Can I bring my gun to the Gun Show?

Can I bring my gun to the Gun Show?

When talking to people at the gun show about what holster they are looking for, I usually ask them if they have brought their gun with them.  If it’s a lesser known or rarer gun, you may need to have it handy to get a good holster fit.  Many people are under the impression that they are not allowed to bring their guns into the gun show.  In the vast majority of cases, nothing could be farther from the truth!

We are all 2A here

There is no such thing as a gun show that’s ran by anti-gun types.  We are all 2A types to some degree or another, or we wouldn’t be there.  There is an etiquette to be followed when preparing to go to the gun show with your weapon.

Why do this?

There are many reasons why you might want to bring your gun to the gun show.  Perhaps you want to sell it, or perhaps you want to trade it for something more to your liking.  You might be looking for a gunsmith to do some work, or put on a new coating or bluing on  your gun.  Perhaps (as is usually in my case), you want to get a new holster for concealed carry.

The common element among all of those scenarios, is that people will be handling your gun at the gun show.  You may be passing it over to others, you may be handling it yourself.  The best way to handle this situation is to make sure that any gun that will be handled is unloaded.  To both verify this, and to make it easy to visually check that the gun is unloaded, guns are “tied off” with zip ties.

Tying off a Gun

There are many, many ways to “tie off” a gun, and most shows have their own ways that they want to see it done.  Because of this, there really is very little incentive for you to “tie off” your gun.  It’s easier to just let the show officials do it for you.

The general rule for this situation, is to make sure that your guns are empty before you walk into the gun show.  You hand them to the officers working the gun check table. The officers examine the weapons to insure that they are unloaded.  They then zip tie the guns to show their empty status.  Next they typically put a “mark” such as a special sticker or label on the gun.  This is to show that the gun came in the door with you.

It is possible to unload the gun while standing at the gun check table.  However, if you choose to do it this way, please heed the following sign:

Note that ignoring this sign is a bad idea

Please do not be this guy. Do not be the guy that points a gun at anyone, let alone the gun check officers.

I know, I know.  You are smarter than that.  However, there was someone, somewhere, that wasn’t.  And you may be handing your weapon to them at the show.  This is why we have the gun tie-off rules.

Once you are cleared

Once in the show, go ahead and do what you came to do.  Just leave the zip strip in place while you do it.  Sometimes, when fitting holsters, zip ties get in the way.  It’s typically permissible to remove zip ties temporarily when fitting, so long as they are replaced before you leave the vendor.  Make sure to ask the vendor if they have spare zip ties to retie your weapon after doing this.

Time to Go

Ready to leave?  No problem!  You don’t need to check in with the gun check table before leaving.  Show personnel may check your guns to see if they are properly marked.  Remember that label that they put on the gun when you came in?  This is an anti-theft measure, to ensure that people don’t just “pick up a gun” laying on a table and walk out the door, claiming it’s theirs.  So long as the gun is properly labeled, or you have the sales invoice where you bought it at the show, it’s on to the parking lot.

In most areas, you can remove the zip ties once you head for the door.  You can also load back up at this time if you want.  I would suggest that you wait until you get to your car in most cases, though.  There really isn’t any point in making passers by nervous from seeing people walking out loading guns.  You and I both know we aren’t looking to cause trouble.  But why tempt fate?

Part of my Dummy Gun Selection at a gun show.

Part of my Dummy Gun Selection at the Gun Shows.

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Camille Conceals Concealed Carry Purses

Camille Conceals Concealed Carry Purses

I just wanted to take a moment to recommend a couple of friends of mine, the people that run Camille Conceals Concealed Carry Purses. Based out of Colorado, they produce some very nice and innovative Women’s concealed carry products.

Camille Conceals Women’s Concealed Carry purses and holsters

I don’t carry concealed carry purses for sale, for a very simple reason. I found out long ago, that I just don’t have any sense of style, at least when it comes to women’s accessories.

The conventional wisdom regarding off-body carry of a concealed weapon is usually “don’t do that”. In principle, I agree with that. However, lets be honest here, womens clothing was not made for concealment in general. As a result, sometimes a purse carry is the only real option available for many people.

