Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tips on Concealed Carry

Hi Matt G--
...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?
I'm probably going to give you a lot more than you wanted, here, and a lot less.

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.
_ _ _
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
(B): Thin.
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.

_ _ _

--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.

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At Sunday, October 21, 2007 10:16:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Excellent post Matt, to me the most important two items are knowing the laws of the state you are in; e.g. Castle doctrine in Florida, not in Virginia.

Also, knowing you can actually use the weapon if it comes down to it.

At Sunday, October 21, 2007 1:17:00 PM, Blogger HollyB said...

Excellent Post, indeed.

And Practice, Practice, Practice.

At Sunday, October 21, 2007 3:06:00 PM, Blogger SpeakerTweaker said...

I'd have to agree on every point, but only partially on one: sacraficing shootability for carryability.

While that most certainly applies to those who prefer the Desert Eagle line of pistols, there are still some full-size and semi-compact models that are comfortably concealable (depending entirely on your mode of dress) and still magnificent shooters.

For example: I carry (every single day, every hour I'm not at work) a Beretta Px4 Storm in 9mm. Right now it's in a nylon belt holster while my custom pancake is on its way. At any rate, due to the fact that my everyday mode of dress includes jeans, a tucked-in T-shirt, and a (slightly too large) bowling shirt untucked I can carry a full-size pistol.

Additionally, I've heard of 1911's making fine carry pieces because of their being so slender (don't MAKE me call yo Daddy;), but I'd suppose that it would still depend on how you dress.

Oh, and +1 on Holly. If you don't like shooting it at the range, you won't practice with it enough. And if you don't practice with it; well, just practice. Then practice some more.


At Sunday, October 21, 2007 4:34:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Sorry, 'Tweaker, but I'm going to stand by the shootability part. We all would shoot better with a heavy barrel, longer sight radius, target stocks, etc, but that's not a reasonable carry combination.

I find myself carrying a little J-frame or a P3AT as an always gun. Is that what I want to carry into a gunfight? Hell, no! But it beats hell out of carrying NOTHING when the fight comes to me. I am speaking to the concept of the "Always Gun."

Sure, you can do great work with a slick top K-frame or an OACP lightweight. But you're giving something up for carryability. You could've had an N or a full-sized, full-weight Government Model.

Yes, with the right holster and belt, you can carry a Government Model all day long, but you have to make very significant clothing adjustments to pull it off, and you don't have the comfort. Remember that a full-sized steel Government Model weighs about 39 ounces, or about 2.5 lbs. That's a lot of weight for a carry pistol unless you wish to carry openly. (I carried one for years on duty in a duty rig. I don't equate that in any way to concealed carry. I rarely carry my 1911 concealed.)

Look, I know a guy who used to carry a Remington 870 with a folding stock in a barrel bag. That was literally his concealed carry piece. He had major knock-down power, and decent shootability. But don't you think he was giving up carryability? (and speed to deploy?)

At Sunday, October 21, 2007 5:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the new shooter doesn't feel like he really knows the law, I also recommend taking a clas such as LFI-1 from the Lethal Force Institute at

For about the price of a new gun he will get forty hours of top notch training from someome who has made the topic a life's study. The value of getting Mas as an expert witness alone is worth the cost of the class.

I firmly believe that the hardware is one of the least important factors in the equation. The shooters knowledge, mind-set, and level of preparedness is much more important.

At Sunday, October 21, 2007 6:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know... I have continually been amazed with what people actually carry and consider concealed, or comfortable. I don't know, I can't wear an untucked shirt and feel comfortable, the belt and waist must show, and I don't often wear a jacket over it.

Since I didn't care for the thunderwear, this is why I like the pager pal holster. Reasonably speedy draw (slower than other holsters, I grant, but it won't take you more than a second... though 'one mississippi' isn't a short period of time if your life is on the line), but it is infinitely comfortable with the XD-40 SC.

Then again, since I also keep a knife ready for quick-draw (mostly just because I find myself using it as a tool quite often), I figure that if someone is very close I'm going for the knife instead of the gun anyway. Drawing the gun, getting into position, and shooting if someone is within 20 feet... I've seen those 'cop w/gun vs. knife' videos enough to figure I'll go with the knife. The gun is for if I have enough time to approach the situation with care, like those wonderful mall shootings where you hear the bullets for a bit as they approach you.

