Choosing a spot to carry your gun is almost as important as the gun you carry. When it comes to choosing a concealed carry location, the ideal place for you is where ever you have easy access to at the time.
I know that kind of sounds confusing, but one location isn’t an end all be all for carrying a gun.
Being able to access your gun quickly depends on the situation, the place you’re in, and what you are wearing. What I mean is, if you are in a vehicle and have to draw your weapon, would it be easier to access your CCW if it was on your hip versus at the 6 position?
If you are wearing clothing that’s more form-fitting, it’s harder to hide a concealed carry weapon. In these cases, you might want to look into an off body carry. While the most common place is on your hip or by your kidney, take a look at some of the other options as we go through and see if they may be better for you depending on your day-to-day activities.
We’re going to cover 9 of the most essential carrying positions and our favorite holster for each. If you’d like more choices once you narrow down your position, check out Best Holsters.
Around The Clock: 1, 3, and 4-6 O’Clock
Carry positions around the waist are usually referred to by the location on a clock face. For example, if you’re carrying on a hip, this would be referred to as the 3 o’clock position. That being said, all of these positions have two options.
Option 1: Outside Waistband (OWB) Carry
There different levels of holsters for your OWB carry depending on where along your body you are going to carry. The 3-9 o’clock positions are where you’ll usually see an OWB holster.
IWB is probably the most common concealed carry choice. Because it’s inside your waistband, you can get holsters that allow for you to tuck in your shirt which hides the weapon even more.
Placing the holster and weapon inside your waistband lets you carry at pretty much any position around your waist. This opens up the door for an appendix carry, which is in front of your hips and off to one side. The appendix carry offers a very quick draw, but if you have a larger weapon, it can make it uncomfortable to sit or squat.
A belly band is an ideal carry option for those of you who don’t have a belt. This could be your wearing basketball shorts, or you are out running and don’t have the option for a belt or off-body carry.
At first, I wasn’t too sold on a belly band. To be honest, it kind of reminded me of a girdle. However, they’re surprisingly comfortable especially if you have a smaller concealed carry gun. If your gun is a little heavier, like a compact or a subcompact with a double stack magazine, it might not be the easiest weapon of choice to wear when being active.
If you have a smaller gun, like a bodyguard 380 or an LCP, you can easily wear a belly band and have your full range of motion and an easily accessible CCW in case your life is threatened.
To ankle carry your CCW, you’ll need a specialized holster. Typically these holsters have some sort of fur inside, often rabbit fur. The holster is securely attached is around your ankle and lower calf. Obviously, you’ll have to wear pants that are a little looser fitting when choosing an ankle carry.
The ankle carry option offers you a unique opportunity. It frees up your shirt choice to anything you’d like, and you don’t have to have a belt either.
Another benefit of an ankle carry is that if somebody comes up from behind and knocks you down, it’s much easier to reach for your ankle in many cases than it is to grab a gun that’s behind you in the 4 or 5 o’clock position. It’s also less likely that someone will try and grab your gun from you if they see it.
Carrying your CCW in your pocket is another common option. Many of the smaller guns like a .380 or .22 will fit easily along with a holster into a front pocket. Well, the draw it is a little trickier, you can carry a weapon in many more circumstances than you might have with an IWB carry.
If you think a pocket carry option is right for you, look into some of the holsters available. Many times there are generic holsters that fit a specific caliber or shape weapon.
These holsters have a stickier material on the outside of the holster and a slicker material on the inside to make the draw quicker. Something to practice with a pocket draw is pulling out just the gun and not the holster and the gun then needing to remove it from the holster before you can use it.
I’m sure you’ve seen a shoulder harness before on TV. Many times detectives, police, and government agents will have a single or dual shoulder rig. This puts the weapon on the opposing side of your body because you’ll have to draw across your body.
So if you’re right handed your shoulder rig will put the gun on the left side of your body that way you reach into your coat or shirt or whatever the case, and draw the weapon. This can be an extremely quick draw, but it’s very obvious draw as well.