If you have to go that way, you might as well make the most of it.

Husband and Wife team

Camille Conceals is a husband and wife team out of Colorado. They work the gun show circuit, same as I do, and they really do go the extra mile to make good products for their customers.

There are plenty of people out there selling other peoples products. Heck, I’m one of those myself. Camille Conceals actually builds their own products for sale. The Grip Hugger holster that I sell at the gun shows, comes from them, for example.

If you are wanting to try out purse carry, it’s worth your time to have a look at Camille Conceals and their line of concealed carry purses.

Camille Conceals Concealed Carry Purses

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Concealed Carry Gun Selection

Concealed Carry Gun Selection

Concealed Carry Gun Selection can be a big can of worms.  Everyone has an opinion, and of course, it’s totally right. For them, at least.  I’m not going to get into “what caliber is the best”, or what ammo is the best, I’m simply going to point out some facts that should be universal.

Small guns are easier to hide.

File that under “no duh?”, right?  There are a lot of people that pick out a duty sized weapon for concealed carry.  It doesn’t matter what the reason might be, or what the perceived need is for a full sized duty gun is. The bigger it is, the harder it hides, it’s as simple as that.  If you pick on a smaller weapon, you are going to have more concealment options.

Hurtful Things

Sharp angles and pointy things HURT.  And they hurt YOU.  Anytime you have an odd or pointy shape pointed against your body, you are asking for pain.  If you choose to carry a gun with such features, there are ways to help.  Switching to Outside the waistband holsters.  Using something that gets it away from being pressed against your body (belly band, concealment T-shirt), but it is something that needs to be considered. Even just getting a “body shield” style holster can make a difference.

Rust is not your friend

Your best bet for a convenient concealed carry gun selection is going to be one that’s as rustproof as possible.  If you carry a finely blued gun, sooner or later, you are probably going to be cleaning surface rust from it.  Pick a stainless, a hard chromed, a nickel plated gun, or a Duracoated Gun (or just one with a really nice hard finish), and you will spend a lot less time worrying about the metallurgical state of your weapon.

Safety Features

This is easily “the eternal question” and probably deserves it’s own write up.

Safety features should always come into consideration in concealed carry gun selection.  Make sure that you are are comfortable with the safety features on your weapon, that there are enough for you to be comfortable, and that you practice until the muscle memory takes over and you don’t have to think about pulling down the safeties when you need the gun.

Muscle memory is the phenomena where you are so used to doing something, that you automatically do it without having to think about the steps involved.  Think “buttoning up your shirt” or “tying your shoelaces”…  you just do it without thinking “this goes here, and I push on that”.

Slim is In

The thinner, the better. Usually.  Automatics tend to be thin already, but some of them are still quite thick.  A thinner gun is simply easier to hide than a thick one.  Single stack mag weapons (guns with magazines that hold one round on top of the other, not “staggered” to put more rounds on it) tend to have the thinnest outlines, because they don’t have to accommodate a double stacked magazine.  There are double stacked guns out there with pretty thin outlines.  Choose carefully.

Remember that the obvious “flip side” to a thinner weapon is that you carry less ammo in the gun. If the amount of ammo that you carry is a concern, you should weight that when considering a thin gun.

Price and Safe Queens

Price comes up when selecting a concealed carry gun, not only because you need to be able to afford to buy the gun (because even if it’s perfect for you, if you can’t afford it, it doesn’t help), but because you need to actually be willing to CARRY the weapon.  Time and time again, I’ve heard people talk about their perfect carry weapon.

That they don’t have on them.  Why?  Because if they carried it, it might get rusty, scratched, dinged, or otherwise depreciated.

I understand that, but that doesn’t help out when you need a weapon.  Sometimes, picking on an ugly and relatively cheap weapon as your day to day carry makes perfect sense, especially if you actually carry it day to day, rather than leave it in the safe at home.  The gun you have with you is far more effective than the gun that you left at home.

Weapon Reliability

Of course, reliability of the weapon is a key concern, and that should be obvious to anyone.  Reliability not only affects whether it goes “boom” when you want it to, it also affects whether or not it goes “boom” when you DON’T want it to.  Make sure that the weapon that you choose is reliable enough to satisfy you in both of these regards.

