If you hang around the concealed carry crowd for long, you’re likely to hear about the issue of “printing”. That’s the informal term that describes when the the outline of a gun is visible through a garment even though the gun is technically covered. This is generally considered a bad thing, and many people will go to great lengths to ensure that their carry gun isn’t printing before they venture out into public.

I remember the first time I carried after getting my permit almost a decade ago. I stuffed a S&W snubby into the inside pocket of a heavy wool coat and went to Target to buy a birthday card for a friend. Even though there was no possible way anyone could see even the hint of an outline of the gun through that coat, all I could think the whole time was, “Holy crap. I have a GUN in my pocket! Everybody knows and I will be shunned from society!”

Printing
Relax, dude… nobody knows.

After having taught concealed carry permit classes for a few years, I learned from former students that this sentiment is not uncommon among first-time carriers. Assuming you carry on a regular basis, the paranoid feeling eventually fades and stowing a blaster in your trousers every day becomes as natural as getting dressed in the morning. But for most people, there is still a lingering desire to avoid getting “made” and having someone accidentally discover there’s a holstered pea-shooter underneath your shirt.

Motives for wanting to be armed discreetly will vary from one person to the next and could be for social reasons, legal reasons, or to maintain a perceived tactical advantage. There are a few different ways you could potentially be “outed” as a CCW-holder, printing being just one of them, but its one that a lot of folks tend to be very cautious about. Oftentimes too cautious, in my opinion, because it often leads to them carrying a smaller or less powerful gun than they should, or to not even carrying at all. Chances are, you have little to worry about, and here are a few thoughts to consider to help put your mind at ease:

1. It’s not as obvious as you think

If you’re worried that the slight bulge in your shirt is really obvious when you’re looking down at it, be sure to check in a mirror. From a couple of feet away, it’s probably barely perceptible. So unless you’re trying to carry a six-inch revolver in a spandex tank-top, a slight protrusion from the base of the grip that looks huge to your eyes when looking down at it will most likely blend in from the perspective of the people around you.

2. Nobody’s looking

With belt holsters being the most common method for concealed carry, printing is most likely to occur around the body’s midsection. Fortunately, in our society it’s generally impolite to stare at other people’s “crotchal region” and most people have a sub-concious aversion to letting their eyes drift toward staring at a strangers belt line. Even if your gun is blatantly printing, few people in public will ever notice.

3. Printing rarely looks like a gun

So let’s say you’re printing a little and somebody happens to notice something a bit odd about the way your clothes fit. The average person is not trained to automatically think “gun” when they see a little wrinkle in someone’s shirt. If they even give it a second thought, they’re more likely to assume it’s something mundane like a belt buckle, cell phone, keychain, or a beeper (that is, if your town happens to be perpetually stuck in the year 1997.)

Concealed Carry Printing
On the left, carrying a compact pistol with an inside the waistband holster, the outline of the grip is just barely visible, but unlikely to draw any attention. On the right, with a full size pistol in an outside the waistband competition holster, well… a few people might get suspicious.

4. Nobody cares

The only people who automatically assume that any object concealed under clothing is a gun are other concealed carry permit holders, and they’re certainly not going to give you a hard time. Okay, maybe some cops will notice too, but unless you’re acting like a complete moron, 99.9% of LEOs out there aren’t going to hassle you for a little printing. It’s unlikely, though possible that a “bad guy” might notice the lump under your shirt, but chances are he’s looking for an easy target and not interested in getting into a wrestling match with you over what may or may not turn out to be a gun.

5. Know the Law

In states where open carry is prohibited, it’s often rumored that any degree of printing is illegal too, even with a concealed carry permit. In reality, this is almost never the case. Since printing is not a technical legal definition, it raises the important question of what exactly qualifies as “concealed”. Laws vary from state to state, but in most places, as long as you’re making a legitimate effort to keep the gun concealed from the average untrained eye, you shouldn’t have to worry about printing. There’s a lot of overblown misinformation out there on this issue, so be sure to get your facts about state and local carry laws from a reliable source before making any assumptions.

