The average person concealed carrying (CC) a firearm is just like any other law-abiding citizen. They’re welders, doctors, stay-at-home moms, and journalists, and they make up a quickly growing portion of the population here in the United States. And not only do they stand for themselves, they stand for others. In fact, legally armed citizens stop more than twice as many crimes as law enforcement officers do, and with a less-than-2% error rate compared to the 11% error rate among law enforcement.
In the world of legally-owned firearm owners there are more than 2.5 million cases of justified self-defense annually involving the drawing of a weapon, and in 92% of those cases the mere presence of the gun is either enough of a deterrent or enough to hold a criminal until law enforcement arrives.
Criminals wisely avoid gun-toting citizens as well; 57% of incarcerated criminals asked admit to avoiding situations where they know a homeowner or potential victim is armed. If you’re considering concealed carry, or even if you already do carry, there are a few things you should know.
There are numerous reasons people decide to carry a gun. Some are victims of violent crimes looking to defend themselves from future potential attacks, some are parents determined to protect their children, and some are individuals set on seeing to their own personal protection. And the list goes on. Although there are many reasons for concealed carry, there is one common goal: safety.
The misconception that legal gun owners are paranoid or some crazed version of Rambo is just that a misconception. The reality is it takes law enforcement time to reach a crime scene, and the majority of the time, their job is not preventing crimes but dealing with the aftermath. Many gun owners have that in mind when they choose to carry concealed. Personal safety is paramount, in more ways than one.
The Golden Rules of Gun Safety
Before spending any time with guns, let alone taking on concealed carry, it’s a must to learn the golden rules of guns. Although you’ll see various wording, the point of the rules is always the same:
- Don’t point a gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re on target.
- Know your target and what is beyond it.
- Treat every gun as though it’s loaded.
The rules apply regardless of your experience level. For example, you should never take anyone’s word that a gun is unloaded. Treat it as though it’s loaded, and clear it yourself, not only visually but by touch. That means you don’t just lock the slide open and look, you check by touch as well. That’s true whether you’ve been shooting for five minutes or five decades. That’s because when it comes to firearms, there are two things you can never have enough of: ammunition – and training.
All gun owners should obtain the proper training, whether by enrolling in classes or with the assistance of a truly proficient friend – and by proficient, we mean an experienced marksman, not just someone who happens to own a gun. And although some states require a basic class to obtain your concealed carry permit, that one class alone is never enough. If you’re going to own a gun, you should be trained to use it, and use it well.
There are quite a few options for classes covering a wide range of skill levels; there’s always something new to learn, and always room for improvement. Start with a basic firearms course, which typically cover the golden rules of guns, your state’s laws, and basic marksmanship. Once you pass that first class, keep going: you can never have too much training. There’s no replacement for trigger time.
Deciding What to Carry: The 3 C’s
There are so many guns on the market it can be difficult to know which one to buy for your first concealed carry weapon. However, if you consider the three C’s, you’ll end up with a much better idea of how to proceed.
Let’s start with the most obvious: concealability. Your gun must be concealable, and the two most important factors are width and weight. The wider, or thicker, a handgun is, the harder it will be to conceal. When a gun is heavier, it can drag down your waistband, among other issues. Different people are able to conceal different guns, so never assume you can carry a particular gun just because a friend can.
You’ll need to try different guns, but it is possible to generalize a bit: full-size guns are, of course, hardest to conceal. Men can usually conceal them more easily than women, which has nothing to do with gender bias and everything to do with the reality of our different shapes and sizes.
Compact guns like the Baby Glock (Glock 26 or 27) can be concealed by almost everyone. And pocket pistols such as the Springfield XD-S are the most easily concealed of all due to their small sizes. But there’s a lot more to guns than how easy they are to hide on your body. When you’re choosing a gun for daily carry, you must consider its stopping power. There are actually two factors in stopping power: the type of bullet, and caliber. Ammunition for concealed carry can be easily summarized: defense rounds such as HP (Hollow Point), JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point), and SP (Soft Point) rounds are a must for a variety of reasons.
Caliber is the second C, and is the cause of endless debate in the firearms community, and for good reason. To simplify it somewhat drastically, the smaller the bullet, the harder it’s going to be to stop an assailant with one shot. That does not mean you should run out and buy the biggest gun you find. What it means is you need to both learn about caliber so you understand what power your potential gun does or does not have, and you need to try different calibers to find out what you’re comfortable using.
A note about pocket pistols: True pocket pistols are smaller caliber guns, so by purchasing and carrying one you’re getting ease of concealment in exchange for less stopping power. The majority are .380 ACP and smaller, although you will find 9mm models. Although there are some guns chambered in .40 S&W and .45 ACP – both of which have nice, solid one-shot stopping power – with single-stack magazines being billed as pocket pistols, they do not have the same incredibly slim frame of a true pocket pistol.
Many gun owners and members of law enforcement use a pocket pistol as their backup gun (BUG). However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or can’t use it as your daily carry, and here’s why: the next C is comfort, as in, how comfortable are you firing a particular gun?
