Let’s admit it: Carrying a concealed firearm for the first time can be intimidating for a lot of us. We understand it’s a huge responsibility, but pulling it off seems like such a pain. There are places you can’t go if you’re carrying. There are articles of clothing you probably can’t wear if you’re carrying. There are articles of clothing you might need to add to your wardrobe (like a belt) that you’ve never considered before. Can you sit comfortably with a gun on your hip? Can you even hug a friend without her feeling your gun? Can the whole world see it through your shirt? Sometimes it feels like you have to change everything about yourself in order to carry concealed, and it’s hard to feel “normal” anymore.
Those are all valid concerns, but I’m here to tell you that you can carry a concealed firearm and still feel normal. Yes, you’ll need to make a few concessions, but you don’t need to rearrange your life in order to carry. Don’t worry: Here are five tips that’ll help you integrate a concealed gun into your life without changing everything about how you live.
1. Change Your Mindset
First of all, we need to challenge the premise that carrying a gun is “abnormal” in the first place. Nothing could be further from the truth. Taking charge of your personal safety by carrying a concealed handgun is perfectly normal, responsible and smart, and there’s nothing weird about it. The media and some segments of society want you to believe otherwise, but those of us who embrace liberty and our Second Amendment rights recognize that walking around safely armed is a normal and healthy state of being. Those who think there’s something wrong with that are the “abnormal” ones if you ask me.
If you’re struggling to flip the psychological switch here, understand that it will come with time and practice. The more you shoot, embrace the gun-owner lifestyle, surround yourself with fellow enthusiasts (in person or online) and integrate firearms into your life, the more “normal” it will feel for you.
2. Settle on the Right Gun/Holster Combo
I can’t emphasize this enough: There are a handful of holsters that will work wonderfully with your body and your chosen handgun and about a million that won’t. Finding the right one is a process. If your holster is uncomfortable, shifts around on you, makes you fidget with it all day, causes excessive printing, is a pain to draw from, or makes you change the way you move and sit, it’s probably the wrong one, or at least you’re wearing it in the wrong spot. Any one of those things is going to frustrate you and make you feel like you have to work around the gun rather than integrating it into your life.
It takes work, and it’ll cost you some money as you sample and discard options that aren’t working for you, but when you find the magic gun/holster combo that you can put on without feeling out of place, it’ll be worth it.
3. Experiment With Carry Positions
The traditional place to carry a concealed handgun is inside your waistband at about the 4 o’clock position. This works well for a lot of us, but depending on your body shape, your wardrobe and other factors, it might not be ideal for you.
Experiment with other carry positions. The goal isn’t to get so comfortable that you completely forget you’re carrying—that’s neither likely nor particularly safe or smart—but to get comfortable enough that you don’t feel you’ve had to change your gait, your posture or your entire wardrobe in order to carry a concealed handgun.
4. Make Your Current Wardrobe Work
You don’t have to go out and buy all new clothes to accommodate your gun, and you don’t have to dress in frumpy or baggy clothing. If you feel this is necessary, keep trying different holsters, because you might not have found the right one yet.
I can’t promise that you can dress exactly as you did before—it’s probably just not possible to wear leggings and crop tops alone and still carry on your person. But with some creative styling, you can make most of your current wardrobe work.
If you wear a lot of dresses, consider a shoulder-type holster concealed under a blazer or jacket. In the summer, you can try a thigh holster, a boot-mounted holster if you’re into cowboy boots, or a handbag designed for concealed carry. Waist carry really does work best with a sturdy belt. But if you hate belts, you can try a pocket holster, a belly band, a bra holster or other methods of carry that will let you stay belt-free.
And if you just can’t give up your leggings and snug tops, a belly band under your shirt with an athletic jacket or vest to disguise the bulge will work. Plus, fanny packs are making a comeback, and several companies are now making fanny packs with built-in holsters designed for concealed carry.
5. Have a Plan
This might be the number-one thing that will help you feel less out-of-place when carrying a gun. You need a plan for handling some specific situations where your firearm requires a little extra thought.
Hugs: It might seem silly, but this was one of my biggest problems when I started carrying concealed—every sweet little old lady at church wanted to hug me or throw their arm around me every Sunday, and I didn’t want to freak any of them out if they accidentally felt my gun. My advice: Perfect the side hug or one-shoulder hug, strategically picking which shoulder you lean into.
Taking the gun off: In the course of normal errands, you’ll encounter a few places you can’t carry your firearms. The post office, the courthouse and a polling place on voting day are examples I’ve personally dealt with. If you live in a state where “No firearms” signs carry the force of law, you’ll have a lot more of these. You need a plan for what to do with your gun if you need to run into one of these places. Work on removing the gun from its concealed position while still sitting in your car and sneaking it into your glovebox or center console. Of course, you’ll lock the car. An in-car lockable safe would be better. If you’re using a ride-share service or public transportation, this obviously isn’t an option, so you’ll have to plan ahead. Your only reasonable choice is to leave the gun at home. The same applies if you are going somewhere your permit is not valid, like a bar. What if you’re stopping at the gym on your way home from work? Locking your gym bag up in a locker, perhaps with a trigger lock on the gun, is your best best.