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Back to School: Carry Options for Students At Campus Carry Universities

August 28, 2018

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For the last two weeks, college students across America have headed back to school. Cars packed to the gills with stuff have unloaded into dorms and apartments. In addition to all the mini fridges, Xboxes, and hot plates, some of those students also have carry licenses. Even better, more states now allow licensed students to carry on college campuses. For those students, we bring you some carry options to consider.

While Illinois law prohibits campus carry for concealed carry license holders, not all states are as backwards-thinking.  But then again, it's not like Illinois schools have not had school killings or attempted killings by whackjobs and criminals. 

Remember the Northern Illinois University massacre?  The one where the killer chained the doors shut and shot students like killing fish in a barrel ten years ago.  Just in the last year or so, several massacres have been thwarted – including in Mattoon and Dixon.  Plenty more have been thwarted at both the secondary and university level that have not made the news.

So, for those legally licensed and where laws permit school carry, here are some strategies and recommendations for campus carry.

First and foremost, stealth remains the primary concern. The first rule of concealed carry is don't talk about the fact that you concealed carry. While the laws may allow armed self-defense, rest assured that plenty of one's fellow students and virtually no faculty members will keep an open mind about armed self-defense.

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With this in mind, a small carry pistol will probably serve campus carriers best while remaining utterly undetected by others. I love the Ruger LCP-II .380 pistol in this role.  Need another reason to consider the LCP-II aside from its great trigger, light weight and compact size?  Its price:  in the low- to mid-$200s.  When loaded with Precision One XTP hollow-points (or other XTP loads), it provides good penetration and consistent expansion.

Use a little sight paint to on the front sight blade in your favorite neon color for faster acquisition. Once you've done that, you will have yourself a great, deep-concealment companion. At the same time, with a little pocket "holster" (like the $20 DeSantis Nemesis pictured below) to break up the pistol's outline, you can discretely carry it in a cargo or pants pocket and no one will know.

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If you feel a little under-armed with a .380 Auto, take a look at the new SIG P365 9mm. With 10+1 (or 12+1 with the slightly longer magazine) rounds, you'll have plenty of 9mm bubble gum to get out most bad situations. Yes, it weighs slightly more than an LCP-II and isn't as pocketable, but it still runs on an impressively petite frame.

The gun comes with night sights standard along with a great trigger. Additionally, it fits small- to medium-sized paws very nicely. Earlier this year I ran it through its paces and firmly believe the P365 stands as today's best general carry CCW gun.

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You will probably need to carry this pistol or similar sized handguns on your belt. Of course, you'll need to dress around the gun. Think deep concealment. Nobody should see outlines of a gun when you sit or bend over. But then again, college students are not known for tucked in shirts or formal clothing.

Campus environments run friendly to guys' loose-fitting casual wear. Obviously, with a tuckable holster and a tucked-in shirt, one or more of those tell-tale belt clips will still remain exposed for trained eyes to catch.

Ladies, do not despair. You too can discretely carry on the waist and still wear cute clothes. Can Can Concealment has a number of "hip hugger" holsters that will make that Ruger LCP-II or similar pistol virtually disappear. Yes, even while wearing yoga pants or snug jeans.

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Obviously the Ruger LCP pistol (above left) conceals better than the revolver.

While not ideal, off-body carry stands as another option for college students. Better man-purses, satchels or messenger bags will have several compartments. A licensed carrier can pick a compartment and dedicate it to a pistol or a revolver for ultra-discrete carry. Ideally, use an insert like a DeSantis Bag Packer (below, about $20) to hold the gun oriented correctly.

compartment holster

Of course, the risk of off-body carry is losing the gun to theft of the bag. However, proper care and common sense lowers that risk dramatically.

Again, practice stealth when it comes to off-body carry. Avoid anything firearm-branded, camo patterns or anything that remotely looks military. In other words, choose LL Bean-branded gear over Smith & Wesson. 5.11 makes very good stuff, but if you want to remain completely under the radar, choose carefully.

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If you practice off-body carry in a backpack or satchel of some sort, a revolver might serve as a better choice. Why? Because a revolver will fire pretty reliably from inside that pocket, purse or bag if need be. On the other hand, most semi-autos will hang up and require a malfunction clearing drill after that first shot when fired from tight compartments.

With off body carry, one can access the firearm and gain a good firing grip in a potential critical incident without anyone knowing – including the bad guy(s). At average self-defense distances of nine feet or less, one can make good hits from a purse, pocket or bag.

Buy a purse or bag or two for a few bucks at the local Goodwill store and try it at the range. It really works.

Later, if you see things about to go sideways, you can reach into that pocket while clutching your pack, grab hold of your pistola and even point it at a potential threat. And should things really go south, you can give the bad guy the biggest surprise of his life.

Of course, if the situation resolves itself amicably, then zip up that compartment and go about your business. Nobody will ever know.

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Because dollars count for college students, the Taurus Model 85 series .38 Special provides a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks.  The .38 Special round has stopped bad people with evil in their hearts for about 100 years now. With modern bullet engineering, they just keep getting better.

Greg Elifritz of Active Response Training recommends three loads for snub-nosed .38 revolvers.

  1. Speer Gold Dot 135 grain Hollowpoint (13.1″ penetration and expansion to .56 in bare gelatin)
  2. Winchester Ranger 130 grain Bonded Hollowpoint (12.75″ penetration and expansion to .56 in bare gelatin)
  3. Corbon DPX 110 grain copper Hollowpoint (13″ penetration and expansion to .52 in bare gelatin)

Meanwhile, Ruger's LCR is a great little pistol. And Smith & Wesson has a whole slew of great J-frames. But they all fetch about double or triple the price of a Taurus 85. If you have budget constraints, get the Taurus 85 in your favorite configuration. It will serve you well at an affordable price.

Also, revolvers tend to shoot more reliably than semi-autos. Not only that, but for novices, revolvers are easy to use. For 150 years, classic wheelguns have served as the original point-and-click interface.

Just because you attend a college or university doesn't mean you have to leave your self-defense at home. Many states now allow campus carry for those who can lawfully carry.  We always recommend carrying everywhere you can legally do so!

Remember, the only thing that stops bad people with evil in their hearts is a good guy with a gun.

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