A person who makes the decision to adopt legal concealed carry of a firearm is faced wth many decisions which include the ethical, legal and practical aspects that choice. Here, I would like to explore some of the practical questions and offer a possible approach for those opting to conceal carry for the first time, or those who are relatively new to it and may get bogged down with the myriad choices the marketplace and 'experts' offer.
Handguns and the items necessary to carry and train with them are many. Reams of paper, and lately, gigabytes of digital 'ink' have been used to promote, or decry various ones. We all have our opinions, and, obviously, some are more worthwhile than others. What are put forward as the 'best' by some people, will be criticized by others. This is how it should be. Healthy and reasonable criticism allows those with little or no knowledge of a subject to begin to separate the good from the not-so-hot stuff. Personal preference, size, build, strength, age,... all have a factor in what will be good for one person but not for another.
For the new concealed carry person to sort through all of this information and try out gear without breaking the bank is an issue. I remember when I first began playing the guitar. A very good player, and someone who had been at it for a number of years gave me very good advice: get the best guitar you can afford. Good guitars are much easier to play than bad ones and don't get in the way of learning how. Taking that advice to concealed carry, it would be best to get as good as you can afford and learn to use it effectively.
But, how is a person new to all of this going to know which of the many handguns, calibers, holsters, sights, loaders, magazine carriers, etc. to start with? One can, as many do, buy a number of each and after a period of trial and error, and increasing experience, begin to settle in on what works best for them. That's why most handgun shooters have a box full of expensive holsters they no longer use. Ask me how I know. But, I have a potential solution. Buy a system. A system composed of the basic elements you will need that are designed to work well together right away. Like a good guitar, a good system will get you started and not get in the way of learning what you need to learn. Later, after you have become more experiencd and knowledgeable, you can set about modifying the system if you need to, but you can at first concentrate on the other aspects of concealed carry, like how to carry daily, how to present your weapon if necessary, how to quickly reload, how to quickly and accurately acquire the target. And more.
To that end, I am compiling my first system. I will put it into daily use and practice and report on the good, bad and ugly I uncover.
The Holster: For concealed carry using and inside waistband holster is probably the best way to start. It offers maximum concealment and, if the right holster is chosen, good to reasonable comfort, security and access.
The Sight: If you are not an expert shooter who can reliably hit a body-size target at short range under extreme stress, you need a laser sight on your handgun. There is a lot of noise and flame over the use of handgun lasers. Some love them, some hate them, and most don't really have an informed opinion. There are lots of reason against using laser sights. Most of these are wrong. The essential points are, 1. the vast majority of people who shoot a handgun are poor shots, even in a controlled, range situation. Mix in fear, loathing, and the threat of violence, and that just gets worse. Look up the statistics for police shootings even a very close ranges and you'll see that with a very few exceptions, we are all crappy pistol shots. 2. You are responsible, legally and morally, for every bullet that leaves the barrel of your weapon. Period. The very last thing you want in your life is the accidental shooting of an innocent person. If you can't be sure you can hit what you aim at, especially in situations of extreme stress, you really have no business carrying a gun. The laser sight is one piece of technology that enables the average person to become a significantly better shot and reduces the chance of missing your intended target and hitting someone you should not.
Like Jeff Quinn, and other people who know what they are talking about, says, the majority of instances when you need to resort to your handgun to protect yourself or others happen quickly and often at night. Lasers are critical aids in these circumstances.
The Reloads: If one carries a gun, it makes sense to carry enough ammunition. How much is enough? Really, it's anybody's guess. People report that the average gunfight consumes two, maybe three shots. Maybe, but I haven't seen their sources of information. There are plenty of reports of many more shots being needed than that. Granting, for the moment, they may be right, what's to say your gunfight stops with one assailant? What if there are two, or three? What if it takes four shots to stop one assailant, and the other is still trying to kill you and you have only one (or two, or three) shots left? And so on...The fact is that you should be prepared to reload your handgun at least once. Just in case. So, how to you prepare for this? What extra component in your carry system must you use? Another magazine for a semi-auto? Two magazines? How to carry them concealed and accessible? What about a revolver? Speed loaders? Speed strips? Loose rounds?
