How to Carry Your Personal Defense Handgun

I absolutely refuse to sit here and tell you that there is any one specific best way to carry your EDC weapon. I may prefer a certain method of carry that one person may like but another may hate. It all comes down to personal preference and what is comfortable to you.

Practice Makes…better

What I will tell you, and I cannot stress the importance of this next statement enough, by whatever method of carry you choose, PRACTICE drawing and firing your weapon from that position.

You need to develop muscle memory for your weapon to become an extension of you, for your draw to become a reflexive action, without thought.

Muscle Memory

If you want to carry your EDC weapon different ways then you need to practice with each mode of carry until you are as proficient with one as you are with any others. Two words, muscle memory. One problem with changing the mode of carry is if you carry it in one way 75% of the time, will you go for it there when it is somewhere else?

I know if I try to draw on purpose I do okay. But I also know that when my brain instinctively draws that weapon, that it is out and up before my brain registers whatever it was to make me draw. It’s happened a few times (I’m kinda jumpy), and it always amazes me.

Reflexive Draw

It’s like, when I’m startled and “jump”, it’s in my hand. That’s a good reflexive draw; it comes from drawing it literally thousands of times. Am I as good as the likes of Miculek or the man himself, Munden? Heeellll no! Not even close, but good none the less.

Cross draw video (my least favorite carry method):

Decisions, Decisions

So, how can you carry your EDC weapon? There are several modes of carry you can choose from, inside the waist, outside the waist, cross draw, shoulder, drop leg, behind the back horizontal, behind the back vertical, on your side on a belt, and many others I’m omitting I’m sure.

lower back carry

So Many Choices, How Does One Decide?

Well, what it all comes down to is what is most comfortable for you. Inside the waist was a good mode of carry when the pants were a little loose fitting and I didn’t want to wear a belt.

back pocket carry

Back Pocket Carry

For fifteen years or so I carried either a stainless Rossi or a blued Charter arms .38 special snubby in my back pocket (right), the pretense here being that if accosted with the intent of robbery I could feign going for a wallet when in actuality I intended to have a surprise for any would be robber.

Fortunately (unfortunately?) the occasion to learn whether or not this actually worked never arose. I did carry other pistols occasionally, sometimes a 9mm, sometimes a .357, sometimes a .45, but the .38 was primarily what would be on my person.

Small of the back carry video:

Front Pocket Carry

If I wasn’t carrying the .38 in my back pocket , then whatever gun I was carrying was usually on my right hip either tucked in my waistband or in my front pocket.

hip carry

I prefer the front pocket because I like to carry my pistols low. I find that faster to clear the holster and become horizontal than if I carry it on my waist.

front pocket carry

I’m not sure the reason why, I think it was just because I liked the Bersa so much. Maybe it was the fire power offered in such a small package, but I switched to carrying a Bersa Ultra Compact Pro 9mm as my EDC pistol for several years. I still carry it sometimes, especially in the summer when I’m dressed light. The wife loves it too. It almost vanishes in my hand but for her it seems to be a perfect fit.

My Personal EDC

The Bersa Ultra Compact Pro 9mm is an inexpensive yet high quality sidearm with a twelve round double stack mag. I usually carry it in a Don Hume inside the waist leather holster.

This pistol can be had for less than four hundred dollars and is a very accurate and reliable defense weapon, and as its name implies, it is a very compact pistol.

The holster was somewhere about forty dollars. It is high quality leather that is thick enough to not be cheap, yet thin enough to conform to the pistol and your body. I keep my shirt down over it when carrying, but I had it pulled up in the picture so you could see how it sits.

Carry so It’s an Extension of You

You can probably also tell from the picture that this gun is carried daily. I carry it with a round chambered and de-cocked, that way if I need it all I have to do is pull it out and pull the trigger. The first shot will be a little long on the draw since it will be double action, but I have practiced with it to the point that I don’t even notice, then after that it’s just a normal single action trigger.

I like to carry it canted forward slightly to ease the presentation should the occasion ever arise, and to make it more comfortable when sitting in the car. It was originally all Parkerized, but I refinished the slide to give it a two tone look, just my preference.

Several Options

I have several other 9mm pistols, they aren’t carried for defense, but rather are just for target shooting or looking at and admiring them. My favorite being a Taurus PT92AFS with Hogue grips that is highly polished and highly accurate.

However it is a full sized pistol with a 17 rnd mag capacity and so a little big for daily carry, and too pretty to get it all beat up. I do consider it my “dress gun” though, and carry it when I dress nicer than my regular jeans and a t-shirt.

I have had several of these, but this particular pistol I’ve had for twenty years or so. The new models have the tactical rail on them but I don’t particularly care for that, although the extra material there does make for a heftier frame.

