Carrying Concealed – A practical protocol for breaking in new gear


The number of people who are carrying concealed is growing rapidly each day. No longer are ex-law enforcement, military, and hardcore shooting enthusiasts the only ones who pursue the appropriate licensing to concealed carry. Whether this is from the sense that the world is getting more dangerous, or that people are just waking up to their God-given rights, a wider range of people are legally carrying concealed firearms than ever before.

This newer audience of gun-toting enthusiasts often does not come with the depth and breadth of “gun background” to understand some of the nuances to carrying concealed. One such bit of knowledge is how to properly break in new gear. By “new gear” I mean anything related to carrying concealed that, if changed in any way, could affect the shooter, access to the weapon, or otherwise change the shooter’s natural dynamic.

This blog post presents the protocol I use when I introduce new “carry gear”.


Carrying concealed is not “sport”. Each of us has a different reason for doing it, but ultimately we would only use our concealed carry status in a life or death situation. We cannot be fumbling around or trying to figure out new gear in the moment our lives depend on it.

Likewise, when we introduce new gear, we change old habits and ways we interact with our concealed carry components. While guns like a Glock requires zero other interaction with the gun to carry “one in the spout” safely, a 1911-style gun with a hammer and safety requires manual interaction to carry safely. This means that several new habits have to be acquired.  Similarly, a gun that sits deep in your carry holster is less likely to accidentally go flying across the room should you move more aggressively than one that sits shallower.

Whenever we make a change, we make some temporary imbalances in our habits with the gear. Therefore, in order to use the proper safe and ready “carry posture”, we need to break in the new gear in a safe manner. We have to build new habits and become completely familiar with the new gear as part of the whole system.


First the caveat… This is my system. It’s not the only system for breaking in new gear. I would, however, dare to say it is a reasonable guideline for doing so. If you are totally new to guns, or are not comfortable with them, save the rest of the blog for later. First, please find a “gun coach” who will help you become baselined in “gun-ology” and get yourself into a comfortable state.

A piece of wisdom: if when you hold, shoot, or otherwise interact with your gun, you do not feel reasonably competent, you should not carry concealed. If, when you handle your gun, you still feel discomfort at the thought of using it… YOU SHOULD NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE CARRY CONCEALED!!

Again, I advise you to find a coach to help with your discomfort.

Now the warning… This method of breaking in a gun takes some time, and puts your “carry” posture in a less than “high alert” posture. If you are a person at high risk, you may need to modify this method to keep your posture at “high alert” during times when you are most vulnerable. Some ways that you can do this are:

  • Work through all the steps under non-risk scenarios. Continuing to use the old gear during high risk scenarios.
  • Stage all the recommended steps and techniques outlined under controlled circumstances (training events), while not changing out the old gear during normal circumstances (that includes the high risk activities).

Understand that if you take either of these steps there will still be a “conversion moment.” This is the point where old gear goes away and new gear is activated. It is during this time you are at the greatest risk. Try to attempt this conversion at a point in time you are in the lowest risk scenarios.

The Protocol

This is the way I break in new carry gear to know that I am safely and competently carrying it.

  1. Gear train up – The first thing I do with new gear is train-up thoroughly. Note, during this period I am not under any circumstances “carrying” this new piece of gear in a real world scenario.  If it’s a new gun, I go out and do my break in, and train up on the nuances of the gun. If I feel I need to make modifications to it, then I make the modifications, and re-train up. If it is a holster, I will take it to a range, or even better take it to an IDPA match, and shoot tactically (drawing and shooting). I will learn how it fits on my pants, what things I have to change (maybe the keys need to go into the other pocket?), etc. Just shooting a magazine through a gun, or walking around the house for a few hours with a holster is NOT equivalent to learning it. By the way, don’t forget to RTFM (READ THE FREAKING MANUAL).
  2. Initial system familiarization period – After I train up on the new piece of gear I have a period of about two days to a week of what I deem “initial system training.” This is where during “safe” times (such as at home lounging around) I put all the “carry system” components together, as they would be under normal circumstances, and wear it around. The gun is not loaded during this period… period! It is during this time that you begin to realize nuances to the total system which you may need to go figure out. For instance, let’s say the gun sits higher on your body. Maybe you need to find a lower-riding holster; or potentially the position you normally carried doesn’t work anymore, and you have to change it. There will be several new issues that come up. After discovering them you may need to go back to step one and re-train, such as if you need to change holsters (new gear) and/or your carry position changes.
  3. Carry break-in period – After I train-up and have my initial system familiarization period, I then have a period of “carry break-in”. During this phase I “carry” as I normally would, with one exception – no bullet in the chamber. This assumes that the carry pistol is a semi-automatic. If it is a revolver, then I would carry as normal. The purpose of this period is to go through normal carry activities such as getting in and out of cars, doing work activities that involve aggressive movements, arming and disarming as you have to move into a place where carrying is not permitted, and making sure there are no other issues that crop up. I do this without a round in a semi-auto chamber to minimize any UD/DAD as I move through activities I have not attempted. Personally, I tend to do this for two to four weeks as it typically takes about that long to cycle through all the alternative scenarios one encounters.

After I work through each of these phases, I feel it is safe to carry “hot” and that I have properly worked up my gear to enable me to use it safely for myself and others.

Final Thoughts

Remember – each mistake a “carrier” makes reflects on all of us. It is your sole responsibility, which comes with the right to carry, to know you are safe and that you are capable. Anyone (no matter how experienced or competent of a “gun bunny” you think you are) who takes new gear and walks out the door in a full “go” carry posture is a fool. Even the simplest change to your system can become life or death to you or others.

“Carrying” is not just a buy and go proposition. It requires muscle-memory and flawless knowledge to be able to use the complete system in a moment of severe circumstances. Whether you use the protocol outlined here or some other, always know you are carrying safely and competently.

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