Carrying a concealed handgun is a great responsibility. You need to conduct more research than if you were purchasing a bicycle but less outlay than if you were purchasing a Harley Davidson. And the effort is worthwhile on every point. If you understand how to use it properly, a handgun might someday help save your life. Choosing a firearm, ammunition, a holster, accessories and less-lethal devices need not be stressful. It only needs to be well-thought-out. Choose quality gear. (The old adage “buy cheap, buy twice” applies here.) Then, obtain training and go through the proper channels to get your concealed carry permit.

Monday, April 13: Choose Your Handgun

Striker-fired handguns from CZ, Glock and Springfield offer good choices for personal defense.

The default choice seems to be a striker-fired polymer-frame 9mm. That isn’t a bad place to begin. Carried on the belt, under the shirt or in a shoulder holster, the 9mm is light enough, compact enough and generally thin enough for concealed carry. The pistol should be neither too large nor too small. The handgun should offer good hand fit and a good set of sights. Reliability is most important. This means CZ, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Springfield, HK and Walther to many.

The problem in choosing quality is that beginners will have a difficult time finding quality in an unknown, new or very inexpensive maker. You may end up with a handgun that isn’t reliable and doesn’t suit your needs. Tactically, there is little that may be done with a Springfield XD-S that cannot be done with a Glock 43X or S&W 2.0 9mm. But hand fit and trigger actions differ, and one may suit you more than another.

Tuesday, April 14: Choose Your Ammo

Ammunition should be simple, but some make it complicated. Practice ammunition will be the biggest expense. Look for something on sale! and Academy Sports offer good buys. Full metal jacket (FMJ) loads are less expensive. Federal Syntech, Fiocchi FMJ, Remington UMC and Winchester Ready are good choices. A clean powder burn and reasonable accuracy potential are important.

You cannot take a chance with defensive ammunition. Quality control and cartridge integrity are most important.

Personal-defense loads must stress quality. Cartridge integrity is most important. A load that exhibits a balance of expansion and penetration is important. Federal Hydra Shok (HST), Hornady Critical Defense or Critical Duty, Fiocchi Extrema, Speer Gold Dot, Black Hills Ammunition, and Winchester PDX are among the loads I trust.

Choosing a regional loader or those making wild claims isn’t a good idea. I have tested ammunition that clocked 200 feet per second slower than claimed and others that were really too hot for defense use. A general-purpose loading should penetrate 16-18 inches of water or ballistic gelatin and expand at 1.5 times the original diameter. Use training loads for their intended purpose, proof the pistol with any defense load to the tune of at least 100 rounds and continue to practice.

Wednesday, April 15: Choose Your Holster

You must take an honest appraisal of your wardrobe and weight tolerance. A good quality belt, such as the Bigfoot, will carry the weight comfortably. The holster must be firmly anchored. This isn’t possible with a cheap holster of poor construction. You can get by well with a single handgun and one type of ammunition. But you will probably need two holsters to cover a variety of situations. Cross-draw, strong-side, appendix and inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry each has advantages to be explored. Some suit the endomorph, ectomorph or mesomorph body shape better.

The Galco Walkabout, left, and Tuck-N-Go, right, are affordable and useful holsters.

It isn’t that difficult to take a fake gun, toy gun or triple-checked unloaded handgun and try several positions. Place the handgun and holster combo where you plan to carry it and make a few draws. Do a knee bend with the prospective carry. A balance between speed and retention should exist. When you have progressed a few months in carrying a handgun and know more about your needs, you may wish to order a custom-grade holster. Until then, off the rack works if you choose carefully.

Alien Gear, Blackhawk, Galco and DeSantis may be found in better-stocked shops. These makers offer affordable gear, including some items that rival those from custom makers. If you usually wear a covering garment, a strong-side holster worn over the rear pocket is a good choice. An IWB holster answers most needs for those in warmer climates. Be certain to consider your clothing. Don’t have the holstered handgun buried and inaccessible under heavy layers. On the other hand, be certain the covering garment actually covers the handgun.

Thursday, April 16: Choose Your Accessories

Accessories are sometimes more necessities than options. You need a minimum of three magazines: one in the gun, one on the belt and one resting. Be certain to figure the cost of additional magazines into your initial purchase. Some magazines are affordable, and others (often for inexpensive handguns) are much more expensive. It’s about volume.

Quality range gear, including earphones, is part of the initial expense of gearing up.

The best hearing protection you can afford is a must-have. For me, the Champion Vanquish offers excellent performance at a fair price. Targets are not expensive. You will pay double or more purchasing a handful at a time, so consider purchasing a 100-target pack instead. A simple B27 silhouette-type target is fine for most training.

You’ll need a portable cleaning kit. If your pistol has adjustable sights, be certain to keep up with the sight-adjustment tool. A lock, gun safe or other means of securing the handgun when it is not on your person is also needed. For a gun with a light rail, you should consider a combat light. I use the TruGlo with a combination of light and laser, allowing the use of one or the other or both at the same time.

Friday, April 17: Choose Less-Lethal Alternatives

Many tend to ignore less-lethal alternatives. You do so at your own peril. The handgun is a last resort. There are other levels of force that must be available. An impact weapon of some type and an edged tool are important parts of your defensive battery. (Check local laws. Some prohibit any type of knuckle enhancement. Others prohibit carrying a fixed-blade knife, even if you hold a CWP.) The use of the impact weapon is obvious.

There are a variety of less-lethal options one can carry for self-defense.

Using the Dempsey Drop Step and other boxing moves may stop a lethal fight before it begins. A Kubotan has ridden on my key ring for 20 years. This device is useful for blunt action, joint locks and other defensive maneuvers.

An edged tool may be lethal but can also be useful for firearms retention. When a gun-grabber attempts to take your holstered handgun, locking one hand on the handgun as your other hand draws the edged weapon and slashes is the preferred drill. It isn’t that simple to execute and must be practiced. A knife doesn’t jam or run out of bullets and may be a fearsome weapon if you have training.

Take your own counsel, study the choices and alternatives, and choose quality gear.

About Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell is a writer for Concealed Carry Magazine with a degree in criminal justice. Bob has been a firearms writer for decades, writing for Concealed Carry Handguns, Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, SWAT Magazine, Law and Order and Black Belt, among others. He has written 15 books primarily focused on handguns and training, including The Accurate Handgun from Gun Digest. In addition to serving as a peace officer and firearms instructor, he has also written curriculum at the university level.