You have probably seen headlines like this:
Concealed Carry Permit Holder Stops Shooting Rampage
CCW Holder Stops Shooter and Saves Lives
You know the reasons to carry, now find a class near you and sign up. Enter your zip code here to find ccw classes.
CCW Classes typically range from 4 to 16 hours depending on your state laws. Your instructor will take you through firearm mechanics, general gun safety, cleaning a gun, state laws, liability issues, best carry methods and home defense. Click here to read about your state's specific requirements.
You should know how to operate several different types of firearms. The two basic types of handguns for concealed carry purposes are revolvers and semi-automatics. Which type to carry is a hotly debated topic. Let's go into some pros and cons of each type.
Revolvers are easier to operate for someone with very little gun training. Once it is loaded all you have to do is pull the trigger. If the cartridge does not fire, you just pull the trigger again until it fires. This is in contrast to a semi-auto. If you have a misfire with a semi-auto it could take many precious seconds to clear the jamb and rack a new bullet into the chamber. This is not to say that revolvers are more reliable than semi-auto's. Revolvers usually fail miserably with a sand test. This is when a gun is dropped in a bucket of sand or dirt or mud. Semi-auto's are more likely to continue shooting after this kind of abuse than a revolver.
A revolver is very easy to load but is generally slower to load than a semi-auto. There are speed-loaders available that help but those take some practice. With a semi-auto you can have extra magazines pre-loaded in your back pocket. Just hit the magazine release, let the empty fall out and insert the new one. You will also have to rack the slide but this will become second nature with some training.
Revolvers usually only hold 5 or 6 rounds. Semi-Autos definitely win in the capacity category. Many semi-autos that are small enough to conceal can hold 7 to 15 rounds. I don't know about you but the extra capacity of a semi-auto sure gives me peace of mind. Of course some experts argue that a typical self defense gunfight happens so fast that capacity does not really matter.
Revolvers can be shot from inside purses or pockets without malfunctions. The confined space of a purse may not allow a semi-auto to fully recycle the slide. This means a semi-auto fired in this fashion may be limited to one shot. There is another self defense situation in which a revolver is the best choice. When an attacker is on top of you and the only way to survive is to stick the gun into the attacker's body. In this situation most semi-autos will not fire because the slide is being pushed back.
You may be thinking that I am trying to encourage you to carry a revolver but that is not the case. I actually carry a semi-auto because it is easier to shoot and I am much more accurate with it. I like the ease of loading and the extra round capacity available. My every day carry gun is a Ruger LCP. A .380 round is not known for it's stopping power but this is what I can comfortably conceal with a tucked in shirt. Deciding what type of gun to carry is a very personal question and you need to shoot extensively with different guns to figure it out.
Here's a tip I learned the hard way:
Don't buy a pretty gun for every day carry as it will just get dirty and be a disappointment. Buy a reliable tool made for heavy use.
While shopping for a gun you will read many comments from people who say they will only buy metal guns. I believe this is a stupid attitude because polymer guns have proven their reliability for years. Consider a polymer gun because they are reliable, lightweight, cheaper, and easier to replace.
General Gun Safety
You have probably heard the rule:
This is the number 1 rule of gun safety and if you always abide by it you will not have accidents. In the realm of concealed carry we are usually talking about very short barreled weapons which makes this rule harder to follow. A handgun is easily turned with a flick of the wrist and therefore we have to take extra care when handling them. Your instructor will certainly instill this rule in you along with many others to make you a responsible armed citizen.
Cleaning a Gun
I'm the worst offender when it comes to not cleaning my guns but I know it is very necessary. A dirty gun can malfunction at the time you most need it. The main 3 chemicals you will need to clean a gun are
- Gun Cleaner
- Bore Cleaner
- Gun Oil
You should also purchase some type of cleaning kit that includes a cleaning rod with bore and patch attachments. Watch this short video of how to easily clean a semi auto handgun.
The four categories of state permitting policies are shown below in order from least restrictive to most restrictive.
- Shall issue
- May Issue
- No issue
Most states today are "shall issue" which means that if you meet the state's requirements you will be issued a permit. Authorities in "may issue" states have discretion in who they issue permits to. "May issue" states often require the applicant to have "good cause" to obtain a permit. This requirement can be very subjective and allows the local authority to make a case by case decision on who gets a permit. Training requirements also vary by state. A few states have online CCW classes with no range time, but generally classroom time of at least 8 hours and some range time is required. During the live-fire portion of the class a student must demonstrate safe operation of the gun as well as shooting proficiency. Some states require a certain number of good hits to pass while others leave it up to the instructor to make a judgement call. The shooting test is typically done from 7 to 15 yards away. If you plan to carry a weapon when you travel you will need to understand reciprocity. Many states allow permit holders from other states to legally carry concealed. Check out this map to get an idea of where you can travel with your CCW permit.
Note of Caution:
Before going on a trip you need to call the Attorney General of each state you will be driving through to make sure you will be allowed to carry in that state. Laws are changing all the time and you don't want to rely on a website that may not have completely up-to-date information. Your instructor should give you a firm grounding in where to carry and where you should never carry a gun. Here is a list of places that you are generally not allowed to carry:
- Federal government buildings
- State government buildings
- Political events
- Schools, universities, and churches
- Professional sporting events
- Businesses that sell alcohol
- Private property
This may be the most important part of your ccw classes so listen up. In some states it is possible for the attacker to sue you for civil penalties even if the shooting was justified. Learn your state laws and abide by them. Some states require you to retreat from a threat before using your weapon while others have passed the "Castle Doctrine". The "Castle Doctrine" allows you to shoot without attempting to retreat first. Some states even grant immunity from civil suits to a justified shooter. Again, learn the laws of your state and any other state you will be carrying in.
What to expect when carrying in the real world
After reading all this you may be apprehensive about carrying a concealed weapon. I have carried in several different positions on my body for years and have never had anyone recognize that I was armed. Find the gun and holster combination that fits your lifestyle and you will be more likely to carry safely everyday. It is a relief to know that I have an option if my life is ever in danger from an attacker. Follow your local laws and always practice gun safety.