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When it comes to entering the world of concealed carry, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. You have to choose the type and brand of handgun, the size of the gun, its caliber, trigger type and more. You have to choose your carry system(s): inside-the-waistband or outside-the-waistband holster, ankle carry, pocket carry, etc. A system that depends on the type of handgun and gun size. While this post won’t help you negotiate the first part of that maze, there are three things you must have when carrying concealed . . .

1. A clear mind

If you’re not sure when you should use your carry gun you may delay shooting an attacker or attackers just long enough to be killed or grievously wounded. Or watch someone else, someone innocent, be killed or grievously wounded. Not to put too fine a point on it, hesitation kills. To avoid deadly analysis paralysis, you must have a clear idea when you’re going to use deadly force (i.e. shoot someone).

In terms of your legal right to use deadly force, state laws vary. (Google is your friend.) In practical terms, you should shoot someone if they pose an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm to yourself or other innocent life that you deem worthy of ballistic intervention. Simply put, if the bad guy is in the act of trying to kill or seriously wound you or some other innocent person, and the perp has a reasonable chance of succeeding (e.g., they’re not across a busy street waving a knife at you), shoot them.

2. An effective holster

Defensive gun use statistics are less reliable than Amtrak trains. Even so, researchers tend to agree that the vast majority of defensive gun uses end without a shot fired. The bad guy sees the good guy’s gun and decides to disengage. If true, showing your gun is more important than shooting your gun. And even if it isn’t, the combatant who lands rounds soonest is the likely winner. So whether you end-up shooting a bad guy or not, the faster you get to your gat, the better.

To maximize draw speed, you must have a gun and holster combo that provides the quickest possible effective access to your firearm (bobbled or dropped guns aren’t very effective). That’s why I carry my self-defense firearm in an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster; I can get to it in a flash. You may find carrying in an OWB holster impractical, uncomfortable, awkward or more difficult than an inside-the-waistband holster, or pocket carry, or strapping a gun to your ankle. Whatever. Just make your holster, your carry system, priority one.

3. The ability to STFU

If you perform a defensive gun use — shots fired or not — the cops will interrogate you. They’ll try to extract as much information as possible: who, what, when, where and how. They’ll play good cop, bad cop. They’ll tell you they won’t be pressing charges. There is some information you should provide: your name and address and a description of the perp or perps (if they’re not on the scene). You should also point out any witnesses or evidence (e.g., shell casings) they may have missed. Other than that, STFU.

Whether or not the cops arrest you, you have the right to remain silent. Whether or not you know it, everything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right not to provide ammunition for a prosecutor or ambulance chaser. To say “How many shots did I fire? You know what officer, I’m kinda shaken-up right now. I’d like to talk to my lawyer before making a full statement.” Some gun gurus recommend answering any and all question with the mantra “my life was in danger.” To minimize the chances of incarceration or a successful civil suit, you have to err on the side of silence. Or else.

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    • I hear that a lot, but have literally never seen or heard any real-life examples of this being the case. I carried small-of-back for the first year or two, and the main impetus for changing where I carried was the safety of my draw.

      I say, let people make their own decisions about where they carry on-body, and as long as they use an actual holster (looking at you, appendix carriers who don’t use holsters…), they’ll eventually land on something that’s reasonably comfortable and as a result, will actually carry rather than not.

      • The guys over at BB&C interviewed some guys about this including a couple cops who were paralyzed by small of the back carry.

        None of them “fell” they were in a fight with a suspect. Their weight plus his came down just wrong.

    • He won’t fall on his gun because it won’t be there. It will be left in the booth seat at Waffle House after it comes loose with that weak ass plastic clip on that cheap ass holster.

  1. The correct answer is not STFU. Just ask George Zimmerman. The correct way to proceed is call your attorney, tell the police you will be happy to answer questions as soon as my attorney artives, and only answer the questions he advise you to answer.

    • tdiinva,

      Immediately sharing details with police (without your attorney present) could work for or against you in the real world. It depends on the circumstances and the integrity (or lack thereof) of the police and prosecutor.

      And this doesn’t even address the problem that a victim’s memory can be totally scrambled at first as a result of the chemical dump and psychological trauma that the event causes.

      I think the best approach is to keep your initial comments to how afraid you were for your life and to ask for immediate medical, psychological, and legal assistance.

      • Requesting medical assistance is wise. Not only might you actually need it, it will buy you time. The EMT’s will generally keep the cops away from you until they’ve fully checked you out or transported you to the hospital and a doctor has looked you over.

        The extra time lets you collect yourself a bit.

        As I said in my comment below you have to size up the cops when deciding what to tell them. When my buddy and I got in what ended up being a one sided knife fight (the other guy had a knife) the cops were totally professional with us even though we beat the shit out of this guy so badly he was barely recognizable. (Seriously, his face looked like someone gave him a good twice over with a hammer.) The cops paid no mind to his literal screaming that we attacked him. They were calm and professional. They basically treated us like witnesses after they ensured that neither of us had been poked or cut. Even when witnesses complained that we should be arrested for going way too far with the guy the cops just ignored them like they never said it.

        We answered questions, filled out and signed statements and then were released to go on our merry way. The next morning a detective called both of us. As far as I can tell was it never even a consideration in any officer’s mind that we might get charged with anything. In retrospect that’s actually kinda surprising considering the Denver PD’s reputation regarding professionalism and the fact that a good half a dozen witnesses wanted us arrested for what we did.

