by Jesse Mathewson
Every state has different requirements for carrying a concealed defensive tool. Some states require evidence of need, other states allow constitutional carry which has no legislative limitations outside of being a resident of the state and a law-abiding citizen. Safety is absolutely the most important part of carrying a handgun for defensive purposes.
The most often repeated safety rules are as follows, these rules are believed to have been coined by Colonel Jeff Cooper.
- Treat every gun as if it is loaded
- Never aim at anything you do not want to shoot
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you intend to shoot
- Be sure of your target before firing
Other safety rules can range from pages to just a couple of simple lines in length. My personal approach for concealed carriers and anyone involved in shooting sports and defensive approaches is as follows.
- Loaded or not, keep the finger off the trigger
- Loaded or not, always ensure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction
If you forget rule one, but remember rule two, there will be no permanent damage.
If you forget rule two, but remember rule one, there will be no permanent damage.
Before we get any further I need to clarify, I am not an attorney, in fact, I do not particularly like that segment of society. I am not a politician, I have never been a soldier or police officer. What I am is simple, a well trained, educated and practiced individual who has spent decades training, educating myself and continues to do so regularly.
It is said that without mistakes we cannot truly learn. I agree in part with this sentiment. It is my mistakes as a youth and young adult that have allowed me to be in a better position to understand, learn and teach. I hold several advanced certifications, degrees and have direct real-world experience in defensive needs.
My active resume includes having worked with and or taught police officers, some military members and even some federal officers from different organizations. Never simply accept anyone’s word alone, actions are what matters.
Here is a simple diagram I designed that will allow anyone to easily put together a sequence of training based in legal requirements, necessary options and desired options along with the items that may fall outside of these.
What is legally required.
What is necessary but not legally required.
What is desired but not necessary.
|What is neither desired or necessary.|
Shooting Needs – J. Mathewson 2012
Legal requirements vary from state to state, some states have legal agreements with others states which allow permit holders to cross state lines legally. Other states have very specific guidelines and do not allow reciprocity of any kind, even going so far as to attempt prosecution against national carry permit holders in the past. Make sure you know exactly what your state laws require and do what is required in your state. My favorite reference to get you started on legal requirements for where you live can be found at USACarry.com reciprocity maps can be found here as well.
While legal requirements do vary from state to state, and in some states all that is required is your being age 21 and having no felony record, this is not a reason to avoid understanding legalities involved with the use of deadly force. Falling in the necessary but not legally required area would be more advanced training with regards to the legalities involved with the use of deadly force.
Of the many approaches available to anyone with a computer, the following programs or classes remain the best in this field. Massad Ayoob Group 40 hour class is the best education you can spend money on at this time for this specific need. My MAG40 certification is one of the few certifications I am actually quite proud of and hold in high regard.
MAG40 is the name of a class that has been taught since the 1980s and continues to be seen as the benchmark for all other legalities centric class models. Balance is necessary in every area of a healthy life. Some individuals teach the idea that you should say nothing to anyone ever, others teach a more convoluted approach in which you may end up talking yourself into a residence at your nearest prison complex. Massad Ayoob teaches a balanced approach which satisfies the legal requirements of most states and many countries, some talking and some quietness, done in a way that admits nothing and covers you legally.
Now it is time to learn your firearm and proper holds necessary for safe and accurate approaches. Check your dominant hand, I recommend having someone help you with this step. With both eyes open extend your hands in front of your body, connecting your forefingers and thumbs while reaching to full extension.
Keep both eyes open and continue looking through the hands at a distant object while slowly bringing your arms back towards your body. Your hands will move towards your dominate side as you bring them back into your body. This is not always going to match what you believe to be your strong side.
Dominate hand is really dominate eye, this means that while you may be right or left handed for purposes of shooting your strong eye should also coincide with the hand you use as primary/dominate hand.
Next step is learning how properly manipulate your chosen firearm. This includes field stripping, cleaning, loading and shooting the firearm. I have taught and worked with well-trained people who were unable to field strip their firearms, while this may not be necessary in many cases as a civilian it is essential for proper maintenance and care of the firearm.
