizing?
First and foremost is to determine what limitations and conditions you have to satisfy in your state in order to carry a gun for defensive purposes. In the past several months alone, many states have been ushering in constitutional carry laws in response to the constant and potential 2nd Amendment attacks and disarmament of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government and its federal agencies. Constitutional carry does not necessarily mean conceal carry is automatically permitted by default.
Your state still may require a permit to allow the concealing of your defensive firearm, while open carry may be exercised without a permit. You will need to verify this information with your state’s Office of Attorney General. Some recent legislation in multiple states has amended where carrying a firearm is prohibited, such as within a certain distance from a permitted protest, schools, government buildings, public parks, etc. Every state and some specific counties within each state often have varying requirements. The manner of carrying may have been decided for you.
With outside carry, your choices are minimal. Your choice is generally going to be outside the waistband (OWB) carry. Potential other methods would be a thigh rig or drop leg holster or shoulder holster. These options can easily accommodate a full-sized pistol and give you the most options regarding pistol size.
If concealing a gun, inside the waistband (IWB) carrying, pocket holsters, ankle holsters, shoulder holsters, or belly band methods are the standard options with IWB being the most common. The size and type of pistol which will be adequate for your needs will need to be addressed. Your practice range pistol or full-sized competition pistol may very well not be suitable for conceal carry.
Also, not all concealable holsters are created equally. Some holsters will have a more substantial trigger guard. Others just may not be suitable for the environment or activity you will be experiencing. For example, ankle holsters, while proven, are not quite accessible as a waistband holster in a pinch while running, just as a pocket holster may prove challenging to get to in a seated position.
If conceal carry is your intent, a smaller pistol is likely preferable. A smaller pistol is less likely to print or show a bulge through a shirt, blouse, or waistband. However, when selecting a smaller pistol, the user needs to be aware that smaller pistols may have much more perceived recoil and may not be able to be aimed and shot as accurately as a full-sized gun. It comes down to basic physics. The smaller a pistol is and the less mass it has will increase the severity of the perceived recoil when fired.
Consistent and repetitive training will aid greatly in this. Your average shooting range is likely not set up to provide a dynamic conceal carrying target practice scenario with moving targets and the area for you to move about, but instead will have the standard shooting stalls.
After you have settled on the carrying method, the next consideration is whether you should carry with a bullet in the chamber ready to be fired after being immediately drawn or not. This is an area where many people have conflicting opinions. The user needs to be aware that in a high stress and potentially life threatening situation, dexterity and fine motor skills decrease. If you choose not to carry with a bullet in the chamber, will you have the focus, time, or physical ability to rack the slide to make the pistol ready all in the blink of an eye? If you are trying to fend off an assailant or shielding a loved one with your support arm, you likely won’t be able to rack the slide to make the pistol ready. Having an extra bullet chambered will give the user one extra round in addition to what the magazine will hold.
In the end, it is of paramount importance to follow all safety rules and responsibilities of gun ownership, of which 2 are always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction and keep your finger off the trigger until you have the proper sight picture and alignment with your target. The best way to achieve these goals is to practice, practice, practice.