There and Back Again: My Carry Journey
Those of you who have been following my articles know that I’m a passionate competitive shooter, but it’s not where I started. Although I learned to shoot guns out of curiosity, I quickly gravitated to the defensive shooting discipline on the theory that, now that I knew a little about guns, I would feel pretty silly if I somehow got in a situation where a gun might be helpful and I didn’t know how to use it to defend myself.
As a small woman with a job and evening classes that started skirting the edges of what I knew were potential danger areas, I felt that having the equalizing force of a gun was important. It wasn’t so much that I thought of life as dangerous, but it seemed like a good idea to not stop at being halfway to the option of deadly force.
My first centerfire pistol was a carry gun – a Kahr P9 Covert. I got lucky and the first serious holster I bought was also the holster I stuck with for all of those years: a Milt Sparks Versa Max II. In the time before Smith & Wesson M&P Shields and the pocket-.380s flooding the market, I thought of my Kahr as the most concealable option available.
I spent a lot of time with that gun: classes, carry, even a few local outlaw pistol matches because I had nowhere else to practice my beginner’s draw stroke. I learned I was a pretty terrible shooter once the pressure was on. Having a gun with me wasn’t enough if I couldn’t also use it effectively, so I bought a trainer – a full size gun with a similar heavy, double action only trigger (my first SIG, in fact, a P226 DAK) to use in classes and competition. It was still hard to shoot but at least it didn’t beat up my hands.
After becoming convinced that fundamentals and mechanics would both be easier to master with a gun that was more forgiving, and that those skills would transfer to my little Kahr, I started competing with a polymer, striker-fired gun. My shooting did improve, and that did make me a better shooter with my carry gun, enough that I became confident enough to switch to a smaller gun that I could conceal in more restrictive environments. While I kept my P9 Covert, I went through a few .380 pocket guns that I carried IWB (inside the waistband).
After a few years, I went back to my P9 Covert because I became increasingly comfortable that I could hide it well. Turns out that dressing around the natural lumps on my body wasn’t much different from dressing around the extra bulk of the gun. In nearly nine years of carry, I went full circle to the same gun and holster I started with.
As my choice of carry guns evolved, I was continuing to become a more serious shooter. While I strongly believe that being prepared for self-defense is about far more than the gun, I come back to the idea that if I choose to carry as a lethal force option, then I must be effective with my gun. After spending most of 2015 with more time behind one specific gun than ever before, I learned that while my competition results were improving tremendously, my ability to shoot my carry gun wasn’t up to my new standards.
Unlike when I matched my Kahr to a SIG DAK trigger to have a full-size and carry-size set, my P320 competition gun already has several smaller set-ups available. I went to the smallest one, the Subcompact. With a change in carry position, to off-side appendix, and a custom holster from my long-time friend and sponsor at PHLster, I found that I could indeed comfortably conceal a slim double-stack gun, one that I can shoot almost on par with my competition gun.
So after nearly a decade of carry, I’m back where I started: a gun I can conceal, with a matching full size gun for training and competition, with a quality holster. I’ve fortunately never been in a situation where I felt that I needed my gun for defensive purposes, but I am now more confident than ever that I have an effective option should the need arise.