By Steve Moses, CCWSAFE
1. Concealed carriers that choose to carry should always carry their handgun whenever possible: While choices concealed carriers make can increase or decrease their chances of being involved in a lethal force encounter, for the most part the criminal is the one to initiate such an action. When is almost always unknown and where might include such unlikely places as homes, offices, houses of worship, and schools.
2. Concealed carriers put themselves at risk if they aren’t willing or prepared to use the handgun to the full extent of its capability. While some criminals will disengage and withdraw when suddenly confronted with the possibility that they might get injured or killed by an armed concealed carrier, others will do the opposite and do everything possible to defend themselves, including killing the concealed carrier. Concealed carriers who believe that the only purpose of a handgun is to successfully bluff their way through a scary encounter and are not willing to use it otherwise may unwillingly put themselves in greater danger than they would have been if unarmed.
3. Concealed carriers should avoid any temptation to use their handgun in a reckless manner or go to places that they deem unsafe to go without a handgun. This largely goes without saying. A concealed carrier who successfully uses lethal force to defend his or her life has just embarked upon a journey in which his or her freedom is at stake. Other downsides to use of lawful lethal force include potential threats to reputation, emotional stress, future employment, and, absent membership in an organization like CCW Safe, the possibility of potential bankruptcy. The above concerns are possible in a best-case scenario. A worst-case scenario might end in serious injury or death to the concealed carrier. Concealed carriers should give thought to how their loved ones (and most especially those who are dependent upon them) might fare if they are severely crippled or killed.
4. Concealed carriers should avoid carrying their handgun illegally.
Even a misdemeanor conviction can cause the concealed carrier to lose his or her right to carry for years. Concealed carriers should either avoid those places where concealed carry is unlawful (which is extremely difficult at times) or accept the restriction and make an effort to be especially careful during those times in order to minimize the possibility of an unwanted encounter with others where non-consensual physical force might come into play.
5. Concealed carriers should get educated. Certain aftermaths of a shooting can last for years and be financially costly, other aftermaths can last a lifetime. It is my opinion that concealed carriers who have a baseline understanding of criminal mentality and the dynamics involved in most encounters with either criminals looking for a payday, enraged motorists, or emotionally disturbed or intoxicated persons have gone a long way towards winning a fight that never occurs. One of the most important things a concealed carrier can do is ensure they have good understanding of the critical elements of lawful self-defense (Ability, Opportunity, Intent, and No Option for Retreat) and the ability to recognize each for what it is.
6. Concealed carriers should keep the handgun concealed unless there is a legitimate reason to display it and know the difference between smart and legal. Open carry should be reserved for those few times when it is both legal and won’t cause others alarm. There is very little to gain in by carrying a handgun openly in public in my opinion. Persons lawfully carrying handguns openly in the public make the handgun that much easier to be taken away by others and have lost the element of surprise if suddenly confronted by a pistol-wielding felon at close distance.
7. Concealed carriers should make gun handling and manipulation second nature so that they can instead focus on working through the challenge of dealing with another person or persons in a deadly force encounter. This is especially true if they are in the presence of their loved ones. Concealed carriers should focus on seeing and perceiving what is taking place in the present, selecting and initiating the most appropriate responses, and observing the results of those responses and then adjusting accordingly.
8. The concealed carrier is likely to suffer from task overload if he or she must also dedicate mental effort to gun handling and manipulation at the same time. Proper training and continuous practice can make those skills reflexive just as driving a car for years makes accelerating, braking, steering, etc. an action that most of us do without conscious thought.
9. Concealed carriers should do all they can to make sure they understand the laws regarding lawful carry and possible restrictions (such as type of handgun, magazine capacity, and even ammunition) in the jurisdiction in which they are located or intend to go. This goes back to carrying illegally. There is no reason to fall afoul of the governing laws in their state or city or another state or city. Doing research before making a trip to another state or large city in order to ensure that the concealed carrier’s handgun, magazine capacity and type of ammunition is legal takes very little time and can avoid turning a trip into an unnecessary disaster.
10. Concealed carriers should carry handguns that have a proven record of performing well and use ammunition that is recognized as adequate for self-defense purposes. Handguns and ammunition commonly used by law enforcement is almost always a good choice for concealed carriers. When traveling I usually carry a compact semi-automatic 9mm Glock 48, but under certain circumstances I choose a small S&W 442 .38 Special revolver instead, neither of which are commonly used by law enforcement. I have also made sure that both are completely reliable by shooting at least 300 rounds in them before carrying and I select good quality ammunition by Hornaday, Federal, or Speer.
11. Concealed carriers should always rely on their common sense. Mas describes common sense quite nicely as the encompassing of ethics, logic, and law. Concealed carriers who prefer their lives to be as drama-free as possible are far more likely to keep them that way than those who let emotion override deliberate consideration, don’t take the time to become informed, and are willing to take short-cuts or ignore risks that could have a far-reaching negative impact. I know several people who constantly say that the benefits of taking an action that has very little upside but considerable downside are worth doing if the chances of it going bad are low. Over the years, those same people have also gotten themselves in a “jam” more than once or twice. A jam in which a handgun is involved can sometimes turn into a disaster.
The late Ron Avery once said in a class that I was in over twenty years ago that if it is not safe to go somewhere without a gun, it was not safe to go there with a gun.