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By SM via

If you’re carrying concealed, or just thinking about it, you should be prepared for anything. You have decided to protect yourself and others with your handgun should the need arise, so it pays to be sure you know what it takes. Every gun owner should be able to answer these three questions without hesitation . . .

1. Where can I carry concealed?

The more often you carry concealed, the more comfortable you’ll be. But you can no longer just grab your gun and go. Depending on where you live, there are a variety of places where your guns are forbidden. Know your state and local laws about schools, college campuses, and government offices, where the “gun free zones” in your community community are.

You never know just what situations you might encounter during the day. But, you should prepare as best you can. While you can never predict where you may encounter trouble. think about the stores you’ll be shopping in during the day and the types of people you’re likely to encounter. Be aware of your surroundings and situations that might require you to protect yourself.

2. Do I know the state and local laws concerning transporting and carrying my concealed weapon?

There’s a lot more to carrying concealed than a handgun and a good holster. You must also have a good understanding of the laws and regulations that apply to you as a gun owner. Become familiar with the laws concerning guns and concealed carry where you live. Find out how to transport your gun in your car when you’re going to and from the range. Regulations vary from state to state as to where it can be kept and how the gun should be secured.

We’re all taught that members of law enforcement are there to protect and serve, but carrying concealed can add a different element to the conversation. Whether it’s during a routine traffic stop or, if need be, after you’ve used your firearm for self defense, you need to know how to conduct yourself and what phrases to use when you come into contact with law enforcement. Become familiar with your legal rights and just what you can say and do when police officers are present. It may end up saving you from lots of frustration and thousands of dollars in legal fees.

3. When was the last time I practiced shooting, loading, and cleaning my handgun?

Keeping up with regular cleaning and maintenance of your firearms has a lot of benefits. Regular cleanings obviously keep your handgun in peak performance by eliminating any dirt that naturally results from frequent carry. It also helps you to become more familiar with the mechanics of your gun so that you’re better able to fix minor problems yourself and teach others the same skills.

Regular practice is an essential element of gun ownership. Practice keeps your confidence high and your physical skills sharp. When a situation calls for armed self-defense, your handgun should be an extension of yourself. Regular trips to the range, alone or with friends, are the only way to keep improving your aim, draw, and technical skill. One good training tool to stay on top of your game is the American Concealed Handgun Safety Training DVD.

If you had any trouble answering any of these questions, take some time and get familiar with the facts. Get yourself out to the range and put some rounds on target. Responsible and trained citizens, armed for self-defense, make our communities safer places to live and help secure our right to keep and bear arms.

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  1. Those are good questions and the laws are important to understand and follow. However, when I read the headline, my thought was that the first question would be, “In order to defend myself, my family and/or other innocent people, am I willing to shoot and injure or potentially kill another human being?”

    That question needs to be answered affirmatively without reservation prior to concerning oneself with the other three questions in the article.

    • ^^^Agree completely. That is by far the most important question. As to the questions in the OP:
      1. Duh
      2, Duh
      3. Isn’t “regular” incredibly vague? I guess I can regularly shoot once a year and meet your requirement. BTW, plenty of people successfully defend themselves every year without ever firing the gun they are carrying. I don’t recommend it, but they do. It depends on the individual. Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Going to the range and just buring powder is a waste. And you’re recommending a DVD to make up for that? Try a good instructor instead.

      Who comes up with this stuff?

      • I don’t know where you live, John, but in Illinois (and many other socialist states) the list of prohibited areas is long and complicated. My wife and I have both had our licenses for over a year (after being trained on the law) and we still occasionally argue over where we can carry. I now keep a copy of the statute in my truck for quick reference. Cross a state line, and the rules are completely different. Reciprocity is good but you still need to know the law. What was safe in one state is prohibited in another, and vice-versa. When you live 15 minutes from a state line like I do, that’s important.

        So no, “Duh” is an incorrect answer.

        • I think our top priority ought to be getting National Reciprocity to penetrate the Won’t-Issue States.

          Then, the next priority ought to be a pan-State effort to minimize the idiosyncrasies of State gun laws.

          This is a delicate process. First, we ought to bear in mind that State legislators and lawyers have long worked toward minimizing idiosyncrasies across State laws. E.g., we have a “Uniform Commercial Code” which strives to minimize idiosyncrasies in commercial laws.

