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By Jon via

Too many people think that all they need to carry a concealed handgun is a small gun, a big shirt and a license, depending on where you live. That’s a big, and potentially deadly mistake. Everyone, from experienced shooters to first-time gun buyers, should be aware of these three mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: Showing off your concealed carry handgun
Some people treat their gun like an expensive car; they just can’t wait to show it off. Concealed means that the gun stays out of view, all the time. Once someone else knows the location of a gun, the possibility of bad consequences goes through the roof.

Show your gun off at a party and you could make yourself an instant target. You’re not only a target for someone who wants to steal your pistol, but you could give another person a reason to think you’re armed for the wrong reasons.

Mistake #2: Carrying full metal jacket (FMJ) target ammo in your self-defense handgun
Loading practice ammo in your self-defense handgun is a big mistake. Don’t avoid the more expensive hollow point varieties of self-defense loads because of price.

Hollow points are built to expand on contact, resulting in a shot that’s safer for bystanders and more effective against a threat. FMJ ammunition is much more likely to over penetrate your target and proceed to go through just about everything else, including walls, windows, and other people nearby.

Mistake #3: Using an uncomfortable concealed carry holster
A holster that constantly chafes or needs adjustment isn’t only annoying, it can be dangerous. You’re much less likely to carry consistently if you know you’ll be uncomfortable doing so, and regular carry is a key to effective protection.

What’s more, people are more prone to adjust holsters that hurt them. Fiddling with your rig means handling your gun more often which can lead to an accidental discharg and drawing attention to your weapon. Both of which could ruin your day.

Carrying a firearm is never about intimidation factor or the prestige of owning expensive items. It’s about being being prepared to protect yourself and others in the event of a deadly threat. In a situation like that, there’s no room for error.

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  1. Before anyone else says it … Yes these are obvious. To someone who’se been CCWing for a while. Maybe.

    Personally, I’d rather learn from the mistakes of others, not my own, so I appreciate “basics” articles.

    Thanks for the reminders.

  2. 3 things to think about before CC
    3 mistakes CC’ers make
    3 things to avoid when CC’ing

    we get it.
    quality HP ammo, good holster/belt, and OPSEC.
    can we move on?

    • You get it, I get it, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets it. New CCers don’t always have the benefit of years of experience, so they need advice like this. There are always new CCers, so there will always be a need for this kind of advice to be posted for them.

      • Word.

        TTAG got feedback to periodically include the basics for those new to to guns. They’re giving the customers what they want, and good on ’em.

        As Ralph mentioned the other day on Mistake #1, treat your gun like something behind your zipper and only take it out for special occasions…


      • I agree with your idea but these concepts shouldn’t take a genius to figure out. Its like having to tell people drive their car straight, where a seatbelt and don’t engage in road rage. Most people I know who carry are serious but its likely an unfortunate by product of living in a communist controlled territory where in order to carry you need to be serious about your rights and knowledge since the state / county puts you through the ringer and then you wait up to 18months. I would never wish that on anyone but I’ve never met anyone in Upstate NY that carries a gun that is a jack ass and while we don’t have as many CCW’ers in more 2A friendly counties people carry and many choose to carry even on the so called “restricted” permits we usually get since its not a crime (only grounds to get your permit yanked). Generally around here you don’t tell anyone you carry, part of its because many probably carry on a restricted permit but another part is fear of loosing the permit since a Judge can revoke it at any time and you loose ALL your guns.

    • “Can we move on”
      No, we can’t “move on” because there are quite literally THOUSANDS of new CCW permit holders out there every day who don’t even know all the stuff they don’t know. Each time there is a new CCW permit holder who makes the decision to carry we need to repeat and repeat and repeat because it’s old hat to us but certainly not to them.

      Now if you are tired of repeating yourself for each new person (or reading about it)…then take a break, let someone else handle it. Being snarky isn’t helping anyone here.

