The 4 Mistakes I Made as a Concealed Carrier – Content Contest

(This post is an entry in our spring content contest. The grand prize is a Beretta APX pistol. Entries are closed and we will announce the winner one we have run the best entries received.)

By Joe in San Antonio

To preface my following statements I acknowledge that I am not God’s gift to the concealed carry world. I am fairly accurate, decently fast on the draw and moderately trained. I would say my shooting skills are solidly middle of the pack of those who shoot/run drills monthly.

Disclaimer thus stated, the following are four mistakes that I made over nine years as a concealed carrier (I think that’s how we refer to ourselves). They say a smart man learns from his mistakes, the wise man learns from the mistakes of others. If that’s true I am an idiot but hopefully I can impart some wisdom to others.

1) Not taking formal training sooner. I grew up around guns, long guns mostly, so when I bought my first handgun and got my permit I figured I was good because I could hit a ten-inch target at 25 feet on a static range. I took the mandatory licensing class for my state. It didn’t require shooting. I paid the sheriff and embarked on my merry way, never grasping dynamic pistol shooting.

It wasn’t until I was deployed and cross training with some German soldiers (part of an unremarkable military career) that I encountered dynamic pistol use. The Army taught me the pistol was a last ditch, Hail Mary third option for defense. You had your vehicle platform, your rifle and then maybe a pistol if it was assigned to you.

It took another three years before I put money on a pistol course for civilian armament and it was great. It taught me so much, if I could go back to the beginning I would start with that class it would save me a lot of angst.

2) Practicing too much with tactical kit. Look, 3-gun competitions are cool. Molle gear rocks and 511 is in business for a reason. That being said when when I looked at the reason that I carried, I realized I had invested too much time and money in outfitting myself with sweet kit and running cool drills (not arguing that some have cross over value) and not enough in equipping myself to be proficient at daily carry.

Investing time in practicing with carry systems, and money into getting good systems would have benefitted me much more then burning rounds on static shooting trying to save up for the next gizmo to make me a better shot for the next zombie killing drill.

3) Carrying too big a caliber. “Only real men carry guns with magnum after the name.” Or for semis, “All real calibers start with a 4.” I made this mistake twice, hence the idiot remark above. The first time was with my first handgun, a beautiful two-inch stainless Ruger SP101 in .357. What a great gun. It looked amazing, felt great in the hand, the trigger was good, was a little hard to aim, but that was easily overcome with a little nail polish and familiarity.

The problem occurred when the .357 round ignited. The shock to my hand and lanky (at the time, chubby now) frame was enough to grit my teeth. But hey, real men shot magnums so I continued. Four more trigger pulls and four more curse words.

I figured to get used to the recoil. I just need to shoot it more. So I continued to put box after box of .357 down the barrel for the next two years. I did learn to shoot it better, but I also developed a wicked shot anticipation (read flinch) which I am still prone to do to this day. The second time I made this mistake was pushing a 9mm +p ammo on my darling wife that set back her carry mentality at least two yrs.

4) Carrying too small a pistol. Along with number three above, sometimes a gun is too small for the caliber it chambers. Sometimes it’s too small for the shooter and sometimes it’s just too small. My mistake was an option 1/2/3 from the above choices.

My second handgun was the much maligned, diminutive Kel-Tec PF9. I never really had an issue with the pistol‘s QC (it always went bang for me). I had a huge issue, though, with its ergonomics. Bought because I could conceal it anywhere, it chambered a common round and was cheap. So I overlooked things that should have given me pause.

Born with the Devil’s hand, I noticed upon shooting the gun that I would occasionally engage the mag release. I also noticed that 9mm ammo fired from the light gun drove the hard, squared checkering into my hand. Coupled with the high bore axis, which produced horrid muzzle flip, follow-up shots took just over an eternity.

In truth all the major self defense handgun calibers are only a few percentages away from each other in first round stopping power. So in the case of a defensive gun use, whoever gets the fastest follow-up shot usually wins. If I would have taken that perspective I would have picked something that handled recoil better and that I could bring back on target faster.

