Carrying a gun during a road trip can be a difficult task without the right gear. There’s the poking and jabbing, the stiffness and pressure on your hip or back. Let's be honest: no one wants to spend hours in a vehicle with a chunk of metal digging into soft tissue or bones.
However, with the right holster – and the right gun – it is absolutely doable. How do I know? I’ve taken quite a few road trips holstered up, the most recent being a cross-country move.
If I can spend twenty hours of driving time wearing my gun, so can you.
Before we get into holsters, let’s take a minute to cover guns. Finding the perfect gun to carry concealed during a road trip isn’t quite the same as choosing one for working on the range. That’s not to say you can’t use your pocket pistol or full-size 1911, only to suggest you consider how it's being used.
There’s a little of which-comes-first in this process: the carry position or the gun. The gun should definitely come first. Just as with any carry gun, the pistol you use to defend yourself on a road trip must be reliable, accurate, and a good fit for you.
Since it’s going to be concealed most if not all of the time, it also should be small enough to conceal. Do keep in mind you can indeed conceal a full-size gun. For my cross-country move, I carried my Glock 48. As much as I love greater capacity, the slimline design of the G48 combined with its larger size made it ideal for my situation. There’s also the fact it’s ridiculously precise and has proven itself to be highly reliable.
The decision of where to carry is a personal one but remember, it needs to be comfortable and accessible. If you’ve been carrying at the small of your back – first of all, quit that – you’ll find it doesn't work when driving long distances (or short ones, frankly).
I find I can carry strong side hip on a road trip although I tend to prefer AIWB (Appendix Inside the Waistband). Remember, this isn’t only about comfort it’s about your gun not being pinned between your body and some part of the car.
Choose wisely and be prepared to make concessions as needed.
Whether you’re flying or driving, you must know the laws of every state you’ll be in when traveling. When I mapped out my move from Wisconsin to Texas, I took the time to look up handgun laws for every state we’d drive through. This means it isn't only about knowing the laws for carrying in your vehicle.
You need to know the laws related to carry when you leave the car, say for gas or a hotel, and find out if your concealed carry permit is honored in that particular state. Reciprocity varies somewhat wildly; the only reason I’m typically covered when traveling is that I have more than one concealed carry permit. It isn’t foolproof, though.
Gun laws in the state of Illinois are less than friendly. The Land of Lincoln does not recognize any other state’s concealed carry permit. According to 430 III. Comp. Stat. § 66/10(c) – the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act – firearms may only be carried in a vehicle by those with an Illinois CCL. Non-residents are allowed to carry a loaded, concealed handgun in their car if they possess a valid concealed carry permit from their home state.
But there’s a catch. Under no circumstances can that non-resident leave the vehicle with the gun. Prior to exiting the truck, I was legally obligated to lock the gun in a case. I handled it by getting through Illinois as quickly as possible and staying in my truck. That may not be an option for everyone, so you've got to be prepared for every scenario.
In Illinois, there is technically not a duty to inform a LEO you possess a handgun and the permit to go with it…until they ask. If they ask, you need to tell them and you’d better be able to produce that permit. Furthermore, the LEO is legally allowed to secure your firearm for the duration of the contact.
Don’t fight with a cop over whether or not they’re allowed to secure your gun during a traffic stop, guys. It isn’t worth it.
You also need to know if gun-free signs have force of law in the state you’re in. After all, you’re probably going to stop and eat. In Illinois, they do; in Kansas, they do not (I chose Kansas because I drove through that state on the same trip). Even better, Kansas is a shall-issue, constitutional carry state. Anyone over the age of 21 who is not prohibited from carrying may go ahead and carry a gun openly or concealed in a car or out of a car.
Here’s where a word I use a lot in relation to gun ownership comes into play: responsibility. It is your responsibility as a gun owner and as someone carrying for self-defense purposes to know and adhere to the firearms laws wherever you are. Claiming ignorance is not a valid defense if you break the law. Know the law. Stick to the law. Simple.
Entirely by coincidence, I carried my Glock 48 in a variety of CrossBreed holsters for the duration of my cross-country drive. Although I own a lot of holsters – heavy emphasis on a lot – CrossBreed holsters have been the best so far for this gun.
The SuperTuck allowed me to conceal the G48 on my strong-side hip and, in fact, even concealed the gun well enough for me to wear slim-fitting tank tops and skinny jeans with it. The SnapSlide is an OWB – Outside the WaistBand – holster and I used it for comfort, throwing a hoodie on when I needed to exit the truck. As for the Reckoning, it’s good for AIWB.
Could I have used just one holster for the entire trip? Of course, but considering my bad hip awaiting surgery and the twenty-hour duration of a slow drive towing a U-Haul, rotating them was wise.
Rotating holsters will allow you to give your body a break.
However, the thing about rotating holsters is that you should practice with any and all holsters you use for carry. Never throw on a new-to-you holster and waltz out the door. You need to spend time familiarizing yourself with the retention, placement, and draw stroke of every holster before you put it on.
If you don’t do holster work but you’re walking around carrying a gun, this is your “for shame” moment.
Do holster work. It isn't optional.
Taking a road trip while carrying a gun requires a great deal more time and thought than just walking out the door and getting in your car. By the time I made my move to Texas I’d already spent time working with all the holsters – and the gun – and looked up related laws for every single state I’d enter. I understood the pitfalls of certain carry methods and tried to work within those limitations so I had a set plan in mind in case various situations took place (if X then Y, if A then B).
Fall is upon us and with it come the holidays and family events of the season. You’ll be traveling and odds are good a lot of it will involve driving. Be a responsible gun owner and concealed carrier. Make it work for you, know the laws, select a quality holster, and practice. That practice includes drawing while seated in the car, by the way. If you’ve never done that you have a massive gap in your training.
Get to it and be ready when the next road trip comes up. Enjoy the ride, but enjoy it safe and armed.
About the Author:
Kat Ainsworth covers everything from self-defense to hunting and beyond. As an outdoor writer, Field Editor for Bonnier’s Range 365, and freelancer for a wide array of industry publications, her articles are popular with both firearms enthusiasts and the gun curious alike. She has been carrying concealed for fifteen years, hunting for over twenty, and has yet to come across a firearm she didn’t want to test.
Kat will also add 'author' to her resume when her book, Handgun Hunting, drops with Skyhorse Publishing this fall.
When she isn’t enjoying the nomadic side of her gun-centric lifestyle, she can be found doing yoga, drinking coffee, walking her dog Puck, or spending time with her daughter in their Holliday, TX home.