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Some Thoughts on Concealed Carry

L. Neil Smith

Except for maybe 10 days total, when I was in the hospital or had flown to some benighted locale by airliner, I've carried a loaded pistol or revolver on my person every day of my life since 1967.

Time has taught me that there are five elements involved in the art of weapons concealment: size and shape of the toter, his or her choice of weapon, of holster, of clothing, and of attitude. Naturally, of the five, attitude is more important than the other four.

Regrettably, there isn't a lot I can say about it that's likely to help. If you know -- or can learn -- how to walk past a parked police car or a beat cop on the street without getting the jim-jams, you'll be fine. One key, it seems to me, is to know in your heart of hearts that you're right and they're wrong. The Second Amendment means what we've always said it does. Even if it didn't, the inherent moral right of every individual to own and carry weapons supersedes every other law Man has ever manufactured or discovered.

I'm a middle-aged male, six feet tall, 185 pounds. I carry a variety of guns, depending on circumstances and inclination. I'll use choices I've made as examples here, but it's the principle that's most important, more than any given choice I make on any given day.

In general, an individual should choose and carry the most capable weapon he or she can. That's the weapon that carries the greatest number of the most powerful cartridges, consistent with the skills of the shooter. Naturally, other factors enter in: is the environment urban, rural, or suburban; is the weather hot, cold, or somewhere in between; is the climate dry or humid; are cartridges, accessories, and parts easy to acquire or relatively esoteric and rare?

Probably the first principles, when it comes to choosing guns for concealment and self-defense are: (A) cylinders are hard to hide, so semiautomatics are more concealable than revolvers; (B) grips -- handles -- are harder to hide than barrels and slides; and (C) to those ignorant of firearms, the longer the barrel the scarier the gun.

I remember a flock of news idiots having the very essence of their being scared out of them, back in the 60s, when a Justice of the Supreme Court met them at his door at 10 PM, wearing his bathrobe and holding a .38 Special revolver with a six-inch barrel in his hand. Now as cartridges go, .38 Special is among the least impressive, but the news idiots didn't know that. They just knew the Justice's gun was big. Presumably they wouldn't have been as frightened by my four-times-more-powerful 3" snubby .44 Magnum.

You may find it satisfactory to carry as large -- as long -- a gun as you can, consistent with concealment. The mere sight of it may take the fight out of the other guy, saving you the trouble of firing a shot and having to spend your life savings defending yourself in court for having defended yourself in the street. In such cases, simply showing the weapon is all that it takes, 98% of the time.

A long-barrelled weapon is best carried in a shoulder holster, as it tends to stick out from under one's shirt or coat otherwise. I have a "longslide" autopistol I'd love to carry more -- try to imagine a stainless steel Government Model .45 with two inches of extra barrel and slide -- but I find shoulder holsters irritating after a few hours. The least offensive in this regard are the black nylon kind, with X-shaped straps, made by Uncle Mike's, AKA Michael's of Oregon.

A shoulder holster is probably the best way to carry a revolver (long-barrelled or otherwise) if you must. I have several I'm extremely fond of, made by a corporation that has since disgraced itself politically. There are some good reasons to carry a revolver, not the least of which is that they tend to be more accurate. And, unlike the more easily-concealed autopistols, they don't leave empty cartridge cases behind for the forensic ballistician. Only one spent bullet in a million will provide our oppressors with what they want to know. Empty cases will betray you much more frequently.

My personal choice for concealed carry -- when the weather is cool enough to get away with it -- is a high magazine capacity autopistol in a medium to large caliber. For the record, anything less than .40 is small-caliber. (Yes, that includes 9mm, .38 Super, and even .357 Magnum) Anything more than .40 (.45 Auto, for example, or .44 Magnum) is large-caliber. Forty itself (including 10mm) is medium caliber.

My favorite carry-guns in this category belong to the CZ-75 family of Czechoslovakian-inspired pistols, especially Springfield Armory's P9 and the EAA Witness, in the caliber I refer to as .40 Liberty (because the corporation it was named after disgraced itself). Both are manufactured by an Italian firm, Tanfoglio. The former is discontinued, although it can be found here and there in used condition. The latter comes in a variety of forms and finishes to please almost anyone, and can be had in 10mm and .45 Auto.

I've also come -- grudgingly -- to the conclusion that the Austrian maker Glock may produce the closest thing to a perfect weapon ever conceived by the human mind. I didn't always feel this way. I made jokes comparing the Glock to Apple computers, and paraphrasing the lecture Conan's father gave him about trusting only steel. I misquoted beef commercials, referring to "real guns for real people".

