Easy Rider: Handgun Carry While Riding a Motorcycle

Motorcycle Types Collage

The type of motorcycle you ride influences which type of carry method you employ.

Motorcycle riding continues to increase in popularity. For some it’s because of increased gas prices. For others it’s a sense of freedom, a way to temporarily unplug from the world. And for others it’s something they grew up doing and it’s become a way of life. The reasons why we ride are as varied as the number of different makes, models, and styles of motorcycles on the road. I fall into the “way of life” category and log in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles per year. My yearly riding profile consists of daily commuting, errands, rallies, and at least two long-haul (2.5k+ mile) trips.

Through all these years and miles on a motorcycle, I have managed to carry in some form the majority of the time. My experiences while riding, my evolution as a firearms instructor, as well as student questions have given me time to really think about concealed carry while riding. My thoughts on the “why,” “how,” and strategies for success have evolved over the years based on these factors.

Plausibility

A quick Google search will bring up a lot of links to forum opinions on how to carry, as well as ads for various motorcycle accessories for carrying while riding. I even found one forum where someone (a naturally right-handed shooter) said, “When riding I carry left handed…. It would have to be an extreme situation when I would actually shoot from my bike, moving or stopped, but I have trained that way.” What isn’t readily available is information on a strategy for concealed carry while riding.

Pocket Carry Collage

If pocket carry is used, you most likely will need to shift and/or stand to make room for the draw.

To come up with a strategy, you first need to apply the plausibility principle: What are the most probable and plausible situations you could encounter while riding where you would need to defend yourself with a firearm? The situations while riding a motorcycle are basically the same as if you were in a car — the situations all involve being stopped. The quick run to the store, getting gas, stopped at a traffic signal or sign, taking a break at a rest area, and the list goes on of the different places you would stop. The major difference is that sitting on a motorcycle, you don’t have an intermediate barrier to give yourself extra time to react and to provide cover or concealment.


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Let’s quickly cover that statement about carrying left-handed for “just in case” scenarios while riding. To be clear, I have heard this from multiple sources (students as well as strangers at rallies). Is it possible that someone could threaten your life while riding down the road? Absolutely! This usually comes from being tailgated or having your right of way taken. In these situations, your first reaction is to get out of the way, come to a stop, or some other evasive maneuver, not draw your gun. I submit that even if in some post-apocalyptic anomaly where someone starts shooting at you while riding, your first action should still be escape, evade, or safely come to a stop. You are already in a compromised position by being on two wheels and with no steel cage surrounding you. Taking one hand off the bars to draw a weapon only magnifies your bad position.

Consistency

The second area I like to look at when developing a strategy is consistency. We all have limited time, money, and energy, so whatever we do that is different from our primary carry method, some portion of time needs to be dedicated to training. For this reason, I recommend that whenever possible, carry in the same manner and position while riding as you do when walking around.

I recognize that this isn’t always possible, based on things like the type of motorcycle you ride and how you’re positioned on the bike. If your everyday carry is inside-the-waistband appendix and you ride a sport bike, I am pretty sure this wouldn’t be comfortable (or good for the tank paint). In a case like this, let’s say the person switches to a shoulder holster while riding. They will most likely be wearing a jacket or vest for concealment. This alternative carry method must be trained and should be done wearing the same cover garment worn while riding. The context of wearing the cover garment provides the sensory perception for setting and developing the neural pathways for a consistent response.

Methods

As I said earlier, a Google search will bring up more than enough opinions on the various positions to carry. I will break it down into the categories of on-body and off-body, the pluses and minuses of each, and some tips.

On-Body

Shoulder Vest Collage

Riding vest with built-in holster is a possible alternative carry method and should be included in your training.

In my opinion, on-body carry is preferable to off-body whenever possible. Remember the plausibility principle and when you are most likely to need to defend yourself — while stopped or at some point after you have parked and dismounted. It’s a big plus to have the gun readily available if it’s needed, and you don’t have to worry about finding a private spot to transition from a storage location.

Now for the downside. I was a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Certified Instructor as a RiderCoach for my state. I began every class with the statement, “There are two types of riders: those that will go down and those that have gone down.” That said, the typical on-body carry positions don’t dissuade me from still recommending on-body whenever possible. The gun safety (or safeties) and holster (covering the trigger) should be more than enough to keep the gun from going “bang” in the event of a crash.