There is no one perfect gun. If there was a perfect gun, that’s the only one that would ever be made.  Every weapon has a mix of features and benefits (and liabilities), that you are going to have to weigh to find out what works for you in the situations that you find yourself in.  Just be sure to think about the options carefully, and in time, you will find yourself a good option or two.

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Strong Leather Gun Belts can make a big difference

Wear a Strong Leather Gun Belt for improved comfort and security

Strong Leather Gun Belts Display at a Gun Show

Strong Leather Gun Belts Display at a Gun Show

Strong leather gun belts can really improve your ability to conceal carry. One thing that I see over and over at the shows, is people trying to find a holster (especially an OWB or “Outside the Waistband” holster) that they can just “clip on” and use, because they don’t like to wear a belt.  I have to tell them that I don’t have a good concealment holster that does that, and the IWB’s (or “Inside the Waistband”) that are clipped work better with a belt on, preferably a strong one.

Guns have Mass

Why is this?  Well, it’s not too hard to figure out. Guns have a good amount of mass and weight, even the smaller ones.  The more mass and weight you hang on your pants, the more problematic they are going to be to control.  A good belt such as a reinforced gun belt or a thick leather belt not only helps to distribute that mass and weight around a bit more, but it helps to prevent unwanted movement, both of the holster and weapon, and of of the pants.

Types of Gun Belts

Belts that are suitable for holster work tend to fit into one of three broad categories. Duty Belts such as what you see police working with.  “Reinforced belts” that are multiple layers of thin leather with materials inserted into them such as kydex or steel.  Thick leather belts that rely on their overall thickness of material to provide the necessary support.

Duty Belts

Duty Belts are usually not something that the average person will be getting. They tend to be wider than usual (up to 2″ or more, and a lot of them are expensive. And, of course, their appearance can be a bit obvious even to an untrained observer.

Duty Belts from Amazon

Reinforced Belts

Many people end up with various types of reinforced belts. For this example, a reinforced belt typically is two pieces of thin leather with a metal or kydex “stiffener” between them. There are many examples of various reinforced belts out there. Most tend to be on the pricier side of the market.

Reinforced Gun Belts

Strong Leather Gun Belts

I sell this type of gun belt at the gun shows. With a well constructed thick leather belt, you have one solid piece of leather. Any sewing on them is strictly for show.

Thick Leather Belts from Amazon

Dress Belts

A typical dress belt is not constructed with enough strength to be able to withstand the stress than a gun holster will put on it.  As a result, I do not recommend that you use a typical dress belt for gun duty in any capacity.

Strong Leather Gun Belts I sell at the gun shows

The Strong leather belts that I sell at the gun shows are one piece of cowhide leather, 1 1/2 inches wide.  They use stainless roller buckle hardware, with stainless chicago screws.

These strong leather gun belts are longer than a typical dress belt of the same marked size.  A normal dress belt measures from the start of the leather, to the middle hole punched in it.  The strong leather belts that I carry at the gun shows, measure from the start of the leather, to the first punched hole.

This makes them four inches longer than a typical dress belt of the same size.  Normally when you are buying a gun belt, you add a few inches to accommodate your holster.  This belt already has that accomodation built in.

Our Dress Belts

The people that make the strong leather gun belts that I sell at the gun shows, have added a new line, and I am just now starting to carry it.  It’s a Dress Belt, but it’s made with the same attention to detail that the strong leather gun belts are made with.

The new Dress belts are made from Water Buffalo.  They are 1 1/4 inch wide.  Rather than the roller buckles used on the strong leather gun belts, these use more traditional hardware.  Chicago Screws are used, same as the strong leather gun belts, but these are black.

And most importantly, they have the same “extra length” that the strong leather gun belts have.  As a result, they are four inches longer than a typical dress belt of the same sizing.


The Pinch Test

Take a belt in your hand. Place your thumb and index finger on the top edge and bottom edge of the belt, and try to push them together.  If you can do this easily, this probably won’t make a good holster belt for you.  If you can’t push them together easily, you probably will do OK.

