Carrying a gun off duty is a prudent practice, now more than ever. Cops should carry guns everywhere they are legally permitted to do so. Some thought, however, needs to go into executing the concept.

Recently, I have witnessed several officers in my area carrying large handguns with weapon mounted lights in outside the waistband (OWB) holsters. It’s commendable that they are carrying serious handguns off duty, but “concealing” them by pulling a snug T-shirt over them is unacceptable.

Even if most people are distracted and unobservant, carrying like this doesn’t cut it. Some people will notice, and the consequences of being compromised range from avoidable embarrassment to life changing outcomes.

Hiding a full-size gun daily is a chore. Except in cold weather, when you can wear bulky coats, inside the pants holsters will typically hide one better. Using them requires wardrobe adjustments like buying pants with a bigger waist. Carrying of a big gun is a commitment that requires good holsters and belts. Clint Smith’s doctrine of “handguns should be comforting not comfortable” applies with big guns.

If you choose to carry strongside in the 3-5 o’clock position, Clint gives a good roadmap to follow. He commonly carries an all-steel Government Model in a Milt Sparks Summer Special holster. His clothing is carefully selected to keep that 1911 undetected.

I have used a Summer Special 2 to carry a Commander sized Dan Wesson Bobtail Classic for many years. The forward cant of that holster brings the grip more in-line with your torso to prevent printing. The “Bobtail” rounding of the frame that Ed Brown pioneered also helps to minimize the silhouette of the big gun.

There are several holster makers that build quality Kydex appendix carry holsters for full size guns, even those equipped with lights. Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment is one of them. He carries a Beretta 92 (and used to carry a long slide Glock 34) in this fashion.

If you’re carrying a big gun off duty in this manner, please stop. Get purposeful in your holster and clothing choices.

 

If your duty gun is too big to hide effectively, downsizing makes sense. S&W has many variations of their Shield compact to stand in for your M&P.

 



J-frame sized revolvers give up capacity and require disciplined practice, but they’re a great option for deep concealment.

 

Good holsters like these Milt Sparks Summer Specials help to hide big guns like this Commander sized 1911 and four-inch K frame.

 



S&W Shield in a Keepers Concealment Errand, K frame behind it in a JM Custom Kydex. Note the foam wedge on both these AIWB holsters designed to push the muzzle out and the grip in.

 

Big guns like this 5” M&P w lots of stuff attached to it can be hidden with the right holster and clothing choices. The Ruger LCR is much easier to hide with a t-shirt, though.

 



 

Appendix carry may not seem as comfortable as your range rig, but it’s manageable for most people with a properly adjusted, well designed holster. Concealment is superior to carrying behind the hip in most cases. Not everyone is willing to try this method, especially with a full-size gun. Appendix carry works well with smaller guns too—it’s worth researching.

There is nothing wrong with downsizing your off-duty gun. If it’s easier to comfortably hide, you’re more likely to always carry. The concealability gained by carrying a compact 9mm auto arguably outweighs the capability lost from a big gun.

The market is flush with excellent choices in this class of handgun. Springfield Armory’s Hellcat, S&W’s M&P Shield Plus, SIG’s P365 variants and Glock’s G-48 come to mind. Good options exist from Ruger, Kimber, Taurus, and Mossberg as well. These guns offer double digit magazine capacity, good sights (most give RMR options) and good triggers in a very concealable package.

If this size of gun is still incompatible with your manner of dress or climate, don’t rule out small revolvers. They give up ammo capacity but excel as hideout guns. Dedicated practice is required to shoot and manipulate them well enough for primary carry.

Even if you usually carry a big gun off duty, there are times when you cannot. Investing in the hardware to accommodate these circumstances will prevent you from having to go unarmed.

Sadly our country continues to get less tolerant with respect to guns being carried. There are lots of places where you aren’t permitted to carry even as an off-duty cop. Your goal should be to carry in a manner that keeps professionals from spotting your gun. It should take a physical pat down to betray your concealment.

Consider the hypothetical of going to your kid’s basketball game at a high school out of your jurisdiction. There are local ordinances, state laws, and federal code governing guns there. If you choose to carry and your concealment is mediocre to the point of detection, it could end up bad for you. You can’t expect to badge your way out of an uncomfortable situation if you are in the wrong. You would also be putting officers in that jurisdiction in an awful predicament.

They can opt to look the other way if they are the ones that “make” you; but it’s unfair to expect that of another cop. If your concealment is so poor that someone else brings it to their attention, their options are more limited. Make good choices.