Depending on where it is on your body, there’s a good chance you will land on the gun. And depending on the type of retention, it’s possible it could come out of the holster when you go down. So keep in mind where you carry and what the chances are of it being an impact area should you go down. Some of the impact areas are subject to your body type, type of motorcycle, and your position while riding. But there is one type of carry method I don’t think anyone should ever consider while riding: small-of-the-back carry. It’s bad enough you have worry about being injured in an accident, so why put a hunk of metal and polymer right up against your spine and increase the potential of severe injury or paralysis?


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One final thing to consider with on-body carry. When riding down the road, you are “in the wind” and it’s pushing your pant legs up, making the bottom of your shirt flap around (and sometimes ride up), as well as trying to push items out of your pockets. This is why I highly recommend wearing a jacket, vest, or some other cover garment that has a strong zipper (or snaps) and will not easily ride up. Also, if you are going with pocket carry, make sure to use a good holster that has enough tack and/or is shaped such that it will stay in your pocket (or the pocket has a closure). One note on pocket carry: if you need to access the gun immediately upon stopping, you most likely will need to shift your body to open up room in the pocket and pant leg to complete the draw. If this applies, make sure it is incorporated into your training.

Off-Body

Fanny Pack Collage

Fanny pack is a convenient and covert option for off-body carry.

Going back again to my days of teaching new riders, here’s another quote from every class: “Everyone has a different definition of risky behavior or what risk they are willing to accept.” Maybe you aren’t willing to accept the perceived additional risk of on-body carry while riding, or maybe off-body is your preferred method out of necessity. Off-body is storing the gun in a saddle bag, tour pack, tank bang, or some other variant not attached to you while riding.

The plus side of this method is you don’t have to worry about the on-body downsides, meaning the consequences associated with a crash or your cover garment riding up and exposing your gun. On the minus side is the fact that you don’t have immediate weapon access upon stopping.

Here are some things to consider with off-body carry. When stopping, are you going to transition to on-body? If so, develop a routine when stopping, such as finding a private area to perform the transition without detection and then moving to your desired parking spot (or gas pump). Another solution that’s convenient for on- or off-body motorcycle concealed carry is the fanny pack. I know people who use this method and, when they stop, the first thing they do on dismount is pull out the fanny pack and strap it on. I’ve heard that the fanny pack screams “guy with gun,” but the evidence doesn’t support that argument.

CV Harley

Companies such as Corporate Travel Safety make motorcycle-specific gun vaults.

When carrying your firearm in one of your bags, understand that, if you are in an accident, the contents of your bags may be strewn everywhere (aka the “yard sale”). Because of this possibility, I strongly recommend putting the gun not only in a holster but also in another bag or, better yet, invest in a “vault” made for your motorcycle.

Final Thoughts

You may be wondering why I didn’t cover rides where you cross state lines. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, because it is no different than travelling in a car. You must plan ahead and decide your strategy for carry and storage accordingly. Second, with laws constantly changing, you have to do your own research and contact the necessary authorities for clarification.

Hopefully I have provided the information needed to develop a strategy for motorcycle concealed carry while enjoying the freedom found on the back of a motorcycle.

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Discussion
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29 Responses to “Easy Rider: Handgun Carry While Riding a Motorcycle”
  1. Tony Hogrefe

    Good article. Glad to see this issue getting some attention.
    I, myself, have the vest with a “gun pocket.” Since I never ride without wearing my club cut, it seems the best way to go.
    That being said, the pocket is NOT a holster, and the gun shifts about, so be aware of that. Also, mine is a pretty damned deep pocket. My carry gun isn an M9, so for me that isn’t an issue. If you were carrying a compact, or a subcompact, you’d have to fish pretty deep to get to your pistol. If you opt for the vest and don’t carry a full size service weapon, you might want to consider either having a holster sewn into the pocket, or sewing the lower have of the pocket closed so the pistol will sit higher and be more accessable.
    Another issue to note with the vest; you better ride with the vest buttoned up, vest extenders will be a no go. You don’t want your vest flapping in the wind at 70mph and run the risk of having your very expensive pistol skittering down the highway behind you.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan delPozo

    I read the article when it came out in the magazine. As a LEO and rode motors as well, I always carried my weapon on my person. Still do. The thought of packing it into some luggage just didn’t make any sense if I needed it for protection. There are many clothing options as well as carry options available to the avid motorcyclist and I would advocate them checking them out and using one that made sense.

    Overall though it was well written and should provide some thought to those with CCH permits. Oh yeah- – – I do ride a HARLEY!