If your handgun does not cycle, fails to fire, fails to feed or instead of going bang goes click, you will need to understand how it works and how to easily strip it and fix minor issues. You will also want to learn the correct way to grip a handgun.
Gripping a handgun is easy to do and there are several approaches that can be used, there is only one correct approach to holding modern firearms. This approach will work for the revolver as well, though you may need to modify the hold just a bit.
- Dominate hand should be firmly seated with the webbing of the hand tight under the curve at the top of the grip
- The meat of the palm should be towards the back of the grip, it is important to maintain as much skin on the grip contact as possible
- The bottom three fingers should wrap tightly under the trigger guard firmly touching the bottom of the trigger guard and clasping the grip
- The trigger or index finger should be resting along the frame above the trigger guard, crooking the finger slightly and pressing with the tip on the frame will increase your retention of the handgun
- The thumb can be either pointed up alongside the opposite lower side of the frame from the index finger, my suggestion is to train with the thumb extended out away from the frame until you are comfortable with firearm function
- The support hand should be placed with the meat of the hand in the gap between the fingertips and the meat of your dominate hand on the opposite side of the grip
- Wrap all four fingers around the front and underneath the trigger guard again firmly placing them firmly against the underside of the trigger guard, wrapped over the three fingers from the dominate hand
- The alternate thumb should be underneath the dominate hands thumb, do not cross these digits and be very careful where you place them
- Utilizing a crushed grip, slight whitening of the tips of fingers show a sufficiently strong grip allowing accuracy
This is an extremely easy grip to maintain and allows for a very secure, stable and accurate platform. Practice this daily until it becomes second nature, use dry fire practice, ensure the firearm is completely empty, double check and practice! Always remember, safety first!
Now you want to train in drawing the firearm from concealment (read my article mastering the concealed carry quick draw here). This is a simple set of steps it allows for best practice, while it is not the only approach it is one that allows for ease of use and safety. Here is the basic approach which easily applies to any on-body concealed carry.
- Place your dominant hand firmly over the backstrap of the handgun firmly up into the beaver tail.
- With your support hand, reach across your body and grasp the bottom of any clothing hanging over the firearm, and pull up in one smooth motion.
- With your dominant hand, grip the butt of the handgun with a strong, firmly-seated grip. Ensuring that the web of the hand is firmly wedged at the top of the grip and under the curve where the slide rests.
- Ensure that your trigger finger is OUTSIDE and above the trigger guard alongside the frame, either straight or slightly crooked will work.
- Draw straight out of the holster, this means that if the holster is canted forward you will draw straight out at a forward angle and so on.
- Rotate the barrel up and out, pointing towards the target with your hand, with the firearm close to your body.
- Remove your support hand from the clothing and come up to meet your dominant hand and firearm. This step can be before you rotate or during, however, it is in this place because it is easiest to remember.
- Meet the dominant hand with the support hand and complete a crushed grip on the handgun as you extend the firearm out towards the target.
- Press the trigger with the first segment of your trigger finger smoothly until the firearm discharges.
- Do this while unloaded and clear to better understand the approaches. Ensure that your actions are safe and the handgun is unloaded.
- Once you have discharged the firearm at a threat, a target, or while dry-firing, carefully remove your support hand while maintaining the safe direction with the firearm close to the body and aimed forward.
- With your support hand, ensure the covering clothing is clear of the holster and carefully, keeping your finger along the rail, re-holster the firearm. It is essential to do this AFTER making sure the covering clothing is clear of the holster.
Moving on to the next step in your training journey for concealed carry is shooting itself. Here are the top three stances for shooting a handgun, all of them can be easily adapted to fit your approach, and for the use of a rifle for combat applications.
- Isosceles Hold – Create a triangle with your arms stretched out in front of your body fully extended. Weight may be neutral or even slightly back; with the modern Isosceles Hold, weight shifts more aggressively forward
- Weaver stance – In one move, with both elbows bent, turn your body so that it is at a 45-degree angle to the target. At the same time, your pistol (dominant) hand pushes forward with the firearm, while your support arm pulls back, creating tension. Theoretically, this allows better shooting. Modified Weaver simply locks the dominant hand/arm straight out.
