As of this year, there are more than 15 million Americans who have obtained concealed-carry permits.
If national concealed-carry reciprocity becomes a reality, these numbers will likely soar.
Concealed carriers are the good guys and gals. They are today’s true First Responders. While they’ve undergone additional training and background checks, they have also accepted what I believe constitutes a heady responsibility — willingly exposing themselves to tremendous liability — legal, moral and financial.
Here are five of what I consider the most serious concealed-carry mistakes and, more importantly, how to avoid them:
Failure to train: Firearms training, in my humble opinion, should be ongoing. Unfortunately, for many concealed carriers, the training stops once they’ve received their permit. At a bare minimum, concealed carriers should master drawing from concealment and reloading from concealment. Unfortunately, most public and private ranges prohibit drawing from an exposed holster, much less one that’s concealed beneath clothing. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a range where the RSOs allow drawing from concealment, you’re in the minority. As a result, most concealed carriers must practice drawing and reloading dry, at home. Failure to practice drawing from concealment can be deadly — gun sights and sharp edges can snag clothing. Spare magazines, if not carried in a mag pouch, become lost in pockets or turned around, and must be re-oriented before being inserted, slowing the reload. It’s hard to win a gunfight if you can’t get your pistol out from under your clothing.
Also, given the overzealous nature of some of the fanatics in our society today, I strongly recommend weapon retention training — the type given to law enforcement officers. Shirts and other concealment garments can ride-up or “print” a concealed pistol. It’s becoming vital for a concealed carrier to know how to retain their firearm if someone goes after it.
Legal training — training that’s specifically focused on defensive shootings — can prevent the “Superman syndrome,” which is another devastating consequence of failure to properly train. Lately, it seems that some concealed carriers are choosing to become involved in other matters — police matters — such as misdemeanor crimes, domestic disturbances, arguments, disputes, etc. A good legal training program will outline exactly when a concealed carrier can take action — in the defense of their life or that of another — and when they should not become involved. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with merely being a good witness. Knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot is as vital as mastering how to shoot.
Failure to develop a post-shooting plan: A lawful defensive gun usage can change instantly into an unlawful shooting depending on how the concealed carrier interacts with law enforcement. There’s a reason for this: It is 100-percent natural to become extremely communicative after a traumatic event, and there are few events more traumatic than a defensive shooting.
Thorough pre-planning teaches the concealed carrier what to say or, more importantly, what not to say. There are several schools of thought. Some trainers advocate not making any post-shooting statements to police. Other trainers tell their students to only give police the bare minimum: I encountered a threat. I was in fear for my life. I shot to stop the threat.
Wild, spontaneous outbursts are not only stupid, they can become evidence. Law enforcement will report everything the shooter says, and they’ll also record their demeanor. While it won’t always effect a prosecutor’s decision to file charges, a shooter’s demeanor can prove extremely injurious during a civil suit. Imagine a jury being shown a video of a concealed carrier who’s anything less than remorseful during a lawsuit brought by the bad guy’s family.
Failure to maintain situational awareness: There are several potential threats during a defensive shooting: the bad guy, other bad guys, onlookers and law enforcement. Any one of these threats can prove deadly.
A switched-on concealed carrier will be aware of, and prepared for all of them. Some shooters have said they developed “tunnel vision” during a defensive shooting, although the condition is not universal. One way to prevent tunnel vision is forcing yourself to constantly scan and assess the entire scene, not just the bad guy on the ground. This will negate the threat from additional bad guys, and it will stop onlookers from taking action against the shooter. Remember, they’ve just witnessed a shooting. They likely don’t know all the facts. They may assume that the concealed-carrier is the aggressor. They should be engaged verbally. Tell them to remain at the scene until they’ve been interviewed by police, while you prepare for law enforcement to arrive.
Tactically, there are few situations more dangerous than standing over a dead or dying bad guy with your weapon drawn when police arrive. If the tactical situation allows, reholster before police get there. Once they arrive, follow their commands to the letter. After a shooting, the gun on your hip becomes a liability until it’s recovered by a police officer. Unfortunately, if a shooter tunnels out and does not hear these commands or does not comply immediately, the results can be deadly.
Failure to select and maintain a proper firearm, gear: All firearms can malfunction, but a quality defensive handgun made by a reputable manufacturer will malfunction less often. Over the years, I’ve met a few gun owners who almost brag about the cheap handguns they carry. They’ve never let them down, they say, which may be true. Com-Bloc milsurp pistols or handguns made by second or third tier manufacturers may fire when the trigger is pulled, but why take the risk. What’s your life worth? The same rule applies to holsters, mag pouches, gun belts and any other item carried to retain your weapon. Buy the best.
A concealed carry firearm must be cleaned far more often than one that merely takes up space in a gun safe. Every-day carry subjects a pistol to dirt, lint, body sweat, the possibility of a barrel obstruction and more. At a minimum, a concealed-carry pistol should be cleaned and inspected weekly. The same rule applies to holsters and mag pouches. They should be cleaned and checked for wear regularly, or they may lose their retention properties. Although it’s infinitely better than leather, Kydex can crack over time. Check it thoroughly.
Regardless of the pistol you select, it should be carried ready to fire: a round in the chamber and safety off. The only obvious exception being the 1911. I’m still amazed by longtime shooters who carry a pistol without a round in the chamber, thinking they’ll have time and two free hands to chamber a round before a gunfight starts. This is a deadly practice.
Carrying a concealed firearm also requires a change in wardrobe. In-the-waistband (IWB) holsters require an extra inch or two in the waist, as do IWB mag holsters and other gear. Traditional belts will often sag when pistols are attached. Tight shirts — especially fitted ones — will print a handgun. As a general rule, baggy is better.
Failure to carry: Regardless of your skill level, the best defensive pistol in the world won’t be of any use if it’s locked in a safe or car trunk. Concealed carry is a lifestyle. If there’s a business you frequent that doesn’t allow firearms, spend your money somewhere else.
After all, why would you willingly disarm yourself?