Tips for On-Body Concealed Carry in a Car
September 20th, 2023
6 minute read
In today’s personal defense article, Massad Ayoob tackles on-body concealed carry in a car. If you carry a concealed weapon such as a firearm in your vehicle, Ayoob’s insights can help you do it safely and more comfortably that you might have realized was possible.
Carjacking. Mobs attacking vehicles. Armed robbers on motorbikes at stoplights. Armed robbers posing as Uber, Lyft or taxi passengers. Today’s motorists have a lot to potentially worry about.
Fortunately, legal concealed carry has come a long way, and more good people than ever have the option to arm themselves against deadly criminal threats.
Concealed Carry While Driving & State Laws
On long drives that may cross state lines, the first piece of advice I have for you is to visit the website www.handgunlaw.us.
Gary Slider and his team at handgunlaw.us are in constant contact with each state’s attorney general’s office and are, in my opinion, the best, most up-to-date source I know of on things like carry permit reciprocity, permitless carry laws, ammunition, transport and related relevant issues. If you carry a concealed weapon, you should become familiar with this site.
[Editor’s note: At the time of publication, several states have some form of Constitutional Carry that eliminates the concealed carry permit requirement for self-defense. However, these laws vary widely from state to state. Some jurisdictions may impose greater restrictions on non-residents than they do on residents. Research the local laws — especially those about keeping a gun in your car and if you need a permit to avoid problems with law enforcement.]
Keeping a Gun In Your Vehicle
Once you know the law, safely applying it is key. Certainly, one can have the gun secured in a glove box, console or lockbox under the seat. What you don’t want is a loose gun under the seat or tucked into seat cushions. Sharp turns and emergency evasive movements can send the gun skidding anywhere.
If you only keep a gun concealed in the vehicle, what happens to it when you leave the car? Once you get out of the car, you’re unarmed. Also, if the car is inadvertently unlocked and you’re away from it, you’ve left a weapon up for grabs.
As someone who drives a lot between shooting and deadly force classes, I’m convinced that the best place for a “car gun” is on your physical person, so long as that’s legal: it is at once readily accessible to you, and inaccessible to unauthorized hands.
On-the-Person Options for the Car
Every concealed carry method has pros and cons. First, let’s look at things to “avoid like the plague” when carrying a firearm in a vehicle.
A middle of the back holster will become uncomfortable as hell when seated for long periods, whether you are driver or passenger, and will be all but inaccessible in an emergency.
Don’t unholster and stuff the sidearm between seats or seat and console: emergency evasive tactics or emergency braking can bust it loose.
It will also be visible to pedestrians or people seated higher in adjacent vehicles, who may panic and make “man with a gun” calls to 9-1-1. Whenever you have to move the gun between your person and glove box or console and back, someone may spot you with the same results.
Concealed Carry Holster Options
Some makers have offered “counter carjack holsters,” which put the gun in front of the opposite hip while seated. They are fast indeed, but are glaringly obvious when you step out of the vehicle at the store, and being sort of “open carry” are easily spotted by passersby.
Here are some additional methods to keep your gun on your person while operating a car.
Hip Holsters for Car Carry
Hip holsters are the most common method for concealed carry. Put it at about 3:30 if you’re right-handed, 8:30 if southpaw.
Bucket seats in particular may make the draw difficult, but sharply rocking your shoulders toward the side opposite the holster will usually give you the necessary range of movement. Make sure you pull your cover garment loose when you fasten your seat belt, or the garment will make the draw inaccessible.
Can You Appendix Carry a Gun in a Car?
Appendix carry is quite accessible while seated. You have to take care that the seat belt is not in a position to block access to the handgun.
Some worry that in a collision there may be soft tissue damage to the abdomen from carrying here. Remember that one hand may be on the wheel and you won’t always be able to do the usual two-hand appendix clear-and-draw.
Shoulder Holsters Are a Car Carry Option
Shoulder holsters are very fast, and the good ones are comfortable for long drives. The gun is accessible to either hand, too. The downside is that you have to keep a cover garment on when you’re driving, and weather and temperature may make that impractical.
Cross Draw Deserves Consideration
Cross-draw holsters sit butt-forward on the hip opposite the gun hand and offer pretty much the same advantages as the shoulder rig for speed of access to a “fighting-size” handgun.
Just slip on a cover garment while still behind the wheel before you get out of the car to maintain discretion.
[Be sure to read Massad Ayoob’s article on the Secrets of Cross Draw for CCW.]
Pros and Cons of Ankle Holsters in Vehicles
Ankle holsters are great from the seated position, and your hand can be on the gun when the suspicious person with hidden hands approaches your stopped vehicle. However, when you are out of the vehicle pumping gas at 3am, it’s about the slowest draw possible from standing. It also limits you to a relatively small, harder-to-shoot-well handgun.
Pocket Carry Possibilities
Pocket carry allows you to discreetly have your hand right on the pocketed pistol when you’re pumping gas at that filling station, but will be difficult to get at when you are seat-belted in the vehicle.
Too Much or the Best Way to Car Carry?
Multiple guns can be a practical answer.
Skilled firearms instructor David Kenik has been known to carry three. There’s a fighting pistol in his preferred hip holster…an ankle gun for when he’s seat-belted behind the wheel…and a pocket gun for when he’s pumping fuel. When people ask him, “Why do you carry three guns?!?”, David has the coolest possible answer:
“Four,” he replies, “would be ostentatious.”
Editor’s Note: How do you carry a weapon in your vehicle? Be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about this and every daily article, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in and discuss this article and much more!