Copyright 2020 by the Spartan Firearms Training Group. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, edited, or modified without written permission.
Spartan Firearms Training Group was formed in 2016. We provide high quality firearms training to help Maryland residents exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights legally and safely.
The training we deliver is informed by Maryland and federal firearms laws and by the training we received from former high-speed special operation warriors (Army Green Berets, various Special Operations Task Force unit members, Rangers, Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders and Marine Force Recon unit members, Canadian Special Forces, and police SWAT officers) in training facilities like Academi, Torn Tactical, Gunsite Academy, and Oak Grove Technologies.
What we learn from that personal training we pay forward to our customers.
Part 2 builds on the content of Part 1. Below, we offer advice on recommended components of a concealed carry system, including the selection of a defensive handgun, holsters, spare ammunition, behaviors to avoid while you are carrying, training to carry concealed, and places to avoid while carrying. We encourage you to consider this advice carefully and make decisions about how, when, where you carry concealed.
When you make the decision to carry a concealed carry handgun in addition to choosing which handgun to purchase and carry you must also consider the concealed carry system needed to complement the gun.
Essential Components of a Concealed Carry System
- Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR) Sight. “In short, quality modern red dots are durable, handgun mounted red dots allow the shooter’s focal point to remain on target, and handgun mounted red dots drastically improve accuracy.” To prove that point, Aaron Cowan from Sage Dynamics has spend the last 4 years conducting a study on the use of handgun red dot sights, specifically for police duty handguns. Here is a link to that study: Red Dot Study. RMRs are particularly useful for shooters with failing eyesight.
- Spare ammunition
- Concealment clothing (link to women’s selections)
- Tactical Flashlight
- Alternative Force Methods (as discussed in Part 1: pepper spray, and so on; legal impact weapons)
- Concealed carry permit
Additional components are:
- Cell phone
- Backup gun
- Phone numbers, especially for your firearms insurance provider (discussed in Part 1)
- Spare batteries for your tactical light
- Locking device
Defensive Handgun Selection Considerations
Selecting a handgun to carry concealed is a highly personal decision. You will be overwhelmed with recommendations once you ask “which gun should I buy to carry?”
The handgun you select for your concealed carry gun and any attachment (for example, Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR) sight should be the highest premium quality you can afford—don’t go cheap for your carry gun. Seven firearm selection criteria are:
- Ergonomics—how does it fit your hand, especially the grip? Can you grip it easily? Does it fit in your hand naturally? Is the grip suitable for the size of your hand? Can you reach the various controls of the gun (magazine release, slide lock, safety)?
- Controllability—what is the gun’s reputation for controllability during slow fire, rapid fire, multiple shots, and aimed shots. If possible, go to a gun store that has a firing range and rents guns. If they have the gun you are interested in you can test the gun’s controllability.
- Pointability—this criterion refers to how well the gun establishes a natural point of aim. This can be tested by aligning the front and rear sights and pointing the gun toward a target. The gun should now be a natural extension of your forearm.
- Accuracy—you do not need a “match grade” handgun for self-defense. You do need a handgun that has a reputation for accuracy (remember that accuracy, or lack of it, is more often a function of the shooter rather than the gun).
- Reliability—does the handgun have a reputation for holding up under all kinds of conditions—wet, mud, freezing rain, and scorching heat? Does the gun have a reputation for having a low level of malfunctions?
- Size and Weight—how large is the handgun? How heavy is it? Is it concealable? Given your size and strength, can you manage the gun?
- Cost—how much does the gun cost? Is the cost justified given the reputation of the gun and the manufacturer? Get the best gun you can afford. Your life will depend on that gun in a deadly force situation.
Another important consideration when purchasing a defensive handgun is the size of the gun. There are four common sizes: Full-size, compact, sub-compact, and pocket-size.
Full-Size Guns. Full-size guns are good for home defense and concealed carry (with an appropriately designed holster and clothing choices). These guns have longer barrels, longer sight radius, larger capacity magazines and larger exterior dimensions. Examples include Glock 17 and the Sig Sauer P320 X-Five
Compact Guns. These handguns are easier to carry and conceal. They come in a variety of calibers. The 9mm versions of these guns are very popular and include the Glock 19 and the Wilson Combat EDC X-9.
Sub-Compact Guns. These handguns are popular among those people who may have a difficult time concealing their guns. They come in a variety of calibers. One of the drawbacks of the sub-compact guns is that they can be more difficult to manage while shooting. Examples of sub-compact models include Smith and Wesson M&P9 and Sig Sauer 290RS.
