Practice (which in its verbal form is spelled “practise” in British spelling) is something you do while learning to get better. For example, doctors and lawyers practice their profession. That is not to say they are not knowledgeable. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that there is still more to learn. Concealed carry is much the same. I started to carry concealed close to three decades ago, yet I regularly attend trainings or look to articles or videos in an attempt to reinforce my skill set or learn something new.
Learning about concealed carry does not stop when your Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) class is over. Your certificate of completion or license to carry is the beginning, not the end. We are all students at all times—or at least we should be. That is the attitude adopted by the most battle-hardened survivors I know: “always the student.”
Exercising your right (some states consider it a privilege) to carry a concealed weapon for personal protection is a complex subject. If you are worthy of carrying a firearm, you already continue to review your skills and equipment while informing yourself about the concepts and tactics involved with carrying concealed. Staying current may be your key to staying alive.
This article may contain something you are hearing for the first time. Likewise, you may already know all of these 10 tips. Either way, take a few minutes to refocus your mind on concealed carry with this easy-to-follow advice on things to do, or avoid.
Choose the Best Handgun, For You
This is the most important and complicated topic. Weapons are made in numerous cartridge calibers, with dozens of choices for each. It is essential to choose a handgun that suits your need, and there are tradeoffs. Maximizing concealment may have a compromise in capacity, accuracy, or “stopping power.” Carrying a full-size weapon will compromise concealability.
Choose a pistol that you are comfortable operating in a high-pressure situation. That may be different from the pistol you shoot the best or is most popular. Instead of relying on reviews or studies, which are written by other people, you need to write your own story. Practicing your marksmanship and manual of arms until you are 100% confident accomplishes this—train, train, train.
Have the Right Gear
Following the concealed carry pecking order, the operator is most the most important. After that comes the firearm, followed by the holster. It is important that your firearm is completely concealed by your holster. Inspect the holster regularly to ensure it is properly adjusted and still functional. All though a holster that is well broken in may be as comfortable as an old baseball glove, it may no longer secure the firearm properly.
Once you select the right gear, practice drawing and holstering from it. That technique also needs to be practiced with each different type of garment with which you might practice, whether it’s a button-down shirt, polo, or t-shirt, or sports coat), so you can identify and correct any issues before venturing outdoors. Train to build the correct muscle memory with your gear.
Dress to Kill
You are carrying a concealed weapon. Compared to a uniformed police officer or security guard, that gives you an advantage over an adversary: the element of surprise. Dress accordingly to maximize your advantage. There is absolutely no reason for you to be wearing BDU pants or other tacticool apparel when you’re carrying concealed and not on the range. Clothing that displays a gun manufacturer’s logo draws unnecessary attention. The more you make yourself look like a badass gunslinger, the bigger the fool you are. What you really want to do is blend in. Fit is also important. Ensure your clothing is loose enough to completely conceal your weapon.
Be Realistic About Caliber and Capacity
Have extra magazines and enough ammo to last you through a typical incident that you are prepared to encounter. Odds are, if you have to use your weapon, you will not hit with every shot. The average hit rate in law enforcement shootings is only around 20%—1 in 5, and that’s for highly trained gun operators.
Are you carrying extra magazines? Are you practicing using your extra magazine from the position of concealment? More importantly, does your CC gun give you enough ammunition to offset the high chances of a miss?
Planning on carrying a Glock 43, mini .380s such as the Ruger LCP or S&W Bodyguard, or a 2-inch revolver? They are great little guns, and very well engineered. However, they only give you 6+1 or 5 rounds in the cylinder respectively. Is that enough? Are you being realistic in that assessment? The statistics say that all else being equal, you are only likely to get one round on target, and the rest will be misses.
That might be enough to disable one attacker—with perfect shot placement. Multiple attackers, or a few misses, and you may as well not have even bothered. After 6 shots, you’ve got a fancy paperweight or rock to throw. I carry a Glock 19—a compact pistol. This accommodates 15+1 rounds of 9x19mm. I also carry an additional full size magazine (with 17 rounds). This allows me to sustain fire in an extended gun battle, and to deal with the potential “failure to stop,” and possibly against multiple assailants.
