Stepping up on the Soap Box… Ahem!
In February of 2016 I received my conceal and carry permit in my native Florida. It took ninety days to get the permit, in large part due to the fact that the day before my wife and I applied the Bataclan Nightclub shooting happened in Paris, and everyone who had not seen the writing on the wall soon realized that the writing was there and it wasn’t saying nice things.
On the day I got my permit I had a Sig P229 in .40 caliber, a Springfield P9C in .40 caliber, and a Daewoo DP-22 in 9 mm. I had generic holsters for all three, including a now-reviled nylon holster. In spite of having a permit, I could not help feeling subconsciously guilty carrying around a loaded weapon. I kept expecting cops to throw me over their patrol cars and perform anal cavity checks. Of course, that didn’t happen. No one is that interested in my anal cavity.
A former police officer and friend told me that if I was going to have a permit, I needed to carry every day, and that in order to do that I needed a comfortable holster. I needed one I could wear comfortably every day. I made my first mistake by going out and buying a Serpa OWB holster for the Sig and was impressed with its positive retention. I got to where I could holster and re-holster the Sig pretty easily. I started carrying it and quickly realized a couple of things. First, carrying OWB pretty much ensures that there will be a bulge wherever it is that you place the weapon (3, 4, or 5 O’clock). Second, you need a heavy belt to hold up a heavy weapon. Finally, the damned things are heavy, and even doing something like walking around your local Target gets to be taxing when you have a 3 pound load at your belt level in a way that throws off your gait and your balance. What, you thought being a sheepdog was going to be easy?
Then, of course, I saw this video. Yep, that’s a Serpa Blackhawk, the same holster I bought and was so proud I could use safely. Now, sure, the idiot violated the number one rule of gun safety (keep your finger off the trigger), but in his defense, the “holster made him do it.” Sure, sure, you’re thinking this is like the “devil made him do it” excuses and you’d be right except for the design of the Serpa and it’s positive retention device. You have to press down with your trigger finger on the release in order to draw the weapon. So, you’re pressing down and your hand comes up with the weapon, and where does your finger go? Yes, friends, that’s right, directly into the trigger housing and “Bang!” Suddenly your friends call you Hop-a-long because you’ve blown out your leg, foot, knee, ankle, or worse, someone else’s body part that you did not intend to shoot (in which case you hope they bring you some KY Jelly and soap on a rope). So the Serpa went into the dustbin of holster history in my house.
About this time I discovered Glocks and the thing I liked about Glocks was that they offered superior reliability and so I acquired a Glock 26 followed shortly by a Glock 19. The 19 became my EDC, but my quest for a holster continued. While generic holsters worked, many did not cover the trigger guard completely on the Glock, and that can be a fatal flaw. The only safety on a Glock is the one between your ears. If you chamber a round, there is no button that will protect you from a negligent discharge if you pull the trigger. This is why people who carry this weapon as their duty weapon love it. No one can forget to disengage a safety that isn’t on the weapon. But for those of us climbing in and out of cars all day, sometimes going into Courthouses (and being required to put our gun in a car-mounted gun safe first), the chance of an accident increases every time you handle the weapon if you don’t have something routinely covering the trigger guard and don’t mentally dictate that your finger never goes into the trigger housing unless you’re at the range.
So I opted to carry the Glock in Condition 2, meaning no round chambered. Everyone told me I was nuts. They had a point. In order to get my gun into a fight, I’d have to chamber a round. But I have grandchildren, and even though I do not routinely carry around them, every now and again people pop over to the house and I could not live with myself if one of them was hurt. So I carried in Condition 2.
Then I saw someone suggest that I continue to carry in that condition with one exception. They suggested that I charge the weapon with an empty chamber so that if the trigger got pressed it would fall on an empty chamber. Then carry it with a full magazine.
The theory being that if you carry this way for several months and it never goes “click” from some accidental cause, you’re probably safe to carry with a round in the chamber. In other words, build confidence based on your own experience. Hmmm.
Okay, please, save me the angry comments here about this will get me killed. Okay, I get that. I am not recommending it for others, but it was a huge confidence boost for me. I carried that way for 4 months with never an accidental discharge, and so now I carry in condition 1.
