Holster Options

B listering hot Texas summer

Blistering hot Texas summer weather significantly limits how a lawfully armed citizen can carry a concealed handgun discreetly. The heat pretty much rules out a jacket, sport coat or other outer garment. This, in turn, rules out a shoulder holster, and makes some other carry locations more difficult to conceal.

Speaking as one of the male persuasion, summer weather means polo or tee shirts and blue jeans or shorts. Of course, some of us are locked into office wear, which usually means a coat and tie, no matter how hot it is outside. Aside from a fanny pack, if you want to carry a concealed sidearm, you have a choice of several methods of carry somewhere on your waistline or an ankle holster.

I’m going risk some blowback and say that an ankle holster is almost always a bad choice for several reasons. Of necessity, you’d need to place the holster on the inner side of your ankle (left or right) because it is very difficult to yank a trouser leg up and grasp a pistol on the outer side.

So, using an ankle holster has several consequences. First, you will have to walk funny to keep from banging your gun against the other ankle with every step. Second, you need to choose an ultra-compact, lightweight pistol (or revolver), because having a couple of pounds strapped to one of your ankles all day will throw off your balance and annoy the @#%& out of you.

Third, if you need to draw your weapon, you’ll need to yank your trouser leg up to expose it, then crouch or kneel to grasp the grip. This is an obvious aggressive move that alerts an assailant that something bad is about to happen.

If you are carrying something, a shopping bag for instance, you have to make the conscious decision to drop it before you can begin your move to your weapon. Then, when you crouch or kneel, you can’t move to cover or retreat—and you have a very narrow field of fire until you can change position. All this considered, an ankle holster is a bad tactical choice.

If you choose a belt holster, you have several carry options. This includes strong-side, cross draw, appendix, kidney, and small of the back (SOB) carry. All of these holster choices can be inside-the-waistband or outside. Assuming you are not one of the aforementioned coat and tie wearers, you need to wear an untucked shirt to conceal your sidearm.

An inside-the-waistband holster offers more concealment, but you’ll need to buy pants one size larger than you normally wear. As one whose waist is already too large, I do not favor IWB. Also, appendix and cross draw place your handgun in front of your hip bone, which is exceedingly uncomfortable when you sit down.

So, in my humble opinion, strong-side, kidney and SOB are the best choices by far—outside the waistband. You’ll need a stout belt and a holster designed to keep your sidearm close to your body, and as mentioned earlier, your shirt must be worn untucked to cover it.

Because OWB holsters are less concealed than IWB, most men will need to buy shirts labeled “tall” instead of “regular” for the extra few inches of fabric to cover your holster. Be sure you buy a size large enough to drape loosely. A tight fit will usually “imprint” your holstered handgun, especially with the strong-side carry.

Kidney and SOB carry place your holstered sidearm well behind your hipbone, which is a more discreet carry position. Of course when you sit, both kidney and SOB will place a large lump between you and your seat back. However, a well-designed holster will minimize any discomfort, and you will soon become accustomed to it. Some, myself included, find the sensation reassuring that your carry piece is right where it should be.

SOB offers a slight advantage because you can reach your handgun with either hand. In a worst case scenario where your strong-side arm is injured, this might be a life-saver. On the other hand, if one arm is disabled something has already gone horribly wrong. 

Personally, I favor the kidney carry, but regard SOB as a viable option. As a wise, but folksy friend used to say, “Yer pays yer money and takes yer cherce.”

One of the major advantages of any waistband carry position is that you are not limited to a compact, low-powered carry piece. If you want to carry a full-sized revolver or semi-auto, you can. My personal choice is a Kimber Ultra CDP II in .45 ACP with a Crimson Trace laser grip. Similar compact 1911s or other large semi-autos—even a (shudder) Glock would also work well.

Bringing your weapon to hand from under your untucked shirt is fairly easy, but you should practice it from time to time so you don’t fumble around when you really need your sidearm.

The key is to extend your thumb and hook it under the hem of your shirt as you begin your draw motion. Then you merely sweep the shirt up and away as you grasp the weapon. If your opposite arm is encumbered by a shopping bag, gym bag, etc., drop it and pull your shirt higher to aid your draw.

