Defensive Handgun Selection Part II: Your Deep Concealment Option

I have penned a few articles in various places denouncing the concept of a “carry rotation” which involves switching carry guns on a daily basis.  Such a practice diminishes proficiency as switching between platforms for no other purpose than the variety detracts from familiarization with your defensive tool.

With that said, most concealed carriers need a second carry option.  If we stick to carrying “as much gun as we can” then we are carrying a gun that, realistically, we can’t carry all the time unless blessed with a lifestyle and routine which never demands we deeply conceal a firearm to accommodate less-permitting dress or environments.  A full-size service pistol is not going to work for most people who need to dress formally, tuck in clothing, or be in an environment where printing would have consequences.  Enter the deep concealment gun:

The most likely candidates for this second, significantly more concealable, gun are typically single-stack 9mm autos, the very tiny 380 pocket autos, or small-frame revolvers.  I am a subscriber to the third option, the small frame revolver.  While I love the small revolver for its utility, I am not a revolver enthusiast.  I would never carry my Ruger LCR instead of my double-stack auto loader because I want to: I do so on occasion because I have to.  The small revolver allows me to be armed when I otherwise would not be able.  A 5-shot revolver, while not my preferred carry gun, is far preferable to being unarmed.

This secondary gun is so different in use compared to my primary gun that I don’t even own a traditional holster for it.  If I am going to wear a gun in a regular AIWB holster under an untucked shirt why would I carry my small and less-capable gun?  Rather, my LCR lives primarily in a belly band, or in a Sticky holster which can serve as a pocket holster or be pressed into waistband use when needed.  The belly band option has proven to be my main alternate form of carry as it allows me to wear the gun in the same position as my standard carry but do so with tucked-in shirts or in accordance with other concealment challenges.  This is also my gym setup, and very often is my home carry setup, although I often just wear my primary carry gun at home as well if I am dressed for the day.

While this second gun may be a compromise option, it proves an integral part of living an armed life.  If you rely only on a full-size gun and find yourself going unarmed due to not being able to conceal that firearm in certain circumstances, I suggest selecting a second carry option for specifically the task of deep concealment.  Choosing the right option for yourself may require some thought and experimentation.  I would suggest considering the manner in which you must dress in the circumstances that you need to accommodate, and start from there.

There are four traits that I personally find essential in a deep concealment gun:

1) It needs to be small and exceedingly concealable

2) It needs to be light in weight

3) It needs to be double-action for safety purposes

4) it needs to be exceedingly reliable under the conditions of it’s carry

I use a small-frame revolver as my deep concealment gun because it fits all four of these criteria.  One reason I use a small revolver is because the rounded shape of the gun, and the lack of the tang that all auto loaders have, allow it to disappear under tucked-in shirts.  For myself, an auto tends to print, but the rounded revolver disappears.  While the very small 380 pocket autos will conceal even more easily, they leave a lot to be desired for reliability.  The single-stack 9mm autos, no matter how small they seem, do not conceal as easily as a small frame revolver.

Side by side the LCR appears similar in size to the Glock 26, my standard carry gun.  However, the rounded shape of the small revolver facilitates concealment that an auto cannot achieve

Concerning the weight, the standard LCR revolver is only 13.5 ounces.  While the small pocket autos can rival that weight, there are no single-stack 9mm autos that are that light.  The revolver is, of course, exceedingly reliable for non-traditional forms of carry, like pocket or ankle carry, where the gun tends to get filled with debris.

I also use a revolver because the double-action trigger proves safer for handling when you must remove it, or re-arm, while in a vehicle or elsewhere in public.  They are also safer for wear in soft-sided pocket holsters or soft-sided belly band pouches.  For these reasons I find the small revolver, with its long double-action trigger pull, ideal for deep concealment needs, though a small double-action auto may serve here as well.  Some people refer to such a deep concealment gun as an NPE (non-permissive environment) gun and the double-action trigger makes such a small gun ideal for this.

If you can make it work, a small 9mm auto like the Sig P365 or S&W Shield makes sense as they prove more shoot-able than small-frame revolvers.  If you can always carry in a standard belt holster, but simply need something smaller than your usual gun, this might work for you.  Again, though, if it prints in your non-permissive form of dress you may need a truly tiny 380 pocket pistol, or, a small revolver.  While you may hate the idea of going any smaller than a proper 9mm auto, a pocket pistol or small revolver is a far better option than going unarmed.  I am personally biased against the small pocket autos as I have never met one that is truly reliable.  However, if you have one that you have good success with, then by all means, use it when you can’t conceal your “real” gun.

The deep concealment tool set on the belly band (top) mimics my primary belt-carried defensive tools (bottom) and sits at the same body location to foster consistency

Along with the gun, you may want to consider a smaller and more concealable overall tool set for your deep concealment needs.  I even use a smaller knife than usual, and I keep a speed strip and small flashlight in a Remora pocket mag pouch.  It is so small and light that it rides easier than most wallets in a pocket.  This gives me a light and a reload for the revolver in a package that does not print as anything besides a wallet in the thin material of dress pants and does not sag down the pocket of gym shorts.  Thus, this entire set of defensive tools can disappear in less permitting attire.

In closing, most shooters absolutely need a smaller, deep concealment option to remain armed at all times possible.  Like selecting your primary handgun, choosing your deep concealment option will demand some consideration.

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