Some bras are made with holsters built in. Some fit more like a standard bra with the holster typically situated between and under the breasts, while others fit like a sports bra with the holster on the side, under the arm. There are also specialty holsters that can be affixed to most regular bras, though many multipurpose holsters with loops will also work with most bras.
The quickest access holsters have the gun horizontal below the bra. This allows you to pull up your shirt a little, reach up, and draw the weapon quickly. There are videos from manufacturers showing a pretty consistent 1.6-second draw and shoot times from under various style shirts.
This carry option is predominantly used by women but is an underrated choice for men as well. While most people think of thigh carry with skirts or dresses, it can also work with loose shorts.
A thigh carry holster is meant for a smaller weapon like a 380. You could probably get away with small 9mm, but it would depend on the weapon. In most cases, thigh holsters are used because there’s no pockets or firm waistband. Using a thigh holster also keeps the weapon on you, unlike an off the body carry in a purse or something similar.
Off the body carry options are plentiful and have their own set of considerationsand training needed to use them successfully. When you have a weapon in something like a backpack, you need to keep that backpack on or near you at all times. Otherwise, it’s like setting your gun on a counter and walking away.
Specially made binders or art portfolios that have concealed carry provisions.
For me, I consider having a gun in your center console or glove box to be in off the body carry as well. You don’t want to just toss a non-holstered weapon in your glove box because you never know what will happen. If you have some way to mount a holster into your glove box or console, it’s much more preferable.
Choosing where to carry is a personal preference. If you like an ankle carry or OWB, go for it. There’s no need to be uncomfortable just to make sure you have a gun on you, there are a lot of options. You can try a few to see what works best for your daily activities.
Are you a jogger? Then I’d recommend a belly band and a small 9mm or 380. They are light and comfortable. Do you wear a suit with a jacket all day? How about out a shoulder harness, ankle holster or a horizontal OWB holster at the 6 o’clock position?
The place you carry isn’t as important as the fact that you are carrying.
Cutting hard around a corner, empty real estate appears between Kenda Lenseigne and mother earth. She floats in midair, held into her stirrups solely by the G-forces in the turn. Like a motorcycle rider leaning into a corner, she banks hard in order to explode out the other side of the barrel to fire at the next target.
Story by Robin Taylor
Photographs by David Mechin, Douglas Smith, Kristen Daulton and J2 Photography
All the shooting sports have unusual athletes. Call them champions, or even stars. Among the stars you find greats that do more than win. They change the sport. Kenda Lenseigne grew beyond star status some time ago, becoming part of the cultural bedrock of mounted shooting. In the course of winning multiple titles on the national and world stage, Lenseigne transformed the guns, the gear, even the saddles used by the current generation of riders/shooters.
“If you had asked me 16 years ago if I thought I could do this full time I wouldn’t have said yes,” says Lenseigne. “Who would have known work would be something you love so much?”
Today Lenseigne is both “making a living” and “living a message” of responsible firearm use that opens doors worldwide. As a trainer, shooter, rider, and ambassador for the shooting sports there is a lot to be said for Kenda Lenseigne.
I caught up with Lenseigne at her New River, Ariz., home, freshly returned from an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) night event in Scottsdale (the Sun Circuit Championship). Like most people, I’d always assumed that mounted shooting was primarily regulated by the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) – the major governing body for cowboy-style events. Not true!
Physical conditioning and plain old toughness play a role in mounted shooting, as the risk of falling is ever-present. “There’s a saying in the horse world that says ‘green horse, green rider usually equals black and blue.’” Lenseigne explained that “even if someone is a great rider in other disciplines, the scenario changes when you start to shoot off of a horse for the first time.”
Mounted shooters and SASS “ground shooters” have very different needs, and when Lenseigne started shooting in 1998, the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) had just branched out from SASS. Since then, the two organizations have followed different roads. The most visible difference being CMSA’s decision to eliminate SASS’ long-standing costume requirements.
