There are some big decisions to ponder before you decide to carry a concealed firearm. Perhaps surprisingly, most of those considerations have nothing at all to do with which gun, holster or ammunition you choose. So, let’s talk about what you need to know before you carry concealed.

Concealed Carrying Can Grant A False Sense Of Security

Just packing a gun means absolutely nothing. It’s merely a tool in a much more comprehensive self-defense strategy. In fact, developing situational awareness is far more likely to sway the odds in your favor. Without awareness, knowledge on how to use it, and — most importantly — self-defense education and training, carrying a gun is about as valuable as landing on the Normandy beaches with an accordion.

A variety of Ruger, Beretta and Glock pistols and random boxes of ammunition lying on a weather plank deck. Both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers are represented.

While you may spend a lot of time selecting the right handgun and ammo, those won’t have the most significant impact on your concealed carry strategy success.

Take a concealed carry training class from a qualified concealed carry instructor. Ideally, look for one who is USCCA certified. That man or woman will teach you a lot about what self-defense really means. You will learn that a self-defense encounter is nothing at all like shooting at the range. Ideally, the instructor will scare you half to death by helping you to realize how much you don’t know about real-life criminal encounters. That’s a good thing, as
will inspire you to
think and train

Check out how the USCCA Membership will help you prepare for the before, during, and after of a self-defense incident.

Concealed Carry Lifestyle: Adjustment Period

Some newly minted concealed carriers quickly tire of carrying a firearm at all times as they go about their lives. Frankly, it’s a pain. You must change your dress code. You’ll need to lug around a couple of pounds of less-than-comfortable weight. You’ll need to practice. You’ll need to plan for places where you can’t carry — like schools and government buildings. You’ll need to develop safe gun-storage practices at home, especially if you ever have kids in the house.

The grips of a large black semi-automatic pistol sticking out of the waistband of a slender gentleman's jeans. His white dress shirt is tucked between his body and the holstered firearm. A reddish brown belt is supporting the inside-the-waistband holster.

You need to know that carrying around a pound or two of handgun and ammo isn’t easy. It’s a significant lifestyle commitment.

As a result, some decide that they’ll carry only when going to “more dangerous” places. That’s a terrible idea. Criminals get to pick the times and locations for crime, not you. They decide whether to commit armed robbery in a coffee shop, mass murder in a theater or rape on a jogging trail. If you really could discern where you’re much more likely to be attacked, why would you ever go there in the first place?

Concealed carry is a 24/7/365 commitment that requires work and sacrifice. Be sure you’re prepared for that before making a carry lifestyle decision.

Be Aware Of The Consequences Of A Self-Defense Incident

You may be the ideal conceal carry student. Maybe you dedicate hours to learning and understanding the laws regarding the uses and disparity of force, self-defense, Castle Doctrine and firearms. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in the position of defending yourself from a criminal action. Even if you’ve done everything by the book, you still might lose everything.

If you are ever forced to use your firearm in a self-defense situation and harm or kill the aggressor(s), it’s entirely possible you’ll end up in jail. You may also spend your life savings and more on criminal defense. After that, you might become the defendant in an equally expensive civil liability lawsuit.

Just ask Jay Rodney Lewis. He got entwined in an aggressive driver road-rage incident. The other car, full of partygoers, was driven by James Scott Ludwick, a repeat felon with 2½ times the legal blood alcohol level. A fender bender ensued, and Ludwick approached Lewis’ car and started beating on the windows.

Lewis drew his .380 and issued warnings, at which point the group backed off. He got out to inspect the damage and was attacked again. Warning Ludwick and crew, he called 911 and the entire incident was recorded. Lewis was heard issuing 11 distinct warnings to “get back” before he had to fire a single shot. Police arrived and arrested … Lewis.

On his $32,000 salary, Lewis wasn’t able to afford the $22,500 bond fee — much less the $225,000 total bond. As a result, he spent 112 days in jail awaiting trial, at which point he was exonerated. During his unplanned jail time, he lost his savings, his apartment, all of his possessions and his job.

When Carrying Concealed, Always Be Prepared

This tragic story happens more frequently than you’d think. You might face an aggressive district attorney who wants to set an example. You might live in a self-defense-unfriendly state or city. There may be confused witnesses. The police might believe the bad guy. The bad guy’s family might sue for wrongful injury or death. Many things can, and do, go wrong even though the victim does everything right.

Concealed carry is a big decision with the potential for life-or-death consequences. Be sure to treat the decision of whether or not to carry with the gravity it deserves.

*This post was originally published in April 2019 and updated in April of 2022.