- Offhand, Bullseye – one-handed shooting stance. Facing sideways to the target, extend your shooting hand, straight and strong, and keep your support hand firmly clenched at the breastbone.
Now we can transition into sight and target alignment or acquisition. There are a few approaches to shooting in a controlled yet accurate manner. It is important to remember that when shooting you should never shoot faster than you can accurately hit the target.
For myself, this means keeping all of my rounds within a 2-4” circle at 0-25 yards with a handgun, regardless of speed. Anything larger than 4” will mean misses when under pressure. When under pressure the human body and brain tend to shut down small adjustments in favor of large life-saving movements. This means that someone who can shoot 8-15 rounds inside of a 9” circle at 10 yards will likely see upwards of 18” at best.
Concealed carriers should get medical training (read my article What Medical Training Should I Get For Concealed Carry here). You will use medical training far more than your handgun, obviously, train long and hard in your shooting. The more you train correctly the fewer mistakes you make when the chips are down.
In 2015 27.6 million people were treated in an emergency department for injuries. 2.8 million were hospitalized due to injuries and 214,000 people died from injuries in the United States. (Injury prevention and control, 2017) These numbers are fact, they are compiled from raw data and regardless of your feelings on the CDC they keep very detailed records.
Now, firearms are used between 200,000 and 3 million times every year in self-defense, with most legitimate studies showing that a firearm is used closer to 3 million times. (Leshner, 2013) (For the naysayers understand that this is based on several agencies who did not want to release this data because it showed that the benefits outweighed the negatives.)
The book referenced costs $38 and is worth reading if you have the chance. Here is an excerpt, “studies…have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.” Another quote is as follows, “The estimate of 3 million defensive uses per year is based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys.
The former estimate of 108,000 is difficult to interpret because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.” It should be noted that the book/study does its best to discount any use of firearms in defense, however, at no point does data support their assertions. Rather, the data clearly supports the use of firearms in defense.
Traumatic medical basics are essential and should include the following areas of knowledge.
- Stopping the bleed
- Tourniquet use and types
I would suggest your local community college, these often have inexpensive EMT classes. In addition to these the Red Cross has free or low-cost CPR training, make sure you get training for children and adults, there is a definite difference.
Other alternatives for training include specialized courses taught by individuals with hands-on experience, I firmly suggest utilizing any and all training you can. Understand that unlike shooting a handgun, medical best practices change quite regularly. Stay up to date, and remember, just because someone was a doctor 20 years ago, does not mean they have up to date knowledge today.
Everything so far has fit into the top two categories of the included diagram. All other training fits in the last two categories. Civilian concealed carriers do not need to get advanced tactical training, however, this type of training is a solid addition, as long as you get the other training completed and understand the liabilities that are entailed with advanced tactical training and application. Concealed carriers are not training to kill an enemy, they are training to prevent and stop threats to themselves or those in need. Pay attention to the wording.
Stopping the threat, this phrase must be so ingrained in your psyche that you do not even consider saying, wounding or killing an assailant.
In the last segment of the diagram has room for what is neither desired nor needed. Training for safe, effective concealed carry requires regular training and practice. Use dry fire and be safe always. What training should you get for concealed carry? Follow the diagram, always get what is legally required first and then what is necessary for safe, effective carry. If you have any questions, ask!
Injury prevention and control (2017). Key Data and Statistics|WISQARS|Injury Center|CDC. [online] Cdc.gov. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/overview/key_data.html
|Key Data and Statistics|WISQARS|Injury Center|CDC
Injuries and violence affect everyone, regardless of age, race, or economic status. In the first half of life, more Americans die from violence and injuries — such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, or homicides — than from any other cause, including cancer, HIV, or the flu.
Leshner, A. (2013). Priorities for research to reduce the threat of firearm-related violence. 1st ed. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.
Free the mind and the body will follow…