Trouble is, curiosity impelled me when a bargain presented itself, and I found that the plastic-framed wunderpistole is a real gun with oak leaf clusters. Mine is a biggie-sized Model 20 as old as the company itself, preserved in pristine condition in its factory box for a decade. Bored for 10mm, it shoots very straight, and works every time I pull the trigger. It's gentle enough that my daughter, only nine or 10 at the time, looked up from firing it the first time with a huge grin on her little face. With an extended "toe" on the magazine, it shoots an incredible 18 times before the slide locks back.

Ten millimeter is incredible in itself. No other cartridge is quite like it. From .22 and .25, in fairly even increments, the power of cartridges progresses until we reach a cluster of self-defense cartridges that includes .357 Magnum, .40 Liberty, and .45 Auto, all of which have about equal stopping power.

Then there's a long gap on the power chart until we come to the real magnums: .41, .44, and .45 Winchester Magnum.

The 10mm fills that gap perfectly. Weapons that employ it are small and light enough to be carried comfortably, yet they have enough power to reliably kill a mule deer or put an automobile engine out of service. For those who care, 10mm even shoots "flat" enough to be effective at 200 yards. (One reason I like .40 Liberty so much is that, unlike .45 Auto, it will reach 100 yards, and unlike .357 Magnum, it has useful energy left when it gets there.)

I don't mean this to be a ballistics lecture, but it's important to understand that in the area of self-defense, you get what you pay for -- and are willing to lug around on your belt or under your arm. Believe me when I say that thousands of incidents demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that, for most shooters, cartridges like .22 Long Rifle and .25 Auto are not effective for self-defense, and more likely to make your antagonist mad enough to kill you with his bare hands.

I could tell you stories ...

There are trade-offs. You can get a derringer the size of a .25 that shoots .45 ACP ("Automatic Colt Pistol"), but it's inaccurate, only holds two rounds and must be manually cocked -- with considerable difficulty -- for each shot. The recoil of such a derringer (they make them in smaller calibers, but what's the point?) is so sharp and painful that I have to force myself to practice with this particular gun twice a year in order to remain proficient with it.

Perhaps the best choice is a category of guns known as "snubbies". It used to be that there were only snubby revolvers, the best of which are probably the disgraced corporation's Model 36 and Model 60 (both .38s, one blue, one stainless) and the equivalent pieces chambered for .32 H&R magnum. The Colt Detective Special family are larger and not quite as robust internally, but they're true "six-shooters". Finally, Sturm Ruger, a company almost as disgraceful as the one I won't mention by name makes a lovely weapon called the SP101, and you can have that one in calibers from .32 magnum through .357.

We now have snubby autopistols, too. I won't mention some here because I'm not as familiar with them as I might be. They can be had with aluminum or plastic frames although in this size range, I still prefer steel. One of the first was the Detonics (mine is a "Mark Nothing"), a .45 as small as a .38 revolver. Another good one is the Star Firestar, available in 9mm, .40 Liberty, and .45 ACP. The very best of all these weapons today, in my opinion, is the Kahr K9.

Buffs will note that I haven't mentioned an entire class of guns -- pocket autos -- especially designed for concealment. Chambered mostly for .32 ACP and .380, they were the first pistols I fell in love with. I've had many. Lately, they seem to be evaporating from my collection. Recently I traded a pre-war Walther PPK .32, for example, for my longslide .45. I have a little Star .380 for which I've been offered several times what I paid for it, but it shoots exactly where I'm looking, even whan I'm not looking, and it's just the thing for T-shirt and shorts weather, so I think I'll hold onto it.

The important thing about these is that they're not very accurate, generally, and they're not very powerful. If you must carry one, load it with Winchester Silvertips or Glaser Safety Slugs. The Colt Government .380/Mustang pistols appear serviceable, and I've handled a Tech .32 I liked very much. Avoid the AMT Backup and the Grendel.

You'll also note that another thing I haven't talked much about much yet is carrying these things concealed, although it's what the article's supposed to be about. Also, I've mentioned only two places to carry weapons.

This is one of the few things the FBI ever got right: the best place is on the belt -- preferably in a holster just back of the belt loop on your hip (right or left, depending) when you wear blue denim trousers (the best-known manufacturer of which donates entirely too much money to anti-gun organizations). I promise you'll have trouble if you wear even the smallest, lightest gun on lighter pants.