6. Stop Touching It

If you’re overly concerned about printing, then you might be prone to constantly checking and adjusting your carry gun. More often than not, this will only serve to draw unwanted attention to your heater, not keep it hidden. As our pal Say Uncle is fond of saying, “stop touching it“. If you behave as if nothing is there, then most other people will too.

As always, a good holster and solid gun belt are key to maximizing the comfort and concealability of your carry gun. The setup should keep the grip of the gun close to your body to avoid excessive printing, and to keep the gun from moving around. Of course, you’ll probably have to “dress around the gun” to some degree, which may require going up one pant size, and avoiding excessively tight clothing. But with decent gear and some common sense, printing shouldn’t be much of a concern for the average legally armed citizen.


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112 Responses to “Concealed Carry Tips: How to Stop Worrying About “Printing””

  1. Nathan Brackenridge

    Great article? Question, how did you get into teaching cpl classes. I'm looking into it myself.

    Reply
  2. Douglas Quinn

    Great advice!

    Reply
  3. Alex Erickson

    nrainstructors.org on the top righthand side of the page under "general information" there's a tab labeled become NRA certified instructor. The prerequisites aren't difficult, just time consuming!

    Reply
  4. Kurt Schneider

    Solid advice for new (and not-so-new) CHL holders. I know I went through this phase.

    Reply
  5. Guy Gryder

    Good advice.

    Reply
  6. Cecilia Driscoll

    good information, thank you

    Reply
  7. LG Chris

    It varies from state to state. In NC where I taught, you needed the NRA basic pistol instructor certification (or equivalent military credentials) and then an additional CCW instructor class through the state DoJ. Find out which gov't department administers the carry program in your state and they should have the info on the process for becoming an instructor.

    Reply
  8. Ann Strength Childers

    I wish we had some instructors in our area. I only have 38 revolvers and would love to have a 380 Body Guard, but I'm just not sure how to work it, so I stick to what I know.

    Reply
  9. Janelle Hastings

    lol…that's what my purse is for…

    Reply
  10. Michelle Baker

    Good quality holster that fits you and you gun correctly makes it less noticeable. I fell more awkward when I don't have it.

    Reply
  11. Jacob Peterson

    I stopped carrying about printing before I started concealing… I open carried cross draw on the front of my pants with an extra magazine before i concealed, and I realized that %98 of people I talked to had NO idea I was carrying a gun. At one point I apologized about so blatantly open carrying to someone I was talking to to see if they noticed, and they looked down, and their eyes got as big as saucers.
    Our world is complacent my friends. Carry full sized, and just stop worrying. People will pick you out quicker if you are acting odd or trying to hide something than they will if your "concealing" a 870 in your shorts lol
    Bottom line, wear what is comfortable, train drawing, and keep your mind on the next point of cover and concealment.

    Reply
  12. Aaron Freeman

    A guy should just stuff his cod-piece and look proud.

    Reply
  13. Ken Cultraro

    Great article!

    Reply
  14. Buddy Hammonds

    Yea I have that problem caring mine I feel weird somebody going to notice

    Reply
  15. Ron Schunk

    'Banded Bottom' pull over shirts work really well…in dark colors as well.

    Reply
  16. Rob Miller

    Yea I was at a men's discussion group once and got " made" I was wearing a light Red Sox top and I must have printed the way I sat down . I noticed the guy looking at me funny and after the meeting had the nerve to touch my side. I wanted to punch his face for that

    Reply
  17. I didn't serve in combat, but I still served.

    Great article, I went through all of that. One thing not addressed is my initial paranoia over being hugged while carrying. I was afraid someone would feel it and know. What I've found out since is that in nearly every case where someone has touched my piece they thought it was a cell phone or something like that.

    Reply
  18. Alisa Long

    I have this problem because I don't usually wear loose shirts. I am self conscious, but I'm still willing to carry.

    Reply
  19. Stan Kasperek

    About the only people that are going to notice are ones that are looking for it to begin with.If you have shirts that have prints (think like camo for people) that will minimize it even more.