Oh well. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm the weapon, the gun is just a tool. I just don't figure to rely on it as the only tool for close work.

That said, LFI-1 sounds like it would be worth doing... I will have to seriously have to consider that for the future.

At Sunday, October 21, 2007 10:58:00 PM, Blogger Jay G said...


Excellent post. Can't agree with you enough.

I'll echo your sentiments on the P3AT - while I vastly prefer my SW99 compact for shootability, caliber, and capacity, the 10½ ounce weight (loaded) of the Kel Tec means that there are VERY few instances where I can't conceal it comfortably.

I'd like to touch on something you don't specifically mention. It's something so basic that, I feel, we gunnies overlook it sometimes when giving advice about carrying.

Are you, as someone carrying a firearm, willing to use that firearm to defend your life, possibly taking another's life in your defense?

Obviously, this question should be asked before one ever brings a gun home, but it is possible to be a shooting enthusiast who doesn't feel prepared to use a firearm in self-defense - just keep 'em locked up.

Once that gun leaves the house in a holster, you absolutely MUST be mentally prepared to drop the hammer on another human being if needed.

If there's even a second's hesitation to the question "Will you pull the trigger?", leave the gun home.

Just my $0.02...

At Monday, October 22, 2007 1:25:00 AM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

Sounds like somebody needs a better belt/holster combo; I've carried both a fullsize all-steel Govt Model and a Taurus PT99 comfortably in tuckable IWBs comfortably and well concealed. Weight is not an issue if the belt is stiff and fits properly, and the holster keeps the gun's weight in close and distributed along the belt.

The only reason I don't carry them now is that, working security, I have to be able to take off whatever I'm carrying before putting the uniform on, so I go with the Taurus 605 that fits more comfortably in my Coronado vest. On my days off, I sometimes go back to the Colt, though 5 Gold Dot .357s against 8 Golden Saber .45s is a pretty even match in my book. 18 9mms would probably win out if I planned to miss a lot, but I'm not a cop, so I don't have a bad reputation to uphold :)

As far as shootability, the 605 will consistently put a pair of .357s center mass as fast as I can pull the trigger at 5 yards, and in 25yd slowfire, I can just about match my scores evenly across all three guns. The only one I have that shoots better for me is an old 4-inch K frame that's just too hard to find the right carry holster for. (Though I have stuffed it in a SmartCarry from time to time...still pretty far from ideal.)

At Monday, October 22, 2007 8:52:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

"If the new shooter doesn't feel like he really knows the law, I also recommend taking a clas such as LFI-1 from the Lethal Force Institute at"
T Beck, I would reccommend LFI1, (having never been to it myself, I must grant), but don't mistake a class taught by a trainer in New Hampshire for a good course of instruction to your own state law. That's no slight to Ayoob-- he's only got a week to teach his course (sometimes a couple of days), and why would he get down to the esoterica of the minutia of Oregon carry law, or Alabama carry law, or Michigan carry law...? He can't, and I'm sure that he doesn't try. There are things you can do with a pistol in Arizona, New Hampshire, Florida, and Texas that would get you locked up as a felon in California, Washington DC, and Massachucetts. Going into each state would be too time consuming, and I'm just positive that he doesn't do it. (Otherwise I wouldn't be hearing so many glowing reviews.)

KD5NRH, I'm not saying that it can't be done-- I've carried Government Models concealed before on quite a few occasions. (Starting back when I was a seventeen year old ranch hand, on one occasion while spending the night at a sheriff's office, but that's another story for another time...)

What I am saying is that the Government Model's not very convenient to carry concealed, for most styles of dress and most body types. I know a LOT of concealed gun-toters, but I only know one person who carries a 1911 concealed most of the time.

Over the 8 and a half years as a moderator on firearms sites, I've noticed a common trend among a lot of people on the internet: a lot of people that have on occasion carried a large pistol concealed, or even two, once or twice, will claim that to be their daily carry rig. This would be like me claiming to drive a 48-foot school bus every day, because I've done it in the past. (I parallel parked it, too, but even when it was my college day-job, I didn't make a regular habit of that.)

At Monday, October 22, 2007 9:04:00 AM, Blogger The Duck said...

Well I'm not surprised that the Instructor didn't cover the laws many don't, we devote about 2 hours to the law for Ohio CHL, some state give out booklets covering the laws, perhaps the Instructor didn't give them out?

