9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 8 Training Program

The first thing to ask yourself, are you willing to shoot someone in the lawful defense of yourself or someone you care about? If the answer is “No,” you shouldn’t be carrying a firearm.  If you’re not mentally ready, no amount of firearms training will do you any good.

One thing a lot of people are missing, especially if they are new to concealed carry, is a training plan. Nothing wrong with being a noob, that is where we all started. But like any new endeavor you start, it is easy to get wrapped up in hype and B.S. if you don’t know what you are doing yet.

I am going to go ahead and encourage you to not click on any banner ad that references “quick and easy” or “secret skills of SOCOM ninjas.” Learning to be competent with a gun isn’t rocket science, but it is going to require some hard work on your part. And there are no shortcuts. (If it was easy, Progressives would do it.) You either put in the hours, or you never get any better. Just owning a gun for a long time or carrying a gun for a long time also doesn’t mean someone knows what they are doing.

Let us not forget, it wasn’t that many years ago CNN was voicing its opinion that we were going to get massacred invading Afghanistan. The Taliban had been fighting for 30 years, what was a bunch of 19-year-old infantrymen going to do to them? Turns out, curb stomp them. Because our 19 year olds were trained professionals, not a bunch of goat humpers that had mastered spray and pray when not molesting the tea boy. I digress.

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The most important thing you need to learn about concealed carry is when to pull your gun out. That is well beyond the scope of an article or a video. The next most important thing to learn is how to draw said gun. There are many methods and tricks to this, and you will need to experiment to get your stroke down.

What you are looking for is something that assures a positive grip on the gun, with minimal chance of binding it in your own clothes. I don’t change how I dress when I carry and I recommend you don’t either. We must learn to carry comfortably in our natural state, and for me that is a t-shirt, shorts or jeans, with an inside-the-waistband setup.

When you first show up to the range, shoot at least one magazine from your concealed carry gun through your actual concealed carry configuration.  This will give you an idea of how you perform cold with no warm up or practice. Prepared to be humbled.

Once you’ve decided on where to carry and how you are going to draw, you need to practice! You are going to want at least 500 draws on an empty gun before you try to play Wyatt Earp. Rookie mistakes are too costly to do it any other way. That is 500 draws — without any problems! Zero times of hearing the firing pin fall when it isn’t pointed at the target. Trust me, it beats a .45 ACP in your foot.

When I am training for concealed carry, I like to start all of my range sessions with drawing from concealment. If you are learning, this might be all you do during your first couple times at the range (if you opt not to practice at home). The draw stroke is more important with concealed carry than with any other method of carrying. You can survive competition with a sloppy draw, for example. It’s not hard to learn from a thigh rig.

From under your shirt, on target, finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire, with a solid grip is asking a lot. I have been doing this a while, so I might do 10-20 draw and shoot drills in a session. Some of that will be multiple round engagements to keep myself honest with respect to the grip. It is easy to shoot one decent shot with a sloppy grip. Two, not so much.

If you’re using a larger gun to practice the fundamentals at the range, make sure you switch back down to your concealed carry piece before you leave. You want your brain and body to remember what it’s like to shoot that smaller gun.

The next two skill builders are equally important. “Speed is fine, accuracy is final” makes a neat sticker, or sounds witty to new guys, but doesn’t reflect the reality of combat. There are plenty of times mediocre hits right now beat the pants off of solid kill zone shots a half a second from now. Anyone that has ever been in an ambush can relate. The truth is you need speed, and you need accuracy. To start with, however, you are probably going to need to work on one at a time. Just don’t neglect the other.

For accuracy, I really like to work on bullseyes and dots. For an assault on your own morale, there is nothing better than a 25-meter bullseye. They aren’t fun, but they are necessary. At an accuracy session, I recommend keeping score right after your draw drills. Then I like 3-inch dots at 3-, 5-, and 7-meters. Moving back and forth from big targets to little will do a lot for your accuracy.

For speed, as a beginner, I recommend full-sized silhouette targets. If you have such a facility that can accommodate this, set up three targets at 3 meters and engage them as fast as you can. Then go so fast you are sure you will miss. And then go so fast you do miss. The only way to find your actual top gear is to shoot so fast you go beyond it.

