8 Tips for Carrying Concealed–Part 2 focuses on preparing to use your concealed handgun in a self-defense situation. The tips focus on mastering the personal defense triad (mind-set, handgun proficiency, and marksmanship), drawing from the holster, and training (live-fire and dry practice).
Mastering the Personal Defense Triad
Colonel Jeff Cooper was a famous handgun trainer and author. He created the Gunsite Academy (https://www.gunsite.com/) that teaches principles for winning defensive gunfights. He is also famous for creating a color code to help people practice situational awareness (https://www.bsr-inc.com/awareness-color-code-chart/). The central concept of his defensive handgun philosophy is what we call the personal defense triad. The triad consists of mind-set, handgun proficiency, and marksmanship.
To survive a self-defense shooting event you must prepare yourself mentally for the possibility of it happening. You pray that it won’t, but you prepare knowing that it could happen. As Colonel Cooper said you must develop the mind-set that says “I knew this could happen some day and I know what to do about it.” (https://youtu.be/gffEqMytRtg)
“Knowing what to do about it” requires handgun proficiency. Handgun proficiency means you know how to operate your handgun. You have the skills to manipulate it. You know how to draw the concealed handgun from draw the holster quickly, you know how to get your sights on target fast, you know how to get acceptable sight alignment, you know how to press the trigger to increase your accuracy, and you know how to clear malfunctions.
It’s not enough to have the appropriate mind-set to win a self-defense shooting or to know how to operate your handgun. You also need to hit your target. Hitting a target requires marksmanship.
General George Patton once said “A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.” We modified his quote for defensive shooting situations: “a good solution right now is better than a perfect solution later.” What we mean is that when your life is threatened you don’t have time to take the perfect shot. You want to take a good shot. A good shot is one that stops the threat. Remember, it is not how many shots you fire it’s how many hits you get. The person who gets the first hit has a better chance of going home alive.
To get the first good enough hit you need to develop your marksmanship skills at a range. Handgun marksmanship requires the following set of skills: standing properly, breathing correctly, acquiring a sight picture, aligning your front and rear sights, pressing the trigger correctly, and following-through after the shot to reacquire your stance, breathing, sight picture, sight alignment, and trigger control.
There is no shortage of advice on how to develop handgun proficiency and marksmanship skills, but one thing is certain—you must train to use your handgun effectively.
Developing the appropriate mind-set is more challenging because it requires mental rehearsal of possible self-defense scenarios. You have to repeatedly imagine yourself in different situations and visualizing what you would do. Seriously—you have to do this. Then, should that day come when you are faced with a deadly threat you will say to yourself “I knew this could happen some day and I know what to do about it.”
Drawing From the Holster
To win self-defense gunfights, as we said earlier, you must remember this rule: he or she who gets the first hit on target—not the first shot fired—often wins the fight. Getting the first hit requires, of course, marksmanship skills. But marksmanship skills won’t do you any good if you can’t get your gun out of the holster quicker than the bad guy.
Practicing drawing a concealed handgun from its holster is a very important part of your self-defense firearms training. You have to sweep away the clothing that is concealing the handgun, get a good purchase on the handgun grip, defeat the holster retention, withdraw the gun from the holster, bring it into a firing position, acquire a sight picture, and get your front sight on the target, all while maintaining a solid shooting stance while pressing the trigger. And, you have to do all this faster than the bad guy. Doing all this quickly requires lots of practice if you want to survive a self-defense gunfight.
There are two kinds of handgun training in which you need to engage: live fire and dry practice.
If you are going to carry a handgun concealed you have a moral obligation to know how to operate your handgun and shoot accurately. Proficiently operating your handgun to develop shooting accuracy requires shooting the gun on a regular training schedule.
We recommend going to a live-fire range at least once a week. Bring 100 rounds of ammunition and your concealed carry handgun and shoot at targets. Practice the marksmanship principles of stance, breathing, sight picture, sight alignment, trigger press, and follow-through—every time. On some outdoor ranges you can practice drawing from the holster and then taking a shot (many indoor ranges prohibit drawing from the holster for range safety reasons).
Another important firearms training regimen for carrying concealed is to practice shooting while moving. Pat McNamara, a seasoned Army Special Forces operator and now a firearms instructor talks about “getting off the X” (https://www.tactical-life.com/lifestyle/tactics/pat-mcnamara-gunfight-mobility-tips/). Getting off the “X” means shoot and move. As McNamara says, it is hard to hit a moving target.
Shooting while moving is usually impossible at an indoor range. So, you will need to find an outdoor range where various forms of cover and concealment can be set-up so you can move from point to point while shooting at targets.
Dry practice means that you practice your firearms proficiency and marksmanship skills with an unloaded firearm—repeat, an unloaded firearm—in your home. Most modern handguns like the Glock can be dry fired without harming the firearm. If you are not sure if you can dry fire your handgun check the owner’s manual or consult a firearms dealer.
If you can’t get to a live-fire range or if you don’t have the resources to purchase 400 rounds of ammunition a month (100 rounds/week) then you can dry practice at home. Dry fire practice is a very important part of effective firearms training. Many quality firearms instructors encourage a 70-30 dry fire regimen—70% of your training time dry firing and 30% shooting on a live-fire range. You can also use dry practice to develop skills for drawing from the holster.
Carrying a concealed handgun is a personal choice that some people make. Before making that choice we strongly advise you to self-assess your 1) willingness to use a concealed handgun in self-defense knowing that you may kill or seriously injure someone and 2) your level of firearms proficiency. If you are not willing to use a gun in self-defense don’t carry one. If you do not yet have proficiency in using a handgun start training today and don’t carry a concealed handgun until you are sure you can hit the target you are aiming at.
The Maryland legal system, like some other states (for example, New York and New Jersey) is not a gun-friendly system. If you use your handgun in self-defense you will certainly be detained and likely arrested. You will then need to hire lawyers to defend yourself even if you were 100% justified in shooting a person who was a deadly threat to you or your family.
So, if you make the decision to carry a concealed handgun be willing to shoot in self-defense, ensure that you are trained, and make sure you understand Maryland’s laws for carrying concealed and justified self-defense.