You’ve taken your CCW course. You’ve sent in your application. Your Concealed Carry License arrived in the mail. Are you ready? What are the top mistakes people make and how do you avoid them?

Mistake #1: Your Gun Doesn’t Fit

It doesn’t fit your hand or it doesn’t fit your carrying method or both.

There are plenty of great guns out there, but that doesn’t mean that they all fit your circumstances. Full-size guns are easier to shoot and worked great when you brought them in a bag to the range. Here are some other things you need to ask yourself:

  • Can you easily clear the holster on the “Pull” stroke of the draw?
  • Is the gun concealed when in your holster and you are dressed in your usual attire?
  • Does the combination of caliber and size allow you to control your shots?
  • Is the gun too small or too big in one dimension or another? For example, is it too thick to conceal but too short to control.

Don’t run out and buy something; try it out first. Ask friends what they carry and how.

With all of the focus on firearms in the law and in the training, it isn’t surprising that many people focus on the gun as the most important part of concealed carry.  But we don’t carry concealed because we want to use a gun.  If we want to shoot we put our gun unloaded in a case with all the gear and go to the range!

Mistake #2: Thinking Concealed Carry Is All about Guns

We carry concealed because we have a responsibility to keep our loved ones safe.  The best way to do that is to avoid conflict in the first place.  If you practice drawing from concealment, shooting from cover, and good defensive shooting skills, then you are starting out right.  If you practice situational awareness, conflict avoidance, and assertiveness, that is better.

Situational awareness is what gives you time to avoid conflict.  When we drive, we know where all the nearby cars and pedestrians are; we know the speed limit and where our next turn is.  That is situational awareness.  In the same way, we should know what is happening inside a 30-35 foot “bubble” that is around us, giving us time to avoid, escape, or (as a last resort) respond to a threat.

Conflict Avoidance is everything we do to avoid conflict, from choosing where and when we travel to staying in well-lit areas, to keeping with the crowds, to “turning the other cheek,” to changing direction or abandoning our plans for the day.

Assertiveness is not aggressiveness; it isn’t challenging others.  It is the display of self-confidence, competence, and determination as opposed to looking like a victim.  It means making brief eye-contact with others to remove their anonymity and to move at a pace different from the crowd.

Mistake #3:  Spending Too Little Time, Money, or Effort on Our “Carry Rig.”

Straight Shooter - Concealed-carry mistakesWe depend upon our carry rig for quite a lot:

  • Conceal the gun.
  • Provide sufficient comfort so that we aren’t discouraged from carrying.
  • Hold it for rapid access in a crucial situation.
  • Retain the gun when running or moving to escape a threatening situation.
  • Keep the gun from being taken by a threatening individual.

Some of these are trade-offs. The greater the retention, the less access. The better access, the less concealment. The better concealment, the less access, and so forth. Let’s take a more detailed look at these carry issues:

Concealment – Your gun needs to be concealed to obey the law to avoid the appearance of intimidating others with our firearm, and to avoid being picked out by a threat and made the focus of attack. Besides, it’s polite.

Comfort – As an experienced trainer once said, “Carrying is supposed to be comforting, not comfortable.” Nevertheless we don’t want it to be so painful or awkward that we are discouraged from carrying.

Accessibility – A well-concealed defensive firearm does us no good if it cannot be accessed when needed. Ankle holsters provide great concealment, but make the gun difficult to reach. Shoulder holsters provide easier access, but require pointing the gun at (sweeping) our own arm when drawing, as well as, bystanders.

Retention – There is a world of difference between sticking a gun in your waistband and placing it in a well-designed holster. A good holster will hold the gun out of sight and at just the right angle. When moving vigorously a gun in the waistband can end up down the pants leg and on the floor while a holstered gun will stay put. It will also make it difficult for an adversary to gain access to it.


Read. Get out that copy of the “NRA Concealed Carry Holster Guide” and read it through. Subscribe to magazines like “Concealed Carry Magazine.” Stay current. Join the NRA and choose “American Rifleman” as your magazine.