Pocket Guns. These are considerably smaller than the other handguns identified above. The controls on these guns may also be different than the controls on your primary handgun. This will require significant practice with the controls on both guns. Examples of pocket guns include Smith and Wesson Bodyguard and Glock 42.
Defensive Handgun Sets
Some people with concealed carry permits carry more than one all-purpose handgun. There are different strategies for creating the handgun sets.
Strategy 1: Two Handguns—Identical Models. This strategy is very useful for people who train regularly and put a lot of rounds down range. If their primary gun has an unfixable malfunction or has to be serviced the second identical gun can replace the one that is not functioning. Training on one gun applies to the second gun.
Strategy 2: Two Handguns—Different Models But Same Size and Similar Operational Controls. Some people have a couple different guns they like to carry. Instead of favoring one over the other they carry both. Training with both guns is important.
Strategy 3: Two Handguns—One Larger, One Smaller, But From Same Manufacturer. Training with both guns is important.
Strategy 4: Two Handguns—One Larger, One Smaller, But From Different Manufacturers and With Different Operational Controls. It is recommended that both guns be either both semi-auto pistols or both J-frame revolvers. Having one semi-auto with one J-frame revolver could present transition challenges to a person facing a deadly force situation. Training with both guns is important.
Strategy 5: Three Handguns—Two Larger Identical Guns, One Smaller Back-up Gun. Some people believe that carrying more than one gun is unnecessary. They argue that the odds of needing one gun are small, the odds of needing two guns is even smaller, and the odds of needing three gun is totally outside the realm of possibility. However, there are people who do carry three guns to ensure they have access to at least one gun when they need it. Training with all the guns is important.
All five strategies require the permit holder to train using the guns they carry, making transitions, re-holstering, etc. Mastering the handling of more than one carry gun can be challenging.
What do you do once you narrow down your shopping list for possible defensive handguns? Here’s our recommendations for moving forward.
- Identify a few handguns that interest you.
- Do some research on the functional characteristics of those guns.
- Go to a gun store or range that rents handguns and rent the ones you are interested in.
- Pay attention to how the gun feels in your hand, how easy it is for you to use, and, if it suits you, the aesthetic characteristics of the gun (some people want guns that look cool).
- Once you settle on the gun you like check to see if it is on the Maryland Handgun Roster found at Maryland Handgun Roster. If your choice is not the roster you won’t be able to buy it.
- If the gun is on the roster go to a Federally Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealer of your choice along with your Handgun Qualification License (the HQL is required to purchase a handgun in Maryland).
- The clerk at the FFL dealer will explain how to apply for the gun if you don’t know how to do that.
A final word about handgun selection: For years in the firearms community there has been a raging debate about “stopping power”—the characteristic of ammunition that makes it capable of stopping a threat. Here is a link to an article we posted several months ago that addresses this debate: Stopping Power Myth. It is now recognized that it is not the size of the ammunition that matters; rather it is shot placement that makes a difference. If shot placement makes the difference then training to a level of mastery with firearms handling and marksmanship becomes critically important for surviving a deadly force situation.
Concealed Carry Holster Selection Criteria
Carrying concealed can be uncomfortable, but it is comforting to know you have a concealed handgun for personal protection. Selecting the right holster can help improve comfort. You also need to decide how you want to carry your concealed carry handgun before purchasing a holster. That decision will be influenced by whether or not you need or want to carry a second, or back-up, handgun.
Primary vs. Secondary Handguns
The handgun you intend to use for self-defense and that is easily and quickly accessible is your primary handgun. If you have a smaller second handgun on you (often called a back-up) that is your secondary handgun.
Your primary handgun is carried in one of two places on your body: waist carry or shoulder holster carry. Ankle carry is only advisable for back-up guns.
A handgun carried on the waist can be located in three possible positions: at the front of the waist, often called appendix carry; three o’clock position (9:00 for lefties), and 5:00 position (7:00 for lefties) which is functionally in the small of the back.
Shoulder Holster Carry
A handgun carried in this position is popular with people who wear suits as part of their daily wardrobe or who drive long distances for long periods of time. It’s the Miami Vice look. There are issues with using a shoulder holster that require significant training to manage the issues; for example, when drawing from a shoulder harness you have to cross-draw which means the muzzle sweeps across others before targeting an armed assailant.
Ankle carry is used by some people to carry their secondary handgun—their backup. In our opinion this carry position should not be used for your primary firearm.
