With millions of Americans deciding to carry a gun in recent years, I cannot help but recall the early days before I decided to take an active role in my personal protection. This decision was delayed over what turned out to be unnecessary worries, and it’s a tale that I think might serve others in the same spot. Here are my top three invisible hurdles that turned out to be welcome surprises.
1. The application process
Before I delve into this, let me begin by asserting that I do not believe any entity has the right to get between a law-abiding citizen and their personal protection. I physically applauded the Bruen decision when it was announced and am actively fighting the vengeful repercussions of it in my home state of New York. This backlash included jumping through hoops that made the previous restrictions seem mild.
However, even with all the layers between CCW and my students, most have reported that the process of applying was simple. Drawn out and expensive, but simple and not dependent on any particular set of skills. Nobody should ever be thwarted by having to go through a difficult application process. New York is an extreme example; most folks aren’t going to have to go through half of that nonsense. In Pennsylvania, it was refreshing to see that the process was limited to a form that is essentially the equivalent of what is filled out when you purchase a firearm. Better still are the droves of states adopting constitutional carry ... which means that if you’re legally qualified to own a gun, you’re legally qualified to carry it.
2. Holster options
As if living in the most firearms-prohibitive state in the union wasn’t enough, making matters worse, I’m primarily left-handed. To be completely honest, a bit of me was discouraged by the lack of left-handed products in general. However, after doing a little digging, I found several options built specifically for the southpaw.
At this time, I also learned that getting a custom rig built wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it would be. Taking it a step further, I discovered that ambidextrous models were particularly popular, as some folks prefer to carry a backup gun on their offside. To that tune, holster manufacturers want you to be limited by little more than your imagination when it comes to packing a pistol on your person. Offbeat, off-body designs that resemble cell phone pouches, fanny packs and purses exist, as do vehicle mounting options to ensure that however you draw or dress, there will be a safe way for you to take your gun with you.
3. Somebody’s going to SEE!
Once I had my license and a few good-fitting holsters, for a few months, I was terrified that everybody would know I had a gun on me. While I wasn’t breaking any laws or even store policies, I had this unrealistic fear that every Tom, Dick and Karen was going to see some sort of outline and start screaming, “GUN!” Needless to say, that has never happened.
To this day, the only person who was able to tell I was carrying was a friend who retired from a law enforcement unit trained to do just that. He was pretty good too, as the pistol that I had on me that day was a micro-compact .380 LCP snugged into a pocket holster. The discovery wasn’t eventful either; he just told me after dinner that he had noticed and suggested a step up in pants size. The truth of the matter is that most people just aren’t looking for your gun, and those who do spot it typically do so because they carry themselves. In these instances, they also understand the value of remaining concealed and usually won’t cause a scene.
Of course, as time goes on, you’ll learn tactics to conceal your pistol better. In my story, the pocket holster was a last resort, as my outfit that day precluded the use of anything other than an off-body option. However, darker-colored pants would have cut the outline better, as would something with a busier pattern. Longer, bulkier jackets will always be your friend, as well as low-hanging shirts that do not need to be tucked in. Carry well, and you never have to worry about somebody knowing that you have a gun on you at all.
With most things in life, a little investigation will reveal that these barriers can be quickly broken down and, in many cases, didn’t even exist in the first place. Start by identifying and querying your local license-issuing entity to see what is involved, and take it from there. While you are waiting to be approved, I recommend shopping for guns and holsters simultaneously, as one purchase will naturally limit the other. After that, consider a little training, and in time you’ll likely find yourself wondering why you didn’t make the decision to carry earlier.