Because I believe in mitigating risk whenever possible, I became a USCCA member and got the insurance. I started seeing ads for Aliengear Holsters. Now, these are reputed to be one of the most comfortable holsters made, so I bought both an IWB and an OWB holster for the Glock. (they have a two holster deal that rocks, by the way) While the OWB functioned well, I found I had to buy an extra size larger pants to make the IWB fit. But once I shelved my ego and bought the bigger pants, I was delighted. First, the gun concealed much better in the IWB, and second, the retention and trigger coverage were much better. Since I have a bunch of 38 sized pants I can’t wear with a gun, I started a low-carb diet. Damn you Aliengear! (no, I don’t mean that).
Urban Carry = You’ll Get Buried
Okay, my last part of this holster-based rant is the Urban Carry. I cannot post the video and retain either my dignity or my anonymity, but I filmed myself trying to draw my Glock 19 from my Urban Carry holster that my wife bought for me. If you’ve seen a few episodes of the Three Stooges, then you’ve got a general feel for that video. A couple of thoughts. If you’re a Brad Pitt double (see the guy on Urban Carry’s website) and can wear your belt loose around your middle, I’m sure this holster works just fine. If you can find a way to staple-gun your pants to your hips and leave enough room for this IWB appendix-carry holster to be drawn, again, it may work great for you. But I have two problems. One, my belt does more than look decorative around my middle, and two, I’m overweight. My belt is not a fashion accessory.
I installed and wore the UC holster the way it was designed. And I tried to draw. Ugh! I’m pretty sure that unless I was facing Frankenstein’s monster walking uphill on ice against a stiff head wind, that old age would more likely defeat a bad guy long before I could put my weapon into action. I simply cannot use the holster. I called Urban Carry and they told me I had the wrong size holster even though it was the one they recommended for my Glock 19. So I tried it with a 26 (fail) a 27 (fail) a 22 (fail) a 17, (fail) and a Glock 34 (big fail). Given that when you’re doing appendix carry your gun is pointing at parts of your anatomy you never want to come in contact with a bullet, the combination of a failure holster and appendix carry just left me cold. It has joined the Serpa in the bin of holsters to sell at the next gun show.
Final Thoughts (with Apologies to Tomi Lahren)
So, here’s my final thoughts. First, Aliengear has great holsters. Galco has one similar to the Aliengear that also works well, although reholstering is harder. I have not tried Crossbreed, but they also look like they could get the job done.
Second, you want an IWB holster at the 3, 4 or 5 O’clock position (or 7,8, or 9 O’clock position if you’re a lefty). These conceal better, tend to be more comfortable, and are less likely to imprint than an OWB holster.
Third you want a good thick belt. I recommend Aliengear’s steel-core belt. It works great but remember to buy one 2 inches longer than you normally wear in order to accommodate the IWB holster.
Finally, read all you can about different methods of carry, talk to people who’ve done it for years, and whatever you do, don’t believe everything people tell you. There are activists who carry AR pistols in open-carry states, and there are people with mental health issues who carry loaded .44 magum Desert Eagle firearms while wearing shorts and a windbreaker (really, shorts, a windbreaker, and socks with your flip flops….really?). Just because someone else chooses to carry a 5 pound firearm with 5 extra magazines (did he just say he has extra “clips” for that gun?) doesn’t mean you should. You should carry what you can draw safely from a holster and fire quickly, but accurately.
As someone once said, it is entirely possible that the person who fires the first ten rounds in a gunfight will die. This because the person who fires first is not the winner; it’s the person who hits first. And smooth is fast and fast is slow. When you practice drawing from a holster (this is a great drill for snap-caps and dry-fire) you should work on getting the gun up and on target quickly, but not like you were trying to set a land speed record. This because this practice builds muscle memory, and muscle memory can save your life in an emergency. Haste makes waste, and unaimed and off-target shots do nothing but alert your enemy that you’re armed and a bad shot. So develop your holster and firearm system together such that you can employ them quickly, and then practice that skill 20 times a day for a month. Doing anything for 21 days straight builds a habit, and good habits save lives.