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Using a Bathroom With a Concealed Carry Handgun

How to Tactically and Safely Use a Bathroom When Carrying A Concealed Firearm

The firearm sits concealed on our torso, near the waistline for most of us, creating several challenges when we want to use the restroom. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of dealing with this situation safely and tactically.

*This post was originally published in December 2017, and is updated with relevant links*

ccw public bathroom

Balancing Safety and Accessibility

In preparation for this article, I trolled the internet and YouTube looking for our industry's best advice on concealed carry guns in bathrooms, and I was slightly disappointed. There are some good ideas but not enough to fully explore the topic.

As you read through the ideas and topics explored in this article, consider two key balancing factors. One is accessibility, and the other is security. When you carry concealed for self-defense, both are important.

Accessibility: At no time do we want to become vulnerable. Sitting in a stall is a point of vulnerability, and not being able to retrieve our firearm and fire puts us in a worse situation.

Safety: We also need to balance our tactical response readiness with our ability to ensure safety.

Other Response Ideas

When you go into a public bathroom, try using the stall furthest from the door. This strategy will put you in a position to worry only about threats or prying eyes from one side.

Try to use a family bathroom with a single, lockable door whenever possible.

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Some professionals recommend removing one leg from the pants before sitting down. The idea is that doing this gives you more flexibility should you need to react quickly than if your pants are around your ankles. However, one downside is you lose some options and methods to stow the weapon while seated. Also, if you have to run, you must put your leg back into the pants, taking time. Finally, it might not be feasible depending on your clothing. You decide if this works for you.

The Major Do Nots

  1. gun left in bathroomDO NOT remove the gun from the holster unless required to respond to a threat. The holster is one of the best tools to keep the firearm safe and the trigger guard covered. Think first to remove the holster from your pants or body before removing the gun from the holster.
  2. DO NOT set it down anywhere you don't have control over it. The back of the toilet and the top of the toilet paper dispenser are appealing locations to rest your gun. However, these places can jeopardize your ability to retrieve the firearm quickly in an emergency and maximize the possibility of forgetting it altogether when you stand to leave. (See the list of news stories below)
  3. DO NOT point it in an unsafe direction; instead, choose the direction of least consequence. It may be challenging to determine a safe direction while sitting on the john, but some actions are objectively unsafe. Don't point it toward yourself or the toilet. Those thin stall walls will not stop any bullets, so mind your friend next door.

The Holsters That Make It Easy and the Ones That Don't

Given what we have covered so far, you can intuitively understand how much impact one's holster will have on the ease and safety with which one can visit the restroom while armed but use CAUTION. On the list of the most important things to consider when selecting the best holster for you…what will work best in a public bathroom doesn't make the top 25. Unless you spend far more time in the restroom than I do, it would better serve you to select your concealed carry holster based on the other, more important factors and consider and train to work around it in the stall.

phlster pro series best holster

Waistband IWB Holsters Shine Here: Bellyband holsters or any holster that secures the gun to the body by wrapping itself around the torso overcome this problem well. Another good option is a holster chassis system like the Phlster Enigma, pictured below.

phlster enigma

Phlster Enigma holster chassis system.

Ankle / Shoulder / Bra Holsters: Ankle and Shoulder holsters are not as common in our industry, but they deserve mentioning here. A shoulder holster or a bra holster makes a trip to the restroom painless. Ankle holsters don't require any particular action to secure or remove the gun, but they can become inaccessible if you are not careful about positioning your pants. If using an ankle holster, when dropping your pants, take a little extra care to make sure that the pants are pushed down below the ankle holster, ensuring that you still have access to it.

Traditional IWB Holsters: If you use a conventional IWB system that uses clips that secure the holster to the belt, you must decide to remove the holster from the belt before taking a seat or when your pants come down, use your legs to keep the waistband rigid, so the firearm continues to be secured securely on the belt.

Off Body Carry Systems: If you use a purse, backpack, or another type of off body holster system, going to the restroom isn't much of a burden, but you should consider how to position that holster such that you can readily draw it if necessary.

carrying off body considerations

Pocket Holsters: If you use a pocket holster, leaving the gun in the pocket will make it hard to access should you need to draw when the pants are down. We recommend removing the holster before sitting down and securing it in your pants. This strategy allows you to ensure it is pointed in a safe direction and makes it accessible for use. You are also not likely to forget it when you exit.