“Dropping the costume requirement changed everything,” says Lenseigne. “That one decision opened up the sport to the broader riding world,” says Lenseigne. “Suddenly we had better horses, better riders, and it became a lot less expensive to participate.”
Sponsors like Wrangler took an interest, and people started taking “mounted” seriously. The result was a modern rodeo sport akin to barrel racing – with guns. Horse and rider charge through a rodeo-corral-sized course of fire, circling around and through a proscribed pattern of plastic barrels at maximum speed. At intervals, the rider breaks target balloons using a blank-firing single-action revolver. With as many as 10 balloons in play, the shooter must switch from one pistol to another at full gallop. It happens fast, and at Lenseigne’s level, if you miss one balloon, you lose.
Now that the American Quarter Horse Association recognizes mounted shooting as an official event and the growth of the sport overseas, the future for mounted shooting appears very bright. (J2 PHOTOGRAPHY)
“If you are too far away, the black powder granules burn up before hitting the target, and if you’re too close, once in a while the pattern will have a hole in the middle. The balloon will literally just wave at you. It’s happened to me several times.” Lenseigne continued, “You have to trust yourself to hold off a little bit. If you relate it to bird hunting, you want to wait for the bird to be at an optimum distance. Shooting it too soon leads to a bad result, and so does waiting too long.”
Flying through an agility course atop a galloping charger isn’t “normal” horseback riding. Barrel racers aren’t quite as crazy as, say, rodeo bull riders, but the pictures with this article show a little bit of what Lenseigne’s horses can do. I mentioned to Lenseigne that my aunt was a barrel racer, and she shot back with “Then, she’s crazy like us!”
This year Lenseigne made her fourth trip to France to serve as an ambassador/trainer for the growing community of Western shooting enthusiasts there. European mounted fans are overcoming some gun-control requirements – using cap-and-ball revolvers if they have to – in order to shoot from horseback.
The following year, Lenseigne was asked to teach a clinic – and France had eased its gun restrictions so she was able to use a revolver. “People started showing up with all manner of crazy stuff. They were just so happy to be there, it was infectious,” she says. “Last year, even more showed up, some with modified .357 revolvers.”
Some European riders are bringing their dream to learn all there is to know about the mounted shooting and cowboy lifestyle all the way to the United States just to compete.
New Sport New Gear
Back in the late 1990s, Lenseigne and her fellow riders had no gear that really worked for mounted-action shooting. Some things could be adapted (barrel racing saddles, for example), but most of the “gun stuff” was just wrong. Imagine trying to re-holster a SAA (single-action Army Colt revolver or Peacemaker) one-handed while using a period-correct “slim jim” holster (a holster with a very narrow girth) at full gallop. It’s not quite like threading a needle, but you get the idea.
“We had people walking around with water bottles stuffed in their holsters to get them to stay open,” says Lenseigne. “I was one of them!”
The problem became an opportunity when Lenseigne met Safariland’s Scott Carnahan at the NRA’s Bianchi Cup in Colombia, Mo. The holster innovations that practical shooters like Carnahan take for granted – low-cut fronts for faster draws, laminated holster materials, adjustable draw tension – all that was unknown to the mounted community.
Carnahan connected Lenseigne with his design staff, and their Bianchi Cowboy line has offered Kenda Lenseigne signature holsters ever since. Lenseigne’s line takes advantage of the technology that Safariland is known for, but holds the standard of a traditional look and feel. “It’s like an old model car with a new engine.”
The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association branched off from the Single Action Shooting Society in the 1990s and has since become its own regulated event series. CMSA does not have costume requirements like SASS, and many feel this is the aspect that helped the sport to grow even faster.
