Height, Length, Width - Overcoming Concealment Challenges
When it comes to concealing a handgun, there are three primary issues that you'll have to consider how to conceal: the firearm's height, width, and length.
In my opinion, the length of the handgun isn't really nearly as difficult to defeat as the other two dimensions. The length of the firearm is overall measurement from the most rearward point of the firearm to the tip of the muzzle. Unless you are carrying a really long handgun- the length will likely be running alongside your leg. Since the length of the slide is not going to be longer than any part of your leg, this isn't really that large of a consideration. The times when it does become an issue are when the firearm isn't canted (angled) in line with your leg (likely your femur). This can occur in a number of different carry methods:
- Appendix Carry (most common)
- Horizontally carrying in the 6:00 (or small of the back) carry position
- Shoulder-Rigs (which I don't personally recommend, but more on that in a different rant)
- A sharply canted 5:00 carry with a long firearm (ex. Glock 34)
- Off-body Carry (especially in a purse, for the ladies or European men)
Naturally, it's possible to overcome these challenges- but these seem to be most rare. When carrying a longer firearm in the Appendix Carry method, I would encourage the carrier to move the firearm to the 11:30 position, offsetting the weapon from parts of the body that don't appreciate guns/holsters push against them. I would also encourage the carrier to consider a Below the Waistband carry solution for the longer firearm. Cherries Apparel has a Below the Waistband holster rig that allows for a much larger firearm to be carried in the appendix position much more comfortably than traditional appendix rigs.
In the other cases, I would urge the carrier to consider alternative carry methods, an alternative weapon, or dressing/equipping yourself to better conceal the firearm. As is the case for almost every challenge with concealed carry- you have to dress to the gun.
Increasing Ammo Capacity
In order to increase ammunition capacity in any handgun, firearm manufacturers have two options:
- Increase the width of the grip-frame (allowing for double stack magazines)
- Increase the height of the grip-frame (allowing for a "taller" single stack magazine)
Both of these options have their advantages and disadvantages...
For me personally, height of the firearm can be one of the more difficult challenges to overcome. The reason that height is challenging is because it will force the firearm to print at the magazine-well, positioned at the bottom of the grip frame. This is generally a 90° angle which appears very un-natural when bulging through the side/front/back of your shirt. I carry a lot at the 3:00 and 4:00 positions, and height of the firearm is normally my largest concern with printing, especially when I bend or rotate at certain angles. The back-bottom part of the grip has a tendency to protrude through the shirt and to someone who carries a firearm- it can be a dead give-away. So how do I get around this? There are a few ways:
- The first answer, almost always- DRESS TO THE GUN. Wear a larger/baggier shirt which is more forgiving of printing. Wear a shirt with fewer straight lines and darker colors so that it is less noticeable when the symmetry is interrupted by an un-natural 90° angle.
- Next, consider a smaller magazine (if possible). For instance, I carry a M&P Shield a LOT. The Shield comes with two magazines. There is a shorter mag which sits flush with the firearm and carries 1 less round than the other. The other magazine has a pinky extension and carries an extra round. Since I always carry a spare mag for whatever gun I'm carrying, I try to overcome the height issue by carrying the mag with the flush baseplate in the gun and the mag with the extension as my secondary magazine. Though it's only a small difference, it helps me conceal the firearm dramatically.
- The next trick that I use is to change the carry position or method that I am using. I make a conscious effort to dress to the gun, but there are other times where I have to choose my holster according to what I'm going to be wearing. For instance, I can't wear larger, baggier clothing to a formal event- so I need to change my carry method. I have found that going from a 3:00 carry to a 4:00 position with a canted holster allows for me to conceal the height of the firearm significantly more. I've also found that moving my shield to an appendix position allows for the width of my body to better conceal the height of the firearm. If you think about it, when carrying at a 3:00 position your body is using the area from your back to your stomach to mask the height of the firearm (from mag-well to rear sight). That's (hopefully) a relatively small distance of your body trying to conceal the second largest dimension of the weapon. When carrying in an Appendix position, you are using at least half of the area of your body from your centerline to your hip before the height becomes an issue. I have found that his helps me considerably.
- Lastly- you could change to an off-body carry method. I mention this last because I strongly discourage off-body carry, yet at times it is necessary. Let's face it- you can carry a much larger firearm in a briefcase or a purse than you normally can in your waist-line. Just be sure that you maintain control of your weapon at all times to prevent unauthorized access.
Similar to the height of the firearm, the width can be quite challenging to overcome. The reason that width is challenging is because it tends to disrupts the natural symmetry of your body. Depending on where you are carrying (and the angle of the person looking at you), the width of the firearm can create an un-natural bulge on one side of your body. For instance, let's consider the 3:00 carry position. If someone is facing you from the front, it can appear that the right side of your body is considerably different than the left side. Though an untrained eye might not be able to determine the cause, it will likely force them to look closer. This is exactly what we are trying to prevent from happening... How do we accomplish that?
- You guessed it- DRESS TO THE GUN. Baggier clothes, darker colored shirts, fewer straight lines (like stripes), less symmetry in the clothing
- There is a small trick to potentially minimizing this area with clothing. If you can place another object (ex: cell phone) on the exact opposite side of your body than your firearm, it can help to even out the symmetry. This hopefully draws less attention to your firearm by minimizing the differentation between the two sides of your body.
- Change carry positions. Again- consider going to an area of your body that allows for a natural gap, such as appendix carry or small of the back.
- Note on comfort: I have found that I originally tried to draw my belt in as tight as possible to minimize the amount of printing when I carried a double-stack handgun Inside the Waistband. While this can be effective, it can also be uncomfortable. I found that by transitioning from INSIDE the waistband to OUTSIDE the waistband that it was far more comfortable to carry. Obviously you will need to be aware of your movement to prevent raising your arms up too far and revealing your holster/firearm- but it is a very viable option. This is particularly true if you invest in a Raven Concealment (or similar manufacturer) holster where they are made to intentionally keep the firearm snug to your body. I would encourage you to avoid paddle holsters in this case, as the manufacturing design of a paddle holster will naturally push the frame of the gun away from you body, making it harder to conceal.
Notice a pattern here? You should always, always DRESS TO THE GUN. If you're not willing to put in conscious effort to concealing your firearm, you should strongly consider taking it off. If your idea of a concealed carry rig is some Uncle Mike's woven holster with a full-size firearm and a belt from the discount store, then you're likely not the type of person that should be carrying a gun in public to begin with. Invest in yourself via training and practice. Invest in your equipment via quality gear with options that will make you more likely to both effectively conceal and fight with your gear.