I’m a big believer in self-defense. I’m not a violent guy. I don’t think I’ve even raised my fists to defend myself since my junior year in High School. (Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that I’m 6’4″ and tip the scales at more than 240 lbs., but I digress.) Still, I think everybody needs as many options at their disposal when it comes to taking care of their family and property, so I naturally gravitated towards the idea of getting my conceal carry permit.
Little did I know at the time, that getting qualified and obtaining my permit would be just the first step on the road to self-defense self-sufficiency. And that by getting a CHL, I’d be opening up a huge can o’ worms I’d not anticipated, regarding the mechanics of carrying. I’ve done a lot of thinking about that lately. And here’s some of my thoughts, in the ever-popular (read: “search-engine friendly”) list format:
1. Having a CHL does you no good if you don’t use it.
Let’s say you get your permit. Buy a gun. Practice. Unless you’re psychic, you’ll never know when you’ll actually need your gun. You’ve got three choices – the Boy Scout option (always carry, and always be prepared), the Roulette option (carry when you think you might be at risk, and trust in the odds you won’t need it when you don’t have it), and the King Tut option (King o’Denial – leave it at home, but feel good that you could have had your gun when you needed it). Here’s a hint: a gun left at home is every bit as effective a self-defense option as no gun at all. Think about it.
2. A carry gun is no good unless it’s comfortable to carry it.
This one was tough for me. When I started considering what gun I wanted, I did a lot of reading. I fell for the romance of the 1911. John Browning’s most enduring creation feels seriously solid in my hand, and frankly, the ergonomics of a 1911 feels better to me than just about any other pistol. Finding a gun that feels good in your hand and is comfortable to shoot is the first step. That’s the good news. But it’s not everything that you should consider, and that’s the bad news.
I’m a big guy. Back when I was considering what gun to buy, I heard opinions that ran the gamut from “mouse gun” to “full-size” to “get a wheel gun.” Since I’d settled on a 1911, I naturally gravitated towards a full-size (5″ barrel) with a steel frame. That’s generally considered to be the “original” design and the best for accuracy (as it’s heavier and has a longer barrel). Newsflash: A steel-frame, full-size 1911 is one heavy gun. The extra inch on the barrel digs into your kidneys if you carry inside-the-waistband. and the weight makes for a very unpleasant drag on your side. Loaded, my full-size 1911 weighs over 3 pounds. That’s a LOT of weight, by the end of the day.
3. Choosing a holster is not something you can do without a lot of trial and error. Mostly error.
The sheriff that gave me my CHL training told us in class, everybody he knows that carries concealed has a drawer-full of holsters they never use. He was right. You can study, survey, and presume all you want, but until you try a holster, you have no idea how well it will work for an all-day carry. And nothing puts you in the “I’m gonna leave my gun at home” category than a holster that makes it a pain to carry your pistol.
4. Concealing a handgun is a bitch.
Okay…assuming you’re not lugging a purse around (not being a metrosexual, I wouldn’t be caught dead or alive with a purse, but it’s practical for women), you’re stuck hiding the gun somewhere on your person. Odds are, you’re gonna park that pistol somewhere around your waist, unless you’re into fanny packs (ooh…very stylish, if you want that 80’s jogger look). If you can get away with an untucked shirt, you’ve got an easier task, but if not, you’re gonna have to go through great pains to hide that gun. This is why those so-called “mouse guns” are getting so popular. They don’t pack a lot of punch, but they are better than nothing, and they are easy to drop into a pocket. Try that with a full-sized 1911.
5. If you don’t practice your draw, you’re NOT gonna be ready in an emergency situation.
Most indoor ranges I visit have a clear policy that does NOT allow for practicing your draw on the firing line. I understand why, for safety reasons. But how are you reasonably going get the feel for smoothly drawing and presenting your weapon without practice? The answer is to practice your draw with a practice (rubber) gun or your carry piece (unloaded and sans-magazine) somewhere else – at home, perhaps. But your best bet is to find a range, perhaps outdoors, that will let you practice your draw with live rounds (when you’re comfortable first doing it with a dummy gun!). Otherwise, you’d better hope that you can get to your gun without the bad guy knowing you’re going for it.
6. How do you get to being prepared? Practice, practice, practice.
So you’ve got your permit. You’ve got a gun. A holster. But – are you ready? Nope. Not a chance, unless you’re hitting the range on a regular basis. And by regular I mean at least 50 rounds per month. That’s not cheap, but that’s the minimum I’d recommend if you want to keep your skills up. Want to minimize costs? Buy and use a reloader, get a .22 pistol or a .22 conversion kit for your 1911, or find some cheap practice ammo. If you’re not shooting at least 50 rounds per month, you’re little better off than anybody who expects to be able to hit the side of a barn wearing a blindfold.
7. Maintenance is mandatory.
You change your oil in your car on a regular basis to make sure your car runs well. (Don’t you?) You keep your roof from leaking, to make sure your home doesn’t suffer water damage. Why wouldn’t you perform regular maintenance on your carry gun? Got a laser? How are those batteries? Fresh? Cleaned that puppy lately? Lubed it?
8. Using your gun is your absolute last resort.
Carrying a gun is an awesome responsibility. I can’t imagine being in a situation where I’d have to shoot someone. But I’m mentally, strategically, and physically prepared should I have to. But what about situations where I need to defend myself, my family, or my property that don’t warrant a shooting? I carry a tactical flashlight and a tactical knife, and I’ve gotten training to use both. That gives me a huge range of options for a measured response for any given situation. And it means I can do my best to avoid escalating the conflict to a point where shooting is my only option.
9. Sometimes having a gun is enough.
I can recount story after story about people that were able to avoid shooting by simply letting an aggressor know they were armed. I think the same thing applies to lasers, as well as the sound of a 12 gauge being racked. That little red dot or the shiiick-shick sound of my Wingmaster 870 as I go hot should be a huge deterrent. Should be. Your results may vary. But it’s nice to know that in some cases, at least, you can avoid violence by simply showing the bad guy you’re armed.
10. It’s nothing like it is on TV. Especially for your ears.
I love action movies and cop TV shows. But I’ve yet to see ANY TV show acknowledge the physics of gunplay, namely, if you shoot indoors or inside a car without ear protection, you’re gonna be deaf for the next few hours. Period. No exceptions. And you will have done permanent damage to your ears. I carry a set of earplugs (SureFire Sonic Defenders, if you must know) in my pocket everywhere I go. They are surprisingly useful (I’m also a professional musician). And I hope that if I ever do get into a situation where I have to defend myself, there might be an opportunity for me to get the earplugs in before I have to go all John McClain on somebody. Hey…it could happen.
So…any of these come as a surprise to you? If not, good for you. If so – think about it.