I learned to use firearms at an early age. Fortunately for me, my father was a hunter and a gun guy, and I also had an uncle that was a police officer in one of the local jurisdictions. I learned how use and maintain a firearm, and the basics of safety, as well as the fun of using a .357 Magnum as a kid. Now that I have been through training class after training class, I have seen that what I learned as a kid would never have helped me in every day carry. At that time, concealed carry of a firearm was barely thought of and the chances of you having to use it wasn’t even a possibility.
Times have changed. Now it is legal in certain states to obtain a concealed carry permit after completing a course of training and some paperwork, and then submit the proof of training and application to the appropriate authorities and as long as you meet your state’s requirements, you are issued a permit. In my state, the application is submitted through the court system, and as long as you can pass a background check, you are issued a permit.
In the world of internet classes and online videos to qualify for a concealed carry permit, one could obtain a permit without even touching a firearm, let alone even un-holstering a firearm. I see this as a major issue. Yes, it gets you the legal qualifications to obtain your permit, but in no way does it prepare you for what you might face in the real world. If you need to protect yourself, you need to be fast, accurate and able to make a deliberate decision in a fraction of a second. You also need to be able to recognize when to use force and when to walk away.
None of us ever want to have to use their firearm in a self-defense situation. We would be just fine if we walked around and no one ever gave us any reason to do so. That is just not the reality of today. However, carrying a firearm also means you are carrying a tremendous responsibility. That responsibility includes knowing the law, knowing proper carry methods, and knowing how and when to use lethal force. It also includes the responsibility to avoid the confrontation. I realize many states have a “Stand your Ground Law” which means you can stand your ground against an attacker – that you are not legally required to retreat. This law has good and bad parts to it. Yes, you have the right to protect yourself. Doing so when you could have gotten out of the situation may or may not be the best choice, You will have to make that decision at that critical time. We simply can not predict when or where something may happen. The goal is to never have it happen, but to be prepared if it does.
Train for the situation as if it’s going to happen today, and train as if your life depends on it. Because it does. There are many ways to train for carrying a firearm.
1. Work with a Reputable Instructor – NRA-certified firearms instructors have received the training to teach you the proper ways to handle a firearm, proper grip and sight picture, proper ways to draw from a variety of holsters, and can set up a training regimen for you to practice all the techniques needed to perform safely and efficiently in a situation.
2. Practice – It doesn’t take much practice once you get the fundamentals down. It’s simply a matter of correctly repeating the techniques until they are muscle memory. Then you need to continue to practice the techniques to keep that muscle memory. Practice can be boring, which is when you need to add some challenges to your regimen. There are several drills out there that you can do to enhance your ability to deal with a situation. There is a list of drills and explanations available at http://pistol-training.com/drills. These drills will help you with reloading, target acquisition and many other skills. Drills keep you practicing your fundamentals and make it challenging and interesting to do.
3. Research the law – You will need more in your arsenal than just the skills to use the firearm. You need to know the laws in your jurisdiction. Not only know what they say, but understand them. Often you will need to have someone help you read and decipher the rhetoric. You should to talk to a lawyer anyhow, so why not start there? A lawyer can help you decipher the legal jargon and help you know what your rights are.
Knowing what your rights are, and what you can and can not do legally is beyond important when you are carrying a firearm for self-defense. The law is specific and there is no room for error. If you end up in court, the judge you deal with will kindly remind you that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for violation of the law. Pay attention!
4. Learn how to carry – It may sound simple, but it’s actually a fairly complicated topic. In some states, you also have to decide whether you want to carry openly (where the firearm is visible) or concealed. Which is better is really a matter of personal preference, and each comes with its own set of concerns. Personally, I prefer to carry concealed, so that is what I will address here.
First, what type of holster do you want? Don’t be afraid to spend some money to get a good quality, safe, carry holster. You want a holster that fits your firearm well, that you can wear easily and reasonably comfortably, and that provide adequate retention. Once you have a holster, you need to practice with it – practice wearing it and practice drawing from it (with an unloaded firearm, of course).
Bear in mind that you may have to alter your wardrobe to accommodate your carry setup. When carrying concealed, remember the goal is for the firearm to be CONCEALED – hidden from view. Thus, clothing choice when carrying a concealed firearm is vital. You probably won’t be able to successfully conceal a full-size 1911 in skin-tight clothing.
Your clothing should not only match the person you are but also the firearm you carry. If you are carrying a full size gun in a strong side hip holster, you will need to wear something that will keep it hidden. If you are carrying a mouse gun in your front pocket, make sure that your clothing has pockets big enough to not only have the gun in the pocket but that you are able to get your hand in the pocket and draw it safely.
There are a lot of factors that go into carrying a firearm for personal protection. All of the factors I have listed are just a few of the ones you would want to consider. Training is vital to staying legal and safe when carrying a firearm. If you don’t know how to use it, or are unfamiliar with drawing from your holster, that could be the difference between surviving an incident or not surviving. Plan your training with a certified NRA instructor and practice the techniques they teach you. Never stop learning.
It is my hope that you or I never have to use that firearm to defend a life, but the better trained you are, the more capable you are of handling the situation in a manner that gets you home to your family that night.