    Reply
    • john pappalardo

      Wow a Harley who cares ! It about carrying on a Motorcycle not your bike.

      Reply
  3. rockher_man

    EXCELENT writing!….

    Just picked up an Electra Glide Classic and have been working with different options because my jacket is waist-lenght with a belt,
    like old “biker” movies, but so far my club-type
    vest is actually longer than jacket & has CC DEEP pockets with heavy duty snaps & works great. Still shopping for the just “right” shoulder rig….so far leaning towards the Miami Classic. I WILL be covered in leather head-2-toe no matter how hot it gets!Again….GREAT article….ride safe!

    Reply
  4. John Marcus

    I’m thinking that on the body carry is far more preferable and I’m able to carry either if my sub-compact 9’s at 4 to 5 o’clock easily with a crossbred holster. But that being said I am still concerned about falling on the weapon and its effect on bones.

    1 & 1/2 years ago I was skiing nearby, on an easy hill, but moving fast. I had my 7 inch tablet in my inside right coat pocket and my passed Nikon coolpix belt case on my right hip. I was well padded with layers. Someone crossed the back of my skis and I went down. I never broke bones before in 18 years of ice skating, years of skiing and motorycle riding. I broke 4 ribs that day, right where my tablet and camera case were situated.

    In my opinion the best on the body carry would be in a jacket with a very stiff backing that wouldn’t allow a pistol to crack bones, but would instead spread out the force of the pistol say, over 1-2 square foot area to absorb the impact. Does device exist?

    Reply
  5. Artur

    This is Yahoo! Answers, not Yahoo! Insurance.No one except an inscuanre agent or an online inscuanre company can answer your question. There is no such thing as a rough estimate or an average cost. Hundreds and hundreds of variables are taken into consideration when inscuanre quotes are calculated.Why are you unable or unwilling to contact inscuanre companies for rate quotes?If you are considering a 1,000 cc sport bike, expect to pay over $ 4,000 or be denied coverage.Your someone you know is learning bad habits starting with such a powerful motorcycle.Articles below are required reading.

    Reply
  6. Scott

    I have a leather “tank pouch” where a store my CC, very easy and quick access if the need arises! Velcro flapped and can actually use part of the back of my hand to sweep the flap up and already be positioned to grab the grip.

    Reply
    • 380Lover

      Consider a “hide it” holster like those from Sneaky Pete or Bulldog. These can allow you OWB carry, under the flap of my leather jacket, on either (both?) side(s), with instant access if needed, riding or not. The Sneaky Pete I have will hide the Officer’s 1911, and another one I have will hold the TCP738 in ready position, and on either side, as needed. Fully out of sight, pouch on the outside of the belt looks much like a PDA carrier, and has been mistaken for that more than anything else, by viewers who asked. In Utah, though: everyone knows what it is! (I don’t live there, but work there sometimes…)

      Reply
  7. P Gutierrez

    Thought provoking. I never really gave it much of a thougfht. I just put it in a jacket pocket on the strong hand side. Will probably give this more time and consideration now.

    Reply
  8. El

    I was thinking of it being a bit strange riding a motor cycle with a hand gun, but then i knew this guy that had a revolver on his walker. I guess you have to be prepared these days.

    Reply
  9. Marty

    I’ve carried CCW for more than 47 years, 31 of those years as a LEO. Until very recently I’ve always carried in a horizontal shoulder holster. Very easy to conceal both winter and summer. Winter is obvious, summer just as simple. I usually simply have a cover shirt like maybe a Hawaiian shirt. When I ride, I either have a denim vest or a leather jacket. To my knowledge in all that time, no one has ever detected my weapon. When in a vehicle, it’s the absolute fastest way to draw a weapon. I now have to wear a ‘belly band’ holster as I’ve developed neck issues which affect both my shoulder and hips. Still very comfortable, but can’t wait to get back to my shoulder holster.

    Reply
  10. Daniel

    I always ride armed. I Most recently went down 2 years ago. It was good enough for a trip to the E.R. with some ribs and a lot of road rash. Carrying inside the waistband at between 3 and 4, worked out really well. My HK received a little road rash on the grip, but it held up fine and didn’t leave me with even a gun sized bruise. The best part about it was the holster retained the pistol thru the trauma. I highly recommend a iwb with 2 belt clips. And if anyone’s wondering what the bike was, it was a road king.

    Reply
  11. Wayne Petersen

    I put 20,000 miles a year on motorcycles. I carry IWB appendix carry and don’t have a problem.

