For most of us that choose to carry a concealed handgun, we realize that we are unlikely to need our gun on any given day. And we hope we will not. But we live by the adage, “better to have it and not need than need and not have.” Violence in the civilian world happens suddenly and unexpectedly. And rarely is there a circumstance where the gun will do the defender any good if it is not immediately accessible. I find that many concealed carriers fail to truly consider what constitutes “accessible.” The weapon is not accessible if it is not on your person or in the immediate vicinity. Even when on your person, depending on the carry mode or clothing you are wearing, the gun may not be immediately accessible.

On-Body Access Considerations

A critical component of being able to deploy a defensive firearm, if you need it in an emergency, is the ability to access it quickly, safely, and efficiently. Therefore, concealed carriers are best served by being as consistent as possible in the location, carry, and concealment mode of the handgun. As an example, if you typically carry your pistol in the appendix position, under an un-tucked shirt, but then switch to a behind-the-hip carry location under a jacket, the draw stroke will need to change significantly in order to access the gun. Consistent carry mode is important to the building of skill in this regard. You should practice the draw stroke to the point that it is second nature. Accommodating multiple carry modes makes attaining this level of skill much more difficult.

Glock 43 in a Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker Appendix Carry Holster
Glock 43 in a Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker Appendix Carry Holster

Consistency of Concealment Garments

Along with consistency in carry mode should come consistency in the kind of concealment garments worn. The required draw stroke to clear a closed-front garment, for example, compared to an open-front shirt or jacket, or compared to drawing a tucked-in garment, are all quite different. To truly keep the gun accessible, it should ride concealed under a predictable and consistent form of concealment. Granted, this consistency is not always possible. And many of us must utilize different forms of dress for various professional or social obligations. Still, we can work towards minimizing the potential variables in our concealment garments.

Can you access your gun when {fill in the blank}?

Beyond carry mode and clothing choices, consider how accessible your worn gun is under varying circumstances. Can you access the gun while sitting in the car? How about accessing it while seated at a table in a restaurant? Can you access it when walking out of the grocery store and with a hand full of bags? Can you access it when carrying your small child? Such considerations may lead you to evaluate your preferred carry mode or your preferred concealment garments.

Another consideration should be how you actually carry things. When leaving the office, do you wear a slung messenger bag over your strong side that blocks access to your pistol? If you are carrying bags through a parking lot that require the use of only one hand, why not carry them in your support hand so that your gun hand is free? Certainly, we need not go overboard with such tactics, but when moving through transitional spaces such as parking lots, which are the most common spaces for crime, considering our weapon accessibility is warranted.

Off-Body Accessibility at Home

Any time the gun is not on your person it is, by default, less accessible should you need it. Here I will not address specifically “off-body carry,” which typically refers to carrying a gunwith you, but in a bag or other accessory so that the gun is not actually affixed to your person. Instead, think about the places that you spend a lot of time in which you have a gun nearby, but not actually on you.

Clearwater Stagworks EDC Valet
Glock 19 shows in an EDC Valet by Clearwater Stag Works.

Do you carry at home?

I am a proponent of home carry, meaning actually carrying your gun while home. If you study the nature of violent home invasions, they often happen very quickly and with little warning. A worn gun is the best gun for such an event. Still, most do not home carry. And even the most dedicated practitioner will not be wearing the gun at home all of the time. Therefore, how do we keep the weapon accessible while in the home?

Staging Firearms Around the House

Most people who have a firearm set up for home defense typically have it staged in a particular location, most likely the master bedroom. Consider, though, how far that gunmight actually be from you if you need it. Having secured doors and early warning systems is important for home defense. But if a threat breaches such systems quickly, would you have the opportunity to make it to your firearm? I will offer several considerations:

Quick Access Gun Safe
Glock and spare mag in a quick access gun safe.

Do you live in a multi-story house? Having a defensive firearm staged only in the upstairs bedroom may not be sufficient. Staging a hidden handgun in a quick-access safe within the living area of the home is wise. If you spend a lot of time within a home office, certainly a staged firearm there is prudent. Even violence in the home happens quickly, so weapon accessibility is paramount.

Vehicle Accessibility

If you take your gun off while in the car, or if you keep one permanently in your vehicle (which I am not a fan of as guns get stolen from vehicles quite often) then consider how accessible it really is. Violence in and around vehicles also happens fast. Do you store your gun in a glove compartment? How quickly can you actually reach over and retrieve that gunwhile buckled in? Depending on where the gun is, you may find that retrieving it takes too long.

Appendix Carry Vehicle
Can you access your pistol while seated in your car?

When initially buckling in, be sure to verify that you can draw your gun if you are wearing it. Lift your garment over the seatbelt so it isn’t trapping the gun due to the seatbelt. Appendix carry tends to be the most accessible when seated in the car, but strong side hip is also workable. You will find, however, that a pocket carried gun is hard to access. This is especially true when strapped in the car. But an ankle carried gun may shine in this particular circumstance. Even so, ankle carry proves less than ideal most of the time.

Give your lifestyle, environment, carry, and clothing choices some thought to ensure that you can deploy your defensive firearm if you need to under the direst of circumstances. Bad things happen fast, and the gun does you no good if it is not immediately accessible.