Confessions of a Concealed Carry Permit Holder: Day One

Earlier today, the Providence Police hand-delivered my concealed carry weapons permit. Credit the low-volume of applications for the personal service. Mine was one of five CCW applications submitted to the department in 2010. One of three the Police granted after an eighteen year hiatus (with one exception). Following a six-month wait. To be fair, the Renaissance City po-po used to kick the can to the AG’s officer. The Providence Police had to invent a CCW permitting process on the fly. And so they have. Proof of my ability to negotiate that freshly-constructed legal labyrinth now enjoys pride of place in my wallet. Just as my Smith & Wesson 686 revolver has been elevated to a sacred spot on my right hip . . .

I decided to carry my pre-lock Smith & Wesson 686 because I’d sent my trusty, 19-round Croatian nine mil to Springfield for a $140 trigger job. Sad but true: I’d given up believing I’d get my CCW permit before the fourth of July. In fact, I’d begun thinking the Police would find a way to deny my Second Amendment rights come hell or high water. That’s what happens when a statutory 90-day application process gets stuck in administrative mañanaland.

[Quick aside. I wish Springfield called their go-pedal conversion something a little more jury-friendly than a "combat trigger." How about "Enhanced Safety System"? Thanks to the shorter trigger pull, I'll be far less likely to miss what I'm aiming at. I make that a win-lose-win proposition for the shooter, bad guy and bystanders.]

Picking up the Smith, I turned my back on my Gemini Custom Smith & Wesson 642. While the laser-equipped and ported gun is the lightest yet softest shooting snub-nosed revolver I’ve ever fired, and I can hit center mass at ten yards all day long, it’s a diddy thing. There’s no way to get a sure handle on the handle without adjusting the grip mid-draw.

Unless I carry the black gun buck naked in a front jacked pocket and “pre-grip” it when my spidey senses start tingling, I’m highly likely to fumble at the ten yard line. That’s not the play you want to make when it’s fourth down and long.

I’m with the rabbi on this one: you need a carry gun that you can grip once, draw, aim and shoot (if the situation warrants). Your first grip is your best grip is the grip you’ll use in an emergency.

I also want to carry a gun with which I can hit targets at greater than bad-breath distances. ”Belly guns” be damned. If someone’s so close I don’t need to properly aim my gun, I’m better off defending myself with my hands, getting some distance and then drawing my gun. The last thing I want is to get caught mid-draw.

And just because “most” armed confrontations happen close-in doesn’t mean they all do. (Quite the opposite, in fact). Why prepare for an “average” confrontation? Why not be ready to handle as many potential scenarios as possible, including relatively distant encounters of the deadly threat kind?

In short, I want to carry a weapon that gives me as much accuracy as humanly possible. That’s not on any snub-nosed revolvers resume. Even mid-size guns can’t do that. Not for me. But the big Smith can—at least until the XD-M returns to the Farago fold. Bonus! Right from the git-go, the big Smith’s grip is as instinctive as shaking hands with your father. And there’s more . . .

The 686 fires .357 hollow-points. (Recoil is stout but painless and manageable.) That caliber is, it must be said, a highly effective way to stop a bad guy from continuing bad (i.e. murderous) behavior. When I fill the Smith’s charge holes with Hornaday Critical Defense rounds, I’m filled with confidence that any round on target will go a long way towards ending an imminent threat to life and limb.

The 686 also looks like a gun. Immediately. Viscerally. While some people believe that pumping a shotgun is sonic intimidation, pointing an N-framed revolver with a four inch barrel at a bad guy is the real ballistic equivalent of the STOP RIGHT THERE moment in Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Lights. Or, if you prefer, a compelling version of Elvis’ admonition to Reconsider Baby.

OK, so, a Fobus paddle holster, a photographer’s vest and away we go . . .

Obviously, nothing happened. No confrontations. No close calls. No brandishing. No inadvertent brandishing. Nothing. I broke bread with the family at Panera, looked at a Schnauzer puppy, and went home. No drama. Which is exactly how I want it to be for the rest of my life.

While I’ve got about as much emotional intelligence as Commander Data, carrying a concealed weapon certainly produced an emotional change. It’s hard to explain (obviously). Carrying a gun in public made me feel more . . . grown up. More responsible. Less dependent.

I never thought armed independence would make me cocksure (an attitude that gun control advocates constantly and mistakenly ascribe to CCW holders). And it didn’t. But there was a surprising side-effect: isolation. I felt alone. Apart. Different.

When a woman bumped into me, straight into my gun, I saw myself as “not her.” More than that, I wondered what she would think of me and my beloved Smith if she knew I was carrying. Not much, I imagine. (Or way too much, depending on the situation.)

