Join Date: Aug 2005
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Gun Nut Tip of the Week: Concealed Carry
Concealed carry, often referred to as CCW (carry concealed weapon), is an act that is a popular topic in recent times. Regardless of how you feel about it, this thread is designed to offer the best advice on all topics related to CCW.
If you are new to CCW, or if you are considering starting, the hope is that this thread will provide some excellent information for you to base your decision making off of.
I will touch on several key aspects of CCW:
Legal and Certification
Training and Mindset
Tips and Advice
Your reason for carrying is always going to be a personal one. Many people may decide to carry for altruistic reasons like general public safety or stopping a mass active shooter scenario. Many others decide to carry for personal reasons, such as to protect themselves or their families. Regardless of why you decide to carry, it is not a decision to be made lightly. The decision to carry must be one that you go into with full understanding of what it may lead to: pulling the trigger and taking a life.
Determine if you want to carry, and then follow through with it. Have your reasons, but be sure you are carrying for the right reasons. Do not carry just for the sake of carrying a gun. The worst gun owner is the one who uses a gun to feel tough or make themselves feel invincible. They are the ones that will ultimately ruin it for everyone else. They are also the ones that will get arrested for unlawful use of a firearm, assault/battery with a dangerous weapon, manslaughter, or murder.
Legal and Certification
Once you decide to carry, enroll in your nearest or preferred CCW training course. Get the course information ahead of time to know what you will need to take the course. Courses will vary depending on where you go and who teaches them, but they will all follow a generally standard curriculum approved by the state in which you will receive the certification. It is common for much of the time in the course to be spent on learning the legalities involved with concealed carry. In my state, you learn the exact wording of the applicable statutes that authorize and control CCW. You also learn the law regarding acceptable and approved Use of Force application. Additionally, you will likely be taught the legal consequences of your actions if you act outside the law. You'll likely also be taught about the legal aspects associated with a justifiable usage; i.e. criminal investigations, grand jury examinations, and civil liabilities. Concealed Carry is much like physics- every action has an equal and opposite reaction. During your legalities training, you will learn where you can and cannot carry a weapon. Places like schools and daycare centers are typically off-limits, but each state is different. Also, there will be education on your requirements and what is expected of you should you need to provide proof of ownership of a CCW permit by the authorities or other citizens.
After legalities are covered, you will likely be taught basic techniques about carrying and employing a concealed weapon. Most courses don't go too deep into the instructional aspect of shooting. Instead, they primarily focus on testing you and your shooting prowess in the form of a qualification or certification shoot.
Some places will offer an advanced course that WILL teach shooting skills, carry techniques and tips, and work on more advanced aspects of carrying. Such places are typically shooting schools and academies. Jeff Cooper's Gunsite in Prescott, AZ, or US Training Center in Moyock, NC are good examples of prestigious schools that offer advanced CCW training as part of a CCW certification curriculum.
Once you complete your course, you will be given credentials that will indicate you have met local or state requirements to carry. Once completed, you will likely have to go to your nearest police department or sheriff's office to apply for your CCW permit. Every state is different, but this is the general principle that most states follow. Always make sure you follow how your state does it.
States typically fall into two categories for their CCW policy: MAY ISSUE and SHALL ISSUE
MAY ISSUE: this means that your state or jurisdiction is not required to issue you a permit, even if you qualify. You will typically need to meet a stringent set of requirements to be given the privilege to carry.
SHALL ISSUE: this means that your state or jurisdiction is required by law to issue you a concealed carry permit, as long as you meet the licensing requirements. This moves CCW from the realm of "privilege" and into the realm of being a "right".