      • I think being snarky and sarcastic is a good 40% of the TTAG comment make-up, usually in a light-hearted manner.
        and in all honesty, yeah, I’m a little worn out of reading articles like this since they pop up in my email, on FB, in my newsfeed, and anywhere I look for gun stories. I’m sure I’m not in the minority, either.
        But I can acknowledge the value of them.
        I get lulled into a “everybody knows this!” attitude, when in fact, some don’t.
        And considering the price of a TTAG membership I shouldn’t complain.
        i just prefer the direct, no-holds-barred, brutally honest equipment reviews and relevant gun news over this kind of content.
        But I’ll sift through it to get the quality gems TTAG has to offer!
        I’m not back-pedaling, either. Just explaining my smart-ass-itude.

        • Oh believe me I understand. I’m a flippin firearms instructor and sometimes even I have to “take a break” though for me it’s not the lack-of-knowledge that wears me out so badly, What grinds my gears is having to undo the dangerous Well-I-saw-it-done-like-this-in-the-movies “knowledge” and sometimes I just have to walk away before I say something stupid.

      • As someone who just applied for their concealed carry permit, and who has just tried to get used to the whole thing by carrying at home (all the time), I have to say that I appreciate these reminders. No, they’re not the first I’ve heard them, no they’re not major “ah-ha!” moments, and no they probably aren’t to 99% of the people visiting this site. And, since I consider myself someone of above average (if only slightly) intelligence, I probably could have come up with these without an article like this pointing them out.

        However, a year or so ago now, when I was first introduced to the idea of carrying a firearm on a daily basis, I began reading TTAG and other sites (gasp!), and postings like this began to form the foundations for the thinking and the practices I now use and hope to use once the People’s Republic of Illinois decides to “allow” me to exercise my natural and Constitutional right to defending myself and my family.

        So, if I may speak on behalf of tomorrow’s concealed carriers who are lurking on this site today in order to learn all they can in order to exercise those rights responsibly and safely, I think these postings NEED to be here from time to time. I appreciate that the contributers do not “move on” from the basics.

        Airline pilots and astronauts still follow a checklist every time they fly. Tasks they’ve performed hundreds or thousands of times they still step through with a checklist as if it’s the first. I see these “back to the basics” postings much on the same way.

    • Why do you carry any FMJ when you have a choice? I am assuming you have a good reason and am curious about what it is.

      • Well, I’m not speaking for him, but:

        1) Some pistols only feed FMJ. Less of a problem than it used to be, but not everyone can just go buy a new gun, so carry what you inherited.

        2) There’s some debate about carrying hollowpoints in lighter calibers: .380 ACP, .32 ACP, .25 ACP and .22 LR. Hollowpoints may not expand reliably, or, if they do, they slow the bullet down enough that they don’t get sufficient penetration. In that case, you might carry FMJ to assure deep penetration, at the sacrifice of some expansion. Again, if you can’t get a gun in a bigger caliber for some reason, or you’re just choosing to carry a really, really small pistol in these calibers, you may choose to get reliable penetration.

        • Have you looked at Lehigh Defense penetrators? They look like the copper/epoxy rounds but are solid copper … and came first. Did real well in whatzhisname’s gel tests.

          I just wish they didn’t only come in +P in the .45ACP version … mine’s not rated for them. But it may be it needs the velocity to work right.

      • Because he is in love with having a pencil thin 56″ deep wound tract….. Jk. It’s probably because “it was good enough for the military in 1922 so..” And also without a doubt it’s a 1911. People don’t realize they used soft lead back then, not FMJ’s plus the military may consider over penetration a positive attribute in an offensive situation.. However I would recommend to him to just don’t, especially with the bountiful deadly options of 45 hollow points.

  3. I would like to add, ” Don’t carry a gun you can’t shoot well ” some of the pistols marketed for CCW are near useless unless they are in the elevator with you.

    • Only time somebody should see your carry piece is one second before you shoot them with it. I know many DGUs end without firing a shot but that’s not what I train for, never assume the aggressor will back down when you draw.