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Many people will think this a waste of ammo, it’s not. As Kyle Lamb says, “Train until the wheels fall off.” Most people are much faster than they think, and it is eye opening. You should always be looking to find your top gear, where you can reliably get all your hits. The only way to find that is to push past it and improve.

Finally, you need to train under pressure. Nothing in the world simulates combat stress. Not flash bangs, sirens, and fire around you. Nothing. But in my experience, the next best thing is competition. It doesn’t matter if it is IDPA, 3 Gun, USPSA, or GSSF. People put so much stress on themselves to perform in front of peers, it’s unreal. And it is a great training aid. Not only will you see some great shooters with great technique if you go out, you will get inoculated to stress. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday, and if things ever go pear shaped, you will be glad you did.

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

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  • Chris December 14, 2017, 6:02 pm

    I’m an M&P fan. I have a full size M&P .22LR along with the centerfires.
    What are thoughts on primarily training with .22LR?

  • Gregory Metty August 30, 2017, 4:08 pm

    You train until it’s second nature the when the stress ball hits you between the eyes, your actions are done automatically

  • Jake August 30, 2017, 12:11 pm

    Looks like the Progtard trolls heard somebody was having a good time here and have come to shit on it. The site operators need to add an ignore function.
    I would say the draw is the hardest part and where I have the most trouble. I’m good with all the rest and as an old time Bullseye shooter, shooting plates or anything else at 25 is nothing. I try to keep full house loads in a hand size group at 7 firing as fast as I can pull the trigger.
    In my LEO days I carried a Model 19 S&W in a Don Hume breakfront which can be brought into play instantly without thinking. Any other way of carrying seems so dang slow in comparison, which is why I agree practicing your draw is critical.

  • Patrick August 30, 2017, 10:48 am

    Good article but I will still argue that practice at 25 meters makes little sense until you have absolutely mastered close, defense ranges. From a stand your ground prospective , 25 meters is not a defense from prosecution.

    P.s. Keep stirring the pot with the political comments. I love it when you frazzle the left.

  • Tripwire August 30, 2017, 10:41 am

    I’m amazed after reading some of the comments that so many “progressives” apparently watch Clay’s videos. How can somebody claim to be pro 2A person and yet be a progressive? they just don’t fit together IMHO. Either one is for the 2A and the rest of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution or one isn’t, it’s not a pick and choose kind of issue.
    One thing that I feel is left out in most training is “Situational Awareness”. Walking thru life with your ear buds filling your head with loud music and not thinking about where you are can get you killed and yes I’m paranoid. Learn to watch everything around you and you’ll likely see the problem before it sees you. The other thing most trainers don’t go into is “Get off the X, learn to shoot while moving if you can, find cover or concealment if you can.
    Finally, Progressives love to tell the rest of us to stop bashing them yet they spend most of there time trying to shove their shit down our throats. I like Clay’s comments like “Move out of shit holes like NJ if you can, truth hurts huh?

    • Willie-O August 30, 2017, 11:33 am

      You’re not “paranoid”, you’re PREPARED and I’m right there with you !!!

    • Greg August 30, 2017, 1:49 pm

      I to agree on getting off the mark and shooting while moving. This throws the wholes agenda off and gives you some precious time. Shot placement Is everything so practice and,,practice one-handed on the move. The off-hand will catch up for support. I trained many recruits and vets also and can’t stress these drills enough!! Even so far as going low (to one knee) to make yourself a hard target) !! Thanks for the write up and drills.

  • Tenbones August 30, 2017, 9:37 am

    Clay’s points are spot on, but there is one area, along the lines of what Trevor posted, and that is finding a means to induce the stress factor is your training program. It’s fine to hone the basics when you are beginning your training, but that training can be useless when the situation actually becomes a real life or death issue and you are shooting at a live person who is moving and shooting back at you. Shooting under stress is an entirely different ball game, but one you need to know that you can handle.
    Shooting timed fire drills, shooting on the move, inducing malfunctions, are all things that can add some stress to your training. Learn how to deal with those things Murphy may throw at you.

