7 Common Mistakes of Concealed Carry Licensees & New Shooters

7 Common Mistakes of Concealed Carry Licensees & New Shooters

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.


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.

Range Live Fire Training

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.


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.


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.

Click here for mistake 5, 6 and 7.

* 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.

© 2013 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • Mike

    Don’t forget another mistake…telling people that you are carrying concealed. I like to keep this fact private with the exception of my closest friends and loved ones. When I say close I mean so close that I would do anything for them…they would do anything for me.

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  • Dennis

    Great summary and ‘Gut’ check for those who conceal carry. Even those who carry professionally; policeman, body guards, CIA, FBI, Armed Forces, have to go through extensive training, regular practice and most importantly, the mind set to carry and use their firearm responsibly With any freedom comes responsibility..

    • Rob

      Your so called professionals don’t be so sure. I watched a police training video where they fired on a perp 15 times and hit them once.This was a real event not made necessarily for training. I hope this is the exception and not the rule the thought is a little scary. Evidently some do not practice all the more reason to learn to defend yourself.

  • PMD

    Great Post. Information everyone and I mean EVERYONE needs to read and heed.
    This same information is a big part of my CCW courses and seeing it here only reinforces my desire to pass on this information and to keep learning all I can.
    Thank you.

  • Yes indeed, practice is important. Even the basic skills need to be practiced regularly. Using a .22LR of similar size, weight and type is an inexpensive way to practice on a more regular basis (when cost is an issue). I try to go at least twice a month. Generally begin with the .22LR revolver or pistol and then move on to the larger caliber to complete my visit. Focus being on shot placement, basic skills, various stance, tall, low, and also doing left and right handed shooting. You never know what might happen and when you might need to use the other hand. I would hate to need to shoot with the opposite hand and not have ever had tried to. Start out doing so with the .22LR, it makes it an enjoyable time.

  • Jarhead0369

    Personal responsibility is the single biggest thing lacking in most CCW holders. It is the reason so many do not learn or follow your suggestions. About 40-50% of my CCW renewal students have not fired their gun since their last qualification (five years!). Less than 1% have taken ANY advanced training beyond the permit mandatory training. It is a matter of feeling safe versus being safe.

    Col. Cooper’s famous quote is exactly right:”You are no more armed because you are wearing a pistol than you are a musician because you own a guitar.”

    By the way, in some states you can carry in bars, schools, universities, etc. but (again) it is up to the individual to KNOW the rules.

    Some purse holsters have a simple lock and key mechanism on the zipper. It will not stop someone with a cutting implement, but it will defeat the curiosity of a child.

  • wolf_fire

    I can’t argue with a thing you mentioned… I would however add that a new firearm owner who will be carrying should get learned very quickly in the laws of their land and know what to do and say when stopped by a law enforcement officer.

    • What is there to say when stopped by an officer, besides: Hello Officer, what is the pleasure I have for this visit today? Remember, we are carrying concealed, no one knows we have a weapon, and they don’t know we have a license to carry. A state that requires you to divulge the information is violating your right to carry concealed, in addition to your constitutional and civil rights. I am aware that there are states that do require this, these laws need to be changed. The uphill battle is not over . . . .

      • my state NC requires to divulge

      • Anon

        I understand what you are saying, since we are law abiding citizens and we went through a background check to get it and so few CCW holders ever commit crimes. But to play the devil’s advocate here, what would it matter if they DID know? Are they not also “background checked, law-abiding citizens”? I’m a little weary of private citizens screaming ‘trust me’ while distrusting our law enforcement officers…seems like a two-way street to me. You know he has a gun, why does yours need be be a secret?