      If they surrender or run within that 0.30-0.60 second window between draw and trigger press, then great.

  4. I’ve been a newspaper photographer for 35 years. In the days before the interweb, monthly photo magazines were the primary source of up-to-date information. Still, I recall the editors of Popular Photography and others explaining in their letters-to-the-editor replies the concept of cultivating new audiences while maintaining to loyal readers.

    The majority of the new readership were looking for answers about basics like the difference between F-stops and shutter speeds, many were still working it out. The ones who understood the basics of exposure wondered why they were being subjected to such elementary principles, having been loyal readers for 20 years.

    TTAG has usually been successful at becoming all things to all people. Amazing. Personally, I have little use for range bag, purse or holster reviews, but still find many articles entertaining and some even valuable.

    You don’t have to read them all.

    • THIS!!!! ^^^^^^ Why did this take so long to make it into the comments section? Got a new job so I have been AWOL quite a bit lately.

      I dont find the much interest in the purse reviews either, but my wife likes them so occasionally she reads one. We have to be somewhat inclusive to newbies, period. We were all in the learning stage at some point (even some of you silverbacks out there!).

      • I find the purse reviews quite enlightening. I identify as black female part time, who also happens to be a lesbian.

        I’m gender, race, carry method fluid.

  5. “Too many people think that all they need to carry a concealed handgun is a SMALL GUN, a big shirt and a license, depending on where you live.”

    Took me years, many different guns and ammunition to learn what the solution is (for me). Here is an ABBREVIATED journey:

    Fail #1. A long time ago I carried a larger moderately priced weapon. I noticed that the larger weapon was not always practical to carry. So i didn’t have it always with me. It was also not as reliable as I would have liked it to be.

    Fail #2 I asked myself, do I really need to spend $400, $500 or even $600+ on a weapon to trust with my life? Tried a few more larger guns over a period of time. I soon learned the answer… and its a YES.

    Fail #3. Now I spent the money and have a reliable larger size weapon. I trust it completely. But its still too big. It stays home too often.

    Fail #4 I spent the money on a smaller more concealable weapon. I really thought I had it this time. The caliber was ‘big enough’, it was small enough to conceal in any clothing. I expected it to be as reliable as its big brothers of this brand before and they were flawless. Well… “Perfection” supposedly. It was absolute garbage.

    Fail #5 Got something a little bigger and totally reliable, it was just a tiny bit too big(again) to carry it all the time.

    Success: Got the next revision of the little “perfection” I tried before, to give it another go(who woulda-thunk “Perfection” could be revised). To my joy, the thing runs like a watch. I wear it everywhere, including at home in the house.

    Glad you didn’t read the long version? I left out holsters, as that is a rat-hole in itself too.

  6. I have to bring up the .380. Most ballistic tests I’ve viewed (my own and others) have indicated unsatisfactory penetration, with hollow point ammunition. Just sayin’…

      • Find .380 ACP ammo that uses the Hornady XTP bullet (e.g., Fiocchi, HPR, Precision One.) The XTP is a hollow point that offers moderate expansion with consistent penetration of 13 to about 15 inches in calibrated, ballistic gelatin. The XTP is the only .389 ACP hollow point that does this time after time after time.

    • There ya’ go. While you are at it, you can bring up the 9×18 Makarov, pretty popular in some quarters as the low-priced, good-quality milsurp models make excellent carry guns. I carry FMJ in my P-64 so I can be sure to get enough penetration. And when I carried a .32, I learned to carry FMJ in that, too, for the same reason, as well as to help avoid rim-locked cartridges in the magazine. But then, I have a suspicion that the author of this piece would tell us not to carry .380s, Maks, or .32s in the first place.

      • I have a Mak. It’s not my primary self defense handgun but I do have hollowpoints for it even though I consider it in the .380 +P range of power.

        I live in a heavily congested urban environment. I don’t worry about under penetration. I worry about over penetration. No fmj’s in any of my guns.

        And no rifles in the long gun category for self defense. Shotguns and handguns only.