As to what to carry I'll quote Clint Smith
"A gun is not meant to be comfortable, it's meant to be comforting, therefore I carry a goverment model 45"

I'm not of large build, & find a fullsize 45 a bit much, but carry a Browning HP everyday. That's as close to, sacraficing shootability for carryability.

At Monday, October 22, 2007 10:23:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

How is a double-stack P35 easier to carry than a single-stack M1911, of almost exactly the same weight loaded?? Just curious.

At Monday, October 22, 2007 3:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good resource - most states have a website that's some variation of 'state'+'concealed carry'

Living in Missouri right on the Kansas border I particiapte in both

I've spoken with folks from

Not spotting a Texas one on a quick Google though

At Monday, October 22, 2007 5:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mas still teaches in several states. Yesterday he was in CT and will be in FL in December.

His material is not limited to just a single state. I agree that knowing the laws of any state you carry in is crucial, but so is understanding the principles behind the lawful use of force.

He also covers tips on interacting with police and discusses what to say and what not to say when you are taken into custody after the shooting is over.

Plus, the sixteen hours of range instruction time is also excellent.

At Tuesday, October 23, 2007 6:13:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Funny thing is, which state you're in can vary the reaction to the use of force you use, to a vast degree. Some states have mandated duties to retreat, while others (like Texas) have none.

The question issued was about specific duties of the CHL-holder.

I'm by no means discouraging LFI1.

At Tuesday, October 23, 2007 8:38:00 PM, Blogger SpeakerTweaker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 4:22:00 AM, Blogger Ted said...

Thanks for the great advice y'all. I'm still working on accuracy--I can reliably hit a 9" target at 25' slow fire with my Glock 23 (which seems to conceal well in the small of my back under an untucked polo or Hawaiian shirt) but I'm nowhere near comfortable with draw-and-fire yet. Practicing draw-and-fire at the range just doesn't seem safe. Will training with an empty weapon at home help?

At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 4:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Glock 19/23 frame is a great choice for concealed carry. As to the small-of-back carry, if you live in a state that gets ice in winter I suggest you find a different mode in those months. SOB conceals very well but it also places a steel fulcrum under your spine and can make falls very dangerous.

Practicing a draw at home is a great idea for developing skills. First, move all ammunition to a different room. Verify the gun is loaded by removing the magazine and checking the chamber with the tip of your finger. Check it again.

Now point the weapon at something that you are willing to live without and can reliably stop a bullet if the gun gremlins manage to sneak a live round into the chamber. Walls do not count. Old-style televisions work well, as do sheet steel appliances. Gun safes rule. That something shall be your designated aiming point while practicing your draw. Thou shalt ALWAYS aim at the designated backstop object.

Do NOT pull the trigger at the end of the draw. Under stress, you will perform as you have practiced. If you practice by pulling the trigger, you will do it under stress. So don't.

The draw should end with the sights on target and your trigger finger registered along the side of the Glock. The takedown latch makes a great tactile reminder.

We don't place our finger in the trigger because we lose fine motor control when the adrenaline hits our bloodstream and there is an excellent chance you will squeeze one off accidentally if your finger is on the trigger during the draw.

Pulling the trigger should always be a conscious decision, so pracice in a way that requires you to consciously place your finger on the trigger instead of just finding it there.

Have fun and stay safe.

At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 5:27:00 PM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

KCSteve; that would be TexasCHLForum:

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 6:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great advise. I wish some of the cops I worked with would read this.

At Wednesday, March 04, 2009 9:41:00 PM, Blogger Ken Miller said...

Here's some additional info., though not all of it related to CCW, on my blog.

At Sunday, March 27, 2011 4:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can take two or three (or more) .22lr hollow points to the chest or head and only "become annoyed" then it won't matter what I'm carrying. I can tell you that what most humans WILL become and that is dead. I see this same ridiculous statement all over the Internet.

At Monday, March 28, 2011 9:45:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Very likely, hitting someone center chest with 2 or 3 .22 LR rounds will cause them to die.

But life often doesn't give us such easy-to hit softballs. What of the person that is moving very quickly, not facing directly at you? Getting ONE center hit with a concealable handgun in such a situation is a feat. Having it stop the threat IMMEDIATELY is even more impressive. Recall that we're not trying to kill the threat; we're trying to stop the threat, and fast. Sure, sneaking a 39 grain .22 caliber projectile into his ribs at about the speed of sound will eventually ruin his day, but will it stop him, NOW? I'm not interested in what the fourth or such round will have the cumulative effect of doing-- I want to know that the first good hit is likely to stop him.