Once you receive your CCW permit, it's up to you to maintain the permit. There may be a requirement for recertification at regular intervals, or there may be continuing educational requirements. Whatever is required, it is usually upon you to maintain the permit. Don't expect your state to notify when you permit will be expiring soon
One often-debated topic in relation to CCW is reciprocity of permits between states. Unfortunately, not every state may recognize your concealed carry permit. The only people who may carry in all 50 states are peace officers, as defined by H.R. 218 and the FLEOPA/LEOSA acts. How do you know if you qualify for that coverage? Well to be honest, if you have to ask, it means you likely aren't covered.
If you have a standard CCW permit, it's incumbent upon you to know the laws in each state that you plan to be in. There's no such thing as a mulligan or exceptions for "good intentions" when you carry a gun into a state that does not recognize your own state's CCW permits. Additionally, states that recognize your CCW permit may have different requirements set forth in their own code of statutes that you will be expected to follow. One state may require you to carry openly and in view while operating a motor vehicle (Ohio), while another may not require you to have a CCW permit at all to carry (Alaska).
A good way to check the laws is to visit the NRA-ILA's website to determine what states recognize your CCW permit and which ones don't. They also have information about each state's gun laws and restrictions.
CCW Protocol ties in with Legal, but it's separate in it's own right. When you carry, there are certain protocols for how to handle your weapon and what is and is not appropriate. I will not touch on every aspect of protocol, as it will change depending on where you are in the country.
The first aspect of protocol will be open carry. This is a topic that has been debated heavily in the past, so I will keep this short. The general suggestion is that Open Carry (carrying visibly instead of concealed) is only generally acceptable when done in places where it's common. If you're in a state, city, region or business where it's not common to carry openly, and you carry openly, you could create alarm or just generally draw unwanted attention to yourself. It's almost like a matter of manners, if you will.
Another aspect of protocol is how to handle encounters with police. I actually get asked this one a lot. If your state requires you to disclose that you have a weapon on you when you have contact with a police officer, there is a right way and wrong way to bring that information to light. In general, it's always a good idea to disclose that information for everyone's safety. However, if you disclose that you are carrying, the best way to do it is with TACT.
The WRONG Way: "Officer, I got a gun."
The RIGHT Way: "Officer, for my safety and yours, I would like to inform you that I do have a permit to carry, and I do have a weapon in my possession. What would you like me to do?" (make sure you're hands are visible)
If the time should come when you need to use your weapon, understand that you are a private citizen. When/if police show up, you will have no extra rights or privileges extended to you about the use of your weapon. Police will likely not ask you to "cover them" while they make an arrest. More likely, they will order you to drop the gun while they have you at gun point. This is not personal. It is a safety matter, and they do not know what happened or who to trust until things get sorted out. If you still have your gun out, do nothing to look threatening to the police. It may help to keep the weapon pointed toward the ground, but then put one hand up high in the air and yell "CONCEALED CARRY!". Another option could be to holster the weapon upon seeing the police, throw both hands up in the air, and again yell that you have a permit. I don't recommend randomly throwing a gun on the ground, because then it can be grabbed by the suspect. If, however you are ordered to, then do as ordered. An alternative could be to place the weapon beside you on a ledge or table or top of a car, step away, throw the hands up and ID yourself. Regardless, always follow directions. You do not have the same authority as a peace officer, so do not attempt to do your own thing and not listen. You could be shot for your trouble.
And no matter what, DO NOT POINT THE GUN IN THEIR DIRECTION EITHER!!
If you have to use your weapon, and then are very compliant and accommodating with law enforcement, that information will go into the police report. That information can only work to your advantage when reviewed by a district or county attorney for a determination of justification. It could also help in the event of civil legal action.
Do not pull the gun out in public for any reason other than to use it. Do not pull it out to show your buddy, the guy behind the counter at Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's, or the hot chick you're trying to convince to give her phone number.
The last aspect I will touch on is carrying in places where you may not be in the right state of mind. Minnesota allows you to carry a weapon as long as your blood alcohol level is below .04 BAC. That's 2 beers for most guys. Just because you CAN drink, doesn't mean you should. This also goes for carrying while using medications or narcotics that alter your mental status or physical status (i.e. sleeping pills, heavy narcotic pain killers, or other prescriptions that warn against operating heavy machinery). It is never a good idea to mix alcohol or controlled substances with guns. Never.