So there you have it, my four biggest mistakes. I hope this can open a discussion so that more lessons learned can be shared to keep others from making the same mistakes I have.


  1. avatar former water walker says:

    Good entry. I can attest to the PF9 sucking. Even with a Handall Jr. it was awful. Made my hand bleed. I wasn’t accurate with it either.

    1. avatar Jump Steady says:

      While I never bled or experienced slide bite with my PF9, sucky was my experience with Kel-Tec as well. To small & light to maintain any modicum of follow up accuracy. It was my first and last Kel-Tec purchase.

    2. avatar California Richard says:

      You guys are missing the point of that gun…. its concealable and fits in to the category of “is a gun”. It does those two things very well for people who place high stake in those two particular categories….. that being said i hate small guns, would never buy/carry one, and i will stick with my glock 35 (a gun whose caliber starts with a “4”) as a CCW, thank you very much.

      1. avatar Ryan says:

        Good lord, do you carry concealed or open carry? If you concealed what do you use to hide that big boy?

      2. avatar Hugo says:

        I live in a state with a very warm climate and no open carry law. Full size pistols are not an option sometimes. I settled on a Springfield xds .45 and am very satisfied with my choice.

  2. avatar VillarPerosa says:

    nice write up.

  3. avatar General Zod says:

    The only problem I have with my PF9 is the harsh recoil – but the gun weighs nothing so I knew that going in. I was surprised at its accuracy and am pleased with its reliability. And yeah, you can hide the thing anywhere.

    1. avatar rick3 says:

      Yep, same for me. I did find that when I was able to practice with it on a weekly basis for about 3 months, I noticed the harsh recoil less and less. Then fast forward almost a year, with barely time/place to practice every other month, and now I almost cringe every time i fire it. But all that being said, I love it’s concealability!

    2. avatar Snatchums says:

      Yeah, PF9 was the most uncomfortable handgun I’ve ever fired, and I’m a huge fan of colossal Rock-em-sock-em magnum revolvers. My dad’s .460 XVR snubbie is more forgiving to shoot.

    3. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      More of the same. I’ve got smaller 9s that are just fine to shoot. That PF9 is just wrong. It is almost like they hit the perfect formula for ‘how bad can we make this feel under recoil’.

      Everyone of my range friends that have shot it ask ‘That is a 9mm?’ after shooting it the first time. Directly compared to another friend’s little XDS .45 the PF9 is much more unfriendly.

      I will, however, give kudo to the very light and easy DA only trigger (though points take for a stupid amount of over-travel). The over-travel is fixable with trigger stop, however.

  4. avatar Mr.Savage says:

    good read, I still carry my xd-mod2 in 45acp, not because it makes my dick bigger or makes me more of a man, but because I’m very comfortable with the size of the pistol with the short 9rd mag, and the recoil seems to push instead of snap for me, follow-up shots are usually effortless and efficient, I’ve always liked firing the 45acp round, and happened to find a better pistol to run it.

    1. avatar MLee says:

      The guy across the street from me, a newbie into firearms, just bought himself an XD Mod2 in 9mm. He LOVES it.
      He just went to the range and put a hundred round through it. Of course I ended up cleaning it. He was like, “do I need to clean it? Uh, yeah! I guess a new gun purchase doesn’t include the concept of buying a cleaning kit.
      Personally, it’s an nice weapon except that it’s a striker. A PX4 compact “G” in 9 is in my sights someday when I get ready to pull the trigger.

      1. avatar Patrick says:

        I am a PX4 owner, test the trigger in single action, I don’t like the lack of feel as I pickup the slack. Will be upgrading to HKP30 to replace the PX4

  5. avatar Anner says:

    Good article. I second the last point: I’d rather be highly proficient with a 380 than marginal with a 10mm…though I’d ideally be highly proficient with both.

  6. avatar cmac890 says:

    “…the following are four mistakes that I made over nine years as a concealed carrier (I think that’s how we refer to ourselves)”

    I’ve always referred to myself as an @$$hole. Nobody’s corrected me yet.