The Handgun: Today, the main choices are basically the semi-automatic or the revolver. Semi-autos have the edge in popularity while revolvers have their dedicated fans. The arguments pro and con are:
- High capacity ranging from seven rounds (with a round loaded in the chamber) to around twenty. Ten round and fewer magazines are generally preferred for concealed carry because they make the overall gun and magazine package smaller.
- Thinner than revolvers. While true, they aren't all that much thinner than a well made revolver designed for concealed carry.
- Better trigger action and easier to shoot. This, however, depends on the shooter and the amount of practice and training one has.
- More semi-autos are made for concealed carry than are revolvers. Likely true.
- May not always function properly. Semi-autos, especially if not well maintained, may fail to fire, fail to eject, fail to extract, fail to feed the next round properly, fail to go into battery, and similar malfunctions that arise from the semi-auto's requirement to cycle a heavy slide to extract and load a new round and for the magazine to properly deliver that round to the slide. Basically, too many moving parts. Don't take this as a condemnation of all semi-autos. I own semi-auto pistols and have a high degree of confidence in a couple of them. I don't own others, because they don't inspire the same level of trust. It is merely that with more moving parts needed to function smoothly and reliably, there will be the possibility of trouble.
- The smaller, more concealable and comfortable semi-autos tend to suffer more from possible malfunctions than their larger bretheren. The parameters for proper function of the parts are tighter, the loads they can fire are lighter, and they need to be kept in good condition to work as they should.
- Manual safeties can be another roadblock to getting a off a fast, accurate shot. For those guns without a manual safety, there is nothing between a negligent discharge and you but a few pounds of trigger pull. Proper training and gun handling are essential to carrying and using a semi-auto without a manual safety.
- Fewer moving parts. Far less possibility of failing to fire. Revolvers can fail, of course, but the likelhood of that is far less than with semi-autos. Generally speaking, if your revolver is in decent shape, it will fire when you pull the trigger. No failures to feed, eject, or jam.
- The revolvers made specifically for concealed carry are thin and light enough for the job and conceal as well as a similarly sized semi-auto given the right holster and carry position.
- Easier for the average person to shoot accurately compared to a small-frame semi-auto. This is a debatable point, but one I feel confident in making.
- Limited capacity. The concealed carry type is usually built to carry five rounds. These can be fairly powerful though, but the average shooter should steer clear of high power rounds, especially magnum rounds in these small guns. Powerful, yes. Accurate shooting, no so much.
- Not as concealable as a semi-auto because of the width of the cylinder. Sometimes true, but we are mostly talking fractions of an inch which, given a good holster and proper clothing, is a non-issue.
- Reloading: slower than reloading a semi-auto, but with the proper equipment, not by much. Use of a good speed loader makes this point moot. Speed strips, which are really 'not too slow' strips, will help, but they are really a means to keep loose rounds corralled in one place.
I have put together a system for the new, or first time concealed carry person consisting of the following:
- Ruger LCR .38 Special revolver
- LaserMax Centerfire laser sight
- Talon IWB holster; Versacarry IWB holster
- 5 Star Speed loaders
I have in my possession all but the LCR. It is currently on order from Ruger but is backed up somewhere in their ordering and shipping system. I am attempting to get a date when the pistol will ship, but so far have no information. The other components were graciously contributed by their makers for this evaluation.
I will put this system through its paces through daily carry and practice with the parts - shooting, reloading, maintenance, comfort, accessibility, security for carry - and report here as the evaluation progresses. I hope this system will prove to be a good starting point for those who are kind of lost in the conceal carry woods. If this works out well, I will put together a similar system based around a well-respected semi-automatic made for general concealed carry and see how that will work. The goal being for a newcomer to be able to get all of the necessary components for a concealed carry system right from the get go without being lost in the plethora of choices out there. Once a person has gained sufficient experience and knowledge of concealed carry and how that fits into their life choices, systems can be modified with some purpose and choice.
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