Am I required to take a concealed carry class?
We've gotten a surprising number of emails asking about whether a concealed carry class is truly needed or not. It's more than just safety – it's gaining trust in your abilities and your firearm. However, depending on the state – it may not be required.
CCW Permit Training Requirements Vary By State
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as one classroom fits all requirements. Most courses offered through the National Rifle Association (or advised through) will have a standard classroom setting and a live-fire portion. States such as Florida only require the CCW permit trainee to have fired one single round out of the chamber of the firearm. Other states, such as South Carolina, accept a DD-214 or current DoD Common Access Card as proof of firearms training.
And then, the rising tide of states which allow constitutional carry. In a state with permitless concealed carry, there may be no training or CCW course requirements in order to carry.
What are the fundamentals of CCW training?
Regardless of state requirements to handle and conceal a firearm, the only metaphor that comes to mind is if there was no driving test required prior to getting a driver's license. Can someone naturally figure out how to operate a motor vehicle? Yes. Will he? In some cases, yes. In most – no.
No matter where a person believes he or she is in his or her proficiency with firearms, it's always a good idea to regularly refresh those skills with instruction and training. As such, a variety of CCW training courses focus on both beginners and more advanced weapon specialists to ensure both have a proper understanding of safety, form, and function of their soon-to-be CCW handgun.
Step 1 - Safety
Every course, as rote as it may be for many firearms enthusiasts, ultimately solidifies the four firearm safety principles.
Firearm safety principles:
1. Treat every weapon as if it is loaded.
2. Do not point the weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
3. Keep your finger clear and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
4. Identify your target prior to shooting.
Step 2 – Familiarization
Every pistol and revolver handles differently. From unloading and reloading magazines to dis-assembly for maintenance – the devil is often in the details. Any good CCW course probably won't be able to give you familiarity with your firearm but they will instruct you on how to approach it.
Training is a key essential for concealed carriers. The ability to reliably reach down, withdraw one's firearm from either an inside the waistband or OWB holster and discharge it appropriately into a target is essential. Those skills are trained through proper instruction and repetition.
Step 3 – Confidence
For those who don't yet carry a firearm in a concealable holster, it's a bit of an adjustment. Even if that person trains consistently at the range, there is a change of pace and style going from not carrying to carrying. That's part of confidence – an element any CCW course will try to instruct.
After a person has become familiarized with his firearm and is confident enough to know when it is and is not appropriate to draw and use said weapon, he is now more likely to be in a mental place to make the most use of that pistol or revolver.
Let The Right One In: Picking A Concealed Carry Class
Most states that license people to carry a concealed weapon have a training requirement, which has led to to a whole industry of concealed carry class providers emerging. The nature of classes and schools varies wildly; there are cursory courses that meet the bare minimum for a CCW license. There are also schools specializing in self-defense with firearms.
Choosing one is important, as training impacts everything that follows after. Making a good choice of concealed carry class builds better habits and leads to a better, safer carry. Safety and competency are totally the responsibility of the individual carrier, and must not be neglected.
The Scope Of CCW Classes
Not all CCW classes are the same. A very large share of them are geared for meeting state minimum requirements for a concealed carry license though the requirements. Naturally, the requirements vary by state.
It's fairly common for state requirements to be mirror/be met by the NRA Basic Pistol course. Hunter's safety courses often satisfy training requirements as well.
Some require a small amount of range time along with a period of classroom instruction, which includes technical materials about operating a pistol as well as safety instruction. Some require shooting qualification not unlike law enforcement agencies; this entails scored shooting where one has to post a minimum score in order to pass and thus get the license. Texas is one such state; Connecticut and Rhode Island do as well.
Almost all course requirements mandate a certain amount of classroom instruction and a certain amount of range time, with the specific minimums varying by state. Often enough, the whole course can be completed in a day.
Besides basic instruction courses, there are also defensive pistol courses. The focus of these courses is defending one's self with a gun. These teach tactics, techniques and drills to inculcate the proper skills for self-defense with a gun.
