Getting the Most Out of Your Concealed Carry Class

 

shutterstock_24882091Gun ownership continues to grow at record levels in the United States, and concealed carry permits are growing right alongside gun sales, reaching record levels last year with no end in sight. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of people who go to the trouble and expense of getting a concealed carry permit don’t carry a pistol on a regular basis. When I went through my CCW class in Arizona many years ago, our instructor said that only a third of us would make the commitment to carrying our gun on a regular basis; I think he was optimistic.

Getting permission to carry a gun and then not actually carrying one makes no sense to me, but I understand why it happens. Carrying a firearm with you day in, day out, makes a big change in your lifestyle. You may have to buy new clothes. You’ll need to change how you act around people. You’ll have to learn a new set of safety rules and follow them diligently. Most of all, you’ll start to see the world in a new way, where decisions that you’ve made in the past seem like utter foolishness now.

These are not easy tasks to accomplish, and our species tends to be resistant to change. However, there are steps you can take before, during and after your concealed carry class that will help you move from the state of being unarmed and unprepared to being ready to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones in a safe, timely manner if (God forbid), the need occurs.

First and most obvious is to chose a concealed carry pistol before you take your class. This will allow you to directly apply what you’re learning in-class to what you already own. While I myself prefer double-action, semiautomatic pistols like the CZ75, what I recommend the most for people starting out are compact, striker-fired guns in 9mm like the Glock 19, S&W M&P 9c and the Springfield XD(M). These are lightweight, easy to shoot, and easy to carry but still pack enough punch to effectively defend what matters most to you.

Secondly, take an introductory-level pistol class before you take your concealed carry class. Most of the time in your CCW class will probably be devoted to the basics of firearms and the self-defense laws of your state, leaving precious little time for the basics of pistol handling and marksmanship. Taking a class like an NSSF First Shots class or an NRA Basic Pistol class will help you understand how your gun operates and how to shoot it accurately, giving you a better chance of passing the qualification test for your CCW if required by your state laws. And while I’m sure that your brother-in-law who’s a policeman or your uncle who fought with the Marines in Fallujah is a good shot, the fact is, unless they’re used to teaching people how shoot, they’re probably not as good as imparting the knowledge of good markmanship as a professional, trained firearms instructor. So start your training off right by going with some who’s been trained how to train new gun owners.

Speaking of which, you should be documenting what training you receive and what books you are reading if you face the unfortunate reality of having to defend your actions in court. I keep a running total of what classes and training I’ve had in a Google spreadsheet, but as long as it’s written down somewhere, chances are what you’ve recorded may be entered as evidence into the courtroom as proof of your competency and ability to safely defend your life.

And while we’re on the subject of state gun laws, I highly recommend Andrew Branca’s book, “The Law of Self-Defense” for all gun owners. Get a copy and mark it up to show that you’re read it, because reading this book will give you more information about the self-defense laws than just about any other book around. Andrew is one of the few attorneys out there specializing in the legal aspect of lawful self-defense, and his book is a “must-have” for anyone who has a gun for self-protection.

Keep in mind that in the (thankfully) rare chance you’ll need to use a gun to protect your life or someone else’s, there is a good chance you’ll need to defend yourself in court after you’ve defended your life in the streets. Spending a few minutes to sign up for a self-defense insurance program that covers not only lawful gun use but other forms of self-defense means there is one less thing for you to worry about.

Having confidence in your ability to make the shot on-demand is also a big part of safe, confident concealed carry. Most people are not as good a shot as they think they are, and dealing with the performance anxiety of shooting a pistol in front of your instructor in order to qualify is a very real concern. Range practice with an eye towards shooting groups can help with this, but range time costs money and so does ammo. Dry-fire practice, safely done with no live ammo anywhere in the room while practicing, can teach you the trigger control you need to place your shots where you want them, on-target an on-demand. And it goes without saying that if you have a gun in the home, the Three Rules of Gun Safety apply every single time you are near a gun.

Every. Single. Time.

Lastly, we come to how to carry your pistol day in and day out. There are literally thousands of different options out there, and one of the advantages to the compact 9mms I mentioned is that the holster choices for them are almost limitless, but most choices come down to either Inside the Waistband (IWB) holsters for better concealment, or Outside the Waistband (OWB) holsters for better access to your gun. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and which one would be best for you is a very personal decision based on what you wear, how you’re shaped, and what rides best on your body.

You can put all those lessons into practice by practicing concealed carry around your house before your class. Wear the gun in your holster, unloaded, on your hip on the weekend as your do the chores around your house. You’ll soon find what you need to adjust to make carrying concealed more comfortable, and carrying your gun on a regular basis will make the routine of concealed carry more routine for you after you receive your permit to carry outside the home.