    Reply
  20. Judie Porter

    Check out this: FLASHBANG HOLSTER …… just google it

    Reply
  21. John Wahl

    a .380 in most cases is under powered ,, you can get 9mm in a small version ,, much more stopping power and isnt that the idea to stop someone

    Reply
  22. John Wahl

    nra has training courses you can take, along with ngra [national gun rights association]

    Reply
  23. John Wahl

    i was trained by a ngra course and was very happy with it

    Reply
  24. David Jackson

    Brandon Jackson

    Reply
  25. David Jackson

    I carry the ruger sp101… in my opinion the .38 has better stopping power than a .380, but any cal is better than nothing..

    Reply
  26. Josh Kampmeier

    A good article, for sure… but can we please stop referring to our handguns as a 'heater'? It's almost as bad as 'gat'.

    Reply
  27. W Harold DeMent

    The two previous responders are correct that the .380 is somewhat under powered compared to a .38 or 9 mm, but it is still a good conceal carry gun. Go with what YOU are comfortable with. As to working it, read the manual, watch some videos on semi's, practice with dry fire for awhile and head for a shooting range. My wife has a Bodyguard and loves it.

    Reply
  28. John Patrick Mullan

    All good advice. I rarely worry about printing because the only people who will be looking for it are trained professionals.

    Reply
  29. Deacon Maxwell Gowan

    I love my 5 shot Springfield XDs .45 ACP and extra magazine.

    Reply
  30. Dick Turner

    I carry a Kahr Pm9 in my cargo pants I forget it is there. My family says it kicks to much. I want something that kicks if the stuff hits the fan. I have carried for 10 years I was made once by a cop who said he could see the butt, because the velco came lose on my vest. For different mods of dress,I have 4 favorite holster. Do not carry with out a pocket holster! Anything in your pocket could pull the trigger. For pocket carry i have only the gun in that pocket

    Reply
  31. Joe Mathews

    I carry an XDS .45 in the appendix IWB carry position, have a tucked in T-shirt. No one even knows its there. Zero printing, just tuck your shirt and pull it out just enough to take out the tension.Carry 24/7.

    Reply
  32. Bobby Wojciechowski

    i always wear bigger t shirts if im carrying

    Reply
  33. Timothy Goodman

    with the right ammo the 380 has more knock-down power than the 9 mm. i use the personal defense ammo for my nine which is 147 grain

    Reply
  34. Joe Mathews

    Somewhat agree with the .380 being under powered. Fact is it will still stop the threat, rather have the .380 and hit my target than a .357 and miss on followup shots. So many people say the .380 is crap. Still cant find anyone that wants to get shot with one. Carry what you shoot well.

    Reply
  35. Kenneth Dunlop

    "That's my insulin pump. And yes, I'm self-conscious about it. Thanks for noticing."

    Reply
  36. Phil Mill

    Another good idea, wear a looser shirt…

    Reply
  37. Bob Hurley

    Exactly my prepared reply in case I print bending over for some canned goods on the bottom shelf. Or TENS unit, or colostomy bag, or some vague "well, after the next surgery I can hopefully do without that".

    And as has already been mentioned, most people these days are preoccupied with their cellphones, or searching for something in the store, looking down at their feet as they walk or in some other way not paying attention.

    Reply
  38. LG Chris

    You don't like "heater", but no objection to "pea shooter", "blaster", or "crotchal region"?

    Reply
  39. LG Chris

    True, and I think they typically have better things to worry about anyway.

    Reply
  40. Josh Kampmeier

    LG Chris lol, I don't really care for blaster either. Pea shooter is pretty harmless… and what's wrong with a crotchal region? :-P

    Reply
  41. LG Chris

    I used to worry about that too, but most people that I'm on a "hugging basis" with already know I carry. But the occasional ambush hug from someone outside of the circle of trust has not yet resulted in me being outed. I've also had strangers accidentally bump into it in crowded places, but like you said, I'm sure most assume it's a cell phone or belt buckle.

