It does not matter if you have been carrying concealed for years or days, you have undoubtedly spent much time wondering if your firearm is recognizable under your clothing. “Printing” is the term we use to describe this event when the outline of our concealed firearm is clearly and obviously recognizable. What is considered printing, may be somewhat subjective, but when I talk about printing, I am not talking about an incidental or unrecognizable bulge or lump under your shirt, but rather something that even a person who doesn't know a revolver from a rifle would recognize as a gun. Printing is one of the biggest issues holster manufacturers and concealed carry garment makers attempt to defeat. So we finally get that perfect gun, holster and have our concealed carry license in hand, and strap on our gear, only to see a bulge caused by our firearm. What are we to do? Well, there are some obvious real concerns about printing, but an over-fixation on printing can cause concealed carriers some unnecessary anxiety and fear that leads to bigger issues. So let's talk about the difference between the reality and fears related to printing, things you may be doing that are just as big of a giveaway as printing, and how can we prevent them.
Concern: No matter how good my gun is concealed, I can still see a small bulge under my shirt.
Reality: The vast majority of people don't notice that small bulge under your shirt. Most people do not immediately recognize a bulge under a shirt as a firearm. People carry large cell phones on belt holsters or insulin pumps and other medical devices which can cause small bulges under the shirt. The more you think about it and focus on it, the more obvious it will appear that you have a firearm. When you are looking in the mirror to see if you are printing, you know where you are concealing your firearm. So naturally, you will be super tuned in to even the slightest bulge and recognize it as a firearm.
Try This: Wear your firearm around your family or friends at home without telling them. See if they recognize you are carrying.
Concern: If I print, I will be breaking the law, and could get arrested.
Reality: Because state laws vary greatly, I will explain this generally (I am not giving you legal advice, and obviously as responsible gun owners we always need to understand our individual state laws). Brandishing or displaying your firearm, usually, needs to be accompanied with ‘in a threatening manner, or reckless.’ If you print, or even if your firearm briefly is exposed because of the wind or something similar, you likely will not have met the elements for criminal charges. Now if you are carrying concealed and print or have your firearm exposed while in a ‘no carry zone,’ this is going to be an issue, and not related to solely printing or having your firearm briefly exposed.
Try This: Understand your state laws pertaining to open carry and or concealed carry, and the elements of brandishing a firearm or deadly weapon.
Concern: I need to constantly check my firearm to make sure it's not exposed.
Reality: You shouldn't have to check your firearm constantly. If you have a good holster that is adjusted and set up for your body and firearm, it should not need to be adjusted. Initially, when you first receive your holster, yes, you should spend much time adjusting it and finding the best way to carry it on your body. You should figure out inside your home, the proper belt, undershirt or type of clothing you will be using long before you take your brand new concealed carry gun for a trip out on the town. In fact, constantly adjusting your firearm or clothing can be one of the biggest giveaways that the bulge under your clothing is not a cell phone, but rather, a firearm.
Please avoid these 4 common clothing/firearm adjustment giveaways:
- Constantly looking down at your waistline or looking in every mirror to see if you are printing: This will inevitably draw more attention to you and that slight bulge.
- Constantly reaching down to maneuver your firearm back into place: Adjusting your firearm will likely indicate its size and shape as something other than that cell phone. Additionally, you most likely will perform this maneuver as stealthily as possible, but it is these furtive movements that law enforcement key in on, and give the somewhat astute person that ‘gut feeling’ that something is different.
- Wearing clothing that it inconsistent with the weather in order to conceal a firearm: If you are wearing a hoodie sweater in July and don't live in Siberia, you are going to stand out. If you feel like the only way you can carry a firearm is to wear heavy clothing, even in the summer, you may need to reassess your firearm/holster combo or the location on your body you carry your firearm.
- Feeling your firearm and checking to see if it is still there: This is a dead giveaway that you are concealing a firearm. I have noticed people subconsciously running their hand over their clothing and actually causing their firearm to print through their clothing in the process. They most likely do not even realize that they are doing it, but it is this constant checking behavior that draws attention to your firearm.
If you are a new concealed firearm carrier, we were once there with you. We were contemplating every movement and step to ensure no one knew we were carrying a firearm. And even for some, this anxiety never goes away. We should never become complacent about concealing our firearm because it can cause legal issues in certain situations and tactical problems in others; but, we do not want it to be a cause for anxiety to the point that we subconsciously or intentionally do things to draw unnecessary attention to ourselves and our firearm. Get a gun you can control and conceal, and a holster that is safe and secure. Test your holster adjustments and carry location at home, so you can be confident that they fit well and stay in place. Be yourself, act naturally, and be alert and protect yourself, your family and those who cannot protect themselves. Stay safe.