Six Months Under the Gun: A Weapon-Carrying Experiment

I spent Super Bowl Sunday this year learning that I should always be nice and polite and have a plan to kill everyone I see.

On May 13, I was awarded my concealed carry permit and decided to carry a handgun as often as I was legally allowed, where I was legally allowed, for as long as I felt like doing it. I was interested in finding out what it felt like to carry a gun, what was the best way to carry, and if the various legal hurdles would make it so impractical that I'd simply give up.

I was also curious about how carrying a gun might change the way I looked at the world. Did the mere act of carrying a gun mean I was paranoid? Would carrying a gun make me paranoid?

I was about to find out the answers to all these questions, but first I needed equipment in the form of guns, holsters, and ammunition. I contacted Smith & Wesson and told them of my plans, and they generously arranged to ship me a pair of handguns for a lengthy testing and evaluation period.

One was a M&P9C, a compact 13-round (12 in the magazine, one round in the chamber) 9mm semi-automatic pistol designed to be a backup weapon for police officers, or a primary weapon for concealed carry. Compact, black, and all business, it certainly looked capable of playing the role I intended for it.

The other handgun they sent was a new twist on an old classic. For years in television and in the movies, police detectives always carried snub-nosed .38 revolvers. The five-shot, aluminum-framed 637 revolver they sent me came with the bonus of a Crimson Trace (CT) laser mounted in the gun's grip. When you grabbed the revolver with a firm grip, the laser projected a menacing red dot where the bullet would impact, in both daylight and the pitch black of a moonless night. The 637 included a keyed internal lock on the left side of the frame that blocked the cylinder from opening and the hammer from being cocked.

DeSantis stepped up and provided me with three different kinds of holsters to use. The neoprene Nemesis pocket holster was designed to work for those who carry in coat or deep pants pockets. The Cozy Partner is a classic, well-finished, inside-the-waistband holster that provides an excellent compromise between accessibility, security, and concealability. Both of these holsters were made for the 637CT revolver. For the M&P9C semi-auto, I went with a high-tech holster made of Kydex, the DS Paddle, and a single magazine pouch made of the same material for the spare 12-round magazine.

As for cartridges for these guns, ATK and Winchester took extremely good care of me, providing hundreds of rounds of CCI Blazer and American Eagle practice ammunition to test these guns, and their high-end Federal Premium Hydra-Shok, Supreme SXT, and Silvertip premium defensive ammunition.

Several days later I got the call from my gun shop that my handguns had arrived. I went to pick up the M&P and the 637CT, and things got tough. I learned the first day that deciding to carry is the easy thing; finding where you can legally carry is the hard part.

My typical day started by taking my older daughter to her elementary school, dropping my infant daughter off at her daycare, and then driving to work on a corporate campus in Research Triangle Park. In none of these locations is concealed carry permitted; if I'd been armed, I would have managed a trifecta of felonies before my first cup of coffee. The 637CT, which I'd planned to carry in the pocket holster with the intimidating Winchester Supreme SXT hollowpoints, stayed at home. Some experiment this was turning out to be!

It was a couple of days later that I finally had a chance to legally carry, when my wife dispatched me to the local pet store chain to pick up various kinds of critter food for the Owens family menagerie. As it turns out, a J-frame revolver with a full grip like that of the 637CT doesn't fit real well in anything but the large side pockets of the cargo-style shorts I was wearing, so with every step, the 637CT slapped against my thigh. It was annoying, to put it mildly. Minimal clothing was required to deal with the heat with any degree of comfort, so the pocket holster, paired with a revolver with a full-size grip, was off the carry list until it was cool enough outside for a jacket.