Letter Re: Some Practical Lessons From Daily Concealed Carry

I am on my third concealed carry license and have been carrying at least one concealed weapon every day for about 15 years. I have learned a number of lessons I thought I would share with AceHigh and any other recent CCLs holders among your readers.

First, choose a gun you can carry all the time because a small gun in your hand is worth two big guns back in your safe. Wearing a gun only sometimes means that you will sometimes be unprepared. Wouldn’t you feel really stupid I the one time you needed your gun you didn’t have it because it was too heavy, too awkward or too uncomfortable to wear or carry?
I started out with a Glock [Model] 23 [compact .40 S&W] as my primary weapon in an inside the waistband (IWB) holster. My backup was a .38 Special snub nose revolver. 15 years later, these roles have reversed. I carry an Airweight (alloy frame] .38 revolver loaded with +P ammo in a Kramer pocket holster and is in the left front pocket of my cargo pants with 10 spare rounds in my right cargo pocket.
I can carry this gun concealed in my pocket without any additional clothing or other requirements. I can wear shorts or take off my shirt, and it is still concealed. It is much easier to carry than a larger automatic, and as a result, it is always there. From the moment I get dressed in the morning until I go to bed, it is in my pocket and within easy reach. So I don’t have to run and get it if the dog barks or I hear an unusual noise.

My backup gun is now the Glock 23. It rides securely in a backpack, which I carry with me almost everywhere I go. It goes with me to work; it rides in the car if I go out. Inside the backpack are two more speedloaders for the revolver and four loaded magazines for the semi auto. Of course, there are other survival related supplies in the bag as well as a few work-related items to add legitimacy.
If I do not have my backpack handy, the plan is to use the revolver to fight my way to the backpack, or to the nearest long gun. Remember, hand guns are relatively puny, and we carry them not because we expect trouble, but because we want to be prepared for the unexpected. Heck, if we were expecting trouble when we left the house, the smart thing would be to not leave the house! If you had no choice, then you would probably go heavily armed with a bunch of heavily armed friends.

The nearest long gun is likely to be an FAL locked in the contractor box on the back of my pick up truck. I picked .308 caliber because if I am in a vehicle and need my rifle, I figure that I will need one that will be more effective against other vehicles than a .223. It is an ugly pre-ban gun, but it is one that I do not mind leaving in the car. At home, a 12 gauge is available if a pistol is not enough gun for the job and there are rifles in the safes.

Second Lesson: Clean your carry guns, even if you don’t shoot them. I remember going to a Glock sponsored pistol match years ago and they had an armorer who was doing free tune ups. He checked out all three of mine, held up the Model 23, and asked: “This is your carry gun, isn’t it?” he asked. I wondered how he knew. He pointed out the lint under the slide. Carry guns get dust and lint inside them, especially when they are worn inside your clothes. I also learned to always clean my gun after I used a chain saw or did similar work. Sawdust gets everywhere too.

Third lesson: Have extra ammo in your car or anywhere you might need it. I have a spare loaded magazine and a box of ammo in each vehicle. My wife carries a .380, so I have .380 ammo in my truck, just in case. I also have extra magazines and ammo at work and, of course, at home.

I once flew to another state to meet my wife who had driven up to her parent’s house a week or two earlier. I checked my pistol, but they would not let me check my ammo because it was not in an “approved” container, so I had to discard it. After she picked me up at the airport, I reloaded my magazines from the box of 50 rounds in my wife’s vehicle and was back up and running. BTW, at least once a year, you should go to the range and shoot all your carry ammo, replacing it with new stuff.

Fourth lesson: Don’t take just one course, and never stop training. I have taken two or more classes from the following trainers: Massad Ayoob, John Farnham, and Lewis Awerbuck. I learned from each of them, every time, even through I had previously read their books. I still take a one day refresher course from Awerbuck once every year or so.

Fifth lesson: Never tell anyone you are carrying. You may know when to shoot and when not to, but that does not mean the idiot you are with does. They will get you in trouble or possibly shot. If you cannot avoid stupid people, you can at least avoid telling them you are armed. That is one reason I am not enamored by fanny packs and photographer vests; they broadcast that you are carrying. That means the bad guy will shoot you first, before you get a chance to realize what is going on. Better to be low profile.

Sixth lesson: Decide ahead of time if you are going to carry in a place where it may not be legal for you to do so. For example, in our state, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon anywhere that they charge admission. While some well-meaning legislator probably proposed this aspect of the law to prevent gun battles in night clubs, it applies equally to movie theaters, sporting events, the country fair, etc. You need to know what you are going to do in this situation before you walk towards the door. Same with carrying in schools and, post offices, bars and places that are posted “no guns allowed.”

Seventh lesson: Learn to swallow your pride. When you are carrying gun, you have to ignore every insult, every middle finger, and every rude comment because you have an added burden of responsibility to avoid trouble when you carry a gun. If you escalate a verbal argument into a physical confrontation, you could be liable if you have to shoot the other fellow, even if he pulled a knife on you.
I remember one time when I was stopped at a red light and the idiot behind me wanted me to make a right turn on red that I didn’t think was safe. This guy actually drove up on the sidewalk along side of me and proceeded to yell and gesture out the window at me. I really wanted to see the look on his face when I pointed my gun at him. I mean, I really, really wanted to see how quickly his behavior changed. But I just grimaced and waived him on around me. Because I knew my action would have potentially escalated the situation to an unnecessary fatal confrontation. And because two stupid guys don’t make one smart guy.

Finally, be emotionally, intellectually, and legally prepared to shoot someone. Don’t carry a gun unless you know with absolute certainty that you could shoot someone who was threatening you or your loved ones with grave bodily harm.

Be prepared for the aftermath as well. That means, find a good criminal lawyer who knows what an affirmative defense is before you are in a situation where you could be arrested. Know what you will say in, during and after a confrontation. Know what you will say when you call 911. Know what you will say to the responding officers (preferably as little as possible).

Know also what you will do if you get shot. First, stay in the fight and finish it. Second, scan for other threats. Third, check yourself for wounds (you may not feel them at the time) and stop any bleeding. That same backpack that houses my Glock carries a tactical first aid kit that includes QuikClot and an Israeli battle dressing. If you carry a gun, you owe it to yourself and your family members to carry the appropriate trauma gear as well.

So far, I have never had to pull my gun, but there has been an occasion or two when I have been glad to rest my hand on it. I count myself lucky and hope I can live a long life without having to shoot anyone. But at the same time, I am prepared should my luck should run out or circumstances change. – D. in North Carolina