***If you’ve read of Personal Security during a Pandemic, we discussed the “soft skills” which one should possess and apply on a daily basis. I chose to omit any mention of firearms because I wanted people to read the article and come away better informed and to not alienate or turn-off those undecideds who would benefit from the article’s content. It’s not the “sexy” answer, but we live in a very polarized society at the moment. It is what it is.***
The decision to lawfully carry a handgun for personal protection should not be taken lightly or approached in a cavalier manner. It’s a very significant undertaking, with permanent, life-altering consequences if we are careless, negligent or have a lapse of reason, or allow our ego or pride to drive our decision making process while carrying a firearm. Should one weigh the risks and decide to lawfully carry a concealed handgun, we owe it to ourselves and the ones that depend on us to be well trained, of good moral character and to be a sound tactician and decision-maker. The onus is on the individual reader to ensure that all local, state and Federal laws are observed.
If you’re still on board after reading the preceding paragraph, let’s talk about selecting a defensive handgun, defensive ammunition, holster selection, support gear and dressing around the gun.
Handgun selection- There’s no shortage of advice online and in the print media about which gun you should choose for concealed carry, some of which is excellent and some of which is…..less than optimal. Here are some of the factors that I consider essential when selecting a handgun for concealed carry.
-Availability: There are many viable handgun options out there, semi-automatic as well as revolvers. Currently, I carry a GLOCK 19 Gen 5 MOS with a Streamlight TLR-7 weapon-mounted light. I chose the GLOCK because my agency issues them, I can walk into almost any gun store in my area and they’ll have models in stock, and the name GLOCK is synonymous with “available everywhere”. If you don’t choose to carry a GLOCK, there are many fine 9mm autoloaders out there worthy of your consideration. The models that I have personal experience with, and can recommend, are;
*Beretta APX / 92 Series / PX-4
*CZ P-07 / P-09 / P-10
*HK P2000 / P30 / VP-9 / USP
*Walther PPQ / PPS
Undoubtedly there are other fine choices out there worthy of your consideration, but it may be more difficult to source spare / replacement parts, holsters and other support gear. If you can live with that, drive on.
I know what you’re thinking- I didn’t include Brand________ in my lineup, and the reason is simple; I’ve never owned or shot them enough to offer an informed opinion on their suitability.
-Caliber considerations: When selecting a caliber for use in a defensive handgun, it’s best to stick to something that has been vetted (passed FBI ballistic testing), as well as being in commonly available. In no particular order, these are the 9×19, .40 S&W, .357 SIG and .45 ACP (for revolvers it’s generally the .38 Special and .357 Magnum). It’s no secret that I’m a 9×19 fan, and currently, all of my handguns (except for my AR pistol and Manurhin MR88 revolver) are chambered in 9×19. I chose the 9mm cartridge because it’s inexpensive to buy training ammunition and because of newer defensive / duty loadings in 9mm performing well in institutional testing. Okay- you’ve chosen your pistol and your caliber of choice- so how do you select a suitable defensive loading for it? This can be a daunting task, as there are myriad choices out there, and bad information is common. Here’s what I suggest- consult Dr.Gary Robert’s famous “list”, (link attached), as it outlines the specific duty loads in 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG and .45 ACP that have passed ballistic testing with the FBI. Like it or not, the Bureau has the time, resources and expertise to conduct the requisite tests on various loadings From there, source some 50 round boxes of your desired carry ammo from reputable online vendors (links attached) and purchase a few boxes. While I am not in the business of disparaging any manufacturers, I would avoid “boutique” loadings that have not been tested or vetted, or do not pass the FBI testing protocols. Stick with offerings from Speer, Hornady, Federal and Winchester.
-Reliability: A defensive handgun must be reliable, full stop. After purchasing a new handgun that I plan on pressing into defensive service, I generally try to shoot 1,000 rounds of factory FMJ and 250 rounds of defensive ammunition from it. I verify that my sights are regulated for the defensive ammo that I’m shooting and that the magazines are reliable. Once a handgun has passed this test, I clean it and lubricate it sparingly, load it up and carry it. While it is certainly better to fire more of each type of ammunition, this practice can be cost and time prohibitive for the average end-user in this era of pandemic and ammunition shortages. At the risk of sparking controversy, I am not a huge believer in “break in” periods for modern service handguns. I leave the gun store with my new pistol, disassemble it, wipe it down and add a small amount of high-quality lubricant to the wear points. I jam the mags with ammo and head to the range. I generally shoot Magtech or Sellier & Bellot 115 grain FMJ as practice ammunition, as it is affordable, readily available (pre-pandemic) and is good quality. Any stoppages are logged, and if I encounter more than one or two per 1,000 rounds fired, it’s time to have a come to Jesus moment.
Is it worth risking life & limb on a mechanically unreliable platform? Another consideration would be to have a dedicated handgun for training use and one for concealed carry. You don’t want to subject your carry gun to all of the attendant wear and tear that a training gun would get, so whatever pistol brand / platform you select, it might be prudent to grab a spare. As of this writing in April of 2020, the Beretta APX is available for $299, with two 17 round magazines, while many retail shops have scant selection. Dropping $600 on a pair of APX’s isn’t the worst idea in the world.