That’s the thing about being one of four city-licensed CCW holders in a liberal-minded city of 170,000: I’m an outlier. Rest assured I will do my best to blaze a trail for other Providence residents looking to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms—by carrying responsibly.

Truth be told, that’s more than slightly besides the point. My CCW permit allows me to defend myself and my family more effectively. Just as the founding fathers knew it would. That doesn’t feel normal—yet. But it does feel right.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

39 Responses to Confessions of a Concealed Carry Permit Holder: Day One

  1. avatarRalph says:

    Mazel tov and welcome to the club, RF. Rest assured that carrying will become as natural and effortless as donning your trousers. In short order, you will feel more naked without your piece than you would without your pants. And your choice of the 686 can only be exceeded by the 686+ that carries 7 rounds of .357s and also hits like a missile. Equipped with a fine pair of track shoes, you’re good to go.

  2. avatarRoy Hill says:

    When I first started CCW, I felt completely naked and exposed, like everybody in the world could see my gun printing against my clothes.

    I kept nervously waiting for somebody to freak out and call the police on me, or to point and scream “GUN!”

    Now when I do carry, it’s about as exciting as putting my wallet in my pocket.
    It’s just part of getting dressed–that is, when I do carry.

    I’m prevented by state law from legally carrying where I work, so my options are sort of limited.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Most people are walking around totally oblivious to everyone and everything around them, completely in Condition White, and that includes the cops. On my first Wallywalk, I passed the same LEO three times on purpose, and he didn’t notice me or my pistol. It was all smooth sailing and calm seas after that.

  3. avatarBrad Kozak says:

    But wait…you’re carrying…a wheelgun? After all we’ve written here about the value of extra rounds per magazine, extra magazines on hand, and everything else, I find it odd that you’ve chosen to go with a gun that’s limited to…what four or five rounds, if you’re going to carry with the hammer down on one empty slot in the cylinder. I mean…damn, Robert. That’s chutzpah, even for a member of the tribe! I fancy myself a fair shot, and I’m marginally uncomfortable with the idea of having only nine rounds available to me with my carry pistol, without extra magazines.

    I think your next opus needs to reveal how you came to settle on a revolver for your go-to gun for out-and-about wear. Not sure about anybody else, but inquiring minds on this end of the InterWebz are dyin’ to know.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      It’s a temporary solution. The XD-M returns on Monday.

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      Carry with the hammer down on an empty chamber? What? Farage is packing a 686, not a SAA! I don’t know of a single, modern DA pistol that cannot be safely carried with all cylinders loaded. Besides, Farago is switching to his XDM-9 soon for CCW. When camping/hiking/hunting, I would recommend the 686 though!

    • avatarTravis says:

      Why would he need to carry on an empty chamber? He said 686, not 1886.
      If there is some law requiring an empty chamber than I would take a revolver any day over an auto.
      The 125gr .357 hollow point has an awesome track record of one-shot stops. Even when perps are hit in non vital areals. Something to do with the 1400+ feet per second velocity.
      Revolvers allow the use of Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point bullets which are less prone to clogging when penetrating jackets and puffy winter time clothes.
      They have their strengths.
      That being said, when I carry a full sized revolver as a primary, I back it up with a snubby whenever feasible. Even with Comp III Speed loaders we are talking 4 seconds at best for a reload for me.

  4. avatarRobert Farago says:

    Right then, Wallywalk it is.

    • avatarRalph says:

      You da man! Please do a nice write-up like only you can do for all the new CCW’s all over this great land of ours.

  5. avatar2yellowdogs says:

    Nice piece and congratulations. May you be one of the first of many Providencers (?) to successfully brave the roadblocks to CCW licensure.

    I can attest to the emotional shift, increase in confidence and sense of responsibility felt when first carrying in public. As you wrote, it can be hard to adequately articulate this, but it’s certainly there nonetheless. I’m not sure it ever completely goes away. Nor would I want it to.

    • avatarTTACer says:

      Providenizens?

      I know when I carry I feel like god must feel when he’s carrying a gun. Kidding of course, it is just like Roy said, same as putting my wallet in my pocket. Of course almost everyone I know has a carry permit. Pretty much all my work friends do, and we work at a quasi-government entity. Hunting and concealed permits and gun shows are openly discussed. Just yesterday we had a fifteen minute conclave on bargain glass. We are all pretty circumspect about what we carry though.

