NOTE: USCCA Customer Engagement team members get a lot of questions, and they pass a good number of them along to Concealed Carry Magazine Senior Editor Ed Combs. If you have a question, you can either ask it below or email it to [email protected]. We, of course, cannot guarantee answers to all questions — Ed’s a pretty busy guy — but we’d love to help you out with whatever’s stumping you.

Jared Blohm
Managing Editor
Concealed Carry Magazine

Q: Why would someone take additional CCW permit training if it’s not necessary? Some states allow you to get a permit with just a hunter’s safety certificate.

A: That all depends on your definition of “necessary.”

Because I graduated from hunter’s safety when I was 12, my home state of Wisconsin does not require me to take concealed carry training of any kind before I am granted a permit. While I have neither a legal nor moral beef with that, I would point out that George W. Bush’s dad was president when I was 12. There were Vietnam War veterans who were still in their 30s when I was 12. That’s a while ago. Training is perishable, and self-defense-related training is a lot more than telling people not to pass a loaded firearm across a fence or into a tree stand.

Handgun shooting is difficult. And if you don’t keep up on your skills, you will lose them. In a hunting context, losing your skills leads to missed or foul-shot animals. In a self-defense context, that can easily lead to the wrong person getting shot. Equally importantly, your self-defense sidearm only does you so much good if your using it results in financial ruin and incarceration. You need to know at least the basics surrounding private-citizen use of force. If you go about self-defense with no more training or experience in it than you received from your state’s Department of Natural Resources, you are courting disaster.

I object to any and all laws forcing free citizens to “show their papers” beyond something like a hunter’s safety certificate or a DD214 (if even that) to exercise their right to effective self-defense. But I urge any and every concealed carrier to learn as much as possible about germane laws and case precedent — not to mention to train on self-defense-specific firearms tactics. The stakes are just too high in both cases not to. In short, I demand the government not mandate it, but I urge with every fiber of my being that you do it.

Q: Is carrying a firearm while attending a protest legal or illegal?

A: As with every question about carrying firearms, this one is going to be served with a healthy dose of “know your local and state laws.” The USCCA Gun Laws by State Map will be able to set you up with what you need to know on the specifics. I will help you out on the generalities.

I would caution you about the situations in which you place yourself and whether a reasonable person — that theoretical entity that makes so many appearances in so many criminal and civil trials — would consider what you were doing to be “looking for trouble.” If punches get thrown or if guns get drawn, law enforcement will be getting involved. And if you’re carrying while on the wrong end of a police interaction, everything can get very hot for you very quickly.

Even more importantly, depending on where this is happening, the fix may already be in for anyone with a concealed carry permit. If you are in a jurisdiction that is actively hostile toward gun owners, and if someone manages to drag you into a self-defense incident that never would have happened had you not attended the protest, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Your chances as a concealed carrier of getting what you or I would consider a “fair trial by a jury of your peers” will be hovering right around zero. You need to do everything you can to stay away from protests, armed or not.

It isn’t right and it isn’t fair and it has to change, but it’s the reality in which we must currently live.

Q: What is the difference between a short-barreled rifle and an AR pistol?

A: This is going to get all government-y.

A short-barreled rifle is a National Firearms Act (NFA) item that requires government paperwork. There are a few other definitions in play, but the important part for this discussion is that it is a rifle that was designed to be fired from the shoulder and that has a barrel shorter than 16 inches.

An AR pistol is a firearm that is not designed to be fired from the shoulder, that is built on an AR-pattern receiver and that has a barrel shorter than 16 inches (often around 12). They are often fitted with what are called “braces,” which are devices that facilitate one-handed firing and were originally designed to make AR-pattern pistols easier for disabled persons to operate.

The difference between them is that you may not possess a rifle that has a barrel shorter than 16 inches without the requisite government taxes and paperwork. But you may possess a pistol that happens to look a lot like a short-barreled rifle … but technically isn’t. It is, however, my understanding that though you may buy an AR pistol no worries on a 4473, if you intend to build one, that is best done on either a stripped receiver that has never been assembled into either a pistol or a rifle, or on a dedicated “pistol lower.”

It is also worth mentioning that one of the weirder realities of federal firearms law is that the BATFE can just change its mind on what is and is not allowed. It did this once already with AR pistols (regarding whether bringing the “brace” up to your shoulder and getting a cheek weld on the buffer tube transformed that pistol into a rifle). For quite some time, it was unclear what happened when face met gun. For the most part, it’s settled on doing that NOT magically turning your pistol into a short-barreled rifle with no paperwork.

As with everything else, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens.