A gun is a powerful tool for effectively defending of yourself and your family. Treat it with care and respect and it’ll be there when you need it.
These tips are intended primarily for concealed carry, but most apply equally to open carry.
1. Situational Awareness – be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Always pay attention to your surroundings. Put your phone down, you can check your Facebook status when you get back home.
Situational awareness should be your priority at all times when out and about, whether you’re carrying or not.
The best way to win a fight is to not get into one. Most bad situations can be avoided by paying attention and avoiding. Whether a situation can be avoided or not, paying attention and being aware of all the dynamics is a tremendous benefit.
2. ALWAYS follow the 4 rules of gun safety. No Exceptions.
There are 4 rules of gun safety that every shooter should be familiar with. I go over these in great detail with every new shooter before ever heading to the range.
These rules are a bit redundant and overlapping, by design. It’s to keep you safe. Read these, know these, practice these.
- All Guns are always loaded. [Treat them that way]
- Never let the muzzle cover [sweep] anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Be sure of your target. [And what’s behind it]
3. Get a good, reliable handgun.
This is the tool you are entrusting your life to… not only to work reliably if you ever need it, but to work safely.
Finding the right gun for you is a deeper discussion, beyond the scope of this article. But some general guidance to focus on is…
- Test fire any gun you’re considering at a local gun range before bying.
- If you’re new to shooting, compare several firearms to find the best fit for you.
- Consider caliber, i.e. 9mm is cheaper and easier to find than .380.
- Stay with a reliable manufacturer, i.e. Glock, H&K, Sig, Kahr, Ruger, etc.
- If possible, buy new and from a reputable dealer, i.e. a local gun range or an online retailer (i.e. Bud’s Gun Shop).
- Stay away from guns with an external “safety”. There is no such thing; that knob will only give you a false sense of security, and a will give you something additional to worry about in a high-stress self-defense situation.
Pro tip: for a carry gun, rust resistance is also very important. Depending on your climate (i.e. 6 months of Texas heat every year), a gun that comes in contact with your body will be in contact with sweat and moisture constantly. This again points us to a higher quality finished firearm, such as a Glock or Kahr, which are not prone to rust.
All considered, a Glock is probably your best choice for a new shooter’s firearm. Everyone is different, but I end up recommending a Glock to most new shooters. Glock 19 (9mm) for a great, general use handgun, or the much smaller Glock 42 (.380) for an ultra portable and concealable gun that’s still easy to fire.
4. Get a good holster that covers your trigger at all times.
Really it’s not even about a holster… What truly matters is to have your trigger covered at all times to prevent accidental contact with the trigger.
The DeSantis Nemesis holster is very versatile and low cost / good value holster for storing your handgun with the trigger covered. It’s especially recommended for smaller firearms like the Glock 42 or Ruger LCP.
Do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances rely on an external “safety” that some guns have instead of actually covering the trigger. That breeds terrible gun safety habits, and bad habits in this are can cause extreme injury or death. Do not fall for this.
Pro tip: take your gun out of the carry holster at night, wipe it down with a cloth, and store it in a cool, dry place. Leather holsters are notorious for keeping in moisture, and you don’t what your gun sitting in a most environment 24/7, that’s not good for anything metallic.
5. Get a good belt.
First, you should always wear a belt. The exception to this is carrying your firearm in a purse of a shoulder type holster, tho you should still do your best to keep your pants lol.
A belt is a basic and important safety point, as a belt will keep your pants up, while a little button on your pants can fail. Keeping your pants up is important, particularly if you add some EDC items, regardless of how light they are individually, i.e. a gun, knife, multitool, flashlight, etc.
Not all inside-the-waistband holsters require a gun belt to hook on to (including the Remora and Sticky holsters), but you still want to have reliable, solid tension to hold the gun in place.
But having a belt is not enough, it has to be a solid belt that can safely and reliably hold up the added weight of your handgun, and keep that handgun in place… ideally a belt designed with that in mind.
And no, not all “gun belts” are super tactical looking. Many are regular looking leather belts.
Pro tip: for folks who aren’t finding the sturdy enough feel with cowhide belts, bull hide belts are a more sturdy option to consider, while staying clear of the super tactical belts.
