If you have recently decided to carry a concealed weapon, you must ensure you have the proper knowledge and skills. Concealed carrying requires practicing many complex tasks to ensure day-to-day safety and preparedness for a self-defense situation.
Knowing and practicing the most relevant skills to concealed carrying will help you become a safer and more responsible gun owner. From the fundamentals of safety and shooting to specifics like drawing from concealment, learn and practice the right tools to respond to a self-defense situation efficiently.
Understanding the Basics of Gun Safety
The essential rules of gun safety are widely posted. Whether at the gun store, while attending your Michigan CPL classes, or simply browsing for firearms online, you have likely seen the four rules or variants of them:
- Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded
- Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
- Know your target and what’s beyond it
These rules are part of every shooter’s fundamentals, from hunters to concealed carriers, because they emphasize the most critical firearm safety skills:
- Safe firearm handling. Not all guns have the same controls, safety features, and mechanisms, and improper handling can cause accidents or negligent discharges. For these reasons, the first and the most essential of safety skills is safe firearm handling.
Always treating a firearm as if it’s loaded helps reduce complacency and reminds shooters to learn how to safely operate a gun before handling it. If you don’t know how to use a specific model, take the time to learn or ask another shooter to help.
- Muzzle discipline. When new shooters learn to keep their guns pointed in safe directions, they learn to practice muzzle discipline. Remain mindful of the direction in which your barrel is pointed.
Never let the barrel cover something you are not willing to shoot or destroy, even when the gun is empty. While there is less risk when your weapon is not in your hands, it is a good idea to keep the muzzle away from other people, pets, or valued possessions.
- Trigger discipline. Not allowing your finger to touch the trigger until ready to shoot refers to the basic concept of trigger discipline. If your gun is made by a reputable manufacturer and properly maintained, it should only fire when the trigger is pulled.
Your first line of safety is your trigger finger, irrespective of the firearm’s built-in safety features. Keep your trigger finger on the side of the receiver or frame and only bring it to the trigger when you intend to shoot.
- Target awareness. You should only consider yourself ready to shoot when you have three critical pieces of information: what your target is, where it is, and what’s behind or beyond it. This principle is known as target awareness.
You should only shoot when you can see the target and are certain that opening fire will not endanger anyone innocent behind the target. While this can be difficult to practice, especially in self-defense scenarios, it is your responsibility as a shooter to exercise extreme care before shooting.
Practicing Your Shooting Fundamentals
As a concealed-carrying citizen, the weapon you are most likely to rely on in self-defense is the handgun due to its size and concealability. Whether you prefer semi-automatic pistols or revolvers, learning and regularly practicing your shooting fundamentals is critical.
Good fundamentals will help build your shooting skills and help you become more familiar with your preferred handgun. They are also critical for hitting targets at further distances more accurately.
Accurate handgun shooting relies on a five-step cycle: proper aiming, adequate grip, breath control, trigger control, and re-acquisition.
- Practice aiming. To shoot a handgun accurately, you must use the sights and aim it accurately. The first step of all shooting fundamentals is learning to use your gun’s sights. Most CCW handguns come with standard, non-adjustable iron sights, meaning you must acquire and maintain an appropriate sight picture.
When shooting handguns, you have a proper sight picture when the front sight is perfectly centered inside the rear sights. Focus your eyes on the front sight, not the target, as it will help you make minute adjustments before shooting.
When correctly aligned and aiming at typical self-defense distances, your bullet should hit the center of a circle resting directly onto your front sight.
- Get a good grip and stance. Handguns lack stocks, meaning you cannot rest your weapon against your body to stabilize it and take longer shots. For these reasons, use a solid, stable two-handed grip and maintain it while aiming at the target. Law enforcement professionals rely on various stances, such as Isosceles, Weaver, and Fighting, to maintain a rock-solid grip. Practice one of these stances with your CCW gun and choose the one you are most comfortable with.
- Mind your breathing. When accuracy is of the essence, breathing can throw your aim off slightly at the last moment. Practicing breath control before pulling the trigger can help eliminate this issue.
The easiest breath control technique to practice is the natural respiratory pause. Draw slow, deep breaths. Exhale fully, mark a short pause, then pull the trigger. Inhale again. Repeat for each shot.
- Pull the trigger correctly. The way you pull the trigger can affect the direction your bullet is going, even if you have a good grip and proper breath control. Ideally, you’ll want to use your index finger to pull the trigger.
Don’t try to squeeze or jerk the trigger. Instead, use the pad of your index finger instead of a joint, and always press it straight and to the rear.
- Learn re-acquisition. Re-acquiring a target, also known as the follow-through, is the act of bringing your sights back on the target after pulling the trigger. Recoil forces will push your hands and barrel away from the target, typically upward and to one side.