        • tracker

          The state of Texas does not require us to divulge, because it is legal to carry a firearm in your vehicle without a CHL, as your vehicle is covered under ‘castle doctrine’. However, I personally think that you would want to show the cop your CHL because then he knows you’re not a thug 😉

          • Danny C

            you better read the CHL laws again, it DOES state that you must show your CHL license when asked for ID by a officer. Tx CHL 411.205

  • Vans40

    I totally disagree with even the thought that a shoulder holster would be acceptable under any circumstances. I’ve been a pistol and rifle instructor for 35 years and that includes the tactical side. With a shoulder holster holster the muzzle points one of two ways, either toward the rear (I sure don’t want to be standing in back of you) or straight down. In either case it’s not only a very slow draw but you sweep everyone in front of you before you come on target. When the adrenalin is flowing, your heart is racing and your life on the line you want as few things as possible that can go wrong. I don’t know a single training facility that will let you use a shoulder holster.

  • CJ

    As a former Federal LE officerour “academy” trained us to shoot accurately and in the main body mass of the offending person….The training was designed to stop the
    offender…… permanently. They also trained us to ONLY use your service revolver
    (I know old school now) when your life or the life of another is threatened.
    Further, expect to end up in court justifying the shooting by convincing the
    judge, jury or other authority that you really felt you (or someone else) were
    immediately in a life threatening situation and there were no other options.
    ALSO some states do allow “stand your ground” to be part of your
    decision making instincts. In these states retreat is not a requirement as a
    permit holder. Excellent article, permit holders must take the option to kill
    or severely injure someone VERY seriously, the mental attitude of the license
    holder is the most critical part of your “carry” responsibility.

  • J.C.. King

    First I would like to thank the Col, for his article. I have been carrying for about 7years now, and I do agree with every thing you have mentioned here . I would like to see more on now folks whom are considering , or are new carriers . On the mind set of a person with a deadly weapon . There many things as you did mention. An they should be focused on with the upmost intensities. Please be careful, an think it through , train throughly, you can not have to much training . No one knows how YOU are going to react when faced with one of these life threaten events. But you. Your training and mind set is ,in my opinion is the single most important thing. Do not skimp on training . Live long , happy and most of all safe an protected. For all of our sakes. Cause ya never know I or one of my family my be standing near you when the unfortunate may rise. And I will be counting on you an you’d training . Thanks for listening. Carrie safe ! An strong!

  • Todd

    What an informative and well written article. I actually feel better for having read this.

  • Mike B

    My wife recently got her LTC and having gone through all of what is discussed here
    myself, thought it might be similar for her, but with her the challenges are compounded by her desire for a heavier gun to control recoil (she’s comfortable shooting .38 Special in a full size/all steel .357 revolver, but not on my J-frame). Though she can handle a compact 9MM, she believes (and I agree) it would be smarter to carry a revolver, as she has ‘limp-wristed’ autos in the past and may be inclined to do so in an anxiety filled moment. What I would love to find for her is a 9MM revolver, with moon rings, that could be ‘down-loaded’ to .380. Enough ballistic power to protect herself at close range, with the reliability of a revolver. Another thought is the Ruger SP-101 .327 ‘downloaded’ to .32 H&R Magnum Thoughts?

  • Cobrawing

    Col. Findley you knocked it out of the park again! You have absolutely become the hands down best writer here, the most informative and the most level headed. I’d so much rather hear from someone like you who may not appear here several times a week, but when he does the words and his credentials are totally CREDIBLE!

  • Nathan

    I disagree with the police station line but otherwise you are right on


    Proper mental attitude is most important and that includes the COLOR CODES OF AWARENESS.

  • Caf

    I agree with almost all of this article except for one certain statement: “Also, understand that you must CONCEAL your carry gun, because it is required by law and for the license.” Just because you have a CPL, does not mean that you cannot open carry. Placing the word MUST in that statement can be misleading.

    • JJP

      The point is you’re either OPEN or CONCEALED. I don’t know about other states, but your jacket shifting to reveal a concealed firearm isn’t temporary open carry, it counts as brandishing.

