Concealed carry can come in many forms that fits you best, and when you are starting to carry for the first time, there can be much to learn. Further, with all the various products and terms in the wild, it can be a bit tricky to navigate everything concealed carry related and/or what people are talking about when it comes to online articles or even in your local gunshops. Here is a quick guide to easily look up terms and have a better understanding of what in the heck is going on when it comes to carrying a concealed handgun! Let's jump into some of the most used terms we see regularly.
I get a ton of questions about carrying a handgun and the various ways we can do that regularly. There are several ways that people can carry as well as what permits mean for various states. It's always a good idea to understand the various terms for legal reasons since states can have specific rules for both open carrying as well as concealed carry. Here are some basic explanations for each term.
Concealed carry- When we talk about carrying concealed or anything concealed carry, it really means to carry a firearm that is completely out of view to the general public. People going throughout their day have no idea someone has a firearm on their person, if its properly concealed which is the general idea. In most cases, being properly concealed means having at least one cover layer over your firearm whether it's a shirt, coat or cover garment. Your firearm shouldn't be visible even slightly from any angle while carrying concealed.
Open carry- Open carrying is almost the complete opposite of carrying a concealed firearm. In most states your firearm has to be clearly visible with no cover of any kind over the handgun. The point of open carry is to have your firearm visible to the general public. Some states allow this even with our a permit. The downside to this is the fact everyone sees your firearm
Concealed Carry Permit- Acquiring a permit oftentimes means taking a class as well as being trained at the range in order to earn a certification. Once you have taken the necessary steps to earn a permit, you will be legally allowed to carry a concealed handgun in your state along with any other states that have reciprocity with your home state. For more information, you can reference a reciprocity map, like the USCCA's here: https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/resources/ccw_reciprocity_map/
When it comes to talking about holsters, there are a number of different styles as well as variations that can get rather confusing to someone who's never carried a gun before. Below is a list of terms when it comes to holsters and what you need to know.
IWB- IWB holsters mean "Inside The Waistband" holsters. These holsters have a clip on the outside that will latch onto your belt or pants line. These style holsters will actually ride on the inside of your waistline making it much easier to conceal than having it outside your pants. No matter what time of year, having the majority of your firearm inside your waistband with a quality holster, is one of the easiest ways to conceal a firearm but depending on the size of the firearm, it may not be the most comfortable option for certain body types.
AIWB- When it comes to the term AIWB, this means "Appendix Inside The Waistband" holsters which is a variation of a holster trucked in your pants. Appendix refers to the holster being placed up front in your pelvic region for an easy draw and quickly presenting the firearm. However for some, the position of this holster placement can be challenging to comfortably conceal a firearm, so practicing this method is a great idea.
Strong Side Carry- Another common reference when talking about carrying a concealed handgun is talking about "Strong Side Carry". This just refers to you carrying on the same side as your dominant hand. For the vast majority of people, this would be the right side since they are right-handed. This will be anywhere from on their hip to just behind their hip in the 3-4 o'clock position; For left-handed folks, they would carry on their left side but its the same side as your dominant hand.
OWB- When people talk about OWB holsters, they are referring to "Outside The Waistband" holsters. These would be anything that is outside of the pants, either secured by a belt mount or paddle-style mount (which slips into your waistline but the actual firearm stays outside). Most find this is a more comfortable carry position, since nothing is against your actual skin but can be more difficult to conceal with a shirt or light cover garment. "Outside The Waistband" carry is great for those colder/winter months where your handgun can easily be covered by a thick jacket or sweatshirt.
Kydex- If you start reading any articles about holsters for carrying concealed, there's a good chance they will bring up the term Kydex in their explanation. Kydex is a pliable plastic-like polymer that can be modeled to a pistol's shape for excellent protection as well as a sturdy long-lasting holster. Kydex holsters are usually ready to go with no break-in period (compared to leather holsters which can have a lengthy break-in period) and they do not require too much maintenance besides basic cleaning. They do not wear out quickly, typically will last longer than traditional leather holsters, and can be an affordable option.
Wing/ Claw Attachments- When it comes to concealed carry, there are a number of products out there that can assist a person with concealing their handgun better than just a traditional holster. Various add-ons can do wonders for making a slightly larger handgun easier to conceal with fewer layers. A wing or claw attachment goes onto an existing holster or you can order holsters with these attachments. They are designed to push your waistband out slightly more than a traditional holster clip. The "Claw" attachment will push out your waistband to help conceal the grip of your handgun better, so there's less likely a chance of a mark on your shirt that could give away you're carrying a concealed handgun.
Printing- Another fairly common term used in the gun community is called "Printing". This term refers to someone having a mark or disruption in their clothing. Something like the grip of your handgun will show up if you're just wearing a shirt and can oftentimes give away the fact you're carrying a firearm. We want to avoid showing any marks or disruptions on our cover garment to make it look as natural as possible. When carrying, make sure your holsters and apparel can easily conceal your handgun so there's no part of your handgun printing onto your shirt and revealing you have a firearm.
Other Good Terms To Know
Flagging- The term "Flagging" refers to anyone pointing a firearm or sweeping the muzzle across someone when the gun is either loaded or unloaded. The number one rule of firearms safety is treating every weapon as if it were loaded. Having the muzzle point at someone even for a brief moment is completely unacceptable as well as unsafe so it's very important to never point the muzzle of a firearm at someone and "Flag" them.
Irons- When someone talks about "Irons" the vast majority of the time, they are talking about shooting with the standard iron sights and nothing else. When people talk about irons versus red dot, they are talking about using the traditional three-dot or standard iron sights on a pistol rather than using any battery-powered electronic aiming device. Iron sights will come on almost every single factory pistol sold unless it's a specialized pistol for competition or something else. The vast majority of pistols will come with iron sights and the term "irons" is what they are referring to in those cases.
Red Dots- When people talk about "Red Dots", they are talking about aftermarket, electronic aiming devices that project a red circular dot onto a piece of glass that allows people to shoot accurately without lining up sights. Shooting with a red dot sight is becoming very common in the gun community, and most relay that the red dot allows them to pick up their visual sight/aiming quicker versus iron sighs; but this is all on preference.
The vast majority of people in the gun community are incredibly helpful and will usually help explain terms that new shooters may have questions on. When you're reading articles either here or on other websites, or listening to podcasts or videos, it can sometimes be difficult to understand exactly what everyone is talking about, which is why we decided to make up this list for y'all! There are some terms not mentioned in this article, and we welcome anyone to comment them below. If you have questions about a term or are curious about anything, be sure to shoot us a message. Stay safe out there, and stay "Fully Loaded"!