And please, whatever you do, don’t just carry a pistol “when you think it’s needed.” I’ve never considered going anywhere where I might need a pistol to stay safe (because those are dumb places to go to) and neither should you. We carry a gun not because we’re looking for trouble, we carry because trouble is always looking for us.

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  1. Aaron Parmelee Member
    Aaron Parmelee
    @AaronParmelee

    I’ve had a conceal and carry license for over a year now, but rarely carry. Mostly because of a fear that I will lean over or something, and no longer be concealing. In my liberal-ish state, that would be socially awkward.

    During my classes, the instructors engaged in a sort of philosophical dance about how if anyone sees your weapon, it is no longer concealed, and thus illegal. If it remains concealed, then it isn’t really there, and a license really isn’t required…

    • #1
  2. Pseudodionysius Member
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    First and most obvious is to chose a concealed carry pistol before you take your class. This will allow you to directly apply what you’re learning in-class to what you already own. While I myself prefer double-action, semiautomatic pistols like the CZ75, what I recommend the most for people starting out are compact, striker-fired guns in 9mm like the Glock 19, S&W M&P 9c and the Springfield XD(M). These are lightweight, easy to shoot, and easy to carry but still pack enough punch to effectively defend what matters most to you.

    Do you have a post on the difference between the two and why you prefer the CZ75?

    • #2
  3. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Aaron Parmelee: I’ve had a conceal and carry license for over a year now, but rarely carry. Mostly because of a fear that I will lean over or something, and no longer be concealing. In my liberal-ish state, that would be socially awkward.

    1. Get a good gun belt. I cannot understand people who spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars trying to find the perfect holster and then attach their holster to a dress belt. It’s like building a hurricane-proof house on a floating raft. A good belt does three things to make concealment easier:
      1. Distributes the weight of your pistol and mags (you DO carry a spare mag, right??) around your waist, preventing sagging.
      2. Keeps your gun snug up against your body (less printing).
      3. Keeps your gun in one place, meaning you adjust it less when you’re in public.
    2. You’re not “printing” (aka showing) as much as you think you are. Take a look at this photo: I had all this gear in my pockets and around my waist in that picture, yet at best, it looks like I have a big cell phone case at 7 o’clock (which I do). I walked up and down Vanderbilt Beach and the Naples Pier last month, carrying all that gear covered by an untucked t-shirt, and no one pointed and stared at me.
    3. Carry IWB. Because 70% or more of your pistol is tucked into your pants, you need to REALLY work at dressing in a way that shows your gun. I’ve never had any problems with printing or showing with IWB, and with a good holster (I like Crossbreed and Comp-Tac), neither should you (though you may need new pants).
    4. Do the Walmart walk. Watch as nothing happens.
    5. Relax. This is all about being calm, no matter what, so be calm and carry.
    • #3
  4. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Pseudodionysius:

    First and most obvious is to chose a concealed carry pistol before you take your class. This will allow you to directly apply what you’re learning in-class to what you already own. While I myself prefer double-action, semiautomatic pistols like the CZ75, what I recommend the most for people starting out are compact, striker-fired guns in 9mm like the Glock 19, S&W M&P 9c and the Springfield XD(M). These are lightweight, easy to shoot, and easy to carry but still pack enough punch to effectively defend what matters most to you.

    Do you have a post on the difference between the two and why you prefer the CZ75?

    I prefer the CZ because I went to a local range and literally started at one end of their 9mm rental counter and worked my way across it, and the CZ gave me the smallest groups. It’s a DA/SA trigger, though, and those can take a little getting used to.

    • #4
  5. Ron Selander Member
    Ron Selander
    @RonSelander

    Another good book is:

    Self Defense Law of All 50 States (2nd Edition) – by Attorney Mitch Vilos. Mitch writes with a good use of humor on a subject which can otherwise be very dry.  It is also highly recommended by Mas Ayoob!

    • #5
  6. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Aaron Parmelee:I’ve had a conceal and carry license for over a year now, but rarely carry. Mostly because of a fear that I will lean over or something, and no longer be concealing. In my liberal-ish state, that would be socially awkward.

    This is where a .380 pocket pistol can come in handy. Yes, they’ve got their disadvantages, but extreme (and easy) concealability can be a major asset.

    • #6
  7. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Kevin Creighton: Taking a class like an NSSF First Shots class or an NRA Basic Pistol class will help you understand how your gun operates and how to shoot it accurately, giving you a better chance of passing the qualification test for your CCW if required by your state laws.