    Reply
  42. Bennett Frumer

    Good info thanks!

    Reply
  43. Glenn Smith

    I think this is a(normal) paranoid new carrier thing!!! I don't look for any printing myself,couldn't care less! I'm sure I probably thought in my mind the same way back then though,but after 25 years of carrying concealed,it's like second nature to me. It has become as necessary to my family's safety as my belt to hold up my pants!! I forget its there,but always remember it is there in case it's needed.I also hope I never will…

    Reply
  44. Roy Flores

    Very helpful thanks for the tips

    Reply
  45. Joel Maddeaux

    After 3 years of ccw I dlon't even think of it.. it's like it's part of my body. i carry at 3:00 where it csn be pulled into the contour of my side. my 38 is never seen or printed.

    Reply
  46. Erika Roza Shanina Feuerborn

    What???? Wear a looser shirt??? In this day and age??? You must be joking! ;)

    Reply
  47. John Condon

    I agree with all that said

    Reply
  48. Karl Proctor

    When I was street policing one of the first things we learned was that 1) bad guys don't use holsters, and 2) the less experienced ones are constantly checking their "gat". So we quickly learned that if we saw a young punk who was looking nervous and constantly grabbing around his waist, in the, say, appendix region, he was someone we might want to have a chat with.

    Reply
  49. Douglas M Moore

    FNX-45 auto. Carry everywhere I go even at work. No one ever notices it or asks me about it

    Reply
  50. Troy Henderson

    Ann the 380 Body Guard is a great carry gun.I carry mine in my pockets of both my shorts and jeans. Yes the 380 is a smaller gun but you have to go with what is good for you, not them.

    Reply
  51. Rod Schertz

    The only time someone noticed I was carrying was when I tried to hide some printing by holding a booklet in my hand. Rather than hide it, I drew attention to it. The guy was cool about it as he said, "Do you keep your gun loaded?" No more worrying about minor printing.

    Reply
  52. Ed Hopkins

    I fish without a shirt on with my kahr cw9 IWB in my shorts in a belly band. I just pull the shorts up and over it. No one sees anything.

    Reply
  53. Ed Hopkins

    That's with an extra mag too.

    Reply
  54. Kyle Cain

    Open carrying eliminates this "problem."

    Reply
  55. Bill Ellis

    I have both a Ruger LC9 and an LCP 380. I love both of them but my daily carry is the 380. The slight difference in bulk and weight is amazing over the course of a day. The LCP slips right into my pocket and just looks like a larger cell phone. I prefer not to have the holster issues required by the LC9. To each his (or her) own!

    Reply
  56. Dan Atwater

    I looked like the guy on the right when I carried my P220 OWB. Nobody noticed or cared enough to say anything, including the cop who was behind me in line at starbucks. Hell, I open carry at work and some people don't even notice until I mention it first.

    Most people just aren't paying attention.

    Reply
  57. Charles Cusumano

    Had the same concerns but eventually went away. A good article for every newbie

    Reply
  58. Charles Cusumano

    Had the same concerns but eventually went away. A good article for every newbie

    Reply
  59. Rob Kight

    I rarely cover mine. I usually just open carry and most people either don't notice or don't care. I've open carried in lots of businesses, including malls and liquor stores. The liquor stores always resulted in a conversation about guns and I've seen a few of the employees' carry weapons.

    Reply
  60. Rob Kight

    I rarely cover mine. I usually just open carry and most people either don't notice or don't care. I've open carried in lots of businesses, including malls and liquor stores. The liquor stores always resulted in a conversation about guns and I've seen a few of the employees' carry weapons.

    Reply
  61. Scott Killey

    Very good info some of which I never thought about.

    Reply
  62. Scott Killey

    Very good info some of which I never thought about.

    Reply
  63. Jason Davis

    Excellent article for the newly licensed CCW/CHL individuals; and honestly I was having "stage fright" when started carrying!!

    Reply
  64. Jason Davis

    Excellent article for the newly licensed CCW/CHL individuals; and honestly I was having "stage fright" when started carrying!!

