If you’ll recall this past summer, TFB’s Matt E covered Concealed Carry While Boating, in which he focused on being armed while on a motorboat on the ocean. However, being on a boat small enough to maneuver with your own strength brings about a few challenges in how to carry concealed in a more compact space. Cue the banjos, because in this edition of Concealed Carry Corner, we’re discussing concealed carry while paddling.
CONCEALED CARRY CORNER: CONCEALED CARRY WHILE PADDLING
Paddling canoes, kayaks and more recently, paddleboards has grown in popularity in the last couple of decades. They are a great way to see nature from a new perspective while getting some exercise. Depending on the body of water you use, it can be anywhere from perfectly peaceful, to invigorating, to terrifying. Since taking my first canoe trip when I was around eight years old, I was hooked! As with everything in life though, nothing is without dangers. Since this series is dedicated to exploring armed self defense, let’s look at some of the dangers that may hinder a peaceful paddling trip.
In some of my past Concealed Carry Corner articles, I provided examples of situations that could warrant a deadly force response in regards to the topic at hand. Fortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of examples of paddlers being attacked by two-legged predators, but enough to prove it’s possible. There are opportunists and jerks aplenty out there, as in a 2017 incident in which a man attacked a pair of canoeists when they stopped to talk with a man on shore. Another group of paddlers was assaulted as they exited the water in May of 2020, and some paddlers have been shot at as well (see HERE, HERE and HERE).
In short, because small watercraft are limited in carrying enough resources to avoid land altogether, then the same reasons you might carry a gun on land should be considerations when it comes to carrying while paddling. Despite the seemingly lower numbers of recent attacks on paddlers by humans, a brief internet search for “paddlers attacked” seems to show that four-legged or finned predators make up for the lack of human assaults on small watercraft.
ATTACKED BY SOMETHING THAT THRIVES IN WATER, WHAT NOW?
You don’t necessarily need to reach for your gun right away. Since you’re paddling, it means you’ve already got a type of weapon in your hand. A paddle can be a great striking or stand-off weapon. Kayakers may have a more difficult time leveraging a swing since they sit closer to the water, and the deck of the kayak being so close to the arms may also hinder meaningful strikes. Paddlers have been attacked by sharks, alligators and crocodiles, and bears. The video below is from the CBS47 KSEE24 YouTube channel and documents one man’s encounter with a rabid beaver, and his use of the paddle and his fists to save his seven year old daughter.
If a predator becomes aggressive enough to where you may capsize, it may be time to add some more persuasion. Although adding a firearm into the mix isn’t necessarily going to end your woes. If you’re in a canoe or kayak, you will have limited ability to turn your body. Are there other boats around you? Putting a hole in the boat will also complicate matters. Each situation is different and these things will need to be taken into consideration before deploying a firearm.
METHODS OF carrying WHILE PADDLING
When it comes to carrying a gun while paddling, there are plenty of options, but I’ll touch on a few. Both of my go-to options for carrying while paddling permit my firearm to get wet, but I’m okay with that since I prefer to keep my weapon on me, or near enough to have control of it and easily retrieve it if need be. Keeping my gun dry is always preferable and less hassle for later, but the gun and ammunition can take a dip for a short while and be okay. Once you’re back home or at the cabin, you can then disassemble the gun and lay out the ammo to dry, then oil the gun as needed. I typically change out my defensive ammo later if it’s been wet for long just to be sure.
If I opt to wear swim trunks, then my concealed carry gun outfitted with my minimalist trigger holster go into one of the large pockets on my life jacket. That way, even if I’m not wearing my life jacket, it’s at least right next to me in the boat, and if we stop on a sandbar to play or swim, then it’s within sight and dry. I’ve found that fishing-minded life jackets with pockets are more forgiving than full motion life jackets in terms of what size of gun you can carry, though my wife’s life jacket will at least accommodate her Ruger LCP or most of a S&W J Frame revolver. Keeping your firearm in a zip-lock bag within the pocket is another consideration to keep the moisture off your gun, but will also add time in a response to a deadly force situation.
The other method I’ve used is the same as my everyday carry, inside the waistband at my 4 o’clock position if I don’t put swim trunks on. This is the method I’ve had to get my gun wet on two occasions thus far as I hadn’t intended to get wet, but the situations required me to get in the water. If you choose this method, consider a Kydex holster compared to leather.
Another option for those that abhor the thought of getting their gun wet, is an airtight box, something you may have seen humorously associated with how to store your gun in the shower. In my opinion, this method seems a little more time consuming depending on where you place the box. I’ve also seen photos of people storing firearms in the built-in, watertight containers of their kayaks, which may require quite a reach if the gun is needed in a hurry. Comparatively, the dry-box seems more flexible as you can move it or fasten it closer to your seated position.
What’s your go-to weapon while on the water, and how do you carry it? What’s your preferred mode of paddling? Have you ever had a potentially life threatening encounter while paddling?