“8 Tips for Carrying Concealed” is a two-part blog with tips for carrying a concealed handgun. Part 1 focuses on knowing the law, firearm selection, holster selection, and clothing choices. Part 2 provides tips for preparing yourself to use your concealed handgun in a self-defense situation.
It is difficult to get a concealed carry permit in Maryland; nevertheless, it is possible. It is also possible to get concealed carry permits from other states and jurisdictions, including Washington, DC. This blog is written for those who have a Maryland concealed carry permit or intend to apply for one. We do not address the process of applying for a wear and carry permit in Maryland or other jurisdictions.
Know the Law
Carrying a concealed handgun requires up-to-date knowledge of federal and state firearms laws and laws of justified self-defense in Maryland and in states that you intend to travel through with your concealed handgun. For example, did you know that in some states if you are stopped for a traffic violation you have a legal obligation to inform the police officer that you are carrying a concealed handgun? (However, as of 2018 this is not the case in Maryland.)
Did you know that justifiable self-defense usually must satisfy the following conditions:
- Innocence—you cannot be the aggressor.
- Imminence—you must believe the threat is going to happen right now
- Reasonableness— disparity of force, big vs. small, male vs. female, etc.
- Avoidance—Maryland has a duty to retreat, if it is safe to do so.
- Proportionality—use just enough force to stop the threat
Note: Even if all of these conditions are met, you could still face legal consequences.
You need to know the law and stay up-to-date with changes to the law.
A site we recommend to our Maryland, Utah, and Washington, DC concealed carry students is “handgunlaw.us” http://www.handgunlaw.us/. The site has an interactive map you can use to plan your trip while legally carrying your concealed handgun. The site is updated monthly and provides a comprehensive list of self-defense laws.
A similar site is provided by the United States Concealed Carry Association (https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/travel/). When using both sites you will find that many states honor Maryland’s concealed carry permit, but Maryland does not honor any state’s permit.
Firearms laws change regularly. In Maryland’s last legislative session (2018) there were several bills focusing on gun laws. One of those, if passed, would have made it illegal to own a handgun magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. So, on a Monday you could be a legal owner of those magazines (Maryland law currently allows people to own them, but not purchase them). Then, the law passes on Tuesday and you are suddenly in violation of the law.
Another example of changing gun laws is found in a recent decision in Pennsylvania that changed many of its concealed carry reciprocity agreements whereby concealed carry permit holders from states that had a reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania now do not. Again, you need to have the ability to know when these laws change.
One way to stay up-to-date on the law is to subscribe to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (https://www.nraila.org/). When you subscribe to this free service you identify your home state and they will send you legislative updates.
Another place to find up-to-date Maryland firearms legislation is Maryland Shall Issue® at https://www.marylandshallissue.org/jmain/index.php. Maryland Shall Issue is an “… all volunteer, non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of gun owners’ rights in Maryland. It seeks to educate the community about the right of self-protection, the safe handling of firearms, and the responsibility that goes with carrying a firearm in public.” They provide regular state and federal legislative updates that impact gun owners.
If you haven’t started shopping for a handgun to carry concealed be prepared to be overwhelmed with conflicting advice from friends and experts about what kind of gun you should carry and by the many different gun manufacturers in the marketplace. You will have many opinions to consider.
We strongly recommend that you do not purchase a small caliber handgun for self-defense carry (for example, a .22 caliber pistol). Small caliber handguns are helpful for practicing your marksmanship. Everything we read about them suggest that they are not the firearm of choice for self-defense.
Pistols for self-defense usually are engineered to handle 9 millimeter, 40 caliber, and 45 caliber ammunition. There are also revolvers that are designed for 38 caliber ammunition. There are even revolvers (the Judge and Governor) that can shoot either .410 gauge shotgun shells or 45 Colt or 45 ACP ammunition.
Generally speaking, larger ammunition requires larger handguns; for example, the Governor revolver mentioned above and the Springfield Armory 1911 both use 45 caliber bullets and they are both big handguns. Big handguns can be challenging to carry concealed, although some people prefer to carry them.
A popular handgun for concealed carry is a Glock 19. The Glock 19 uses a 9 mm round. The magazine capacity for the Glock 19 is usually 15 rounds per magazine, except in Maryland where the capacity is limited by law to 10 rounds.
When a Glock 19 is shipped to a Maryland firearms dealer it comes with 15 round magazines that have devices installed inside that limit the loading capacity to 10 rounds. Although Maryland residents cannot purchase large capacity magazines for their handguns while living in Maryland, including through the Internet, they are not prohibited from owning them.
