I’ve wanted to formulate a post/article on CCW for quite some time now. Let’s start from some common ground. You don’t know jack. And neither do I. We each may know some strong points, but we’ll never know everything. Before you can start this, we have to agree on that. I am not an instructor. I do not want to be.
I am going to approach this from the perspective of someone who is a lifelong shooter, has worked in positions in which I was required to carry, and have carried, legally, different times in my life. I will soon have my Ohio CHL and will carry all the time. I want to convey that I absolutely believe every person has a God-given right to carry a gun and to protect himself or herself with it. But you weren’t born using a fork and spoon, just like you weren’t born with a gun in your hand. You have to learn.
In Ohio, we have a training requirement to carry a concealed handgun. Until March 23rd, 2015 it involved 10 hours of classroom instruction and 2 hours of range instruction. After March 23rd, 2015, that drops to 6 hours of classroom and 2 hours of range instruction. These courses are NOT designed to teach you to be a self-defense shooter. They are designed for you to be exposed to a minimum level of instruction in firearms and the laws about them, as well as for you to demonstrate safe handling of a firearm. In 8 hours. I want you to think back to when you took Driver’s Education. For me that involved a 9-week course at my school after school, 2 hours each day and then an additional 80 hours of behind the wheel instruction, as well as having to pass the Ohio Driver’s License written exam. And after all that? I didn’t know jack about real world driving. And neither did you. So where am I going with that? Right, wrong, or indifferent, to qualify to carry a handgun concealed in Ohio, you get 8 hours of instructor-led training, and then you are allowed to carry a device that, when properly used, is harmless, unless it needs to be otherwise, in which case, it is deadly. Many people seem to baulk at paying, on average, $100 for this education. Many people seem to feel it is also all that you need to be a good steward of concealed carry. And baulk at paying $12.50/hr. (after 3/23/15) to get it. In my mind, to have a professional instructor, that’s a good value. Will a $45 class be just as good? I don’t know. I didn’t take one. I do know that at the end of my course I knew who Jack was. But we’d still never met.
So how did you get to where you could feed your face without needing a bib? You practiced. A lot. HUNDREDS UPON HUNDREDS of times. Being skilled with a firearm is the same thing. Very few people are actually instinctive shooters by nature. I’ve met three in my life and I’m married to one of them. What does that mean? Well, they are really freaking good at hitting a target. I’m pretty good. But shooting was ANYTHING but instinctive to me. I learned to shoot the hard way. I did it, a lot. This is what most people need to do. A very sad statistic involves many law enforcement officers. They, on average, discharge their service weapon for training and qualification a total of 100 rounds a year. Have you ever been to the range where a police officer was shooting? How did they do? I’ve seen some pretty good shots, but they were folks for whom shooting was a hobby and not just a potential job function, and I have seen some who were… Not so good.
If you want to be very good, and a good steward of CCW, you need to have a solid fundamental skill set in shooting in general. That means pointing your firearm down range and safely firing rounds onto a target the size of the human center of mass and at least having every round on that area from a reasonable distance, 30’ being a good mark, doing it at 50’ is even better. Think of an 8.5×11 sheet of paper. That should be your ballpark 101. Next, be able to do the same thing, rapid fire to the capacity of your weapon. When you can do that consistently, you then need to start doing the same thing from your holster. Every round needs to hit that paper. Any round that doesn’t just killed the thing in the world you hold most dear. Sounds dramatic? Well, a stray round killing someone else, is. Once you’re comfortable and competent drawing and firing from your carry holster, doing so should become an integral part of your shooting practice, if you can find a facility that allows it. If not, try to find one that will. You should also try to practice at different ranges from point black back to 50’ if you can. How much should you practice? As much as it takes for you to be able to consistently put those rounds into that piece of paper from 7’, 14’, 21’ and 30’ is a good BASELINE. Realistically, if you’re capable, getting involved in a hobby-level shooting sport that involves learning to shoot while moving, from cover and concealment, and at varied ranges is going to serve you well. You should also be able to do this from your non-dominant hand.