    Always good advice.

    • #7
  8. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:  but extreme (and easy) concealability can be a major asset.

    And you can get a hand on your gun and draw it right quickly if needed, usually less than a second.

    • #8
  9. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Aaron Parmelee:I’ve had a conceal and carry license for over a year now, but rarely carry. Mostly because of a fear that I will lean over or something, and no longer be concealing. In my liberal-ish state, that would be socially awkward.

    This is where a .380 pocket pistol can come in handy. Yes, they’ve got their disadvantages, but extreme (and easy) concealability can be a major asset.

    Particularly if you live in a state where “printing” will get you arrested even with a CCW permit.

    • #9
  10. Pseudodionysius Member
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Kevin Creighton:

    Pseudodionysius:

    First and most obvious is to chose a concealed carry pistol before you take your class. This will allow you to directly apply what you’re learning in-class to what you already own. While I myself prefer double-action, semiautomatic pistols like the CZ75, what I recommend the most for people starting out are compact, striker-fired guns in 9mm like the Glock 19, S&W M&P 9c and the Springfield XD(M). These are lightweight, easy to shoot, and easy to carry but still pack enough punch to effectively defend what matters most to you.

    Do you have a post on the difference between the two and why you prefer the CZ75?

    I prefer the CZ because I went to a local range and literally started at one end of their 9mm rental counter and worked my way across it, and the CZ gave me the smallest groups. It’s a DA/SA trigger, though, and those can take a little getting used to.

    Very, very interesting.

    • #10
  11. Sheila Member
    Sheila
    @Sheila

    Getting permission to carry a gun and then not actually carrying one makes no sense to me, but I understand why it happens.  

    My reason: I’m a neophyte to the gun world, but I’m guessing that there are others like me who have purchased & are learning more about guns because the current anti-gun US culture makes me nervous.  We keep our few guns in a locked gun cabinet & haven’t put the money into getting a permit yet. The compliant rule follower side of my brain almost feels the need to and the rebel side of my brain wants the gov’t & anyone else to know that I’m protesting any of their efforts to tell me that I can’t have guns….while I still can.   I’m proud to be on any & all watchlists that show me to be a fundamentalist Christian small gov’t right wing conservative……or am I being paranoid.

    • #11
  12. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    ctlaw:

    Particularly if you live in a state where “printing” will get you arrested even with a CCW permit.

    Exactly.

    • #12
  13. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I have a DVD on concealed carry (too lazy to go downstairs and look at the title, sorry!).  The gentleman starts the video by wearing a business suit and holding a briefcase.  He states that he has a gazillion guns concealed on him (well over ten).  He then shows where every one is located – it’s amazing!

    • #13
  14. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    I grew up with .44 and .41 Mag revolvers, fell in love with the .45 ACP in the Army, and wept when the 9mm NATO was adopted. My personal sidearm is the Ruger P345 and I love it, but it’s simply too large for regular concealed carry – my next step.

    I’m looking at the Ruger LCR-LG w/ Crimson Trace laser dot. Thoughts on the .38 Spl+P round?

    • #14
  15. Geoffrey Leach Member
    Geoffrey Leach
    @GeoffreyLeach

    All good advice. I’d add one additional suggestion, namely to do training that involves movement. Shooting groups at the range is fine, but it does not give one anything close to a real-life situation.

    • #15
  16. Pseudodionysius Member
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Pseudodionysius:

    Kevin Creighton:

    Pseudodionysius:

    First and most obvious is to chose a concealed carry pistol before you take your class. This will allow you to directly apply what you’re learning in-class to what you already own. While I myself prefer double-action, semiautomatic pistols like the CZ75, what I recommend the most for people starting out are compact, striker-fired guns in 9mm like the Glock 19, S&W M&P 9c and the Springfield XD(M). These are lightweight, easy to shoot, and easy to carry but still pack enough punch to effectively defend what matters most to you.

    Do you have a post on the difference between the two and why you prefer the CZ75?

    I prefer the CZ because I went to a local range and literally started at one end of their 9mm rental counter and worked my way across it, and the CZ gave me the smallest groups. It’s a DA/SA trigger, though, and those can take a little getting used to.

    Very, very interesting.

    I am obligated to ask what you think of the CZ Scorpion 9 mm?

    • #16
  17. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Postmodern Hoplite:I grew up with .44 and .41 Mag revolvers, fell in love with the .45 ACP in the Army, and wept when the 9mm NATO was adopted. My personal sidearm is the Ruger P345 and I love it, but it’s simply too large for regular concealed carry – my next step.

