When you make the decision to arm yourself with a defensive pistol, one of the first psychological bridges you have to cross is when and how much to carry the pistol. The choice generally comes down to either carrying the pistol only when you think you’ll need it, or carrying it pretty much all the time. My preference is for the latter – as close to all the time as I can get it. This is just one man’s opinion, but here’s why I think this way.
· Keeping the gun on you at all times (or as close to that as is reasonably possible) is the safest way to store your gun.
· Keeping the gun on you at all times is the most effective way to deploy a personal defense weapon.
· Keeping the gun on you at all times is the most comfortable way to deploy a personal defense weapon.
If the gun is in your holster, you know that no one else is messing with it. Unless you live completely alone and no one else ever enters your domestic domain, a loaded gun laying around unattended is a dangerous thing. Even with other adults moving through your space, it is a risky proposition, but if kids share your space it can be a recipe for disaster. I have trained my own kids on firearms, but I don’t know about other kids they might bring over to the house. If the gun is under your immediate physical control, you know that none of these dark possibilities can become realities.
If the gun isn’t with you, it can’t perform the function of defending your life, and it becomes nothing more than an expensive and problematic paperweight. In other words, it’s not keeping you safe. If you’re not going to use it, why have it? Assuming you don’t leave the pistol laying around loaded, you must unload it when you take it off. In an emergency, it is just too slow to load a gun before you can bring it into action. Loaded guns are much more effective at discouraging goblins from doing unpleasant things to you.
When you wear the gun day in and day out, your body “learns” it. It learns where it is and where to reach to get it. It becomes almost like a part of your body. The value in this is that in an emergency, you don’t have to think about where the gun is and how to get your hand on it. It just happens, smooth and quick. When you go to the range to practice, all you should have to do is clear leather, aim and squeeze the trigger. Personal defense guns don’t live in plastic boxes.
If you ever have to use the gun in earnest, it will probably be a surprise. It is likely that you will be responding to a threat quickly, and it will probably not be something you expect. The shock of a sudden, violent attack is not the context in which you want to be doing new product testing.
Unless you are a retired law enforcement officer, the first time out in public with a concealed handgun will be an incredibly uncomfortable experience. You won’t be able to think of anything but the gun. You’ll feel like you have a red neon sign on your back flashing “GUN.” You will most likely feel that everyone has x-ray vision and can see right through your clothes and to your pistol. You will move strangely, stand differently, and act unnatural. It’s not a good thing. Experienced people can spot the awkwardness and discomfort you’re feeling. People will talk to you and you’ll have trouble concentrating on what they’re saying because all you can think about is the GUN. Wearing the gun every day dispels this discomfort and awkwardness.
In terms of physical comfort, I’m not sure that any chunk of metal hanging from your belt or bouncing in your pocket is really comfortable, but I am reminded of Clint Smith’s observation that “Your carry gun should be comforting, not comfortable.”
As the gun become a part of you, you move naturally, quit being nervous about it, and adjust your wardrobe and carry gear so that you are more comfortable, well concealed, and not worried about the gun. Part of successful concealment is not “telegraphing” that you’re wearing a gun with awkward body language.
Practice, practice, practice…
To be safe, comfortable, and effective with your carry gun and rig, you must practice with it. The ideal form of practice for most civilians is the IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) style of tactical pistol matches in which you must draw from the holster, get on target quickly, move, and engage multiple targets while being timed and scored for speed and quality of hits. (IDPA is not “tactical training” but it is good practice. For more on this, click here.) Standing in a pistol range and punching holes in paper is better than nothing, but it does not allow you to practice many of the skills necessary to effectively use a defensive handgun. Classes offered by local shooting clubs are also excellent opportunities to improve your skill. Like any martial art, the movements of defensive pistolcraft must be practiced and repeated thousands of times to achieve the speed, accuracy, and fluidity of motion which a violent encounter will demand of you.
Finally, and perhaps an ancillary but vitally important issue, rights are like muscles; if you don’t exercise them, they wither away. There still remain powerful forces who would take away all of our gun rights if they had their way, and shall issue concealed carry is first on their list. One of the greatest arguments and supports for shall issue concealed carry is the tremendous track record of safe and lawful concealed carry by millions of permit holders across this nation. When you carry your gun, you are joining this historic movement and casting your vote for the right of individuals to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This is no small thing. When you strap on your gun, you are telling Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Sarah Brady, Hillary Clinton and Josh Sugarmann to go to hell, and it feels good.
Remember, it is your legal and constitutional right to carry your gun, and you don’t have to apologize to anybody about that. As a responsible and trained gun owner, you are making your corner of the world a safer place. The goblins will have to find some other place to do their nastiness.
The Psychology of Self Defense and the Force Continuum
Selecting a Pistol for Concealed Carry
Selecting a Holster for Concealed Carry
Pistol Packin’ by Jim Higginbotham – Discussion of holsters for concealed carry.
CCW and the Large Auto by Jim Higginbotham – Discussion of carry of a large auto, particularly the M1911
Is “Cocked and Locked” (Condition One) Dangerous – A discussion of the safety features and function of the M1911 Pistol
Defensive Pistol Practice and Training – Some basic understandings