The Concealed Carry Lifestyle…plan it, do it, live it!
Concealed carry is the act of carrying a concealed firearm and all that comes with it. You see, the late Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper had it right. “You are no more a gunman because you have a gun than you are a musician because you have a piano.” The biggest handgun with the most expensive holster and greatest +P+, thermo-nuclear, Gold- Tipped, XYZ or ABC, death-dealing hollow point ammunition will be of no use if you cannot bring the gun into action and shoot well enough to save your own life.
While some try to make gun-fighting sound magical, those of us who have spent our lives preparing for such situations actually have a pretty good idea of what will happen. We have studied the subject, included our own experiences, read all we can, spoken to every person we can who has been in a fight and spent too much time watching all of the gunfight videos that are now available on-line. And you know what... there is no “average” gunfight. Each event, though similar to others, will be its own peculiar situation. To try and prepare for every thing that could happen in a fight is impossible. So we have to look at the subject in general and prepare accordingly, understanding that we will have to “tweak” our tactics as the situation unfolds…you know, ADAPT!
The biggest impediment to prevailing in any fight is not our ability to shoot well, it is our willingness to wade in and fight in the first place. Once we do, have the ability to make instant decisions in a crisis environment without suffering brain lock. Let me tell you from personal experience, it’s easier said than done. Learning to shoot alone is not enough. Once you have a solid base of information and skill, practice regularly…structured, meaningful practice! That said, a few rounds a week with some dry fire is much better than a large volume of ammo infrequently.
In regards to personal defense and concealed carry, what do you need to know and practice? First, we must select the right carry gear for our lifestyle and needs. I would strenuously caution against carrying a small “mouse gun” that may be easy to carry/conceal, but worthless in a fight. While it is true that the first rule of gun fighting is to have a gun, it should be enough to handle the problem, understanding any gun is better than open hands, as going open hands with an attacker is never as appealing as it may seem.
What is more likely is when multiple people confront you, you draw a gun and they back off because they are concerned about getting shot…but can you count on this? Considering this particular situation, is this where you want to be holding that cute little .25 that is so easy to carry, or do you want a handful of gun that will handle the problem if an dose attack occur?! The caliber should be .38 Special/9mm at a minimum as it has been my experience that people shot with calibers less than this are not incapacitated, while above this they take greater notice.
Once you have selected a gun, where are you going to conceal it? Will it be readily available or conveniently tucked away? If the gun is concealed so deep that you can’t get at it in a couple of seconds or less, what use will it be? Ready means prepared! We have all heard the term “shoot, move, communicate” but it is actually more involved than that. Included are; keeping cool under extreme pressure, making instant decisions, being concerned about non-hostiles, recognizing threats, keeping track of a changing situation and so forth.
The harsh reality is if your shooting skills and fighting tactics are not on auto- pilot…what is commonly known as “unconscious competence”… you will not be able to focus on what is unfolding in front or all around you. Obtain solid training and then practice. A good training course does not have to be a “high-speed, low drag” course. As a matter of fact, what a Special Operations team may do is probably totally unrelated to your attack in the shopping mall parking lot. What you need is a solid base of fundamental/foundational/essential skills to draw on.
I believe that the Gunsite 250 course, Jeff Cooper’s original Defensive Pistol Course, is the standard by which all others are judged. Every shooting school to come since has used the format established here…foundational skills, a ready position, holster skills, reloading, etc. Emphasis in any slid program should emphasize getting solid hits under great duress as the history of armed conflict has long revealed that the person who gets the first solid hit will usually win, thus the speed at which a person can deploy and accurately fire their gun can determine whether or not they will prevail. Accuracy is the ultimate goal, but speed cannot be ignored.