“When you look at the products I’ve been involved in developing, people essentially are benefiting from my decade of learning the hard way,” laughed Lenseigne. As she explained, it’s difficult to shoot a standard Peacemaker well right out of the box due to the stiff hammer action. Competitive shooters immediately lighten the hammers. “When I first started in the sport, I had heard about the legendary Bob Munden who was the go-to gunsmith, so I sent him my guns. When I got them back, $300 per gun later, I had hair triggers – which is absolutely not what you want for mounted shooting.” Once Lenseigne found the right gunsmiths, her mounted guns began to evolve. “The original hammer spur on the old Peacemaker tends to open your grip when you’re shooting one-handed,” Lenseigne explained. “So, we took that hammer spur and made it lower and wider for quicker access.” Today, Uberti firearms offers the Kenda Lenseigne signature line as a package “racegun” for mounted shooting. They sell well to mounted shooters, and to “ground shooters” who compete in SASS events.
The Mountain Comes to Mohammed
Certain brands have become household words among horse people in the US. One of the largest is Circle Y Saddles.
“In January of ‘09, Circle Y contacted me to design a saddle for them, saying ‘We want to be the first in the industry that builds a saddle specifically for your sport.’” Lenseigne was shocked. What an honor! “This is the saddle brand that practically everybody grew up riding, or at least wanting to ride. Basically, if you own a horse, you know Circle Y.”
Lenseigne had ridden many different disciplines over the years, so she had a lot to say.
Like miniature shotguns, Lenseigne’s blank-firing pistols throw a “pattern” of burning black-powder granules to break the balloon, but those granules burn up at a distance of just 20 feet. Optimally, the rider wants to engage at 8 to 10 feet.
“They sent out their designer to visit with me, and we sat down with a yellow pad. We sketched out what I thought would be a good design for the sport: a forward-tilted horn to allow clearance for your gun leather, free-moving stirrups, and a deep seat to hold you in.” A contract to ride for Circle Y developed, and things got very serious. “They hand-delivered the prototype to one of the CMSA majors in Arizona. They put it on my horse, did a photo shoot, and then gave me the option to ride it in the upcoming event, or ride my regular saddle.” As any sponsored competitor knows, running brand-new gear at an important match invites disaster. If it works, you’re a hero. If it fails you damage yourself and the brand. It’s a high-stakes “hero or zero” gamble.
“I warmed up my horse in the saddle for about 45 minutes, liked it, and decided the time was right to believe in my design and go for it.” Lenseigne set the world record on her first pass, and her saddle design went “hero” instantly. “The design was a hit from day one; we’ve only made some minor changes since then – different grades of leather, etc.,” she says. Not every project has worked out so well, but as she’ll tell you “you can’t excel unless you fail a time or two and learn from your experiences.”
“(Kenda’s) had an amazing impact on the mounted shooting world,” says Ken Amorosano, former publisher of Western Shooting Horse, and current publisher of Cowgirl and True West. “She became a role model for hundreds of girls that wanted to be just like her, and she’s never let them down.” (KRISTEN DAULTON)
Lenseigne’s life involves many pieces. She describes herself as “horse-heavy at the moment” with six of her own quarter horses in varying stages of training, plus several more that she’s training for customers. As you might imagine, training a horse to deal with a gunshot fired near its head isn’t easy, and would-be competitive riders are more than willing to pay her for her help. Lenseigne’s involved with every piece of the puzzle, firing .22 blanks from horseback on her home range, and taking horses to the Ben Avery Shooting Complex to shoot the louder .45s.
“For me the most important thing is building the horse’s confidence to accept the noise of gunfire. People send their horses to me for that.”
Once she gets the horse settled in, she insists on spending time training the rider. “I can train the horse and he’ll be ready to go, but if the rider doesn’t know what buttons to push, that won’t work for either of us.”
Lenseigne explained that even a moderately experienced rider can accidentally send the horse mixed signals – especially with all the distractions created by adding guns and rapid balance shifts to the equation.
“Had I not been an experienced rider, I certainly would have hit the ground more times than I can count,” says Lenseigne. In the Internet age, Lenseigne’s an irony in motion. She’s competing, training, designing, traveling the world, and doing media appearances – all because of her skill with a horse and a gun. ASJ
David Mechin is a French photographer whose ability to capture Kenda Lenseigne in these images portrays his passion for his field and depiction of beauty, power and dynamism. See more of his work at davidmechin.com.