When it comes to concealing a handgun, it’s a matter of interpretation and depends on your specific mission. Truly concealing a handgun requires more effort than just putting a jacket on over a holstered pistol—though many don’t see it this way. A piece of thin material doesn’t hide a firearm from view. Out of sight isn’t out of mind. The truth: Unsightly bulges are easily seen. Many in our society don’t give hidden guns any thought, and therefore they don’t see them even when they’re visible. However, criminals aren’t your typical citizen. They know what the bulge of a holstered pistol looks like—as do most cops—and allowing others to take notice of your hidden handgun can be perilous.
For example: How often have you seen a plainclothes officer walking around a crime scene, or even just going to lunch, with their handgun fully exposed and a badge clipped to their belt in front of their gun? This look is currently popular in Hollywood. I know, I know—the pistol on the belt offers a dangerous-while-looking-cool look, but is it a wise practice? How often do cops mimic what they see on TV? Those of us who were on the job in the mid 1980s when Miami Vice was popular smile at the thought of all the shoulder holsters that were sold to cops nationwide. Shortly afterward, most threw the shoulder rig in a drawer due to the discomfort of wearing one around the neck and shoulders for hours on end.
Even though walking around with an exposed gun and badge might be OK within your jurisdiction, it can be hazardous when out of town. Though it pains me to say it, since I retired, I’ve been messed with by many cops in the locales to which I’ve traveled. You see, carrying a gun under House Bill 218, The Community Protection Act, authorizes retired officers to carry concealed. In three different situations, I was perfectly legal (I wasn’t carrying in a denied area like a courthouse). However, I was still detained while officers determined my identity—even though I had a valid ID. On all three occasions, the officers had their dispatch center call my former agency to see if I was really retired as my ID stated. The problem was, I’ve been gone for seven years and few of the dispatchers on duty knew who I was. This led to them calling around to see if anyone knew who I was.
Plainclothes vs. Concealed Carry
These encounters have made me strive to keep my gun as concealed as possible, while still keeping it accessible. It’s also made me realize there’s a difference between a plainclothes gun and a concealed carry firearm. The first is casually concealed from view with little consequence if it’s seen, while the other needs to be hidden until it’s needed for defense.
Although I’m partial to my custom modified Glock 19 (I’ve mentioned it in many of my articles), there are times when it just won’t do. I shoot the gun well, I use it to teach classes and it feels right in my hand, but as size efficient as it is for a gun that holds 16 rounds of 9 mm ammo, it’s sometimes too big and fat for concealed carry. This is particularly true in hot weather.
The obvious solution would be to acquire a Glock 26, which is the more compact Glock 9 mm pistol. But does it really solve my problem? After all, the G26 is the same width as the G19, but it’s a half inch shorter in length and a half inch shorter in height. But if I have to add a pinky extension on the bottom of the magazine to give my hand a more solid grip, then I’ve accomplished very little.
What I need is a gun that isn’t only smaller, but also flatter so that it can be easily concealed under the lightest of clothing. I also want to have a trigger that’s as close to my G19 as possible because I don’t want to reeducate my index finger. I want to be able to transition from one gun to the other without giving it a lot of thought. Why does this matter? It matters because trigger control is weapon control. Whatever the index/trigger finger does, the rest of the hand will follow in sympathetic movement. Trying to separate the index finger from the rest of the hand is contrary to how the hand is designed to work, making trigger control the most difficult of shooting skills to master. I like the G19 because of its short, easy-to-work trigger and I want its deep concealment counterpart to have the same trigger. But this is easier said than done.
The Walther PPS
Even though sub-compact 9 mm pistols are common these days, most are double-action only: They have a long trigger for every stroke, making index finger isolation difficult at best. After searching the field for available pistols, I found the Walther PPS to be the closest to my cherished Glock 19.
After field stripping the gun, I noted the striker fired trigger system was almost identical to the Glock, but the feel of the action was quite different. After detail stripping the PPS, I found that the internal parts appeared to be stampings, which are fairly standard in current firearms construction. However, the trigger components were “rough,” so I sent the gun to Templar Custom Arms and asked them to polish the action to see if it could be improved. It’s amazing what a bit of TLC could do for the PPS. As a side note, even though I sent the gun to a gunsmith for the work (always a good idea, if possible), I think the Walther’s action can be improved by anyone who’s a trained Glock armorer. The Walther does come apart differently than a Glock, but it isn’t remarkably different—it’s merely a few pins that hold the action in place.
I now have what I consider to be a slim companion to my standard Glock carry gun. The Walther is tall in profile, but it’s also very flat. This makes the gun easy to conceal, particularly in light summer clothing, such as shorts and t-shirts. I carry the gun in a simple, black nylon IWB rig from Blackhawk, which I find both comfortable and easy to access. I don’t shoot the Walther to the same level as my G19, but I shoot it well enough to save my own life and I feel much more confident with the Walther than I do with one of the small pocket .380 pistols that are currently popular.
It’s important to remember why we carry concealed handguns. They aren’t a fashion statement. They’re a tool of personal security. Ask yourself: If you were caught in the middle of a slaughter in progress, like the Trolley Square Mall incident, would you feel confident that your concealed carry gun would allow you to stop the killing of innocents? I asked myself this same question when I trained with my Walther PPS—and in the end, my answer was yes!
Dave Spaulding was the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year. A 28-year law enforcement veteran who retired at the rank of lieutenant, and then went to work for a federal security contractor. Dave currently runs his own training company that focuses on the combative application of the handgun. His website, www.handguncombatives.com, contains information on his courses. His blog “The Combative Mind” can be reached at www.davespaulding.com.