Ayoob, Massad. The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry. Iola: Gun Digest Books, 2008.
BLUF: A solid choice for in-depth, contemporary discussion of concealed carry techniques.
The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry intends to be a "one stop shop" for concealed carry questions. The large bullets on the cover proclaim everything from Proper Weapon and Accessory Selection to State-by-State Laws & Regulations to Safe Carry Techniques. Weighing in at 254 pages/19 chapters in four sections, how well does the book measure up?
Well, a simple page and chapter count can tell you where the real meat and potatoes are:
PART I -- SOFTWARE (4 chapters/~30 pages)
PART II -- HARDWARE (2 chapters/~40 pages)
PART III -- CARRY METHODS (10 chapters/~130 pages)(!!!)
PART IV -- ENHANCEMENTS (3 chapters/~30 pages)
So, yes, it does touch on accessories and types of guns and legal issues, but make no mistake: the heart of this book is the in-depth discussion of concealed carry methods. The "software" section deals with mental preparation and legal issues; it is no substitute for reading a resource devoted to this topic like Grossman's On Killing or Ayoob's own In the Gravest Extreme. The "hardware" section briefly discusses types of handguns and ammunition loads, but it is no substitute for a dedicated book like Combat Handgunnery, Boston's Gun Bible, or any of the numerous online resources. On the upside, these brief discussions do introduce the topics for a person new to CCW; however, they would benefit from a bibliography. Mr. Ayoob references other books occasionally in the text but a "next steps suggested reading" to flesh out each chapter would be a great addition. The front-cover vaunted discussion of state by state gun laws is a two page table, and I'd advise you to use a more-up-to-date resource such as the internet rather than relying on a book given today's rapidly changing gun laws.
The real meat of this book is in the carry methods, and here you will not be disappointed. Massad goes through in detail and discusses each type of technique. He outlines implications for wardrobe, tactics, equipment, comfort, etc for each method. His treatment seems even handed and he reccomends a wide variety of holsters for different purposes.
The book's layout is great, with liberal use of illustrastions and pictures. They are particularly helpful in the carry methods section. Ayoob uses a transparent rain slicker which works as a surprisingly good teaching aid to allow the reader to see the concealed weapon, but also see how it would be concealed under normal clothing. Photos taken in a sequence showing each step in a draw from concealment make the prose crystal clear. One complaint I do have is that almost all the photos use Mr. Ayoob as the model. I would have liked to see some with people of different body types; short, tall, thin, fat, male, female, etc.
The focus is on carry for men, but Mr. Ayoob is sensitive to women who CCW. He has daughters who both carry and thus is aware of the issues involved. He specifically identifies holsters that have worked for his female relatives, students and colleagues.
One thing that would have helped to organize the vast amount of knowledge crammed into these pages would be a summary or table. A table for each carry method listing types of holsters with their pros and cons and a picture would have been helpful. Or, at least shopping reccomendations for common, representative handguns: "If you carry a full-size glock, consider this type of shoulder holster..." Of course, this goes against Massad's stated goal of avoiding "put downs" for holsters he does not like or shamelessly promoting his favorites, but it would have at least formed an actionable shopping list for the new CCW. Likewise, a summary page at the end of the carry methods section to bring the whole section together and reemphasize the broad points would be nice. Still, this is a nitpick that I only mention because there is a wealth of useful information in here!
Two chapters I found interesting were on Open Carry and IDPA. Interestingly, the day I read the Open Carry chapter, Heather asked me about the exact same topic. Mr. Ayoob presents both sides of the argument fairly and then shares his personal views. Its a great discussion of a nuanced issue.
The section on IDPA was a good intro for those new to the shooting sports, but was a bit light on info and heavy on photos from one particular match. Given the full-page photos (and empty blank pages at the end of the book!), I felt like this had been slapped on in a hurry to fill pages; it doesn't detract, by any means, but it is a bit out of place and could be fleshed out a bit better.
This book certainly has a place on your bookshelf if you're new to CCW. There are free resources like Kathy Johnson's holster discussion on the Cornered Cat website, but the Gun Digest Book of CCW is useful if for no other reason than benefitting from Mr. Ayoob's decades of CCW research and personal experience as well as the excellent photos illustrating each method. Even the experienced armed citizen may learn something new, especially if considering a new type of holster or carry method.
Is it worth $25 MSRP? Probably. But luckily, Amazon has it for $10 less, pushing this from the "nice to have" to the "why not? its a great value!" category. I'd prefer to spend $15 on a well-illustrated and helpful book and $100 on holsters that work the first time than skip the book and end up spending twice as much holsters because I didn't know what I was doing when I bought the first set of leather.
Overall rating: 4/5. Good value and of broad interest; Excellent, methodical, and well-illustrated discussion of CCW carry methods.
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