“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

“One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1

Lessons from the professionals

By Dennis Adler

“One gun, one carry and master it” is the principle taught by John Bianchi, the master of concealed carry and the world’s most famous holster maker. I wrote John’s Biography in 2009 (John Bianchi – An American Legend) and he taught me his rules for concealed carry, the first of which was to find one gun and master it from holster, to drawing, aiming, shooting and concealment. If your are in law enforcement, as Bianchi was early in his career when he first began designing and making holsters for fellow police officers, this is easier to achieve. For civilians it is a precept that is easier to embrace than actually accomplish, at least it has been for me, because I have made a profession out of testing guns, and aside from a few favorites, have never had one gun long enough to consider mastering it for CCW use. Over the years I have gone from one to another, from DA/SA revolvers to semi-autos, full-size duty guns to subcompacts, and as for reviewing guns, it is hundreds of guns in and out of my hands for more than 20 years. So for me, mastering one gun is still a personal goal because my carry guns have changed a dozen times over the years (one of the benefits and pitfalls of having so many options from testing new models). There’s a handful I am proficient with to the point that I have total confidence in carrying them, but to be totally honest, the older I get the smaller my EDC gun gets. Still, I have never narrowed it down to one gun or even one holster. But I’m getting closer; more about that later.  

Full-size guns vary in dimensions, take the Glock 17 Gen4 at left and the Model 1911 at right, the Glock is a much smaller footprint. All three guns pictured are CO2 models in the holsters used for their centerfire counterparts. The little Sig P365 at the bottom gives you a comparative relationship between a full-size handgun and a Micro-Compact.
Carrying a 1911 concealed is not uncommon but it takes a combination of the correct holster and cover (clothing) to do it. The new Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC is shown in my old Bianchi Speed Scabbard and it fits like a glove. Same for the Sig Sauer WTP in the Legends in Leather Justice belt rig. Both have been used by lawmen for decades. The Speed Scabbard is designed for less cover and faster access but built to rest very close to body making the 1911 easier to cover with clothing. This is also true of the Justice which adds cover for the trigger. The ears on either side of the holster end up behind the belt and help curve the rig from the back and keep it tight to the body. Both allow for a very quick draw but offer no other retention of the gun than the contoured fit.
Being able to use holsters like these paired with a CO2 model can, at the very least, allow someone to find out if a 1911 is comfortable to carry and can be concealed without problem under varying conditions, and in different weather. Winter is always easy. The one factor you cannot account for is the recoil of a .45 ACP pistol. Recoil affects everyone differently. I have seen petite women shoot 1911s with ease, and big, strapping six foot plus men flinch and say it is too much gun. I have witnessed this first hand. A CO2 pistol will not answer that question (but a trip to a shooting range that rents guns and has an instructor, will).

Training for Concealed Carry

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At one point we all feel confident that there is a gun and holster combination that works, but that is most often after a few false starts. This is a situation many gun owners with CCW permits face making the choice for an EDC sidearm. Every Day Carry is something you become accustomed to, to the point where you no longer feel the presence of the sidearm. It becomes as customary as wallet and keys. This too, is part of Bianchi’s teachings, or “Bianchi’s Law” which again is one that requires dedication to follow. In his book, Blue Steel and Gunleather Bianchi wrote that “Violation of Bianchi’s Law leads to misery and/or failure to conceal the sidearm…It has been my observation that the average person needs to try about three different rigs and guns before the right combination is discovered” (unfortunately I have squared that number several times over but arrived at subcompacts and belt rigs as my favorite). This is, of course, based on the premise that an individual is being realistic about their carry gun. “Before attempting to conceal a gun on your person,” wrote Bianchi, “make sure the gun you have selected is right for you. Does it fit your hand? Is it too large or too small for your size, height, weight, and build all considered?” Not only in Bianchi’s Law but in common sense law, can a square peg fit in a round hole.

Covering a 1911 in a belt rig requires a jacket, heavy shirt, or long sweatshirt, which is not unusual attire. Even in warmer weather, a T-shirt under a button down shirt left open and un-tucked will work most of the time. Under the corduroy blazer I have a Sig WTP 1911 in the Bianchi Speed Scabbard. Sliding my hand against the jacket brushes the side back far enough to easily draw from concealment. Note how close to the body the holster keeps the gun. This is close to a 3 o’clock position over the hip. More concealment can be achieved moving the gun back to a 4 o’clock position if needed. I have also found it more comfortable with any size gun. You also need to consider holster cant (angle). The Speed Scabbard has a slight forward cant to make drawing quicker.

Back in Bianchi’s day, in the 1960s and 1970s when he designed many of his groundbreaking CCW holsters for law enforcement and civilians, the choices in handguns were far fewer than today. Most people chose a Colt M1911, a large caliber S&W or Colt revolver, or a smaller .38 S&W Chief’s Special or Colt Detective Special. All still viable choices today, either with older guns or more modern versions of their design.