        • I was in a forum where a lotta guys carried P-64s and Maks, and a lot of them used some kind of hollowpoint or other “defensive” load. Which is fine by me, I just have a different opinion on the subject. And best I can tell, it’s not a way-out-of-the-ballpark opinion.

    • If you read Sykes and Fairbairn’s book about shooting to live, they mentioned that the one gunshot death they saw that was a true manstopper was a .380 that went right into the spine. They also noted that although they preferred the 1911 and .455 Webley, they noticed that those sometimes did not do the job.

      My point is that guns are tools. Tools come in different sizes. Use the best tool you can afford and the tool you’re most familiar and best with.

    • Not to ruin your day, but you might want to look at STB410’s tests of the Lehigh Penetrators, in .380, out of a 3″ barrel, including through 4 layers denim. Of course, you might not consider that round an HP, but that’s what it does. No, they are not cheap, if that is your only concern.

  7. #2…oh please. In a lot of guns FMJ is the most reliable ammo and the cheapest to shoot. That and the fact that 99% of us are never gonna need to clear leather in self defense anyway.

    • You’re worried your gun won’t work with hollow points, then defend FMJ by saying you’ll probably never need to use it.


      There are plenty of carry guns on the market that feed hollow points just fine. If you’re going to carry, spend $20 on a decent box of ammo that’s designed to stop threats, not punch holes in paper. You can practice with the cheap stuff.

    • Lets put this in the correct phrasing “I am to lazy or cheap to put several boxes of expensive ammo through my firearm and its multiple magazines to ensure that it feeds reliably with a self defense load. Therefore I carry with FMJ’s and to hell with the unintended target that lies behind whatever threat I may attempt to neutralize.”

    • It’s the bullets, not the gun, that do the business, why are you going to spend hundreds/thousands on a gun for self defense then skimp on ammo? It’s like carrying a Wilson Combat in an Uncle Mikes tactical nylon holster.

  8. Well I guess the title of the article says it . CCW means CONCEALED WEAPON . I found a VERY simple and very comfortable and reliable holster ( Dead Eye Luke ) out of Florida , Inside the belt , light and simple , I love mine , I have had him make a few for some of my favorites and they fit perfect and are adjustable with a hair dryer or hot air gun , a zylomite frame warmer works perfectly .
    As far as wearing open , I don’t do it when I’m in public places but I do often in my office and it isn’t because I want everyone to see my fancy sports car on my hip but it is about impressions , I want my customers to know that I am respectable , dependable , defendable , logical and know what my rights are and should they choose to pick a fight outside the bounds of the legal system I will defend my ground if pushed . The customer isn’t always right .
    I own and operate a very honorable , Christ based medical business where I still offer hundreds of my patients the time honored tradition of making monthly payments if they need to . I get burned a little but by and large people pay off bills in due time . The majority of my profits go back into my customers and patients in the form of discounts and write offs and this formula has worked since 1967 and the company continues to slowly grow according to Gods will .
    I don’t allow people to run roughshod over me or my employees and I expect everyone in my company to treat everyone who walks through my door with dignity and respect so if there is an issue I have no doubt we have done our very best to accommodate ,

  9. #2 is valid if the most demanding threat is a human. If you are carrying for wild animal defense and bear is in the mix you need to go with ball or hardcast. JHP will not penatrate the thick tissue covering a bear.

      • Since I moved to Wisconsin I am carrying a RIA 1911 TAC Ii in 10mm . Works really well on bear with Buffalo Bore hardcast rounds. Not everybody who CCs carries a mouse gun.

        • .45 ACP ain’t exactly a mouse gun caliber, but it might as well be when we’re talking about bears. 10mm is nothing to sneeze at, but I’d want the hardest-hitting round out of the longest barrel I can tote if I’m gonna be defending my life and my pic-a-nic basket.

    • I forgot to mention this in my previous comment and yours reminded me , I actually alternate FMJ and some form of defensive load in my magazines to cover multiple situations .