The Role of the Concealed Carry Belt

foundation belt

This isn't the article where we expand at length about why you need a purpose-made gun belt. However, if you secure your IWB holster to a flimsy belt, it may flop around, becoming difficult to secure and manage safely when the pants drop to the ground. A proper gun belt remains rigid and keeps the firearm safely accessible.

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Beware Your Neighbors

I saw some websites that recommend you place your gun on the floor. Myself, I see that as a security risk. We encourage Concealed Carry for a reason, and just hoping that the person in the stall next door won't see or reach for your gun isn't a good plan. Consider how you can avoid drawing attention or giving your neighbor easy access in your overall strategy.

How to Avoid Leaving Your Gun in The Bathroom

gun in the bathroom stall holsterAll you have to do is survey the news stories below to know that this is an ongoing problem. You take a seat and set your gun down somewhere, only to have your mind drift off to something else. When you stand up and exit, you think of other things and leave the gun behind.

Yeah … it happens. Here are some tips to avoid the blunder:

  1. First, don't put it somewhere you can ignore. You're more likely to forget it on the back of the toilet or the paper dispenser. In your pants or on your lap … not as much.
  2. Be consistent. Creating any routine comes down to repetition. Do the same thing all the time, and it will become easier to do and remember. Practice at home. For guys–sit down even when you don't need to for a few weeks for increased practice and repetition opportunities.
  3. Keep the gun in the holster. In addition to being safer, as mentioned above, you're less likely to forget it if it remains in the holster. Even if you remove the holster from the body or clothing, this is true.

*As I promised… I'm including an ongoing list of news stories of people leaving guns in bathrooms or similar.

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32 Responses to Using a Bathroom With a Concealed Carry Handgun

  1. jim- May 18, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    What I do (after reading this article I am rethinking my most used response)I carry IWB. When sitting I place my gun in my shorts, it is not holstered but still on my person. However like I said I am rethinking this. My first thought was to leave my gun in its holster and buckling my belt after dropping trow. This would keep the holster upright and the gun in place, I would be at a disadvantage if I needed to use my feet. Maybe a longer belt so I have more leg room at that time. Yes I do wear a gun belt.

  2. Larry May 18, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    While is was a Supervisory Special Agent in the early ’90s, one of my young agents went into a stall, dropped the pants and started his business. In the stall on his right, a man who was a) quick thinking, b) a thief, and c) finished with HIS business, reached under the stall, grabbed the weapon out of the holster (standard on the belt holster for the .45) and ran out of the mens room. Agent X was unable to get the door open quick enough to even get a glimpse of him. I was always paranoid after that report, and started hooking my shorts waist band over the weapon to keep it hidden and tight to my leg. Still do that today.

  3. Walt May 19, 2016 at 10:23 am #

    If you use a clip-in holster a number of people use heavy beaded neck chains (think the kind they use to make sure the writing pens don’t walk away in banks). It’s not particularly comfortable, but it works in a pinch and if you don’t like pouch holsters, it provides somewhere for you to clip (and draw) on your person.

  4. Snowbird 44 May 19, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

    White or black belly band holster solves this problem. $35 for a good one… $15 for a cheap one.

    • Smoke & mirrors April 20, 2022 at 12:44 pm #

      Agree! I have several. Velcro or thumb break retention. Thin models for compact or sub-compact. Heavier models better for full sized.

  5. Alberto VILLARREAL July 31, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    First holster was Walmart Blackhawk still feel it’s my most comfortable fit,, but yes pistol never comes out of holster until its time to use, even in storage in a case in holster inside case. Always pull holster with pistol and set it down in holster and then retuck holster with pistol always in holster, unless time to use.

  6. Randel R February 10, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    I use a belt holster and what i do is after i sit down i buckle my belt in the hole closest to the end of my belt and use slight tension on my belt with my knees to keep it high enough for fast access if needed and keep it off the floor out of site and anyones view from under the stall sides

  7. Doug March 14, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    I’ll tell you this, there are some thieves who scout bathrooms because many people will hang expensive jackets, purses and maybe a gunbelt on the hook located on the back of the stall door. These thieves simply reach over and grab whatever is on the hook and leave you, literally, with your pants around your ankles and no speedy way to give chase. Remember, criminals/ thieves are lazy cowards. This method, they don’t have to exert themselves nor confront anyone.