Earlier I mentioned your carry holster. I have seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of cases of people waiting to find the cheap solution to a holster. If you are going to carry a gun the holster you use needs to be one of a quality manufacture, that is absolutely comfortable for you to have on your body no less than 18 hours per day. If it doesn’t fit those criteria it is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. It needs to retain its shape, protect your weapon and be comfortable and durable. You are probably going to go through several until you find the exact right one, but I will tell you this, you’re probably not going to buy it at Wal-Mart. You are buying a (bra/jock strap) you should feel comfortable and willing to PUT ON AND WEAR EVERY DAY ALL DAY. It needs to be as close to your definition of perfect feeling as you can get, NO MATTER THE COST.
Opinions vary all across the board as to carry weapons, calibers and ammunition. The FBI Ballistic Test Protocol (http://greent.com/40Page/general/fbitest.htm) sets a quantifiable standard for the effectiveness of ammunition. In my opinion, for a general carry weapon, if the round in question will NOT pass this protocol then it is not suitable for carry. There are some very specific exceptions, and they are rare and I’m not going into that here. The FBI Ballistic Test Protocol is the guide I, and most others, use, to make sure their ammo will deliver a wound capable of inflicting damage that should be capable of delivering a mortal wound with ideal placement. No one should rely on one shot stopping anyone, it, generally doesn’t happen. You also should proof the ammo to work reliable in your firearm. That means you’re going to be firing enough rounds of your chosen ammo through your firearm to be certain that it will feed, fire and function under varied conditions. Slow fire, rapid fire, full magazine, partial magazine (or cylinder.) And this should be done through your carry gun that you have fire enough rounds through to also be comfortable that it will function reliably. Some schools of thought recommend that you fire no less than 500 rounds though your carry gun before you ever carry it. That’s something you’re going to have to decide, but it’s NOT a bad idea. As to what gun you should Nope. Not going there. Too much emotional attachment. If it won’t fire 500 rounds in a row without a failure it is probably not a good choice. Period.
I want to come back around to what carrying a gun is fundamentally about, and that is shooting. IN order to be a good shooter you have to shoot. It all comes back to the old joke of “how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice.” The fundamental ability to shoot well will be developed by practicing. Practicing with your carry weapon, from your carry holster also achieves a training element of building muscle memory. You will learn your failure points, and you will develop muscle memory that will come from doing the activity over and over and over. When it comes down to the time when you actually have to draw your weapon and fire the person who has practiced this often will be orders of magnitude faster, and more accurate, than someone who does not. The person you may have to fire on is someone who intends to kill you, and you can bet your bottom dollar, THEY HAVE PRACTICED. And they WILL KILL YOU if given the chance. They do not care about bystanders! They do not care about missed shots! They do not care about the baby in your arms! They are intent on making sure you get dead, so that they do not get dead, and they can escape.
The final element that is essential to being a good firearm carrier is that of training. There are people who make it their life’s work to become as absolutely versed on carrying firearms, shooting them, drawing them from holsters, shooting under circumstances you’ve never considered. They are in the business of attempting to convey knowledge they have gained from their own training, from experience, and from practice. Your CCW class is an introduction to get you to a bare minimum qualification level. Every bit of training you can get beyond that, that you can afford, and you should afford, is going to get you a small step closer to knowing Jack. The money you spend will help you to develop good habits, think about scenarios and situations you have not considered, and have a professional instructor work with you to help you overcome short falls that we ALL have. Even if you can only take one class a year you will be LIGHT YEARS ahead of someone who only ever did the bare minimum. You know the bare minimum type; we’ve all worked with them, right? And be a good consumer of instructors. An educated one. There are a lot of mall ninjas and paper tigers out there. And then you’ve got the guys that are really good and know their stuff. Talk to people who have taken classes from them. Make sure you’re making an investment and not just being entertained.
At the end of the day you are taking on a responsibility to safely and skillfully be in possession of a deadly weapon with the ability and understanding that you can and will only use it with absolutely the best skills at your disposal under circumstances that warrant it. Every round you fire, every class you take, every video you watch, and every book you read is a tool in your belt and gets you closer to knowing Jack. Who knows Jack? In my mind it would be the person who has lived and breathed under immediate and imminent threat of their life every single day, and possibly has experienced it. You probably don’t want to be Jack, but you want to develop as close to a skill set as he has as possible.
Again, I’m not a professional, not an instructor, and freely admit I don’t know Jack. But I hope that reading this helps someone to get closer to it