In Michigan, a concealed pistol license (CPL) allows you to carry a concealed handgun legally for lawful purposes, such as self-defense outside the home. As of 2017, Michigan had issued more than 675,000 concealed pistol licenses to qualified applicants, reflecting the desire among Michigan residents to bear arms for personal defense.

Michigan is a shall-issue state. That is, if you meet a specific set of criteria, the issuing authority is legally obligated to issue you a license. This contrasts with may-issue, no-issue, and constitutional-carry states.

Shall Issue vs. Other Systems

Most U.S. states fall into one of four distinct categories regarding the issuance of concealed-carry permits. These may be called concealed-carry weapon (CCW) permits, concealed handgun licenses (CHL), concealed pistol licenses (CPL), or some variation thereof.

Shall issue (non-discretionary issue)

A license is legally required to carry a concealed handgun; however, if you meet specific eligibility criteria — e.g., minimum-age requirements, the completion of a pistol training safety course, no documented case of mental illness, and a criminal background check — the issuing authority is legally required to approve your application and issue you a permit. Most states shall issue.

May issue (discretionary issue)

In a may-issue state, the sheriff or chief of police can exercise discretion in whether to issue you a permit, even if you have completed a CPL course. You’ll need to show good cause for wanting to carry a concealed handgun. Good cause is highly subjective, and often self-defense isn’t reason enough to warrant a permit.

No issue (prohibited)

Few states and cities fall into this category, but there are still a few jurisdictions — e.g., New York City, San Francisco, Hawaii — that are no issue in practice. To carry a firearm concealed in these locations lawfully, you typically need to be a retired law-enforcement officer or belong to an otherwise privileged social group, such as a district attorney or judge.

Constitutional carry (permitless)

Constitutional carry, permitless carry, and Vermont carry refer to the same policy — you don’t need a permit or license to carry a concealed firearm. The number of constitutional-carry states is constantly growing, reflecting the belief among many gun owners that a permit is incompatible with the right to keep and bear arms.

Responsibility Starts With You

In the U.S., the police do not have a duty to protect individual citizens against violent crime, barring a special relationship. The purpose of the police is to protect the community as a whole, deter criminal activity, investigate crimes after the fact, and apprehend suspects.

However, even if a law enforcement officer, or the department, could be held legally liable for failing to protect you from assault, robbery, or sexual assault, there would be no way to fulfill that obligation in practice. There are simply not enough sworn officers on duty at any given time for that to be viable. There are approximately 700,000 full-time employed law-enforcement officers in a country with a population of more than 330 million.

That means that you, as an adult, are responsible for your own personal protection and for protecting your loved ones, such as your spouse and children, against criminal violence. Millions of Americans choose to exercise their right of self-defense by carrying concealed handguns or keeping firearms and ammo in their homes.

Concealed Pistol License Requirements

To apply for a concealed pistol license, you need to meet eligibility criteria. In Michigan, you must be at least 21, a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted alien, a resident of Michigan, and a resident for the six months before your application. There are additional requirements, mostly related to your criminal background, that you should know.

Firearms and Less-Lethal Weapons

A firearm can allow you to deter, repel, or incapacitate a determined criminal assailant. It has multiple advantages relative to other weapons. Less-lethal alternatives include the following:

Chemical sprays

Lachrymatory agents, such as OC, CS, and CN gas, are commonly used as less-lethal and riot-control weapons by private citizens and law enforcement officers. Typically contained in a handheld aerosol projector, these chemical irritants can cause respiratory distress, intense pain, and blindness; however, they’re indiscriminate, potentially affecting both you and your assailant, and can be defeated by masks or sunglasses. Furthermore, the use of recreational drugs can dampen the effects of these aerosols on the suspect.

Electroshock weapons

Electroshock weapons, such as the Taser, are designed to fire two electrodes connected by wires that deliver an incapacitating electric shock to the target. However, such weapons have a limited effective range, are usually capable of only one or two shots, and require an optimal electrode spread for the best results.

Impact weapons

Impact or blunt weapons, such as expandable batons, are simple, close-range weapons that can deter or repel by inflicting blunt-force trauma. The primary disadvantage of impact weapons relative to other types is that they rely on the user’s physical strength and require proximity to the threat.


Handguns fall into two broad categories: semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. Semi-automatics have the advantage of capacity, and while a revolver can only hold 5-8 rounds of ammunition, they also offer simplicity and reliability.

Unaffected by inclement weather or choice of clothing, the firearm also offers multiple shots in its repeating variants, allowing you to engage more than one assailant, should the need arise. The handgun has an arguably greater deterrent effect than less-lethal weapons, has a greater effective range, and doubles as a signaling device.

Regardless of the type, the handgun you choose for concealed carry must meet certain performance standards to be suitable as a CCW. These are the following:


Your weapon must be sufficiently compact to be concealable with your preferred choice of clothing and carry method. You’ll need to be wary of printing — i.e., when the gun creates a visible outline through clothing — as this can disclose the fact that you’re armed. The concealability of your weapon is also affected by your holster, gun belt, and carry position, so experiment with different types to find the best balance.