Now it's time for the fun stuff.
When you decide to carry, you will need the appropriate weapon and carry system. Without the appropriate equipment, it will become difficult, uncomfortable, or dangerous to carry, and you will stop doing it.
Weapons Selection - Handguns:
Full Size: Full size handguns typically have 4-6" long barrels with full size grips. These pistols have the highest magazine capacities and are the easiest to fire and control. They also tend to be the most accurate due to the ease of control. The downside of full size handguns is their size and weight. Whether you get a semi-automatic pistol or a revolver, these weapons tend to have the most weight. As a result, they are the hardest to carry concealed. Examples of Full Size guns include Glock 17/20/21/22/31/34/35/37, Springfield XD-M/XD/XD Tactical, 1911, Smith&Wesson M&P40/45/9/357, H&K HK4/P30L/USP, Sig Sauer P220/P226, Smith&Wesson N/K/L frame revolvers.
Compacts: Compacts are an intermediate size that are smaller than full size, but are still large enough to be used as a combat pistol. The barrels range from 3.5-4" in length, and the grip is slightly smaller than full, but still made to fit the entire hand. Compacts have an intermediate magazine capacity as well. For the best all-around handgun to have, a compact size handgun is ideal. It is easy to shoot, and able to be carried. Such variants include Glock 19/23/32/38, H&K P30/USP Compact/HK45 Compact/P2000, Springfield Armory XD Compacts, Sig P229/P250, 1911 Compact/Champion/Commander sizes, Smith&Wesson 60 and 600 series revovlers.
Sub-Compacts: These guns have small barrels ranging from 2-3.5" in length, and have short grips that often cut off above the pinky finger. The sub-compact is not a standard combat pistol, and is designed as a concealable weapon that is used only for self protection or in emergencies. They tend to be the hardest to control, since the small size increases felt recoil, and the shorter barrel increases muzzle flipping. They can be just as accurate as full size guns, but take much more skill to master and more hand and arm strength to control. They are the ideal carry weapon, since most sub-compact handguns come chambered in common combat calibers like 9mm, .40 and .45. Such guns include the Glock 26/27/30/33/36/39, Springfield XD sub-compact, Smith&Wesson M&Pc compacts, Kahr PM series, 1911 Ultra/Micro/EMP sizes, H&K P2000SK, Sig Sauer P239/280, and Smith&Wesson J-frame and Bodyguard revolvers.
Micro-Compacts/Pocket Guns: These guns are typically extremely small, and have a very limited magazine capacity. Micro pistols are sheerly for defensive purposes. They are designed for very light carry when weight must be at a minimum. The power of most of the chamberings is very low, as are the magazine capacities, so this is a weapon that you would choose to employ by shooting and then retreating. This is not a combat or standoff-capable pistol. Most micro pistols are chambered in lighter calibers of .380ACP or smaller. Common calibers include the .380ACP(9mm Kurz/9x17mm), .32 Auto, .25 Auto, and .22LR. One noted exception is the Rohrbaugh R9, which is a micro pistol that will chamber the 9mmLuger (9x19mm/9mm Para) combat cartridge. Otherwise, most other pistols will chamber lower. Such pistols include the Kel-Tec P-series, Beretta Tomcat and Bobcat, Ruger LCP, Walther PPK/PPKS, and Sig P232/P238.
Once you decide which handgun you want, you're nearly set. Unfortunately, it's hard to decide what to carry. The best advice anyone can give you is to go the range and rent guns until you shoot something you like. Once you decide what you like, you will be able to then make a decision on what you want for a carry pistol. People who like shooting Glock 22s will most likely integrate well with a Glock 27 for carry. The same is likewise for liking a Springfield TRP 1911 and carrying a Springfield EMP 1911.
