Easy Rider: Handgun Carry While Riding a Motorcycle

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 handgun carry while riding a motorcycle. 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.

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

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.

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.


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

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

On-Body

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?

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.


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

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

Off-Body

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 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.


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

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 traveling 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 carry while enjoying the freedom found on the back of a motorcycle.
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Discussion
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28 Responses to “Easy Rider: Handgun Carry While Riding a Motorcycle”
  1. tony
    tony

    You are 100% right when you said that waist band back carrying will get you hurt while I was riding a ATV I flipped it and fractured 2 vertabres and that can happen to you in the street bikes also. That being said I ride with my 45 in my left side so I still have control of my bike God forbid that the situation ever comes up but will protect myself if I have to great article thanks for writing it I’ve often wondered if I was the one of the few that had these same concerns about my firearms coming out and someone else have a free gun would hate to be in another wreck or the loss of a gun . Another thing I could be concerned about what if you had a accident no one knew to look for the firearm and a child got their hands on it and done harm to another person shouldn’t you have a note or something on your person to let a officer know that you have a gun? And thenin my state its against the law to carry in a hospital legitimate concerns I think. Again thanks great reading yours truly appreciate d by me(Tony).

    Reply
    • Doug
      Doug

      Tony –
      As a paramedic we usually strip unconscious trauma patients to their skivvies since they can’t tell us where they’re hurt. We’ve found guns and other things before, and cops often check while searching for ID.
      While it is a crime in some states to bring a firearm into a hospital, most laws require that it be done knowingly in order to be a criminal act.

      Reply
  2. Mike Daniels
    Mike Daniels

    Great post. A couple years ago I read a remark about carrying left handed on a bike. I thought the same thing you do. If your riding ride the hell out of their. If you need to defend yourself stop the bike.
    This isn’t the movies and in a defense situation your shooting skills and riding skills most likely will suffer. It’s not likely you will hit what you want while riding.

    Thanks for the post,
    Mike
    http://www.harleytuner.com

    Reply
  3. james
    james

    Good article, those that carry need to try to push though the reciprocal law to allow cary in all states if licensed in one state. Riders cross state lines all the time. I live in New England and can be in 3 or 4 states in one day.

    Reply
  4. Curt
    Curt

    Thanks for the great information and advice. As a CCW holder I have often wondered about carrying while riding, but my .40 is not the easiest to hide. Often times in the summer I am always wearing my leathers, so shoulder holster would work well under the vest and I recently found a leather 4 season coat that has a built in concealment pocket as well as 2 spots for additional magazines. But as already stated, the easiest maneuver is to evade and escape, but if you are in the situation that you need to use it, s**t has already hit the fan and I know I would not try to do it from a moving bike. As far as state lines go, I believe that just like being a responsible rider, you need to be a responsible gun owner and should already know what states you can and can not carry concealed in. Again, great read, and thank you.

    Reply
  5. Billy
    Billy

    Thanks for the great article. I am going to get my CCW and was wondering the best way to carry (left hand option never came to mind). I have a vest and just ordered a new jacket with a pistol pocket/pouch. I’ll probably be wearing them more. Thanks again.

    Reply
  6. justin
    justin

    I have gone down while carrying. when i refused the pain killer from the EMT he asked why and i told him i was carrying concealed. he told me not to worry it happens quite a bit. he called over the responding officer who offered to take control of my weapon giving me his name and badge number and offered three options, he would log it in at the police station to be picked up later, i could have it locked in the hospital security safe or turn it over to someone licensed to carry at the scene, i chose to have him lock it in the hospital security safe and gratefully accepted the pain killers offered. when my wife showed up at the hospital (shes licensed) the hospital security promptly turned it over to her.

    Reply
  7. Dredd
    Dredd

    The new Mossberg Shockwave and Remington Tac-14 are both items that should be considered in lieu of or as a suppliment to a handgun. Ruled by ATF as an “other” – they’re NOT required to have a permit because they’re NOT a “handgun.”

    Reply
  8. Paul
    Paul

    Good article, when it is warm I use a Galco leather holster with a retention strap on my belt. Most always wear a vest to ensure concealment. When it gets cool, I use a Galco shoulder holster under my coat so I can wear my chaps. When I stop to go into a restaurant, I take off my coat and put on a vest. When commuting to work, I wear a fanny pack, take it off at work and lock it in my saddle bag. Our parking lot is patrolled by security. By state law I can have have a firearm locked in my vehicle, just cannot carry inside the building (company policy). My strategy would be to get my motorcycle stopped and use it as cover if at all possible. Shooting while riding, I would consider a very desperate act; however, I suppose there could be case when needed.

    Reply
  9. 16yrs on a Buell S3T
    16yrs on a Buell S3T

    I rode the 460lb S3T from SF bay to Philadelphia – and back. Iron butt. My S&W 66 that I carried as a peace officer rode in the tank bag.
    I prefer the concealed carry pouch in my Speed and Strength armored jacket. I’m right handed, the pouch is on the left. My Glock 17’s handle is to tight but the S&W M&P 45 fits tight but pulls as I want.
    Before I went Nam I was trained as special weapons Infantryman.