      • JJP

        Meant to add, “…but in the state of Virginia,”

      • In the PRC (CA) brandishing is a very specific crime. It must be used in a rude threatening or angry manner.

      • thomaspainelives

        Actually, no. Most states consider accidental exposure not to be brandishing. As a matter of fact, Texas just changed that part of the law this year.

  • Michael

    Great article, great reading, very, very informative

  • jack burton

    while this was a fundamentally good article with good advice it still needs to be noted that 99 percent of CCW holders don’t run into problems and the one percent that do often have stupidity problems that no amount of training will cure. Common sense seems to run strong thru those who carry, and while they may not have a much training as the pros would like them to have, this may be an effort to correct s problem that doesn;t really exist

  • I appreciate your comments that imply that you don’t have to shoot and should look at means of avoiding the confrontation. Too many are never taught this.

  • Michael Helle

    #1 should apply to everyone rather conceal carry or not.

    Nothing will protect you as much as situational awareness and conflict avoidance (when possible) Not even a firearm. Arguably someone who can read people, places, and events and is unarmed is much safer than someone who can do none of those and yet carry conceal.

  • scott

    In regards to anke holster I draw right handed but prefer to carry on the inside of my left leg. i have found that doing this enables a faster draw since i am able to snap my left leg upwards and right hand downwards at the same time. It also allows me to use my left hand to pull the pant leg up to help expose my handgun. Typically if you buy a right handed holster it will work on inner left ankle or outer right ankle and vice versa for a left handed holster. inner right leg or outer left leg. so i would recommend trying from both holsters and seeing what works better.

  • Yes rule #1 situational awareness, if you don’t have to go there, then don’t, also remember that if you carry one you can loose one, be wary of public restrooms always use a stall with a door. I personally carry a .40 XD a bit heavy but I am used to the weight, use a paddle holster at times, and at others use a galco behind the back, since I always prefer loose fitting clothing and Hawaiian print shirts, even with a paddle it is difficult to tell. Practice presenting with a snap cap, locate a range that will allow you to draw from holster (some do not due to mis-directed rounds) have seen indoor ranges with holes in overhead above the firing line.

  • Travis

    Great article! Personal safety = Personal responsibility

  • Get your training from a grunt. AF guy above probably can’t hit a fly.

    • shootfly

      Dude hitting a fly in mid air would be friggen amazing lol.

  • introvert

    YAY for #5 I am so SICK of (especially men) telling me I need a bigger gun… who the HELL can hide a gun that big and still look stylish.. and PALLLEZE dont tell me a concealment vest (really?! THAT vest looks nice, says NO BODY EVER!!) I prefer to be out at the range as often as possible and being extremely accurate with my .380. By the way… at the range.. you may want to look at the persons target…before accepting/giving advice!! I hate it when guys come over and want to “help” me when they have yet to hit the black area on the target…yes guys you want to hit the target…..(sorry, was just out at the range yesterday…) also “is that a GLock” is the WORST pick up line… and…no it is not.. I hate the way it fits my hand…OK?!

    • I have been looking at a .22 and a .380 and everyone (my husband included) is like you need more knock down power! I’m like, um, have you forgotten that any gun has the potential to kill? So reading #5 reassured me… Some guys are just hilarious though with the “big gun” thing, Where the heck am I gonna hide a .45??? =) I like my husband’s 9mm but of course ammo is really hard to find so running rounds through for practice and working on my skills is a bit hard at the moment. .22 is a little easier to find (at least for now) and I thought I would be able to work on my accuracy a bit more. We are in Illinois, so we are just waiting for all the political crap to be cut with Lisa Madigan and Quinn and whoever else hates the thought Illinois residents being able to carry concealed. If anyone else on here reads this, lives in Illinois (Chicago area?Joliet area) and can suggest a great firearms instructor that would be greatly appreciated too!

