While it may not be this obvious, printing even a little can spell bad news.
Printing is a real pain in the bum. If you're not familiar with the term, printing occurs when you attempt to conceal your gun, but your concealment garment just isn't enough. Sometimes it's too tight. Other times, the gun might be too big. The weapon is technically concealed, but you can easily tell that the person is armed. One of my favorite games is to play Spot the Concealed Carrier.
It's a game I play to help maintain my situational awareness. I look around and observe people and try to decipher if they're packing a mohaska or not. I'm not following people through the mall or grocery store, but as I pass or wait in line behind or in front of someone, I try to determine if they're packing.
First, I observe everyone, but to become a contestant on Spot the Concealed Carrier, you need to have a few outward tells. First and foremost, what are you wearing? A lot of times, guys in Black Rifle Coffee shirts are prime targets for the game. The same goes for all manner of military, first responder, and similarly themed gear. The biggest tell that someone is carrying a gun often starts with t-shirts sporting logos or emblems of firearm manufacturers or accessory manufacturers. Tribal tats on the arms are also a strong hint, but not a guarantee with the ever-increasing popularity of tattoos.
I have a Blue Force gear shirt that's super comfy but would make me a contestant in the printing game. I often also look for pocket knives and multitools. Prepared people are typically prepared for most situations. Now you've gained the second look where I see if you're printing.
I look at the waist, or if there is a jacket, under the shoulder. Around the waist, I'm looking for lumps and bulges, especially behind the hip. If one arm is closer to the body than the other, I assume a gun is sitting under your armpit in a shoulder holster. I also look at pockets, and if you aren't using a pocket holster, your gun prints like crazy.
I've gotten pretty good at this game. Now, I don't care if you're carrying. In fact, I cheer you on. I like knowing I'm not the only good guy with a gun. However, if I can train myself to look for guns, so can other people, and some of those people are likely not good people. We conceal for a reason, and if we can enhance concealment, then shouldn't we? Let's talk about how to avoid printing.
First and foremost, you need a good holster designed to be concealed. There are lots of great holsters out there, but they aren't made for concealment. A lot of OWB holsters are designed for open carry or for duty carry, and they are purposefully large and pushed off the body and very difficult to conceal.
You want something that clings tight to the body while still presenting a safe and efficient draw. A holster built to be concealed will often allow you to carry IWB or AIWB to enhance concealment even more. You can prevent printing by just choosing the right holster and this will make you a more effective concealed carrier.
Different carry positions and holsters also conceal differently. For a lot of people concealing a Glock 17, or heck, even a Glock 19 in an OWB holster can be tough. Their body type might not allow you it regardless of how good the holster conceals.
With that said, you might need to consider a different carry position or style. To avoid printing without ditching the gun, you're comfortable with. You might need to switch it up to appendix carry. AIWB typically allows you to carry a bigger gun with less printing. You need to find the right holster, gun, and position combo for you to minimize concealment.
Belts play a big role in helping you conceal your firearm. If the belt is too loose or unsupported, the holster may bend outwards and away from the body, which creates a bulge and therefore creates printing.
A good belt also enhances comfort. If you're comfortable carrying, you are more likely to forget you have a gun on your hip. If you're uncomfortable, you're likely to fiddle with it, adjust it, and keep playing with it. That's another dead-on tell that you're a concealed carrier. Touching your weapon constantly will draw attention to it. It's a different kind of printing, and it's worth noticing.
Also, it might be handy to avoid athletic fit shirts. If your shirt is a little too tight, it's easy for it to form around the grip of your gun, and boom, you're printing. You don't have to dress in bowler shirts or baggy messes, but observe how your clothes fit and how they fall. Sometimes it can be tricky to find a fit that works but is often worth the investment and search.
Play the printing game if you get a chance. You might be surprised at how quickly you get adept at spotting concealed carriers. You might also be pleased to know how many kindred spirits are out there. It will also help you realize how easy you can be 'made' and hopefully help you take steps to reduce printing and enhance the concealment of your weapon and makes you a better concealed carrier.
If you need some help with holsters and belts, I might know where you can find a few….
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.
He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.
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