Carrying a Gun in a Crowd

Carrying a Gun in a Crowd: Famous Smoke Shop Cigarnival 2012

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Famous Smoke Shop Cigarnival. This event draws in fellow cigar smokers, from near and far, to hang out and turn perfectly good cigars into mounds of ash. Depending on the ticket that you purchase, you are on the premises for one or two days.

The event is hosted in Eason, Pennsylvania, at Famous Smoke Shop. I was asked to attend the event as a member of the Press from Stogie Review. When I made the no-brainer decision to attend this local event, I had to make a much tougher decision. How do I safely carry my gun in a crowd that exceeds 1,000 people?

The nice part of this particular event is that the vast majority of the festivities are held outdoors, on a fairly substancial piece of property. The only time an attendee may find themselves standing shoulder to shoulder is on the second day when VIP and General Admission Tick Holders are in the same place at the same time. This happens in the Food Tent and in the Manufacturer Tent.

As a member of the press, I don’t participate in the process of showing my ticket to a cigar representative to receive a cigar. Instead, my job is to wade in amongst the crowd and try to snap photos, record video, and converse with people I know within the industry.

Knowing that I would be in a position where I would be bumping into people, moving amongst a crowd, I needed to decide how I would go about carrying a gun for self defense.

Carrying a Gun in a Crowd: Inside the Waistband

In the nearly five-years that I have been licensed to carry a concealed firearm in the state of Pennsylvania, my guns primary mode of transportation has been in an inside the waistband holster. In the early days it was a Beretta 70S and a cheap nylon holster that was tremendously uncomfortable.

When I became more series about carrying a weapon, I transitioned to a Springfield XD Sub Compact in a Crossbreed Supertuck holster. Carrying went from being a burden to a pleasure and I found myself taking my gun into most places where I was legally permitted to carry. Despite the gun virtually disappearing beneath a cover garment, there were situations where I didn’t feel comfortable with this setup.

Being in tight quarters with other people was one of those situations where I wasn’t completely comfortable carrying my gun. My concern was the lack of retention on the holster itself. I didn’t want to be moving about a crowd of people, everyone bumping into one another, and my gun being accidentally discovered. The chances of someone feeling the gun and actually knowing when they bumped into was slim, but the possibility left me feeling uneasy.

The plus side of the equation is that carrying in this method is very comfortable. It also keeps my pants pockets free to carry the variety of items that I use during event coverage. Access to the gun if a horrendous situation were to arise is easy and only requires me to lift my t-shirt. This particular setup also provides me with 9+1 rounds of Hornady FPD .40 S&W ammunition.

Carrying a Gun in a Crowd: Pocket Carry

In August of 2011, I decided that I wanted to add another option to my regular carry rotation. I began searching for a pocket pistol and settled on the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard.

I quickly learned that the Bodyguard was an indispensable piece of equipment for self-protection. I was now in a position that I carried a gun in practically every place I was legally permitted to do so. I no longer had to worry if my larger Springfield XD would be discovered and be deemed inappropriate. While I always find my firearm appropriate, sometimes others don’t feel the same way. To alleviate that uncomfortable situation, I simply changed the mode in which I carry into those places.

While the Bodyguard is ultra compact and goes practically everywhere unnoticed, it does come with its own set of problems. When I carry this gun I give up the larger caliber bullet and settle with 7+1 rounds of .380 Auto. This gun doesn’t offer much forgiveness in terms of putting rounds or target, making it more difficult to shoot accurately. Lastly, drawing from a pocket holster isn’t exactly easy.

Carrying a Gun in a Crowd: My Decision

When it was time to pick up my gun and head out the door, I made the decision to take my Smith & Wesson Bodyguard along. I knew that I would be giving up certain things for the sake of convinience, but I felt that this sort of carry was best suited for my situation.

The event went off without a hitch and was every bit as fun as I expected it to be. The crowds weren’t as heavy as I anticipated, but I’m still glad that I went with the deep concealment option. I didn’t get a single curious look from anyone that bumped into me during my crowd wading and, truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have even if I carried my Springfield XD and it was accidentally touched.

Ask The Readers

Have you ever needed to carry a gun in a crowd?
If so, what considerations did you make before choosing the gun to accompany you?

