I have had several readers send in questions about my personal choices concerning the guns, ammunition and holsters that I use when carrying concealed in public. So without further ado...
First, let me start off by saying that I don't pretend to be some great gun expert. I'm just an average guy that has had a concealed carry license since 1996. For the first few years I only carried sporadically, since May of 2000 though I have had a gun with me every time that I went out in public (as the law allows). No I am not a "gun expert" but having carried a gun for many years now I have learned a few things and like everyone else that carries a concealed weapon I do have my opinions and prejudices on the subject.
When I Carry
I should also note when I carry. I am just an average citizen, I am not in law enforcement or in any type of work where I would have to carry a gun around with me all of the time. Some people do have to carry a gun with them for a full work shift, or maybe even longer. I am not one of those people. I only carry when I am out in public places (can't carry at work) and for me that means typically I might only have a gun on for a few hours before I can return home and take it off. Although I have done it, only occasionally will I have a gun on me for a full day. Because of this I have a little more freedom in gun selection. For instance I can (and do) choose a full size, all steel handgun because I usually don't have to wear it to the point of becoming very uncomfortable, or even painful, during a long day. Not having to contend with comfort issues as much allows me to choose guns that might be larger or heavier than I might otherwise. I can make my concealed carry choices with an eye more towards effectiveness as opposed to what I might be able to live with when carrying for prolonged periods.
How I Carry
Over the years I have tried them all. I have carried a handgun just about anywhere you can imagine. For the most part though I prefer to carry on my waist, dominant side, behind the hip (about the 4 o'clock position). I do get some use from pocket holsters as well and mostly use them dominant side, front pocket. Ankle hosters, shoulder holsters, cross draw holsters, small of back, used them all since I've been carrying, but I always come back to what works best for me, strong side and pocket carry.
Colt Government Model (1911A1) .45 ACP - Despite all my talk and my admiration for the Smith & Wesson hand ejector, I must admit that my first pick when I leave the house is an semi-automatic pistol, specifically a full size Colt .45 Government Model pistol. I would say about 75% of the time that I carry it is the Colt that is under my belt. It is in my opinion an excellent combination of power, controllability and concealability (if that is a word). Yes, I do carry the Colt "cocked and locked", what other way would you want to carry it? For ease of concealment I much prefer an inside the waistband holster (IWB) and that applies to most of my other carry guns as well. Despite the size and weight involved a good holster can make carrying the big Colt a manageable chore. My Brommeland Max-Con V makes that chore quite a bit easier, it locks the gun solidly in place and distributes the weight well. With this setup I can comfortably carry the Colt for many hours. I have numerous other holsters for this pistol but the Brommeland is by far the best and the one that gets used the most. On occasion I have also been known to carry the Colt "Mexican" when on a short trip such as to the gas station. Using a good gun belt (I have a 1 ½ inch Galco) the gun is secured and moderately comfortable when carried this way for brief outings.
As for what type of ammunition I prefer when I carry (this also applies to ALL my carry guns) I must say that I am not a devoted fan of any one particular brand or another. All of the major manufactures make great self-defense ammo. While I might favor a specific bullet weight I have no brand loyalty for any particular "name" as long as it's accurate and reliable. As for .45 Auto a standard pressure hollow point of the 230 grain weight is my usual preference.
Smith & Wesson Model 649 .38 S&W Special - There are times when I just don't want to carry the Colt, particularly if it's a hot and humid summer day and I have on light clothing, or sometimes there might be other special circumstances. Those are times when the little J Frame Smith is an acceptable substitute. In the summer months my stainless Bodyguard .38 and a Kramer pocket holster (with a light shirt for coverage) is all that I need. That setup is great for shorter trips but for longer ones another Brommeland IWB suits the bill to a "T". I can carry the revolver all day and actually forget that it is there because it's so comfortable. Just like the Colt I have purchased numerous holsters for my little Smith & Wesson over the years but most of them look new, as these are the two that always seem to get used.
Defense ammunition preferred is 125 grain +P hollow points. The +P ammunition has a little more snap in them (compared to standard pressure) but the heavier steel frame makes for faster recovery and more tolerable recoil.
On occasion I just want to be different, at those times other guns see the light of day. A Smith & Wesson 4566 customized by Novak is one of those. Believe it or not this big block of steel gets carried IWB in a Milt Sparks Versa Max 2 and is more comfortable than it has any right to be. I am a big fan of the Sparks VM2 and have bought some for my more used carry guns. I recently added one for my Sig Sauer P228 but haven't used it much yet. So far the alloy framed Sig seems a real pleasure to carry in my Sparks rig. You almost forget it's there.
But my main "other" carry gun is a S&W .357 Magnum ("Pre" Model 27) with a 3 ½ inch barrel. This big revolver weighs in about the same as my Colt Government Model but because of the huge size of the frame and cylinder it takes more effort to conceal it and tote it around. Believe it or not the big Smith & Wesson isn't that hard to carry or to conceal if you use the right gear. I am writing a much more extensive article on carrying the N Frame Smith & Wesson which will be appearing in this blog in coming weeks.
I must admit that I am not very judicious about carrying reloads for my carry guns. Sometimes I take them with me and other times not. This is one area that I will concede that I need to make more of an effort. When I carry the Colt I have a Galco single magazine pouch that I sometimes use, it can also work with my S&W 4566. When I have one of my Smith & Wesson revolvers on me I usually bring along a Bianchi speed strip in another pocket. Sometimes, mostly depending on the weather and how I am dressed, I will carry speed loaders. I prefer Safariland brand carried loose in a pocket or on my belt in a pouch.
Having carried a gun for many years now, and thru a lot of trial and error, I have come to know very well what will work and not work for me. It should be the goal of every person that carries a gun to test themselves to find out what combinations of guns and carry styles that will work best for them too.
I carry whenever, wherever legal, which is to say not at work (Fed property ya know). I've been carrying a 4" XD in .45 most of the time. I always have a reload magazine for a self-loader.
Revolvers, N-frame .45's for the most part, are most often carried crossdraw both for comfort and to remind myself I'm using a different "system". Reloads for the revolvers are usually two moon-clips in spring-steel holders just behind the holster.
Holsters; Milt Sparks, El Paso Saddlery and some old Bianchi Cyclones for the wheelguns.
Ammo is currently Federal EFMJ.
When I was carrying for work I was required to use a SIG 226 and issue ammo was Hydra Shoks. My "dress up" (for suits) rig was made by Mike Meredith at Pocket Concealment.
I've never tried the Springfield XD, have heard a lot of good things though.
As for N frames, I do have one cross draw but never really got used to it. So never used it much. I have a much longer story coming up about carrying S&W N frames as soon as I get around to taking some good photos...
Crossdraw does take some getting used to and it's something I came into with my first N-frame, a 5" 625 (still have it but haven't shot it in a couple of years). The 5" was just a little too long to comfortably draw from strong side.
The XD was a very pleasant surprise; I am less than enamored of Glocks (carried a couple as issue for brief periods) and again, bought the XD's out of consideration for my left-handed Bride.
The "shoot the moon" system of clips and the spring-steel holders really makes the clip-fed revolver a favorite.
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