Always choose a holster that carries well and holds the gun securely. The placement should be in a part of the body that’s a familiar area for draw (same as your duty weapon, ideally). Practice drawing in all positions, and ensure you have a badge ready to display or visible when the gun’s put to use. Photo Daniel DiPinto
Safariland’s Model 6378 ALS Paddle Holster
FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
Is a .22, .25, or .32 pistol ever a better choice than a .38, 9mm, .40, or .45? The answer may not be so simple. Although I personally carry a 1911 on- and off-duty, I think most would agree that the small-caliber pistol, carried on the individual, is better than the larger caliber pistol left at home or in the car.
First, I should state that I believe in the adage, “It’s better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.”As a sworn law enforcement officer, I firmly believe that we have a moral duty to intervene in certain (violent) criminal activity, whether we’re officially on duty or not. After all, our job isn’t a typical 9-to-5 one. Being a police officer is an honorable profession in which we have sworn to protect others. To do this, we must be in the most advantageous position possible, and we must be equipped to do so—that means carrying a firearm both on and off duty. Officers should also consider carrying handcuffs and at least one less-lethal item (OC spray, ASP, etc).
Over the past decades, much has been written regarding caliber selection and revolver vs. semi-auto. Strong arguments can be made regarding “fewer but bigger bullets” or “smaller but more bullets.” Like many items of equipment, personal preference will ultimately be the deciding factor. But, suffice it to say, any gun is better than no gun.
Consistency is important for proper weapon presentation. The less conscious thought necessary in a dynamic, violent encounter, the more fluid and efficient the mechanical actions will be. By this I mean that accessing and drawing one’s firearm should be as efficient a process as possible. This can be enhanced by proper equipment selection (e.g., weapon, holster, even clothing), placement or location on body, and practice.
The obstacles presented by uniformed open carry differ from those of concealed carry: primarily a clothing barrier and, depending on its location, additional body movement to access it. These obstacles must be overcome so the officer can draw and present the weapon. Because of these factors, a quality holster must securely retain the weapon, enclose the trigger guard of the gun and be easily concealed, and the user must be able to draw from it with both the right and left hands.
Let’s assume that the officer has selected a small/medium frame weapon to carry in a concealed manner for off duty. The next decision is where and how to carry the weapon. A proper holster is essential to weapon retention and preventing an accidental discharge. I once worked with a salty detective who was infamous for carrying his department-issued .40 cal. sidearm in the small of back “crack holster”—as in, no holster. For safety and retention, this should not be allowed, regardless of whether the officer is working an undercover assignment or carrying an off-duty or backup weapon.
Least desirable, in my opinion, is the fanny pack. It screams, “I’m a cop and I have a gun in here.” However, the reality is that some officers choose to carry their weapons in this manner. For those officers who select this manner of concealed carry, my advice is to select a fanny pack that holds the weapon securely but appears to be something other than an off-duty gun holster—not black and possibly with a prominent name-brand logo unconnected to police products. The one advantage of a fanny-pack holster is that it generally allows the user to carry spare ammo, a small can of OC (i.e., pepper spray) and handcuffs.
Another popular, if less desirable, manner of concealment is an ankle holster. The downside to this style holster is the movement required to access it and the fact that it’s generally conducive to smaller frame weapons. (Although a friend of mine carried a Glock 23 as a backup gun in an ankle holster as a K-9 handler.) An ankle holster can be a good choice when formal attire is worn and a jacket or untucked shirt isn’t appropriate. It’s also an effective way of carrying a secondary handgun to supplement the primary sidearm.
In the 1980s (the Miami Vice era), the shoulder holster was popular. Although its popularity has declined, it’s still preferred by some. The one environment in which a shoulder holster has an advantage is during prolonged surveillances in a vehicle. Accessing firearms concealed in the waist region while seated in a car can be challenging. Even accessing a holstered sidearm from a Sam Browne while in full uniform seated in a car can be challenging. This is why, just as in all manner of officer-safety related actions, practice must occur on a regular basis. A shoulder holster offers an advantage of easy access from almost any position, whether standing, kneeling or seated. Most shoulder holsters also provide room for extra ammunition. Depending on weather conditions, a shoulder holster may or may not be concealed beneath outerwear.
In the waist-band (IWB) holsters remain popular. However, the holster should have either a rigid clip or a belt to secure it. Absent one of these devices, the holster will be held in place merely by the body pushing it against the waistline of the clothing. I’ve known officers who’ve had their holstered weapon slide down the inside of their pants and out the bottom of their pants cuff, landing on the floor. That can prove embarrassing while standing in line at a bank. It can also result in a potentially serious outcome, 9-1-1 call or an accidental discharge.