The choice to carry a concealed handgun for personal protection is not one that any gun owner, new or experienced, should take lightly. It requires enormous responsibility, a level head, and a willingness to learn and adapt.
Understanding a few concealed carry tips can help you avoid common pitfalls, ensuring you carry your firearm safely and within the confines of the law. Here are the top 10 concealed carry tips and tricks to know for safe and successful carry.
1. Choose the Right Gun and Caliber
Your first order of business should be choosing a firearm and a caliber. Although shoulder weapons deliver increased range, accuracy, and power relative to handguns, carrying a rifle or a shotgun is neither discreet nor practical for most gun owners. The handgun, however, is concealable and portable.
The handgun you choose to carry should be reliable. When you press the trigger, the gun should fire every time. If it’s semi-automatic, it should complete the reloading cycle with 100% consistency. More importantly, it should function reliably with jacketed hollow-point defensive ammunition. Not every firearm exhibits this level of dependability out of the box. These guns have what’s known as a break-in period, which may require 100–200 rounds.
You should be able to handle the gun comfortably and access the controls — hammer (if there is one), slide stop, magazine catch, manual safety, and decocking levers should all be readily manipulable.
Accuracy describes how closely the point of aim and the point of impact coincide. If your shots land where you place your sights, the gun is relatively accurate. If the group size is tight, your gun is also precise.
You don’t need to achieve competition-grade accuracy, but you should be able to hit a man-size target at realistic engagement ranges consistently. Most defensive shootings are said to occur between point-blank range and approximately seven meters. Exceeding 25 meters is usually unnecessary.
Two factors that affect practice accuracy in a firearm include:
You should be able to see your sights easily to acquire a sight picture. Matte-black front and rear sights can disappear when you place them on a dark-colored background or when aiming in low light. High-visibility fixed combat sights, including those that use tritium, provide superior contrast and illumination.
During the pre-travel phase, there’s a phenomenon in trigger operation known as creep. This is where trigger movement causes sear/mainspring engagement. If the creep is inconsistent due to uneven or unpolished engagement surfaces, you will experience an inconsistent trigger press that many shooters describe as gritty. A crisp, smooth trigger pull can improve your shooting performance.
2. Ammunition Selection
Choosing the right caliber is a balancing act. A lightweight, compact handgun will exhibit more recoil and muzzle flip. As a result, highly concealable firearms are often chambered in less-powerful cartridges. Rather than discussing specific calibers, you should focus on certain criteria that every defensive load should meet.
The essential criteria regarding ammunition selection are reliability, penetration, and expansion. The ammunition should cycle reliably in your choice of firearm. The bullet should achieve sufficient penetration to reach vital organs and major blood vessels from multiple angles. Third, the bullet should undergo reliable, controlled expansion.
As part of the ammunition selection process, you may want to consider the following:
A bonded-core jacketed hollow point is less likely to fragment.
Nickel-plating casings resist corrosion and are more visible under low light.
Low-flash propellants reduce the luminosity of the muzzle flash, preserving your night vision.
3. Choose the Right Holster
Your holster is one of the most important accessories that you can own for your firearm, especially if you intend to carry it. A high-quality holster should be comfortable, safe, and reliable. It should be composed of a durable, rigid material to protect the firearm. While leather is a classic standby, Kydex Holsters are gaining ground among firearms enthusiasts. Regardless of the material that you prefer, your holster should fulfill several criteria:
Your holster needs to protect your firearm and remain open when you draw your weapon. A holster mouth that collapses when the holster is empty is a liability. A rigid holster mouth will remain open, allowing you to reholster your firearm with one hand.
Retention describes the ability of the holster to keep your firearm secure. There are two types of retention in gun holsters: active and passive. If you carry openly, an active-retention system, which requires you to disengage a locking mechanism or thumb break, is advisable. If you carry concealed, whether IWB or OWB, passive retention, which relies on friction, is faster and more efficient.
The holster should fully cover the trigger guard. When you acquire a full firing grip, your index finger should not enter the trigger guard or contact the trigger until the gun clears the holster and you raise it to eye level.
The purpose of your holster is to retain your firearm and render it accessible to you when you need it most. This is also a function of holster position.
4. Learn to Carry Your Gun Properly
There are two types of waistband holster types: inside the waistband (IWB) and outside the waistband (OWB). If you want to carry a full-size service pistol or revolver, you may decide that OWB is the more appropriate choice. An OWB holster is more comfortable for many gun owners to wear for a prolonged period.