    I’m looking at the Ruger LCR-LG w/ Crimson Trace laser dot. Thoughts on the .38 Spl+P round?

    +P is a nasty handful in such a small, short, lightweight firearm.  Without looking at the stats, I’m sure the LCR can handle it, but you may well decide you don’t like it.  Recovery for a second shot is significantly longer that it would be with a standard round.  It’s up to you.  Be sure to experiment with rounds designed for snubbies.

    • #17
  18. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Aaron Parmelee:I’ve had a conceal and carry license for over a year now, but rarely carry. Mostly because of a fear that I will lean over or something, and no longer be concealing. In my liberal-ish state, that would be socially awkward.

    During my classes, the instructors engaged in a sort of philosophical dance about how if anyone sees your weapon, it is no longer concealed, and thus illegal. If it remains concealed, then it isn’t really there, and a license really isn’t required…

    Try carrying around the house, and have somebody, who knows you’re packing, check you out  You’ll be surprised.  Note what Kevin said about the belt.  That’s really, really important.

    A lot of people like to position their firearm around 4:00 (just behind the hip) – that would be 8:00 for this southpaw).  But I found that it is just as comfortable if I carry right on my hip, at 9:00 / 3:00.  Then, wearing an untucked t-shirt, I can bend over and touch my toes, and there’s hardly any printing at all.  If I position it further back, it does print.  And my EDC is a 3″ barrel Kimber .45 ASP.  No “mouse gun” it.  For comparison, I’m very tall, but on the thin side – not skinny, but little extra padding to mold around the firearm.

    • #18
  19. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Kevin Creighton:

    • Get a good gun belt. I cannot understand people who spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars trying to find the perfect holster and then attach their holster to a dress belt. It’s like building a hurricane-proof house on a floating raft. A good belt does three things to make concealment easier:
      1. Distributes the weight of your pistol and mags (you DO carry a spare mag, right??) around your waist, preventing sagging.
      2. Keeps your gun snug up against your body (less printing).
      3. Keeps your gun in one place, meaning you adjust it less when you’re in public.
    • You’re not “printing” (aka showing) as much as you think you are.

    Amen and amen.

    • #19
  20. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Quietpi: .45 ASP.

    Um, that would be .45 ACP.  Sorry.  Not much sleep last night.  Must have been dreaming about all those snake guns.

    • #20
  21. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Pseudodionysius:I am obligated to ask what you think of the CZ Scorpion 9 mm?

    REALLY like them. I am a big fan of small pistol-caliber carbines for us civilian types because they tick all the “bigger than a pistol but not a big rifle” boxes: They allow you to engage targets beyond 50 yards, they have less risk of over penetration and as we are (thankfully) not at a point were engaging opponents with body armor is a priority for us, the added oomph of a rifle isn’t as big of a deal for us as it is a soldier.

    As for the Scorpion in particular, it’d be my choice for sub-$1k 9mm carbine at this point, because the durn thing works, while 9mm AR’s can be a little fussy.

    • #21
  22. Pseudodionysius Member
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Kevin Creighton:

    Pseudodionysius:I am obligated to ask what you think of the CZ Scorpion 9 mm?

    REALLY like them. I am a big fan of small pistol-caliber carbines for us civilian types because they tick all the “bigger than a pistol but not a big rifle” boxes: They allow you to engage targets beyond 50 yards, they have less risk of over penetration and as we are (thankfully) not at a point were engaging opponents with body armor is a priority for us, the added oomph of a rifle isn’t as big of a deal for us as it is a soldier.

    As for the Scorpion in particular, it’d be my choice for sub-$1k 9mm carbine at this point, because the durn thing works, while 9mm AR’s can be a little fussy.

    And not legal in Canada! AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

    • #22
  23. Barry Jones Thatcher
    Barry Jones
    @BarryJones

    Plus one for the Ruger LCR LG. Went ahead and upped to the 357 magnum version which is a handful in such a small revolver, but figured I would rather have the option and not use it than want it and not have it. I normally carry 38 spl +P Speer Gold Dots in it. This particular round has been optimized for short barrels and there is no flash (which there darn sure is in some of the other +P rounds I tried). Recoil is not an issue with most +P rounds and the laser goes a long way in making up for a short sight radius as I can confidently engage and hit with moderate precision at 15 yards or more. I normally pocket carry and have it on me whenever I leave the house. I recommend that if you are going to carry, shop around, shoot as many different types and flavors as is practicable and then make a choice. Also, don’t be afraid to change your mind as you, your situation and your environment change. Be safe and remember it is ALWAYS loaded, even when you know it is not!

    • #23

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