  10. Mistake #1: It’s not uncommon to see CHL class attendees standing around in the parking lot before class, playing show and tell with their would-be carry pieces. It’s also not uncommon to see new CHLs (within the first year or so) futzing and fussing with their concealed side arms in public.

    I haven’t seen people actually display their firearms in public illegally, though. People do talk, however, about their concealed firearms, primarily among coworkers. Don’t do that. Today’s cubicle buddy is tomorrow’s snitch to HR that you’re carrying a dangerous weapon on company grounds in clear and gross violation of written company policy.

    Mistake #2: FMJ or not, the overwhelming odds are that you’re not going to need to use that firearm in any way. If you do, it will be only to show it, refer to it, *possibly* to aim it, but not actually to fire it. If you do fire it, odds are that the strong majority of your rounds will miss, which is worse than over penetrating because they bullet isn’t even slowed down or splintered for travelling through a body. Even hollow point rounds can become clogged with material such as clothing, foiling its design to expand and “mushroom” and effectively transforming it into an FMJ round, after all.

    Also, some models of hollow point round, in general, can be more problematic in some semi-autos than FMJ rounds, in general. So you could find yourself with a failure to fire with a hollow point. *Could*, not guaranteed or even likely, but could at a possibly higher rate than with FMJs. Weigh the odds, assess the risks, but just know that the odds are vanishingly small that any of the differences between HP or FMJ will ever matter.

    Mistake #3: A comfortable holster properly sized for your firearm is essential. Just about everyone new to concealed carry does indeed neglect this item, and buys the first “standard” sized holster off the rack at the cheapest price. That hampers comfort and safety and effectiveness in presenting that self-defense sidearm. To everyone new to concealed carry, do yourself a favor and put some thought, research and a few well spent bucks into your holster purchase.

    • I used to be tight lipped about the fact that I carried. After I retired and got out of the parnoid OPSEC mindset I realized that the government already knew I had guns. After all they issued me a CHL. Now I think it is a PR plus for the Second Amendent rights movement to let people see that normal guys and gals carry a fireatm. That doesn’t mean I play show and tell but I am not reticent to tell if I think it will make a positive impression.

      • You’re 100% correct: the government already knows who has guns, or could find out in most cases readily.

        The carry licenses, ownership licenses, I.D. requirements to purchase ammo, NICS records of background checks, actual registration lists, all provide easy references of their own.

        Then you factor in credit card records of guns, ammo, accessories, etc. purchases. Factor in 2A organization membership lists, traceable web traffic to sites like TTAG, posts/pics on social media sites, etc. Factor in just plain old demographic profiling.

        Add it all up and they know or reasonably assume who has guns.

        I wasn’t referring to the govt. knowing, though, but to one’s employer. Carrying illegally at work could get one in a lot of trouble, legally and with potential employers.

  11. When finding a comfortable holster, make sure you also test it sitting in your car. I have yet to find one that is truly comfortable in my sport seats, but I’ve found a couple that are less uncomfortable.

  12. The author almost had some credibility until he started up about over penetration. I have a target stand with a 1/4 inch plywood backing board. Very few FMJ bullets make it 15 yards past the target stand. After a bullet passes through anything thicker than cardboard it is going to start tumbling and lose it’s energy very quickly. If a 1/4″ piece of plywood stops FMJ bullets like that how far is the bullet going after it passes through the human body?

  13. My appreciation for TTAG went up several ticks after today. Not because of the article but because several people challenge Mistake # 2. Solids and/or FMJ rounds are preferred in many situations and in many different handguns.

  14. Good intro advice, although I’ve shown my CCW stuff to more than 100 people. Showing guns is completely fine as long as they are unloaded and cleared first. People want to see cool holsters and ammo, too.

    Show and tell is awesome as long as it is done responsibly.

  15. I only wish for a holster store that helps you pick a right one the first time. Meanwhile I have a shit load of holsters finding the right one! P.S. Now there is a great business to create! Always watch your six.

