The question comes up surprisingly often, even from people who have had their carry permits for a long time: “How can I get confident enough to actually carry the gun in my daily life?”
It’s a tough question and I’m not going to make light of it. Sometimes, people are even reluctant to ask it, for fear that People Like Me will make fun of them or look down on them. Nothing could be further from the truth — at least as far as I’m concerned. I know that the journey into armed self-defense is a tough one, and a very personal one. It’s a big step and often a very big shift in mindset. It’s not an easy journey.
That’s all … normal. The individual struggle and specific concerns that might lead you to ask the question, that’s all your own. But it’s pretty common for someone to get their concealed carry permit one year, and then three years later still never have carried the gun in public.
So for me, over the years it’s become fairly common to hear questions from people who really want to carry, but who also worry about the practical issues surrounding concealed carry. That might be worries about firearm safety around children, concerns about the impact on work and social life if someone unexpected finds out, worries about finding a holster that holds the gun securely enough that they won’t have to think about it, or worries about the everyday safety of carrying with a round in the chamber… and the list goes on.
It ends up sounding pretty self-serving when I tell people the honest truth in response to such questions, but it’s true anyway. Here it is.
The best way to become confident with carrying is to take a really good class. Not just a “this is the end the bullet comes out” (aka Basic Pistol) class, and not just the type of class that certifies someone to get their carry permit. I’m talking about the type of class that comes after those foundational experiences and builds on them.
Unfortunately, such classes are not cheap, and they do take some commitment. Making the logistics work when you have a little one can be tough, and it can be even tougher when you have more than one little one. I’m not denying any of that. In fact, let me emphasize it, right here:
Getting yourself into a really good class takes commitment. I am not lying about this. Good classes cost money (around $200/day per student seems to be the industry standard). It takes money to buy the ammunition for such classes. It takes money to buy gear, including things like extra magazines for the gun. There’s also the cost of travel to get there, and the cost of hotel rooms and meals out. A lot of times, getting into a class means taking time off work. For people paid by the hour, that’s a significant barrier. Even to someone on a salary it can be a big loss, because vacation time matters.
More than the financial cost, though, there’s the practical cost. I’m talking about time away from your family. The hassle of arranging child care, including annoying “details” like who’s going to cheer the kid on during the big soccer or basketball game that you’re going to miss. This practical cost goes up significantly if your significant other doesn’t fully support what you’re doing. And let’s not even talk about the cost to people who don’t have a significant other, but do have young children. The cost of child care goes way up, and the ease of arranging it goes way down. Add in a hefty splash of mom-guilt or dad-guilt, and it may seem easier just to stay home.
The commitment matters. If taking a class is such an expensive, high-commitment hassle, is it really worth it? I believe it is.
The advantage of doing things this way — remember, we’re still talking about developing enough confidence to actually carry the gun — is that in a lot of ways, it’s like planting a flag on territory you’ve battled to take: THIS is what I’m going to do now. I WILL protect myself and my family, and I WILL do what it takes to make that happen. The internal and external commitment of a specific time and place to start making that happen can go a long way toward building the confidence to make it happen.
On the practical and logistic side, a good class will teach you how to handle the gun with confidence so you not only know how to make it work when you need it, but you also know that you know how to make it work when you need it. A good class can help bring some questions to the front of your mind that you haven’t yet realized you should be asking (if I could tell you what those are right now, I would — but everyone sparks on different things). It can help you get a better understanding of how the legal system deals with cases of self defense, and it can give you much better skills with whatever holster(s) you decide to use.
All of that knowledge helps you learn to trust yourself and the decisions you make — both in the long term about choosing holsters and other gear, and in the immediate moment of needing to make decisions under stress when you face danger.
And there’s one more thing.
Physical confidence comes from physical activities. Just getting to the range to practice on your own can help (and I highly recommend doing that on a regular basis). But solo practice helps build confidence a whole lot more when we know what to practice, and why, and how. That’s where a good class comes in: it shows us what to practice, and why, and how.
A good class moves you through the physical motions of carrying the gun. All weekend long, you handle the firearm while doing a wide variety of things: standing, moving around, peering around a wall, kneeling, using just one hand or using both hands. You gain physical practice at manipulating the gun so that your hands know how to make it work just as well as your brain does. You wear the gun in its holster all weekend, including everyday-ish things like eating lunch or using the bathroom. And you do all these things with easy, immediate access to someone who can help you figure out how to do them in the safest possible way. You gain the type of physical confidence that comes only from physical activity.
There’s really no substitute for it.