          However, we do NOT want to advocate superseding Federal gun-control laws. IF-and-to-the-EXTENT that a law treating some aspect of “gun control” is Constitutional under Federal and the respective State law, we should strive to maintain State jurisdiction. Admittedly, State level regulation opens the door for inter-state idiosyncrasies.

          Now that we have those idiosyncrasies, what we ought to strive for is to reduce the number of variations. For example, NJ and a few cities in CA prohibit hollow-point bullets. We ought to strive to eliminate these few hollow-point prohibitions. We ought to advocate for uniformity in No-Gun sign laws so that carriers are not vulnerable to inadvertently walking into a GFZ without actual notice.

          Simply compiling easily comparable tables of gun-control laws ought to make it clear how burdensome it is for carriers to comply with multiple inconsistent State laws. We ought to be able to achieve some level of improve consistency.

        • I have taken a Self-defense Law class on my state laws. My state gun organization publishes all the CC restrictions and even provides a wallet card. I have the restrictions memorized. So yes it’s a “Duh” and anyone who it’s not a Duh for is in jeopardy and putting themselves at risk by carrying. When I say “Duh,” I mean it should be second nature, like the rules of gun safety. If you live in a commie state, sorry, it sucks to be you and your choice of state is the incorrect answer.

      • everybody is a quarterback on Monday morning. even those who have never faced a defensive line on a field. seems to me, you want to criticize someone elses writing, you should provide a sample of the wit and wisdom you have committed to words.

    • +100
      There was an active shooter in a Tacoma, WA mall a few years back, guy with an AK rifle, walking through, shooting at people (luckily, mostly poorly). A guy happened to be headed towards him, with CPL & handgun. He went to concealment, drew, & as the shooter got close he aimed…and then decided the shooter looked so young he couldn’t just shoot him, he had to give him a chance to surrender. Lowered his handgun, put out his other hand in a “stop” gesture, and yelled something to that effect. Result? He got shot 5 times with 7.62x39mm. A couple to the chest, he almost died.

      He had the drop on an active shooter, but wasn’t actually mentally prepared to shoot another person.

      Mindset is the first step/question/rule.

      • Mindset…agree 100%. Observe and if warranted Controlled Aggression. Know when to go all in and when rounds are released there’s no getting them back.

        • That’s one of the takeaways of carrying. You have to be prepared to shoot if the need arises. Otherwise the gun is just a fancy belt accessory. In the case of the guy described above, if he was using an AK and shooting innocent people, he was obviously old enough to warrant being shot.

      • Yup see my comment below; the vast majority of violent crime in St. Louis is perpetrated by 14-24 year old youths. A child is just a deadly with a firearm as a 40 year old man… thats kind of the whole point of a gun.

        If you’re not prepared to stop a deadly threat regardless of age, race, gender, etc…

    • #1 most important question right there Mike – if the time comes am I prepared to use deadly force to defend myself?

      My carry instructor made a big deal out of this in class. He was retired FBI here in St. Louis and had statistics on violent crime in the city, the majority of it committed by black males aged 14-24. He asked the class are you willing to shoot what is effectively a child, if necessary to save your own life or someone you care about?

      I’ve carried for about a decade now and that question is still absolutely yes.

    • Ditto. The moral implications are just as relevant as the practical/administrative factors. Before I leave the house armed, I remind myself of the risk factors of carrying:
      1. I am empowered to effectively address with deadly force any potentially violent threats to my person or the general public in my immediate area.
      2. I am willing to put myself in mortal danger to defend myself and total strangers.
      3. Situational awareness is required without fail and allowing myself to be distracted may have potentially deadly consequences.
      4. If the situation warrants my intervention, that I must take responsibility for the outcome if I am offered a choice to intervene or not.
      5. Killing or even wounding a potentially violent perpetrator will be driven by my ability to gain the tactical advantage over the situation and to convince the perpetrator that further action on their part would result in their immediate demise.
      6. There may be other armed carriers and/or LEOs present and to avoid any confusion as to who the bad guy is.
      7. If I am involved in a shooting incident that I should call 911 to request police and ambulance responders and that I should carefully consider everything I say afterwords to minimize misconceptions or misinterpretations that would increase scrutiny beyond reasonable concerns.

  2. I would say a good question to ask yourself is: Do I really need to shoot, or is there a possible way to either de-escalate this situation, or just back off and disappear out of sight?

  3. Another question: Did I fire six shots or only five? Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver in .38 Special, I’m going with five.

