Over the last decade, the number of individuals obtaining a concealed carry permit has skyrocketed, and that's a good thing. The concealed carry movement has bolstered support for the Second Amendment, introduced legions of new shooters to the world of firearms and proven that legal gun ownership does not create spikes in crime rates (just the opposite, in fact).
Perhaps most importantly, the boom in concealed carry has preserved the personal liberty of millions of Americans by allowing them to defend themselves against those who would inflict harm upon them. As a result of this new wave of shooters, gun sales have risen dramatically, and the topic of concealed carry firearms has become a watercooler topic in workplaces around the country.
Choosing a firearm for concealed carry is an important decision, to be sure. But it isn't the only decision you'll have to make when you obtain your concealed carry permit, and it may not even be the most important decision. Here's a look at six other critical decisions you'll have to make when you obtain your CCW permit, all of which are critical to developing an effective personal protection plan.
Your concealed carry firearm is simply a delivery system to propel a projectile at an attacker. In short, your defensive handgun fires a bullet but it is the bullet that serves to neutralize the threat. Why, then, do so many people choose to buy an expensive firearm and load it with cheap ammunition that was designed for target shooting and not personal defense?
In life-and-death situations a bullet will be asked to travel through barriers like heavy denim clothing, expand reliably across a wide range of velocities, and stop an attacker instantly. Simply put, not all is made to do that.
There are a number of excellent personal protection loads for concealed carry from Federal, Nosler, Hornady, Remington, SIG Sauer, Barnes, Winchester, Browning and others, and Federal recently unveiled its new Practice/Defend ammo packs that contain 100 rounds of practice ammo and 20 rounds of defensive ammo in one package.
Finding a holster that fits your shape and lifestyle can be difficult, but this is a critical decision. Your gun is only as effective as it is accessible. If you can't get your gun drawn and fire in a hurry, then you won't be able to adequately defend yourself. I've even talked to several people who, after obtaining a concealed carry permit, don't carry because they can't find a comfortable holster.
The first step in holster selection is understanding what's available and testing different holsters until you find the one that best suits you. That means spending time in gun shops, at conventions and asking friends what they use so that you can make the best decision.
Most people opt to carry on the strong side (though it's better to be able to access the firearm with either hand) and choose either an inside-the-waistband (IWB) or outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster. The easiest holsters to conceal are often belly bands, but that doesn't mean they're always the easiest to access. There are a variety of other options, from bra holsters to ankle holsters, and there is the choice for off-body carry in a purse or bag, although it isn't ideal.
Along with holster selection, you'll also need to find clothes that fit well without printing, and there are a number of great dress and casual options.
Remember that previous section regarding the importance of proper bullet selection? Choosing a set of sights—the system by which you will properly deliver that bullet—is critical, and the irons that come with your gun may not be the best option for you.
Recently, I did an article on a GI-style 1911 A1, a gun that comes with true-to-period plain Parkerized sights. Those sights are fine for backyard target practice and personal defense in perfect lighting conditions, but since you may encounter danger at any time, you want a pair of sights that give you the best opportunity to make the first shot count.
It's not always easy to find the right gun with the right sights, but the good news is that you can change the sights (or, if you aren't up to the task, there's likely a competent gunsmith somewhere nearby who will swap your sights for a reasonable price). I prefer a front sight that is bright green. That color seems to be the easiest for me to see in any light conditions, and fiber optic and tritium options do an effective job allowing you to shoot in near or total darkness.
But iron sights aren't the only option. Lasers can be mounted on the rail, in the grip or even in the iron sights of your concealed carry pistol, and they are effective day or night. Today's compact reflex optics are light and durable, and more and more semiautos are coming optic-ready.
The primary concern when storing a firearm in the house is access. You must make the gun rapidly accessible to those who know how to use it while keeping it inaccessible from those who don't. A safe is a great option, but will you be able to get to that gun in a hurry?
Companies like Gun Vault offer a wide variety of options, and Hornady's new RAPiD safe is another great choice that allows you to access the gun using a RFID key fob, RFID card, RFID sticker or rubber bracelet. When activated, the safe pops open, and you can instantly retrieve the firearm. Both the RAPiD Safe and Gun Vault products are durably built and can be mounted so that they can't be moved or stolen.
Another option is hidden walls like those from Tactical Walls, where guns are hidden in plain sight and are rapidly accessible to the homeowner yet won't tip-off guests that you have guns.
When choosing a safe, you'll need to decide which type of locking system you want. Traditionally, safes have had digital or mechanical dials that allow entry, but more modern safes are using RFID technology.
Coded safes are another option, allowing you to quickly enter a punch code, and biometric options that recognize finger prints are also an option. The best safe for you depends on your preferences and your budget.
If you're going to invest in a firearm for concealed carry, you must also invest in the training required to handle that gun in a safe and effective manner. For some, this means spending time on the range after purchasing a firearm, and you'll need to carve out at least a few hours twice a week to stay sharp and develop the muscle memory to become a competent defensive shooter.
Personally, I believe if you are serious about armed defense, you need to invest in what I refer to as next-level training. It isn't enough to simply stand on the range from a known distance popping paper targets. That helps, to be sure, and it's far better than not shooting at all. However, by investing in yourself in the form of high-quality training, you are helping up the odds of survival in a dangerous situation.
The best instructors are patient and are willing to help, quick to point out the issues that can become real problems if left unaddressed. There are three keys to effective training—find a qualified instructor, listen carefully to what they say (leave your ego behind) and practice what you've learned. If you do these things, you will be much better prepared to defend yourself, regardless of the gun you carry concealed.
No matter what gun you carry, no matter the ammo is in the chamber, no matter your skill with a firearm, you won't survive a deadly concealed carry encounter unless you have the right mindset.
The dean of developing a personal defense mindset was the late Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite. Cooper left behind a great deal of information on his views regarding the topic, which are available through his videos and writings, but the primary thrust of his teaching is that evil can find you today.
No one is immune to violence, and neither the neighborhood we live in nor the circles we keep insulate us from the reality that death may come knocking anywhere and at any time. And you need to know what to do if that happens. Proper mindset is, in my opinion, vastly more important than firearm selection. Sure, you need a good gun that works properly, but no gun will do the task required if your brain fails.
If I find myself in the midst of a violent encounter, I want to know that I am more prepared to survive based on my mental state than my adversary. It might be the thin line between tragedy and survival.