    • .380 is a lot more effective nowadays thanks to advancements in bullet design and a women who is proficient with a .380 is wayyyy better off than one who is not proficient with a .40. Personally, I wouldn’t go with anything less than a compact 9mm though. (M&P Shield, LC9) Like someone else here said, all guns are deadly, but you want something that will stop the bad guys from being able to continue shooting at you right there, thus the need for some reasonable knockdown power.

      • tracker

        Hey, a .22 right between the eyes will stop anyone in less than a second. I know, I know, it’s not the ‘center of mass’ but if you practice and that was the only gun you could really carry on you, I think you’d be okay.

    • BeGe1

      I carry a small 9×18 makarov (very similar in performance to 380). The important part is that you’re carrying something you won’t leave at home half the time because it doesn’t fit anywhere concealed (especially for women, who in general have smaller frames as well as tighter fitting clothing styles, double whammy for making it hard to conceal).

      Yeah, if I’m walking around Detroit I wear a sport coat specifically for the purpose of concealing a bigger pistol, (because I’m knowingly going to a warzone practically)…but the rest of the time even for a 6’3″ 200 lb guy like me it’s hard to conceal anything larger than my 9×18 in summer, so that’s what gets carried. Too many CCW owners leave their gun at home way too often because of inability to conceal with what they’re wearing.

  • julesvern4895

    I had to check the date of this article after seeing the, “leather is the most popular,” holster material phrase in the article. It sure is NOT, in my state. Kydex is preferred about 75% to 25% for leather around here (according to gun owner polls) for lots of good reasons.

  • Claude

    That article is so full of unsubstantiated suppositions, poor or
    non-existent research, pseudo-science, and out and out hyperbole that it
    would take days just to get through all the possible refutations.

  • thomaspainelives

    “Small of the Back Holster – Also called an SOB holster, small of the
    back models are designed to be worn right on the small of the back. SOB
    holsters can be either belt models or IWB models. Some say they are
    difficult to get to quickly.” This is probably the most unsafe method. If you’re sitting down, it’s almost impossible to get out; if you fall down, you risk spinal cord injuries; if you’re already on the ground, again it’s hard to get to.

  • jb80538

    Practicing shooting?
    Who’s got ammo for that anymore?

    • sam

      practicing with Walmart target ammo is a small price to pay for a weapon that you will ultimately rely on to save your life.
      That is why you purchased a gun, for safety, not just for show !

      • jb80538

        Actually I reload and have a few thousand rounds on hand at all times. Those that don’t reload have a hard time finding ammo.

  • Richard Spalding

    you should fire for qualification at least every 45 days. the Secret Service mandates it every 90 days but they are looking into dropping it to every 60 days due to recent statistics showing that the average law enforcement officer is accurate only 18% of the time, the average federal agent is accurate only 24% of the time and you can count on a Secret Service agent being accurate only 35% of the time whereas an army private is accurate 60-70% of the time.

  • sam

    The four dumbest words that a concealed carry can ever utter.

    About a year ago, I went to a friends home to show him my support. He was to take his concealed carry training course the following day, Saturday. We were having coffee in his back room talking about his training and just enjoying the evening.
    Just as I was about to call it a night we heard a loud crash in the front of the house. He was up with gun in hand and I was right behind him with my 380 in hand (it was already cocked and safety off).
    My friend yelled “stop or I’ll… as the intruder lunged toward him.

    Before my friend could finish his sentence I had fired three rounds into the intruders chest. The force of the intruders lunge still allowed him to collide with my friend who lost his weapon in the collision. They both landed on the front room floor.
    We are not the Police and we are not obligated to announce that we have a weapon or that we intend to use it. Especially when the intruder is entering our space.

    Had this intruder not been killed he could have used my friends gun on him. He definitely had the upper hand.

    When ever I am in an unknown my gun is cocked and safety is OFF.
    If you carry, open or concealed you must be willing to use it with out second thought, otherwise it becomes a weapon against you.

  • jasonjrf

    ok the first 4 are all the same training shit common