Tips on Concealed Carry
Hi Matt G--I'm probably going to give you a lot more than you wanted, here, and a lot less.
...I've been reading your blog for a
while and I was hoping you could help me out with something. I recently bought my first handgun, took the concealed carry class, and now have my permit. Problem is, I really don't think I know what I'm doing when it comes to carrying a firearm for self-defense. The concealed carry class was very vague on that topic, and I caught some serious errors on topics they weren't vague on (for example, they told me that I SHOULDN'T notify an officer that I had a firearm until asked. The back of my carry permit says, in big letters, that I should). So I don't really trust them any more, and have no other good resource. Any advice?
First: What state are you in?
Second: I am not a lawyer, nor a professional trainer. I am a man who carries a gun for a living and for personal protection. I've made a study of firearms, and am more than a little bit interested in them. But you get what you pay for in this world, so take the following with a grain of salt:
I could quote you chapter an verse about Texas law on concealed carry, but I don't know if that's where you live. For example, if you are detained or asked for your identification by a peace officer in Texas and you are armed, you must present your Concealed Handgun License.
Packing Dot Org used to be the gold standard for good handgun law information, but it seems to be down right now. So go to HandgunLaw Dot US and try to find out everything you can about your requirements under the law. Really, you should read the black letter law of the statutes, codes, ordinances, etc that pertain to your carry and the application of use of force in your state. Do you have a duty to present your CHL? Do you have a duty to retreat before using deadly force? Do you have a requirement to keep it concealed, or can it be visible? What is "brandishing"? Are there ammunition requirements, loading requirements, requirements for holsters, cases, type of firearm, number of firearms, etc? Does your state have laws that supersede local ordinances forbidding carry? What are the places where carry is prohibited even with a CHL, if any?
These are damned important questions. You need to have the letter of the law printed out and available to you, preferably in your car or luggage. As you've seen, there are many misinformed people, and they can include instructors and cops.
For good tips on carrying concealed, I really would recommend that you go read this thread at THR. Specifically pay attention to the concept of wearing the stiffest, heaviest belt that you can fit in your holster and pants. (hint: The first month of putting it on, you'll think you got one that was too stiff.)
Don't let anyone tell you that the gun you favor the most is wrong-- handguns are intensely personal issues. But at the same time, don't assume that someone else's choice is wrong just because yours works for you-- realize that there are many ways to skin a cat. For concealed carry, you need to realize that you're going to sacrifice shootability for carryability. Sure, you can circumcise a gnat at 40 paces with your 8 3/8" heavy barrel Super BlackHawk in .480 Ruger, and it will reliably put down a bull sperm whale, but what of it? You're not going to have it tucked in your Sparks Summer Special when you drop in the convenience store for a Slushy.
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1.The most important issue for a concealed carry pistol is: reliability. If it doesn't go Bang every time, then what's the point? Why risk the potential liability of carrying a deadly weapon?
2.The next most important issue is carryability. If it's not something you'll find comfortable to carry, you'll almost never carry it. Carrying a pistol is inconvenient. It takes time. You have to dress accordingly. You will find yourself carrying that pistol a lot more if it's:
(A): Lightweight (read: under two pounds, and preferably in the 16 ounce or less range), and
Barrel length is only moderately important, and is actually far outweighed by butt profile. A short round butt on a gun with a long barrel is far easier to conceal than a big square butt on a short-barreled gun.
3. The next most important issue is shootability. Can you draw the gun and hit the center of a man-sized target twice at three paces reliably and quickly? Don't laugh: that's a serious question, and one that more people should ask themselves.
4. Finally, and least important (yet still important) is: is the gun powerful enough? If you pop someone with a .22 or a .25, and they find out about it, they might become annoyed with you. (Apologies to the late Jeff Cooper.) Find a pistol that fires as powerful a caliber as you can reliably shoot well, taking into account the above limitations. This is where intermediate calibers shine. 9mm, .38 Special, and even .380 acp are very good calibers to consider is small carry guns. I have heard people that I respect speak highly of the .32 H&R Magnum as a contender. Don't discount less common rounds like the .41 Long Colt, .44 Special, .45 Schofield, .38 S&W/.380-2Z, .32-20, the 9X18, etc.
Life is a trade-off. You may well want to reduce your power level to increase carriability. This is why a BUNCH of Baby Brownings have been sold and carried over the decades, and why for the last decade so many KelTec P32s have been sold.
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--Get a good holster. If you carry your pistol in your pocket, get a good pocket holster. It not only makes it safer and makes the gun easier to deploy when needed, but it also protects the gun in your pocket.
--Wipe your gun off every day. Even if it's stainless.
--Don't get complacent about safety. The Four Rules are always (ALWAYS) in effect. When you get home, put the gun up properly-- don't just kick it in the corner with your pants (if that's how you roll when you get home.). I don't care how long you've been around guns. I don't care how safe a gun you've got. I don't care that "you've checked it, and it's safe." You're one careless mistake away from a tragedy, and if you can't remember that, then don't carry. In fact, just leave the guns alone.
--Decide ahead of time what is the absolute point where you have to act. Don't wait until the situation arises, because while you're deciding, it's too late.
--If you're going to carry, carry every day. I don't have a crystal ball, and I can't predict when I'm going to get into a gunfight. If I'm wearing pants, I'm wearing a gun. This principle applies to seat belts. If I'm driving, I'm buckled in, because I can't know when I'm going to be hit by someone. Think of the gun as underwear.
--Go read Marko's short riff on the responsibility of carrying-- he's got some good outlooks on it.
--Don't show your ass while carrying.
In short: Be responsible, and think ahead of time.
I know. It's a lot.
But you don't have to carry. If you choose not to, that's okay.