The other place is a shoulder holster. Horizonatal types are best for comfort and concealment. I like mine to hang free, where a practiced twist of the body will toss the grip right into my hand. You'll want ammunition carriers on the other side, for balance. If you prefer a longer barrel, as I say, then you're stuck with a vertical holster that absolutely must be tied down to the belt on both sides.

I always tell those who seek my advice never to carry their firearm in a purse or fanny pack. It's the first thing that will be grabbed by a criminal miscreant, whether he works for the government or not. Unfortunately, purses and fanny packs are extremely convenient and will hide a whole lot of gun, so nobody ever listens to me. One of them even got caught, and had to do a lot of fancy talking to avoid more trouble than most productive-class individuals even know exists.

Another of my "credentials" is that a famous holster designer and trainer of pistol-fighters once took a look at holsters I'd made and proclaimed me "the fourth or fifth best holster-maker in America" -- ironic, because I often carry a gun in my pants pocket. In my misspent youth it was my right hip pocket, but for some reason that's not as comfortable as it once was. Now it's the one on my right, in front.

Pockets are good for more than one reason. If, gods forbid, you have to ditch a gun to avoid being caught with it, there's nothing left hanging on your belt in the form of a holster to incriminate you. There's nothing illegal about carrying an empty holster, but in the climate that exists today, they'll find something.

I also liked those inside-the-pants waistband holsters, but I find that harder to tolerate today, when I weigh less and have less natural padding. Please note that I usually carried that way with the grip reversed, that is, with the sights closer to my spine and the trigger closer to my belly button. You have to practice turning the back of your hand toward your body to extract the weapon, but it hides the grip, which otherwise may stick out and tattle on you.

Inside-the-pants holsters hold the weapon tightly to your body; you can carry a surprisingly large pistol under a loose T-shirt and the slide and barrel are well hidden. Drawbacks are that it doesn't work for revolvers, the gun gets sweaty (meaning rusty), even in a dry, cool climate, and it gives me goose-pimples to pack a single action automatic that way with the hammer back and the safety on.

There are other -- and sillier -- places to carry a gun. I never figured out the attraction of an ankle holster. It's not that well hidden and it makes you walk like Dr. Frankenstein's assistant Igor.

The silliest I ever saw, many years ago, was in the catalog of a pretentious little outfit called Seventrees. It attached inside the waistband and suspended the gun way down at the crotch. I always figured that when you unzipped your pants to get at your ... er, revolver, your assailant would either faint away or die laughing.

Another thing I didn't like about Seventrees, they censored the photographs of certain holsters meant only for cops. I don't like any company that does something like that and I avoid doing business with them if I can. This recent business about 10-shot magazines for us and bigger magazines for them would make the Founding Fathers puke. It's one reason I'm asking gun companies, now forced to comply, to pledge in writing that the day the Dole/Clinton gun laws are repealed, they'll replace their castrated magazines for free.

Recently, there's been a vogue for holsters that carry the weapon sideways, at the small of the back. Companies that don't make them claim there are safety issues. My trouble is that whenever you bend over, your gun will "print" -- show its outline through your jacket.

Speaking of jackets, if you plan on carrying concealed, prepare to fall right out of fashion -- or right in, depending on your taste. The "boyz in the 'hood" look like that (although most of them don't remember why any more) because baggy pants and an oversized shirt are the best way to hide a gun. (I don't know why they put their hats on backward -- could be they don't know whether they're coming or going.)

For some reason, bush pants, even when that extra pocket isn't directly over the main pants pocket, conceal a weapon well.

On the city streets, if you see a guy with short hair sweating inside a windbreaker when it's 100 degrees in the shade and there isn't any shade, chances are he's a detective, an off-duty cop, or an un-archist like you or me. I wear sportscoats, even in hot weather.

A word about metal detectors and other such up-and-coming doodads. Unless you're a GOP retard who agrees with aborted Supreme Court justice Robert Bork that "there's nothing in the Constitution about privacy" (but what's that pesky old 4th Amendment about, Borky-poo?), you'll agree that the Founders simply didn't want the government to know what's in your pockets, and it should therefore be unlawful for a government agency -- or corporation -- to own or use them.

In summary, if you plan to carry concealed -- especially if you plan to without asking government permission -- you'd better plan some thought and preparation, first. Your manner of dress, the way you carry yourself, any tendency you have to stick out in a crowd has to change -- for the same reason it's a bad idea to exceed the speed limit in a red sportscar -- and you will learn how brave you are.

I'd say that's a good thing to know.

(c)2002 Doing Freedom Magazine


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