    1. avatar JPD says:

      That’s good. As we all agree with you 100%!!

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    I have a P3AT precisely because the 9mm and .40 cal versions were too much to control. The .380 is best suited for it. THe P32 is very easy to shoot but far weaker than the .380.

  8. avatar Shire-man says:

    I thought I made mistake 3 with my first handgun purchase but years later I realize I chose a good caliber.
    Having thought I made a mistake with my first handgun (service size XD in .45) I picked up a PF9.
    Felt better carrying the PF9 but didn’t shoot it nearly as well as the .45 (I like the slow smoosh of the .45 over the hot snap of the 9). Been carrying an XDS .45 IWB daily for about two years now. Comfortable to carry and I shoot it very well. I occasionally shoot IDPA with it.

    I do 1 as often as possible. Several times a year. I plan and budget for it. Number 2 is difficult at times. Most structured courses don’t want people using IWB holsters or can’t realistically accommodate tucking in shirts after every drill so you can practice a drill from a tucked IWB start. More often than not you have to take the time to practice that sort of thing on your own.

  9. avatar Timothy says:

    I’m currently struggling with finding the right conceal carry for me. The Goldilocks if you will. Been through 4 different guns, the latest being a Star Ultrastar someone on this site recommended me. The Ultrastar is probably my favorites out of the, dare I say, CC rejects. But my first shot is always about 5″ lower than the rest of my group at 7 yards. Even in SA, even after a bunch of dry fire where I’m 100% confident that the gun stays steady. And not just me, I’ve let 3 other people try the gun and they all had the same issue. Otherwise, it’d be my choice because it fits the size, weight, and reliability really well.

    After every smaller gun doesn’t make the cut for shootability, I go back to my CZ-75. Low recoil, high magazine capacity, tight groups, unfailing reliability. The only problem is I have to dress for my Czech. Named her Olga. She may not sound pretty, but every Olga I’ve ever met could whoop my ass and probably yours too =)

    1. avatar VTaero says:

      5″ seems like a bit much, but the problem could be that he barrel is getting a different alignment as it goes into battery from a more gentle slide release than the more violent cycling of the action.

      1. avatar Timothy says:

        I have not sold the gun. Is that something a gunsmith could fix?

        1. avatar Mark says:

          Maybe try using the slide release lever instead of a slingshot to load. Kahrs have to be loaded that way, and the slide slams shut with authority, if the suggestion made is accurate. Or maybe try a rest to see if you are unconsciously pulling the trigger.

      2. avatar Aaron says:

        First time I’ve ever heard someone besides my girlfriend say 5 inches is too much.

  10. avatar Craig says:

    You DO realize that you can shoot 38 spl in that .357, right?

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      Sorry I’m late – busy day at work…
      As you regulars here know, the SP is my EDC too. Steady diet of Specials and +Ps – no issues!

  11. avatar Pablo says:

    I ditched my pf-9 for the exact same experience. I just picked up a performance center shield 9mm and caught a bunch of flack from my friends for “wasting money” on a ported 9mm but compared to the kel-tec or my p-64 (probably not much longer in my world either),it’s an absolute dream to shoot and way fast to re acquire my target. After only 500 rounds in 2 sessions 300/200 I’m sold on the gun and now that I consider it broken in, look forward to working in some dynamic training, although the best I’m able to do at my local indoor range is alternating on static paper 2 targets on the same hanger.

  12. avatar Michael Acuna says:

    Caring about printing
    Caring about printing
    Caring about printing
    Caring about printing

    That’s my top four. I use to worry so much about if someone could tell if i was carrying. Constantly changing clothes in an attempt to better conceal my firearm but than it dawned on me; the only person who would notice would be another concealed carrier. The average Joe citizen is oblivious to everything that’s not their Starbucks or cell phone and any “bad guy” fares no better in the perception department. So go ahead and print like your name is Gutenberg no one is going to notice

    1. avatar Shire-man says:

      This ^
      I bellyached over printing for such a long time. Granted I was in CT when I first started carrying but still.
      Carrying is just like any other thing you do: nobody notices and nobody cares.

