Fueled by media hype, mass murders have led more of our guys and gals in blue to carry something more substantial than a vestigial micro-caliber while off-duty. They’re aware it was reported it took over 50 shots from multiple officers to take down the mad dog killer at the Dayton bar. They’re aware there might be a need for a precision head shot through a narrow lane of innocent bystanders. They are, in short, rediscovering Jeff Cooper’s dictum of Diligencia, Vis, Celeritas — accuracy, power and speed. All three elements tend to be enhanced by more powerful weapons.
Ace instructor Clint Smith commented famously: “A pistol is supposed to be comforting, not concealable.” Note, however, Clint never said the two had to be mutually exclusive. After a week of wearing an 18- to 20-lb. duty belt and sweaty body armor, no off-duty cop can be blamed for wanting to be comfortable on a hot weekend off. However, police academies and in-service instructors have little enough time to teach what a cop needs to know on the job, leaving little time to budget for off-duty carry advice.
First, consider carrying the duty pistol itself when on your own time instead of the department’s. It’s the one you’re probably most trained and documentably qualified with, and unless the bosses force you to carry a gun you absolutely hate, it may well be the one with which an officer is most competent. Today we have lighter duty weapons, and the best-ever holsters to comfortably, discreetly conceal them.
Figure out the cost of the dedicated “concealment gun” you’re thinking of buying, and add in the cost of holsters, magazines and other accessories you’ll need. Then compute how many new pants and shorts a couple of inches larger in girth to conceal an inside the waistband holster — and the cost of that holster itself — to conceal your full-size duty gun. Add the cost of a few tee or polo shirts one size larger to conceal it when untucked. It’s very likely it will be cheaper to hide the more capable full-size handgun, with surprisingly little sacrifice in comfort. And you’ll be better armed.
The currently popular appendix-inside-waistband (AIWB) carry keeps the long “handle” of a full-size duty gun flat against the front of the abdomen, making it particularly concealable. Especially if you’re one of the “new breed” whose duty weapon is equipped with carry optics. Hidden by a closed-front garment, this also puts the IWB spare magazine at the front of the belt where you are probably habituated to reach for it on your duty belt.
Your life is yours — but so, of course, are your responsibilities. As convenient as it might be to carry an itty-bitty mouse gun, take it to the range and determine whether or not you could confidently make a brain shot with it from, say, 25 yards. Compare it with the handgun you carry on-duty or would choose for home defense. It will help you decide what’s right for you. Shooting the same department qualification course with both your duty gun and your off-duty gun gives you another metric to realistically compare your abilities with.
Is your gun sufficiently accurate and “shootable” — in your hands — particularly under stress? Enough rounds on board and potent enough to get the job done?
It’s your life, and the lives of your family, who are likely to be in your presence off-duty. Perhaps the lives of other innocent people you’ve sworn an oath to protect at the risk of your own life may be involved too? It’s your choice.