So you’ve decided you want to carry a gun for self defense – great! Now comes all the hard work and decisions. Depending on the state and county you live in there are undoubtedly some hurdles to jump before you can go get that sweet freedom-seed planting sidearm. In NY for instance, then depending on the county, you might have to take a 5 hour safety course prior to applying for a pistol permit. After paying over $100 and waiting up to 8 months you finally get your permit. For the sake of this article, lets pretend you got a concealed carry right out the gate. Again, depending on the county, you now have up to a year to take an eight hour sponsored NRA Basic Pistol and/or Personal Protection Inside/Outside the Home course and submit your class certificates. In those classes you will learn about carrying concealed, strong side/weak side presentation, point shooting, multiple target engagement, and of course holster selection, cover and concealment. There is a lot of useful information that has a direct impact on what and how you should be carrying. It is important to pay attention to those details. There are many option to concealed carrying a gun; appendix carry, inside the waistband, outside the waistband, under arm, cross carry, strong side, backpack, purse, fanny pack or pocket. Each of those has a different type of holster and a different clothing size requirement to cover it. Then you have to decide if you are going to carry extra magazines, speed loaders, knives, pepper spray, or a multi-tool. Carrying extra items can change the position of or reduce the size of gun you’d prefer to carry. You don’t want to load down your pants or belt so much that you have trouble bending over, turning, getting in or out of a car, or restrict your overall movements to the point that you now look like there is something wrong with you. You also don’t want to increase your waist line so much that you look like you have a pool float around your waist.
As there are personal characteristics, there are as many firearm choices. The choice of firearm is also a daunting one. Double action, single action, revolver, hammer fired, striker fired, small caliber or large caliber. How do you choose? Well, its a question not answered simple by a single choice, but rather a collection of choices. How tall are you? How much do you weigh? How big are your hands? How reactive are you to muzzle flip, recoil and sound? Do you plan on carrying with a round in the chamber? Do you plan on carrying a cocked firearm? Do you prefer a manual safety? How much trigger pull are you comfortable with? What type of sights do you prefer? The answers to these questions will begin to limit your choice of firearms.
One of the most important things to consider is the steps you’d have to take to fire your firearm in a defensive situation if needed. For a single-action only auto-loaders you can carry in one of three ways. First, a round not chambered. In this carry situation, after drawing from concealment you’d have to rack the slide to the rear and release. This would cock the firearm and load a round. You’d still have to pull the trigger after aiming. This takes more time that you have. Second, a round chambered, not cocked. In this carry situation, after drawing from concealment, you’d have to cock the hammer to the rear, aim then fire. Depending on how you practice, this is much faster than the first scenario, but not ideal. Third, a round chambered, the firearm cocked, with the safety on. In this carry situation after drawing, you could push the safety off on the way to aiming, not wasting anytime, then fire. Although this is the fastest method of carry for this type of firearm it is not the safest. It takes a lot of practice and trust to carry a loaded, cocked firearm. The safety could easily be pushed off in a fight or struggle with someone, and an accidental misfire could result. This is a bad situation to be in.
For single/double-action auto-loaders, the same three carry methods exist as single-action only. The benefit here is that when used as a double-action, there isn’t a need to have it cocked. Pulling the trigger will cock and fire the firearm. This is a much safer way to carry than single-action only. If cocked while carried, the same misfire could happen as a single-action only. But when not cocked, the only way to misfire this firearm is to pull the trigger completely while holstered. There is usually a much higher trigger pull in double-action mode versus single-action, making it harder to fire.
For double-action only auto-loaders, pulling the trigger is the only way to cock and fire the firearm. This means that you can safely chamber a round and carry ready to go. There aren’t any extra cocking steps to take. Its simply pull from concealment, aim and fire. Now, there are platforms that have manual safety switches. Its your choice as to whether or not you want one. It is an extra step you’d have to remember every time you wen to fire, This is where practice is essential. Going through the actions of drawing and firing with an unloaded firearm is critical to building the muscle memory for real life situations. The other choice is whether or not you want a hammer-less firearm to limit protrusions from catching on clothing when pulled from concealment. With these, while cocking, the hammer never protrudes from the rear of the fame or slide. A hammer-less feature is also nice as it removes the possibility of striking the primer by a fall or hitting the hammer.
For revolvers, the same options exist – single-action only, single/double-action, and double-action only. The main decision between revolvers and auto-loaders is whether or not you carry with an empty chamber. If you are worried about the possibility of a misfire by accidentally hitting the hammer, then a hammer-less double action only revolver is what you want. This acts the same as an auto-loader. The other glaring difference between auto-loaders and revolvers is firepower. No, its not the size of the bullet, it’s the ability to direct rounds at your target. A revolver doesn’t hold as many rounds as an auto-loader, nor do the extra speed loaders. Most defensive carry revolvers carry up to six cartridges while auto-loaders carry between seven and seventeen. This of course depends on whether or not you have a single-stack magazine or a double-stack. Choosing to carry a double-stack magazine firearm will increase its weight and size, making it harder to properly conceal.
For those with smaller body frames and hands, you’re not going to carrying a full size 1911 or a double-stack .45 ACP. Perhaps a smaller, lighter, firearm in a single-stack .380 caliber or 9mm. There are many great choices out there in both auto-loading and revolver platforms. For larger people who can handle larger firearms, the 1911 and similar sized auto-loaders are a great choice, but bigger doesn’t always mean better. Your ability to properly and safely handle the firearm, including all phases of fire, are most important. Yes, firearms look cool, but if concealed no one gets to see it. So do not choose a firearm based on cool factor. It should be reliable, feel comfortable to you, and function as intended. There are those who will tell you that you get what you pay for. This is not always the case. There are many very reputable companies that make reliable firearms that also look cool, but are much cheaper than some name brands. Don’t buy based off of a random persons testimony. Do your research, answer the personal questions in this article, find someone who has the firearm you think you’d like and shoot it before buying.
Practice will not ensure perfection, but it greatly increases your ability while reducing the probability of injury. Carrying a gun is easy. Carrying the right gun is not only essential, but highly recommended. It’s also not a simple task. Please educate yourself on all your options before jumping into a bad situation.