You need to be comfortable with whatever gun you choose for concealed carry. If a gun has too much recoil for your personal taste or is too large for your hands, you aren’t going to be comfortable shooting it, which means you shouldn’t be carrying it. In fact, it’s better to carry a smaller caliber gun that you’re fully comfortable and competent with than it is to have a larger caliber gun you hate or are afraid to use and won’t actually carry.
That’s also why it’s important to visit your local range and try a variety of guns, because you should never make assumptions about caliber. Contrary to frequently voiced opinions, everyone is capable of handling a larger caliber gun like a pro, it just takes time and training. Learn about stopping power and caliber – and try them out, figure out what you’re comfortable with, and find a firearm that fits those parameters that you can conceal.
How to Conceal Carry
Once you’ve learned gun safety and at least basic marksmanship – meaning you’re capable of using your gun on your own in a safe, effective manner – and you’ve chosen a gun, it’s time to decide how you’re going to conceal it. The most effective method of concealed carry is on your body. By this we mean it’s far better to carry your gun in a holster on your body than it is to put it in a purse or fanny pack. On the body carry allows for a faster draw time and also a far better ability to retain your gun against assailants and thieves. Female shooters will find there are occasions where they have to choose between going unarmed or putting their gun in a small purse, and on those occasions there are particular guidelines to follow for safety.
For the purposes of this discussion we’ll stick to on the body carry.There are a variety of holsters to choose from: ankle holsters, shoulder holsters, IWB (Inside WaistBand) holsters, and OWB (On WaistBand) holsters, to name a few.
Each offers different pros and cons with some being better for a BUG while some are preferable for your daily carry. When choosing a holster, you should consider how quickly you’ll be able to draw, because that affects presentation time.
Rapid presentation is vitally important in self-defense, so you need a carry method that enables a fast draw time. And since most people carry one gun and no BUG, let’s consider the ideal concealed carry methods for your main daily carry weapon: IWB and OWB.
IWB holsters allow you to carry your gun inside the waistband of your pants. There are several locations gun owners choose to IWB carry, including at the front of the hip, at the hip, and at the small of the back. Vast experience and countless firearms owners have learned the fastest draw time is typically managed when the gun is IWB carried at the front of the hip on the shooter’s strong side, which is the right-hand side for most people. There are even “tuckable” holsters designed to have a shirt tucked in over them if you’d rather not wear a loose shirt untucked over your gun.
OWB holsters are used for open carry more often than concealed carry, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carry concealed this way. These holsters either hook over your waistband using a clip or paddle or attach to your belt through slits in the back or body of the holster. Concealing them means wearing a shirt or jacket that is both loose and long enough to cover the bulk of your gun. Although it’s possible, it’s more difficult than with an IWB holster.
Shoulder holsters are harder to conceal because they create a bulge under your jacket – and require you to wear a jacket to cover them. They also require mastering cross-body draw and finding one that doesn’t force you to inadvertently sweep people around you with the muzzle of your gun when you wear it. Although they are certainly an option, they aren’t usually a reasonable choice for the average gun owner looking for a daily carry holster. In addition, ankle holsters and bra holsters are options that are significantly better for a BUG gun, not your main carry weapon. Draw time is significantly impeded with those two methods, and in a life or death situation – which is what you’re intending to survive by carrying a gun – seconds matter.
Legalities of Concealed Carry
According to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, we the people – citizens of the United States – have the right to keep and bear arms. However, each state has different laws regarding ownership and carry methods, and as a responsible gun owner, you must know the laws in your area. That means knowing not only your state’s laws but your county and city laws, because they do vary. In states where concealed carry is allowed, you’ll need a permit, and different states have varying requirements for obtaining your permit.
They even have different names for the permit – CPL (Concealed Pistol License) in Washington state, CCDW (Carry Concealed Deadly Weapons) in Kentucky, and CHL (Concealed Handgun License) in Texas, to name a few. And if you want to carry your gun when you travel, you need to know each state’s reciprocity laws – for every state line you cross in a car, not just your destination state. Not only that, you should know the firearms laws for those states specifically in order to ensure your compliance while visiting. As a legal, responsible gun owner, it’s your job to get to know the laws on a federal and state level.
There are many factors to take into consideration when you decide to conceal carry a firearm. But as long as you take the necessary steps to approach it in a safe, responsible manner, carrying a gun for personal protection could someday save not only your life, but the lives of those you love. Legally armed citizens have also saved the lives of innocent bystanders in countless situations, including the case of the mall shooter in Clackamas, Oregon, in December 2013 and the night club shooter in El Paso, Texas, in November 2014.
And when it comes to armed citizens saving loved ones – or themselves – with their legally-wielded guns, the cases are far too numerous to list. Carrying a gun is a major responsibility, and self-defense is serious business; do the necessary research and training, and then, and only then, are you ready for concealed carry.
In Part 2 of our take on concealed carry, we’ll dive more into the laws and legalities, stay tuned….