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*
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.
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
- DO 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.
- 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)
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 2/23 Texas school superintendent resigns after leaving firearm unattended in bathroom for 3rd-grader to find
- 4/22 Man Leaves Handgun On Portillo's Restaurant Toilet Paper Dispenser, Charges State
- 4/22 Police remove gun from Kroger bathroom
- 2/22 Jersey City Cop Left Loaded Gun in McDonald's Bathroom
- 2/22 Police investigating gun found in Utah high school bathroom
- 2/22 Security guard left loaded gun unattended at a Beaufort County elementary school
- 1/22 SLO County sheriff's employee left gun in jail lobby bathroom. Here's who found it
- 1/22 Man charged with leaving gun in Costco bathroom
- 12/21 Security officer's gun accidentally left in Pulaski County Courthouse bathroom
- 7/20 Deputy leaves a loaded gun in family restroom at Target store, Ohio Police say
- 4/20 Aurora police investigator was suspended for leaving gun in bathroom of restaurant
- 3/20 Students find cop's gun in bathroom in middle of school day
- 2/20 Police: Whitney HS vice principal left gun unattended in bathroom
- 7/19 A police chief left her gun in an El Pollo Loco bathroom. Then someone stole it
- 5/19 An investigator mistakenly left his gun in a bathroom at the Nebraska State Office Building
- 2/19 Capital Police weapon left unattended in Capital bathroom, again
- 1/19 Security Guard Left Unloaded Gun in Campus Bathroom
- 1/19 Retired NYPD cop loses gun in food hall bathroom
- 1/19 Sheriff: Handgun found in men's bathroom at Howell Meijer
- 7/18 Utah Mom Left Loaded Handgun on Diaper Changing Table in Restroom
- 7/18 Military Security Officer Leaves Gun in Callaway Restaurant Bathroom
- 6/18 A Pasco detective left a gun in a Burger King bathroom. Now it's gone.
- 5/18 Nye County Sheriff Leaves Gun in Casino Bathroom
- 4/18 Oregon parent left revolver in bathroom at volleyball tournament
- 4/18 A Parkland teacher volunteered to arm himself – then left a loaded gun in a public bathroom
- 2/18 Holstered Guns Found Unattended At UT-Austin Bathrooms
- 11/17 Prescott Valley police chief's gun missing after he left it in library bathroom
- 10/17 Loaded police gun left unattended in SAPS bathroom
- 10/17 Detectives find possible owner of gun left in Macy's bathroom
- 9/17 Student finds off-duty officer's loaded gun at library on Hamilton High campus
- 7/17 Gun Left in Bathroom as Campus Carry Hits Kansas
- 5/17 Student finds loaded gun in Holly Hill school bathroom
- 4/17 U.S. Air Marshall Left Loaded Gun in an Airplane Bathroom
- 1/17 Man who left gun in Hoover park bathroom apologizes
- 9/16 Cops: Elementary kids find loaded gun teacher left in PA. school bathroom
- 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
- 8/15 Gun found in bathroom by four-year-old child
- 7/15 McSurprise at McDonalds Customer leaves loaded gun in bathroom
- 4/15 Air marshal left loaded gun in Newark airport bathroom stall, sources say
- 1/15 Capitol Police Left Guns in Bathrooms
- 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
- 1/13 Security guard leaves gun unattended in restroom at Lapeer charter school
- 1/12 Teens find loaded gun in Publix bathroom, retired FBI agent claims it
- 3/10 Grand Rapids police officer who left gun in bar bathroom charged for being reckless
- 5/09 Loaded Gun Left in Court's Restroom