Guys, stop laughing. This applies to you too!
You know the old saying. "If I had a dime for every time...." So if I had a dime for every time I hear or read an instructor say his students HAVE to do this or MUST have that or ALWAYS need something else, well I'd have a lot of dimes, but not a lot of confidence as a shooter.
There are very few absolutes in any aspect of life and the shooting sports are no exception, so why are there so many prevailing thoughts that FEEL like absolutes? Because everyone has an opinion, and you know how that saying goes, too.
So the instructor in me says you need to carry the SAME gun in the SAME place with the SAME holster EVERY DAY. Otherwise you will NOT be ready to defend yourself!!
The realist in me knows absolute statements like that do less to serve students with good information and more to intimidate them OUT of carrying their firearm. Telling someone "you're doing it wrong" if they don't conform to our mandates is a sure fire way to convince them they aren't cut out for this, so they'll give up before they begin and not even try. Guess what, fellow instructors, I know your hearts are in the right place, but YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!
There are people in the world for whom it's very simple to change their entire wardrobe around a gun, select the perfect firearm for all occasions, and settle on one carry method that works every day. Then there are women!
For us there are circumstances that just don't make it that simple. There are kids, business dress codes, widely changing temps between (and sometimes within) the seasons. While these are issues men have to consider as well, I find it's the women in the field who struggle the most when it comes to finding a method of carry that works consistently. Our style of dress varies more broadly, we don't always follow a predictable routine when outside the home, we are expected to hold ourselves physically to a different (more feminine) standard than our male counterparts. Does that mean we shouldn't carry a gun?
Silly question, of course it doesn't. And many of you have heard me say in class that you will have to make certain concessions and compromises when it comes to your outfit/activity/comfort at times in order to be able to successfully carry a gun. I'm not telling you now that comment is incorrect. There is a happy place in between.
I'm not here to tell you where that happy place is. I'm not here to tell you what to change, where to bend and what your priorities should be. Instead I'll share with you what my happy place looks like.
I would LOVE to carry the same gun the same way with the same holster every day. I understand the hazards of changing these things. When I need my gun I will NEED my gun, immediately, without thinking, and without fail! An attack is anything but predictable, so I'll need my response to be as predictable as possible. I need all the tools in my toolbox to be exactly where they were when I trained to use them. I'll be entirely too busy trying to keep up with the bad guy to have to think about where I left them!
For the most part (over half the locations I venture out to daily) I do in fact carry my gun the same way. I carry a Colt Defender on my strong side in an IWB (inside the waist band) leather holster. Nearly anything in my wardrobe will conceal it adequately enough to avoid detection in most circumstances. At least enough so that I don't worry someone will call me out for having a gun.
There are a few places/activities/outfits, however, for which this method just doesn't work. I may know I'll be in close contact with people and the considerable protrusion on my right hip may be more easily detected, or maybe the waistband of my shirt will ride up just enough to expose too much of my gear, or I'll be in the company of those I know to be uncomfortable with the presence of firearms and know they will be scrutinizing my profile for printing. (Yes, this matters to me, I don't like to make people uncomfortable! It may not be a problem for you).
In those situations I've had to resort to what I consider my backup method of carry. In fact it sometimes is a true backup, providing me access to a second firearm, just in case! For those times when concealment is more crucial than all the factors that lead me to the Colt (stopping power, capacity, weight, reliability), I compromise with a smaller caliber, smaller framed firearm. I also move the location from my strong side hip to a cross-draw under-arm position using a belly band situated around the lower half of my ribcage. The thinner profile of the Bersa .380 allows for nearly flawless concealment even in tighter clothing. The position under my arm gives me extra camouflage and terrific ability to "guard" the gun with my arm.
This method also helps when around people who are "huggers".
I... am not a hugger...
That doesn't keep people from hugging me, which always creates a moment of adjustment, making sure their embrace isn't going to bring them in contact with my gun. Having it wedged higher under that arm makes that move just a little easier and seem a little more natural.
Using multiple carry methods is easy from an options standpoint. Women said we wanted more feminine options and the industry responded with everything from fire power modifications to conceal carry purses and corsets. Where it becomes a challenge is that predictability front. If I'm relying on my training, muscle memory and a predictable toolbox to save my life, I've just created a serious roadblock for myself. I have to figure out not only where the gun is today but also which gun is it?!? They don't all function the same, there will be a difference in operation of the firearm, how it feels and how I react with it in my hand. I can't fix that and still have the versatility we all want!!
So I do the only thing I can do when faced with reality:
I acknowledge the situation - I'm putting myself at a tactical disadvantage.
I weigh the options - I can change my whole world, or I can change my training to match my world.
I compensate for the disadvantage - I put in some extra time training with BOTH firearms and BOTH methods of carry. This includes a few minutes spent every morning practicing how to draw and function the gun I'm carrying that day from the holster it will be in and wearing the outfit with which I've chosen to conceal it (ALWAYS with an UNLOADED firearm - see there ARE some absolutes in shooting!!).
I'm sure you can see how more options will lead to more complicated training. The disadvantage increases exponentially with every additional method you add to the routine, at some point making your convenience and lifestyle wishes an unacceptable risk. You alone can figure out where that line of diminished returns falls for you. For me it stops with two options, any more than that and I'm setting myself up to fail. You need to understand the reality, overestimate your personal limitations, prioritize, and train accordingly.
I sure wish I could offer an absolute to make this a simple matter the way some writers would do, but I just can't in good conscience discourage you from carrying if you can't live up to the expectation of a tactical mandate. Beyond a few true, simple rules of safety there just aren't that many absolutes you should trust! Take your time, know yourself, and be smart about it. With this many options on the market, finding a couple that work for you should be easy to check off your list!