Be sure to apply the “squeeze test” liberally. My experience has been that most belts are more about fashion appeal than practical use. Many of them are just not strong enough to actually help out in this situation.

All three of the belt types discussed should pass the pinch test with flying colors.  The thick leather belts that I sell at the gun shows pass this test with ease.

Final Thoughts

Bear in mind, that these tips at most helpful when you are carrying waistline or below. IWB (Inside the waist), OWB (outside the waist), pocket holster (Yeah, it helps a little), and even ankle holster (keeps your pants in the right place).  If you are carrying above the waist, such as a belly band, Packin’ Tee t-shirt, or a shoulder holster, then a strong belt system isn’t important for your carry ability, although it’s still not a bad idea in general.

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Holster Accessibility and Holster Retention

Holster Accessibility and Retention

Holster Accessibility and Retention are two sides to the same coin, and they are always intertwined.

Test Accessibility

The best concealment rig in the world is totally useless if you can’t present the weapon when you need to.  Because of this, you should always consider how easy and fast it is to get your weapon into play from a given concealment rig.  Before making a holster purchase, put it on, stick your gun (or an acceptable substitute such as an aluminum dummy gun) into it, and see how easily it is to draw. Keep in mind that some holsters need a “break in period” before they draw really easily.

Holster Retention

Holster Retention breaks down into a couple of issues. One is keeping the weapon from dislodging from your own efforts. The other is keeping it out of the hands of others.

Let me address the “keeping it from others’ issue first. Police officers use specialty retention holsters all the time, as well they should.  Their weapons are “front and center” and on the minds of every criminal looking to get an advantage.  Without a good retention system, more bad guys would get their hands on more police weapons, which is NOT a pretty sight.  Retention holsters are very much an excellent idea for anyone with an exposed weapon, because it helps to keep the criminals from arming themselves with someone else’s weapon.

Exposed versus Concealed

Do you see the caveat there?  Exposed weapon.  If a weapon is properly concealed in the first place, no one knows that they should be grabbing it, let alone knowing where to grab it from.

Overblown issue?

Retention against others is probably an overblown issue for the average concealed carrier. I’m sure that there are those out there that will disagree with me on that. If no one knows you have a weapon, it’s kind of hard for them to decide to take it from you. Still, even with that, it’s a decision that you, yourself, have to make in regards to your situation. Perhaps everyone in the universe knows that you carry, and you don’t want people pawing your piece.  If you feel you need it, you probably do, so go for it.

Your own actions affect this

Another piece of the holster retention issue is “retention against your own actions”.  If you jog, run regularly, dogsled, or whatever, you should take into account your physical exertions and how likely they are to affect your carry.  There is nothing quite so embarrassing as having your gun fall out in front of some random people.  Having to scurry not only to get it back away.  Explaining to the more nervous ones that they shouldn’t be alarmed by this.  Only you know your physical activity level, and how likely you are to perform a sudden back flip, so that’s another piece of the puzzle that you need to work on.

Public Restrooms

Even if you are the proverbial couch (or mouse) potato, there are situations that might bear watching. The meme of losing a gun in the restroom stall is repeated often, because it happens far too often.  Most everyone has read accounts of people leaving guns in places they shouldn’t have.  If you have a concealment rig that’s vulnerable to having your pants down, think ahead.

An ounce of prevention, and all that, really beats a pound of pistol skittering into the next stall.

Slow Presentation

The higher the holster retention level, the lower the holster accessibility is going to be.

The more secure the weapon is, the slower / harder it’s going to be to put it into action. When you need the weapon, you are NOT going to have plenty of time.  Adrenaline is gonna be pumping.  Your friends and family are depending on you to do the right thing, and do it NOW!  The simpler this is to accomplish, the more likely you will accomplish it.

“When you need your gun, you needed it five seconds ago. Not Five seconds from now.”

You should practice with your chosen rig just for this reason.  That includes holsters both with and without retention systems.  If they have holster retention systems, all the more reason you should practice with them until drawing through the retention is second nature for you. Holster Accessibility is something that you should NOT have to think about. Something that you can accomplish when the only thing you can see is the aggressor.

