Motorcycling has many facets, but one of the key tenets is being free to go wherever you want, whenever you want. I’ve taken my motorcycles on many trips that I would have otherwise taken by plane. I had last Friday off, and I motored around downtown and west of the city to hang out with some friends. Back home I used to go from coffee shop to coffee shop as an excuse to get out on two wheels.
Unlike some riders, I use my motorcycle as a car replacement and as a means to an end. Some riders thrive off of the thrill and skill necessary to carve corners and bomb canyons. To them, the ride is point. To me, the destination is the point. That means a lot of time spent off-bike, whether that be at a grocery store or a vacation spot.
Spending a lot of time at destinations led me to think about how to carry a concealed weapon while motorcycling. I’ve held a permit in various U.S. states for nearly fifteen years. I have carried an estimated 80% of the 60,000 miles I covered as a motorcyclist over a five and a half year period. Here’s how I choose to carry, and my thought process behind each method.
I’m going to state right up front that I never intend to use any firearm while operating a motorcycle. This may sound obvious, there are some carrying conceal weapon (CCW) riders who plan on shooting while riding their bikes. These riders typically carry in a shoulder-holster built for left-handed people, or carry on their left thigh. This allows them to draw and use their handguns while maintaining the throttle and front brake with their right hand. This may also mean that they modify their handguns to be more easily used with riding gloves on, including removing trigger guards and disabling external safeties.
Personal protection, like motorcycling, is a personal choice. Different people have different thresholds for risk. I do not plan on using a weapon while riding for the following reasons:
- Any modifications made to a pistol to make it easier to operate with safety gear on puts that weapon beneath my firearm safety threshold. I don’t think removing a trigger guard to allow for a gloved finger to squeeze the trigger keeps a handgun safe enough to carry around all the time.
- I want to limit any chance that I may slide on any weapons in the event of a crash. The leg and upper torso are both high-probability slide areas.
- A motorcyclist can always be run down by an aggressive car. A slight nudge from an automobile at any decent road speed will negate any advantage from a firearm.
- The best way for me to deal with a confrontational situation on the road is to remove myself from it. That means physically (usually slowing down or changing routes) but also emotionally. You should have this behavior in your spirit if you are a CCW permit holder: you have the duty and responsibility to avoid conflict. If you can do so safely, getting out of a hostile situation should be one of your first choices.
I carry for when I am off bike, and in the same environments I may be in when I take a car or other means of transportation. Bullets and bikes don’t mix with me.
Okay, now that’s out of the way, I transport handguns on my bike in one of two ways. I either keep a firearm on-body, or I keep it in my locked, hard luggage until I arrive at my destination. Both have advantages and disadvantages
Two main advantages here: you retain retention of the firearm at all times, and you don’t have to figure out how to move a weapon from your bike to your person.
The main disadvantage is the possibility of sliding or landing on the weapon in the event of a crash. I use the SmartCarry holster. This puts my Kel-Tec PF-9 or Glock 26/27 in front of my groin, with the barrel pointed downwards. I feel that this is the safest place to carry in the event of a crash.
The groin (thankfully) is not at high risk of impact during a crash. It may be possible to slide on this part of the body, but hopefully your natural shape and safety gear puts your other parts into contact with the ground first. Even if you do strike or slide on your pistol the internal (and external, where applicable) safeties and construction should keep you in the clear. The SmartCarry holds a pistol barrel down, which means that the trigger could not be depressed in a head-first slide or roll. The SmartCarry also keeps the pistol secure enough via tension and by the nature of being secured by your riding gear. If you’re wearing proper safety gear your groin area should still be covered in the event of a catastrophic crash.
I ruled out carrying appendix, which is my usual method of CCW. Riding this way puts some pressure on my stomach and ribs. It’s uncomfortable and limits my mobility. I also had concerns about retention and impact damage during a wreck.
Off-bike, I carried “behind the hip” for the first year I rode. This meant that I had the pistol locked up on the bike until I arrived at my destination. I felt that carrying at the four o’clock position presented both a retention risk and an impact risk. I no longer carry this way, but if you do I’d suggest transporting the handgun on the bike until you arrive at your destination.
I struck shoulder holster, thigh, and ankle carry from the list. I consider these to be poor accessibility choices in the event you need your handgun, and I believe they represent significantly higher risk of injury during a crash. If you carry in a shoulder holster and intend to carry concealed you will have to leave your jacket on as a cover garment.
I used to pocket carry my North American Arms Guardian, but I stored my pistol in my topcase while riding.
The main advantage to on-bike carry is safety in the event of a crash. Comfort is the secondary advantage, and this may not apply to you based on your handgun, holster, and carry position choices.
There are two main disadvantages to on-bike carry. One is the logistical issue of transitioning the firearm from the bike to your person. I’ll get to that in a second.
The other issue is that your luggage may fail in the event of a crash. Motorcycle cases are made out of plastic, leather, or nylon. All three may degrade in a crash to the point that your firearm separates from your bike. If you are incapacitated during a wreck, any rescue personnel that arrive will not know to scour the site for a firearm. That means you may be leaving your gun out in public for someone to find later, and I hope we can all agree that’s a Bad Thing™.
I sometimes transport handguns on-bike, but I prefer not to. I will do so for one of two reasons:
- I am carrying a firearm that is too big to be carried in the SmartCarry. This applies to most of my handguns at this point. My Kel-tec PF-9, Glock 26/27, and my dad’s old .38 revolver are the only handguns I own that I’d put in the SmartCarry.
- I am traveling to a shooting range or event and am transporting several handguns.
In the event of the first, I keep my handgun in a separate bag with a closure. I carry the bag at my destination and transfer the handgun to my person in a private area like a restroom.
This method doesn’t give me 100% confidence in the event of a crash. However I believe that people arriving at a crash site have a mental model of looking for bags and other common possessions. I expect a handgun to be recovered as long as it stays in the bag.
It’s been almost six years of carrying a concealed weapon while riding. I think the principles of personal safety apply equally to responsible motorcycle riding and responsible gun ownership. I don’t think engaging in the former should exclude the latter. As long as you execute some foresight and plan accordingly there is no reason you have to leave personal safety options at home when you ride.