      1. avatar MLee says:

        Very few people ever notice printing. I Carry IWB appendix and even partially obscured, with just an open jacket, virtually nobody ever notices. The only place where people may notice printing is at a gun store or range where people a looking for it. People just aren’t that observant. People trained in any particular field will have heightened observation skills in that particular field.

    2. avatar miforest says:

      +++++ I now print like the wall street journal , and nobody ever seems to notice.

    3. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

      The only reason to care is if open carry is not legal in your location. Not only will few, if any an one, will notice why would you care if are in an open carry locale.

  13. avatar Buzz Word says:

    Get a Glock 19 or equivalent Smith M&P, Walther or CZ.. that’s a 9mm Luger in a gun you can fight with. It’s better to go big than go small: I had a Ruger LCP (.380 Auto) which kicked way worse than my GP100 6″ .357 Magnum revolver with Hogue grips. The LCP weighed 10 ounces unloaded, the GP100 weighed about five times that. Tiny guns look cute in the stores but are way harder to shoot well. My EDC now is a .40 cal. Glock 23 which is indeed harder to control than the Glock 19.. my next EDC will be a Smith M&P 2.0 in 9mm Luger or similar in CZ or Walther. Another shooter handed me a Smith M&P on the range last summer.. it was amazing how easy it was to get consistent quick hits at 13 yards.

    1. avatar Timothy says:

      I love my CZ 75. I might love a PCR, 2075, or P01 just as much, but I have yet to take the plunge. Good guns =)

      1. avatar guidoc says:

        I was lucky. My first cc was a PO1. Pretty much my “Goldielocks”. That doesn’t mean I don’t carry other stuff but she is the benchmark. Commander size with 14 + 1 9mm.

        1. avatar Walter, NOT The Dude says:

          Cz P01
          The first time I picked it up at the LGS, I knew it was “The One”.
          (No disrespect to Nemo.)
          Every person that has run a mag thru it has turned, looked at me, and asked if it was for sale.
          The only problem I’ve had with it was spending more $$ to buy another CZ.
          (A beautiful 75 S/S High Polish that sings the song of the Siren…)

    2. avatar Mark says:

      I shot a .40 Glock once. I didn’t think the recoil was that much at all, not really different than my 9mms. but then one 9 is an XD 4″ and the other is a “bright” little 3.5″ Kahr, the latter of which has pretty significant felt recoil, at least initially. But then I’ve always liked small guns. Even my .45 ACP is a 4″.

      1. avatar RandallOfLegend says:

        My Kahr CM40 gave me instant regret on the first trigger pull. (15 ounches loaded 5+1 with 180 grain Federal American Eagle). A Hogue Handall Jr fixed that regret, but it’s still a handful. Carries wonderful. I’d consider getting it in 9mm to make it less jumpy.

  14. I actually shoot my PF-9 pretty well. Typically 12 inch groups at 50 feet, never a stoppage. Good enough for my purposes. I don’t shoot more than 50 rounds in a session though.

    When I carry it in a Sneaky Pete holster/box thingy, I forget that it’s there. Using a pocket holster, it sits pretty well in the thigh pockets of cheap cargo pants. Someday I need to get a good IWB holster for it.

    1. avatar General Zod says:

      I carry mine in an Alien Gear IWB and I can hardly feel it. It’s downright comfy. Pocket carry in a pair of relaxed – fit jeans in a DeSantis Nemesis also works really well – it looks like I have a smartphone or wallet in my pocket.

    2. avatar JDC says:

      Shot a lot of single stack 9’s. Finally settled on an Honor Guard 3.2″. It field strips much easier than most of the 9’s (no tools, no trigger pull and takes less than a minute either direction with some practice.) It feels great in the hand, and doesn’t beat you up. I haven’t shot any +P yet, but it is rated for that. I did run 200 rounds of everything from 80 to 147 grain through it last time at the range in both ball and HP. Much easier on the hands than the PF-9. Felt recoil was more like my wife’s Bersa Thunder .380. Could have run more through it, but was tinkering with the sights on two other guns.