  8. Oscar L James July 19, 2017 at 7:05 am #

    Before open carry went into effect in Texas on 1/1/16, I carried concealed, IWB. Now I carry openly in a Safariland ALS retention holster. Carry method has not changed my routine. I leave the pistol secure in its holster on my belt and keep my pants just above my knees. Seems to me to be the best trade off for being able to move quickly.

  9. George W. Bratten September 14, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

    Put your firearm in a good holster , translated CrossBreed Super Tuck and put it on a good belt STIFF LEATHER belt and no problemo. THEN LEAVE IT ALONE

  10. Donald McNany October 25, 2017 at 11:36 am #

    I either cradle my kydex IWB holstered pistol in my underwear shorts or place it on the flat toilet paper roll dispenser on my right, if there is one there. It’s in my sightline at all times. Right handed shooter. Jacket pocket is my other option it I keep it on.

    • Edward Alvarez April 20, 2022 at 1:17 pm #

      Hawg holster!, I clip it on to my shirt unbutton two buttons slide holster in clip it, sits across my chest. When finished clip back hip.

  11. Catherine November 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    As a female, I think it can be easier if you carry in a bra holster. But more difficult if you carry on your waist. I have a Sticky, which I love, but obviously this creates a problem. I generally take the holster out of my waist band and put it in the front of my bra to secure it while doing what I need to do. That way it never leaves my body and is still fully accessible. Any other thoughts or suggestions?

    • Kate November 28, 2017 at 1:38 am #

      Catherine, that is exactly what i do. From waist to bra and back. I can’t afford to be seen with a weapon because people around my parts would freak out. It doesn’t just have to be concealed, it has to be indiscernible. I prefer single bathrooms with locking doors as opposed to stalls. Starbucks has a shelf for all your valuables and i use that when i am there. But if you look up, while sitting on the toilet, you can see a 9mm hole in the ceiling where someone got stupid.

  12. Sharry Gillesse November 27, 2017 at 12:44 am #

    2 words: Belly Band

  13. Lonny December 7, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    I use the brave response holsters as well, I have both types and the bathroom is no issue at all. These holsters are extremely versatile and I highly recommend this product. I have upwards of 20 rigs of all types and I can safely say the brave response is by far the best for this issue.

    • JIM TURNER December 7, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

      Same here, Lonny BRH, both models, NO ISSUES!

  14. Skip Kirkwood December 7, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    One of our local police departments had the same issue as described by our FBI colleague. There is now a policy for everybody except uniform patrol guys (who typically remove and secure the whole duty belt). The holster comes off the belt, the pistol and holster go in to the jockey shorts until business is complete and it is time to hoist.

  15. Carl December 7, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

    When traveling use the belly band,keep your normal holster on but move the gun to the belly band when sitting

  16. Brad December 7, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    I appendix carry iwb on my right side, the bathroom has never been a problem for me. I never drop my pants past my knees which makes it accessible and easy to control. It takes a little practice but it has worked well. As always, a good holster is imperative.

  17. Steve December 8, 2017 at 4:40 am #

    K. L. Null SMZ shoulder holster – no issues at all, very fast access if needed.

  18. Tri-State Gun Girl December 17, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

    Whether appendix or hip, my firearm NEVER leaves the holster or my belt while in the bathroom. LIke some others have said, keep the belt at or above your knees using your knees to put tension on your pants so they don’t fall down.

    Putting your firearm on a shelf or the paper dispenser is just not a safe practice.

    Like any firearm skill you need to practice this skill as well until it becomes as easy as your draw.

  19. John M Lichtenberger December 19, 2017 at 9:28 am #

    Having carried a gun for 20 years as a police officer and another 17 as a civilian I am paranoid of losing my weapon in the bathroom. (1) I ALWAYS choose stall with a wall on the “carry side” (right). (2) I wear an IWB holster so I remove the gun place it on the floor next to the toilet and within reach. (3) I shield the gun from outside view with my foot.

