So that you will regularly, properly, and legally carry a concealed firearm, you must select your optimal firearm, gear, and accessories that match your lifestyle, dress, work, recreational and daily activities, personal preferences and philosophies and understand certain guidelines. It is a terrible thing when anyone takes the life of another and you should accept that shooting someone with your firearm is only a last resort, after you have done everything possible to avoid a firearm confrontation and retreat. However, if you carry concealed you must also accept that to protect your life and the lives of your loved ones in specific scenarios, you might be faced with using a firearm and deadly force to take another’s life in self defense. You must have the knowledge, training, mindset, skills, and best firearm and accessories to appropriately and legally handle situations you might encounter. Since the firearm and equipment challenge may involve a trial-and-error approach that can be time consuming and costly for a new concealed carry licensee and shooter, included below are some ideas about that issue as well as some other topics and considerations that may save you some time, trouble, money and, most importantly, help safeguard your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Mistake #1 – NOT UNDERSTANDING THE GREAT RESPONSIBILITY OF CARRYING A CONCEALED WEAPON NOR ADOPTING THE RELATED MINDSET AND TRAINING PLAN
You are carrying a deadly weapon that can kill people, ruin and change the lives of the person you shot or killed, their families, and your own life and family. Carrying a firearm brings a lot of responsibility, so adapting the proper concealed carry mindset is extremely important. Those who carry must go out of their way to avoid conflict and confrontations. We must be more mellow and discreet with an easy-going attitude. Just because we can legally carry a concealed weapon does not make us police officers nor vigilantes. We should not have a macho, emotional, killer instinctive reaction, but rather avoid trouble, use non-emotional judgment, and de-escalate confrontations. The same holds true for situations where deadly force would be justified. Just because we can legally shoot does not mean we must or should ALWAYS shoot. It may seem like commonsense, but you have to remember that you will not be able to carry a concealed weapon into places like courthouses or courtrooms, police or sheriff stations, jails or prisons, bars, nor schools and colleges. Forgetting you have a gun on your belt or in your purse when you’re running late to an appointment, could get you arrested, with the loss of your concealed carry weapons license. You must know legally when you can and cannot shoot, when to use deadly force, where you can and cannot carry concealed, how to relate to the police if there is a shooting, and what to do after a shooting, etc.
You should train, carry, and shoot with specific goals, priorities, and purposes in mind. You should not waste your time, ammo, and effort training and shooting haphazardly just to fire a certain number of rounds. Rather, manage your shooting by planning the specific techniques, fundamentals, and skills you want to learn and improve upon while training. While there are similarities, you will train somewhat differently for concealed carry, competitive, combat, and Range shooting. Every training repetition you do builds and reinforces the particular technique and muscle memory for each unique action. When a technique or movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems. Examples of muscle memory are found in many everyday activities that become automatic and improve with practice, such as riding a bicycle, dancing the waltz, and typing on a keyboard. However, if the training drills and repetitions you do in your training are incorrect, you will train this poor technique or incorrect fundamental into your subconscious memory. When you need the skill in a future critical, life-or-death situation, for example, where you are under stress and must react quickly as you have trained, your brain will draw from what it knows from your muscle memory. So, if you have trained with an incorrect fundamental or with poor technique, you will automatically and subconsciously perform it improperly. So you don’t know what you don’t know. Your training drills and techniques should be planned with specific goals, purposes, and prioritized based on the results you want to achieve in various scenarios. Simply putting rounds downrange and hoping you are learning the right skills are a waste of your effort and resources. To correct this, plan by listing the skills and techniques you will likely need in specific situations and then prioritize them. Then develop some unique Training Drills that will work on each of those skills and strictly use them during your training sessions. See my “5-Shot-Touch Group Shooting Drill” article.
Mistake #2 – INITIALLY NOT GETTING SUFFICIENT FUNDAMENTALS CLASSROOM AND RANGE LIVE-FIRE TRAINING
This mistake will get you or a family member killed. Even if you don’t take your Florida Concealed Carry Weapons License training from me, please do your research and avoid an abbreviated, one-round fired gun show, 45-minutes, or “quickie course”. You are harming yourself by getting minimal training that often overlooks several fundamentals and improved techniques necessary to protect your life and your loved ones. Frequently there is minimal Range hands-on firing without personal guidance nor private, customized instruction to improve your current skill set. Also, just because 5 years ago or so you received a solid basics course, techniques and methods improve and change, so you can learn something by attending a new fundamentals course.
Mistake #3 – NOT REGULARLY GETTING REFRESHER FIREARMS’ FUNDAMENTALS TRAINING AND LEGAL UPDATES FOR YOUR STATE OF RESIDENCE
The training to get your concealed carry license is usually minimal, non-personalized in large classes, and not in-depth enough to effectively train you to defend yourself or your family in critical situations. You need to regularly seek out additional one-on-one training from qualified instructors in the classroom and on the Range and then practice and practice again the fundamentals they teach you on your own or with a shooting buddy. This is true just as you exercise to maintain your health. Consider that at the very minimum most police officers have to qualify with their firearms once or twice a year. Also, firearms and concealed carry laws change and improved techniques and philosophies emerge. So I believe you should practice fundamentals of shooting for accuracy with your holster, gear and accessories once a month (or at least 8 times a year) and attend at least one firearms training course per year if possible. Don’t take a chance on missing or forgetting proper techniques and relearning bad habits. Some think because they were raised with a gun, shot tin cans, and went squirrel hunting a lot, that they already have the best firearms knowledge and techniques. The proper grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger, breath, and hold controls, and follow-through techniques should be learned and committed to muscle memory from a certified instructor who has updated methods and improved basics, without a need to think about what needs to be done. This may mean unlearning some bad techniques and learning proper ones. This comes with practice, practice, and more practice. Lives may depend on your accuracy, current knowledge, and refined techniques.
Mistake #4 – NOT REGULARLY PRACTICING
Shooting fundamentals and skills are perishable and they deteriorate if not practiced. So, you must practice on a regular basis. Although dry-fire practice drills are useful, there is no substitute for live fire. You can run dry practice drills to practice presenting your handgun, aligning your sights, getting your firearm on target, exercising your trigger press and reset, and performing emergency reloads, tactical reloads, and malfunction clearances. However, dry-fire practice does not give you the experience of controlling your trigger and your firearm under recoil. If you cannot devote some time on a regular basis to shooting practice, your shooting skills and performance under the stress of a deadly-force encounter will suffer. Unfortunately, our deadly-force encounter shooting skills do not increase under the stress of pumping adrenaline. Our shooting skills and accuracy during a real-life encounter do not come close to our worse day of accurate shooting at the Range, but actually decrease. Your body is going to dump massive amounts of adrenaline into your bloodstream which will make you temporarily stronger and faster, but it adversely affects fine motor coordination such as your ability to focus on the front sight and press the trigger without disrupting the sight alignment. As a result, you will tend to be about half as good in a real encounter as you are on your best Range day. Regular practice definitely helps. Aim for a monthly Range shooting session, but try to go at least every 7 to 8 weeks at minimum. Certainly not once a year.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry matters. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.