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Holster Comfort

Holster Comfort

When people first get into concealed carry, many of them do not give enough attention to the issue of holster comfort.  An old saying goes: “A Gun should not be comfortable. It should be comforting.”  It’s always a matter of what level of comfort you are willing to live with compared to the other elements you have to contend with. It’s all just part of the puzzle.

Why is Holster Comfort so important?

The more painful it is for you to carry your defense weapon, the more likely you are to forget it, accidentally or on purpose. Some people take this to the extreme of only carrying “when they think that something might happen”.  Hogwash!  The problem with life, is that it doesn’t schedule things for you, nor does it play fair.  Things happen when you don’t expect them to, not when it’s convenient for you.

Assuming you wear a seat belt when driving, do you only wear it when you expect to be in an accident? Or do you wear it whenever you are driving?

When you think you need it

Simply put, Holster Comfort is necessary, at least to some degree, because it encourages you to carry constantly, not just “when you think you might need it”.  There is no colder feeling than finding yourself in a bad situation, that could be averted with your defense weapon, only to remember that you left it at home.

I want to stress again, this is yet another reason why it’s so important to try on your perspective holster, with a gun (or an acceptable substitute) in it, before making a decision on using it.  If the holster isn’t comfortable, you should look for something that is. Don’t force yourself to use a holster you don’t like.

Strong Gun Belts

Often times, your choice of clothing can make a significant difference in your Holster Comfort. For example, simply adding a strong gun belt can make a holster seem far more comfortable.

Concealed Carry Holsters

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Holster Concealment

Holster Concealment

Holster Concealment.  On the face of it, it seems simple, but it can actually be one of the harder elements to master of concealed carry. Concealment is a very big deal here.

It’s called “concealed carry” for a reason. Failure to properly conceal can be considered a crime unto itself, depending on the area.  Even if it’s not a crime, you can end up causing a ruckus. You can attract official attention. And you can just plain end up making the concealed carry community look bad.  We have enough issues with the the populace already. They can be afraid of us simply because we actually chose to take responsibility for ourselves and our loved ones. Lets not give them any reason to think about us any further, especially in a negative light.

The rest of the package

Think hard about the true concealment of your weapon, not only the holster concealment, but also the “rest of the package”. You, how you dress, how you act, even what weapon you pick to carry affects this.  Larger weapons are harder to hide, all other things being equal.  Plus, how you act is very important as well… the best concealment in the world can be blown by absently putting your hand on your weapon and/or rig to adjust it while waiting in line at the grocery store.  Get a good rig that doesn’t need adjustment. Don’t adjust it in public, at least not where people can see it.

Try it on if you can

It’s vital that you try on a holster before you buy it. See if it actually concealed on your body frame.  What conceals for your buddy, or the magazine writer that penned that wondrous write up on the XZY 2000 holster, or the mega-sporting goods store clerk, may or may not conceal on you the same way.  TRY IT FIRST!  If in doubt about how well it conceals, ask a friend, a passerby, the store clerk, find a mirror, whatever. Make sure that it hides properly.

Realistically Hidden

Now, there’s a fine line between “realistically hidden” and “vanished into thin air”.  If you can see it, knowing where to look exactly because you just put it there, that doesn’t mean that every person passing by is gonna start bleating “Gun!”.  If you can see a small telltale, realize that it’s because you know where to look and why to look. The vast majority of the population doesn’t.  However, the fewer tells you can give off, the better.  Aim to have fewer tells whenever possible within reason.

Different Situations

Also keep in mind that, unless you wear the same set of clothes all the time, the holster that works so well with what you had on when you tried it on, may or may not work as well with your “Sunday go to meeting” clothes, or your “working on the lawn” clothes, or your “taking the spouse to the grocery store” clothes.  I’m sure you get my drift.  Not everything works with everything all the time.

Concealed Carry Holsters

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Holster Price and Affordability

Holster Price

In the real world for most of us, holster price is a issue. The fact of the matter is that we all have to make choices. One of those choices that we make is “how much can we afford”.  Holster price and affordability is just another one of the trade-offs that we have to deal with when finding a good concealed carry rig.