  16. I unloaded and passed mine around at a party one time, the moment I realized everyone at the party was carrying. The only comment about the “show and tell” that followed was, “Okay, SOMEONE keep your own just in case!”

  17. One thing that bugs me about saying keep it a secret… Why should I keep it a secret that the 2nd amendment still exists to some of us? I get not wanting to give criminals easy candy, but my boss and coworkers? If they don’t like that I’m a gun owner, they have the option to fire me for it, if they think they can get away with that.

    I don’t have to hide the fact that I vote, or that I speak my mind. I don’t have to hide my home from illegal searches or military occupation. I don’t have to hide any of my other rights. I’m not going to hide this one, either.

    Some comments on TTAG bug me in how they go way beyond the Tactical reasons for concealing and sound downright ashamed of their firearm, or completely terrified if their peers know they own guns.

    • I had the same thought. I’m not going to live like I’m at an airport – I thoroughly enjoy talking about guns. Plus open carry is a thing, too, and it’s not exactly incognito.

    • I don’t think this article is entirely applicable to OC’ing. Everyone has a different take on OC, I respect your fondness for it and don’t disagree with you, many prefer to stay under the radar. We all have different goals with our EDC, or rather, different approaches to a similar goal.

      Some folks like bumper stickers on their car expressing various opinions, some of us would prefer not to have the attention.

  18. Since this is the truth about guns, please document the many instances of FMJ over penetrating. I must have missed all of those news casts on the evils of the deadly FMJ scourge that is laying waste to our fair citizens..

    • Jesus, I couldn’t start. Goes back 30-40 years to when the HP ammo was being developed beyond prehistoric. A Phoenix cop using a .357 Mag got to it with a perp, shot him center mass 6 times and was shot dead himself before the perp died. One of the cop’s bullets killed a pedestrian 2 blocks away. The department prohibited expanding bullets to be kinder and gentler, which changed within weeks. As we move forward to more powerful handguns there have to be hundreds and hundreds, down to the little girl killed in mommy’s bed a few weeks back by a bullet which came through a couple walls. Betcha that was not HP. But where would .you get confirmed data on bullet types used in every shooting within the U.S.? Beats me, so you must be right.

      The book “Thank God I had a gun” relates a guy who unloaded 16 rounds into an attacker, who then wandered off and bled out. That is ridiculous. But was it HP or not? I can only guess.

      • I bet the round that killed the collateral was a miss and not a hit. Also STB has shown that a lot of JHPs plug up at act like FMJ rounds.

        if you are going to use FMJ 45 ACP is the caliber to use. I’m looking at you Jersey. It is a big chunk of lead that will dump a lot of its energy in the target. It won’t be going very far after it exits.

  19. I must say that I believe that the majority of individuals that are proponents for FMJ use have never actually had to use them in order to stop a bad guy. I prefer my wound channels to have more substance to them. After watching a man that had been shot 6 times with FMJ’s walk into the ER I renounced them completely.

  20. “Mistake #1: Showing off your concealed carry handgun”

    My grandfather once told me: “Treat your pistol like your pecker. Keep it clean. Keep it in good working order. And keep it in your pants if you don’t mean to use it.”

    Words to live by.

  21. Thanks Dan Zimmerman great advice but showing off a Gun, is status symbol in my country INDIA . Well I take in my mind your valuable advice in future .Regards

  22. It’s the same three “mistakes” with new article titles so they can get more clicks and views. It’s about money, not informing people. Don’t think otherwise.

    • I think a little over penetration can be good thing sometimes , If my potential adversary wants to dip into a doorway or behind a wall in my house , I know who is where and if I want to coax somebody out from hiding with some over penetration , I’m not going to take the time to exchange my carry magazine with my training mag , now am I ? alternate a JHP or defensive round with FMJ in my carry mag and I either carry 17 + 1 or 30 + 1 .

  23. Re-reading safety rules and/or carrying tips is not nearly as tedious as seeing the same old tired Creedmore jokes.


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