-Support Gear & Holsters: Now that you’ve got your new handgun, how difficult is it to source wear items like recoil springs, mag springs, extractors and the like? If the answer is “too damn hard”, it might be time to look at another option. If you cannot source spare magazines, that’s a problem. Another consideration is holster selection. If you are rocking an obscure or boutique handgun, chances are you may not find leather or kydex for it. Over the last decade of concealed carry, I’ve purchased and used holsters from the following makers, and I recommend them without hesitation;
*Dark Star Gear
*JM Custom Kydex
*Raven Concealment Systems
While some may decry this practice as unnecessary, I am a huge fan of carrying at least one spare magazine for your carry gun. Why? Simply put, the mag is the weakest link in your weapon, and Mr.Murphy has an uncanny ability to make an appearance when it suits him (when you’re the least prepared). Carrying a spare mag is advisable if you carry it in a designated pouch for the mag, usually located on your support side. I suggest a mag pouch which rides close to your body, so you don’t look like you’re rocking a spare love handle under your cover garment.
-Methods of Carry- There are three primary methods of carrying a defensive handgun, and they are;
*Outside the Waistband (OWB)- this method of carry is when a handgun is carried on your strong side pelvic area, outside of your pants. This is where I’ll say that no matter what method of carry you choose, you will absolutely need a quality belt which will support the pistol/holster combo, so it doesn’t flop around. Links to belts that I have used and recommend are in the links below. So- back to OWB carry. From a concealed carry aspect, OWB carry is usually the most prone to a phenomenon known as “printing”, where your cover garment fails to adequately mask the fact that you are carrying a concealed handgun. Rocking a button-up shirt a size larger than normal can help to mitigate this, provided that you’re using a quality belt and holster combination.
*Inside the Waistband (IWB)- Similar to OWB but the handgun is carried inside of your pants on your strong side pelvic area. This usually means selecting pants a size larger than usual, and this is where you’ll want to pay closer attention to holster selection. You want a quality holster, designated for the handgun that you’re carrying. The $7 gun show sausage sack special ain’t gonna cut it.
*Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB)- The same as IWB but you’re positioning the gun/holster at your 1 to 2 o’clock pelvic area, or 10 to 11 for left-handed shooters. Having a high-quality holster is absolutely critical, as you have a loaded handgun in very close proximity to very sensitive anatomical areas, as well as your femoral artery. Cheaping out on a good holster is absolutely flirting with disaster. I have a dedicated article discussing the finer points of AIWB carry, where I’ll delve into the finer points of that method of carry. The bottom line is that if your gun handling skills are sub-par and you lack total concentration and discipline when handling a firearm, AIWB is most certainly not for you. The benefits of AIWB include being able to conceal a service-sized handgun with less effort than OWB and IWB, as well as faster deployment of the pistol.
-Additional gear- If you carry a handgun for defensive purposes, you should have a white light source on your person. Even if you’re never out and about at night, there’s no telling when the power will go out or you may, out of dire necessity, find yourself heading to the store or pharmacy after hours. I like the Streamlight Pro-Tac 1L, a small, unobtrusive light which is available in a variety of sizes, lumen levels and battery types. Additionally, carrying a tourniquet on your person is highly advisable.
-Dressing around the gun- You’ve got your pistol, ammo, support gear and need to blend it all together, right? Dressing around the gun that you will be carrying is essential if you want to be able to successfully conceal it. As stated above, careful attention is needed when it comes to selecting pants, a belt and a cover garment. If carrying IWB or AIWB, you may need a waist size larger than your usual for maximum comfort, and this goes for any type of cover garment selected. Now, what if it’s the middle of summer in Virginia and you want to carry something less than a full-sized handgun? Well, I’ve found that carrying a SIG P365, S&W Shield or Walther PPS in the superb Keepers Concealment Errand is a nice compromise. You’re still carrying a defensive handgun in an effective caliber, in a holster that is designed to be clipped into shorts at a moment’s notice, and you still have the means to defend yourself if you’re out and about mowing the lawn in a t-shirt or enjoying a walking trail by your home.
-Legal considerations- If you carry a firearm for defensive purposes, the onus to make sure that you’re in compliance with all applicable laws is solely on YOU. It would be wise to consult with an attorney in your area that specializes in self-defense or firearms-related laws, so in the event that you have to draw or employ your firearm in a defensive manner, you’re not shopping for a skilled attorney from central booking. Even being in “the right” during and after a use-of-force incident does not preclude you from being arrested, processed and indicted for any number of crimes, depending on your local politics and your state. Having a skilled litigator on retainer is like having good insurance- you never think about it until you need it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend attorney Andrew Branca’s excellent Law of Self-Defense website.
-Training- There’s no way around it- if you carry a handgun for defensive purposes, it is incumbent upon you to be the very best gun handler that you can be. One of the ways that you get proficient is to seek out quality instruction in your area. You may have a DD214 from the Armed Forces, a basic police academy cert from 1992 or an 8 hour concealed carry certificate from 2002, but none of those things magically confers unto you skill at arms today. Get out there, put in the reps with a solid trainer and do so at least 3 to 4 times per year. To stay proficient during your downtime, dedicated dry-practice is a must. Our instructor Josh S conducts dry-practice clinics, and has several excellent videos on the subject on Youtube.
Final thoughts- Carrying a handgun for defensive purposes is a serious endeavour, and not one to be taken lightly. Putting the time into firearm, gear selection and seeking out reputable training will help guide you on the journey to being a well-trained defender of your loved ones, and an asset to the 2nd Amendment community. Stay safe and see you on the range!
Bone Frog Gun Club (Defensive ammo) https://www.bonefroggunclub.com/
Target Sports USA (Practice and Defensive ammo) https://www.targetsportsusa.com/
SG Ammo ( Practice and Defensive ammo) https://www.sgammo.com/
Dark Star Gear https://darkstargear.com/
JM Custom Kydex https://www.jmcustomkydex.com/
JRC Holsters https://www.jrcholsters.com/
Keepers Concealment http://keepersconcealment.com/
Raven Concealment Systems https://rcsgear.com/
Terminal Ballistics links;
Law of Self-Defense https://lawofselfdefense.com/
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.