Knowing how to anticipate and push back on this phenomenon is critical to keep the sights on target, making you ready to shoot again. Once you’ve reacquired the target, the cycle is complete; align your sights again, and repeat until no threat remains.
Selecting and Configuring a Holster for Concealment
Your gun holster is nearly as important as the gun itself in concealed-carrying. If safety and shooting fundamentals let you shoot your gun safely, the right holster enables you to carry it safely.
- Match the holster to your gun model. A holster must provide your gun with retention to maximize safety and concealment. Retention keeps your handgun safe and secure in the same place, ensuring it doesn’t fall out of your waistband or compromise your ability to draw.
The best way to maximize retention is to select a holster designed to carry your handgun model. Avoid using generic or universal holsters; these models are too loose and often made of poor-quality materials like Nylon.
- Use a purpose-built gun belt. Belts designed for carrying firearms are strong enough to support the weight of a handgun, holster, extra magazines, and accessories. They have the durability that standard dress belts lack, which may sag or tear under the weight of your gun. Always use a proper gun belt when wearing a gun and holster.
- Pick a concealable holster. Concealed-carrying works only if your holster is designed for it. While the most concealable holster types ride inside the waistband (IWB), there are also outside-the-waistband (OWB) holsters designed for concealment.
Select the type you are most comfortable with and dress according to your choice. OWB holsters are more comfortable but require a cover garment to conceal your waistline, gun, and holster, such as a long shirt or jacket. IWB holsters ride on the inside of your pants and let you tuck a shirt over it, but they may be less comfortable to wear all day.
Configure Your Holster for Concealment
Configuring a holster involves choosing a carry position on your gun belt and tweaking its orientation. The correct position and orientation can make your gun more comfortable to carry and reduce printing through your clothing. Elements you can configure include:
- Carry position. The holster’s position on your belt determines where your handgun sits relative to your body. Your choice should match your dominant hand and fit your preferences.
If you are right-handed, choose a carry position ranging between 12 o’clock (front of your body) and 5 o’clock (behind the right hip). For left-handed shooters, 7 o’clock (behind the left hip) to 12 o’clock is recommended.
Avoid carrying 6 o’clock, also known as small of the back (SOB) carry. This position has safety risks because it places a gun directly behind your spine, increasing the risk of a severe injury if you fall in a self-defense scenario.
- Ride height. The ride height determines how deep the gun sits relative to the waistband. Deeper increases concealment but makes the gun harder to reach. Higher has the opposite effect: it makes your gun easier to grip and draw but more likely to print.
- Cant angle. The cant angle is the rotational angle of your barrel relative to the ground. A neutral cant angle makes the barrel perpendicular to a flat floor. A positive cant angle rotates the gun forward (barrel pointed behind), and a negative one rotates it rearward (barrel points ahead).
Experiment with cant angles until you find a combination of position and angle that offers a balance of comfort and concealment. A popular example is FBI carry, which combines a 4 or 5 o’clock position with a 10° to 20° forward cant.
Conducting Useful Training
Are you interested in taking your skills to the next level and maximizing your preparedness? Many training programs offer advanced classes to better prepare for a self-defense scenario. While practicing fundamentals at the static range is valuable for beginners, it lacks a critical element: simulating the stress of a real-world situation.
When searching for courses to enhance your CCW shooting skills, consider classes that offer these training components:
- Timed exercises. While the fundamentals teach you to shoot safely and accurately, you also want to be fast and efficient. There are timed exercises for nearly every aspect of gun manipulation, such as shooting and reloading speed or drawing from concealment.
- Shooting from cover. In a real-world situation, you may end up facing armed opponents. Look for classes that allow you to shoot from various positions (bending, leaning, sitting, crouching, lying prone) and from behind cover. They add a degree of realism and let you practice the fundamentals in uncomfortable positions.
- Force-on-force training. Force-on-force training is highly supervised and monitored by multiple experienced instructors who can keep the range safe and give you advanced tips. They allow you to experience what a combat engagement or a self-defense situation feels like with realistic replica guns, such as airsoft or non-lethal paint-marking bullets.
These training programs typically occur in “kill-houses,” which are reproductions of a typical home’s interior used for high-realism training. Training instructors or other students can play the role of the opposing force (OPFOR), showing you what a self-defense or combat engagement feels like without using live ammunition.
Receive High-Quality CCW Training From Trusted Instructors
IFA Tactical Training is proud to offer firearm instruction and training to the Detroit area. Our team of experienced instructors can help you become a better shooter with your concealed-carry gun, regardless of prior shooting experience. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a class.