As a trainer, I believe that everyone with the ability should should carry a concealed handgun. That said, I understand the that guns aren’t for everyone. As the meme says, “Don’t like guns? Don’t buy one.” Fair enough. 

If you do choose to carry, you should do it in the most effective way possible. As a professional self-defense and firearms instructor I’m often asked about the “right” way to carry a concealed handgun. Though there are, in fact, many ways to do that, it boils down to three principles: the gun, the training and developing the right habits.

1) The gun

The gun is the most important consideration. It should be, first and foremost, extremely dependable. You are, after all, depending on it to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Choose a firearm that’s been on the market for some time; a firearm that’s been put through its paces with a proven track record (my personal preference is the GLOCK 19). You should be familiar and comfortable with your firearm. You should be able to shoot it accurately under stress.

Striker-fired pistols are a great choice for defensive carry as they require little manipulation to shoot; simply aim and pull the trigger. Another consideration to take into account is magazine capacity and concealability. Will your pistol hold enough rounds to take down your attacker(s)?

Although single stack guns are great for concealment, I consider them “feel-good” guns; carrying a gun so you can say that you carry. [ED: ducks] Whatever handgun you choose, strike a balance between capacity and concealability that works for you.

2) Training

It doesn’t matter if you have the best gun in the world, if you can’t effectively deploy it in a real life, high stress situation, it’s worthless to you.

Find a qualified, experienced instructor in your area and start training. Learn the key fundamentals; drawing your weapon and shooting on the move, reloading under stress and, most importantly, shooting accurately under adverse situations.

I’ve seen way too many people who “have been shooting their whole life” miss targets at bad breath distances and fumble magazines when presented with real life scenarios under induced stress.

Train regularly to maintain your skills. Owning a firearm doesn’t make you safe. Learning to use it does.

3) Develop a habit of always carrying your gun

Of course, follow local/state/federal laws. But always remember that a firearm is useless to you if it’s sitting in your safe. As Murphy’s Law dictates, you won’t have it when you most need it. So carry it. Always.

Carrying is never going to be convenient all the time, but the more you carry, the less it will feel awkward and the more comfortable you’ll be.

Tying this back to points one and two, if you choose the right size gun to begin with and train with it, you’ll be comfortable carrying everywhere and you’ll have it should you need it. Which I hope you never do.

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44 Responses to Three Tips for Effective Concealed Carry

  1. “Although single stack guns are great for concealment, I consider them “feel-good” guns; carrying a gun so you can say that you carry.”

    How many times has the author, in a conceal-carry scenario, been called upon to not only fire his weapon but fire more than 8 rounds? It’s not that I don’t like higher capacity- I tend to carry a double-stack .45 on most occasions unless concealment calls for something smaller- but the sentence above is just silly and trolling for an argument from the 1911 and revolver folks.

    Your normal person carrying a concealed weapon is not going to find themselves in a situation where they exhaust 8 rounds. At that point the engagement should be over, even if it’s because you are running cause you can’t shoot straight. There are exceptions… like in areas of civil unrest where mob violence is a threat. But that’s pretty rare. I guess the other example is the mythical 10 ninjas surrounding you but attacking you one by one so you can shoot them each in turn.

    • As a trainer, the author deals in hypothetical situations to train students. That, in turn, leads to hypotheticals about ammunition capacity being sufficient.

      However, I would ask the question, “How many rounds are fired by a person defending themselves in a non-police shooting?” What’s the empirical evidence show?

      I only know one person that’s had to draw and fire his carry gun in self defense. Two assailants, 1 shot fired with 1 running across the parking lot at a high rate of speed and the other shot in the leg and fleeing as fast as he could.

      Is that a typical self-defense scenario? Other than shots fired, probably. Had they returned fire instead of running you would obviously need more than a derringer, but I doubt you would have emptied a Glock 19.

      That said, “Guns are supposed to be comforting…” If you find a 15+1 and 2 spare mags comforting, so be it, but don’t say someone carrying a J frame or a single stack Is fooling themselves. After all, most of us are picking something up at the store after dark, not raiding a stash house.

    • For a normal CCW holder the odds of getting struck by lightning are about 300 times higher than needing more than 5 or 6 rou nds. Probably more likely to be struck by a meteorite too.

