In the past two installments of this series, we've looked at a couple of the most common activities we all share: daily travel and work—things we all do and things that seem pretty simple on the surface, but might require more than just a passing thought when it comes to something as serious as carrying a firearm as we go about them.
Another frequent event in the hectic world in which we live our lives is going out to eat. For some people, restaurant food is more common than home cooking. Whether it is fast food, a real meal or something wolfed down at a food court, people in America eat on the go and outside the safety of the home every day.
All of the clothing-related matters we discussed in preceding installments apply here. You might be dressed for work or you might be dressed for a quick trip to the store. You might be dressed for dinner or you might just be picking up the kids. You might look around and see people dressed so differently, you wonder how you'll ever blend in and still conceal the gun you're licensed to carry. I have suggested in the past that perhaps a pocket or an ankle holster might be the method most compatible with such varied modes of dress, but for restaurants, I don't think either one of those options is necessarily the only way to go, as there are other matters to consider.
Other than standing in line, we can assume (most of the time) when eating away from home, you will be seated. As such, restricted access to the gun, nearness to the tabletop and an often limited ability to turn, move and properly address the threat (let alone being able to exit the area as part of your defense) will all conspire to make things more difficult than they might seem at first. In some cases, you might be able to move a chair away from a table allowing you to stand and fight in a more conventional manner, but in many instances, especially those involving booth or bench-type seating, you will be trapped in place by your environment and must be able to fight while sitting or while you are attempting to stand up.
Looking at the extremely short timeframes of a defensive encounter, I would suggest that rather than adopting a pick-and-choose method of selecting your response (this time I can stand; this time I cannot) and further delay the first shot(s), you might want to look at what is required to best fight from a seated position in all cases. That way you can respond immediately with the gun as you progress on to other options—like moving aside while sitting, standing up, moving away after standing, etc.—if one of them is ultimately the better choice for the scenario.
Generally (but not always), that removes pocket holsters from the mix unless they are utilized in a jacket pocket and that jacket stays on during the course of your meal. In my concealed-carry classes, I demonstrate very effective ways of drawing from an ankle holster while seated; even when seated up against a tabletop. But, while simple and relatively effective, such techniques are not for everybody or every physical location. Strong side, behind-the-hip holsters are not always easy to draw from in a confined seating space and the covering garments usually associated with them can be difficult to move aside even if you are seated on a chair instead of in a booth.
Strong side, in-front-of-the-hip carry can work from a seated position, but it can make for an awkward draw and requires some room to your strong side—room that isn't always available. It also involves holsters that can limit your clothing options. Finally, as with automotive applications, Crossdraw (waist-borne and upper-body positioned) holsters can be helpful, although they also require something to cover them and a close-in tabletop can be a bigger impediment than a steering wheel when it comes to producing and directing the gun to the threat. This is especially true if the threat is in front of you, which is not usually the case in vehicular incidents.
What about off-body carry? I am certainly not against it, but it can be awkward. Often, finding the bag, briefcase or purse positioned just out of reach can be difficult. It can also be slow. Remember once again, you don't get something for nothing. Here, that equates to a less-than-efficient presentation for the sake of deep cover. And these holsters can be obvious; generally, greater movement will be required to reach and remove the gun. Additionally, as is always the case with such methods, there is the possibility the device you are using to carry and conceal the weapon is the reason for the incident occurring in the first place as a thief might be trying to steal that purse or briefcase.
As with the other issues we have studied so far, I am not telling you certain designs won't work when outside forces conspire against your eating in peace. In fact, many of the holsters I have mentioned will work just fine. I am merely suggesting that you look seriously at the dynamics of these situations and then decide for yourself which method is best for you based on your environment, your mode of dress, the gun you carry and a realistic appraisal of your physical condition and ability to produce and employ the firearm when necessary.
While I haven't spelled it out before, I want to emphasize the need to safely practice the production and presentation of the firearm from such a less-traditional and less-practiced position as seated in a commonly encountered (albeit simulated on the range) environment to make sure you not only understand what needs to be done, but also that you know the equipment you have chosen will help you to do it.