  6. avatarBryan says:

    I’ve been carrying daily (TX) for about a year now, and I had the same feeling the first few weeks: exposed, obviously armed, adult, more aware, and different. I still feel the added responsibility and awareness, but now I feel naked without it. I usually have to carry deep concealment based on my job and slim frame, so it’s the Ruger LCP for now. I’d like to get a heftier option when I can afford to be ever so slightly less careful about printing.

    Keep carrying and work through the inconveniences to come. Mine were a change in clothing styles, the expense of a few added secure locations to place the gun when it wasn’t on my body, and getting good at unholstering and securing the weapon when other people are around without anyone noticing (when entering a place forbidding concealed carry).

  7. avatarDave Y says:

    Congratulations. Man up on the snub nose wheel guns. I managed to get a case stuck in my M&P 9 at my last class; really stuck, in the middle of a drill. I had 2 hits to make on 2 pieces of steel at 15 yards from inside a car. It felt like time stood still. I dug out my trusty M&P360 with –FULL– power 125 grain JHP. I lovingly call this gun the “Noisy Cricket”. We are not talking some wimpy store bought loads, we are talking a full 21 grains of H110… Out of a 13 ounce snub. It hurts my hand to even type this.
    Time sped up as I leveled the sight on plate 1, I stroked the trigger and was rewarded with a thunderous roar (inside a car remember) and it felt like someone smacked my hand with a 4 pound hammer. Impact, I stroked again, and again agony & impact.

    Now I had to exit & use the car as cover for another plate in another direction; again 15 yards, again this time I stroke the tiny J frame trigger and I get a much less punishing muzzle blast but equally painful recoil and I still haven’t given any thought to how I’m going to fix the 9 yet. Last round of the cylinder for some strange reason after 4 hits double action I decide to cock the hammer. No idea why I did but, I scored hit 5, emptied the cylinder & fished out my 5 spares, stared and decided I had a lot more payload in the 9 and I have: a pocket knife. I unstick the case & am back in business.

    I learned a lot on that exercise but the most surprising – 5 for 5 from the wheel gun at 15 yards, 4 double action hits. Boy did that hurt. I think my shooting hand was numb for about 5 minutes afterward. Fortunately everyone else’s ears hurt as much as my hand did. They should’ve known, the year before I transitioned to the same backup while on a line formation. Fortunately the 2 surrounding shooters knew what was coming when I yelled ‘backup gun’.

    What can I say? I like a gun with a good muzzle blast.

  8. avatarRyan Finn says:

    Congrats man!

  9. avatarChris Dumm says:

    Congratulations! I was starting to wonder if they would ever give it to you, or anyone for that matter. I’m glad they got it right..

    And the mighty 686 may lack the tremendous firepower of a double-stack 9, but as a service-grade .357 it takes second place to nobody in the stopping power department. It’s the only defensive handgun cartridge that causes hydrostatic shock, and it is a more reliable and rapid manstopper than the .44 Magnum. Carry it with confidence, if you do your part it will not fail you.

    But a 686 in a Fobus paddle? I like the Fobus design, and I own two of them (I put my money where my mouth is) but they’re not as concealable as I prefer. Wearing the Fobus, my P95 sticks out a full inch farther than it does in my Blade-Tech IWB.

  10. avatarFitz says:

    If you want to talk about a different feeling or nervousness, try open carry for the first time. Been doing that for the last 3 years and no problems yet. I imagine once I finally go get my ccw here soon it won’t even give me pause. While there is all the usual reasons against open carry, one slight advantage in my opinion is that while I’m comfortable doing it, I do stay a wee bit more alert to anyone wanting to siddle up to me and just keeping an eye out for some ignorant person freaking and running for a manager. So far though nothing more than an occasional observant kid mentioning it to parents. I think the comment about people being in condition white applies, I think close to 75% of people never even notice a full size px4 in galco belt holster.

  11. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    Congrats on your new permit RF, I just completed the Utah gun permit class at Mass Firearms School. We had about forty people in the class and it was great. I’m sending out my app. to Utah (good in 30 states) tomorrow and I should have the permit in less than sixty days. I’m also sending out my Florida app. along with Virginia and then I’ll be able to get the NH and CT permits with no problem. When I’m done with all the apps. I’ll have permits covering 40 states. Then I just have to wait until the NRA can force the courts in the remaining 10 states to grant all law abiding citizens the right to carry.

  12. avatarjay says:

    i can’t imagine the shift. Last year i went out and bought a pocket knife to have on all the time (i had a few cheap knives i would sometimes carry), if i don’t have my knife on me know i feel naked, in fact, i can’t remember the last time i was somewhere without it. not the same as a gun but still… i really can’t agree more on condition white. people in general are so startling unaware of their surroundings.

    sorry for the crappy relation I’m 20 okay… 6 months till ccw

  13. Congratulations and good luck. You sound like one of the most responsible and best prepared gun guys I’ve ever heard of. I hope the bad guys give you a wide birth.

