I’VE BEEN A PISTOL SHOOTER Since the time of the dinosaurs and a concealed carrier almost as long. But many new shooters, especially women, whom I’ve taught are a bit overwhelmed by all the articles that talk about backup guns, knives, lights, bags to bug out or get home, etc., and often this deluge of information deters them from even starting. How about an article on “The 90 Percent Solution” or “Getting Started” for newcomers? What does a newcomer really need to start out? How often does a backup gun make a difference? A second magazine? A high-intensity light? A knife? How about tailoring an article to entice newcomers to get started, then we can gradually expand their knowledge and equipment?
— Ken, Utah

Ken,
Our pleasure.

— Ed Combs, Associate Editor

THE THREE Gs

By Beth Alcazar

Getting started with the world of firearms can be a little like riding a roller coaster. It’s a bit overwhelming, and it might even make you feel a bit lightheaded and queasy. There are also some surprises, some excitement and a variety of ups and downs. In fact, getting involved with the world of concealed carry might be like getting strapped in for a fun ride, not knowing you’re about to experience 3 Gs.

Well, I have three different “G”s to keep in mind to make things a bit easier. They’re just a few basics and essentials for getting your bearings (and hopefully for keeping you from being nauseated) when you’re ready to get involved with responsible gun ownership.

Guidance

The first “G” stands for guidance. It would certainly be nice to have your own personal Yoda, guiding your steps, introducing you to important concepts and teaching you in all the ways of concealed carry. But if you don’t have easy or immediate access to a great mentor, then this first step will entail all the research, reading, training and question-asking you should do beforehand. Thankfully, there are a lot of great resources out there (thanks, in part, to the USCCA). But there are a lot of bad ones floating around, as well. So dig a little, and find reputable sources of information. Ask a lot of questions from a lot of different people, and then weigh all those answers carefully.

Then take a class. Or two. Or as many as you can before you even purchase a firearm. I have many students ask me if they need to buy a gun before they take my basic pistol class, and I always tell them no. I would much rather have a brand-new student test and try as many guns as he or she can before taking any further steps.

Gun

Speaking of next steps, the next “G” is the gun itself. This includes finding the firearm that’s right for you and your concealed carry lifestyle. That can be quite the process, especially when someone is just starting out. You might not recognize what “right” is. You might not really know what you’re looking for, what fits or what works.

So, how do you select the “right” gun? We know it’s not a fairytale in which the perfect pistol appears like magic. But, from the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s not a mathematical equation either, in which the solution is set in stone.

When it comes to selecting and purchasing a firearm, you’ll find that just about every choice you make will be a compromise or a trade-off between size, recoil, power, concealability or even training. So the right gun for you might not be the right gun for your husband, your mother, your sister, your son or your friend. The right gun for you, ultimately, will be the one you can use effectively, safely and proficiently. And sometimes that takes a bit of trial and error.

My suggestion is to take your time. Listen to, look at and try everything you can. Put those guns in your hands and actually shoot them more than once. Narrow down your selection to two or three guns … then walk away. Read some reviews about each, and make notes about what you like and dislike. Then make your choice. After you’ve searched, tried and tested the possibilities, you’ll know when you’ve finally found the one that’s most suitable for you.

Gear

The last of our three “G”s stands for gear, which can pose its own set of interesting problems. There’s a lot of neat stuff out there, but it’s important that you winnow your selections down to what you need now and decide what can wait until later.

Remember to think about the bare essentials. Are you planning to carry on-body? Where will you keep your firearm? Will you be practicing a lot?

The answers to some basic questions like these might point you in some clear directions for the gear you need immediately, such as a holster, possibly a belt, some ammunition and a range bag. I would also highly recommend getting cleaning supplies up front, no matter what other purchases you choose to make, since it’s imperative that you keep your gun clean and in good working order. Think about storage options too, especially if there are children in your home. You don’t want any unauthorized persons to gain access to your firearms.

THE ESSENTIAL TOOLS

By Bob Campbell

Young shooters, seniors and those who need a firearm the most are often on a tight budget, so it begs the question: What is the minimum needed for personal defense, and how often is the other gear necessary?

The first essential tool for anyone carrying a handgun is training. Visit usconcealedcarry.com/training to find training options in your area. Choosing an instructor is vital to your education. There are instructors who have been to a lot of schools and do the job the state says they must. For your growth and knowledge, your instructor should be an active or former peace officer with street experience. You will get your money’s worth and the added benefit of his or her experience.

You must meet the instructor halfway with your own experience and move forward with a higher goal than simply earning a certificate. Begin study before you attend the class. Don’t waste time with questions easily answered by prior work; ask the hard questions in class.

Be Prepared

Some of the people attending a concealed carry class have owned handguns for years, and others are new to the game. Some are motivated by a recent fright or increasing violence in their city. If you need a handgun immediately, you’ll have to make an informed choice before you attend the class. It is best to attend the class and choose the handgun that you will carry based on your willingness to train, your comfort with the action type and what you learn about manipulation. A reputable trainer will have a wide variety of demonstration handguns on hand. Some less-reputable trainers will not; I once saw an instructor with nothing but an RG revolver and a Lorcin self-loader as demonstrators.

