So you got your concealed-carry permit or you live in a free state where you don’t need one, but you’ve decided to carry a concealed firearm at home and in public. Now what? In this article I’ll touch on a few of the things that responsibility and morality now require of you, including the hard stuff and things most folks find distasteful, because you need to hear them.
There is no such thing as “trained in the use of firearms.” Those who believe they’ve been trained and are good to go are delusional. There is not trained. There is either regular training or incompetence of one degree or another. You do not want to be incompetent and you certainly don’t want to be exposed for your incompetence should some criminal decide to make that happen. I’m guessing you don’t want to die for your incompetence either. So get training on a regular basis and practice on a regular basis to maintain competence.
Note that the competence I’m referring to here has little or nothing to do with being able to load and calmly stand still and slowly fire to hit an 8” target at 7 yards. Rather, I’m talking about quickly and surely deploying from concealment and fighting with your gun (not “shooting” it) and keeping it running in a chaotic firefight. If you don’t train for this, you are incompetent and should address this failing. Don’t worry, we all start out incompetent. But we can get better.
Concealed Carry is Serious Business
Meditate on these facts: when you decide to carry a concealed firearm you are committing yourself to the possibility of getting into a deadly firefight as well as the possibility of having to take someone’s life. You will not pick the terms of the fight, which is 99.9% likely begin with you at a severe disadvantage. If you are competent in quickly deploying and running your gun and have an indomitable spirit, there is a significant chance you won’t survive. If you are incompetent or lack the proper spirit you will not survive. Your gun probably won’t matter.
Therefore, you have a moral obligation to cultivate and then continually work to maintain safety and competence and to explore and develop your will to prevail in a fight. You cannot develop these things on your own; they require professional instruction. Receiving instruction should be an ongoing endeavor in your responsible lifestyle as a concealed carrier (are you starting to get the message?).
Inexperienced gun handlers under duress are habitually unsafe because merely knowing the 4 rules of gun safety has no effect on gun handling when you’re simply reacting. One of the most valuable benefits of training is the ingraining of safe habits. Safe habits take quite a while and lots of effort to get internalized, but they must become unconscious habits and have to be reinforced continually by someone other than you. For this you cannot monitor yourself so you need someone else to offer instantaneous correction. A training class is the best place to acquire and reinforce these habits because the level of expectation is high and uncompromising, and others’ eyes are always on you. Practicing at a good gun range is another means for safety reinforcement because the RSO will have his/her eye on you and will be quick to offer correction.
A Training Regimen
A level-1 pistol course is something you should already have completed before you began to carry concealed. That training, and copious, ongoing practice, should soon be followed by a level-2 course. The Intro to Intermediate Pistol class at Eagle Gun Range is a prime example of the kind of course that is meant to prepare you for the later classes that you need most: those that teach you to run your gun and survive an attack.
Having completed these courses, and with accompanying, regular self practice at home and at the range, you’re likely ready to begin the real training and take the important practical (some call them tactical) courses. Don’t let the “tactical” label fool you; these are not courses for Special Forces operators, but rather fundamental-competency courses that expose and help you to understand and develop the basic skills required for anyone to be competent with a firearm. They’re not nice-to-have skills or special classes; they’re must-have compulsory classes necessary for anyone who carries a firearm.
Though some have the label, there is no such thing as an advanced firearms class, only more and more practical, fundamental skills and competency. The most important classes are likely those that are about fighting with your gun, not shooting your gun. Even more important are those concerned with when and when not to introduce your gun into a situation…and how to best avoid ever having to do so. As one who carries a firearm, you have an obligation to avoid danger and confrontation, and to de-escalate those that find you. It’s good to be trained to do that.
How many classes should you take?
All of them, and on a regular basis. I took six such classes in 2016 and eleven classes in 2017 and I sometimes retake classes just because the refresher and opportunities to receive professional instruction are always good.
I recommend that you take a class every 2 months at minimum, with ongoing practice every week in between. Think of your competency with your firearm the same as with a musical instrument. Would you be ready to perform a public concert after just one or two music classes? What if that concert would decide whether you live or die? Maybe take every class you can possibly take and practice as much as you possibly can. You don’t get to pick the time, place, or circumstances where you may be called upon to demonstrate your competency.
Some Advice and Caveats
If you carry concealed, make sure that all of the classes you take either require or allow running your gun from concealment. I’m not talking about the level 1 or 2 intro classes, but rather the practical classes. It makes no sense whatever to train to draw from a military-style, open-carry holster if you do not carry that way on a daily basis. If you carry openly, make sure your classes are for that style of carry. Take the class in the same clothes and with the same loadout you carry every day. Don’t ever change to something specific for the class unless that new thing will be your new every-day.
Spend your money on ammo and training, not on new guns. Find your pistol and stick with it. Don’t pursue every newfangled model to emerge, but find one that perfectly fits your hands, your preferences, and your carry style and build a system around that. This “system” should or may include a safe-training gun (blue gun), top-quality holsters, lots of extra magazines, a replacement-parts kit that you assemble yourself (learn to work on your gun), a light made for that model, etc… Don’t change your gun based on the seasons, but find the right gun and carry it in all seasons.
Carry all day, every day. No exceptions. Put your gun on when you get out of bed and take it off when you go to bed. If it’s not on you it’s not available to you, no matter what lies someone may have told you.
Carve out an ammo budget and dedicate part(s) of every week to dry-fire practice at home and live-fire practice at the range. You don’t have to fire 300 or 500 rounds in a training session. You can get excellent practice with 50 rounds once or twice a week, provided that you actually train for specific skills and don’t just “shoot” at the range.
There’s a place for standing in a lane at a static, indoor range and taking target practice. It is one component of many necessary components of ongoing practice. Remember, though, that all firearm defense is practical shooting. If you don’t train to draw from concealment, run with your pistol, take defensive positions behind cover, and defend from cover against several targets—and do so safely—then you are 100% unprepared to defend your life or anyone else’s. Find a gun range that allows you to do these things and make your training dollars count.
Work on what you’re poor at, not on what you’re good at. If you can fire 5 rounds in 3 seconds and shoot a hand-size group at 7 yards, don’t ever waste time doing that. Push your target out to 15 or 25 or 50 yards and/or change to primary-hand-only drills. If you’re solid with your primary hand, switch to support-hand-only drills. Practice shooting 4 different targets in one string, transitioning while maintaining a good sight picture and good accuracy.
Practice fast accuracy at longer ranges like 25 and 50 yards. With your pistol you should own everything 25 yards and in and be capable of incapacitating hits at ranges beyond 25 yards. There’s a place for 3 and 5 and 7-yard training, but they’re just one small component of productive, regular practice. That’s not a Shield of Invulnerability you’re carrying. It’s a tool that is meant to reach out and stop a deadly threat. Keep reaching out further in practice.
By carrying a concealed firearm you’ve made a serious, consequential choice that brings with it significant obligations and, perhaps, some lifestyle changes. Own up to these obligations and find ways to responsibly fit your choice into your life.
There is nothing more valuable to your concealed-carry lifestyle than training and practice. And there is nothing so irresponsible as neglecting the cultivation and maintenance of your competence. The consequences of your actions are now greatly magnified. Make sure you do right by yourself and by those around you.
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