For those who conceal carry, printing sort of defeats the whole purpose. "Printing" is when your firearm is noticeable to others through your clothing. This article will teach you what I have decided to call "The 5 C's", as well as how you can use them to carry your firearm discreetly.
What Is Printing
Printing is the ability to see the outline of your firearm through your clothing. Most of the time this occurs through a shirt.
While you certainly don't want to give away the fact that you are carrying a firearm, it usually is not that big of a deal. And the fact is... you are going to print occasionally. This list is just to help you avoid printing too much.
If you are new to concealed carry, this list should help get you to the phase of carrying where you don't worry much about it. I wish I had this list when I first started carrying daily.
The 5 C's
While writing this article I wanted to come up with a memorable way for you to remember the 5 tips. So...I came up with idea of "The 5 C's".
- Carry Position
While these 5 things may not cover everything that is needed to avoid printing, they will cover most of the issues you face. The rest will just come with time and practice.
1. Carry Position
This is the location on your body that you are carrying your firearm. Most of the time people carry behind the hip inside the waistband (IWB) or appendix inside the waistband (AIWB). While there are other carry positions, such as ankle, pocket, shoulder, etc...printing usually shows most in these two common areas.
If you are like me, carrying appendix style is not only uncomfortable, but also tends to print a lot due to my tactical love handles. If you are having this problem as well, try carrying just behind your hip at around the 4:00 position. See if that works for you.
Others may find that they are printing while carrying behind the hip. This can occur more often if you are thinner and are lacking the above mentioned love handles. If this is you, give appendix carry a try. Appendix carry has some advantages over behind the hip, and if you have a broad chest and are in better shape, the firearm can almost disappear while riding there.
Everyone has a different body. If you are struggling carrying a certain way, try out another. Make sure that you practice drawing from the position you settle on using as well. Just don't give up on carrying because the current carry style isn't working for you.
The clothes you wear have a huge effect on your concealed carry experience. This is why so many people find it easier to carry in the colder months, as it is easier to hide your gun under layers than it is wearing swimming trunks.
Of the 5 tips I'm presenting in this article, this may be the most difficult as it may mean you have to purchase additional clothing or begin to change your style a little. This doesn't mean you have to go out and buy new clothes. It would, however, be something that I would keep in mind going forward when picking out a new shirt or pair of pants.
One thing to avoid is tight fitting clothing. Sorry, but the skinny jeans and spandex shirt just were not made for concealed carry. While buying clothes in the future try taking into account that your pants may need an extra inch or so to make room for the firearm. Same with your shirts.
Now don't go out and buy a bunch of clothes 2 sizes up and hope to have success. There is much more to the clothing that just the size. Look at the cuts of the clothing too, make sure they are accommodating to the firearm.
While you don't need pants made for concealed carry, there are some out there that can help. 5.11 makes a great pair of jeans and Tactical Distributors has a large selection. I have found a couple that work well for me, but I still wear my regular jeans and shorts just as often.
To provide room for a firearm, many people up their pants size by about 1 size in the waist. Another option is to get pants that have some flex in the waist, which is what many of the pants made for concealed carry use.
You can also find shirts that are made for concealed carry. While again, these are not needed, they are helpful. A 5.11 short sleeved shirt, or any that are made for the purpose of concealed carry, make a great addition to your every day wear.
Whenever I can...I wear layers. Layers are your friend. This is near impossible on the very hot days, but when you can, a hoodie or flannel shirt can do wonders for hiding your gun. This is the reason I have two carry guns that I use. I use the smaller Glock 43 on the hot days and switch to the larger Glock 19 on the colder days.
The angle or tilt at which your firearm sits
Finding a holster that has the right cant, or at least one that has an adjustable cant, is huge in avoiding printing. Many holsters that are made for appendix carry don't have the right cant for carrying behind the hip...and vice versa.
