If you’re relatively new to concealed carry, you may have heard the term “printing” thrown around in the community. But what is printing and why is it such a big deal? Well, there are 4 major reasons why printing is bad for concealed carry practitioners.

  1. Legal issues
  2. Public hysteria
  3. Make yourself a target
  4. Loss of tactical advantage
why printing is bad - hip carry example

Printing while concealed carry means the outline of a handgun, in whole or part is visible through the persons clothing. However, this definition is vague and is open to interpretation.

Some consider a simple bulge in an awkward place indicative of printing. Others will say the shape of the firearm must be clearly defined. More still will insist a sweat outline in the general shape of a gun is indicative of printing.

Because printing is not usually clearly defined, the ambiguity can work to your advantage or disadvantage. Unfortunately, it will usually work to your disadvantage. Next, I’m going to cover some reasons you should avoid printing while you concealed carry.

1. Legal Issue With Printing

Although many states who issue concealed carry permits are also open carry friendly, this is not always the case. For instance, California is a “may issue” state and does NOT allow open carry of firearms. Therefore, the idea of openly displaying — if only the outline — of your concealed carry handgun could be cause for legal problems.

Again, I will use California firearm laws as an example for the types of hassle printing while concealed carrying may cause. California code states that:

“In order to determine whether or not a firearm is loaded for the purpose of enforcing this section, peace officers are authorized to examine any firearm carried by anyone on the person […] Refusal to allow a peace officer to inspect a firearm pursuant to this section constitutes probable cause for arrest”

It’s worth reading up on the state laws and familiarize yourself with local laws regarding printing. However, you can avoid this altogether by ensuring that your firearm is properly concealed and not visible in any way.

Concealed Carry Printing & Brandishing A Firearm

Next, we’ll talk about another legal issue that printing while concealed carry can lead to. According to uslegal.com, brandishing a firearm as defined at the federal level is when:

“all or part of the weapon was displayed, or the presence of the weapon was otherwise made known to another person, in order to intimidate that person, regardless of whether the weapon was directly visible to that person. Accordingly, although the dangerous weapon does not have to be directly visible, the weapon must be present.”

Notice that your firearm does not need to be directly visible to be charged with brandishing a firearm at the federal level. If this doesn’t make you understand why printing is bad for concealed carry, then you need to re-evaluate your definition of “bad.”

2. Printing and Public Hysteria

Unfortunately, we live in a post Columbine, Aurora, etc. world and there is a fear of firearms gripping the world. However, nowhere is this unfounded fear more prevalent than the United States.

Therefore, public hysteria is another reason that printing while carrying concealed is a bad idea. Search Reddit and you’re bound to find stories similar to these about people open carrying a gun. Imagine their fear of someone who is carrying a gun concealed.

Many in the concealed carry community are quick to point out instances where firearms are used in self defense. Unfortunately, a large portion of the global community is quick to dismiss these claims as uncommon. Ironically, they also fail to see that crimes such as the tragedies listed are a small portion of gun crimes.

Anyways, I digress. Suffice it to say that printing in public is likely not going to end up well. Particularly if you live in a state with restrictive gun laws.

3. Printing Makes You A Target

Whether it’s the police or the bad guys, printing while carrying concealed makes you a target. Good guys are going to question why you are carrying and the bad guys will see you as a threat. It’s a lose-lose situation. The Japanese have an old proverb, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered.”

Nowhere is this more true than with concealed carry. Imagine a bad guy wants to commit a crime. Any crime involving multiple people will do — robbery, mass shooting, hostage situation. Even ignorant criminals will seek to neutralize the biggest threat first to ensure they are unimpeded during the duration of their crime.

Printing while you are concealed carrying is tantamount to hanging a sign around your neck that screams “shoot me first.” Anyways, here’s yet another reason why printing is a bad idea.

4. Printing = Loss Of Tactical Advantage

Printing results in a loss of tactical advantage and fundamentally defeats the purpose of concealed carry. Perhaps this goes without saying, but by printing you are letting everyone around you know that you have a concealed firearm. Thus the issues with public hysteria and making yourself a target.

Printing while you concealed carry puts any would-be assailant on guard. It’s unlikely the situation will end up in your favor if you reach anywhere near your firearm.

However, an undetected concealed firearm gives you a distinct advantage. Criminals are less likely to fear, react, or prepare for, something they don’t know exists. Above is a video of an off duty police officer to demonstrate why carrying concealed is effective.

How To Avoid Printing

Alright, so we’ve covered why printing is bad. So, how do you avoid printing while concealed carrying? There are several things you can do to minimize the likelihood of printing.

  1. Wear appropriately-sized clothing
  2. Adjust your carry position
  3. Select the proper holster
  4. Choose the right handgun

1. Wear Proper Attire To Avoid Printing

Probably the most important change you can make to avoid printing is to select and wear proper attire. Usually, this means selecting the right style and size of pants to avoid an outline of your handgun on your pants. Pants that fit too snugly in the hip and thigh are a bad idea.

Additionally, shirts should be a sufficient length to completely cover both the firearm and any visible portion of your holster. Furthermore, your shirt should cascade over your handgun rather than fit snugly. A shirt that is too tight will result in an outline.

Finally, you can dress with an outer layer to avoid printing. Wearing a jacket can help conceal an outline by increasing your overall bulk.

2. Switch Up Your Carry Position For Better Concealment

Another method to prevent printing while you concealed carry is to modify your carry position. For instance, if you are unable to conceal your handgun on your hip, try moving it along your waistline. Moving the gun to the appendix carry position may help you prevent printing.

You’ll need to give your new carry position some time before you abandon it. Also, remember to practice your draw and shoot techniques from this new position to ensure proficiency.

3. Good Holster Selection Reduces Printing

Many people think that all holsters are created equal, and that simply isn’t true. Personal preference does play a pivotal role. However, you also need to evaluate what you require from a holster — safety, comfort, retention, and conceal-ability — should be high on the list.

The point I am trying to make, is that sometimes a bad holster can cause problems with proper concealment. You may need to look for holsters with additional features such as holster claws to assist with concealment.

I’ve written several lists of holsters for specific model handguns. Additionally, I have detailed write-ups on several of my own holsters. Just so you know, I really had to TRY and get my handgun to print for my pictures because my IWB holsters are amazing.

4. Avoid Printing By Choosing The Right Handgun

If none of these options help to reduce printing, you may need to find a different handgun. I’ve written an article on selecting the best size gun for concealed carry that you might want to check out.

For many, this solution is cost prohibitive which is why I’ve left this method for last. However, sometimes it cannot be avoided. You may need to test out several other handguns before finding one you are proficient with and can conceal without printing.

Parting Shots

Hopefully, this article has satisfied any curiosity or questions you have about printing. However, if you still have questions, leave a comment below. Additionally, if you are having the debate with someone about printing feel free to share this article with them. Both commenting and sharing help me out immensely. Thanks for stopping by and carry on!