Modern dectectives and such-like--how do they carry their weapons?

I’m putting this in IMHO because there’s probably not just one single factual answer.

While watching Dragnet, I’ve noticed that Friday and Gannon carry their pistols cross-draw. Do modern detectives do that? I know that ankle holsters are popular for back-up weapons–what about small of the back holsters?

Also, Friday and Gannon seemed to use holsters that somehow clipped onto their pants. It seems to me that there might be retention concerns with something like that.

I don’t know very much about actual police practices from those days, so I’m not sure whether Jack Webb made any changes in that sort of thing for the sake of the show.

Inside clip holsters are actually pretty secure; small of the back are not that comfortable with how much time detectives spend in cars. Some I know do the basic Dragnet style although a lot are moving to more the “Dirty Harry” shoulder rigs.

Right on my hip attached to my belt. The only difference between how I wear it in uniform is I have fewer things on my belt. And I’m wearing a slightly smaller version of the gun I use in uniform.

I’ve been told that keeping your weapon in the small of your back can be dangerous if you get knocked over backwards. Nothing like cold steel to cushion your spine on landing.

In the military, I’ve seen folks use both cross-draw holsters and hip or thigh holsters for pistols when they were issued them. The Air Force requires you to qualify on a cross-draw holster if you are going to use one, or else you have to find a hip or thigh holster to use instead, due to the different set of movements required to quickly draw and aim. One advantage I’d imagine for a hip holster is that you could more easily reach for your weapon without drawing attention to it (which is probably why it’s such a traditional place to keep a gun). There’s no subtle way to reach across your own chest.

I don’t think military applications really count in this discussion. I believe we’re talking about plain-clothes LE or private investigators. This would also apply to civilians with CCP.

Imagine this: you are good guy carrying a pistol cross draw on your left side because you’re right handed. I’m a bad guy and I’m standing facing you and I’m right handed. If I’m close enough to you, your pistol is well positioned for ME to reach out with my right hand and draw it from your holster. This is a bad thing. Especially if you’ve got a Level I holster. Level II or III would be better for you. I submit that a shoulder holster would be harder for someone standing opposite you to draw from if for no other reason than there’s some sort of coat or jacket in the way.

Strong side is the preferred place to wear a pistol on one’s belt. The only way for someone else to draw the pistol would be from your rear and if you’ve got at least a Level II holster, the angle would be wrong. Not to mention the tactics one is taught to retain one’s pistol from that sort of threat.

Shoulder holsters are pretty much the worst way to carry a duty pistol. They require wearing a full cut jacket for concealment, print like a tabloid, require shoulder-straining tension for a strong draw and to prevent them from flopping around, are a pain to put on and take off, and are the slowest and most obvious draw there is short of an ankle holster. The only real advantage is the ability to draw easily while seated, and not requiring a stiff belt for a lightweight pistol. The cross draw, which positions the holster down on the belt and gives a more rigid attachment, offers the same advantage in terms of being able to draw from a seated position without the negatives of the shoulder rig.

The strong side pancake holster provides as good a concealment while making the pistol more readily available, secure, and is the quickest draw. The inside the waistband (IWB) and small of back (SOB) are technically better concealment but are somewhat slower to draw and as already noted can be uncomfortable or even painful to wear. The removable paddle holsters (both strong side and cross draw) are pretty rigid, are fairly secure from a casual grab attempt and are convenient if you are checking in and out of a secure area (holding area, jail, interrogation) but don’t offer the kind of retention you get in a Level II or Level III duty holster.


I am right handed. In a shoulderholster, under my left arm. At waist, clipped inside belt, right rear, between spine and hip. On ankle, inside left ankle.

Before I retired from full time the last 4 years I was an investigator. I only went plain clothes about 1/3 of the time if that. In the colder months I would just wear my duty belt and cover it up with a coat. Otherwise I used a Blackhawk paddle holster and covered it up with an open button shirt worn over a t-shirt.

I tried a shoulder rig once. I hated it. In fact I don’t know anyone who cares for them.

From watching First 48 and the local LEs, most appear to carry on the right side in a paddle holster. On duty investigators are not required to hide the gun.

Off duty carry was something I thought would be cool and turned out to be one of the things I despised about the job. It is just a total PITA. In Arizona, it is mostly hot and off duty, you are required to keep the weapon out of sight.

You have to spend a lot of time just figuring out how to dress for the damned gun. Also, there are a lot of times where the presence of a gun is inappropriate like Mom’s dinner. I finally just started carrying a satchel everywhere.

And then with off-body carry you have to be sure to control your bag/satchel/purse so that overly inquisitive and enterprising people don’t get into it or abscond with it. Concealed carry is genuinely a pain in the ass, and when you see an actor in a film pulling a full sized Beretta 92 or Sig P226 out of his waistband where it was previously concealed, that is total ‘movie magic’; any full sized duty pistol will “print” on someone wearing anything less than a parka or a muumuu, regardless of how big they are. Even a compact full bore pistol will tend to bulge out move oddly on the body. The only really concealable pistols are pocket pistols like the Walther PPK or NAA Guardian; pistols so light and flat that they can literally be carried in a pocket (with a pocket holster), but are difficult to shoot well and have compromised penetration.


I agree. We are not required to carry off duty and I rarely did. Now with lots of very credible threats against law enforcement I have started to carry all the time. No, those threats do not make it on the news.


What agency is requiring CCW when the officer is off duty?

This was pre-CCW so not applicable. It was Dept policy that off duty carry was to be concealed because while at the time, AZ was open carry, there was no legal concealed carry. Keeping the gun very concealed cut down on the calls to Police from concerned citizens.

Even other Cops don’t like it when local LE show up thinking you are scumbag with gun in restaurant.

Back then, autos were the exception. Everyone I knew carried some variation of the S&W Chief’s Special. Even those were a PITA and nothing makes for more fun in a store than to have the damned thing fall out on the floor. Here in FL, one Officer got disciplined big time because he took the gun off in restroom and forgot it. Who found it? A small child, of course.