If you purchase your handgun ahead of time, hand fit can be tried at the gun store. Find a gun shop with a good reputation and a handgun of the best quality you can afford. The Glock is a baseline; you can pay more, but you will not get better reliability, and paying less might lead to disappointment. Plan on $400 to $600 for the handgun.

Choose a caliber you will be able to control well with a minimum of training and practice, which usually means 9mm. Avoid the .40 self-loader and small-framed .357 Magnum revolvers, as even experienced shooters have problems with these. A quality .38-caliber revolver, such as the Ruger LCR, is never a bad choice.

Ammunition for the .38 and 9mm is less expensive than for larger calibers. As an example, Federal offers a value pack with 100 rounds of 9mm FMJ and 20 rounds of HST hollow-points. For the beginner, this makes sense.

Never purchase a shapeless, formless fabric holster that relies upon body compression for retention.

Do not feel outgunned if you feel more comfortable with a revolver. If you purchase the .357 Magnum revolver, load it with .38 Special cartridges for practice and carry until you become skilled in recoil control.

Never purchase a shapeless, formless fabric holster that relies upon body compression for retention. Affordable quality specimens exist, such as the Galco Stow and Go, a very good holster that retails for about for $27.99. The Galco Carry Lite is another good option. You can spend more, but let these holsters be a baseline. If you spend less, what are you getting? A junk holster that is difficult to draw from will be thrown away.

Triple-check the handgun to be certain it isn’t loaded and remove any ammo from the room. Then practice your presentation from the holster. You must have a sturdy gun belt or the holster will not function properly. Bigfoot Gun Belts is a good place to start looking.

As for a backup knife, it is better to have one than not to. An inexpensive but sharp knife will do the business, but avoid cheap flea market knives. Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) offers well-made but affordable knives, such as the Igniter or the M16, beginning at around $40.

The pistol should come with a spare magazine, but some do not. You need three magazines — one for the handgun, a spare on your person and one back at home.

The pocket or combat light simply has to be a light but not necessarily an expensive one.

Choose your trainer and training wisely, buy service-grade but affordable gear, look toward sustaining your training with affordable ammunition and choose accessories wisely.

GETTING STARTED

By Scott W. Wagner

So, maybe you’re thinking about getting a concealed carry permit or have already made the decision to get one. Congratulations. Every law-abiding citizen who is capable and willing should carry a concealed firearm for defense of self, family and others. I have lawfully carried concealed off-duty handguns for nearly every single day of my 37 years in law enforcement, which gives me a bit of experience from which to pass on some advice.

Let’s assume that you have all the mindset tools in place. What are the other essential tools that you will need?

The first thing you need to do is to find the handgun that will work the best for you. You need to select a handgun that you can safely handle in all aspects — loading and unloading, firing, clearing, and cleaning — along with a commitment to stay familiar with it.

What really assists with the selection of a first handgun these days is that most ranges also sell guns and have guns you can rent and try before buying. I highly recommend trying before you buy if you can. No one buys a new or used car without test-driving it first, right? The purchase of a handgun is a much more serious purchase, so, if possible, take advantage of renting the one you are interested in before buying it.

As you are looking at the handgun you want to purchase, make sure it’s a type that can be carried in as many ways as is possible — inside and outside the waistband, on the ankle, in the pocket, in a fanny pack, etc. Having this versatility in your carry handgun means that you have to do less adapting of your wardrobe to the gun. The gun should adapt to your wardrobe, so unless you are a very big person, that means selecting a smaller-sized handgun.

My advice is simple: Pick a defensive load that properly and accurately functions in a gun that you can control and employ effectively.

A good concealed carry holster must do three essential things: hide the handgun (a holster is no good to you if it allows your handgun to become exposed to the public and gets you into trouble), keep the handgun secure if a scuffle ensues, and keep your handgun reasonably accessible. Your holster selection should involve some research and perhaps some trial and error.

Unfortunately, you might end up with a box of unused (or little-used) holsters for your handgun until you find the model that works best for you. No matter what else you do when selecting a holster, follow this time-tested maxim: Don’t put a $500 handgun in a $5 holster.

Ammunition is the fourth essential piece of equipment. There are two basic types: practice or target ammo (usually plain lead or copper-jacketed, round-nose bullets) and defensive ammunition (some form of expanding hollow-point bullet designed to cause sufficient damage to stop a deadly threat).

My advice here is simple: Pick a defensive load that properly and accurately functions in a gun that you can control and employ effectively. Don’t feel the need to use the latest exotic nuclear-tip specialty ammo, and stay away from ammo that has an overly aggressive name (like “Death Ray”) that makes it sound like your reason for using it was to kill rather than simply stop your assailant. Always test-fire any defensive ammunition you purchase before carrying it.

The fifth and final piece of essential equipment I can recommend for the new concealed carry permit holder is a less-lethal self-defense device. Not every threatening situation you encounter as a concealed carry permit holder will be a situation where the use of deadly force is justified. I recommend obtaining a civilian Taser Pulse or Bolt electronic control device and/or a canister of law-enforcement-quality pepper spray with a protective flip-top cap. These items should always be available to you in addition to your firearm.

SOURCES

Ruger: ruger-firearms.com
Federal Premium Ammunition: federalpremium.com
Galco Gunleather: galcogunleather.com
Bigfoot Gun Belts: gunbelts.com
CRKT: crkt.com
Taser Pulse: taser.com