        I don’t know if that’s a reflection on the professionalism of the particular officers that responded, a reflection of how much cops don’t like people who attack other people with knives, something else or or a combination of some or all of them.

        • People are used to watching fights on tv where the hero is beaten with fists and 2×4’s and various other objects and ends up with a little trickle of blood coming out of the corner of his mouth and no other injuries. In real life the human face is very fragile. I saw a guy get hit three times and he looked like he’d been dragged face down behind a truck down a gravel road. By the next day his face was swelled up like a balloon and all black and blue. So I expect people to freak out when they see the consequences of an actual fight.

      • It’s my understanding that even the police are not required to answer investigators until 72 hours after a defensive shooting and they have spoken to their lawyer.

    • Zimmerman’s willingness to talk to the police came back to HELP him very strongly, following his unjust prosecution and trial.

      Of course, no two cases are ever the same, and the Zimmerman case was unusual in several ways, which makes it a less than ideal example to follow. For the most part, the stated advice will usually be best, but the ultimate decision will be up to you, if and when you shoot.

      • Zimmerman’s case was the rare one. Not only was his statement to the police highly exculpatory, but because he never waived his 5th Amendment right, he didn’t testify at trial and just let the tape speak for him. Since nobody can cross-examine a recorded statement, the prosecution sandbagged itself.

        BTW, the b!tch Angela Corey, who pressed charges against Zimmerman when the grand jury wouldn’t, was badly defeated in her campaign for re-election. Ding. Dong.

        • Angela Corey deserves to be disbarred, but losing her job in the court of public opinion is a good start.

        • Too bad she can’t be forced to pay for the trial she insisted on having. My biggest fear of protecting myself is being bankrupted by an over zealous prosecutor.

  2. “Google is your friend.”

    I beg to differ. Google will offer you whomever paid to show up on their list. The internet experts who talk about state gun laws will not be there at your trial.

    State statutes are what you need to read.
    This site has lots of links to state statutes:

    • Listen to Andrew Branca’s pod cast about this guy. In fact just listen to Andrew Branca in legal matters involving self defense.

        • Branca wrote “The Law of Self Defense”, and posts at Legal Insurrection about self-defense cases, which he follows closely. Easily the best reporting on the Zimmerman case, which he followed, minute by minute, witness by witness, as only a trial atty can (Zimmerman’s attys probably proved his case beyond a reasonable doubt, the opposite of the std required for conviction). And, I think his book is a Must Read for anyone who carries concealed. I had the previous edition, and gave it to a friend. Bought the latest as an electronic version a month or two ago, and it is even better.

          His suggestion about what to do after a lawful use of deadly force (or, often, just a threat of such) is similar to Farago’s, with some minor tweaks:
          1) make a 911 call when you get to safety. Tell them that you were in fear of your life and shot someone (etc). Not calling could get you treated as the perp, and not victim. Plus, you can get the 911 call into evidence even if you elect not to testify – which may be critical in providing enough evidence for a self defense instruction to the jury (in a lot of states, you need at least some evidence for courts to let SD defenses go forward).
          2) ask for an ambulance or EMTs. For you, and anyone injured, including the perp. You may not realize you were injured, may have other problems due to the stress, etc. plus it looks good.
          3) cooperate with first responders to secure area and the crime scene, pointing out witnesses and evidence that may be useful for your defense.
          4) don’t talk to the actual investigators or detectives, without an atty present.

          Buy and read his book for a more thorough discussion.

  3. 4. A good holster is a must, but so is a good quality belt designed to carry the weight of a firearm, i.e., a gun belt. Such belts are thicker than a standard dress belt, or have built in stiffeners; some are leather, some are web belts, but there is a gun belt for everyone. A regular leather belt is no match for the pound or two you will be hanging off your hip, and that will effect concealability and the draw.

  4. When it comes to dealing with the police I will say this:

    You will have to make the assessment of what to say to them based on how they deal with you. If they’re total assholes you want to keep your message as short as possible. Something like “I’m in no condition to answer questions right now but I will later”.

    If the cops are reasonable then it is probably advisable to go a bit beyond that and say something about how you’re the victim and that you shot to stop a threat to the safety of yourself and/or others along with some basic details like “He/she was armed with that machete over there”. Then advise them that you’d be happy to answer all their questions but right now you need time to calm down and consult an attorney.

    You can’t change what the prosecutor in your situation might do but you can affect the recommendation that the police will make to them. Being cooperative (within reason) is advisable. Simply telling them “I’m no saying anything until I have a lawyer” is not calculated to win friends and influence people with the investigators and you want them on your side of this thing from the jump. You don’t want to be suspicious or the guy/gal who’s a total dick to them.

  5. At least in Ohio, rape is considered “grievous bodily harm”, so don’t shy away from defending yourself as necessary.

    Also, one of my CC instructors recommended that if you’re going to carry, it may be a good idea to keep a lawyer’s business card in your wallet/purse/etc. You don’t necessarily need to keep them on retainer, but just having a number you can call if you do need to use your gun defensively can potentially save you trouble later. (You may want to check with the lawyer first to make sure they handle such cases.)

    • Except keep in mind though that Ohio is the only state that puts the burden of proving self defense on the defendant (you). In most of the other states, you need to provide some evidence to support your claim of SD, and then the burden shifts to the state, which then has to disprove at least one required element beyond a reasonable doubt.

  6. Love my holster for my 9mm, it’s a hip one, but if moved to front and have a big long shirt over it, it looks like I have a big dong…

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