Our advice is to use the carry position that gives you easy, fast, and effective access to your primary firearm. Once you choose your carry position you must practice drawing the handgun from that position. You can do that at home with an empty firearm—often called dry practice. Again, please make sure your firearm is unloaded and there is no ammunition close by that is easily accessible. So-called unloaded guns have killed people.
Primary Criteria for Selecting A Concealed Carry Holster
In addition to deciding where you want to carry your gun on your body you should consider the following selection criteria.
Concealability—can the holster help conceal the handgun you intend to carry?
Accessibility—can you access the gun easily when the holster is attached to your body?
Speed of Drawing—can the handgun be drawn quickly from the holster?
Comfort—does the holster feel comfortable when the gun is holstered and when it is positioned where you want to carry?
Retention Requirements—do you require a holster with active retention options?
Fit and Form—does the holster correctly hold the handgun you intend to carry?
Quality of Workmanship and Materials—is the holster constructed to high quality standards and materials?
Ease of Re-holstering—can the handgun be easily re-holstered?
Safety—does the holster cover the trigger?
Gender Differences Influencing Holster Selection
Women concealed carry permit holders have several gender-related holster selection issues connected to gender-specific anatomical differences between men and women. Most handguns and handgun accessories like holsters are designed around the anatomical characteristics of men. Several of the issues that women need to consider when selecting concealment holsters are:
Hand-Size: generally, women have smaller hands than men. Smaller hands require handgun grips that can be easily secured with your hands, whatever their size.
Armpit to Hip Distance: this measurement is usually shorter on women. Holsters need to be lower on the belt to facilitate proper draw stroke for people with short armpit to hip distance.
Hip Dimensions–generally, women have wider hips than men. Some men also have wide hips. Hip width affects the cant of the holster. The cant angle of the holster tips the handgun in a way that helps the shooter get a positive purchase on the grip prior to drawing.
Body Size (also affects men). People who are large around the mid-section typically are challenged by holsters attached to waist belts.
Physical Strength—a person’s overall strength affects the holster design and handgun selection. People need to choose a gun they can handle with the strength they have and then select a holster to accommodate that gun.
Gun Size—there is a holster for most pistols and revolvers. You need to ensure that the holster you buy will fit the gun you have.
Limited Clothing Options–generally, women have less options for concealment clothing. Often, they select purses, fanny packs, or computer bags to conceal their handguns.
A video showing concealed carry garments for women is found at Concealed Carry Clothing Options for Women
Additional details about holster design and function can be found at Holster Selection Tips
Avoid Concealed Carry System “Signaling” Behaviors
Signaling behaviors let others know that you are carrying a concealed handgun. These behaviors are common to people who are carrying for the first time. Below, you will read about some of the common signaling behaviors.
Printing: this occurs when other people can see the imprint of your gun through your clothes. In some states being able to see the outline of the gun may be a crime. Even if it isn’t a crime why would you want other people to know you have a concealed fiream?
Exposing: this happens unexpectedly when a person carrying a concealed handgun reaches, bends over, kneels down, and so on, thereby exposing the firearm to others.
Touching: this happens to people who are new to carrying concealed. The gun is concealed under their clothing but they repeatedly use there forearm or elbow to “touch” the gun through their clothing. The touching gives them reassurance that the gun is secure but it also signals that they have a gun.
Looking: this occurs as concealed carry permit holders occasionally visually check their gear to “ensure” it is still where it needs to be.
Telegraphing: this is when the concealed carry permit holder gives away his or her intention to act.
Active telegraphing: body language such as assuming a combat stance, or blading the body.
Passive telegraphing: dressing in clothing that signals to others that you may be carrying a concealed firearm. This also includes pins, tattoos, logo clothing, and so on, that lets others know you are a “gun person.”
Bumping/Sounding: this is when you accidently bump up against a car door, a piece of furniture, an entrance door to a store on the side of your body where the gun is holstered. The sound of the concealed handgun hitting those objects can let others know you have something concealed.
Forgetting. This can happen if your concealed carry system is exceptionally comfortable to carry. Then, without thinking, you might walk into a building or facility where firearms are prohibited or attempt to pass through a metal detector.
Dropping: This can happen with holsters that clip to a belt rather than having the belt pass through belt loops. As you bend over the holster clip can slip off the belt. Then, as you start to stand up the gun and holster fall off your body. This problem also includes dropping magazines.