    Reply
  12. Jon Pickett

    Well said and well thought out article. I ride a Softail and carry on hip OWB in a retention holster. I also carry a back up in another location that is also readily available for draw. I am of the opinion too that it is better to stop and assess the situation at that time than to try and shoot on the move. Remember, you are always responsible for where your shots go.Better to be sure than to hope you hit what you are aiming at.Ride safe, shoot smart.

    Reply
  13. Bill Huffman

    On my Harley, two things happen that never happen any other time: 1. I open carry – access is prime. 2. I carry left handed. I won’t let go of the throttle to shoot! All I can say about that is practice draw and fire left hand and seated before you do. It works for me.

    Reply
  14. Gene Kelly

    Good article,,, My self I ride with a leather jacket, that is based on the CHiPs jacket from San Diego Leather,and has a right hand pistol pocket inside. And is large enough for a 1911, and while it is not a holster it will not allow a pistol to become loose of fall out.
    For summer a vest from the same company, while it may not be the sexiest vest it has 2 inside weapon pockets for small frame auto or wheel gun. And is heavy enough in the event of going down you wont get scuffed up to bad

    Reply
  15. The Colonel

    I really enjoyed your article. Since buying my new bike I have been struggling to decide where and how to carry while riding. My preferred method day-to-day is an appendix carry for my subcompact .45. I recently purchased a vest with a CC pocket that I am trying now. As one of your responders noted already the pocket is pretty deep and I am concerned about getting the gun out quickly if needed. Much prefer on-body carry versus carrying in the bags or a tank carry. Please keep the articles coming and thanks again.

    Reply
  16. Jonathon Hood

    I ride with a shoulder holster (right handed) with a double mag pouch on the right hand side. ’02 HD Ultra Classic, so normally longer road trips are the case. Never without my vest or jacket and lower attache’s to my belt to keep things in place. Very comfortable and concealed. I would not carry, ever, off body. I have never, in lots of years, had any issues. My holster of choice is made by Liberty. My EDC, Kimber Pro Carry .45 ACP. 24 rounds available at any given time.

    Reply
  17. Al B

    I always ride with a leather vest in appropriate weather or a leather jacket when colder. I carry my Ruger LCP very comfortably in a soft pocket holster in the right pocket in either garment. It fits securely, is readily accessible and doesn’t print.

    Reply
  18. Spanky

    All my friends Carry on right side draw. I asked how are you going to draw and control your Throttle? Left hand Revolver in Vest.

    Reply
  19. Lucky

    Obviously, the best is in a vest or jacket pocket. If considering a shoulder type holster, the butt down is my preferred.

    Reply
  20. Al

    Sorry, but if you’re honestly considering returning fire while actually riding, you have serious issues.
    Just as shooting from a moving car will get you in trouble with the law (it’s flat out illegal in all States, and you had better have a really good excuse for it, and even then you will probably be charged with reckless discharge) , doing it from a bike is also hazardous to your health just from the crash standpoint.
    The idea that some even consider it is just plain foolish.
    Frankly, outside of the consideration of what that pistol might do to you if you crash while wearing it, carrying while riding is little different than in a car, and that’s all about personal preference.
    I’ve been using the same carry technique for my various bikes as I have my cars for years, it’s all about the season and the preference .

    Reply
  21. Clay

    While attending a CCW class for Arizona, the instructor recommended that motorcycle riders carry, granted Arizona is a Constitutional State which means everybody and anybody can be armed concealed or not; but the emphasis was on protection for the mc rider. The rider is already vulnerable enough, they need all the advantage they can get. I highly recommend exposed carry in a holster. I carry a .357 or a 1911 both in a shoulder holster. My advantage is I am left handed.

    Reply
  22. Diffy

    Another option is a shirt/holster combo called Packin’ Tees. It’s a snug fitting tee or sleeveless shirt with strong Velcro on both sides that comes with a heavy duty Velcro elastic holster which can be positioned for best comfort and draw. I’ve been riding all my life and carrying all of my adult life, and I choose not to give consideration to the additional injury my gun may cause. I only consider ensuring it will remain secured in the event of a crash.

    Reply
  23. VINCENT CARTELLI

    GLOCK MAKES A FANNY PACK WITH ZIPPERS ON BOTH SIDES HAVE EASY GRAB STRAPS THAT PULL THE ZIPPERS DOWN. GLOCK.COM

    Reply
  24. Rowbear

    Not concerned with carrying while riding. Gun will be on body. What do you do with gun when going into work.

    Reply