There I was, minding my own business waiting for my order to come up in a fast food restaurant, when a man sidled up to me and asked, “When did you retire from the CIA?” He went on to say he was a retired Marine and saw that I had positioned myself where I was watching everyone in the room and had both entrances covered. To be honest, I hadn’t consciously set myself up to command the room; I do it as a matter of course, but I was a little annoyed to get caught. Then again, someone who knows their business can usually spot another. The thing is, if you’re going to carry a concealed weapon you need to adopt a way of living that will eventually become habitual. This can include where you go, what you do, how you dress and how you view other people and situations.
It starts with awareness and alertness. I assume if you’re carrying a pistol you have decided the world can be a dangerous place and you may have to face that danger at some point to protect yourself, your loved ones or your community. While you need not be paranoid about this you need to remain in a state of relaxed alert, what we call Condition Yellow at Gunsite, any time you are out and about. The first principle of personal defense (from my mentor, Jeff Cooper) is alertness; you can’t stop an attack unless you see it coming so stay alert and position yourself to take advantage of potential cover and concealment, watching entrances and knowing where the exits are, even if it means you have to run through the kitchen and go out the back.
Here are some other things to consider:
Don’t do stupid things with stupid people. If you’re carrying a pistol avoidance is your best defense and staying away from potentially dangerous people and situations is your best bet. The best gunfight is the one you don’t attend.
Dress for success. Carrying concealed means your weapon has to stay hidden and dressing to cover it may necessitate some changes in your wardrobe or method of carry. Learn to avoid touching the pistol and adopt a posture that keeps it from “printing” – being visible through your clothing – as you do things like bend over. If carrying in a belt holster use a sturdy belt and cinch it up tight to keep the belt from sagging and letting the pistol flop about, and so you’ll avoid having to hike up your pants, a dead giveaway you’re carrying.
You’re going to buy lots of holsters and guns. Get used to it. When advising folks about guns and gear they want me to tell them what one gun and holster to buy. The fact is, no matter what you start with, you’re very likely to buy more holsters, gear and guns as you travel along this journey. Most of us have boxes full of holsters and more than a few guns, so welcome to the party. And while you’re at it, don’t cheap out on cheap gear. You’ll regret it later and will only spend more to get what you should have gotten in the first place. You’re life may depend on it.
Carry extra ammunition and consider carrying two guns. While any fight you are likely to get into will probably be handled with the ammunition in the gun there are always exceptions. Mr. Murphy can rear his ugly head at the least expected times, like you draw your pistol and the magazine falls out or more bad guys show up. The fastest reload is another gun and, especially if you’re carrying a small pistol, reloading or clearing malfunctions will be difficult at best and may be impossible under the stress of a fight.
Train with your carry pistol and ammunition. You should shoot up your carry ammunition and replace it with fresh ammo from time to time so turn it into a training exercise. Any time you switch ammunition you should fire 20 rounds or so to make sure it functions through your handgun and to ensure you know where the ammo is hitting in relation to your sights. Yes, it’s expensive, but you’re worth it.
Carry all the time, without fail. Once you’ve committed to carrying your pistol you need to do it full time. There are lots of excuses not to carry but the worst one is assuming nothing will happen so you won’t need a pistol. Look at it this way, if you knew you would get into a gunfight when you went out, would you leave the house? The purpose of defensive pistols is to meet unexpected, life threatening events and we carry them because we can’t always pack a rifle or have an armed escort of SEALs to look after us.
Whether you’re new to concealed carry or an old hand, these tips will help keep you safe, and that’s the idea, isn’t it; to stay safe and out of trouble? Don’t be one of those folks who say, “I can’t believe this is happening, I wish I had brought my pistol.”
About the Author:
Ed Head is a regular on Shooting Gallery, Gun Stories and Down Range TV. He has worked for almost 30 years in law enforcement, first in the United States Air Force and then with the United States Border Patrol, retiring as a Field Operations Supervisor. During his Border Patrol career, Ed worked in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities. Ed has an extensive background as a firearms instructor, having trained thousands, ranging from beginners to police, military and special operations personnel. Having taught at Gunsite for 20 years, Ed first trained there under the world famous shooting school’s founder, Jeff Cooper, then later ran the school as the operations manager for more than five years. Ed lives in Chino Valley, Arizona, where he continues to teach and write.