  20. Jay Lacson January 22, 2018 at 3:51 pm #

    I have many years of experience working with a concealed firearm and have been carrying for over 20 years. As a private citizen now I have carried over what I taught myself when I was with the ‘Feds’ when using a public bathroom as to never leave my firearm in the bathroom.

    I can tell you stories of all the Federal Law Enforcement officers who have left their duty weapons in a public bathroom. I can tell you stories of Federal Air Marshals who were working undercover on commercial airplanes who have left their duty weapons inside the lavatory of an aircraft only to be found by a passenger. I can tell you of an off duty Air Marshal who left is ‘Fanny Bag” on the hook of the bathroom stall door at a rest stop on the Florida’s turnpike and it was found by a private citizen. Boy do I have some stores to tell.

    With that said I can tell you what I did when I was working plain clothes as a law enforcement officer and what I do to this day. When I sit down on the porcelain thrown I unholster my weapon and place it directly inside my underwear. This way when I stand up after watching 20 minutes of Youtube videos there is no chance my weapon will be left behind. Its kind of hard to leave it behind because if I forgot the weapon i sure would remember it once I tried to pull up my pants because I would feel a large caliber weapon in my ‘rear’.

    This is my 2 cents and I have been doing this for 20 years and it has never failed me.

    Jay Lacson
    CONCEALEDCARRY.COM Instructor

  21. Dave Bates April 23, 2020 at 6:08 pm #

    I agree with Jay… In the underwear is the safest way to go! Chances of leaving a weapon behind are too great when one places a weapon on a shelf, toilet tank, etc. Don’t take that risk. As soon as you sit (or while starting to sit) place the un-holstered weapon in your underpants. If you want to keep it in the holster as an added precaution, certainly do so. Personally, I feel one is just as likely to fumble with the re-attaching of the holster to the belt as you are to contacting the un-holstered, exposed trigger. You have eyes on your pistol the entire time you are indisposed. Access to one’s weapon is right in front of you. When finished, re-holster/re-attach to the belt and continue. Thirty years carry experience/LE/firearms instruction. Works for me.

  22. Dave April 18, 2022 at 8:17 am #

    Never forgot, many years ago I’m guessing about 30 I was in a stall and from the left side floor a weapon slides under the wall. I casually pushed it back under with my left foot and just said “here you go” and received a “thank you” back from the police officer in the stall next to me.

  23. Mike L April 20, 2022 at 11:53 am #

    I am very thankful I learned about the Phlster Enigma. I can honestly say that leaving a firearm behind has never been a worry for me as a result.

  24. Smoke & mirrors April 20, 2022 at 12:35 pm #

    My EDC device is belly band. Range time sitting in a chair is a good drill for this scenario.
    One of my belly bands has suspenders & is better suited for shooting from a seated position because the sidearm & mags are more front oriented than my other belly bands. Good for vehicles & other seated weapon deployment however you should dry fire this holster a few times first… You can flag your strong side leg when drawing. The make a cross draw version too… Don’t care for it.

  25. Michael Nistler April 20, 2022 at 4:23 pm #

    Excellent topic, stories and comments here – lots of love to Concealed Carry! Reading the sorted stories sparked a latent synapse going back 55 years with one of my fellow coworkers getting in trouble over someone’s bathroom break. At the Jamesburg Comsat Satellite Earth Station the security guard headed for a bathroom break but left his handgun at his desk guard station – yikes! My misguided colleague decided to “teach him a lesson” and hid the gun in a desk drawer. Unfortunately, the guard went into a panic rage and once he found his piece, he began screaming and flashed the handgun in employees faces at point-blank range demanding to know who hid his weapon. Needless to say, the security guard was relieved of his assignment and my coworker earned two weeks off without pay for his stunt. At least no one was injured or killed but these days in California the guard would be put away 5-10 for aggravated assault++ and the employee would like also spend several months in a “gated community.”

  26. Dave June 25, 2022 at 8:44 am #

    The underpants location is the one I have seen advised most often. While there are some disadvantages on my Sneaky Pete holster system this is one area that it shines in even though I am one of those that tries my hardest not to need a public stall.

  27. Thomas Miller June 27, 2022 at 8:51 am #

    I keep my pants fastened while dropping them. I stop at the knee, remove the holster and place it barrel facing out in my underwear. I then lower my pants to the floor and sit. That way no one sees anything and I will not forget it.

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