      Several holsters made for it, but don’t know about the Sneaky Pete.

      If you can find someone who has it, or rent one, you’d probably give up the PF-9. Good rebate on them now as well. I may buy the 3.8″ additional barrel just to give it a try on the weapon.

  15. avatar GP says:

    I carry .38Special in my 101 and have no problems with recoil. I also shoot .357 from it and depending on whose ammo your using, the recoil is managable, more so than 38s out of my S&W 36.

  16. avatar Spencer Ivey says:

    The blast of the 357 is why I refuse to carry it. Love the round and what its capable of, and the capacity doesn’t bother me at all, but that blast and flash out of a short barrel bothers me for carry. For range use I love it though.
    I think a major factor for caliber carry is motivation. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with 9mm. But I’ve never found it challenging. Which may seem like a good thing. But for me I wasn’t motivated to shoot it like I am 45acp. I love to shoot it and that practice helps. It has nothing, or at least very little to do with impressing someone else. It’s all about it being what I want to shoot.

  17. avatar Vhyrus says:

    My little foray into gun reviews has made me realize that bore axis is all fake news. Between the three guns I tested, the P320, the PPQ, and the VP9, the P320 has the highest bore axis and the heaviest slide, and yet it had the least felt recoil and muzzle flip of the three. Bore axis is not the alpha and omega of recoil in handguns, and as far as I can tell it isn’t even a driving factor.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      When all other things are equal, bore axis matters. But all other things are hardly ever equal.

      1. avatar Mark says:

        …and mass is the great equalizer of recoil. The greater the mass, the lower the felt recoil. A 10 oz gun, except in .22, is gonna leave a mark. But a 40 oz .45, not so much.

  18. avatar Strength & Honor says:

    I’ll be that guy…

    357sig out of a P239.

    * gets popcorn *

  19. avatar Michael says:

    My biggest mistake was trying to find a small gun…once I got over that, happy with my Glock 21 and Smith model 66

    1. avatar SouthAl says:

      This. As a result of caring about printing as stated upstream. Took me a couple of years to realize that the M&P full size carried quit comfortably for me and the printing is not really an issue in my state.

    2. avatar Ryan says:

      How do you carry your 21? I have a gen 2 that I sometimes carry owb with a simple button down shirt and it works out pretty well.

  20. avatar fteter says:

    It’s funny…I can relate to all these mistakes and several more as well. But this post certainly puts formal training higher on my priority list.

  21. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

    Good entry.

    Point by point: Beyond a good defensive pistol course I don’t see a need for formal training. I think going to the range and practicing what you learned in that course is far more important

    Competitive shooting is not directly applicable to sell defense. It probably instills more bad habits than good.

    A caliber is “too big” if you can’t handle it the platform you are using. And yes concealably revolvers are too big a caliber in any centerfire chambering.

    Size matters. Tiny guns make a poor choice for a primary defensive firearm. They are great as backup pieces or where the environment requires a smaller gun for conealment. Pistols like the XD/m compact are the optime size for concealed carry. They have the perfect balance of size, weight, capacity and ballistic performance.

  22. avatar ATTAGReader says:

    Buy the gun that fits your hand and try it if possible before you buy. Everyone is different. I learned on a Glock 17 but hated the Glock 19. I hated the full size Smith and Wesson but loved the Shield. Both an SR9C and a Taurus TCP 738 fit my hand, although the Taurus needed a grip sleeve to take care of the squirminess and recoil. Now there is a Sig P238 that is a perfect fit. As someone unfamiliar with guns, I also found a few one on one lessons to be of great value.

  23. avatar kap says:

    1. Not having a Firearm
    2. Using wrong Holster or Sash {falls out easily}
    3. Forgetting to load firearm
    4. Carrying in a Federal No gun Zone,
    5. no home training
    6, Ignorance of Law.
    7. using bum information (tactical reload) shooting to slide lock then reloading works just fine!
    8. displaying

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