    • Steven Grife August 30, 2017, 11:00 am

      Clay addressed that by recommending competition. And he’s right. Doesn’t matter which one. They’ll all make you better.

  • Darrin August 30, 2017, 9:24 am

    Love your gun advice. Gets reduced with political and racists invective.

    Gun Nut/Realist/Progressive

    • Eamonn August 30, 2017, 11:09 am

      I’ve read a few of the author’s articles, and have seem no racism. Can you provide links or examples?

  • Chet Hribal August 30, 2017, 8:38 am

    Russ H., It’s a shame that you lost your fight. We need more people like you to dictate the terms and requirements for exercising our rights.

  • Paul August 30, 2017, 8:27 am

    Very informative as usual especially about “if you livce in NJ, move”….
    Apparently there has never been a tax this state has thought to NOT pass as
    well as being the NANNY state of our nation. I’m convinced there is
    something about the salt water that destroys brain cells and mutates rational
    thought into LIBTARDS.

    • Bill August 30, 2017, 9:12 am

      Guess that saltwater gas affected you too. Trumpturd.

      • Torquemada August 30, 2017, 8:14 pm

        Bill, my man, GFY on your way out.

  • Trevor August 30, 2017, 7:09 am

    I agree with everything in the article but I want to add the benefits of reality based training (i.e. force on force). Live fire training does not not take into account that the bad guy is going to be moving and fighting back.

  • Guido August 30, 2017, 5:56 am

    Hello, Clay
    I appreciate not only your on-target concealed carry primer, but also your socio-political “digression”- which is likewise on-target!
    I follow your G/A posts daily, carry on, Sir!

  • Russ H. August 30, 2017, 5:19 am

    At least someone agrees with me. I fought hard for mandatory training requirements to remain for anyone who wanted to carry concealed in AZ. The training plan we had was excellent and covered most everything to include legal aspects and was a 16 hr course. Then it was whittled to 8 hrs. Eventually none – now you don\’t even need a permit. God only knows how many people we have running around AZ with loaded handguns that have never been fired or cleaned for the first time. You know there\’s some out there. Granted, I like to believe most get some kind of training but a hunter safety class doesn\’t cut it.To clarify, I fully support and encourage people to carry concealed for protection – just get some decent training from a reputable instructor first that covers legal aspects, gun safety, manipulation and some range time (just 50 rds from 1 to 10 yds). Afterwards, determine if you REALLY want to carry. I heard of many people who dropped out of training once they learned the legal ramifications of using or threatening to use deadly force. Again, carry concealed! Just be competent and knowledgeable first.

    • Ken August 30, 2017, 8:11 am

      Gun in home, un trained, OK with that your family at risk.
      carry in public, mandatory training, its my family at risk.
      Stay SAFE

      • Russ H. August 30, 2017, 5:51 pm

        Couldn\’t have said it better.

    • Bill August 30, 2017, 9:14 am

      Some ? Most. Keep it real.

    • John L August 30, 2017, 11:50 am

      Well Russ, I’m glad you lost that hard fought battle. Mandatory training sounds a little too much like the “common sense gun laws” espoused by the left. Arizona seems to be doing just fine with constitutional carry.

      • Willie-O August 30, 2017, 12:22 pm

        Amen !! Although I have no doubt Russ had good intentions, the reality is that these “common sense” initiatives lead to more and more regulations and restrictions. One thing is certain, none of the criminals out there take any training courses, so an honest citizen with a gun can’t be anymore dangerous than one of these degenerates. Remember this – when it comes to those on the left that push for any gun-control measures, if you give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile.

      • Russ H. August 30, 2017, 6:56 pm

        BS. We had a great program here that wasn\’t going to lead to anything more restrictive – this is AZ not NJ. It worked. If any of you think having law abiding citizens walking amongst us carrying concealed guns who have no earthly idea of how and when to use them is a GOOD idea, you\’re nuts.You can\’t seriously believe that. As for criminals carrying – they\’re CRIMINALS. A person carrying with no clue how or when to use a firearm is more of a hazard to himself and others than being of use.

