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If you are new to concealed carry or have possibly even been around guns for a while, you know that the trip to a gun store can be somewhat intimidating. It might be the overwhelming number of acronyms and what might seem like learning a foreign language as you browse the counter, looking at the latest in handguns.

As you look, you might overhear two “pros” talking about their EDCs and whether they carry IWB or OWB; maybe they even carry a BUG (backup gun). Then, they ask, “Do you have a CWP?” Even that question could be different, depending on what state you are from.

Just remember: Almost everyone else has been in your shoes.

GET SOME HELP

If you don’t know a lot about guns, there are two main things you can do—in addition to training. The first is to make sure you get someone who does know about guns to go with you to the gun store. It’s the easiest solution (but not always the most practical). The second is the one I recommend: Get educated and get some experience before you make a decision to start carrying concealed. In most areas, you can find beginner handgun classes in which you can get hands-on experience and training with firearms. Talk to your local gun shop for recommendations on classes near you.

Before you go to the gun store, do a little bit of research. For one, there is a plethora of information on the Internet; not all of it is good, but there is plenty. Another source is to find other shooters who are in your same situation and talk to them. Whether in blogs, Facebook pages or in person, gather as much information as you can.

You should be able to answer basic questions such as—

  • How much experience do you have with handguns?
  • How are you going to carry it?
  • Or even, are you the only one that will be using this gun?

OFF TO THE GUN STORE

Now that you have gathered some valuable information, it’s time to hit the gun store. If you are the shy type, you might want to go at off hours, such as early morning or midday. Those seem to be the less-busy hours, so you might get more hands-on attention from the sales staff. Be honest with them; this is not the time for embellishment. In addition, don’t be pressured into something that might not be right for you.

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The author’s EDC: a Glock 43 (with Talon Grips), Strike Industries EMP-G43 Plus-2 Extension Grip, Benchmade 9100, 5.11 Side Kick Boot Knife, MTR Inside Waistband Holster and Wild Bill Holster-Glock 43 magazine pouch

The author’s EDC: a Glock 43 (with Talon Grips), Strike Industries EMP-G43 Plus-2 Extension Grip, Benchmade 9100, 5.11 Side Kick Boot Knife, MTR Inside Waistband Holster and Wild Bill Holster-Glock 43 magazine pouch

Test the fit of the gun in your hand. Does it feel too big? Too small? Are the grips uncomfortable? Does it come with any accessories, such as a holster, extra magazines, laser, light, cleaning kit, etc.?

If at all possible, try to fire the gun before you buy it. Larger gun stores might have a range at which you can rent guns. The money you spend on the rental might save you making a costly mistake in getting a handgun you will end up not carrying. The point is to carry it; that’s why you are buying it.

Another concern is ammunition. You might be concerned with the ammo’s recoil or the cost. Examples are the Glock 42 and 43. The G42 is in .380, while the G43 is 9mm. The recoil is slightly more with the G43, but not significantly. The guns are almost identical in feel, size and appearance. The difference comes in the number of rounds the guns hold and the cost of ammunition. Because 9mm is more popular, in most cases, the ammo will be less expensive. It’s also far more effective as a self-defense round.

Don’t forget to take the gun’s weight into account. You are going to be carrying this around with you, so whether it’s on a belt, in your purse or backpack, that weight is going to affect you. (I was recently at the NRA annual convention and carried the Glock 43 using an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. I also had a Glock 30SF in a backpack. By the end of the day, I felt the weight of the G30 in the bag; the G43 felt fi ne.) It’s something to think about in your planning.

KEEP IT HIDDEN

The point of carrying concealed is that the gun is, indeed, concealed. Choose your clothing wisely. I am a decent-sized person, so I can conceal a large-framed handgun and still go unnoticed.

Nevertheless, I do change my guns based on the season and what I can reasonably conceal. In the winter, when I wear more clothes or a jacket, I might carry either my Kimber Pro Carry II or a Glock 30SF. In the summer, when I wear T-shirts, I will go with the Glock 43.

Heavier clothes allow for larger firearms to be carried. Here, a full-sized FNS-9 is being carried under a flannel shirt.

When I switch to the 9mm from a .45, I make sure I practice getting the weapon out. I shoot a lot and always take my carry guns to the range. They get plenty of practice. My .45 defense rounds are Federal Premium HST, 230 Grain JHP; my 9mm defense ammo is Federal Premium HST 147-grain JHP. I like both of these, and the knockdown power seems to be suffi cient in both.

IF ONLY…

There is a lot to grasp, especially for new shooters. The key is to seek out some training. Find a qualified instructor who has received good reviews. Most of the time, I recommend avoiding having a spouse teach you. It can be frustrating for both sides.

When you get your permit, don’t let that be the last training you take. Shooting and concealed carry are learning processes. When you go to the range, practice for reality—don’t just shoot at paper targets in rapid succession. Practice your draw, moving to cover, reloading and shooting with the non-dominant hand.

In the end, you hope you are spending all your time for something that will never happen. But if it does, don’t let your last words be, “If only I had prepared for this beforehand.”

 

ACRONYMS

BUG – Backup gun

CWP – Concealed weapons permit

CCP – Concealed carry permit

CFP – Concealed firearms permit

CCW – Concealed carry weapon

CCH – Concealed carry handgun

CPL – Concealed pistol license

CWL – Concealed weapons license

EDC – Everyday carry

IWB – Inside the waistband (holster)

OWB – Outside the waistband (holster)

 

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.