Top Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Carrying a Concealed Handgun

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:

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.

1. Mindset

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?

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  • James November 4, 2021, 9:18 am

    Thanks for mentioning DISPARITY of FORCE.

  • Joe April 26, 2018, 2:01 am

    Im starting the path of CC. I started with just the holster. Then an empty gun. Now I’m carrying loaded (to get used to the weight) with a snap cap chambered, so i can get used the idea. I have an irrational worry that a chambered round will somehow magically go off. The snap cap chambered has given me piece of mind. My trigger hasn’t “magically” pressed itself. Mindset really is the most important. People just have to go at their own pace and do what theyre comfortable with regardless of what other people say.

  • Green tip February 26, 2018, 11:35 am

    The article SHOULD HAVE mentioned: KNOW the LAWS of YOUR state and all places you’ll be traveling/carrying. This is mandatory as there are no excuses AFTER a ‘situation’ has gone down. Too late after the fact. Another thing I’d mention is PROPER COMMUNICATION with LEO’s and authorities. Apologies if this has been covered by another poster…

  • Jack L. Boyington February 19, 2018, 12:22 pm

    Here in Arizona we are fortunate enough to live in the #1 “gun friendly” state in this nation.
    After 50 years in law enforcement, my experience and perspective is very positive about the United States and our citizens who choose to participate and fully embrace our 2nd Amendment Rights.
    Whether for recreational pursuits involving firearms, or this basic “right” to be legally armed, is both a blessing and responsibility, measured in the extreme.

  • Quailman February 17, 2018, 2:06 pm

    I carry full size Beretta 96D in a Crossbreed Supertuck IWB. Very comfortable. Has leather backing against your body and Kydex holster.

  • Tommy Barrios February 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

    Have carried a revolver openly and concealed since I was a teenager, even in front of LEO’s !
    Never got and never will get a CCL/CCW for various reasons and I never had any problems carrying without one!
    Number one being it is my view a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment and the other being I don’t want ANY Government agency knowing I carry a gun or own one!
    You do what you feel is best, I’ll just keep on carrying my way!

  • mrpski February 16, 2018, 1:35 pm

    Fully agree this is one of those articles where everything the author says makes good sense. Growing up around firearms, being a former nam guy, & LEO I was always comfortable with weapons but many are not, and getting comfortable is the first & most important step to take. Also like the no show no tell aspect of carrying. The best compliment I have gotten. was during a discussion on safety and security at my church. When active & retired LEOs that were at this meeting had no idea I carried during the services then I must be doing something right. Ditto on training. Shooting at a piece of paper at a range is target practice. Either take advantage of the professional training that is available more and more around the country or set up your own if you are near shootable public lands. There is a lot of information out there on-line how to do it safely.

  • Jacques CHAUVET February 16, 2018, 11:25 am

    Great article! Right on target (so to speak) . Mandatary reading for all Conceal Carrry new comers.

  • William Smith February 16, 2018, 8:21 am

    I enjoy reading every ones articles and thy are well written. The articles help and guide me as a new conceal and carry person, but here in the State of Florida things have heated up to the point that people are living in FEAR. Fear of shootings, the bad guys, and anyone legally carrying a firearm. please do not misunderstand me. I am not revealing a single thing in any way.
    I went to church and everything thing was great, but when you trusted only one person to let them know that you carry everyday (not in detail), but the person was the pastor ONLY. You trusted that person, but that person betrays you and runs his mouth off to others about Conceal and Carry a firearm. I did not show or give any full details, but I respectfully request to not even talk firearms to people that are not trustworthy and gossip goes along way.
    Now we here in Florida have had another shooting in Southern Florida and that FEAR is mounting and you can feel it and see it.
    All the article and comments written above have been a great help and thank you. The one point to make is MINDSET. Please, note this, when you decide to CC and firearm, ALWAYS, Train, Practice, Confidence is a must, and do not let the people that condemn and gossip over things that are not their businesses turn you away from what is right for your life and family. Please stay safe and Safety First, Always.