    Reply
  10. Andre Terranova
    Andre Terranova

    On my right hip in a flexible holster under my vest, 45 Auto, shell in chamber, safety on.

    Reply
  11. Lucky
    Lucky

    Not every state is onboard with CCW reciprocity. That’s why you should get involved in writing, emailing, calling your Congressmen to pass this legislation for all fifty states! (I don’t have the bill # off the top of my head).

    Reply
  12. Allan Harrington
    Allan Harrington

    To Australians (well most I guess) this article is absolutely crazy. To contemplate carrying a gun around is so inexplicable in terms of our human responsibilities and care for others that it feels like the American wild west movies we used to watch years ago. Unbelievable! AJH.

    Reply
    • Robert
      Robert

      I carry because of my “human responsibilities (to) care for others”. There are three kinds of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. I’m the latter, sounds like you’re the first. When the excrement hits the air circulation device, you’d better hope here’s a sheepdog around to save your ass. Oh, wait, you Aussies disarmed yourselves a few years ago. How’s that working out for you? I understand violent crime has increased dramatically since then.

      Some people might say the difference in thought processes is because America was founded by free men seeking independence from tyranny, whereas Australia was populated with criminals who became accustomed to kowtowing to authority. I thought y’all had gotten away from that and become proudly free, but I guess that generation died out.

      As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

      Reply
    • Shon Jimenez
      Shon Jimenez

      We prefer to be able to defend ourselves instead of just accepting victimhood. While you may think its crazy, I think your crazy for not wanting to be able to defend yourself.

      Reply
  13. Daryl
    Daryl

    Ok, with 230 mass killings in the US and an absurd amount of gun related violence in the US now plus knowing how difficult it is to stop and even take my wallet out of my pocket, I have two questions. 1) Why does this deserve an article 2) Why are you silly enough to carry a gun on you while you ride for “recreation”? It surely can’t be for “protection” or you’d be in a car or better yet living in Canada. Next if you are using this to protect yourself let’s see how effective you are against someone stationary in the street or better yet in a car… if Custer couldn’t manage it on a horse how do you think you are going to manage this on a bike? You’ve completely lost me and now disrespect the whole purpose of this site. See ya and good luck, I’d say stick to shooting ranges and protecting yourself at home..

    Reply
  14. Bill Bush
    Bill Bush

    The Drake wingshooter shirt is the best that I have found.It is vented in the back and has a large hidden chest pockets in front that will hold a 380 or small 9mm without ever being noticed ,

    Reply
  15. Edward Current
    Edward Current

    I have been riding for 50+ years and carried for over half that time both on and off-body. My absolute choice if a Glock 27 (.40 caliber) in a Blackhawk Close Quarter Concealment Holster (CQC 2100270). approx $30 bucks and never falls off but easily drawn if needed.

    Reply
  16. Dave Zimmerman
    Dave Zimmerman

    If you are going to carry a weapon be sure to look into one of the associations that offer benefits and legal representation should you defend yourself. Second wont do anything for you when the other party sues and trust they will sue regardless of how clean the incident was and lastly make no statements to anyone including the police until you talk to a lawyer. The laws in this area are a slippery sloap and you may unknowingly incriminate yourself. Retired LEO and good luck . Ride safe.

    Reply
  17. David Leonard
    David Leonard

    If you do not care enough about you and your immediate family to protect them…..Why should anyone else ???? We need to pressure our congress critters to recognize our RIGHT TO CARRY, just as they recognize our license to drive..nation wide….and even internationally , ( Canada recognizes a U.S. drivers license !!!

    Reply
  18. Susie Meyer
    Susie Meyer

    Hello I’m a female rider I got my first bike almost 2-years ago I took an Awesome Motorcycle class before I started riding. I originally took the class to know how to ride on the back of my husbands bike but by the time the class was over I said F*** this I wanted my own bike:) I do everything I should do to be a good driver, I’m not rude when I ride I mind my own but I don’t take crap from jerks on the road either. I do all I can to avoid any and all issues with people but I have had a few times where people have followed me for no reason both times it has been a car with 2-or more guys in the car. I don’t scare easy but this did make me very nervous. I just want to be able to defend myself if needed. I am a licensed gun owner but I want to be trained to carry a gun when I ride I would be wearing a shoulder holster it’s more comfortable then the leg holster I have. could you recommend some training or a class I can take? my husband carries when he rides but he has the room to holster on his bike that I really don’t have on my bike. I have an Indian Scout sixty no room to holster a gun that I can safely reach while riding if I needed. I’m 4ft 10in with arms just as short:) so shoulder holster is my best for carrying. I don’t feel there is enough out there for small female riders to protect themselves any advice you can offer would be so welcomed. Thanks Susie…

    Reply