I wasn't sure what to call this article, or even if I should write it. I'm not even sure if it will be very useful to a large portion of my audience, many of whom seem to be married, in long-term relationships, etc. However, I think it is a topic that some people will be interested in.
It's been almost five years since my divorce, and in that time I've had several "longer-term" relationships, as well as plenty of first dates, second dates, and relationships that lasted a few weeks to a few months. Some of my dates came from conservative families and grew up shooting; some of them were on the left side of the political spectrum and had never held a firearm in their lives. With only one or two possible exceptions, they have all been aware that I work in the firearm industry and/or carry a firearm at all times – and yet, none of them were alarmed by the fact that I carried. In this article, I'll explain the nuts and bolts of carrying and dating, as well as my opinions on when to broach the subject.
When to Carry
I have heard several people suggest that on first dates, one should not carry concealed, in order to find out whether or not she (or, perhaps, he) is afraid of guns. The logic behind this mystifies me. I am who I am, and on a first date that is who I present. Part of who I am involves my very practical attitude towards life, and part of that involves carrying a firearm for self-defense. Therefore, I carry on the first date, and every date or outing after that. I might not tell them I am carrying on the first date, but there have been times where I have done so, and gone on to have further dates with those women. I have never had the fact that I carry a firearm affect the outcome of a date or a relationship.
I have found that most people who think that they are afraid of guns are actually afraid of people they don't know with guns. If you present yourself as a rational, intelligent, polite, clean cut human being, even the most anti-gun date will at the very least be intrigued as to why someone like you - someone that they would normally enjoy being around - would choose to carry a firearm. They are unlikely to suddenly decide that, after spending hours or days with you finding out that you are not an obvious psycho, the simple fact that you carry a gun changes who you are.
Try to understand how you are perceived by others, rather than how you see yourself – do you think that a member of the general public, neither anti-gun nor pro-gun, would be comfortable knowing that you are carrying a firearm?
How to Carry
You need to be confident in the way that you carry. I would not recommend carrying on a date if you have just started carrying concealed. The longer you carry, the better you will become at sitting, standing, bending over, and moving in a manner that does not highlight the fact that you are carrying.
Also, you need to be confident in the equipment that you use to carry. A quality belt and a quality holster go a long way toward securing your firearm on your person - and if you're confident that your firearm is secure, you're not likely to fidget and constantly reach to make sure that it is still in place. Doing so only draws attention to yourself and that location on your body.
As always, the method in which you choose to carry is highly dependent on what you plan to do. If I'm going out to a club or bar and might end up dancing, I carry a small revolver on my ankle – I have found that it is rare for that location to interfere with dancing, whereas my waist is constantly being touched by a hand, or another part of a woman's body. In addition, making it through a crowded dance floor with a firearm on your waist is not an easy feat. I have "tapped ankles" with people before, but this is pretty rare, and it has not caused any problems. Needless to say, appendix carry (front of waist, generally at or below the belt) and dancing do not mix well.
On dates where dancing is not likely, I often carry strong side, either inside or outside the waistband. Of course, physical contact is always a possibility, but casual brushes are not likely to arouse suspicion. Even long hugs won't generally elicit comments. Women probably have a million and one things going on in their heads at any given time, especially when they're hugging a date, and "Is he carrying a gun?" is most likely not one of them.
If you're carrying on the waist and plan on sitting next to your date, you might consider positioning yourself so that they are not on your "weapon side." Pocket carry of a small revolver or semi auto is an option here. If it is felt, it will come across as a cell phone in your pocket, not a gun.
How Not to Carry
Dating and alcohol often mix well. Guns and alcohol do not. I almost always have drunk friends to look after when I go out on a Friday or Saturday night, so I avoid drinking because I'm probably going to be driving them home. Most people accept this explanation at face value even if my friends are not next to me at the time, and do not press me to have a drink (My friends know that I am carrying and will end up driving them home, but they still ask me to drink).
The same reason generally passes muster on a date as well. Most women do not relish the thought of getting into a car with a drunk driver. On the other hand, it is socially acceptable to have a glass of wine with a nice dinner. Only you can make the right decision for yourself here.
