An important part of concealed carry is how to carry a concealed weapon in a vehicle. How can you access it quickly and easily if you need it? How do you transition from a holster to off-body storage and then back? Here are some tips on carrying in your car.
The typical IWB or belt holster makes car carry difficult. Retrieving a weapon from concealment is hard enough with layers of clothing to clear, but add to it the fact that you are sitting on the gun and have a seat-belt strapped across you and it becomes almost impossible. The alternative, then, is to transition the weapon from your body to a safe storage location in the vehicle where it can be more easily accessed. Some of these storage locations are built-in, others can be created.
The easiest place to put the firearm is the console between the front seats. Depending upon how this is configured, it could be just as frustrating as trying to draw from your holster. Is the console big enough? Is it situated far enough forward? Do you have lots of loose crap in the console which would make it dangerous? Assuming the answer to those questions is yes, yes, and no, respectively, can you position the weapon in the console in a way to make it easy and safe to access? Having the gun bouncing around in the console is probably not the best idea, and if he console is largely empty, having so much room that the gun lays flat at the bottom of the compartment is not the safest position to draw from.
I don't know how many people actually store gloves in this compartment anymore, but we do have a tendency to fill it full of every loose bit of paper, pens and pencils, napkins, owners manuals, receipts, and leftover condiments. Deciding if storing your gun in the glove box is a good idea requires answers to these questions: how far from you is the handle to open the glove box? In a big car or truck, it may be too far. Is there space in the compartment for your gun. Is there too much space? If it's too big, the gun can slide around dangerously in an accident or in high-speed turns. Again, is there too much loose stuff in the compartment to make it safe?
Depending upon the size of your gun, compartments in the center console may be an option. Again, the questions have to be asked about how secure those areas are and how easily accessible they are. If they are too small or if there is no good way to situate the gun to make it safe and easy to draw, then it's not an option. There may be the perfect space, but it may not be accessed easily because of the location relative to the gear-shift.
Most vehicles have some kind of storage pocket in the doors. If you have a holstering system that will keep your firearm from sliding around, these could work. But only if you're a lefty. A right-handed shooter would have to draw the weapon weak handed. Also, the door panels are exposed to damage from external threats, like gunfire or a side-impact crash. If the door is crushed in a collision, you may not be able to retrieve your firearm.
There are a number of ways to create secure, easily accessible storage for your firearm in the car. Products like the FAST holster or the Car Seat Holster allow you to strap holsters to the front or side of your car seat. Mr. Colion Noir came up with an inventive use for the MIC Holster which allows you to tuck the gun next to your seat. If the gun comes free in an accident or sudden stop, the holster's lanyard keeps the gun from going too far, by attaching the holster to the seat frame. Other holster systems can be attached to the side of the console. I use the Pit Viper holster from Concealment Solutions, held in place with the holster's velcro backing.
Wherever you choose to store the firearm in your car, the question of how to transition the weapon from place to place has to be answered. When you get in the car, the gun must be removed from your holster and moved to off-body storage. When you get ready to get out again, the gun goes back in the holster. These transitions raise two concerns: safety and privacy. You want to avoid doing anything that could lead to a negligent discharge and you want to avoid the prying eyes of those around your car who might get the wrong idea and cause you trouble.
FROM HOLSTER TO STORAGE
The key to transitioning to storage is to do it safely and quickly. You don't want to be waving the weapon around where bystanders can see it. If you are moving the gun to a compartment in the car, like the glove box, open it before reaching for your weapon. Next, clear the weapon by removing your seat belt and clearing any cover garments. Then draw and smoothly move the weapon to the storage. Keep the gun low, below the dash and the bottom of the windows so only those very close to the car might see. This is particularly important if you are driving a car as opposed to a truck or SUV.
Keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction, especially if transitioning to the glove box with a passenger in the seat next to you. It is almost impossible not to muzzle yourself if you have a passenger, so tuck your legs together tight so you can avoid crossing your leg with the muzzle as you move the gun from the holster and move toward the glove box. As quickly and safely as possible move the gun to the storage location.
My draw grip when transitioning is different from my normal draw grip. I try to use my hand to cover the weapon as I transition it from place to place within the car. As I draw, I slide my ring and pinky fingers around the grip and lay my index and middle fingers along the side of the frame. As the gun comes out I extend the ring finger as well, covering the weapon with my hand. The size of your weapon may make this difficult, but the less of the weapon you expose the better.
FROM STORAGE TO HOLSTER
This transition is more difficult and potentially dangerous than the previous. Again, keep things discreet. Clear access to your holster before opening the glove compartment or console and before drawing the weapon from storage. Don't try to clear your holster while holding the gun. I use the same sort of grip when transitioning back to my holster. Cover the slide and frame with as many fingers as possible while keeping my fingers away from the trigger.
If possible, avoid parking close to other vehicles. If you can park where there is an extra space or two between you and the next vehicle, do so. If you have to walk a little farther, so be it. If you park right next to another car, that driver will be closest to your vehicle and most likely to see your weapon. Also, when parking at night, be sure to complete any necessary transitions before opening the doors or turning on the dome light over head. If you can perform your transitions in the dark, bystanders will be even less likely to see what you are doing.
As we like to say, “concealed means concealed,” so keeping your weapon out of sight is important for a variety of reasons. If you are spotted by a policeman, you will undoubtedly draw suspicion. Other bystanders might misunderstand what you're doing. Actually, there's no “might” about it. They WILL misunderstand. If you saw someone pull into a space next to you in the mall parking lot, grab a gun out of his glove box and tuck it into his pants before exiting the car and proceeding into the mall, what would you think? At the very least you'd be suspicious. In my previous post, When Concealed becomes Revealed, I talk about people's reactions in depth. Carelessly revealing your weapon in the car could result in panicked citizens running off looking for cops or calling 911.
One thing to remember when exiting your vehicle is that because you have adjusted your cover garment to re-holster the weapon, your garments may ride up a bit and expose the weapon. It's kind of like the girl who tucks her dress in her panty hose and doesn't realize it. The difference being that you can create a panic or draw the attention of police. Be mindful to discreetly adjust your clothes as you get out of the car to make sure you don't expose the gun.
LEAVING YOUR GUN BEHIND
There are situations where you have to leave the gun in the car. Depending upon where you live, there are a variety of places where it is not permissible to take a concealed weapon, like government buildings, school property, banks, bars, restaurants that serve alcohol, churches, or businesses which display a “no firearms” sign. Every state differs so consult your local and state laws. If you can't take the gun with you, store it in a lockable safe like a MicroVault or lock it in the glove box. Never leave the gun in the car with children, even if the gun is locked away. As a precaution, I always unload the weapon and take my spare magazines with me. This way if the car is stolen or broken into, the criminal may get my gun but he won't get a loaded one.
Whatever you choose, be sure to practice with an unloaded gun. Practice transitioning as you get into the car. Then practice drawing the gun quickly from your chosen storage spot and presenting the weapon in different directions. If you have nearby neighbors, you might want to do this in the garage. Find a spot where you won't be pointing the gun at the kids next door. Next practice transitioning back to your holster and then getting out of the car. The more you practice, the quicker it will be if you ever need to draw the weapon for real, and the smoother and more inconspicuous it will be when you transition the gun back and forth the next time you're out on the town.