If It Costs More Is It Better…

I tend to stay away for the pricier “popular name brand” firearms as I have found that you don’t need to spend a thousand dollars or more to get a quality piece. I have had this Taurus at the gun club shooting off the shelf Winchester bulk ammo through my off the shelf pistol, and guys with $1500 custom target rigs were asking me what I was shooting. They would always be amazed when they found out it was merely an off the rack Taurus.

There are some Taurus pistols that I don’t particularly care for, mostly the striker fired pistols. I don’t like striker fired guns in general though, regardless of the brand. I have fired $600 Taurus stainless PT1911’s and I have fired $1500 stainless Kimber 1911’s and to be honest, other than having fancier grips they both shot great.

But personally I’d rather have a matched pair of Taurus for the cost of one Kimber. If you have lots of money and don’t care about the cost then get two Kimbers, but really they both shot equally well.

What’s Best for You

A few years ago my cousin who was new to firearms asked me for advice for a carry weapon, undecided between a 9mm and a .45. I suggested the difference was negligible as each had their own benefits and drawbacks, and so he eventually went with the .45.

He asked for a recommendation for an inexpensive carry piece, and when I think .45, I think 1911. I suggested a few different brands, Springfield Armory being one of them. He actually picked a model that I am not particularly fond of, the XD45, however it does seem to be a good shooting pistol.

I don’t care for this type of weapon as I prefer that my pistol be made of metal, be a double action, and have a hammer rather than be striker fired. I prefer hammer fired over striker fired as on the rare occasion you have a misfire instead of having to clear the weapon you merely pull the trigger again. He seems content with his choice however.

Leather Holsters a Natural Choice

He likes to carry his pistol in a Serpa holster, which I also do not care for as I feel that in the heat of the moment you could miss the button and not get the gun out. I prefer leather holsters because for me they are more comfortable.

I like the way the leather conforms to the shape of the gun as well as to the shape of my body. I also like the way the leather breathes vs. a plastic holster. I also think that the leather isn’t as hard on the guns finish as the plastic holsters are. But it really comes down to personal preference.

Serpa holster video:

Parting Shot

Long story short, if you decide to carry a defensive weapon, get out there and get your hands on a few different models and see which one feels right for you.

Remember you don’t have to break the bank to get a good, accurate and reliable weapon. The internet can be a valuable tool for honest reviews these days. Just google whatever weapon plus reviews and you will get tons of honest info.

Expensive Guns Fail Just As Often As Lesser Priced Guns

You will, of course, also get tons of the “snobs” who think if it’s not a S&W or a Glock or H&K etc., that it’s just a P.O.S, but that’s just not the case. Expensive guns fail just as often as lesser priced guns. It just happens.

But once you decide on the gun just try a few different carry methods until you find one that feels right. Then get out to the range and practice.

Practice drawing and firing with snap caps until you feel that you have it down before ever trying it with live ammunition, and receiving competent training is always advisable.

About Eric W. Eichenberger

Eric W. Eichenberger
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms. A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method. The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.

4 comments

  1. Avatar

    That is true, any guns can fail. Actually, for myself the polymer body guns- maybe BECAUSE they are cheaper to produce for mass contracts such as the military etc- I am scared of as so many stories online and pictures of them exploded? What do you think, do polymer guns blow up more or why would this happen? What are the main reasons guns blow up, and how do you avoid it? I am no gunsmith, but part of the reason guns make me nervous is I am scared of all the internet blow up pics!
    Any thoughts?

  2. Avatar

    As you say, there is no one “best way” to carry a sidearm. What it comes down to is the method that is most comfortable for you – coupled with consistent practice. In my case, I spend a lot of time in the field with a backpack. The carry method I have found to be most accessible and comfortable is cross draw, either from the waist or using a shoulder holster. The simple reason I prefer this method is that bulky backpacks can constrict arm movement if you need to draw quickly. In any case, my sidearm is the last thing I will reach for, since I’m also carrying an M15.

  3. Avatar

    good article, Eric! You presented a lot of excellent real world information that so often, never sees the light of day. While I’m no fan of the SOB (small of back) carry for my personal choice, it works well for others, so, if they can use it for their purposes, why not?
    There is NO “right way”, since we are all different, other than your EDC should always be in a quality holster, in my opinion.
    Good article, refreshingly honest, so THANKS!

  4. Avatar

    Thank you for the feedback. To darthkitty, when a firearm fails it is usually when a round goes off. That happens in the chamber. Only a few revolvers have steel sleeved polymer cylinders, I o not trust those at all. But when it fails it is often due to overpressurization in the chamber. This can often occur with hanliads when someone loas super hot loads. I.e., user error. But it can also occur front faulty craftsmanship at the gun or ammo factory. Polymer frame guns imo, do not fail more than steel framed, but I do not know the exact numbers. Steel framed guns imo are more durable and reliable, but ANY firearm has the potential to fail

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