What happens if an untucked shirt is not an option? For example, I hate constantly having to hitch up my pants, so I use Perry suspenders that hook securely onto my belt. This means an untucked shirt just ain’t happening. So, in summer weather, I have to resort to a pocket holster.

This limits me to a sub-compact semi-auto. Most such pistols are chambered for a low-powered round, such as .380 or even .32 ACP. My personal choice is a fractionally larger Kahr 9, which is a striker-fired double action semi-auto. Similar sub-compacts include the Kimber Solo, Sig P 229 and S&W Shield. All of these are good choices. More recent versions are chambered for the more powerful .40 S&W cartridge, and I am seriously considering an upgrade.

Cold-weather carry offers additional options, which I hope to address in a later column. Also, I haven’t forgotten the ladies. That’s a ho’ ‘nother subject.

But for now, there’s one last piece of advice I wish to leave you with. Don’t under any circumstances, jam your sidearm into your waistband or pocket like a gangbanger.

First, the outline of your handgun will easily “imprint,” revealing that you are carrying. Worse, you risk having the gun slip out, fall to the ground and possibly discharge.

Even worse, you might snag your trigger and shoot away an important part of your anatomy. I know of several cases where that has happened with dire results, even death.

‘Nuff said.

—Stan Skinner





Armor Up

It’s well known that the police and military defend themselves with body armor, but many are unaware that law-abiding citizens may also own body armor for defensive purposes. Body armor is most usually incorrectly referred to as a “bullet proof vest,” but nothing is completely “bullet proof.”

Armor also has different ratings for different calibers. Of course you would stick out like a sore thumb if you attempted to wear most any type of vest in your daily carry. But in times of unrest, riots, disasters, or even a home invasion, you might wish to have body armor available.

Several types of body armor: top left is an old Kevlar level IIIA panel, top right a Level III polyethylene plate, low left is a low end AR500 level III steel plate, and center is a 5.11 plate carrier.

First, the fine print: Texas Penal Code states under section 46.041 that no convicted felon may possess metal or body armor that is designed or adapted for the purpose of protecting a person against gunfire. If you have a felony on your record, don’t even think about owning any type of body armor. However, for the rest of us law-abiding citizens who consider protecting ourselves against unwanted holes, there are a couple of options.

The most common form of body armor is the Kevlar-type concealable soft armor vests worn by law enforcement officers. These conform to your body and come in ratings of IIA, II and III-A. Level II is the most common rating worn by LEOs and it will stop common pistol rounds such as 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP. Level III-A is thicker and heavier and rated for slightly faster pistol calibers such as a 9mm traveling at 1,400 FPS and magnum pistol rounds such as the .44 Magnum. The thicker III-A vests will also minimize blunt trauma injury so the user can return fire. None of these are designed to stop high velocity rifle rounds. Soft armor prices start around $300.

Rifle rated armor comes in rigid plates that are worn in plate carriers. This is your foot soldier or SWAT team load out. Plates rated at level III are designed to defeat rounds from .308 Winchester traveling at 2,750fps. The highest rating is level IV plates that will stop steel core armor piercing 30-06 rounds, but as you can imagine these plates get very thick and heavy.

Level III is the most common “prepper style” plate and it comes in three different weights and price points. The cheapest option is AR500 steel plates that can be found for under $200 each. These usually come with a rubber coating that hopefully defeats any bullet spalling. If you’ve ever shot an armored steel target and saw how the bullet turns into tiny shrapnel, this might leave the steel plate user a bit nervous about catching fragments in the throat if he were shot. Steel plates will also be the heaviest running around seven pounds each, but are also the thinnest measuring about ¼ inch.

Ceramic Level III plates can be found under $300, running around 6 pounds and ½” thick, but then make some users nervous with the “Fragile, Do Not Drop” warnings since rough handling can jeopardize the plates’ performance. While ceramic plates might stop multiple rounds, they are designed and rated to defeat a single shot.

Finally, synthetic level III polyethylene plates weigh around 4 pounds, are 1” thick and can be purchased around $400 each. With any of these armor plates you would also remember to budget for a plate carrier for $50-200.

So in summary if you are looking for some ballistic protection the rule of thumb is soft armor for pistol calibers, hard plates for rifles. Hopefully you never have the need to don bullet resistant armor, but if you do, you’ll be happy you have it at the ready.

—Dustin Ellermann



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