It is important to note that I live in Arizona, where it is legal to carry in an establishment that serves alcohol, as long as you do not consume any alcohol, and as long as the establishment does not prohibit carry. You should understand the laws in your area and decide whether or not you want to break them.
When to Whip It Out
Telling your date that you are carrying a firearm can be tricky. I can't impart good judgment through a written article, but you need to be attuned to the signals that she is sending you. I don't always suggest shooting as a possible future date, because I see it as being one or two steps behind telling them that I am carrying. When I do, though, I watch for reactions – did she brighten up and smile at the prospect, or is she unsure? If it's the latter, you might want to let the subject go for a while. As a side note, most women thoroughly enjoy going shooting for the first time - if you conduct yourself in a safe and responsible manner, and treat them with respect.
I am at somewhat of an advantage compared to other people when it comes to bringing up the subject of guns. If asked what I do for work, I generally respond with "photographer" or "writer." If pressed further, I'll explain that I work in the firearm industry. Surprisingly – or, perhaps, not surprisingly – I rarely get a negative reaction to this.
You might be able to bring up the subject if asked about your hobbies. If it doesn't seem that she is going to ask what you like to do, you might ask about what she likes to do – and you'll probably score a few points for being the first to ask that question anyway. See how she reacts to learning that you enjoy shooting – it's better to start there, with a simple description, then it is to launch into any further explanation. Again, carefully watch her reactions.
I generally try to bring this subject up when the date - and the conversation - is going well. Filling an awkward silence in an already strained conversation with "I have a gun" is probably not going to turn out well.
I have made some missteps in this area. A long time ago, I went on several dates with one particular woman, and could not think of any good way to bring up the subject. Finally, during a lull in the conversation, I said "I have something to tell you..." and then proceeded to pause dramatically for several seconds as I thought about how to phrase what I was about to say. After what probably seemed like an eternity to her, I then said "I carry a gun." She immediately blurted out "That's it?!"
Apparently, she thought I was about to inform her that I had AIDS, children from several different baby mamas, or was a felon. Finding out that I carry a gun was somewhat less frightening than those other options. The only thing on my mind was carrying, so at the time, I didn't understand how she would see that long pause from her side. It's important that you take this into consideration when you choose how to let your date know that you have a gun.
After You've Whipped it Out
Once I have informed my date that I am carrying, I generally ask if this bothers them. Although I suppose it is possible that all of them answered out of fear, I have yet to encounter a response that was anything less than a comfortable "No, that doesn't bother me." If you have presented the right impression up to this point, you are not likely to encounter a different answer.
Although this question might be taken as a willingness on my part to not carry a gun if it bothers them, it is not. I am genuinely interested in their mental well-being – and I'm equally committed to not surrendering my principles.
Expect further questions on why you carry, if not right away, then at some point in the near future. I normally explain my feelings on personal responsibility and self-reliance, although this depends on the situation.
Even though she now knows that you're carrying, don't take this as a license to suddenly carry in a manner that's going to make her uncomfortable. I don't relish the thought of having a gun rubbed on me, and I don't imagine anyone else does, either.
Keeping It in Your Pants
Sometimes, things move too fast. You might not be able to bring up the subject at the perfect time, especially if you have already reached a point where clothes are flying and hands are exploring. This is where ankle carry becomes a great option. I have yet to meet a woman with a foot fetish, and it's fairly easy to slip off an ankle holster along with, for example, a shoe.
As I mentioned above, you need to have confidence in your equipment – and the firearm should be secured in the holster even if the holster is no longer attached to your body. You don't want a Glock sliding across the hardwood floor of her living room towards her cat. Beyond that, though, you don't want to be spending time making sure that the pistol is still in the holster. She won't appreciate any distractions at this point, especially if she suddenly notices that you are holding a gun while fumbling with her bra strap. That would send the wrong message.
While I don't suggest that you overdo it, being attentive to what she has to say, as opposed to only half listening to what might seem like an unending monologue, has many benefits. Not only will you find out when – and possibly how – to tell her that you're carrying, you'll also find out other things that might be beneficial for a future relationship. After all, you're carrying a gun to preserve your life, her life, and the possibility of that exact relationship. Don't let nervousness about letting her know that you carry get in the way of that.