Getting your CCW permit for the first time is a multi-faceted experience. There’s the personal freedom, the celebration of liberty, the deep sense of responsibility—and what may seem like an endless forest of legal and bureaucratic requirements. And Americans, as a species, are deeply suspicious if not resentful of officialdom. If you doubt this at all, just take a trip to the DMV or take a good look around your office come Tax Day.
But none of that should deter you from getting your concealed carry permit. If anything, it’s getting easier all the time in most states. However, before you take the plunge, there’s a bit of groundwork that has to be laid. Let’s do this by the numbers:
1. Get your legal act in order.
Take the time to do the research, talk to an attorney, and figure out what you need to do to be legally eligible to carry. This includes learning what the application process will involve; it would be a pity to get most-of-the-way there and suddenly find yourself hung up on a foreseeable requirement.
2. Learn the relevant laws.
Learn the relevant laws both for your states and for states that honor your permit. Thankfully this information is easy to find, but you’re responsible for knowing it no matter where you find yourself, so make sure that you do.
3. Get your equipment in order.
We’ve discussed your different options for a CCW at length, so I won’t repeat all of that here. However, there’s more to a CCW than a firearm, ammo, and magazines (when applicable). You’ll need a good-quality holster and belt, as well as clothing that facilitates concealed carry and rapid access to the weapon. The whole system has to work together, or it won’t work at all. Remember, you’re trusting your life to each component.
4. Practice makes perfect, so practice a lot.
Find a gun range near you and practice drawing, firing, and reloading your weapon. Take a couple of classes for tactical firearms use. Read and learn as much as you can—it’ll pay off if and when the balloon goes up. I suggest seriously considering some first aid training; again if the balloon flies you may need it.
5. Consider where you can carry, and what to do when you can’t.
It’s important to know your workplace’s rules about CCW, how to store one safely in a vehicle if you must, and what your other personal protection options are when you can’t legally carry.
6. Learn how to talk to the cops.
While there are a lot of great guidelines and articles online, it pays to get some professional advice. Ask your local sheriff’s office or police department, consult an instructor, and talk to an attorney. This is one of those moments when professional guidance pays off.
7. And finally, get your head right.
You’re taking on a huge responsibility in addition to a great deal of personal liberty, and you have to live up to both. CCW holders have a long tradition of being some of the kindest, most polite, and most law-abiding folks in the country. Make sure you that you meet this standard, each and every time.
I hope these guidelines make getting your CCW both easier and—dare I say—more enjoyable. Let us know about your experiences in the comments section, and until then stay safe out there!