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Cold Comfort: Off-Duty Carry

It would have been easier to just walk out the door.  I had some running around to do which included heading to one of those “big box stores” and I was standing near my front door ready to leave when, like everyone copper leaving their home I contemplated, “Should I take a pistol?”  Folks, I’ve carried off-duty for close to 30 years and although it is a daily habit, it’s still a pain.  But I opted for carrying, nothing happened.  Which is why it’s tough – nothing happens and the off-duty pistol is not needed.  But then again if I carried off-duty only when I thought something bad was going to happen I’d carry a rifle or better yet wouldn’t leave the house.  No, on that day my DoubleStar 1911 semi-auto pistol with spare magazine was cold comfort but it was none-the-less comforting.

Item: As I write this a sad story emerges from Oklahoma where a Major from a Sheriff’s office was shot in the head as he was making a bank drop while working an off-duty job in uniform at a local restaurant.  Although in critical condition at this time sustaining serious eye and facial injuries he is expected to survive.

Item: An off-duty New Jersey police officer was the victim of a car-jacking at a local carwash.  The officer fired a shot at the suspects (one of whom was armed) as they sped off and attempted to follow them in another customer’s car before losing them in traffic.

Item: An off-duty Tulsa Deputy was forced to shoot a burglary suspect as the perpetrator attempted to enter the deputy’s home at about 0430 hrs. on a Saturday morning.  After responding to the sound of someone rattling the door as he attempted to open the locked apartment door, the deputy armed himself and went to check what the disturbance was.  When confronted with an aggressive suspect who came towards him the deputy was forced to shoot.

Item: An off-duty Detroit officer was shot in the leg by a suspect who attempted to rob him at a gas station.  The officer returned fire critically wounding the suspect.

Folks, that’s just this month…

Carry All the Time

My eldest daughter, her husband and my lovely granddaughter live only a minute’s drive from my wife and me but when I leave my house to head over there, I carry a pistol.  My daughter asked, “Why are you carrying your gun here?”  I responded that frequently her mother wants me to go to the store or other errands and by carrying a pistol I’m ready for such sojourns.  After all, I had a pistol on my ankle when I walked her down the aisle…

By carrying all the time I don’t have to contemplate such silly thoughts as, “Should I…?” I just do.  And considering I arrested an escaped felon off-duty while still on probation, I opt to carry all the time.

Off-Duty Carry Considerations

  • Try to carry in the same place on your belt in the same general type of holster you carry on-duty.
  • Carry enough gun – “mouse guns” or small caliber pistols or revolvers are better than throwing rocks but hardly worthy of protecting yourself or your loved ones.
  • Carry in a holster – even if you carry in a pocket.  There are a vast number of quality off-duty holsters out there worthy of your consideration.  A holster better retains your handgun and positions it for instant, easier access than just dropping it in a pocket.
  • Shorter barrel revolvers or semi-auto pistols can actually be harder to carry.  The barrel of the handgun can help press the grips (the hardest part to conceal) into your body.  This is especially true of inside the belt holsters.  In addition, shorter barrels mean shorter sight radius and more difficulty in shooting accurately.
  • Carry at least one reload – whether it’s a magazine for your pistol or a speed-strip or speed-loader for your revolver, carry some spare ammo.
  • Buy quality holsters – this is not the time to buy a cheap ten dollar leather or nylon holster.  You really do get what you pay for.
  • The holster should lock to the belt via belt loops versus clips.  By and large clip holsters tend to either pull off the belt when you draw your handgun or unduly shift around.
  • When carrying under a shirt – buy shirts one size larger to help conceal your pistol.
  • Specialty clothing for concealed carry – I have shirts from EOTac, Blackhawk!, 5.11 and more that are specifically designed to help conceal holstered pistols.  The designs are discreet, well made and worthy of your consideration.
  • Dry-Fire Practice – with an unloaded handgun (one that you’ve double checked) and using a safe background, practice accessing your off-duty piece from a variety of different positions – standing, seated, kneeling, prone or supine.  Practice drawing one handed as well as two.
  • Live-Fire Practice – occasionally take your off-duty pistol or revolver to the range and engage in realistic live-fire drills including reloads, use of cover, one handed, wounded officer drills and more.


The idea is not to get involved if at all possible but off-duty as our examples indicate many times the problems comes to you.

Being off-duty you can enjoy the fruits of your labor: time with the family, to relax and unwind, time to forget about some of that “cop stuff” that so permeates our thinking.  But you’re a cop and with that comes the knowledge of the immediacy of violence and the victimization of those unwilling or unable to protect themselves.  You can’t ever allow yourself to become complacent about your off-duty survival and your ability to protect your loved ones.  Bad things happen to good cops off-duty but carrying a concealed handgun offers cold comfort possibly preventing you from turning cold in the advent of a deadly assault against you.


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About The Author:

Kevin Davis is a full-time officer assigned to the training bureau where he specializes in use of force, firearms and tactical training. With over 23 years in law enforcement, his previous experience includes patrol, corrections, narcotics and he is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency's SWAT team with over 500 call-outs in tactical operations.