    • You can’t assume you are only dealing with on person due to prohibition economy gangs.. “packing” team attacks are something to worry about.
      I carry a .45 1911, a .35 snub-nosed, or a .45LC/.410 full size Tarus Judge.
      I carry a spare magazine for the 1911.
      I carry three speedloaders on a snack pack baggie for the .357 revolver.
      The Judge I only have a single .410 speed-loader, since it’s load is for “close” (width) groups anyway.

  2. This guy may not like single stacks, but my Shield and a spare mag give me one more than my G19 and double stack mags are a pain to carry as a spare. When I carry a single stack, I always carry a spare mag, with a double stack, not so much.

  3. I kind of have to wonder about #2.

    If a 80+ year old lady can wake up out of a dead sleep, realize someone’s in the house who shouldn’t be, pull out her dead husband’s revolver that’s been in a box for 20 years and proceed to inflict lethal damage on a bad guy or two at 30 feet across her living room… well how much serious training does one really need?

    Not disparaging the author here, but we see a lot of stories about untrained people using a gun they haven’t shot in years (if ever) and prevailing. That doesn’t mean training isn’t useful, but to me it raises the question of priorities.

    • All I’m saying is that you should definitely spend money on a will first. You’re definitely going to die. You might get into a gun fight.

      (My point is we always see the importance of what we do every day and see the cost of not doing it).

      My question is how much does a sufficient amount of training from a “qualified, experienced instructor in your area” cost? Also, if I have to get a hotel room, it’s not in my area. That money might be better spent living in a better area.

      • I appreciate the author’s opinion, as it is not presented in a condescending way, ala Mr. Gonzales. This author just doesn’t trigger my Authority problem. I may not agree with all of it but we all have our way of defending ourselves that we are comfortable with.

      • Do you do wills there TX? Trying to plug your business a bit? LOL.

        Like I said, I’m not trying to disparage the author. I simply see a couple trends in the gun industry that I question. That doesn’t mean the trends have no value or anything, simply that I ask a few questions about them.

        “Training” is one of those things. What kind of training and (as you point out) at what cost? In recent years there seems to be a trend in trying to sell Joe Sixpack “tactical” training. Some of it’s good, some of it’s garbage but my question is “Even if it’s quality “tactical” training what’s the real value of this?”. Like I said, if granny can pull out a .38 Special that she hasn’t even laid an eye on in 20 years and blast Mr. BG into the next life does granny need some high-speed, low-drag training? I would argue that she does not. Further, the notion that a person is gonna be turned into a pipe-hitting doorkicker with a few weeks of on and off training is laughable (didn’t we just make fun of Antifa over this a couple weeks ago?).

        Again, not to shit-talk training or question the value of it’s existence but many of the courses you see offered these days are expensive and time consuming to the tune of thousands of dollars (sometimes $10K/person for two days just as the fee). My question is what you’re getting for that money that you couldn’t get by spending the money on ammo and finding a place that will let you do some basic drills? It’s a cost/benifit analysis in my eye. Sure I could spend thousands having someone teach me to handle an Krink-AK like a Spetsnaz operator but when the hell am I going to use that training? (Full disclosure, I won’t because I’ve never found an AK that really fits me.)

        The offshoot of this line of thought is: what ammo are we handing the antis? Don’t they want, like, mandatory training because guns are so dangerous? (Previous sentence said in a Valley Girl accent.) Well, aren’t we kinda handing them that when we beat the drum about train, train, train?

        Some people act like you could never prevail in a DGU without James “It’s a fucking SILENCER!” Yeager training. We know that’s not true because people without that training prevail all the time. So when WE act like you need that training isn’t that just ceding “training requirements” to the antis by effectively saying “Yeah, guns are dangerous and you need this high-end training to know how to properly use a gun”?

        I don’t pretend to know how to answer the questions but when I see a course for $1000+/person/weekend in some cases I kinda wonder what you’re actually getting in terms of real world utility. My gut reaction based on life experience is that you’re getting a lot of flash and not a lot of usefulness. I could be wrong but I ain’t gonna pay to find out.

        • If I was trying to plug my business, I’d have a link to my website and use my real name. I’d rather be able to just give my opinion on legal issues freely without having to deal with people thinking I was their lawyer because I said something on the internet. Even as is, I still hedge.

          I do wills and such. A client came to my office mate the other day. The family came in after mom died. There is a good chance that the family is going to lose mom’s house because they didn’t come in before mom died and spend $500.00 or less. Most people (in Texas) are only going to lose a thousand dollars or so because they don’t do any estate planning, but they’re dead when they lose it, so who cares?

