With the increasing popularity of concealed carry among self-defense-minded folks, it’s important to separate fact from fiction to make us all better, more responsible defenders of ourselves and our loved ones. For that purpose, let’s clear up some of the most common myths surrounding concealed carry.
Smaller Guns are Easier to Shoot
Concealed carry is all about compromise. On the one hand, it’s easier to conceal a smaller gun. It’s less likely to print because it has a smaller frame and grip. It also might seem easier to shoot, especially if you have smaller hands because you can grip it easier. The tendency, therefore, is to find a small gun that easy to hide.
However, people who buy small guns often quickly discover how difficult they can be to shoot. Why is this? It’s Newtonian physics: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The bullet goes downrange and the gun recoils. The amount of felt-recoil depends on the mass of the gun. Less mass equals more felt-recoil. Therefore, a smaller gun is going to "kick" more than a larger gun in the same chambering, making it more difficult to handle. So while a smaller gun may sound appealing, shoot it first to be sure it’s really what you want.
Manual Safeties are Better
One reason people are often convinced that manual safeties are a good idea is born out of a fear that the gun might accidentally go off while they are carrying. However, the odds of that happening are minuscule at best, and almost always the result of negligent use on the part of the carrier. Quality semi-automatic pistols have multiple internal passive safeties that prevent the gun from discharging without the trigger being pulled. So if you’re concerned about the gun "going off" by itself, rest easy.
There are only a few guns for which a manual safety is an integral part of design and function. One of those is the 1911 platform, because the single-action trigger is extremely light. Folks who carry 1911s typically train on how to engage and disengage the manual safety as part of their regular range activities, so the motion is committed to muscle memory. For the rest of us, a manual safety is not vital, though there's certainly nothing wrong with having one on your gun; just remember to practice disengaging it and engaging it.
Carry with the Chamber Empty
Similar to the safety-on argument is the empty chamber mindset, this one also borne out of concern for accidental discharge. The idea is that, by keeping the chamber empty, the gun won’t go bang if the trigger is accidentally pulled. This, too, is well-intentioned, but not practical. Two reasons.
First, are you certain you will have both hands free to charge the pistol? Can you chamber that first round with one hand, especially if your other hand is occupied fending off an attacker or corralling a loved one? Just like with a manual safety, adding another step to deploying the gun complicates things, increasing the odds we will not get the gun into the fight when it’s needed.
Second, carrying with an empty chamber cheats you out of valuable ammunition. By keeping a round in the chamber, you can replace that round in the magazine with an extra. If you have a 10-round magazine, for example, you can carry 11 rounds, usually expressed as 10+1. Wouldn’t you want to carry an extra round? I certainly would!
I Can’t Carry without a Belt
Most waist holsters do indeed require a belt to hold things up, but it’s not true for every holster. Some holsters fasten with steel clips that grab onto your waistband so tightly they don’t need a belt, while other holsters, such as friction holsters, stay in place by using the friction created by the waist of your pants or shorts against your body.
And then there are belly bands, an option for athletic wear or any time your wardrobe doesn’t include a belt. Belly bands are self-contained holster systems that wrap around you and include a holster for your gun and sometimes places to add accessories such as spare magazines, a knife, pepper gel, and other carry items. Belly bands are a secure way to hold your gun without a need to significantly alter your wardrobe. Be sure to look for one with a reinforced area over the trigger, though.
Ankle Holsters are as Efficient as Waistband Holsters
While it is true that some unconventional carry methods can be okay in a pinch, they are less preferable to the conventional on-the-belt method. One such unconventional method is ankle carry. It’s not awful, but it’s not the best. Here’s why. Two big considerations when choosing a carry position are 1) how easy is it to get to the gun from any position, and 2) can you get to the gun when on the move?
With a waistband-carry position, you can reach your gun whether standing, sitting or lying on the ground with relative ease. With an ankle rig, you must bend over or lift your leg to retrieve the gun, often requiring you to take your eyes off the target while you fumble to get the gun out. If you’re moving, as is often the case in a defensive scenario as you seek cover or concealment, you can’t get the gun out of an ankle holster until you stop. This puts the odds against you from the start, and you may not get a chance to even them out. So while carrying a gun in an ankle holster beats not carrying a gun at all, it’s a less-than-ideal solution.
Pocket Carry Will Be Just Fine
Try this experiment: Put your cell phone in your pocket, sit down and try to pull it out without standing up. Pretty difficult, no? Now imagine your cell phone is your gun tucked in a pocket holster, and you need to get to it in a hurry. Probably not going to happen. That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of pocket carry: inaccessibility. If you’re sitting down, such as in a restaurant or your car, you’ll have a harder time getting your gun out of your pocket.
If you do manage to pull the gun out, there is a good chance the holster will come out with it. In theory, the holster is supposed to stay in the pocket, but in reality that only works about half the time. Which half will it be in the moment? If the holster comes out with the gun, now you must ditch the holster before you can use the gun. Not a great way to start a life-or-death encounter.
Practicing at the Range will be Enough
Most of us only shoot at a static range, one where the paper or steel target is hanging from the ceiling or set on a stand. It doesn’t move, and neither do we. This is great for practicing accurate shooting and working on fundamentals such as grip, stance and trigger squeeze; all important skills for good marksmanship. But that’s not the way real-life encounters happen. If your shooting consists of static ranges only, you will not be sufficiently prepared for a defensive encounter in the real world, where the scene is dynamic and targets move.
Take your training one gigantic step forward by adding dynamic movement to your shooting. Most indoor ranges will not let you practice this because they require you to stay behind the bench, so you will likely need to move to an outdoor range or find an indoor range that allows it. Also, seek out qualified instruction from someone who is well versed in dynamic encounters and can help you in a safe and effective environment.