    • “Did I fire six shots or only five?”

      Interesting how Old that phrase is. When I was reading it just now my first thought was “since this is Any modern firearm, and additionally has a +6 extension, there are at least 17 shots still left in any event, .. so, … blam blam blam blam, etc”


  4. What would be really useful here would be a set of about 52 “crib-cards”; one for each State plus DC plus a FOPA card for interstate transport.

    Format is critical so that a user of the set could print-out the few card he really needs. E.g., as a PA resident I might really need: NY; PA; DE; MD and FOPA. Should I expect a trip West, I could print out OH.

    Probably need 2 sets of cards:
    – one set that is wallet size or playing-card size and pretty cryptic notations
    – another set that is 8.5 X 11 and a pretty good summary

    A user should become really familiar with his own State’s laws and those for any State to which he travels regularly. So, for example, living 2 miles from NJ, I need to be familiar with NJ laws.

    Everybody’s needs are going to be peculiar to his situation. For example, I can get along without knowing much of anything about PA laws because I have a PA License to Carry. PA doesn’t persecute gun-owners. I have no occasion to go to a school. No stores have posted No Guns signs. Conversely, it is practically impossible to transport guns to NJ without violating its laws. Eventually, you will commit a violation; the only question is whether you will get caught.

    Composing the crib-cards would be a difficult challenge.

    First, the editors for such a project would need to collect about 52 State-experts who would undertake to remain familiar with the complete body of law in each State. This task probably ought to be farmed-out to somebody like

    Then, the editors would have to develop a standard format for the crib-cards that would try to take into account the variations. E.g., maybe it makes sense to have:
    – Schools
    – – Colleges Yes/No/Some
    – – K-12 No/No-Public/OC-only
    if the editors conclude that the College vs. K-12 cover most States pretty well and that the enumerated values such as “Yes/No/Some” reasonably characterizes most State laws.

    I think I’d split the collection of the info from the composition of the crib-cards. The info collectors need to concentrate on compiling complete information from each body of law without regard to the formatting of the crib-cards. The editors of the crib-cards need to concentrate on making a useful tool that does a reasonable job of bringing all the sets of laws into a consistent format. These two goals are somewhat at odds with one-another.

    If the crib-card editors can have their work-product reviewed by the original authors the conflicts between their respective goals can be honored with a tolerable loss in accuracy.

    • Great idea! And a nice laminated set that you could gift to everyone on your local po-po or sherrif’s department so they can know the laws too.

  5. For most who carry concealed, training and practice ends once they receive their license or permit with the possible exception of requisite periodic qualification depending on their State of residence.

    Since the odds of actually finding yourself in an armed defensive encounter in a lifetime are minimal, concealed carriers who skate by with little or no followup training and practice are rarely forced to confront the consequences of not being prepared to effectively defend themselves or others in an armed encounter.

    Muscle memory is what enables a shooter to instinctively react in an effective defensive manner with a firearm. Without muscle memory a shooter has only dumb luck to rely on in an armed encounter.

    The only way to develop muscle memory is through efficient repetitive training and round count, hundreds of rounds at a minimum, preferably a thousand rounds or more if you have the time and money to properly train and practice. Burning through several hundred rounds in an unstructured single practice session is wasteful and pretty much useless for building muscle memory.

    If a concealed carrier is really serious about developing and improving their ability to defend themselves or others in an armed encounter they should seek out some sort of NRA approved or similar intermediate or advanced defensive or tactical firearms training if they can afford it.

    For those on a limited budget, there are many reference publications, videos, and online sources of information available that will help you learn how to effectively build muscle memory over a period of time through efficient and methodical defensive firearms training and practice.

    While there’s no magic round count number that once reached will automatically equip a shooter with muscle memory, actually putting rounds down range over a period of time through efficient and methodical defensive firearms training and practice will produce intermediate or advanced defensive firearms skills and with those comes muscle memory.

    Once a reasonable level of proficiency with a firearm for defensive purposes is attained, the perishable skill can be maintained through occasional practice with much fewer rounds down range.

  6. 4th question…. DO I HAVE DGU INSURANCE?

    Would like to see TTAG do a review as through at shootingthebull on DGU insurance plans. There seem to be around a half dozen national plans out there and there are differences in coverage and benefits.

    • I agree. The wife and I are looking into that right now. There are a number to choose from, but I can’t seem to find exactly the type of coverage I would desire.