  • Jay February 16, 2018, 8:03 am

    Training starts the day you decided to own firearms. I have taught and practiced with many family members for concealed carry, each one was different. The last class one family member attended, he was shocked not only at how large the class was but of the lack of general knowledge of those that attended. He said clearly there were many there that should not even be around a gun much less carry one. Individuals who couldn’t even qualify with a 22 pistol and or didn’t even know how to load their own gun, it was crazy he said, it was like a mind set of needing to carry a gun in self defense of those out there carrying that shouldn’t be as they put us all in danger! Thankfully most of those people failed at getting their license but that doesn’t mean they wont be back and then how about places where no training or testing is needed to carry a gun! Quite unnerving to say the least! I think it’s not only time for carry reciprocity but a National training and test that all need to pass in order to do so! The test and qualifications to have a license should be the same the USA over and a license should be required nation wide!

    • Joey Nichols February 16, 2018, 11:28 am

      Two issues:
      1) NO LICENSE SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO CARRY CONCEALED OR OPEN. As such would be an infringement.
      2) Doesn’t make sense that your “happy” that so many wouldn’t get their license. These people need education and training, absolutely, but WE each need to put in the time to educate those around us. As such, we are promoting correct mindset, safety operations, and are a better judge of a persons abilities (mental/physical) than any instructor, who sees most students for a few hours.

      • RSO Danner February 16, 2018, 8:59 pm

        Jay, Joey – I thought I would comment, as I thought you both hit on some things that are important for readers to take with them after they’ve read this thread.
        Jay, I used to feel the way you did, especially about some of the clueless people I saw in various classes. I used to say “If I were King, I’d set a universal standard for concealed carry, require mandatory training and enact consistent laws across the country.” Kind of like learning to drive and getting a driver’s license.
        But the more I got into it, I realized that not only was that an impossible dream, but it was in direct conflict with the 2nd Amendment. As citizens, we have the right to own firearms, defend ourselves, our loved ones and our property, and these rights “shall not be infringed”. There are pros and cons to living in a democratic, open society – and if we believe in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, we have to take the good along with the bad. Like morons who intend to kill kids at a school being able to legally buy guns.
        I may be an exception, but when I decided to carry, I studied, researched and took classes long before getting my first pistol. I considered the right to carry a privelege and an awesome responsibility, so I wanted to be safe and not screw it up – or hurt myself or others. Over the past several years I’ve taken many basic, intermediate and advanced classes, and have become certified as a Range Safety Officer and I’m currently working on instructor certifications. Why? Because safety and mindset are paramount – and anyone who intends to own a gun needs to be educated. I want to be able to share what I continue to learn with others.
        I’m proud to say that I’ve introduced many newcomers to shooting (many of them women) and have worked wiith my wife, friends and others to help them acheive a great level of proficiency and confidence. Some novices I introduced to shooting with a Ruger or Walther .22 at the range are now shooting competitively, and loving it. That feels really, really good!
        We should all be ambassadors for safe, responsible gun ownership and continually train and encourage others to do so. The more people that take training and safety seriously, practice and demonstrate situational awareness, handgun/firearm safety, proficiency and are just good all-around guys and gals, the more positive influence we’ll have collectively on our society.
        So Joey is spot on – just like a kid that “doesn’t get it” at the beginning of driver training, those who can’t load their gun or know one end from the other need to be patiently encouraged and helped along, until they become safe and proficient. I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to helping others do just that.
        So enough of my rambling. Be safe, my brothers and sisters – watch your six, train, train and train some more, and be an ambassador for responsible gun ownership when the opportunity arises!

  • M45acp February 16, 2018, 7:59 am

    So what are your criteria for EDC? Size, convenience, capacity, dependability, accuracy? Here is mine.
    I carry a pistol with 13+1 and 2 magazines of 16 rounds each.
    Overkill? Maybe. Heavy load? Yes. Comfortable? So-so. Paranoid? Not much.
    Anyone ever shot has beat the odds. I do not want to be that winner.
    Most EDC advice seems to focus on lightweight, comfort, and body placement.
    Lightweight means fewer rounds, and even a 3” barrel subcompact double-stack fully loaded is heavy.
    And your bet should not be that your confrontation will be face to face, CQB or within your home. If you are in a Mall, a theater, a parking lot, any large area, you may be far away from the bad guy with a gun. So accuracy, unless you prefer to leave it all up to someone else if and when they show up, accuracy with a pistol and you under the stress of an adrenal rush, will likely be very unpredictable (note the background beyond the baddie). So, lots of rounds available might be able to make the baddie (maybe more than one…) run or seek cover and save a lot of others from winning the victim lottery.
    Think about it. Minimum insurance is fine, but when a disaster happens, don’t we all wish we had better? Had more?
    Yes. You and I have to draw a line somewhere, but I prefer to draw it on the side of extravagance and what if (?) in terms of EDC. More is better and worth the few inconveniences…IMHO.
    But note, because I am retired I can do the above w/o public or employment considerations. Your daily situation may force a different scenario for you.

