Rick Perry carries a gun while running. How does that work?

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Aug. 16 2011 2:45 PM

Gun Running

What's the best way to pack heat while jogging?

Texas Governor Rick Perry fires a six-shooter pistol in downtown Fort Worth. Click image to expand.
Rick Perry fires a pistol during a Texas Motor Speedway event

Reporters asked newly announced presidential candidate Rick Perry on Monday whether he carries a gun while campaigning. Perry refused to answer, but he does seem to carry guns in unexpected places. He shot a coyote while jogging in 2010, for example. What's the safest way to carry a gun while running?

In a jog holster, of course. There are plenty of threads on Internet forums discussing the best way to run with a gun. Some gun-toting runners use fanny packs. These are less than optimal since the weapon bounces around and the wearer must fumble with a zipper in an emergency. Others wear their weapons in thigh or ankle holsters but complain that those devices create a sense of imbalance and tend to slide down the leg. Manufacturers have recently responded with holsters specifically meant for exercise.

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Designs vary, but waist bands like the PT-ONE—an instructive video on the website demonstrates how it works—seem to be the most popular solution for a concealed weapon. (The runner has to wear a long and loose t-shirt to keep the weapon truly hidden, however.) An option that could work for shirtless runners is the Thunderwear holster, which sits between the underwear and shorts. (Thunderwear would not be a good choice for those who wear shorts with a built-in liner, as the holster would rub against the skin and cause chafing.) A torso-mounted holster is the best option if the runner prefers, or state law requires, open carry. The straps run around the shoulders and torso, and the gun sits against the lower ribs. Many models of either the belt or torso variety rely on the tension in the belt to hold the gun in place, while others have a velcro strap to prevent the weapon from popping out if the runner is knocked down in an attack—a concern repeatedly voiced in the discussion threads. Some holsters have space for a spare clip, an MP3 player, or keys. They typically sell for between $30 and $50.

No matter the holster, a subcompact is probably the largest handgun a runner could comfortably carry. The Glock 36, for example, weighs 27 ounces loaded. That's about as much as the four-bottle water belts that many runners find too cumbersome to lug around on a long outing. Those who run with a weapon usually prefer something smaller, such as the Kel-Tec P-32, which weighs 9.4 ounces loaded, or the Ruger LCP (Rick Perry's choice), which weighs about 12 ounces with ammo.

While Perry shot the coyote in defense of his puppy, animals attack runners with some regularity. Mountain lions, wolves, and grizzly bears have all killed joggers. Last year, a kangaroo attacked an Australian runner. The current barefoot running fad raises special risks: In 2010, a copperhead snake bit the foot of a North Carolina man  who was running across the state to protest cuts to social services funding. (Rick Perry says he carries his gun to combat snakes.)

Most gun-and-run enthusiasts in Internet chat rooms, however, seem more concerned about attacks by humans than by wild animals. The Explainer is unaware of any statistical analysis of attacks against runners, but sexual assaults and other crimes against female runners appear to be depressingly common. In 2010 alone, female runners suffered attacks in Malibu, San Diego, Galveston, Winnipeg, Seattle, and McAllen, Texas. Some of the most infamous attacks on women have been perpetrated against runners, including the 1989 Central Park jogger case and the murder of Chandra Levy in Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park.

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Brian Palmer writes about science, medicine, and the environment for Slate and Earthwire. Email him at explainerbrian@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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