Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Handgun Accessories
- Top Five Pieces of Cold-Weather Gear
- And Top Five Tactical Pens
- Top Five Inside-the-Waistband Holsters
- Top Five Unique Handguns
Hindsight is 20/20, meaning things usually become clearer as you look back on them over time. It’s true for most of life and for sure in the area of concealed carry. If you’ve been carrying a concealed handgun for any amount of time, you’re probably aware of some of the serious things you have to consider along the way.
I’ve had a concealed pistol license for more than 15 years now. Today, I couldn’t imagine not having it. Along the way, I’ve had the privilege to think through a few of the nuances of concealed carry. And so here are the top five things I wish I knew before carrying a concealed handgun.
Deciding to carry a concealed handgun demands an entirely different mindset. Let’s be clear, deciding to carry a gun is no small matter. You’re assuming responsibility for the care and use of a potentially lethal weapon. You’re signing up to equip yourself to be able to act in the defense of yourself or others in a way that few others can or will.
I remember when I first received my concealed pistol license and my first carry gun – a S&W 642. There was a moment when I stopped and thought, “Has the world really come to this point?” In my opinion, it had, and, for me, this was an acceptable and wise move. The shift in mindset didn’t occur just in that moment, however. It occurred at multiple points over a long period of time.
To start off, I practiced wearing an empty holster around the house, then an unloaded gun in the holster around the house, then a loaded gun in the holster around the house and finally a loaded gun out of the house. Training and range sessions built confidence and competence. But the mindset change still took a long time. And it’s still developing.
2. Find What Works for You!
While there are objective facts about concealed carry and all the associated guns and gear, much is still subjective. You should read all the good info you can about guns and gear, tactics and training, and so on. You should choose a carry gun known for its reliability and performance. You should train with it (more about that in the next point) and practice regularly.
At the same time, you should pick a gun/caliber combination that’s comfortable for you. Better to carry a small, reliable .22 revolver you’ll actually carry and shoot well than to carry a larger gun/caliber you won’t carry as much or don’t shoot well. Even if you settle on the fact that a “slim 9” is the gun for you, exactly which slim 9 might come down to how it fits in your hand, how you fire it at the range and whether you’re comfortable with the controls.
3. Don’t Just Practice, Train
On-going professional training is critical. Along with ramping up a proper mindset and settling on the right gun for me, I realized over time that I needed not only to practice but to train. Practice is good as long as what you’re practicing is done with proper and safe technique. But proper and safe technique happens best in the context of a trainer/trainee setting.
When a professional watches you shoot, they are able to offer constructive criticism. This is absolutely critical to setting good habits. Moreover, revisiting proper practice and training will help you stay sharp. Shooting skills are perishable.
Be willing to invest in proper training. Find out where the law enforcement officers in your area train and see if there are civilian classes available. Read up on training methodology and don’t get locked into outdated concepts.
4. Concealed Means Concealed
Carrying, practicing and training and generally being in a ready state for self-defense is a mental truckload and, sometimes, there’s nothing more we want to do than share all the good information and gear we’re becoming accustomed to. If you’re carrying concealed, it’s better that virtually everything about carrying concealed remains concealed.
For sure this means keeping your gun concealed, but it also might mean keeping your mouth shut about the fact that you’re carrying concealed, even if the conversation you’re in turns that way. It just depends on the company you’re in, the context, etc., so use your good judgment.
But the very idea of shooting a gun in self-defense, let alone actually carrying a gun on one’s person, is still a difficult concept for many people. You might be the one to introduce them to the idea and warm them up to it, but be sure to do this wisely. Don’t ever brag, grandstand or showoff. The whole notion of carrying concealed is that your gun and your ability to use it will not be made known unless the situation actually demands it.
5. Be Grateful It Was All for Nothing
I hope we come to the end of our lives having never had to use our guns in a self-defense situation. It won’t be a waste if that’s the case; you’ll do your duty and serve the greater good if you legally and safely carry and never need to draw.
In the same vein, don’t have the attitude of a vigilante or think that the on-going furtherance of peaceful society depends on you to act. Be aware, be alert and find every opportunity to avoid trouble. And be ready to intervene if you actually have to. Be decisive, be smart and do what is appropriate to protect life.
To do it right, know up front what it means to carry a concealed handgun responsibly. It at least includes these five things. And probably more.
What do you wish you knew before you started carrying concealed?
Discover how you can join more than 200,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.