Contrary to mass media, the average concealed carrier is not a special-forces military wannabe or self-proclaimed police officer. Most of us are simply neighbors, friends, parents and members of our communities. When an individual decides to become a responsibly armed citizen, they are making a decision to be responsible for the safety of themselves, their families and their communities.
So what is the base level of knowledge needed for someone who is new to concealed carry? Where do they acquire such training?
The first thing you must know is proper gun safety. The four cardinal rules of firearm safety are a start (You can find out more information on the 4 cardinal rules here). However, there is much more.
The three basic of safety are: safety at home, safety on the range and safety while carrying in public.
Home safety revolves around storage solutions that balance accessibility and access from children, teens and adults who lack responsibility and possible theft. Other topics are: target identification, barricading in place and bullet penetration through walls.
This includes 5 different points. Each facility you shoot at will have its own rules. You must always maintain awareness of other shooters and their behaviors. There are important differences between indoor and outdoor ranges as to the safety and procedures for use. Be aware of the limitations a backstop may have to higher velocity cartridges. Facilities will have different procedures for target setting and range commands.
Safety while carrying and transporting firearms
This topic covers the laws/regulations in your area governing transporting and carrying
concealed firearms. Further, it is important to avoid accidents and not panic anyone not
familiar with firearms. The instructor should also emphasize situational awareness and conflict avoidance. Just because you are armed, do not go to places you would not go if you were unarmed. It is your responsibility to not seek out trouble.
Handguns, Ammunition and Their Parts:
Second to safety, a proper concealed carry class should cover the proper parts and function of handguns and ammunition. This information will be useful to the student as they select their tools for defense.
The difference between target ammunition vs. defensive (hollow point) ammunition should be addressed and why a responsibly armed citizen should always carry demonstrably reliable defensive ammunition in their firearms that are used for concealed carry and/or home defense.
There are many types and models of handguns in the market; revolvers, semi-automatics, Glocks, Smith and Wesson’s and Sig Sauer’s. Each model may differ in features, functions and size. Further, buying a handgun for concealed carry is a very personal matter. A good instructor will give you the pros and cons of the various different types of handguns. Also, they will provide information so that the student can make their own decision about what is right for them.
Proper shooting Technique:
What would the use of a class on concealed carry be if it did not contain sections on how to properly and accurately shoot a handgun? Principles of marksmanship such as proper grip, aiming technique and trigger manipulation, as well as shooting stance are all important to building a proper foundation for new and experienced shooters.
Most classes are less than a day and that is mainly classroom information. Instructors use the live fire exercises to demonstrate safe firearm handling. There will be a minimum focus on accuracy when shooting. A good concealed carry will have each student shooting well above minimum qualification required.
Concealed Carry – Beyond Just Handguns
Concealed carry is more than just shooting. In fact, concealed carry is mostly about avoiding trouble and having a backup plan just in case. This being said, any credible instructor will spend some time on situational awareness, conflict avoidance and some general personal safety concepts. After all, the best gunfight you can be in, is the one you avoid entirely.
Where can you carry your pistol?
Each state has a list of prohibited places. Further, the federal government prohibits carrying a concealed weapon in certain places. At the very least, the instructor should provide information by the state and a list of resources where a responsibly armed citizen may find out where they may legally carry their firearm. Realize, laws are constantly changing and the student is responsible for knowing where they can and can not carry. Fortunately, a competent instructor will help you know where to get this information.
Interacting with Law Enforcement
Chances are, at some point in our lives we will have our interactions with law enforcement. Whether from a speeding ticket, a fender bender or a chance encounter as our officers patrol our communities. It is important to interact with officers in a way that prevents any misunderstandings. This keeps the concealed carrier and the officer safe and is a requirement no class should skip over. In fact, many states have laws on the books governing things like duty to inform an officer if you are carrying.
What do you do, should the worst happen, and you are involved in a defensive handgun use? It is a difficult topic to discuss, and most instructors will have a legal disclaimer statement, but it is very important to start a conversation on this topic. Most, if not all, instructors will have at least read some perspective by experts like Massad Ayoob, and will have content on what happens after a defensive gun use.
Legal, moral and ethical use of deadly force is an intense subject. Firing your handgun at another human being, even in self-defense, is being willing to take another human life. Beyond the legalities, there are psychological and moral consequences for taking a human life. This will take a lot of soul searching on the part of the concealed carrier. A proper class will start this discussion, even if a state approved booklet covers the legal part.
Selecting a Concealed Carry Instructor
There is plenty more a credible instructor will add to personalize the course to their own style and accentuate what they feel is important. There will always be plenty more to learn when it comes to being a responsibly armed citizen. Generally, this information is the minimum one should expect to gain from a class, but we should always expect more. The best instructors always give you more. In many cases the increased content and instructor experience may mean an increase in course fees. Many of the great instructors recognize the value of the course they teach and are not charging bargain basement prices. They are often times worth every penny.
What are some characteristics of a good instructor?
Start with being credentialed by a well-known firearms safety/education organization. This may be from the National Rifle Association, the United States Concealed Carry Association or a Law Enforcement or Military Firearms School. This credential is not a be-all end-all. However it does say this person takes instruction serious enough to seek out education. Most states require concealed carry instructors to be credentialed in order for their training certificate to be recognized.
Dress for success
A serious and professional instructor will dress professionally. The guy showing up in cut off shorts and a tank top is not taking his appearance seriously, so why should he take his class seriously. Conversely, if the instructor shows up in military fatigues with body armor and a tactical rifle, it is likely he is not aware of his audience. Especially those who are looking to be armed in public without anyone taking notice.
A good instructor recognizes that we never stop learning, and they take their own education seriously. Good instructors will publish the courses they have attended in order to improve their own skills. Find an instructor who has a good pedigree. As they continue their education, they will seek out best in class education for themselves. Google the instructors they list having trained under. That will tell you the quality of information they will bring to you second hand. Some instructors will be active in competitive shooting or other activities, which keeps their skills sharp. Look for instructors who also take classes that are not just shooting related. Emergency medicine, psychology of self-defense, and classes related to teaching adult education are great non-shooting training an instructor will attend in order to improve their own effectiveness.
Above all, look for an instructor who emphasizes safety. For the 8 hours or so they are in charge of a class, they are responsible for student safety. If there is any indication that an instructor allows unsafe behavior in their classroom or range, run the other way.
These are the basics… there is always more to learn and skills to develop that could be lifesaving should you need them. Always look for training beyond the basics. You may also find out that you have a lot of fun along the way.
© Copyright 19 November 2016 – Practical Defensive Training LLC – R. Gayhart, Author