By Kjell Rosenberg MD, Rangemaster, NRA, USCCA instructor
A student recently asked me this question: What’s the best way to carry in your car? This is not at all a simple question to answer. And of course, I have a lot of opinions about the best way to do it but decided to look up some articles about the topic to see what other experts were saying. Not surprisingly, I found an excellent article written by Greg Ellifritz which I will be quoting and referring to below. I highly recommend you read that article in its entirety since it deals with a few issues that will not be discussed in this article.
One thing that you really must understand is the law in your own state. I know, we say that about everything. We do, but that’s because it is very important. Legal issues related to car carry vary greatly by state and whether or not that state requires a CCW or LTCH or other document that allows you the legal right to carry a handgun. As I am from Indiana and we have a License to Carry Handgun I will refer to all permits as a LTCH in this article for simplicity sake.
These issues include but are not limited to:
-Can the firearm be loaded in your car?
-Does the firearm need to be locked or otherwise out of immediate reach?
-Do you need to inform law enforcement of its presence if you are pulled over?
-Does your state recognize your vehicle as part of your home in its “castle doctrine?”
With the help of the Condition Red Response staff, I compiled this list of practical tips for the concealed carrier while in a vehicle:
1. Get your state’s required permission slip so that you can stay within the law if you need to use your firearm. The last thing you want is to need to use the firearm and then get arrested for illegal possession or some other infraction, because you did not possess the proper paperwork. Yes, yes, “should not be infringed.” I agree with you. But it is infringed and I’d rather pay the necessary taxes or fees to stay on the right side of the law than risk my freedom over illegal carry. I’ve heard this story first hand and read it in the news many times: “My associate had a firearm in the car but I ended up with it and I don’t have a LTCH….” There is a simple fix to that. I highly recommend that if you have a significant other or family member who carries a firearm that you also get a LTCH even if you don’t intend to carry– as you may be placed in a circumstance that you are required to possess their firearm. The law is not as forgiving, and attorney’s fees are not as cheap as you may like. For the remainder of the article I will give advice as though you possess a LTCH or are otherwise legally permitted to carry/conceal one.
2. In whichever way you decide to keep your handgun in the car it should not be loose and able to move freely about the cabin. As Greg so eloquently states: “The gun can cause you very serious problems if it is not attached to your body during the crash. Casually leaving a gun on the passenger seat, in the open console, or laying on the dashboard causes that weapon to fly around inside the passenger compartment like a missile during the impact energy transfer of a car crash.” (Ellifritz, 2019)
3. Some companies make holsters that attach to your vehicle. This is better than leaving it sitting on the seat next to you but it is still suboptimal. If for some reason you had to bail out quickly you might not have time or ability to take the gun with you. An accident might still knock the gun loose. It might be visible to those who might be looking into your car. You might be tempted to leave it stowed in the “car holster” when you get out to pump gas or perform actions in transitional spaces. And then there is number 4.
4. Minimize the need to remove the gun from its holster. Every draw and re-holster event is a risk point. We have previously discussed the inherent dangers of re-holstering and this risk increases in a context where you have limited mobility and visual contact with each piece of equipment involved. You don’t want to have to pass a loaded gun back and forth between your car holster and your carry holster every time you get in and out of the car. This advice is general advice and is not at all limited to vehicle carry.
5. It needs to be readily accessible. If you cannot use it to defend against the car jacker that suddenly appears in your window, it does you no good. Which leads me to 6.
6. Keep it on your person if at all possible. Quality, comfortable, accessible holsters are an absolute must for the serious self-defender. In his lecture about the history of firearms training which was presented in the Rangemaster Master Instructor development course, Tom Givens talked about how some of the holster styles and angles now available were designed to mitigate the inconvenience of sitting down with a duty firearm (Givens, 2020). The FBI cant is one such option. I’m not a huge fan of it since most of the time I’d prefer to be able to draw from a straight up and down vector.
7. Carry Position will make a huge difference in accessibility and comfort while in a car. Each position has pros and cons. You need to understand the pros and cons thoroughly to make this decision. In our course, Tier 3 Mechanics, we work in and around vehicles. Taking a course such as this can help you understand what it takes to get a firearm into play from the holster while sitting in a vehicle. Hint: it isn’t as easy as you may think…. If your carry position is from 4:00-8:00 on the clock face, you will have real trouble accessing your firearm in a safe way without doing some serious contortions.
8. The car will be in the way. Spend some time learning your car by practicing with a blue gun or other inert training tool. Please do not use your loaded firearm to practice these techniques in your vehicle. Whichever holster, carry position, methodology, draw stroke, or clothing you go with, the car will have to be overcome. At the very least, your seatbelt will most likely be in the way and you’ll have to work with the belt on or be smooth at taking it off. In Kyle Lamb’s article “The Concealed Carry Seatbelt Conundrum” some ideas are given on how to work around that particular issue (Lamb, 2018). Chris Cerino created a great video demonstration of how to overcome some of the “car issues” and includes advice to left handed responders (Cerino, 2018). I’ve referenced those for you as well as Greg’s article below. I highly recommend you learn from these experts.
References and links
Cerino, C. (2018, March 7). Self-Defense Shooting from Inside a Car: First Person Defender| S5 Bonus. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/cSc0cQIvsXo
Lamb, K. (2018, February 15). The Concealed Carry Seat Belt Conundrum. Retrieved from https://www.gunsandammo.com/editorial/the-concealed-carry-seat-belt-conundrum/247850
Ellifritz, G. (2019, May 20). Seat Belts and Appendix Carry. Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://www.activeresponsetraining.net/seat- belts-and-appendix-carry
Givens, T. (2020, January). Rangemaster Master Instructor Development course. Lecture presented at Instructor Development course in Florida, Homestead.
Copywrite Kjell Rosenberg 2020