Concealed carry is a huge lifestyle change for those who seriously adopt it. There is a lot to learn and developing your concealed carry style and learning about the laws surrounding them is an ongoing process. Here are five questions, and our answers, that come up for concealed carriers.
#1 How should I carry?
You would think the answer to this would be pretty straightforward: Solution “A” works for skinnier people, solution “B” works for more heavy-set people, solution “C” works for women and solution “D” is great for deep concealment. It’s not that cut and dry though, everyone has their own preference that works with their body and their style.
The best way to figure out how to carry is to try different types of carry, different carry positions, and different holsters until you find the one that works for you. It’s a long, expensive, and uncomfortable process weeding through different holsters, so sometimes it’s better to ask friends and see if you can try theirs for even a few minutes. It may not give you the entire answer as to whether or not that carry setup is for you, but it will at least eliminate some products that may be really uncomfortable for you.
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While most people are quick to figure out body type into the equation first, it’s not always the most important element. Often times body type is going to be more important to the type of holster that is used, rather than where it is placed. Another key element is fashion or sense of style. Different dress types will be better for different types of carry. For example, the slouchy shirts and scarves that adorn women’s fashion magazines today lend themselves toward appendix carry.
#2 How do I learn about concealed carry laws?
There are a lot of good, generic references available online, such as usconcealedcarry.com, and a good defensive handgun class will also teach you a lot about the carry laws in your area, but short of talking to a lawyer the next best place to look is your state’s website.
There are several important things to look for when researching your state’s carry laws. The first thing is to be aware of their general gun laws, some states have magazine capacity restrictions, and there are some weird federal laws as well that it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with, such as what can turn a handgun into an Any Other Weapon or an AR into a short-barreled rifle.
Understanding when and where your concealed carry permit does (or doesn’t) apply is also important. Some states have more restrictions about carrying into city hall, or even in bars. It’s never a good idea to drink when carrying, but some states will allow you to act as a designated driver and hang out in the bar even when carrying, whereas some states will not.
Knowing where your permit applies also plays into what is known as “reciprocity,” most states will accept some out-of-state concealed carry permits, but not others, some states don’t require a concealed carry permit, and some states will not accept anyone else’s concealed carry permit.
Before going anywhere, it’s essential to look up whether or not your permit will apply in that state, and if not to familiarize yourself with the firearm and knife laws before traveling there. Again, the best place to get all this information, short of a lawyer, is to look directly at the state’s website.
#3 What is the minimum caliber I should carry?
This question is also primarily a matter of personal preference. While we don’t recommend carrying anything smaller than a .380 ACP the most important thing is that you are comfortable shooting whatever firearm you are carrying. Should a defensive situation arise being able to make a shot quickly and under pressure is absolutely key, since missing could mean hitting something you didn’t want to. Carrying a larger caliber that you’re not comfortable shooting is not only more dangerous to yourself, but is irresponsible for the safety of everyone else.
This also rolls into the importance of selecting a gun for carry that you actually like. Most carry guns aren’t going to be as comfortable to shoot as a full-size firearm, but that doesn’t mean that a concealed carry gun has to be “scary” to shoot. Since this is a gun you are dedicating yourself to training with and shooting with on a regular basis, shooting it shouldn’t be an ordeal, it should still be fun.
Just as when selecting a holster it’s important for carriers to be comfortable when wearing their gun, it’s important for a shooter to be comfortable and competent shooting their firearm. Shot placement is incredibly important in defensive situations, and while using a larger round is a good thing, the trade-offs between power, controllability, affordability, and magazine capacity should all be taken into account when selecting a caliber for concealed carry.
#4 What kind of ammunition should I carry?
Selecting a type of ammunition presents its own problems. There are a lot of brands out there, each with multiple defensive ammunition lines within in their brands. And then you get into minutia such as bullet weight and velocity. When you’re first shopping for concealed carry ammunition, your top priority should be to find ammunition that works in your gun.
Different guns perform differently with different ammunition, depending on the shape of the bullet, how the primer is set, how hard the primer is, and many other contributing factors. When you buy a box of defensive ammunition you haven’t used before, it’s a good idea to put at least 100 rounds through your gun. This will help you determine if it’s going to work reliably in your firearm and will help you better understand how the ammunition shoots and how well you shoot with it.
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Because some rounds defensive rounds are loaded “hotter” to give the bullet more velocity when leaving the barrel, they can cause greater recoil when the gun is fired. While this isn’t a big deal for many, for those who are newer to shooting or struggle more with recoil control it may come into effect. Remember, it’s primarily important to be comfortable shooting your concealed carry gun, and while defensive ammunition is never going to be as pleasant to shoot as practice ammo, it’s worthwhile to make sure you can keep your hits on target with the hotter rounds.
#5 How often should I train?
The simple answer to this question is, “As often as you can.” Sadly, we don’t live in a world where this advice is practical for everyone. Fortunately, through dry fire and good time and ammunition management, a reasonable skill level can be maintained with just a couple hundred rounds of ammunition a month.
The first thing anyone new to concealed carry or firearms, in general, should do is sign up for a class. A good defensive handgun will teach students not only the basics of shooting and drawing from the holster but will cover important information on laws and leave students with some basic drills in order to keep their skills up to par.
By setting up a training program, or at least going to the range with an idea of what you want to practice, skills can be maintained and even built by going to the range just a couple of times a month. Of course, one of the keys to this standard is the importance of dry fire. By safely dry firing your unloaded firearm, and using this technique to practice basic skills such as holster draws and trigger control, shooters not only have the opportunity to practice their gun handling skills but can build shooting skills away from the range.
Since concealed carry is a lifestyle commitment, devoting time and resources and building and maintaining the skills necessary to carry safely is essential to anyone looking to keep their handgun by their side.
Originally published in the January 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.