Glocks and similar handguns are called “striker-fired” handguns. The striker resembles a firing pin that is installed inside the slide of the gun. The slide is attached to the frame. Racking the slide on striker-fired handguns is a challenge for some people—weak hands, arthritis, and so on—but with practice it can be manipulated effectively.
Because of the way the slide functions it is very important for you to go to a federal firearms licensed gun dealer where you can handle the firearm you are thinking of buying. The gun’s ergonomics are important to your overall firearms experience. Hold it in your hands. See if you can manipulate the slide. Feel its weight. Look at the front and rear sights to see if your eye can see them clearly. And, if the dealer has an indoor gun range ask if you can test fire a handgun like the one you want to buy.
Alternatively, you may have a friend or relative who owns a handgun like the one you are thinking about buying. Go to a range with him or her and try-out the gun.
Another consideration is the trigger. Some triggers are “heavy,” which means it takes a lot of pressure to activate them. Other triggers are very “light,” which means that they are very easy to activate. In our opinion, a medium weight trigger is preferable to either a heavy or light trigger, but especially to a light trigger. A light trigger can result in negligent discharges. Talk with a gun dealer about the weight of the trigger on the handgun you are considering.
Finally, you need to consider the cost of the handgun. The average cost of a Glock handgun is $550. A Wilson Combat EDC-X9 (9 mm) is about $3000. A Springfield Armory 1911”Operator” model is $1145. So, before you lay down your money, make sure that the gun you want to buy “fits” you and “suits” you.
Your next challenge is finding a holster for that new gun. You want a holster that can hold your handgun concealed while covering the trigger. Again, there is no shortage of recommendations and availability. The challenge is that there are too many from which to choose.
One holster style for concealed carry is called “inside the waistband” (IWB). The IWB holster and the gun are tucked inside the waistband of your pants. There is usually a clip on the holster that will attach to a belt. IWB holsters are mostly used by men, although women can use them if they are wearing pants. IWB holsters are often made of a substance called Kydex, although it is possible to find them made with leather or a elasticized canvas-like material.
“Outside the waistband” holsters are attached to a belt and they are outside of the pants. Although these holsters are often used for concealed carry they present challenges because they can easily expose your firearm to nearby people. For example, if the holster and gun are covered by a suit jacket or a shirt bending over to pick up something or reaching high to grasp something can result in the firearm being visible. If it’s visible it is no longer concealed and if it is not concealed you are in violation of the law.
Next you have to consider how the holster retains your handgun. Some holsters only use friction to hold the handgun inside the holster. Others, have some kind of deactivation device; for example, a thumb release tab or a finger release button on the holster.
There are other kinds of holsters but the common ones for concealed carry are IWB and OWB. Whichever holster you select try it on if possible if you are buying it a gun store. If you are buying the holster on-line you won’t be able to try it on until it arrives at your house. Either way, at the store or in the house, you need to make sure that the holster covers the trigger of your handgun and that it is relatively comfortable to wear.
Women are particularly challenged when making holster selections. Because of their wardrobe choices women cannot always use IWB or OWB holsters. So, what choices do they have. There are concealed carry options that use purses, brief cases, and fanny packs. Some of the more creative choices for women that offer remarkable concealability are offered by Dene Adams. Dene created a line of women’s undergarments designed to conceal handguns. (To see examples go to https://www.facebook.com/deneadamsofficial/videos/1409757362377052)
Another decision you need to make is about where to wear the holster. Some people like to carry “appendix” holsters that are placed IWB just to the right of the belly button. Others prefer IWB or OWB holsters worn on the side. While others like to wear holsters on to the rear either on the hip or in the small of the back. You will need to decide what works best for you.
You have two criteria for making your clothing choices for carrying concealed: concealability and quick access to your handgun.
If you have a concealed carry permit you need to conceal your handgun. None of it can be visible to the public. Even the outline of the handgun showing through your clothes is considered illegal. When the outline shows through that is called printing and legally it is considered as brandishing.
You need to wear loose fitting clothing, especially with OWB holsters. IWB holsters are easier to conceal but loose clothing makes concealment easier. Even with loose fitting clothes you still need to be able to access your handgun quickly in a self-defense situation.
You cannot be fiddling with your shirt, blouse, or jacket to get to your handgun. So, make sure that the clothing you choose to wear can be moved out of the way so you can draw your handgun quickly.
This concludes Part 1. In Part 2, we discuss mastering the personal defense triad, drawing from the holster, and training.