You need your CCW to fire every time you press the trigger. There can be no exceptions to this — you’re relying on this weapon to save your life. While it’s normal for some new-production firearms to have so-called break-in periods, as tolerances open and springs relax, your weapon should reach a point of reliable operation before you carry it. Always test your weapon with the defensive ammunition you intend to use, both for function and point of impact — these can differ from those of target loads.

Control and Comfort

You need to be able to control your carry gun. Subcompact handguns, such as the Glock 43, provide less gripping surface and have less weight than other weapons. As a result, it’s harder to control the recoil. If you combine a light weapon with a relatively heavy caliber, such as .45 ACP, you may find the recoil detrimental to comfort. Your comfort level is important — you should be able to manipulate the controls reliably without straining your hands, including your trigger finger.


You don’t need sub-MOA accuracy in a CCW — in all likelihood, the ranges will be short. However, you should be able to accurately fire your weapon, consistently keeping your shots inside an area the size of a man’s chest at several distances. This relates to the inherent accuracy of the weapon and your ability to see the sights clearly and press the trigger properly.

The accuracy you’ll need to achieve to complete a CPL class is not significant, so be sure to practice on your own at an outdoor or indoor range.


You need a caliber and load that you can control that cycles reliably in your CCW, which isn’t prohibitively expensive or difficult to acquire. Once those criteria are met, you can focus on power. You probably won’t be carrying a .44 Magnum as your primary defensive weapon unless you live in bear country.

Generally speaking, the .380 ACP is considered the minimum caliber for effectiveness. More importantly, find a defensive load that achieves sufficient penetration to disrupt vital organs and blood vessels and expands reliably.

What Will You Learn in Class?

For a training program to be approved, it needs to teach students the following:

  • The safe storage, use, and handling of a pistol, and child safety around firearms.
  • Ammunition knowledge and the fundamentals of pistol shooting.
  • Pistol shooting positions.
  • Firearms and the law, including civil liability issues and the use of deadly force. This portion must be taught by an attorney or an individual trained in the use of deadly force.
  • Avoiding criminal attacks and controlling a violent confrontation.
  • All laws that apply to carrying a concealed pistol in the state in which you are taking the course.

Firearms Safety

The ideal CPL class should teach you the basic rules of firearms safety. The majority of unintentional discharges are negligent — i.e., caused by improper handling of firearms and consistently failing to observe safety rules. While formulated in a variety of different ways, basic safety consists of four rules:

  • Assume that all guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
  • Never allow the muzzle to cover anything that you are not prepared to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Loading and Unloading

To demonstrate the loading and unloading procedure of firearms, which can be useful for safety instruction, inert dummy cartridges or snap caps should be used. These are either fired or deactivated rounds, or cartridge-shaped devices called snap caps. The purpose of dummy cartridges and snap caps is to absorb the impact of the firing pin, reducing stress on parts and the breech.

If your intended carry weapon is semi-automatic, you should know how to load cartridges into the magazine. If it’s a revolver, you should know how to unload and load the cylinder with loose ammunition, speedloaders, or half- and full-moon clips.

Clearing Malfunctions

During CCW classes, you should learn how to identify and clear common malfunctions. This is both necessary for safe handling on firing ranges and when engaging a threat. This includes failures to fire, extract, eject, and when the weapon attempts to feed two cartridges simultaneously.

Misfires, for example, may be due to a defective primer or delayed ignition. While not technically a misfire, a squib load poses a unique challenge. Due to an insufficient propelling charge — e.g., a primer but no powder — the squib causes the bullet to remain inside the barrel. If you fire a successive shot, this can result in a burst barrel.

Safe Storage

It’s also important that the class teach you how to safely store your firearms, per the legal requirement. This is to prevent unauthorized access to your firearms, whether to protect children or to protect your weapons from theft in the event of a household burglary.

The instructor should, ideally, discuss a variety of different safe-storage methods. If you own firearms primarily for self-defense, the safe-storage method must strike a balance between security and access. These include traditional gun safes that use combination locks or a key and more sophisticated biometric locking systems.

No Experience Necessary

CPL classes are not for experienced firearms enthusiasts, shooters, or hunters. If you’ve never handled a firearm before, a CPL class will teach you the basics of how to operate a firearm, including firearms safety, and how to fire the weapon accurately. A CPL class can be a useful introduction to firearms for beginners, especially if the applicant does not have family members or friends interested in firearms.

How Do I Pass the CPL Class?

You’ll need to pass a written exam consisting of 50 questions, achieving a minimum score of 70%. You’ll demonstrate your ability to correctly determine the loaded and unloaded status of the firearm. This is essential to safe handling. You’ll demonstrate that you can correctly load and unload it, show that you know how to store it securely, and complete a live-firing test on a range.

What Should I Bring to Class?

It’s reasonable to call ahead and ask what the requirements are for attending a CPL class. Some classrooms, for example, do not permit the possession of live ammunition for safety reasons. If you already own a firearm, you should be able to attend the class with it — that’s the point. If you haven’t yet purchased a firearm, ask whether the class instructor can supply you with a firearm for the course or borrow one from a friend or family member (law permitting).