5. Dress for the Occasion
One of the most practical concealed carry clothing tips is to dress appropriately for the occasion. Your manner of dress should achieve two aims: concealing your weapon and being discreet. Don’t wear 5.11 tactical pants or camouflage unless you want bystanders to know you’re carrying a firearm. These are red flags — avoid them. If you wanted to disclose that you were carrying a gun, you’d carry it openly.
If you intend to carry your handgun IWB in the 11-, 12-, or 1-o’clock position — appendix carry — you can consider finding a tuckable holster. A tuckable holster allows you to tuck your shirt into your pants between the holster and the belt clips. When you need access to your weapon, you’ll grip your shirt with both hands and pull up forcefully to clear your holster for a clean draw stroke.
If you intend to carry your handgun OWB, you’ll usually need a cover garment, such as a jacket or coat. This can be uncomfortable during the warmer months or in particularly humid environments.
6. Don’t Disclose Your Weapon
Printing is when your concealed firearm creates a visible outline through your clothing, disclosing that you’re armed. Your holster, gun belt, firearm, clothing, and how you move all affect whether your weapon prints.
7. Understand the Law
A top concealed carry tip for beginners is to educate yourself on local regulations. Before you begin carrying a handgun, familiarize yourself with the law. This includes laws regarding where you can carry your gun and when you can draw it. You should familiarize yourself with the statutes regarding the use of deadly force. Know what the penalties are for failing to observe signage.
You should also consult a reciprocity map before leaving your state with your concealed firearm. Not every state honors your right to carry or your state’s permit.
8. Seek Proper Training
When you apply for a concealed-carry permit, you may be required by state law to undergo a specific number of hours of training, as administered by a certified instructor that meets certain criteria.
This mandatory training covers the basics of firearms safety, handling, and use, safe storage, and the law regarding deadly force and civil liability. However, not every concealed-carry class is exhaustive, and there’s no guarantee that a certified instructor has sufficient real-world firearms experience to teach you how to defend yourself adequately.
A growing number of states do not require that you undergo a mandatory safety or training program. It’s your responsibility to seek proper training.
There are several tactical and practical defensive shooting schools in operation in the United States. Based in Arizona and later renamed Gunsite, Jeff Cooper’s American Pistol Institute was one of the first to offer practical training to private citizens.
You need to learn to apply the fundamental elements of pistol marksmanship, such as stance, grip, sight picture, trigger control, and breath control.
However, in real-world self-defense scenarios, these elements are insufficient. You’ll need to learn how to shoot accurately from several positions — crouching, sitting, kneeling — from behind cover, while running and out of breath, and under variable light. Your instructor should also teach you weak-hand drills, how to clear common malfunctions under stress, and more.
9. Practice Realistically
Regular practice is essential to accurate shooting and consistent results. Marksmanship is a perishable skill, and the only way to preserve it is to apply the fundamentals consistently. While you should strive to achieve adequate trigger time at regular intervals, dry-firing is also beneficial.
The point of impact can shift from one load to another, so to preserve your accuracy, it’s necessary to practice with the same ammunition that you intend to carry. If, however, that proves too expensive, some companies offer low-cost target ammunition that replicates the external ballistics of popular defensive loads.
In addition to firing your weapon at paper or steel targets, you should also practice your draw stroke.
10. Adjust in Private
Those new to concealed carry sometimes fall into two habits that can attract unnecessary attention: checking your gun to see that it’s still there and adjusting the cant or ride height of the holster in open view of passersby.
Both habits can disclose you’re carrying a firearm, which defeats the purpose of carrying concealed. If you choose a high-quality holster and gun belt, your weapon should be held securely in place.
If you must adjust how your holster sits on your belt, find a private, secluded place with no surveillance cameras or curious onlookers. You don’t need anyone eyeing your behavior, especially those who may misinterpret your actions as criminal.
Put These Tips to the Test
Following these CCW tips can help you stay safe and handle your weapon effectively. Carrying a concealed handgun allows you to defend yourself against criminal assault during your daily life. You need to be mindful of your surroundings, choose the right tools, and observe the law. However, you need a high-quality holster you can rely on. At We the People Holsters, we manufacture Kydex holsters to suit a variety of firearms.