Choosing to carry a gun on a regular basis is a very big decision. You’ve realized, along with a growing number of people, that there may not be a policeman around when you need one, and you’ve concluded that you have the temperament needed to safely carry a gun.
Deciding to take care of your own personal safety is crucial because you are, and always will be, your own first responder. Carrying a pistol with you, concealed or not, allows for more options in defense of your life that not having a firearm gives you. For most of us, the chances are slim that we’ll ever need a gun to defend our lives, and that is a very good thing indeed. It’s not the odds of having a lethal force encounter that matter, but rather the stakes — and the stakes when guns are involved are extremely high for everyone.
So what other things might you need to accompany a concealed carry pistol to help keep you safe?
- Safe Means to Store the Gun
“Safe” is a relative term. If you live alone or with stable, properly trained adults you can trust, you could make an argument that “safe” might mean keeping a loaded pistol on the nightstand if it’s not in a holster on your person. For me, with two young children, this is not “safe” at all, and I keep my concealed carry guns either on myself or in a quick-access safe like this Gunvault. I’ve tested how fast I can get to a gun inside a safe if I really need it, and keeping something in the same place every time eliminates the time you waste searching around for your gun.
- Spare Magazines
Because they get slammed into the gun over and over again or dropped onto the ground, magazines are a disposable item. I consider three extra magazines a bare minimum to have on-hand for any pistol that I own, and I have at least five spare magazines for all of my competition guns.
A no-brainer, but I’m always amazed at how many people buy a pistol and then don’t buy defensive ammunition for it.
Quick ammo primer: There are essentially two types of ammunition for handguns; solid full metal jacket bullets (FMJ), most commonly used for target practice and plinking, and jacketed hollow-point ammunition (JHP) which expands on impact, typically used for hunting and self-defense. In general, you want to use hollow points in a defensive gun because they increase the wounding power of a pistol round, which then increases the chances of you stopping the threat to your life*. However, smaller caliber guns (less than .380ACP) usually don’t have the oomph needed to penetrate deep enough to cause enough damage to stop a threat, so choose your ammo carefully if you carry a mouse gun.
Which brand of ammo to choose is the subject of endless internet and gun store debates, but when all is said and done, any modern, bonded, jacketed hollow-point ammunition will work. Me? I like Hornady XTP’s because they do the job and are a bit less expensive than similar brands, but any hollow-point ammunition from Winchester, CorBon, Hornady, Federal, or a host of others will work just fine. Make sure you buy a spare box or two and run them through your gun to check for potential malfunction issues before you trust your life to any ammunition.
- Holsters and Gun Belts
Note that I said “holsters,” not “holster.” You don’t own just one pair of shoes, and you’ll probably soon find that one holster won’t do the trick by itself. Get a good gun belt as well, because a stiff belt that distributes the weight of your gun around your entire waist makes carrying much, much easier.
- Less-Lethal Defensive Weapon
Pepper spray, kubotan, tactical flashlight, sturdy pen, stun gun … the possibilities here are almost limitless. You don’t want face a non-lethal threat with lethal force: That’s a great way for good people to go jail, so the more options you have to defend yourself from harm, the better**.
Note: A knife is not usually considered “less lethal.” Speaking of which…
I have this little CRKT knife clipped to my trouser pocket pretty much all the time. I like it because it’s darn useful and it fits deeper into my pocket than most knives so it doesn’t scream “Knife!” to my co-workers. If I’m out and about, I back that up with an SOG Instinct under my shirt near my belt buckle because it’s easy to grab with either hand at that location, and if I need a knife to defend myself, I’m probably going to need it right quickly.
Want to avoid becoming a victim in a scary place on a dark night? Have a flashlight and turn it on when it gets dark and dicey. Crooks are not looking to attack a prepared, aware individual; they’re looking to attack someone who looks and acts like a potential victim. Having something in your hand that is signalling to the world that you are watching where you are going tells a crook to look somewhere else for his/her next score. Decent flashlights can be as tiny as this little Photon Micro II, so there is really no reason not to have one with you at all times.
Other than that, make sure you have your smartphone with you: A text can get through when the phone lines are jammed from overuse, and having a camera to document even minor things like a fender-bender comes in handy. Also, consider keeping a first aid kit that can deal with any serious wound nearby (and get training to use it). Self-defense insurance is a good idea as well.
And have fun. You’re not carrying a gun because you are paranoid or want to act macho; you’re carry a gun so you can enjoy your life without messy interruptions.
* Remember, we don’t shoot to kill: We shoot to stop the threat. If the bad guy gives up without a shot, congratulations, you win.
** I am an okapi trapped in a zoo, not a lawyer. Consult with a professional about these things, not an incarcerated African herd animal like myself.