16 comments On Carrying a Gun in a Crowd

  • Hi Walt,

    When I lived in PA I took my 1911 everywhere in an OWB holster, usually with just my T-shirt covering it (unless it was cool enough to warrant a sweatshirt or jacket).

    Since my PA LTCF isn’t valid in NM, I’ve been open carrying here until I get my NM CCW permit, which is a pain in the rear to get compared to PA.

    • Justin,
      What type of OWB Holster were you using? Something like a Serpa with retention?

      I don’t recall what the requirements are for a CCW in New Mexico. What are you required to do outside of paperwork? Will you need to become “certified” with your 1911 before the state permits you to carry it concealed?

      I’m glad to hear NM is a OC state and you have options while you obtain your CCW.

      • Hi Walt,

        I haven’t found a good holster since the rail on my 1911 is just ever so wider than most holsters will accept, so I’ve been using a cheap Uncle Mike’s paddle holster until I can afford a good leather one.

        The NM CCW permit has an instruction part and a live-fire part, and must be done with a certified instructor… but it’s shall issue if you’re willing to spend $100 on the 4 year permit and $100-150 for the instructor’s fee… on top of that, you need to re-certify just the live-fire part every 2 years. The really goofy part is that you can OC any number of guns you want, but you can only conceal 1 at a time. On top of that, they have semi and/or revolver parts of the CCW permit… if I qualify with a 9mm semi then that’s the largest semi caliber I’m allowed to carry, likewise if I qualify with a 38 Special, then 38 cal is as big as I can carry. For another confusion, if I qualify with a 45 Colt revolver and a 9mm semi, I still can’t carry any semi larger than 9mm even though the 45 revolver is way larger. Talk about stupid!

        The other option I have is to get a Utah permit (since UT and NM are reciprocal), which has a live fire part… but you can use a hunter’s safety course to meet that requirement, which I’ve had since I was 12 years old.

        Either way, I’m happy OC’ing for now… until it gets to be jacket weather. Oh yeah, you can CC in your car in NM without a CCW permit, which is different from PA… so weird.

        • Justin,
          Does the Hunter Safety course you use for the UT Permit require a Live Fire portion? I have one as well but my course was entirely classroom time.

          The carry requirements seem a little odd, especially the caliber restrictions.

          • Hi Walt,

            I think that using a hunter’s safety course for a UT CCW license requires a live-fire part to it, but I could be wrong. When I took mine, it had a live-fire part so I should be covered either way.

            The main reason I’d like the UT versus the NM license is that the UT one is way less expensive. The crappy part is that I go to Colorado once or twice a month, and CO only allows nonresident licenses if you’re a resident of that state… so even if I had a UT license it wouldn’t be valid in CO.

            The other thing I’m not sure about is the whole gun-free school zone BS. I think the only legal way to CC within 1000 feet of a school is if you have a resident license… I think that doesn’t work if you have a non-resident license, but I could be wrong.

            I don’t really even need to worry about this on weekdays anyway due to where I work… no guns allowed, but that’s OK because there are armed guards with M4 carbines and armored transports with turret mounted machine guns patroling the streets, so I’m reasonably safe at work. 🙂

  • Justin in Lehigh County

    My preferred carry is a Glock 19 in a Concealment Solutions Black Mamba. I wear it at about 3:30 and when I get into crowds I tend to hang a thumb on or place my hand partially in my pocket. I find that allows my forearm to press against and protect the grip. I also try to keep a friend or loved one on that side.

    • Justin,
      It is funny you mention that setup. Over the past couple of months I’ve been thinking long and hard about changing out my daily carry from an XD Sub Compact to a Glock 19. Initially, I was so worried about printing that I went with the smallest option available in the XD lineup. These days I think I could conceal a G19 without issue (I shoot a G17 in Production Division USPSA so I’m very comfortable with Glock).

      If and or when I finally purchase a G19, I’m leaning towards a Concealment Solutions Holster. I hear nothing but great things about Jason from the Gun Dudes and Roadgunner Podcasts. Other potential options I’ve been thinking about include Theis, White Dog, and Michael’s Custom Holsters (TheHolsterSite.com)

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      • Justin in Lehigh County

        Well if you are ever wanting do get a hands on prior to purchase, I am just into lehigh from Kempton. I would be more then willing meet somewhere so you could see it. I have nothing bad to say about the combo.