          If you have stuff, like a house and a car, and you care about your family one way or another, do some estate planning. Unless there are some major changes to the law or your life (divorce, almost everyone you love dies before you, etc.), a well drafted will should last you a lifetime.

          Like I said, everyone sees the importance of what they do. I see what happens to people when they rely on forms with no understanding of the law. If anything goes wrong, it often goes very wrong.

          As to the cost/availability of training, the problem is that there isn’t a big enough market. I can go and get one on one music lessons for less than $60 an hour. Classes (not one on one) for all sorts of stuff kids do is even cheaper. Most of us would probably benefit more from one on one $30 half hour once a week for 30 weeks training more than a weekend course that cost $900 training.

          I don’t need elite training. I don’t need a navy seal to teach me how to shoot a couple of crack heads. Maybe after I master the shooting a couple of crack head skill set, I’d benefit from some serious training. Most people don’t get a top of field brain surgeon like Ben Carson to teach them CPR.

          And shouldn’t we get training from personal protection service types? If I want to go out and kill someone, I’m looking to the navy seal for help. If I’m looking for personal protection, I’m looking to a Secret Service type for help.

          Anyway, none of those options are readily available in most places.

  4. Not that I carry my 45ACP 1911 all that often as my concealed carry, but when I do, I carry an extra 8 round mag. I use American Gunner 45ACP 185 gr. +P XTP HP’s in my 1911. I can’t imagine a self defense scenario in my normal day-to-day life that my initial 9 rounds wouldn’t be sufficient. If for some reason it wasn’t, I have my spare mag with 8 additional rounds.

    • dear gods. I can’t not read that in “compensated actor” voice from late night infomercials

  5. I see both sides of the coin. For example, I wouldn’t carry my CZ on a regular basis if that’s all I had. MAYBE once or twice a week. Probably not even that much. I do carry my .380 all day everyday. Period. Everywhere. And in the last 20 years there hasn’t been a scenario where I would have fired a single shot in self defense IF I had been carrying a gun. (I’ve only carried the last 4) Although there have been many times I was glad it was in my pocket.

    On the flip side, if I do ANY kind of “training” when at the range (basically anything besides standing at a line and shooting) I run outta ammo FAST! I will probably not have enough ammo if I ever find myself in a REAL gunfight.
    Oh well. Life is full of risk. 🙂

  6. I find it a little self serving that trainer types seem to say to a fault “spend money on training”… When training only gives technique… Where as practice builds skill…

    Is it better to buy and shoot a lot of FMJ’s with a little training or Blow the wad on the egocentric trainer guy and have just enough for a box of the same recommended JHP’s?

  7. Well if a single stack 9 mm is a ‘feel good g un’ then a revolver’s like a holstered orgasm.

  8. I always carry at least ten boxes of pistol ammo whenever I go out with my guns. At home, I always have access to 20,000 rounds. Because the author might be right — a single stack pistol might be inadequate when you have to fight off a battalion of irregulars on your way to your local Piggly Wiggly.

    Hey, bartender — I’ll have what he’s having.

    • Pretty much this: I routinely carry 56 rounds across 4 magazines and 2 pistols…and I will freely admit I’m over armed for my location, lifestyle and circumstances. Part of that is leftovers from a former life, part of it is personality, part is a lifestyle thing and just enjoying it.
      There is nothing wrong with what I carry, or what anyone else does. Does the training, load out and philosophy of use/tactics behind the tool choices make for differing capabilities? Of course it does, don’t be stupid…but likewise going to med school and schlepping a corpmans bag will give you a much greater ability at rendering medical aid, does that mean we all need to, or even should?

      I used to train, really train, a lot, now I don’t even practice enough to maintain the skills I once had, but my missing them is more nostalgia and paranoia that a practical loss for me now. If you never train, carry a j frame you can’t hit anything with and try gunfighting a guy like me are you apt to win? Probably not. Are you apt to encounter someone attackting you who has trained like I have and who packs all the crap I do? That depends on you and where and what you’re up to, but then you know your life and likely risks, and there just aren’t any muggers or car jackets out there with this level of training and gear.

      Can you lose for lack of gun, gear, training and planning? Of course. But having a gun already covers the vast majority of likely scenarios in an genre of senarios that start at black swan unlikely and rapidly proceed to preparing for unicorn attack.