Hearing Protection

Although many courses will provide eye and ear protection, be prepared to supply your own. Many gun owners wear conventional earplugs and muffs, although you may decide to wear electronic hearing protection. Electronic ear muffs compress high-impact noises, such as gunshots, while using microphones to amplify low-impact noises, such as human speech. This can be useful for hearing range commands.

Shooting Glasses

Eye protection is critical. Bullet fragments, ricochets, unburnt powder particles, and erratically ejected spent cartridge casings can all pose a danger to unprotected eyes. Wear a pair of shooting glasses rated for ballistic protection.

Proper Clothing

Don’t wear open-toed shoes on firing ranges for your own safety, and try to avoid wearing low-cut tops or tank tops. Freshly ejected casings are hot and can cause painful burns.

CPL Class Limitations

Don’t expect a concealed-pistol license class instructor to teach you practical defensive shooting, however. You may need to seek this type of specialized training elsewhere. The primary purpose of an approved CPL class is to ensure that you understand how to safely handle and fire your weapon, take it apart, and store it when not in use.

From a practical perspective, self-defense shooting is your responsibility to learn on your own or by seeking the expertise of a specialist. You won’t find that on an NRA Basic Pistol course. That’s not to diminish the importance of these classes but to illustrate the importance of advanced training in cultivating the necessary skill set for life and death situations.

To wield a firearm effectively in self-defense, you must develop the necessary marksmanship skills. You should be able to accurately fire your weapon under various circumstances, including variable lighting conditions and from different positions. It’s not enough to shoot your weapon at a stationary target on a well-lit range. This is necessary for learning the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship, establishing a foundation. You need to build on that foundation with tactical training that emphasizes the real-world conditions of defensive shootings.

No Gruff Instructors

For the best learning experience, every instructor should be calm, professional, and courteous. If you think that your instructor is anything less than respectful and helpful, you won’t have the best learning experience possible and should seek an alternative.

Concealed Carry Reciprocity

When contemplating traveling with your concealed firearm, always check to see whether the state to which you intend to travel honors Michigan’s CPL. Never take for granted that another state will allow you to carry your concealed firearm within its jurisdiction. You should, therefore, consult a reciprocity map to ensure that you’re carrying within the law.

Carry Safely and Legally with CPL Training

If you want to exercise your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, you can join millions of other Americans and Michiganders in applying for a concealed pistol license. By carrying a firearm, you take on a serious responsibility — that of protecting yourself and your loved ones against violent crime.

This proactive approach requires careful consideration and an understanding of the laws regarding the use of deadly force. You should familiarize yourself with Michigan’s deadly-force statutes and laws governing concealed carry. It’s not always obvious where you can and can’t carry a firearm. These laws vary from one state to another and can change over time.

If you’d like guidance regarding concealed carry, applying for a CPL, or taking the required course, give us a call and register for our CPL class.


How long does it take to get a CPL?

To apply for a CPL in Michigan, you must first take an approved training course. This is called a Pistol Training Safety Course. According to Michigan law, for a CPL training program to be approved, it must provide eight hours of instruction. You’ll spend five hours in a classroom and three hours on a firing range. Upon satisfactory completion of this course, the instructor will provide you with a signed certificate.

You’ll fill out an application, including this certificate of completion, and submit it and the required fee to the county clerk’s office. Your fingerprints will be taken either at the county clerk’s office or a separate location, depending on the county. The county clerk will send your application to the Michigan State Police for review. If your application is approved, you should receive your CPL no later than 45 days from the date of submission.

Can you take a CPL class online in Michigan?

CPL classes are divided into two parts: at least eight hours of instruction: classroom (minimum of five hours) and range (minimum of three hours). The classroom portion can be conducted online; however, you’ll still need to appear in person for the range component.

How much does the license cost?

The fee for a Michigan CPL application is $100, plus $15 for fingerprinting, which you will pay to the county clerk. You’ll need to repay this as a renewal fee after five years.

Do Michigan veterans have to take a CPL course?

There is no exception to the CPL training requirement for military veterans. Everyone has to undergo the same training course, regardless of whether they have prior military experience.

Do I have to notify an officer that I’m carrying?

In Michigan, you are legally required to disclose your concealed pistol license to a police officer if you’re stopped. Failure to do so may result in a fine of $500 for your CPL’s first offense and temporary suspension.

Can you get a CPL at 18 in Michigan?

In Michigan, the minimum age you can apply for and receive a CPL is 21 years. This corresponds to the minimum age requirement for purchasing a handgun from a federal firearms licensee (FFL). However, you can take possession of a handgun at the age of 18 if you buy or receive it from a private seller.

Can a felon get a CPL in Michigan?

One of the criteria you must meet to qualify for a concealed pistol license is that you’ve never been convicted of a felony in Michigan or elsewhere.

How long does a CPL last?

Once you receive your CPL in the mail, it’s valid for five years following the date of issuance.

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