  • IF I go somewhere that would require deep concealed carry, I carry a Kimber Ultra in a Comp-Tac Minotaur MTAC. It’s a lot like the Super Tuck, but slightly less leather. The wife carries in a Super Tuck, tho.

    I do as Justin mentioned, and put my hand in my pocket, or hook a thumb in the pocket corner to let my forearm and elbow help conceal any inadvertant printing. Honestly though, I think we carriers worry way too much about people noticing any printing, or flash of a grip butt. I’ve walked through crowded WalMarts with a T-shirt tucked behind the pistol as a test (with the wife helping to watch for glances or notices), and been in packed elevators lightly concealed, and no one notices.

    With the abundance of stuff people hang off their belts these days, just about everything but a buscadero holster with two sixguns doesn’t rate a glance. People are too wrapped up in what they’re doing, or just oblivious to what’s going on around them to notice brushing up against something on the person next to them in line or in a tight spot.

    • Dallas,
      I think you are probably right. Chances are good that I could walk around with a full size pistol on my hip, with the muzzle peaking out below my t-shirt, and no one would notice. That is one of the reasons why I’m thinking of switching over to a larger framed gun for day to day carry. It isn’t that I don’t love my XD Sub Compact, I just think I was too concerned about printing when I purchased it and there are better options, for me, available.

      Was there any particular reason that you and your wife use different holsters? Was it a matter of comfort, convenience, etc? I think my Supertuck has been great but I don’t think I’m going to stick with the brand if/when I purchase a new carry gun.

  • There are a couple of ways I carry, and this applies in a crowd or not.

    I have a G21SF that I carry in a leather belt holster that’s drawn fairly well to my side. I carry it so the but is right under my right arm, say at 3:00. That lets me shelter the gun somewhat from discovery. In this case I have a covering garment over it, either a jacket or an open shirt, with a tee shirt underneath.

    I also carry a G19 that way, and I sometimes carry a G19 IWB, and the same position. Having my arm there again lets me shelter the gun.

    Carrying at 3 o’clock lets me draw straight up on the gun, instead of reaching behind me, which seems to be a little telling. I can put my right hand in my pocket or hook my thumb on my pocket, and it’s even closer to the draw without telegraphing it.

    Practice this in front of a full length mirror.

    • You shoot a G17 in USPSA, if I remember correctly, do you find the G19 very different to practice with? One of the reasons I find that gun so appealing is that it is very similar to the G17 I shoot in USPSA.

      I carry a little closer to the 4:00 position. It seems to give me a little more freedom in terms of mobility and I can still place my forearm over the gun (hooking my thumb in my pocket)

      • Maybe it’s my fat fingers, but my Gen3 G19 is a world of difference from my Gen2 G17. I guess the designers at Glock thought that someone picking a smaller gun would have thinner fingers, but I find the finger grooves on the G19 to be too close to the trigger guard.

        Right now I have a Hogue grip over the finger grooves, and it’s okay but not optimal. I have a Hogue grip on the G17, which, of course, has no finger grooves of it’s own. I only use the Hogue grip to give my fingers a repeatable index point.

        I’m not the only one who has made this observation, the Unnamed Trucker commented on his Unnamed podcast that he didn’t like his Gen3 G19 but loves his Gen4. Personally I plan to Dremel those bad boys away, and make a Gen 2.99.

  • I had an incedent the other day, I took a tour of a Production Facility and at that time of day I was Pocket Carrying my LCP due to the place I was coming from. As my self and some fellow people were reading the rules and regulations of the Plant we got to a point where it said we would have to Wear Hair Nets, Gloves, White coats, remove all jewelry, and empty our pockets…. Shit.. empty our pockets… what am I going to do. Since I hitched a ride with a fellow person I didn’t even have my car to run out to and put it in the glove. So I looked around and asked the guy I road with if I could borrow his keys I had to grab something out of his car. Thankfully he is a friend and knows I carry after the tour I told him what I did and he laughed. But its a good thing I read the rules normally I skip over that shit and just sign on the dotted line. Food for thought for next time I go out for a tour.

    Great article

  • Noooooo pocket carry for me. This is the worst possible place to carry. You forget and toss your keys in the same pocket, then pull the keys from your pocket which are caught on the trigger… or you pull the gun out accidentally. Have watched my friends do this and drop the gun to the concrete. Carry correctly IWB and keep your arm over it in tight crowds but no way I would pocket carry.

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