      Having a gun is the big deal, having a plan for using YOUR gun effectively and the skills necessary to execute that plan is also a big deal. Put those two together and you are so far ahead of the curve that any more gear or training rapidly succumbs to the law of diminishing returns in major ways.

      Before I succumb to rambling, I’ll sum up my statements thusly: A gun, basics skills and a general, flexible plan of action covers 99%+. Having more gun, ammo, gear, training and a more robust plan will make you more effective, perhaps far more effective…but you don’t need a race car and professional driving school to go to the grocery store, and most aren’t apt to need a gun, let alone more gun, gear and training in their daily lives. We do all this to mitigate threats, because we cannot eliminate them. Unless you just enjoy it, there is no need for guns and gear and training to consume much of your time, money and comfort just to reach the point where you can deal with anything even close to the ‘average’ DGU.

  9. Even a double stack 9mm is a poor weapon to take to a war. The idea that the average person in the average environment needs loads of ammo to be safe from all the multiple attackers coming at him is getting a little stale. In fact, I can’t say as I’d feel “safe” going to war solo with ANY weapon. CC is not war. In most cases, just showing a weapon would ward off an attack. It’s been pretty established that criminals look for easy targets and when confronted with deadly force, scatter. If you are up against highly motivated and heavily armed opponents, you are at a serious disadvantage with ANY weapon if you are by yourself. Frankly, I feel a lot safer with my hand on a j-frame hammerless revolver in my coat pocket in a parking lot than having a pistol I’d have to clear from concealment before I could defend myself at short range. At contact ranges, revolvers have a lot of advantages. And as always, the gun you carry keeps you safer than the gun you leave behind because it doesn’t fit your circumstances.

  10. Those of us in”certain” states, if we are allowed to carry at all, are subject to magazine limits. In California it is 10+1, I think Mass is also, in NY 7 total. So why not carry a revolver or a single stack? They are after all that much easier to conceal.

  11. Circumstances prohibit some of us from carrying too large a firearm. I carry an LC9 and an extra mag, without it being detected. Anything larger could cause me problems at several places and limit some activities. I would prefer to carry my SW Md 19, but it is consigned to live in the center console.

  12. Take it from someone who has had 8 wannabe gang bangers jump out of a car, and beat me to the point of death. Carrier a double stack mags! It may save your life. Or at least save you a visit to the ER?

  13. I get the double stack G19 love from the trainer. I just find his attitude unrealistic. Almost no one is going to carry a full sized pistol concealed. I pocket carry a Kahr CW380 or a CM9 along with a spare 7 rd mag in a DeSantis pocket magazine carrier, so I’ve got 14 rounds on me. As others have noted, the odds of a typical CCer being in a shootout are already vanishingly small and at least I have a gun.

    The S&W Shield (over 1 million sold by 12/15), G43 (lots and lots sold) and even smaller Ruger LCP (again well over a million sold) are so popular for a reason.

    If someone asked me today to recommend a CC gun I would recommend either a LCP 2 or CM9 for pocket carry or a Shield, G43, XD-S or PPS M2 for holster carry.

    If you expect people who are not in a high risk environment to carry a full sized duty gun, you are not as smart as you think you are.

  14. To paraphrase Jack Reacher:
    It’s never a 8 on 1 gang fight. After I shoot the first six, the last two always run away.

  15. Killtron2000,
    I like your carry suggestions
    But no love for the Sig938?
    Or Kimbers micro 9?
    The analysis of 5 years of “Armed Citizen” articles in “American Rifleman” published by guns save lives.net was fascinating
    The great majority of self defense shootings were at close range
    Just out of arms reach
    People had time to Retrieve guns from other rooms or even their car
    While lots of people shot until out of ammo, the average was 2 shots fired
    Revolver users were more likely to shoot until empty
    Only 3 incidents out of a total of 482 required reloading
    And one of those was shooting an escaped Lion with a .32 revolver which took 13 shots!

    • I’m not a fan of the .380 micro 1911, because the only reason to have a gun this small is to pocket carry. I’m not convinced it’s a good thing to have a pocket gun with a short single action trigger.

      Moving up to the Sig 938 and the Kimber Micro 9, they both look like nice guns, I’ve just never shot one. I think that they are probably a good choice if they are going to be carried either IWB/OWB in a quality holster. I think they are best used by someone already experienced with firearms. I’m just not sure I’d recommend a 1911 pattern gun for a brand new shooter to CC.