A fast draw does not come from spastic, jerky body movement but from lack of unnecessary motion…physiological efficiency. Thus, the least distance that the hand must travel in order to acquire the gun, the faster the draw will be. Take a moment to stand upright and look at where your shooting hand is in relationship to locations on your body that are logical for handgun concealment. The hands will normally be in one of three locations prior to a fight; at your side, in front of the navel/belt buckle or up by the head, which is normal when startled. Regardless of the location, the hands are only a short distance from the belt line making travel quick and efficient. The fastest location would certainly be at the front of the body just off of the centerline, but this would mean that a closed front garment would be required to conceal the gun. If you always wear such a garment, than an appendix-style of carry would be the best choice for you.
But what happens if you do not always wear such garments? Most of us will wear a jacket that is open in the front whether it is casual or business, so the forward appendix carry would not be a good choice. This requires the gun to be moved around the body under the garment; and the farther back the gun is, the longer the draw will take. Where the gun is placed should be based on your preferences. That said, appendix to three o’clock (nine o’clock for a left hand shooter) will be the fastest carry locations for most people.
I have had both shoulders re-built due to the stupidity of my youth, thus wearing a gun in the hollow above my hip (commonly known as FBI carry) is problematic as it is difficult for me to get my hand solidly on the grip of a canted gun due to my limited flexibility. Thus, I wear my gun on the side of my body (three o’clock) in a vertical cant that allows me to grasp the gun the same way each time. This is not the ultimate mode of carry for all, but it is for me. Each of one of us must find what works best for us. The trick is to practice and see what is most efficient based on your skill, body style and other individual concerns. Once you find the right location, select holsters that work well for this location and stick to it. Muscular confusion is the end result for the person who constantly changes their carry location.
IWB (inside-the-waistband) rigs will conceal better, but the tighter to the body the gun is worn, the longer the draw will potentially take as acquiring a grip is more difficult. This is not bad, just reality, so consider this and practice accordingly. Any holster selected should retain the gun through vigorous activity. Retention snaps/ straps are an individual choice, regardless, a good rule of thumb is to place the loaded gun in the holster, turn it upside down over a bed or other soft area and shake it three times. If the gun stays in place, you are probably okay.
The vast majority of shooters will eventually settle on a strong side, belt-mounted mode of carry as they will find their shooting hand is closest to the gun when carried in this position. Some will decide on a cross draw, which is fine, provided the gun is carried in a consistent location. The cross draw does require a longer reach, thus additional time, but I have seen a number of skilled “pistoleros” use this position to great effect and I accept this reality. Regardless of the carry position, practice often so that the draw is smooth and seamless in motion.
While some will tell you not to practice in front of a mirror, I disagree. Unless you have the ability to video your draw, a mirror will allow you to study your draw stroke and see where unnecessary motion is in evidence. By eliminating this unneeded movement, you will speed the draw so I believe that a mirror can be a valuable tool for practice. However, don’t let the mirror pull you away from looking at your front sight at the end of the draw stroke.
I have found that the hand will travel a consistent path to the gun if you take your elbow straight to the rear. Since the hand is connected via the forearm, the hand will travel a consistent path every time. Of course, a cross draw will not benefit from this physical action. For a consistent cross draw, I have found that “rubbing” the open palm across the abdomen will help anchor a consistent motion.
Once the hand comes to the gun, I use the middle finger to acquire a consistent grip. Some advocate engaging the web of the hand against the grip tang, but I have not found this to not work well with revolvers. By placing the middle finger into the juncture of where the trigger guard meets the grip, the hand will wrap around the gun the same way each time. The important thing is to find a method that will allow you to get a solid shooting grip each and every time.
Concealed carry is a lifestyle commitment, not something that you do when it is convenient. You either carry a gun or you don’t. Leaving it in the car will not help if the fight starts and you are not in the car. A gun that is not on your person is a gun that will never enter the fray... it’s as simple as that. Select a gun that you will carry all the time.
A smaller gun for special circumstances or for back up is a great idea. But the gun you practice with most is the gun you will fight best with. Make it large enough to fill the hand and powerful enough to make a difference. But most of all—be ready and willing to fight. Just going to the range and shooting a few rounds is not enough. Fight preparation begins in the brain—prepare it!