One way you want to judge WHAT you want to carry is to decide HOW you want to carry. In the CCW world, the six most popular carry methods are inside the waistband (IWB), outside the waistband/high-ride (OWB), small of back (SOB), shoulder, ankle, and pocket. There are holsters for each method, as well as others.
IWB: This is probably the most common method. This method allows you to conceal the easiest, and does allow you to comfortably carry guns up to COMPACT in size. You may carry full size, but it will not be as comfortable or easy. This method places a holster inside the waistband of your pants, on your strong side. The holster will attach to the pants or belt on the outside of the holster. This is my preferred method of carry. The two most popular models of holster are the Crossbreed SuperTuck and the Comp-Tac MTAC. Others do exist from reputable manufacturers like Galco and Gould&Goodrich.
OWB: This is one of the preferred methods to carry large frame or full size handguns. The gun is carried on the strong side, outside the waistband. The holster is either attached to the belt, or has a paddle fixture that slides over the belt and pants waistband for easy donning and removal. This is also the most common methods for carrying openly. When carrying openly, it is important to use a holster that integrates a retention system of some type. Friction-locking holsters that secure the weapon by simple tension are considered Level 1 retention. You should utilize a Level 2 or higher retention system that uses some sort of mechanical auto-lock or a thumb-snap. Holsters should be made of a quality leather or a polymer/composite.
SOB: This is the best way to conceal a full size pistol, but it works for all sizes of handguns. The holster attaches to the belt directly in the middle of your back. The handgun then rests in the holster upside down, and pulls out on your strong side. This is a comfortable and effective way to carry a larger pistol when on foot, but it is not designed for driving or sitting. The gun will dig into your back when sitting on a chair or seat.
Shoulder Holsters: Shoulder rigs, particularly horizontal shoulder rigs, are perfect for carrying compact to large frame handguns. The caveat is that for concealed carry, you need to wear a heavier exterior shirt or jacket to prevent printing (showing of the holster and/or gun through the cloth). Nylon holsters that fill this niche are junk. You should only be using quality leather holsters for this usage. Galco and Gould&Goodrich make the best leather holsters for shoulder holsters, but several others from companies like Boston leather have come out with great products.
Ankle: The ankle carry is often times the most unobtrusive way to carry a smaller pistol. This is particularly true when you are wearing tight clothing or something without pockets. The caveat is that you must wear pants, and the pants must be loose enough to not hug the holster, thereby printing the holster and weapon and increasing the chance of binding/catching during your draw action. Ankle holsters will only work for sub-compact and micro-compact handguns. If you plan on doing a lot of walking or any running, this is not an ideal holster. A proper holster will utilize leather or a high-density high quality nylon holster, with a comfortable ankle wrap to secure it. The best I've found on the market has been Galco's Ankle Glove holster. The holster itself is high quality cow leather with a thumb-break for positive retention. The ankle wrap is heavy neoprene lined with super soft sheepskin padding and velcro closure.
Pocket: This method employs a "sleeve" of fabric or leather that covers the gun barrel and trigger guard, so the gun will sit in your pocket safely. The pocket carry method should only be used for micro pistols or small J-frame revolvers.
Other things to consider carrying with you are everyday tools that you would need, as well as tools that will complement the gun you carry. Carrying a spare magazine is an option, but it is a good option if you are carrying a gun with a small magazine capacity, or a gun that employs a single-stack magazine (1911s, for example). You can carry a magazine in a holder on the belt, or just throw it in your pocket.