One thing I learned from Bianchi over the years is that sometimes you can’t improve on perfection. In the 1960s, John developed the Speed Scabbard for carrying a full-size Model 1911. If you have the build for concealing a 1911, nothing to this day has surpassed the Speed Scabbard for comfort, ease of carry and concealment, either with a jacket or other outer garment for cover. The big emphasis with that holster was and still is “comfort” because there are more effective concealment methods, like inside the waistband holsters for full-size duty guns, but for many they come at the price of comfort. For professionals, that may be acceptable on an as needed basis, but for the rest of us, it’s a pain. I’m not a big fan of IWB rigs. Another good friend and holster maker, Jim Lockwood, developed a 1911 holster for lawmen many years ago called the Justice, which has become another classic for full-size and compact 1911 models. Like the Speed Scabbard it is well concealable and very comfortable with a large frame gun. I still wear one from time to time that was made for me to carry the Taurus Judge, and that’s another story. (Unfortunately Jim has since retired and you can only find his holsters on the secondary market.)

Most modern guns like the Springfield XDM models come with or have injection molded holsters available with either belt mounts or a paddle (as shown). These designs also contribute to keeping the gun closer to the body; the XDM really needs this if using the extended capacity magazine. Since the CO2 models have to use the extended capacity size magazine, training with the XDM holsters is a big advantage. They currently come with the air pistol.

The One Gun theory

There are two forces at work here, practicality and enthusiasm. The first is finding the right gun, the second is finding guns you like, which often leads down the road to collecting (not just guns but holsters). I fell into the latter category long ago but not for practical carry, as my interests lie in the 19th and early 20th century. Contemporary guns have far less appeal (to me) lacking the aesthetics of classic firearms design, so they become more tools of purpose than the gunmaker’s craft. The wonderful thing here is that the exact same divergence is taking place with CO2 pistols, and more of us are becoming air pistol collectors, too. And that makes it even harder to use an air pistol to decide on a carry gun, if that’s your intension. Since many Airgun Experience readers also own centerfire and rimfire models, it is a supposition that a good number also have CCWs, (in the U.S.), while others may be considering the purchase of a cartridge-firing handgun and obtaining a concealed carry permit. The latest CO2 models are becoming a more relevant stepping stone to that end.

I favor the XDM 3.8 as a training gun over several others because it is a fairly comparable Compact size to centerfire guns like the Glock 19 and Glock 26, among others. The gun at the left is a centerfire 9mm model. The CO2 models have the larger .45 ACP muzzle. The centerfire Springfield models are offered in .45 ACP as well, so the muzzle opening is correct on the CO2 models.

When manufacturers like Sig Sauer and Springfield Armory get into the air pistol market they have two goals, airgun enthusiasts and handgun owners who may be considering a change to one of their centerfire models, or using their CO2 surrogates as more cost-efficient training aids. From that perspective, air pistols are a cheap way to see if the gun fits the person.

In the full-size category I favor the Glock 17 Gen4 CO2 model for its equally impressive duplication of the centerfire gun. (Shown with the XDM 4.5 CO2 model)

As much as I admire Sig Sauer for the 1911 WTP, P320 M17 ASP, and Micro-Compact P365, I am more impressed with the Springfield XDM and Umarex Glock models, because they are exactly what one might look for in a modern centerfire carry gun (the Glock in particular). The P365 falls into that category as well, as its centerfire counterpart is the smallest 9mm on the market, but as a CO2 training gun to a lesser extent compared to the Glocks and XDM 3.8, which have nailed down the training aspects from features to field stripping. Then there are individuals who want even larger caliber sidearms, and the .45 ACP still scores with most, especially modern versions of the Model 1911.

If you are not comfortable with larger handguns, and a lot of people just can’t get comfortable with a large handgun around their waist, Subcompacts and Micro-Compacts like this Sig Sauer P365 are made to order, because they are lighter and easier to carry. But remember, a small gun in a medium caliber like 9mm, can pack a wallop when it comes to recoil. The good news is the P365 CO2 model is about the same size as lighter weight (lighter recoiling) .380 autos. If this size gun and holster, ( like the Galco Stinger shown), is more comfortable, stepping down to a .380 in centerfire is not going to change anything from what you have mastered in handling and concealment training.
A Micro-Compact like the 9mm P365 or any .380 Auto are easy to carry with just a shirt, lightweight jacket, or a sweatshirt for cover. A sweatshirt is easy to wear and by using the offside hand to pull the sweatshirt up, you have a clean draw from concealment. (In reality there would be a more aggressive lift of the sweatshirt then I am illustrating here but I would also be drawing the gun by now.)

As readers of this column well know, there are CO2 models and holsters that suit exploring almost all the choices in an EDC gun. But there is a caveat covered by Bianchi’s Law that also applies to CO2 training gun choices. He was wise to state that what you want and what you can handle are two very different things and it is easy to be misled by a larger caliber design in CO2. “[One must] accept the fact that because people come in an endless range of sizes and shapes, it is not possible to conceal every model of gun/holster combination on a given person. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. Move on to something else.”

In Part 2 we will make two choices and work through them. This is the practical side of CO2 models.

1 thought on ““One Gun, One Carry and Master it” Part 1”

  1. Dennis,

    Bianchi had the same philosophy as my old martial arts sensei, who often said, “The person who has completely mastered one technique is far better off than the person who has practiced 1000 techniques only a dozen times each.”


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