    Reply
  65. Andrew Corrado

    I'm a black belt so when hugging people I don't want knowing about my weapon I direct their grab away from my item with out making it obvious. Just a little bump is usually all it takes and totally explainable. Or I'll cross plane my arms so my strong arm (draw arm) is underneath and they don't even get close to it. Small of the back carry just go underneath with both arms and you will stay hidden. (EDC 5 in 1911)

    Reply
  66. Andrew Corrado

    I'm a black belt so when hugging people I don't want knowing about my weapon I direct their grab away from my item with out making it obvious. Just a little bump is usually all it takes and totally explainable. Or I'll cross plane my arms so my strong arm (draw arm) is underneath and they don't even get close to it. Small of the back carry just go underneath with both arms and you will stay hidden. (EDC 5 in 1911)

    Reply
  67. Wendy Lee

    Can Can Concealment Check out the website

    Reply
  68. Wendy Lee

    Can Can Concealment Check out the website

    Reply
  69. Benjamin Sampedro

    Yea, I call it my Glock portable pancreas

    Reply
  70. Benjamin Sampedro

    Yea, I call it my Glock portable pancreas

    Reply
  71. Ted Fisher

    Check out new Glock 42 its a nice 380 Walther has a nice PK380 but Glock smaller I like them both I have a 9mm for colder months 380 summer

    Reply
  72. Ted Fisher

    Check out new Glock 42 its a nice 380 Walther has a nice PK380 but Glock smaller I like them both I have a 9mm for colder months 380 summer

    Reply
  73. Sybil Schroeder

    Sound advice, enjoyed article however my concern on printing was short lived. Carrying for me is as natural as falling off a log.

    Reply
  74. Wolf Diamond

    Great article! I went through this phase in the beginning as most CWP holders do.

    Reply
  75. Scott Cox

    A bloodclot in the heart or brain will drop someone, why do you think a small caliber will not do the same? Anyone shot with a .22 .25 .32 .380 in the heart lungs or brain will drop. More accurate shots can be fired consecutively than with larger calibers. And there is really very little difference between a .380 and a .9mm when it comes to being shot…a bullet is a bullet.

    Reply
  76. Craig Rabb

    In Texas the statute for failing to conceal is based upon "intent." Printing, bulging, riding up don't count under the statute. INTENT must be proven – hard to do if one makes an effort to conceal. Concealment does not equal invisibility. Your mileage may vary.

    Reply
  77. Domino Erickson

    Cant believe all the morons that think a .380'is underpowered. A .380 is a short 9mm. Same diameter round. The round is not meant to punch a hole in plate steel. At a 7 meter draw with hollow points the .380 will do just about the same amount of damage, do you research. Same can be said for 9mm, that is a weak round compared to a .40 cal. The .380 for a pocket gun is a great self defense weapon, unless you think you need a concealed that wil punch a hole in an engine block.

    Reply
  78. Republic Forge

    Good read and right on the money

    Reply
  79. Helena Zielinski

    My biggest problem has been that my two yr old comes running up and throws himself at me for full-contact hugs. Multiple times now, he has smashed his forehead into the grip, which is at JUST the right height to leave a mark. And we just had to have a discussion with the 5 yr old about not pointing out the "no guns" signs and saying (very loudly), "Mommy, you can't wear your gun in here!"

    Reply
  80. Jim Durst

    I've been carrying for 40+ years and still am conscious of printing. There are some new carry options on the market that work very well in concealing your weapon.

    Reply
  81. Guin Campbell

    I carried my 1911 for years and today I carry a reliable .380. yes I know it's under powered but it's cheaper and I'm not as concerned about it getting worn out by the constant stresses of concealed carry and lets be honest, if someone draws a Gun, no matter what it shoots, your still going to be scared.
    I think we have taken these caliber wars way to far.