A pocket flashlight is also a great purchase. You need to make sure you invest in a proper high-quality tactical flashlight, not some cheap AA Battery powered light. SureFire comes to mind. The E2D still stands as an exceptional option, but the new E1B Backup is only 4" long, 2.8oz in weight, and pumps out a blinding 110lumens of high output LED light, as well as 5hrs of low-level 5lumen LED light. As great as it is, the ultimate in concealment and discreet capability comes with the SureFire T1A Titan, which is not much larger than a AA battery and pumps out 1 hour of 70lumens of light at high output, or 60hrs of 1lumen output (great for fidgeting around in the car). You will pay a premium for it, but the T1A is 3.25" long and 2oz in weight, making it the king of compact.
A final tool to carry is a pocket knife. Cutting people loose from restraints, cutting stuck clothing out of machinery, or just cutting a piece of food, a knife is a great tool. I'm not a knife guru, so refer to someone else for recommendations. I like Blackhawk! and Benchmades, though. They're top-notch knives, but will cost you a premium.
Clothing is another piece of equipment that comes in very handy. Wear the appropriate clothing for how you plan to carry. If you decide to carry OWB but want it concealed, you need a shirt or coat long enough to cover the bottom of the holster and the muzzle of the gun. This is not just necessary for when you are standing around, but for when you are reaching for something up high, like at a grocery store. Likewise, if you carry openly, do not wear something that so bulky or loose that it will disrupt your draw by causing the gun to hang up or catch on the clothing. Wear clothing that his thick enough to prevent printing of the weapon and holster.
Training and Mindset
The use of a concealed weapon is heavily dependent upon training. The big thing that no one every points out is that successful employment of a CCW pistol is very much dependent upon situation and opportunity. In order to successfully deploy a weapon, you need the right circumstances. Sometimes, it is a no-win scenario.
If anyone here has done force-on-force training with FX or Simunitions, you know exactly how difficult it is to shoot someone. It takes practice upon practice upon practice with the gun developing the fundamentals. Once you have everything down, then you can put it into practice in force-on-force training. As you gain more experience, you will get better.
All that starts at the base with proper training. There's a difference between training and proper training. There are real dangers involved in CCW. When you are reacting, you are at a major disadvantage. You are further hampered by inadequate training and poor tactics. Going to a public range, holding the gun out in front of you and slow-firing at a target 7yds away is good for developing basic fundamentals, but it does nothing to prepare you to use your concealed weapon in a defensive situation. Instead, you need to practice drawing, moving and shooting with all of your equipment in the way that you would in a real-world scenario.
This obviously works best at the range, but it can be practiced and honed in you own living room. Before you go out for the day, practice drawing with your weapon in the clothes you will be wearing. By doing this, you will learn how to cope with obstacles and how to properly draw the weapon in as discreet manner as possible.
Further, consider professional training. Many local ranges offer advanced CCW or combat shooting training. Do your research and figure out the better classes to take, and try taking one or two. Or, look to a major shooting facility/program like Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, USTC or Magpul Dynamics for advanced tactical training.
The advantage of professional training is that you will be taught not only the fundamentals and mechanical aspects of carrying and shooting, but you will also be taught about mindset and mentality, as well as good tactics to use to stay alive and win the fight. The best thing to do is to find a program that uses credible instructors. The instructors should have lots of real-world experience and high-level training. Don't trust Jeff the gun instructor who's been teaching CCW classes for 5 years, but has done nothing else in his life to qualify him as an expert in the field. Instead, look to retired police officer Barbrady, who spent 30 years as a cop and carried on-duty and off-duty for every one of those 30 years.
Additionally, be aware that a proper training course will teach you multiple aspects of how to carry and shoot. Most of these advanced courses will do very little coverage of legal aspects, so don't expect it to always jive with your own state's laws if something is said. Keep an open mind.