    • avatarTravis says:

      Wow, what a nice comment. Seriously.

      There are many more like him who quietly go about their daily business while carrying a gun. They put in the effort to practice and to understand their responsibilities. We just don’t hear much about them because they don’t chase a guy down the street blazing away because he stole a 30 pack of beer.

  14. Very spiffy shoot-me-first vest, Robert.

    Grats on the permit.

    • avatarTTACer says:

      Yeah, that is almost as obvious as a hipsack or manpurse. Another funny conversation I had at work yesterday was about hipsacks. We came to the conclusion that if you looked like a big enough dork then people might not “make” you for CCW, but if you looked like anyone other than Urkel people would know you were carrying.

      But not in Providence. Yet. Probably.

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      LOL RF lives in RI… tight pants and vests are the norm out there!

    • avatarMike the Limey says:

      Aye
      Ditch the vest.
      Every time I’m in the US & see someone wearing one it says “CCW” to me & careful observation proves me right most times.
      Buy a light cotton “hoodie” or other mundane item of loose clothing or wear an untucked shirt.

  15. avatarDavid H says:

    Congratulations on finally navigating the hurdles! Every time I think that Connecticut’s gun laws are stupid, I find examples of how much worse off others are.

    Oh, and what Gunnutmegger said. ;)

  16. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    Congrats on the LTCF Robert. It makes me happy to see someone achieve something they are deserving of.

    It makes me sad that only three people were successful at this.

  17. avatarJavier E says:

    Congratulations from Joisy. Hope springs eternal for common sense to come my way some day. (I currently envy all of you CCW allowed.)

  18. avatarstateisevil says:

    That’s crazy: 4 out of 170,000. In my state, there are almost 800,000 people licensed to carry! Of course, there are some states where every non felon can carry. It’s crazy to think about the differences in attitudes concerning bearing arms, depending where you are in the country.

  19. I’ve been carrying for over 5 years (already had to renew my permit once). I carry in a fanny pack. Draw is a little slower than from a holster, but still not bad. Two-handed, though.

    I was involved in an auto accident. When the cop showed up, I had to inform him (state law). He had no idea I was carrying until I told him. And that was a full-sized 1911.

  20. avatarBull in Wisconsin says:

    Well I looked at some of the remarks and am not surprised.
    The hype has been on the hi capacity wonder guns since the 70′s about the same time marksmanship went by the wayside. This also includes our L.E. community.
    Throwing lead in high quantities is in the news often enough. Some police shootings even having the perp. shot in the soles of his feet.
    So in the interest of common sense and good ole craftsmanship I have gone the way of the wheel gun on many occasions. The modern revolver can have all chambers loaded safely.
    The revolver is less prone to jams and use of different loads will not impact reliability. My 686P holds seven .38/.357 magnums. It can be loaded with .38 special for home defense or reloaded for more serious business with 158 grain .357 know your target , load and how your weapon preforms.
    The reason the .357 was king for so long is the state troopers wanted a package which would fair well against barriers like car doors etc.
    When need be I pack the 3 inch 686P in a strong side pancake at 4 o’clock position. Left front pocket has a 640 Smith and Wesson .38 both conceal easily if you dress right.
    I still have the plastic ugly guns but they have lost their appeal. Being relegated to being a tool only. I also have my 1911′s which are great guns.
    So shoot and carry what you will but practice and and have the right mind set.
    Above all think and be aware of your surroundings. Remember this tool is for defense of a life. Don’t go Wild bill like some Florida Fool. THINK PLEASE.

  21. avatarpeter says:

    I know someone who, not too long ago, said that since the average DGU was no more than one shot at about 10 feet, the only guns available should be single-shot, snub-nose pistols chambered in .22 short that were only accurate to 10 feet.

    The thing about “average,” as pointed out here, is that for every one they acknowledged at bad-breath distance, there was another one at 20 feet.

    This is not to mention, can a .22 short even penetrate a few layers of thick winter clothing?

  22. avatarDelos says:

    Interesting to learn of the “hoops” through which citizens of other states are required to jump to obtain a ccw permit. In PA, where I live, I was required to pay a fee, just $20, and left the sheriff’s office with my permit 30 minutes later! Prior to getting my permit, I was involved in an auto accident on the way to the range. Trooper spotted my range bag inside the car and asked if I had a gun. “Yes sir, it is in the trunk” I answered. Case closed! Apparently here in PA authorities are very tolerant of second ammendment “practioners” : )

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