Experiment. That can be expensive, because sometimes our experiments don’t work and we have to purchase something else. If there is a store with a good selection of gear near you – ask their advice. (And then BUY there, NOT on the internet. They already saved you money by letting you look before you buy. Reward them.)  Ask a firearms instructor for his advice. Find someone who carries everyday and ask them.

Don’t forget the belt. A good belt is necessary to hold the holster and mag pouch securely and at the right angle.

Be realistic. No carry rig will conceal a full-size Desert Eagle. Here again there is a trade-off between conceal ability and shoot ability.

Take a Class. I have many holsters I show in my classes. Ask to see them

Mistake #4:  Forgetting To Practice

You need to practice with your firearm monthly and practice carrying your gun under controlled situations. Wear it around the house and yard before going out in public.

What are the skills you need to practice to carry defensive firearms? There are many, but I have divided them into six groups.

  • Situational Awareness
  • Defensive Thinking
  • Safety
  • Concealment
  • Presentation
  • Defensive Shooting

ALL THESE SKILLS REQUIRE PRACTICE.  How do we practice them?

Situational Awareness – Make a game of keeping track of people as they move in and around you while shopping or at work.  Ask yourself if this person is a danger and why.

Defensive Thinking – If you were threatened, where would you go?  What would you do?  Keep track of the cover or concealment available to you, routes of escape, and areas to avoid.  Practice by looking for these as you move through an area or store.

Safety – ALWAYS practice the fundamental rules of firearms safety.  Never draw a loaded gun unless your life is in danger. Never show your gun to gain the upper hand in a argument.

Concealment – When you change your clothes you need to check that you are in fact carrying fully concealed.  Use a mirror or ask someone in the family to check for printing as you move into different positions.  You may have to change your jacket or shirt.  You may have some problem-solving to do in your selection of gear for the day.

Presentation – Practice drawing with a unloaded gun until you feel at ease with the safeties and holster, then practice while accessing with your concealment garment in place. Go to a range that allows drawing and practice drawing while engaging a target – slowly. Increase your speed but again only to the point your are safe. Speed does not win the gunfight  – lead on target does.

Defensive Shooting – This can be a challenge where most ranges prohibit rapid fire and shooting from the draw.  I recommend taking a live fire class followed by your own regular “skills and drills” on a monthly basis.  Find someone to teach you that has experience.

Mistake #5 – Carrying With No Experience

Now what? Should I talk about keeping your guns clean and lubricated? How about the importance of seeking cover? Maybe discus less-lethal force like using commands, pepper spray, or martial arts? What about ammunition choices? Those are all good topics, and should be covered in initial training or the additional training we all need to take.

Venture Out – Pick a typical day on which you would carry and clip something to your belt, like a cell phone case or an empty holster to closely simulate concealed carry. Monitor yourself again. Did you reveal? Did you have to go places where concealed carry is prohibited? What would you have done with your gun? Will you have to choose a different place to eat because of the silly “No Guns” signs?

Condition Yellow – Monitor yourself whether carrying or not. Are you in condition yellow – AWARE? Did you stay aware of who was close to you?” How much of the time were you unaware? Work on awareness.

Start to Carry – Pick a Saturday or another day off. Dress for normal activities and put on your carry rig and cover. Last of all, take the gun out of the lock box, load it, and put it in the holster. It has to remain there until it is locked up at night – that’s just being responsible. If you are using off-body carry, as with a purse, you must keep it in your personal control at all times.

Keep it Concealed – The objective is to experience the challenges of carrying responsibly. Monitor yourself throughout the day; you will find yourself hitching up your belt, opening up your coat, and otherwise revealing the fact you are carrying. Don’t tell anybody you are carrying and see if family members notice.

Carry Confidently – If you work into carrying gradually like this, you will be much more confident when you carry every day. With every right comes responsibility.