How to Tactically and Safely Use a Bathroom When Carrying A Concealed Firearm
For most of us the firearm sits concealed on our torso, near the waistline. This creates a number of challenges when one walks into a bathroom stall and drops the pants. In this article we will explore the ins and outs of how to deal with this situation safely and tactically.
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 out there 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 great point of vulnerability and not being able to retrieve our firearm and fire puts us in a worst 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 move to the farthest away stall. The distance will grant you distance from an incoming threat and it will put you in a position where you only have to worry about threats or prying eyes from one side.
Where possible you should look for a family bathroom that has a closed and lockable door.
There are also many professionals who remove one leg from the pants before sitting down. This gives you more flexibility should you need to react quickly. With your pants around your ankles your can't move or run but that does take away some of your best options and methods to stow the weapon while seated.
The Major Do Nots
- DO NOT remove the gun from the holster unless required to respond to a threat. The holster is one of the best tools you have to keeping 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.
- DO NOT set it down anywhere you don't have control over it. There may be many appealing places in the bathroom from the back of the toilet to the top of the toilet paper dispenser. Placing the firearm in these places can jeopardize your ability to retrieve the firearm quickly in an emergency while also maximizing the possibility that you will forget it altogether when you stand to leave. (See list of news stories below)
- DO NOT point it in an unsafe direction. It may be difficult to determine a safe direction while sitting on the john but there are some things that clearly are not safe. Don't point it toward yourself or the toilet. Those flimsy stall walls aren't going to stop any bullets either 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 is going to 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 little boys/girls room than I do, you would be better served to select your concealed carry holster based on the other important factors and consider and train to work around it in the stall.
Waistband IWB Holsters Rock: My go to holster is the Brave Response Holster which secures itself to the body with an elastic waistband. It doesn't connect to the pants in anyway which means visiting the bathroom is as easy as pulling the holster up a little higher on my torso when I drop the pants. This style of holster is by far the easiest solution for gents and gals alike when packing concealed at the bathroom.
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 really painless. Ankle holsters don't require any special action to secure or remove the gun but they can become very inaccessible if you are not careful about how you position 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 traditional IWB system that has one or two clips that secure the holster to the belt then you should make a decision about either removing the holster from the pant before taking a seat or when your pants do 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 other 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.
Pocket Holsters: If you use a pocket holster, leaving the gun in the pocket is going to make it hard to access should you need to draw when the pants are down. We would recommend removing the holster prior to sitting down and securing it in your pants or your lap where you can ensure it is pointed in the safe direction, make it accessible for use, and ensure you aren't going to forget it when you exit.
The Role of the Concealed Carry Belt
This isn't the article where we expand at length about why you need a good tactical belt but this is one of the reasons on that greater list. If you have your IWB holster secured to your pant with a flimsy belt it is going to flap around and become difficult to secure and manage safely when the pants drop to the ground. A strong and quality belt will remain rigid and keep the firearm safely accessible.
Beware Your Neighbors
I saw some websites that recommend you placing 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 in your strategy how you can also avoid drawing attention or giving your neighbor easy access.
How to Avoid Leaving Your Gun in The Bathroom
All you have to do is survey the news stories below to know that this is an ongoing problem. You take a seat and set that gun down somewhere only to have your mind drift off to something else. When you stand up and exit the muscle memory fails you and the gun gets left behind. Yeah… it happens. Here are some tips to avoid the blunder:
- Don't put it somewhere you can ignore. The back of the toilet or the top of the dispenser are more likely to escape your notice when you stand to exit. In your pants or on your lap… not as much.
- Be consistent. Creating muscle memory comes down to simple 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 in order to give yourself increased practice and repetition opportunities.
- Keep the gun in the holster. In addition to helping keep you safe as mentioned above, the gun is much less likely to be forgotten if it remains in the holster, even if the holster is removed from the body or clothing.
*As I promised above… below I'm including an ongoing list of news stories of people leaving guns in bathrooms or similar…
- 7/17 Gun Left in Bathroom as Campus Carry Hits Kansas
- 4/16 Gun found in bathroom at Painesville high school, police say
- 3/16 Janitor Charged in Theft of Pilot's Gun at Philly International Airport
- 1/15 Capitol Police Left Guns in Bathrooms
- 8/15 Gun found in bathroom by four-year-old child
- 9/14 Utah teacher’s gun went off on school toilet, piercing her leg
- 7/14 Someone Left A Loaded Gun In A Walmart Bathroom
- 6/13 State police investigating trooper who left handgun in park bathroom
- 5/13 Loaded Gun Found in Bathroom Stall at Mayfair Mall