Non-uniform officers have, in my opinion , several advantages to their job description. They may move about more freely in their work environment without drawing as much attention to themselves as their uniformed counterparts. This means they can operate in a lower profile, which often makes a job considerably easier.
However, there are — as with all roses — a couple thorns involved. That very lack of marked cars and uniform can cause identification problems. A lack of identifying uniforms could bring a lot of "focused" attention to plain-clothes officers if they show up in a "bad spot" with a long gun. "Who is that guy with the shotgun?"
For many investigators their handgun is their primary weapon. Consequently, it must be the most effective tool they can have. Here are some thoughts on the selection process of both the handgun and the ever-important holster it's carried in. These aren't necessarily rules set in stone, but things to think hard on as you go about your daily chores.
There are four elements affecting the carrying of a concealed handgun by plainclothes officers. Consider them as points of interest that should be attended to in detail. To fail to do so may have the gravest consequences.
Concealment works in opposition to comfort and speed but is necessary for low-profile work. The degree of concealment is usually based on the type of work being done. Over-concealment may lead to a case of, "I can't get my gun." Holster selection is important to the drawing platform, as well as the clothing selection to cover it (concealment). All parts work as a whole, helping to build that "drawing platform."
Comfort works in opposition to concealment and speed. Comfort may not be important to the task at hand, but if it's more comfortable you'll wear it more often. No method is perfect so learn to work with your particular selection. The choice of a flat, smaller handgun will help, but don't sacrifice caliber effectiveness. Comfort levels should be judged from all positions normally assumed during the day, whether it be standing, walking, sitting or driving.
Speed works in opposition to concealment and security. One concept of a defensive handgun is your ability to respond to an unplanned and unexpected threat. This means you will have to draw with speed all the time from every type of position.
Security works in opposition to speed and should be balanced. "Security" is the need to keep/retain the pistol in the holster when working. Personal tactics are important to the security of the weapon both when approaching suspects and during methods of arrest and control. Is my handgun so secure that even I can't get it out in a timely manner? Think on it.
Holster selection is often done after much wringing of hands or simply by looking at the price tags. Cheapest often wins. Cheapest also often kills.
After all these years and with the evolution of quality products I am amazed at the number of inferior holsters still carried by professional handgun carriers. The effect of the holster on presentation or the drawing stroke is profound, yet officers still carry junky holsters that fail to meet even the minimum standards of concealment, comfort, speed and security.
The number of documented cases of firearms being "lost" form poor holsters through lack of security, because of scuffles or because of bad tactics is amazing. Still more amazing is that we don't learn from the past.
The bottom line is this: If you lose your gun there is a very strong probability you'll get shot with it. Don't lose the gun!