Its often said that carrying a concealed handgun is a lifestyle. Truer words have never been spoken. Adding a concealed handgun to your daily attire is a huge commitment that can be a pain both literally and figuratively. But, take heed. As burdensome as carrying a handgun can be, that's the easy part. Becoming proficient with your firearm is the first step in understanding other factors pertinent to concealed carry.
These 5 tips for those who are new to the concealed carry weapon (CCW) lifestyle will help get you on your way to proficiency. This is by no means a comprehensive list and the considerations included here deserve great emphasis and practice. Still, this is a good primer for the prospective CCW holder and a refresher for those of us who have already adopted the CCW lifestyle.
1. Know the Law
First things first: If you're going to carry a concealed gun, you better be certain that you're legally authorized to do so. In most states, you're required to have a CCW permit in order to carry a concealed gun. If this applies to you, get your permit before you carry. Regardless of whether or not you agree with having to obtain a CCW permit, the law is the law. If you're caught carrying a handgun illegally, you will be viewed as a criminal. If your state requires you to obtain a permit, get it and keep it with you whenever you carry your firearm. Keep in mind, being licensed to carry in one state does not automatically authorize you to carry in another.
Aside from the legal aspects of simply carrying a concealed handgun, you need to have a solid grasp of self-defense laws in your state. The more familiar you are with laws pertaining to the use of force up to and including deadly force in self-defense, the less likely you'll be to hesitate when you need to act. Understanding the law will also serve as a reminder that your gun is not the solution to every problem you encounter. Keep in mind that from a legal perspective, your actions will be judged on their "reasonableness" based on the totality of the circumstances.
2. Conceal Your Gun
When you're armed, you must be aware that something as innocuous as bending over to pick something up or even a gust of wind could spoil your surprise and reveal to the world that you're carrying. The golden rule of concealed carry is that your gun remains concealed until you decide to make it known.
A .380 pistol carried in a pocket holster may require no changes to your wardrobe, but if you carry a full-size 1911 you'll need to dress around the gun. Finding the right gun, holster, carry method and covering garment can be quite a daunting task. If you're not up to the challenge, maybe the concealed carry lifestyle is not for you.
3. Know Your Role
Carrying a gun doesn't obligate you to take action even when you're witness to a crime that would justify a deadly force response. Intervening during a bank robbery may be tempting. Clearly, the armed criminal has endangered the lives of everyone in the vicinity, including you. However, there is no guarantee that you drawing your gun will save the day. In fact, you could unintentionally make things much worse.
Imagine drawing your gun and ordering the bad guy to drop his, only to have his partner in crime shoot you in the back. Even if the robber is working alone, your response could prompt a shootout that might not otherwise have occurred, thus further endangering innocent lives. That being said, if the assailant made clear his intent to injure or kill innocent parties, employing your concealed handgun to stop him is probably worth the risk. It's incumbent upon you to know your role and understand your capabilities before deciding to intervene.
There are no absolutes, but remember that you're not a cop and you're not a superhero. Sometimes, your best response is to simply be a good witness when the police arrive.
4. Don't Bluff
When faced with a deadly threat, if you aren't certain that you could align the sights of your handgun on assailant's body and press the trigger, you have no business carrying a gun. Carrying a gun with the notion that you would use it only as a bluff to intimidate an assailant is a recipe for disaster.
You must have made the decision ahead of time that in order to prevent yourself or someone else from being seriously injured or killed, you are willing to shoot an assailant and potentially kill him. If not, you will inevitably hesitate during the moment of truth. A cagey criminal will sense your lack of commitment to shoot him and might capitalize on it by disarming you. And rest assured that a hardened or desperate criminal would shoot you without batting an eye.
Your decision to shoot should be based on the actions of the assailant. Essentially, he decides his fate. If he presents a deadly threat, shoot him. If drawing your gun gains his compliance, don't shoot him. But don't ever bring a gun into play that you're not willing to use.
5. Be Ready to Fight
Don't assume that strapping a gun to your hip precludes you from having to defend yourself empty-handed. First of all, the type of threat you're facing may not warrant bringing your gun to bear. For instance, drawing your gun in response to a belligerent drunk who pokes his finger into your chest and insults your mother is probably not going to be considered reasonable. (Of course, if the drunk is a foot taller than you, outweighs you by 100 pounds, and is holding a broken beer bottle his other hand, drawing your gun seems apropos).
Even when legally justified to shoot your adversary, close confines may render that easier said than done. Don't bet your life on marksmanship alone. In close quarters, your ability to fight with your gun is more important than being an exceptional shooter.
You might shoot an assailant several times and still have to fight him, possibly over control of your gun. In such case, your life could depend on your gun retention skills. Or maybe, you're knocked the ground by an assailant who's bigger, stronger, and a more skilled fighter that you. When your attempts to defend yourself empty-handed have failed and the relentlessness of the attack causes you to fear for your life, shooting the assailant at point-blank range may be what saves you.
RELATED: G&A TV Shoot/No Shoot
Author Richard Nance teaches more close quarters tips and tactics in the following segment of Guns & Ammo TV on the Sportsman Channel.