When I adjusted the can't on my Tulster Holster just a bit, it helped to get the gun tucked up further and not only made it conceal better, but allowed me to get a much better draw.
The cant that you need will depend on your body, your carry position, and what works for you. So make sure you get a holster with either an adjustable cant, or one with a cant designed for your carry location. Many of the behind the hip holsters use the FBI cant that is built for that position, while many of the appendix carry holsters use no cant.
If you like carrying your Grandpa's 1911, then by all means go with it. Carry the firearm of your choice. But if you are having an issue with printing and want to help avoid it, then consider moving over to a compact or even sub compact carry gun.
The options that are available in compact and sub compact guns are incredible. It seems with innovation...the guns get smaller, but their capacity's are increasing (see the Sig Sauer P365). I love shooting my P365 with the 12 round magazine...and it is still smaller than many guns with lower capacity!
If your current gun seems to be a bit bulky and you are struggling with printing, then look around at some of the other firearms on the market. We have a great article on the 21 Best Concealed Carry Guns In 9mm where we cover some of the best carry guns available.
Another good way to get some info on the newest carry guns is to ask some buddies what they carry , or better yet, see if you can rent one at your local range and try it out.
You might think I'm only talking about your physical comfort, but I'm not. You want to become mentally comfortable carrying your firearm as well. This is the reason many new people stop carrying, or don't carry daily.
I know when I first started carrying, I was always thinking about it. Here are some of the crazy things that went through my head when I first started daily carry:
Most of this is alleviated with time and experience. However, you can speed up that process. You can talk with other concealed carriers, take some classes on concealed carry, and just be aware of the fact that there are millions of other concealed carriers out there just like you.
Make it a habit of scanning your surroundings and seeing if you can spot them...it can take your mind off your own firearm, while at the same time making yourself more aware of your surroundings instead of just focusing on your own gun.
Now, I know I mentioned mental comfort, but you still need to address the physical comfort to help with the mental side of it. If you are constantly uncomfortable you will be adjusting a lot.
To help become more physically comfortable make sure you have the appropriate concealed carry tools. The tools you need to carry comfortably and efficiently are:
A Good Carry Gun
Now this will depend on what you want. A general rule of thumb is to carry the gun with the largest capacity that you are comfortable carrying. Now this doesn't mean just any gun, make sure you get a gun made by a manufacturer who has a history of quality.
A Quality Carry Belt
I know it is tempting to just use a thick belt you found at Walmart and think it is good enough. But the day I decided to try out an actual belt designed for carrying a firearm, was the day that made me love carrying. My belt of choice is the Aegis Enhanced Belt by Ares Gear...but there are many others that may work for you.
If you are having trouble finding a good belt check out our article on The Best Gun Belts For Concealed Carry. We cover everything you need to look for in a belt and give some of the best options.
A Quality Holster
Holsters come with all kinds of comfort levels, however most of the time, the more comfort you want, the more you have to pay.
Kydex holsters are quickly becoming the most popular, and for good reason...they function very well! However, if the comfort of a Kydex holster is preventing you from carrying daily, then consider a using a hybrid holster.
Many companies make hybrid holsters, some of which are mentioned in our Best Concealed Carry Holsters article. These holsters tend to have either a leather or man made material with some Kydex on the outside.
While many of the hybrid holsters will be more comfortable than the straight Kydex ones, if you want the ultimate comfort while carrying daily...get yourself a Stealthgear holster! They make them for IWB and AIWB...as well as for OWB. They can get on the high side for price, but if you are willing to spend the money, and want the most comfortable holster, I would get one of these.
There you have it. The 5 C's to avoid printing! Learn them, love them, share them!
Like I said at the beginning of this article, printing is not as big of a deal as some people make it out to be. However, if you are struggling with it, you now have the tools to enjoy your daily carry in a discreet fashion.
After all, the whole point of concealed carry...is that it is concealed from the public right? Otherwise...we may as well just open carry!
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