  • Tom Benton February 16, 2018, 7:49 am

    Enjoyed the article. The points made are applicable but each individual has their own reason to conceal carry and their discussions will be dictated by those motivations. After 10 yrs with a concealed license my number one point of discussion is that it is an evolving process. When and how you carry will change overtime as your age and lifestyle evolves.Possibly the most difficult issue for everyone is deciding when to use your weapon. The defense of self, family, friends ? Where do you draw the line. Would you help law enforcement as a brave individual in Utah did recently ? Once you expand your coverage away from “ self “ you open a can of legal worms but each of us has a tripwire where we morally feel compeled to act. Just as the weapon and method of carry evolves, ones decision to intervene evolves. It is prudent to decide these issues in a calm environment, but we all know the real decision will be made in a flash in a tme and place not of our choosing. Be vigilant, be safe.

  • Roger February 16, 2018, 7:24 am

    I have had a concealed carry licence for 47 years. Must add. Always be aware of situations around you. You are carrying to defend yourself. You are not a cop. Avoid shady situations. If you draw your gun you plan to kill. You will lose a lot of money defending yourself legally. You do not need to carry an excess of ammo

    • Single shot cajun February 16, 2018, 2:20 pm

      Amen. Too many new permit holders have a mindset of now being part of law enforcement. Along with training the best defense is avoidance .

  • Beachhawk February 16, 2018, 4:21 am

    I love the convenience of Kydex holsters. I love hearing the pistol click into place, but what I hate about Kydex is that it’s hard, hot in the summer and cold in the winter. If holster makers would make the back of the holster with a shield to keep the hammer and other protrusions from the gun off bare skin and then glue a layer of polyurethane, suede or some similar material to the back of the holster to give it a layer of thin padding. There was a holster company called “Comfort Holsters” who made holsters with a thin polyurethane pad. Those holsters were very comfortable with no loss of accessibility or concealability. Un-
    fortunately, that company went out of business before it really had a chance to get started.

    • P.D. February 16, 2018, 6:56 am

      Try looking at Stealth Gear Holsters. They have what seems to be exactly what you you’re looking for.

    • Ryan February 19, 2018, 5:06 am

      Alien gear and stealth gear and crossbreed all have holsters that are the same as what you mentioned. Multiple other companies as well. Do a Google search for hybrid holsters.

  • Will Drider February 15, 2018, 12:01 am

    Either your CC firearm choice drives your wardrobe or your wardrobe drives your CC firearm choice. It is advantageous to have and be proficient with more then one CC firearm. This could be as simple as having a small primary CC handgun and substituting you larger house handgun when conditions permit concealment. I swap through three handguns primarly based on the season/weather.
    IWB holsters are like underwear. Leather will absorb fluids requiring cleaning, treatment, drying time and likely several units unless you want to put you gun in a salt/wet holster. Kydex is wash, dry and wear in two minutes.
    It is reflex to protect yourself & family from clear threats. Strangers (wearing civilian cloths) in extreme conflict are difficult to sort out. Offense/defense can change with one blow, who’s good/bad/cop, which one is calling for help? All third party interventions by you come with physical and legal risks.
    Reflex responses from your time in the Bush or Sand Box must be toned down to CONUS Rules of Engagement.
    Rotate, shoot and replace you defense ammo. It gets bounced around (degrades powder), seeping lub, weather: temp/humidity, reloaded in fresh mag and rechambered. Number and rotate you mags too.
    If your surprised at the amount of crud in your CC handgun: your not cleaning it frequent enough for the conditions you encounter.

    Your not going to like this one: Even “expert” trainers can get sloppy in application. We absorb what is taught then see things not demonstrated when they are supposed to be collectively applied. Your only as good as your last practice and critiques. Its not like riding a bike where you can wobble, stop, start again. What you did years ago is history. You must practice (demonstrate) what you preach: its expected by peers/subordinates or paid for by civs.

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