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.
Brad, while I agree with most of your points, regarding #1, consider that some people (like me) have employers who specifically prohibit firearms on-premise. Furthermore, some people have jobs that require them to go into areas where guns are verboten (post offices, courthouses, schools, etc.) and where the presence of a weapon can have all sorts of nasty repercussions, the least of which is the loss of ones job. All well and good to say "get the law changed" or "better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6" but most of us don't think that way. I sure as hell don't – I have a good job and I'm not going to jeopardize it by packing heat.
I in Martin's shoes as well. Company forbids it…even in a car in the parking lot. So, I'm boy scout…on the weekends.
pt 10. Whenever I take someone shooting that has never been, at some point the session I have them take their hearing protection off and walk about 100m away to get the feeling. If you have only ever seen them on tv you have no idea how loud it is.
pt 1. Where do you guys live? It is only roulette if the odds that you will be attacked are equal at all the locations that you do or do not carry. My county is incredible safe, sometimes I carry to the store for the heck of it, but rarely.
Actually, I agree with that, too. Most places I go are pretty safe. Street crime around here is genrally confined to a few well known (and easily avoided) areas. Property crimes are a different matter (as I learned last week) but in that situation, a gun would have made things worse, because it would have just been something else for the thief to steal.
My ex worked at a FastSigns in a very safe, upmarket neighborhood in Amarillo, Texas. The kind of neighborhood where strip centers feature clothing stores frequented by those that look at six-figure salaries as "poor relations." There was a Starbucks a couple of slots down from the FastSigns. Near lunchtime, she went in for an off-site meeting with a client. The place was robbed by two morons with handguns.
My point? Every place that is ostensibly "safe," can become a crime scene in the twinkling of an eye (or the brandishing of a Glock). You just never know when a piece might come in handy.
Say "baaa". The places you *think* are safe are the ones that are the most dangerous. This is due to several factors, some of which are:
(1) the bad guys know where those "safe areas" are. churches. schools. quiet little towns. They don't always take the trouble to go there, but when they do – they go prepared to do their worse.
(2) they give a false sense of security which causes the sheep to relax their guard.
Carrying a firearm (for the vast majority of us) is very much like carrying a CPR card. YOU are not the one that gets to determine when and where you need to use it. And when you need it – nothing else will do.
Also, "safe" neighborhoods tend to be affluent, making better targets for robberies.
My employer forbids carrying firearms and even specifies that they can't be brought on-site. Luckily, AZ just changed the laws last year that stated that no employer can ban employees from bringing firearms and leaving them locked in their car. For Pt#4 – try a CrossBreed… I buy one for almost every gun I have, and for most of my guns it is the only holster I have. I only OWB carry a select few pistols (my XDM and 1911).
Actually, I carry a CrossBreed 1911 holster. Sadly, no holster-maker has come up with a solution for my "love handles," which make getting to my pistol somewhat problematic. (Working on it from the 'losing weight' perspective.) As a side note, I've observed that the guys that love IWB carry are usually sporting no love handles, beer guts or muffin tops. Those that do typically opt for outside the waistband. Sigh…
Patrick is right I IWB carry with a crossbreed a full size steel 1911 and have not had any trouble I also tuck. Eventually I will get a lighter gun but until then I have it if I need it. The author also forgot to mention the need for a back up mag with your carry setup. But then again I am an Eagle Scout.
I am going to disagree with pt. 10. My shooting partner had a home invasion at 12:30 A.M. on 10/25/10. 3 individuals busted in yelling "Phoenix Police, Phoenix Police". When he responded with "Show me your ID" they started shooting in his direction, and he of course returned fire with his 870. The shootout only lasted a couple of seconds, as soon as he started to return fire they left ASAP. He then grabbed his Sig 220 and cell phone and proceeded to call the REAL Phoenix Police. Seven officers showed up and cleared the house. The first question they asked him was how his hearing was, and it was perfect. No ringing. Now I've heard that the sudden adrenilen rush will "muffle" your hearing and cause tunnel vision. He said he heard all the shots fired but it sounded like they were 100yds off. By the way two of the perps were carrying handguns and the third was carrying an AK-47. The police found 11 casings inside the house and another 14 outside the house. In all he has 68 holes in the house, and has to replace his freezer that is in the garage.
I've only been involved in one self-defense shooting.. and although I expected ringing, and little deafness.. when the shooting was over.. even though it was the middle of the night..my hearing was beyond unphased.. crickets were too loud, everything seemed amplified for a few minutes after.. was very disturbing
Brad said "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. "
I'm with you on practicing with a training gun B U T lets not go to quietly past those ranges who assume anyone drawing is unsafe. I'm happy to live in an area of Western Washington where indoor ranges commonly allow firing from holster AFTER you've had a "check ride" with staff. Drawing from a hip holster need not be fast or dangerous, doing it correctly is an amazingly simple process and you can tell if someones gets that fairly quickly IMHO. Even if I didn't want to practice this "live" I'd be inclined to avoid ranges that single out practice of this important skill as unacceptable.
May I have permission to republish this article?
I'd prefer if you published a condensed version and linked back to us. Give 'em some reason to jump. Contact me at [email protected] if we need to talk it through.
Great article Brad. Obtaining a CHL is an important step that comes with a lot of responsibility, but also with a lot of other considerations. What gun? What holster? Where should I keep it? Do I take it with me? Trial and error can find the answers to some of these questions, but training and practice in a safe environment can answer the rest. At Shoot Smart, we intend to offer instruction that helps gun owners find the right answers. And in our private lane, our customers will be able to practice a draw, which like Brad describes, is an important step in effectively and safely using a concealed firearm. ShootSmartTX.com
California is "May issue". In most counties it is impossible for average citizens to get conceal permits. I took a chance and packed, got patted down and busted. Now I can't pack because of Californias constitution infringement
I agree on all counts except one: "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."
Ok, not a TV show, but the movie "Snatch" has a scene where a gun is accidentally discharged in a vehicle and everyone is mostly deaf for quite some time.
There’s an episode in season 1 of “The Walking Dead” where Rick shoots his Colt Anaconda inside a tank and gets completely thrown for a loop. Disoriented with ears ringing.
And there’s the running joke about tinnitus in Archer.
Wow this was actually VERY helpful. I too was thinking about getting a CHL and was thinking about some possible downsides of having one. Thank you very much for the help.
Btw, the 1911 is amazing 🙂
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I’ve shot deer with .222 and 30-30’s from inside a 20’x30′ shop and from a bedroom window with a .270 and didnt have the least bit of ringing in my ears. While I do put my ears in at the range, I dont always wear them while hunting. As far as “safe areas” go, there are none. I worked as a corrections officer and I had people tell me how they drove to the “good” side of San Antonio and targeted elderly white women coming out of expensive stores and reataurants.
really lame article. why ar you so obsessed about what others think of your appearence? i thought we as a society, could get past the whole “im a man so i cant carry any sort of container on my person other than a backpack because im petrified of being the first person in society to stop conforming to meaninless, retarded social norms” follower sheep with no spine to be an individual and do what you know is right. people carry around alot of crap now-a-days and i feel the need for 2 shoulder bags, not just one. one for all my medical emergency supplies and the other for my cash, pistol, ammo, cards. gps. pen, paper, phone, and whatever other crap im carrying at the moment. all of these things need quick access and cant be put in a backpack. FLAME DELETED