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.