Training To Use Your Concealment Carry System Effectively
Training to a level of mastery with your handgun is critically important. You must be able to shoot accurately when facing a deadly force encounter.
Training to draw your gun from concealment is also critical. You might be an expert shot but if you can’t draw your gun faster than your assailant you will die. Remember, it is not how many shots you take it’s who gets the first hit that matters.
You also need to master the art of concealment. Your handgun should not be visible to anyone; even the hint of the handgun printing through your clothes should be avoided. Seriously, why would you want others to know you are carrying a concealed handgun?
Here are some tips for mastering the art of concealment.
When and Where to Check and Rearrange Your Concealed Equipment
- Any room that can be locked, if necessary, to give you complete privacy.
- A restroom stall with the door closed. Be careful, because if you sit down the pants with the belt and holster can drop to the floor and become visible to anyone in the next stall.
- Inside a vehicle with care to ensure you don’t have a negligent discharge.
- Any other place that would ensure privacy, even if temporary: for example, if you are the only one in a stairwell you could do a quick equipment check. Be wary of doing equipment checks in elevators because some of them have security cameras installed.
Tips for Mastering the Art of Concealment
- Concealment Training: find and attend a firearms training course that focuses on concealed carry. Ask for feedback on how well you conceal your firearm and how efficiently you draw from concealment. Seek out additional training, especially with others who are carrying concealed.
- Ask Someone to Observe You While Carrying Concealed. Our president and vice president do this for each other. We look for subtle signals that we are carrying; for example, holding our gun-side elbow close to our body to ensure that the gun is secured in concealment. When these signals are observed they immediately give subtle feedback; for example, with a whispered comment like “watch your elbow.”
- Evaluate Your Clothing Choices. Take a look at your wardrobe to assess the clothes you wear when carrying concealed. Are the clothes to tight-fitting? Are the clothes way oversized which is a clue to others that you might be carrying concealed? Our vice president was having lunch one day in a local barbecue joint. A group of police officers came in—some in uniform and some in plain clothes. One of the plain clothes officers was wearing a super oversized outside the pants shirt that looked like a sack and he wasn’t an oversized guy. That shirt was a clear indication that he was carrying concealed. Do you wear shirts like that? What about your gun belts? Do you have a sturdy leather gun belt that holds your holstered gun in place?
Buy quality concealed carry gear. A sturdy leather belt is worth the money because it will hold your holstered gun in place. A quality holster designed for concealed carry that allows you to draw quickly from concealment is absolutely necessary. A pocket clip to hold your spare magazine is also strongly recommended so you can access the spare in an emergency (see Spare Magazine Pocket Clip
No Go Zones When Carrying Concealed
By law, there are specific locations at which you are prohibited from carrying a concealed handgun. The website www.handgunlaw.us is a comprehensive guide to gun laws in all 50 states, including identifying restricted locations. If you visit that site and click on the tab for Maryland you will be taken to a comprehensive summary of Maryland firearms laws, including the restricted areas listed below.
Restriction on the wear, carry and transport of handguns and firearms in certain places appear throughout Maryland law and regulations. Below are examples of statutes and regulations detailing the handgun and firearm restrictions.
1.On school property
2.Within 1,000 feet of a demonstration in a public place
3.In legislative buildings
4.On an aircraft engaged in air commerce services
5.In lodging establishments where the innkeeper reasonably believes individuals possesses property that may be dangerous to other individuals, such as firearms or explosives
6.On dredge boats
7.In/On State public buildings and grounds
8.On Chesapeake Forest Lands
9.On State Forests
10.On State Parks
11.On State Highways
12.In community adult rehabilitation centers
13.In child care centers, except for small centers located in residences
14.Private Property where firearms are prohibited
This article concludes the two-part series focusing on carrying a concealed handgun. In Part 1 you learned about concealed carry guidelines including four primary safety rules, moral guidelines for carrying concealed, personal defense triad, civilian defensive decision making, and civilian use of force continuum, defensive handgun selection considerations, on-going training, and insurance to protect you should you need to use your handgun for self-defense.
In part 2 of this article you learned about the components of a concealed carry system including, holster selection, spare ammunition, tactical flashlight, and other equipment you should consider having with you while carrying (which should be as often as possible).
If you already have your Maryland concealed carry permit we invite you to continue training with us. If you do not yet have your permit and if you have a “good and substantial reason” to carry we can give you the training you need to get that permit. Please have a conversation with one of us about how we can help you. Also, check our website at www.spartanfirearmstraininggroup.com for our course calendar.