When talking about printing in the gun community, we don’t mean heading to your local OfficeMax/ Staples or using a 3D Printer to make a firearm or "Ghost Gun". When "printing" is mentioned in the CCW community this is usually in reference to how well the pistol is concealed.
- Printing is when the outline of your gun can be seen through your clothing when carrying concealed. While it’s not usually a big deal, it can be problematic if you’re uncomfortable with people knowing you carry and can get you into some legal trouble depending on your local laws.
- It doesn't mean that you're brandishing or doing an improper exhibition of the firearm.
While it’s impossible to ensure that you’ll never print while concealed carrying, but there are certain precautions you can take to significantly minimize how often it occurs and how obvious it is when it does happen by simply being spotted.
What is Gun Printing?
Printing is when the outline or bulge of your concealed pistol can be seen through your clothing.
More often than not; printing occurs through a T-shirt or other lightweight top, though it can happen when you wear other types of clothing as well. The tighter and thinner your clothes are, the more at risk you become and this could but is not limited to walking, sitting, or bending over.
Okay, but how big of a deal is it, really?
Is CCW Printing Bad? No...Brandishing is though...
The idea of someone noticing your concealed handgun can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re new to carrying concealed making it hard to relax when you believe or see the gun on you no matter where your concealed carrying is super obvious and you can’t help but wonder if everyone around you can see it too but most of the time no one will notice.
- Most people in general aren’t looking for a gun under your shirt and unless it's obvious, they probably won’t notice you’re printing.
- As long as you’re following the law, there’s nothing to be worried about; but it's up to you to know what your state (or local) government has to say about the concept of printing and even more importantly -brandishing. While we may think of brandishing as waving around a weapon like the bad guys in cheesy movies, it can be interpreted as showing your gun inadvertently, even if it’s not in your hand & as ridiculous as it may sound, someone spotting you by seeing the outline of a handgun under your shirt — printing — or when your cover garment rides up to show a part of the firearm can be misconstrued as brandishing which is defined as a display all or part of the firearm, or otherwise make the presence of the firearm known to another person, in order to intimidate that person by shaking or waving firearm menacingly in an ostentatious or aggressive manner. Yes, this is extreme & unfair, but if you live in a place decidedly unfriendly to concealed carry, it may be your reality.
- Ultimately one of the most important reasons your firearm shouldn’t be visible is because it puts you at a tactical disadvantage in a defense situation. If a Perpetrator against you already knows you have a gun, you lose the element of surprise & puts you at risk of someone trying to take your weapon, which we don’t have to tell you is at the top of the list of bad things that can happen while carrying.
Is Printing While Carrying Illegal?
Unfortunately, there is no one easy answer as to whether concealed carry printing has any legal repercussions. Every state has different gun control laws and regulations, and, in some states, different towns and cities do too.
- So, step one is to know your laws and act accordingly. If it’s strict where you live in terms of penalties for your gun being visible, be careful. Really careful. Choose your carry method and covering strategy wisely. You can find some helpful information about the different gun laws across the country through the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action website.
As a general rule, though, most “shall issue” states, meaning states that grant concealed carry permits, also allow open carry, though that is not the case everywhere (again, check your state to be sure). As long as you have a CCW license, you will likely have no legal repercussions to worry about when it comes to printing since it’s okay to carry a firearm openly.
However, in states where open carry is NOT legal, printing could be a problem. While the odds your printing enough to be considered open carry is pretty slim as long as you’re actually doing what you should to keep it low-profile, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.
You may be able to diffuse the situation by calmly stating something to the effect of “It’s OK, I have a concealed carry permit” as you re-conceal your firearm; but what you don’t want to do is run, sneak away or get an attitude & probably isn’t a great strategy. You’re much better off being polite and nonchalant about the whole thing. People take cues from others. If folks are panicking or scared, others will follow suite too & if those nearby (and you) are calm, so will they be. It's human nature.
Once again, check your local laws. (We can’t stress it enough!). But, as always, it’s better to be safe than sorry in situations like these, and avoiding printing altogether can help keep you out of any potential hot water.
So, How Do You Know If You’re Printing So You Can Do Something About It??
The unfortunate answer is that it’s impossible to know 100% of the time with absolute certainty that you’re not printing; which can be frustrating. (Even if you twist and turn at every possible angle available to you in front of the mirror trying to check from all angles.)
Luckily, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk of printing to feel more confident and comfortable with concealed carrying.