.22s shed energy quickly. If your threat is cornered away from you, and you hit the arm, that arm is going to absorb a lot of the energy.

From my personal observation, critters such as feral dogs, feral cats, shoats, coyotes, and varmints that are shot with .22s have a tendancy to run off and die. Humans are at least as tough.

At Monday, March 28, 2011 9:52:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Oh, and as for shots to the head? Funny thing: I've seen slightly off-center .22 LR shots fail to penetrate craniums of less-robust critters than humans, by following the curve of the skull around the head under the scalp.

Think you're going to get a head shot in a fight-or-flight situation? I suggest that you've never tried to maintain a sight picture on a dynamic target while having an adrenaline dump.

Shaking hands doesn't just mean that you're scared. It means that you've got a huge dose of a very powerful stimulant coursing through your veins. I've actually had the tops of my kidneys ache after such a situation, from the adrenal glands having seemingly been wrung of their juice like a limp dishrag.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2011 5:15:00 AM, Blogger romansten9 said...

I understand the idea of "keeping the finger off of the trigger until ready to shoot" and I practice this also. BUT, many people repeat this mantra (including instructors on the range) without thinking about the real world very much. Do we always draw the gun and NOT put our finger on the trigger?

If I draw my weapon in self defense, I will very likely have made the decision to shoot BEFORE the gun left my holster. So, it is important to practice drawing and firing, not just drawing and keeping my finger on the frame of the weapon, which could be a bad habit to form if someone never practiced firing quickly also.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2011 5:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the idea of "keeping the finger off of the trigger until ready to shoot" and I practice this also. BUT, many people repeat this mantra (including instructors on the range) without thinking about the real world very much. Do we always draw the gun and NOT put our finger on the trigger?

If I draw my weapon in self defense, I will very likely have made the decision to shoot BEFORE the gun left my holster. So, it is important to practice drawing and firing, not just drawing and keeping my finger on the frame of the weapon, which could be a bad habit to form if someone never practiced firing quickly also.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2011 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

romansten9, we do practice drawing without our finger on the trigger, because not every draw is a time to shoot.

Practice your draws by the numbers.
1. Get a grip. Grab your pistol by a firm one-handed shooting grip with your finger outside of the trigger guard.

2. Snatch it clean from the holster. This is not done slowly. Good retention holsters often need a bit of a jerk to pull the pistol clear cleanly.

3. Presentation. Push your handgun forward toward your target, and into your waiting offside hand if possible. Don't "bowl" it down. Bring it up. If you have a safety on your pistol, this is when you're snicking it off. NOTE: don't cover yourself. Keep that finger out of the triggerguard at this point.

4. Sight picture. This is the point where the gun is finally alligned with your target as you make your final adjustments to shoot. This ideally happens as the gun stops moving from the shortest route from your holster to your firing position.

5. Bang. [?] Maybe. Maybe that target still needs shooting, and maybe it doesn't. A lot of things happen during a 1 second draw stroke. Practice drawing, ready to shoot, but then stop and scan, and reholstering.

If you need to shoot, you'll put your finger into the trigger guard and shoot. #5 will come. But because action is faster than reaction, one should practice every draw as a speed draw, and practice drawing even when you're not positive that you will shoot.

At Monday, January 28, 2013 1:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a reply to the poster who said untucked shirts made him feel uncomfortable. I think that he means that he is uncomfortable with the fashion or idea of an untucked shirt because untucked is certainly more comfortable and allow for a great range of motion as witnessed in any combat uniform. One of the biggest problems I have with new ccw permit holders who seek my advice is getting them to dress around the gun. Most refuse to and end up with LCP's crammed in too tight jeans pockets. Heck I am the only only person that I know among those I know who carry guns, that owns a gun belt. Many do not even use holsters. Around here the LCP and NAA Black Widow are the main carry guns. In fact, the Pug is rapidly out numbering the Widow because it looks cooler with its 1 1/8 ince barrel. Most complain at the range at not being able to shoot the LCP well due to the small grips and long trigger pull and yet will not consider changing their style of dress. A person who puts fashion ahead of self defense is not expecting trouble and therefore not prepared for it when it finds him.


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