Whether you’re new to carrying a firearm for self-defense or have been doing it for decades, you likely already understand that there’s a lot more to protecting yourself than just having a gun. Your choice of ammo, carry method and even wardrobe can make the difference between surviving an attack and ending up wearing a toe tag.

The likelihood of you ever having to fire your gun in self-defense is extremely low. You might never be involved in a potentially lethal confrontation, or you might be in one next week. That is why forming and maintaining good habits is so critical.

Begin with picking the right gun. By “right,” I mean right for you and your needs. Not every gun, even that sexy-looking, high-end, custom gem, is suited for defensive use. It may even be less suited for concealed carry than other less expensive choices. A huge factor in a defensive weapon is that it be simple to operate. There is a reason why police and the military have gone to point-and-shoot guns rather than those with manual safeties.

I’ll leave the lengthy discussion of which firearm you should get for another day. For now, let’s assume you have a gun that has the size, weight, caliber, capacity and ease of use that fits your lifestyle. If your gun is a semi-automatic pistol, you’ve also tested it with the exact ammo you wish to load when carrying, and you’ve fired several magazines to verify that it functions perfectly in your gun. Good. Now, stick with it.

Don’t think you have to jump at every new whizz-bang round that comes along. Yes, there are improvements being made by the major manufacturers all the time. And if you really want to try them out, fine. Just make sure that they function perfectly in your gun before carrying them. Again, stick with it.

The oddest practice I encountered was from a student who loaded three different bullet designs and weights from three different manufacturers all into one magazine. That’s not a problem in a revolver, but in a semi-automatic pistol, it’s definitely not a good idea.

Method of carry is an area in which consistency can be even more critical than the kind of gun or ammo you choose. Most people carry in a holster, either an inside-the-waistband version or a traditional pancake model with a belt slide. Sometimes, a pocket holster is necessary.

Stick with the same gun in the same location as much as possible. Changing the type or position of the gun is asking for trouble. An extreme example is going from a full-sized SIG P226 in a belt-slide holster to a Kahr PM9 in a pocket holster. In the chaos of a violent confrontation, seconds matter, and the results could be disastrous.

While high-tech gadgets such as lasers can be cool and aid in trigger press and steadiness, there is no substitute for getting quality training and then practicing regularly and consistently. Whichever gun and carry method you choose, make sure you practice drawing (unloaded, please) a lot. And dress exactly as you usually do when carrying. Again, consistency is critical.