  16. The comments here are a better informed article than the article was!

    Completely agree.

    ANYTHING that makes the bad guy die or leave or fear for their lives is better than nothing.

    Special Forces type training seems nearly useless for every day self defense, as it provides little to no correlation to actual events, especially since nobody knows what or where the event will occur or be.
    Practice with your carry piece will go much further for a lot less buck, unless ISIS is attacking your office building….

    Always carry, Always ready.

    I feel the level of necessity and what is being sold as necessity today varies quite a bit.

    This is also pushing a lot of new people away from self defense.

    They keep getting told they need to have a $1500 firearm, it has to have 15+ rounds and they must carry 3 extra mags, mags need cycled out once a month for new ones to reduce fatigue and use, you must practice at least weekly by firing 500 rounds through your carry gun of the same super expensive self defense ammo you carry as well as take tactical classes at least once a month that cost $1000 for a weekend event.

    I’m not saying classes are bad, not saying you shouldn’t buy a quality carry firearm or shouldn’t practice, its just being “sold” greater and greater every year, and every year we keep telling people how we need to push for our rights, meanwhile these “elite” instructors are trying to make their retirement from a few years of range practice.

    • Once someone is able to safely manipulate a handgun and draw from the holster, IDPA matches are the most cost effective training you can obtain.

      The equipment barrier is very low. A quality handgun, a holster, and couple of magazines or speed loaders with pouches.

      You will have to draw from concealment, engage multiple targets in the correct order, shoot and move at the same time, reload, use cover and maintain muzzle awareness at all times.

      As long as you treat a match as training and not a game to be won, you will learn a lot. Focus on accuracy over speed.

      Unlike some gun games like 3-Gun and IPSC you are not engaging in an arms race. I’ve competed in matches with a stock G19, a $20 nylon Uncle Mikes thumb break holster and a couple of Blackhawk magazine pouches I got at Walmart. I didn’t have any problem beating people shooting high end 1911’s or Sig P226 X5 competition guns that cost several thousand dollars.

      I went to a police academy in the early 1990’s and the firearm training was very basic. It took some who had never fired a gun to a basic level of competency. Many gun ranges offer similar training classes today. They are usually very reasonably priced at less than $200. If you have never fired a handgun or never been trained to use a holster it is not a bad idea to take a few classes. After that start looking for an IDPA match.

      • “Once someone is able to safely manipulate a handgun and draw from the holster, IDPA matches are the most cost effective training you can obtain.”
        Couldn’t agree more. I do wish they would disqualify, or at least take points off for reloading on the move, a huge mistake in the real world, and I wish they’ve force you to step back from the barrier.
        It’s that “safely draw from the holster” and fire, from any position, where people need to spend most of their time training. The vast majority of your training should be draw and dry fire.

        • I still don’t get the complexity of withdrawing a firearm from it’s holster.

          And why aren’t you arguing with the twenty commenters above who are saying the same thing I said months ago that causes you such jock itch: Point And Shoot. It isn’t that difficult.

  17. I carry both: a Glock 26 (9mm double stack with 10 round magazine capacity) and a Taurus TCP (9mm single stack with 6 round capacity). I like the extra concealability of the Taurus, despite its smaller capacity.

    I carry the Taurus is a right back pocket holster. I figure that gives me an easier access point if I’m being mugged, because they would expect me to produce a wallet from that pocket, anyway.

    I also figure that in a spree shooting scenario, I might be able to hand off that Taurus to someone else as we hunker down in our defensive position in a store or office or wherever. I don’t see a spree shooter braving return fire, even just a few extra rounds. So that single stack should be enough, even if that other person and I got separated.

    • Here in PA it is illegal to carry more than one firearm at a time except when hunting with a hunting license and CCW license as long as the firearm used for protection isn’t also an obvious hunting firearm.

      Basically, no backup guns.

  18. I think that just like the AR15 is referred to as legos for adults, going to some of the current ‘Operator’ training is like going to Legoland. It has more entertainment value and less real world application.

    I don’t really have a problem with this. In most cases participants do have fun and they do learn new skills. I do think you really have to take a hard look at what is being taught to see if it is worth your money and time.

    You also need to make sure that what is being taught is actually safe for you – the student. I have seen some really stupid stuff, some from ‘famous’ trainers on YouTube that is really unsafe. Unless it’s for pure entertainment value, it should also pass the common sense test (do I need this?)

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