With this said it is also very important to not overthink it. If you let the "Am I printing?" question hold too much weight mentally it can totally destroy your mental composure and make for a very anxious carrying experience.
How to Conceal Carry Without Printing?
If you consider the five “C”s of concealed carry – carry position, clothing, cant, compact, and comfort – you will be well on your way to a successful and print-free experience.
- CARRY POSITION: One of the most important factors when it comes to avoiding concealed carry printing is choosing the correct carry position for your body and lifestyle. For example, you wouldn’t want to carry at the 3 o’clock position if you’re trying to conceal an IWB holster under a T-shirt; it would just stick out too much.
- CLOTHING CHOICE: Obviously, the clothes you wear have a lot to do with how much you print. First and foremost, you need a quality gun belt which out sister company Bigfoot Gun Belts can provide. Unlike regular belts, which sag under the weight of a pistol and holster, quality gun belts are durable, stiff, and even stylish! Having a proper belt setup can go a long way in ensuring your carry system is comfortable, effective, and actually concealed.
Next, looser clothing is always better to prevent printing. Patterns, layers, and clothing accents also go a long way. In the winter, wearing a jacket is a surefire way of avoiding printing, though it’s important to be prepared if you’re going someplace where you might take your jacket off.
- CANT: INVEST IN AN ADJUSTABLE HOLSTER: It goes without saying that having the ability to adjust the angle and height (CANT) of your holster goes a long way in helping you find that sweet spot when it comes to concealment and all of what we make is on our IWB/OWB Holsters page.
Another important feature is adjustable ride height which allows you to move your gun either deeper into your waistband or so that it can sit higher up. This can be handy when you need to adjust the height based on the clothes you’re wearing (i.e., you might want your weapon to sit higher when wearing tighter pants and a looser shirt and vice versa).
- CARRY MORE COMPACT: One of the most obvious things you can do to prevent printing is to carry a smaller gun. While yes, you can successfully conceal a full-size pistol, finding something a little smaller will make the task significantly easier. Subcompact and compact guns are smaller and lighter and just as effective as your beloved 1911 (and you don’t have to wear an overcoat in July to conceal them!).
- COMFORT IS KEY: While physical comfort is important when it comes to concealed carrying, keep in mind that mental comfort is arguably just as if not more critical. Constantly thinking about and critiquing over whether your firearm is printing or not will only cause you to check on it all the time and thus make it even more obvious & you’re only contributing to the problem you fear & touching your gun and adjusting your clothes all day is likely to cause printing, not fix it. Trust that you did a good job when you put your pistol on and did your print check in the morning. And don’t touch it again unless you have to!
What Should You Do If Someone Notices Your Gun?
The last thing you want to hear when you’re concealed carrying is, “so and so has a gun!”
No matter the reason; having someone notice and/or point out that you’re carrying is a stressful experience no matter how careful you are & sometimes; mistakes or extra-observant people happen)
- Remain calm. So long as you haven’t done anything illegal, there’s no reason to panic. Freaking out, getting angry or defensive, or running away will only make you look guilty or threatening (which is obviously the opposite of what you want!).
- Deescalate the situation. Calmly re-conceal your weapon and tell the person or persons accusing you that you have a concealed carry permit and that everything is okay. Stay polite, and keep calm. Keeping your cool will hopefully help everyone feel more relaxed. Ideally, you can then move on with your day.
- If asked to leave an establishment due to their gun policies; just do it. There's many other places to frequent & do so quietly and not cause a scene. Sure, it's unfair, but in most states, businesses' can ask you to leave for any reason, even if they don’t have a sign posted that bans guns in their establishment.
- If the police have been brought into the situation, once again, stay calm, cool and collected. When officers arrive, they will be assessing the situation and won’t know your side of the story at first & do whatever they ask. It's never a good idea to argue with Law Enforcement when carrying a firearm. As far as they're concerned; everyone is suspect, guilty, and innocent all at the same time until the details are sorted out. If you find yourself in a situation where you know someone is calling 911 to report you, it might be a good idea to get ahead of the problem and call the police yourself to explain your side of the story before they arrive to help prevent the situation from escalating any further.
Ultimately; keeping calm is your best defense in the event someone sees your gun. Your next best protection is knowing the laws where you live, as even a simple mistake could be interpreted as brandishing. Know your rights, and be prepared to calmly and rationally handle the situation as best you can. Holding a concealed carry insurance policy may also be a good idea, especially in states that aren’t so kind to concealed carriers, which could come in handy if you need a lawyer to defend you.