    Reply
  82. Craig Rabb

    Link to relevant Texas penal code: http://law.onecle.com/texas/penal/46.035.00.html

    Reply
  83. LG Chris

    Yeah, I know it's not very "operator" of me, but I don't carry in my house and one of the reasons is that my kids would be constantly injuring themselves when they run into me at full speed.

    Reply
  84. LG Chris

    Wrong post, buddy. We finished the Great Caliber War of 2014 a few weeks ago.

    Reply
  85. LG Chris

    Thanks for pointing that out, Craig. Here's a great article on that very topic that I ran across when I was researching this post: http://www.multibriefs.com/briefs/exclusive/changes_in_texas_chl_law_2.html#.U8U-cfldVBm

    Reply
  86. Chris Wilson

    Only other CPL holders really notice.

    Reply
  87. LG Chris

    Thanks, Kurt. Do you use the pink Jeep as a misdirection tactic?

    Reply
  88. LG Chris

    Now I want someone to call me out for carrying just so I can say this.

    Reply
  89. Helena Zielinski

    LG Chris I carry as long as I am awake. :D

    Reply
  90. Craig Rabb

    LG Chris Thanks Chris. Very helpful.

    Reply
  91. Craig Rabb

    LG Chris "Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me." Reportedly, Mae West spoke the line to an escorting LA police officer who met her at the LA railway station in February, 1936. The line was repeated in her final film Sextette (1978) to co-star George Hamilton.

    Reply
  92. Paul Te Prieto

    Great Advice. Thank you.

    Reply
  93. Lee Towle

    I use colostomy bag.

    Reply
  94. Vasili Zaitzev

    Great article Chris. The little Czarina and I are going through this phase now, and it's been a little difficult to work around, but this will help ease the self consciousness quite a bit. Inside the waist for me at 4 O'clock works real well even with a T-shirt. I look like your picture, but sometimes to me I feel like that little bulge feels like a Mosin 91/30 in my pants!

    Reply
  95. Michael Giza

    I used to be in the goth scene back in HS and have Tripps, the pants that have all the chains and stuff on them. The deep pockets make for concealing even a .357 mag easy. The only one who will know, is you.

    Reply
  96. Matthew Wilson

    870 lol! "Is that a… giant steel tube in your pants? Jesus Christ! Why didn't you tell me you broke your leg???? Come here have a seat!"

    Reply
  97. Patrick Deats

    Michael Giza haha i found your comment. lol but no with tripps people will already picture you as someone with a gun. so when i wore tripps with my ccw, i just open carried it

    Reply
  98. Drew Baye

    Being fit also helps. The smaller your waist relative to your chest the more room between your waist and a normal shirt for your pistol and the less you'll print (athletic fit is another matter altogether).

    Reply
  99. Isaac Shelby Baker

    Nobody cares a whit here. Open carry is in our state Constitution and plenty do it. I carry concealed in town but it's nice to have the option of removing my covering garment, which I do when we go inside and it's warm. Nobody ever even looks twice.

    Reply
  100. Danny Thompson

    Winter helps too.

    Reply
  101. Michael Wittenborn

    The biggest problem my father and I have is we have gotten fat over the years and printing stands out more then it did when we were in the Army. Any advice on that? FYI I use two shirts to help conceal but here in Southern Georgia it get's too hot to keep doing that all summer.

    Reply
  102. Ann Strength Childers

    I just don't know that much about the 380 type of guns and wonder if they would go off easier if I carried one in a flashbang with one in the chamber???? I ALWAYS carry a .38 and feel pretty safe and secure with it, its just as I said, heavy and bulky to carry in the flashbang. Thanks for all the help guys.

    Reply
  103. Patrick Fultz

    The insulin pump explanation is the best! That would be my go to reply. Hasn't been necessary yet. Ha

    Reply
  104. Gig Em

    Why, yes….I am excited to be here….how YOU do'in?!

    Reply
  105. Robert Chamberlain

    Wish we had same laws in New York!

    Reply
  106. Dennis Dunlavey

    Fuck that if and when I get mine it's goin right on my thigh

    Reply
  107. Concealed Carry: Not That Difficult

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