To state the obvious here: if you are willing to pay more, you probably will end up getting more.  However, it’s not a given that you have to pay more to get a good concealment rig. It all depends on what works well for you.

Too Cheap?

To state another fact that should be obvious: there is such a thing as too cheap. If the holster doesn’t perform to spec, or worse yet, fails miserably, it doesn’t matter how cheap it was. It was way too expensive in the long run.  A cheap holster may embarrass you by dropping your gun during a failure.  You could easily end up in legal trouble if your holster failed and showed your weapon in public. Worst case scenario, someone is hurt or killed because the holster failed.

Fit is Important

Make sure that the holster that you pick fits you properly, holds the gun properly, and appears to have a high quality of construction and materials.

Picking a good holster is an integral part of carrying concealed, and picking the right holster FOR YOU is an especially important part of the process.  You may go through a holster or two (or ten) before you find a few sets that you really like… but when you weigh the options, that’s better than not carrying at all.

No One Answer

One other thought: There is no “one right answer” for everything. Even if you find a good selection that works for you, it’s not going to work with every scenario you might have for it. Find two or three different styles of carry that you like, so you can change up when you need to. I say this, not to sell you more holsters, but because the more options you have, the more likely you are to actually carry all the time. And that’s what’s necessary to be ready when life throws you a curve ball.

Concealed Carry Holsters

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Nylon IWB Holster

Nylon IWB Holster “Inside the Waistband”

There are lots and lots of holster styles out there. A lot of first time carriers will gravitate towards the lower end of the price spectrum first.  That tends to be a Nylon IWB Holster. Lets face it, who wants to spend a hundred bucks on something that turns out to suck rocks?

One of the most basic holster designs for concealed carry work is the Nylon IWB Holster. These are usually inexpensive and offer an option for those first getting started. Some people will stay with this style, most will eventually find something more suitable.

Nylon IWB Holster

Size “00” IWB nylon holster

Holster Features

This holster is ambidextrous, in that you can move the mounting clip to either side. It comes from the factory set up to go “right handed”.  You can move the clip from that position to the other side, allowing left handed use. You can do this with simple tools, such as a tongue depressor.  I use a “tactical butterknife” that I keep in my tool kit at the shows.

This design does not need a good gun belt to operate. However, I strongly recommend a good gun belt for any waist mounted holster, inside or outside. The better the belt, the better your experience will be.


This holster design actually has a crude form of retention on it, the strap going up over the top is actually two strips of Velcro that attach together. You put the gun in, you press the Velcro closed over it.  When you need to draw the gun, you simply pull the gun quickly out of the holster.  This separates the Velcro and releases the gun.


The Velcro strip, as it comes from the factory, is a bit long.  This needs to be adjusted before use.  By adjusted, I mean trimmed down short enough to not be so much of an annoyance while carrying, while still long enough to hold the gun in place when you aren’t trying to draw it.

Clip Notes

The metal clip on this holster isn’t especially tight. If you aren’t wearing it on a belt, especially if you don’t trim up the retention strap, you may draw the entire rig (gun and holster) when you attempt to draw the gun. This is not a good thing. You should take the time to adjust the length of the retention strap before you actually use it.  Be sure to practice drawing (with an unloaded gun for safety in this instance) until you are confident that you have the right adjustment.

Please don’t try to just trim it short right off the bat, as you can’t “cut it longer” if you get too short.


The Nylon IWB Holster are inexpensive compared to many options. Price can vary wildly depending on manufacturer.

Ambidextrous design means you don’t have to buy another one to, say, try out Small of Back carry. You just move the clip to the other side and give it a try.

It’s not as “picky” as many holster designs are, in that one size can fit a number of different guns. However, you will still want to pay attention and get the correct size.


This is by no means a “buy it for life” type option. A holster like this is going to have a limited lifespan.

Materials like this can become “broken in” and softer. If the opening of the holster is feeling “soft” or malleable, you need to be careful with it in use.  A broken in / soft holster can bow inwards upon insertion of the gun.  In Extreme cases, this can cause an accidental discharge of the gun.  You should always pay close attention when holstering your weapon.

Nylon IWB Holsters

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