Have Alternatives; Use Them
If you find yourself in a tense conflict with another person, the gun is not your problem-solver. It is your obligation not to be escalatory, and it is always better to de-escalate the situation, so you don’t have to resort to using the gun. It may surprise you, but this ability starts from within. You must have the mindset that we are responsible for our own actions. You should know far better than a regular unarmed citizen that we shall steer away from getting involved in fights or “rage” incidents. Loss of temper and picking fights and angrily confronting someone could escalate into a dangerous situation in matter of seconds. You should go out of your way to avoid such situations.
Don’t Be a Hero
Carrying a gun has a psychological impact. It can cause you to forget two important truths: First, you are not the law enforcer. Second, you are not invincible. As a CCW holder, you may find yourself exposed to a high-stakes situation, for instance, being in a liquor store or bank during an armed robbery attempt. In this situation, your concealed advantage might tempt you to take matters—other peoples’ matters—into your own hands, because you can, or you feel you should. Double-check that instinct. Other peoples’ problems are their own. Your CCW is to protect you, and the best protection for you, yourself. In case you have no way out, and no choice but to be involved, be prepared. Furthermore, ensure you have insurance, and be prepared to contact your attorney.
Have Realistic Expectations
If you carry, you may have a situation where you have no alternative but to use deadly force. Know the law. Are you faced with a threat of deadly force or grievous bodily injury? What does that consist of? Anything less than that, and your resort to deadly force is unjustified; you could face civil and criminal liability. (And there is always a risk that you will be arrested, indicted, or sued in civil court even if you were in-the-right. Read about the subject of what to do after you have been involved in a shooting.) Do you have a means of retreat?
In some states, you must exhaust the option of retreat, even from a deadly threat; other states have the “stand your ground” law, which abrogates this obligation. Should you find yourself facing deadly peril, you have to be absolutely ready to use your weapon. You cannot expect to use a firearm simply to scare someone. You may get lucky; the attacker may surrender merely because you clear leather. However, I would not recommend counting on it. Are you prepared to inflict deadly force? If you think you will falter, when tested, you need to revisit your training. If you are merely counting on exhibiting your weapon simply to scare someone, revisit your decision to carry.
Avoid Geographic Carry
A saying I live by is, “Guns are a lot like parachutes. If you need one and don’t have one, you’ll probably never need one again.” I have surveyed some of my law enforcement colleagues as to whether they carry off duty. The most common attitude is that their weapon is like an American Express card, “Don’t leave home without it.” That’s my attitude. But some are lucky enough to go home to very low crime rate communities, in the suburbs, and I sometimes hear them say that whether or not they carry depends on where they are going. That’s a bad habit to get into.
It is absolutely impossible to assess in advance if you’ll get involved in an incident merely by ZIP code. You have to recognize that trouble could occur at any place and at any time. Criminals do not respect “Gun Free Zones” or places where weapons are prohibited such as the establishment of Orlando nightclub massacre dubbed “ the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.” If you believe a place is to be unsafe, a good CCW holder should avoid that place all together if possible. However, if in fact trouble arises, it should not only be the perpetrator who is to be armed, “[i]f evil has a gun, I want one too…”
Keep It On You or Lock It Up
Clint Eastwood is credited with saying, “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.” You must strive to be a responsible gun owner. You must secure your weapon and keep it out of reach of children and other unauthorized persons. Invest in a gun safe, lockable case, or a simple gunlock and always practice gun safety. In some states, such as California, there are strict criminal penalties and civil liabilities for leaving a firearm where someone other than you can get to it and do harm. The gun should be under your control at all times—meaning, on your body, or locked in a safe to which you have exclusive access.
Never Surrender Your Gun
The FBI says that of the 616 law enforcement officers killed on duty by criminals from 1994 through 2003, 52 were killed with their own weapon, amounting to 8 percent. You must train to retain your weapon. You may end up in a totally unexpected and unnatural position, such as on the ground, and you may end up wrestling with your aggressor on the ground. You must first secure and retain your weapon. If the perpetrator goes for your gun at this close quarter and over powers you, the outcome can be grim. Ensure your holster will secure your weapon in its place despite the physical struggle. This requires you to take some martial arts lessons. Which brings us to the last tip: Never ever surrender your gun. Studies show that when officers surrendered their weapon for various reasons, it usually ends with tragic consequence. You are in the same category.
Do you have a tip for concealed carry? Share it in the comment section.
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