When you begin to develop mindset, you become a more lethal person and that mindset ultimately makes you safer. You develop situational awareness and a healthy amount of paranoia. You inculcate a tactical mindset by evaluating every situation and location, and always engaging in problem-solving and hypothesizing evaluations. You begin to act more tactically, like never sitting with your back to a door, always knowing alternate egress routes, sitting as far away from the door as you can, putting something behind you so no one can hit you from behind, learning where cover exists and taking 3 seconds to figure out how you'd use it if you had to, practicing your 360 scans every time you shoot, going through "what if..." scenarios in your brain when you go places, becoming more observant of the people around you and their behaviors and mannerisms, etc. The list goes on. To put the whole tactical mindset into words would take far too long to type. Instead, do your own research and develop ideas that will suit your needs and your own personality. The ability to be both reserved and aggressive is not necessarily an easy skill set to develop.
There are many sayings that are adequate here, but two that I think are the most pertinent and applicable are:
Train as you would fight, as you will fight as you train
In a time of crisis, don't expect to rise to the occasion; expect to fall back to your highest level of training
The greatest mindset of all is the one that understands and accepts the burden that comes with carrying. You must be under full understanding of what can happen if you use your weapon. You must also be 100% dedicated to using your weapon, should the situation arise. Your weapon is not there to scare, threaten, or wound anyone. Your handgun is there to KILL. If you do not have the ability or drive to kill with your weapon, you should not carry a weapon at all. There is no middle ground on this. Period.
Tips and Advice:
The info I've shared is from my own experiences with carrying firearms for the past 12 years. I know what works for me. What works for me may work for you, or it may not. Just keep that in mind. So here goes my own personal tips and advice:
Speer Gold Dot has shown itself to be the most consistently reliable JHP round on the market. I love Speer Gold Dot, but the newer Federal HST is the Gold Dot on steroids. Either are fantastic, and both work very well against barriers like auto safety glass and heavy clothing. Both do not clog with clothing, and will expand well. Whatever you choose, do your best to choose a bonded bullet. Such as the following:
Speer Gold Dot
Hornady XTP TAP/TAP CQ
Hornady FTX Critical Defense
Winchester Bonded PDX
Winchester Ranger SXT Bonded
Remington Golden Saber Bonded
Despite having other guns, my Glock 27 has been the gun I keep going back to. It is consistently the gun I have come to love and rely upon. The gun is fantastic in many respects. Having a 10+1 capacity for a .40S&W sub-compact pistol is an excellent feature. It is the only CCW gun I've ever carried that I would feel confident getting into a sustained gun battle with. There are many quality guns out there that could do the same for you. Guns out there like the Glocks, M&Ps, XDs, or H&K P2000SK are designed to be rugged and reliable, while still being able to battle it out.
Revolvers are literally Point-and-Click. A quality revolver, particularly a Smith & Wesson, will likely never malfunction. Revolvers aren't made for sustained firefights, but in a pinch, they'll always perform.
Micro/pocket guns and revolvers work for short ranges. If you want a laser on your weapon, the laser belongs on these kinds of weapons. If you go to a sub-compact or larger handgun, a laser will only distract you and force you to not use your sights. That's not good. Micro/pocket guns and revolves have very limited small sights, so using a laser instead may be appropriate.
Practice until your hands hurt with whatever ammunition you want. However, before you carry, make sure to run AT LEAST 50 rounds of your carry ammunition through the gun to make sure your gun will cycle it without problem. This is also important, as carry/duty ammunition tends to recoil harder than practice ammunition.
Pocket rockets are better than having nothing. There's no debating that. Still, I'm willing to make some sacrifice in comfort and weight and carry a larger pistol. If you choose to carry a pocket rocket pistol, do your best to carry the largest caliber you can. A .380ACP is the ideal cartridge for this class, but a .32 Auto is not necessarily a step down. Hornady makes a 60gr XTP for the .32 Auto that is nearly equal in power to a .380ACP.
Carry as large as gun as you can, but as small as you have to in order to make it work.
Buying cheapsh*t holsters will give you cheapsh*t results. If you can buy a holster brand new for $15, it's probably junk. Spend the money on a proper holster, and it'll make a world of difference. In the world of holsters, leather is your best friend (and polymer/composite is it's cousin).
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