        • Willie-O August 31, 2017, 10:31 am

          Let me be clear, I don’t want anyone armed that shouldn’t be whether it’s concealed or in plain sight (open carry). I’m also well aware that there will ALWAYS be people around us that are armed regardless of the measures put in place. Sadly this includes people that simply shouldn’t be

          • Willie-O August 31, 2017, 10:46 am

            – the criminals and those that can legally do so, but simply have no business being armed. ANY law that restricts our right to bear arms only affects those of us that actually obey the law in the first place. The criminals favor gun-control as much as the libtards on the left. I do understand the theory behind requirements for licensed carry, but I know that in the real world they don’t accomplish anything besides making more gun-control possible. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

  • Bryan August 30, 2017, 5:16 am

    Like you stated, I show up to the range and fire my first three shots as if my life depends on it. They are probably the most critical. A full mag is good as well. It can be a frustrating way to start when your getting misses but it will certainly open your eyes. Good article.

  • Mike Birky August 30, 2017, 4:50 am

    A very good training plan in broad strokes. I would add have a buddy to act as a safety, as Clay mentioned you don’t want a 45 cap in the foot; This will prevent bad habits forming. Another is video yourself via your phone or other device for feedback. This recorder needs to be in a stable position, again be honest with yourself.
    Well done Clay.

  • Scott August 30, 2017, 4:43 am

    Just in the first few paragraphs, you sound like, either you actually believe that 19 desert dwelling Saudi nationalist hijacked 4 airplanes that miraculously brought down three skyscrapers, symmetrical into their own footprint at free fall speed, starting the global “war on terror ” (code for conquer lands rich in resources) or you are an information agent that promotes the official narrative. “I digress ”

    Oh the land of the greed, and the home of the slave.


    • Brad August 30, 2017, 9:02 am

      Clay was a scout/sniper, recon marine and a green beret, and then some. Now he trains civilians with the knowledge he has gleaned from 13 years of SERIOUS experience.
      What is it that you do Scott?

      • Larry August 30, 2017, 12:08 pm

        Scott is a full time asshole Leftist anarchist. I’m surprised you did not know that from his rant, my friend.

    • Bob Lee August 30, 2017, 9:13 am

      Come out of the bunker and travel the world a little….you will find out what greed and slavery are all about.

    • Willie-O August 30, 2017, 10:36 am

      Let me guess, you think the president authorized a covert operation that used black op’s to bring down the buildings with explosives and frame the innocent students, tourists and world travelers ? Or were those 19 young men even on the planes ? Did they even exist ? Who exactly was behind the curtain – our “military industrial complex” ? Now is it the oil you are referring to or the poppy-fields ? Our government keeps us dependent on black gold thru “Big Oil” and addicted to opiates thru the DEA/FDA. It needed an excuse to invade and conquer these foreign lands in order to maintain control of these resources. Did I miss anything ? I’m not sure how you escaped, but you’re obviously back on the street and have found your dealer. I hope they find you soon and get you back on your real meds.

      • Jimmy Joe Meeker August 30, 2017, 11:17 am

        You nailed it, Willie-O! Dem ol’ debbil corporations done ruined life in the USA. Except, of course, for Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon, who are “programmed by men with compassion and vision.” If only we’d get out of their way we’d all be speaking Esperanto and wearing spandex in a land of plenty. Scott is sure that every bloke with a towel on his head, every homely broad with a ninja helmet who goes off shift shouting “Aloha Snackbar!” while stabbing, shooting, and running over infidels is a “false flag” perpetrated by a shadow government run by lizard people. Condemn these killers and you’re a “racist.” He doesn’t get that Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Musk ARE the lizard men.

    • Eamonn August 30, 2017, 11:20 am

      Ok, America is awful. Compared to where? Your paranoia is rotting what’s left of your brain.

    • Gj August 30, 2017, 12:46 pm

      Scott repeats “cool” phrases..

    • Torquemada August 30, 2017, 8:22 pm

      Scott, I have no words for you, so I won’t try to conjure any. Just leave. There are plenty shitholes on this planet where you might thrive.

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