6. Train regularly with your carry gun.
Getting a gun and handling it safely is not enough. You should KNOW your carry gun intimately.
When you carry a firearm, it’s important to be proficient with the handling and use of that specific firearm… and that’s far more than just shooting at a target.
We’re talking about the full use of the firearm, from holstering to drawing, to aiming, to shooting, to replacing magazines, etc.
In the adrenaline-fueled heat of the moment of a life or death situation, your body and your thinking functions very differently from normal day to day operation. That’s when training, practice, simplicity, and muscle memory matter. You don’t want to have to THINK, the right way to draw your firearm safely should be automatic based on lots and lots and lots of SAFE repetition.
You want to develop solid muscle memory so that in a crisis situation you can safely draw and use the firearm without causing injury to yourself and others.
Practice the utmost gun safety during this training, meaning clear your firearm of any live ammo, practice in a safe direction, etc.
Pro tip: Practice dry firing regularly, at least weekly, maybe even daily. Even a few minutes now and then are extremely important. As you get better, practice the full draw and dry fire.
7. Train with the same ammo you carry.
Ever since I started shooting, I’ve known so many guys that practice with “cheap range ammo” and carry the “the good stuff”, meaning really fancy super effective rounds.
It doesn’t matter how great your carry ammo is… it will feel different when fired than your range ammo, and it will at times feed differently. It may even jam in your gun every 50 rounds, but you’ll never now that because you don’t train with it.
Either train with the fancy stuff you like to carry, or decide your going to carry the range ammo you train with. Anything else is doing yourself a great disservice
8. Clean your carry gun weekly.
With the firearm tucked inside your pants, grime, deodorant, lint, sweat and other fun things can and will get on and inside your firearm.
That will impact its function and reliability. If you bother to carry a firearm and are willing to entrust your life to this tool working properly if called upon, take the time to maintain your firearm and keep it in proper working order.
Pro tip: take your gun out of the carry holster at night, wipe it down with a cloth, and store it in a cool, dry place. Then weekly or every couple weeks at least, do a proper “gun cleaning”, meaning field strip, clean, and lube. Here’s how to clean a Glock.
9. Never re-holster your firearm into an inside-the-waistband holster.
Re-holstering a handgun into an inside-the-waistband holster is extremely dangerous, because the trigger COULD possibly snag on clothing, belt, etc, etc. while entering the holster, causing a negligent discharge.
Many negligent discharges have happened this way (read: negligent, not accidental), with people subsequently blaming the holster. The holster is not to blame for poor form and poor gun safety practice.
Remove the holster and safely insert the firearm with great care, while you have full visibility of the holster and the firearm, and while practicing the same gun safety.
10. Begin by carrying without a round in the chamber.
Many concealed or open carriers carry with a round in the chamber, meaning the gun is ready to fire the moment you pull the trigger.
Play it safe and start off by carrying with no round in the chamber until you are absolutely comfortable with the daily handling of your firearm. After some months of daily carry and handling you will develop muscle memory which will aid you in always handling the firearm safely.
This is another reason why it’s crucial to always practice excellent gun safety (i.e. finger NEVER enters the trigger guard, barrel never covers anything you don’t want to shoot, etc, etc.).
Know the local laws on firearm carry.
Every jurisdiction has different laws, from the state, to the county, city, and so on. Some states have laws that override local requirements, but it’s best to know and stay safe. Consider gun owner insurance as well, i.e. Texas Law Shield. Those folks are usually a great source for practical knowledge on local gun and knife laws in your area.
“Never go anywhere without a knife.”
While directly related to concealed carry, a knife is very important as a companion tool. The knife is one of the most useful and versatile tools man has developed.
My go-to these days is the Spyderco Pacific Salt Serrated. At just 2.8 oz, this is a damn well made, solid 4″ pocket chainsaw. Highly recommended. Be warned, you’ll end up buying more than one.
Pay it forward – help new shooters get started.
Many people would love to get a gun and get started, but have little to no familiarity with firearms aside from the bs they hear on the news, so they’re hesitant and aren’t sure where to begin.
There’s nothing like a competent friend or family member to introduce them safely to shooting.
Pay it forward is a great mindset for so many areas of life.