      • For what it is worth, right now I believe I will sign up for 2 policies. The NRA Lockton plan (which as I read it covers the wife) and the USCCA policy.

  7. 1. Should be do I have the correct mindset to carry. Cause if you don’t then you shouldn’t carry

    Then then the rest of what is stated above

  8. Actually, the most important question to ask is, “Am I willing to take the life of another?”

    If you are not, then the other questions are moot. Also, if not, your carrying presents a danger than benefit to yourself and others.

    • Raul, you really need to check into a course covering the legal aspects surrounding the defensive use of a firearm. If involved in an encounter requiring the defensive use of a firearm, “to take the life of another” should never be part of your vocabulary or a consideration for the use of deadly force. Even though that might well be the end result, the intelligent question should be, “If I have a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury for myself or another, am I willing to lawfully use a firearm to STOP and/or INCAPACITATE the threat”.

      • Ted: I agree with you in terms of talking after the fact of a shooting and that’s what was taught in the SD Law class I took. But I agree with Raul that before considering using a gun for defense, one has to have the mindset of the worst case, which is causing death. That “stop or incapacitate” thinking up front might lead some people to think of shooting someone in the leg instead of COM, or just firing a warning shot.

        Musashi said a warrior must have “the resolute acceptance of death.” My spin on that is you have to accept the real possibility of your own death (motivation and justification to defend oneself) and the likelihood of your opponent’s death as a result of your actions. If you do not accept both, you may hesitate. The legalese you describe can be saved for what Cooper called, “Problem Two,” the aftermath.

      • Ted, that is absolutely the correct legal answer. Regardless, though, you need o consider the reality of what stopping or terminating a threat really means. Taking those legal options may involve taking a life and you need to be prepared for that possibility whether you employ a firearm, a knife or even martial arts. Use the minimum force necessary but understand that minimum may mean death.

        If one is not comfortable with the reality – whatever you label it legally – they should stick to something linke pepper spray.

    • Actually, I’d take it even a step further and not limit the question to firearms. I have had 6 incidents where I’ve had to ask the “deadly force” question. Twice were with a firearm. The others involved sword and crossbow, twice was unarmed and once my “self defense weapon” was my car. The only case where I actually had to act was one of the unarmed incidents where they guy took off running. The other cases were a mix of false alarms (i.e. there wasn’t an intruder) or the threat decided to move on.

      This brings to mind another point of that mental preparation in the use of force. Predators have a knack for sensing easy vs. dangerous prey. While it’s obviously no guarantee, if they sense that you are dangerous there is the chance that they will look for safer prey.

  9. So if your an open carrier you don’t have to ask any questions then?

    I really resent how even the gun world acts like conceal carry is some kind of universal way to carry. Can’t we just call ourselves carriers?

    • I think that may be a bad choice of words. “Carrier” is a common medical term for people who have an infectious disease, but show no symptoms. It is well known with HIV and typhoid. I can see the anti-gunners having a field day twisting that term around.

  10. All three questions are good to think about and investigate.
    1. Learn the gun free areas and don’t go there.
    Learn to be aware of unusual things you see.
    2. If you don’t have a carry permit. DON’T CARRY!
    3. Even if you don’t shoot regularly, clean your wepons once a week. Take it
    apart to know its mechanism.

    • Lanny,
      Somewhat off-topic, but cleaning your carry weapon (or any in the self-defense arsenal) weekly?
      I don’t practice that often, and only clean when the pistol or weapon warrants it. You must go through a lot of solvents, lubes and cleaning supplies. Have fun with that.

  11. 1) LEOSA…so I can carry just about anywhere in the US. I did have to lock my gun up before they would let me into Graceland…..and there was a small indecent at Kennedy Space Flight Center.

    2) Same as above.

    3) I train in my basement weekly with non lethal training weapons….sometimes upstairs when my wife isn’t home! When I was on the TACT (Tactical Anti-terrorist Counter Assault Team) I shot at least 2000 rounds (long gun) and 2000 rounds (handgun) a year for 20 years. I also was a SWAT instructor for 15 years so I have been around the range a little. Now that I’m retired I still teach SWAT and Swat Sniper schools now and again. I probably shoot a couple thousand rounds (pistol and rifle combined) a year. I feel fairly prepared if it hits the fan. Remember the Wolf is always at the door!

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