The mail truck just left. You tear open the envelope and there it is: your first carry permit. Depending on where you live, this could have been quite the journey. Classes, tests, fingerprints, photos, background checks, recommendation letters, law-enforcement sign-offs and wait periods.
…Or perhaps not. You may be lucky enough to live in a state where no permit is necessary and you just woke up this morning and decided to strap on a gun for the first time.
You may have just turned 21 or 81, been a lifelong shooter or a recent convert to the right of self-defense.
Whatever your circumstances, welcome.
- Welcome to the world of dressing around your weapon and selecting your weapon around your dress.
- Welcome to the world of belts, holsters, cover garments, ammunition choices and more.
- And welcome to the world of paying attention—to the new weight on your hip, shoulder, ankle or purse, to your surroundings, and to the laws that govern where and when your new companion is decisively not welcome.
So what now?
First things first. You have to find a comfortable and concealable method to carry your firearm. Hopefully you have already thought this through and have been carrying concealed in the comfort of your own home while waiting for the permit to arrive.
Even if you have, chances are you won’t have the perfect setup your first time through, and no method is perfect for all occasions. You may carry one way for months before you decide you want something different. Your health or body type may change and require you to adapt. Like most of us you will probably end up with a drawer full of holsters with one or two go-to setups that work most of the time.
Watch your attitude
So you’re finally ready to go out. The tongue-in-cheek tradition on Internet gun forums dictates that your first concealed carry outing be to the local WalMart. I’m not sure where that started or why, but it’s as good a place as any.
Wherever you go, you’re going to feel different. You’ll probably feel a little self-conscious and worried that everyone will automatically know you have a gun. The fact is, most people aren’t observant enough to notice even if your pistol is in plain view. They are much more likely to pick up on someone acting different than a small bulge at waist level. If you can keep from constantly adjusting your holster, walking or moving differently, or acting nervous you will be just fine.
True concealment requires finding a method that works, and practicing it consistently until you can eliminate “tells” from your daily routine. If you can make carrying a gun feel as normal as say, wearing shoes, chances are no one else will notice either.
Attitude is everything. This is especially true once you become comfortable with the fact that you are carrying.
You are not Superman. That feeling is not power… it is empowerment. There’s a difference. You have the ability, but must carefully consider the consequences.
The interesting part is that if you keep the proper perspective, you should find that having a gun on your hip actually makes you less confrontational and less likely to take offense at minor things. When the consequences are final, and can result in the loss of life or liberty, a smart citizen thinks twice. Or as Heinlein so aptly put it: “An armed society is a polite society.”
Adults don’t get in schoolyard fistfights, don’t have to “save face” or engage in frat-boy drunken brawls. Adults treat each other with respect and exhaust all possible avenues of conflict resolution (including walking away) rather than fighting. Mature adults do everything to avoid a fight, because when adults fight, people die.
Recent high-profile events have illustrated that while you may be well within your rights under color of law, all it take is a reporter with an axe to grind and dreams of a Pulitzer to turn public opinion and sometimes the legal system against you.
Don’t tell anyone
Outside of your family and very trusted friends (preferably friends who also carry) no one should know that you have a gun. I have found some new permit holders love to talk about their permits with coworkers and acquaintances. This invariably turns ugly when word gets to the wrong people who have their own misconceptions and irrational fears regarding self-defense.
Human Resources departments justify their existence by protecting their company from perceived liability, and more than one person has been warned not to carry or lost their job to the bureaucratic stroke of a pen. People who just don’t understand or haven’t matured in their own view of self defense may not be able to leave well enough alone and may constantly bring the subject up at inappropriate times.
Trust me, it’s better to just keep your mouth shut. If you have trouble with this, wait to carry until you can.
Get some training
Then get some more. A gun is not a magical talisman. It won’t keep bad things from happening just by being there. You have to practice and train, preferably with professionals. You may have taken a class before you got your permit. It is not enough. This will cost you time and money, but with the proper instruction you will learn the skills and mindset you need to really use your pistol effectively if you ever need it. You will gain confidence. You will find out what the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen firearm, carry method, and individual skills are.
Training can be a lot of fun. Join your local IDPA or IPSC league. Compete. Just remember that these are games, and can ingrain bad habits as well. They will make you faster and better shooter, but make sure you supplement them with additional training as well. I personally try to approach an IDPA match as realistically as possible from a self-defense standpoint. Sometimes this costs me points and I don’t win “the game” but I am personally there for the training rather than the sport.
Be mentally prepared. Train your mind as to how you would react under various scenarios. Train yourself to be more alert and pay more attention to the world around you. Read as much as you can. Prepare yourself for what might happen if you do have to use your weapon in self-defense. I would suggest carrying the card of a good attorney in your wallet and looking into how you will afford an attorney should you need one.
Congratulations. You have made the decision to embrace the height of individual responsibility by choosing to carry a weapon for self-defense. Enjoy the opportunity to exercise your right and the freedom you have to do so. Our country has become a much safer place with violent crime dropping dramatically since the first concealed carry laws went into effect. Stay safe.