Each has a different focus at heart. The former is for basic instruction in firearms use and safety and possibly a cursory exploration of the law regarding using a gun to defend yourself. The latter is learning how to defend one's self with a firearm if necessary.
It's up to the individual, but anyone who is going to carry ideally should take both.
Selecting CHL Classes
If choosing CHL classes in order to secure a license, there are two things to look for. Firstly is that the course meets state requirements for a concealed handgun license. It's up to you whether you want to take tactical courses first. In truth, that would make more sense from a certain perspective; it's better for a person to know what they're doing BEFORE getting the license.
If it meets state requirements - check your state regulations - look for the NRA Basic Pistol course. This course includes classroom instruction and a range session. This course satisfies many state requirements, which can make finding a course easy.
What a person will need from a course depends on a few things. Prior firearms handling experience, for instance, is very important; a person that's used to handling guns will need less instruction and range time than someone who isn't.
For the total novice, look for a smaller class size. This allows for more personal attention from an instructor. If you don't have any experience handling a gun, you need a solid grounding in the basics is needed. Being lost in a sea of faces on an instruction assembly line is probably not going to give that to you.
If you don't have any experience shooting, look for courses offering the greatest amount of range time. It also helps if each person will be able to shoot more than just a .22LR pistol. While they are perfect for training and dispatching noxious critters, a person should get a feel for shooting a pistol that would actually be carried.
Not that some people don't use a .22 LR as a CCW pistol, but it's no secret that not many people do.
Be sure to look for instructor qualifications. At minimum, look for an NRA Instructor certification. Experience as a law enforcement or military firearms instructor is also desirable - if one is to learn, best to learn from the professionals.
Choosing Tactical Training
Private firearms instruction is a growing industry, as is tactical training as more people are looking to acquire the skills necessary to defend themselves successfully. Plenty of instructors are out there, but which to choose?
There certainly are many instructors, courses, and organizations that offer it. Each insists that it can give you the training you need to defend yourself. How is one to tell what's legitimate tactical training and what's bunk?
That's like trying to find which martial arts school to attend. Certain disciplines have recent or ancient military origins, some are strictly sports, some are hybrids between the two. What matters a lot is the people giving the instruction. Who are you more apt to believe - a person that's never been in a fight in their life, or a combat veteran?
After all, just because a person can beat "Forza" on their Xbox doesn't mean they can teach you to drive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Look for instructors that have actual professional experience. Former or current law enforcement are good sources, as are current or former military personnel that served in a combat role. These are people that actually have had to fire their weapons at someone; that is who you should be learning from, just as with the basic course.
Preparing For Your Next CCW Class
Good news – you're on your way to becoming a concealed carrier. Whether you're in a constitutional carry state or one that requires mandatory training, you should and need to take a concealed carry class. As I discussed in a previous article, military and law enforcement training is trade-specific. Concealed carry, as a civilian, is a whole new animal and should be approached as such.
In this article, we'll discuss several ways to prepare for your concealed carry handgun class.
Concealed Carry Instructor Check-list – Follow It
Usually, when you sign up for a concealed carry handgun course, the instructor will publish a list of materials you'll need to bring along. Some will ask you leave your handgun at home until the live-fire portion of the course – others will encourage you to bring in all your gear.
Whatever the instructor writes down on the list – bring that. If he says you won't be needing ammo, don't bring ammo.
A course syllabus will give you a break-down of dates, times, locations, and subjects to be covered. Do yourself a favor and read up on the syllabus prior to Day 1.
Tips: Check the syllabus and check for an equipment list. When in doubt, ask the instructor for clarification.
The Boring Part Is Probably The Important Part
If you've never shot a handgun before in your life, you're probably itching to get to the live-fire portion. A large part of any state-mandated concealed carry handgun course is going to be classroom environment and non-live-fire drills. That's because the instructor is responsible for signing off on your understanding of proper procedure and legal compliance before a live bullet ever travels down the barrel.
And this is the part where a lot of concealed carriers want to doze off. Who can blame them? It's dry and boring – for the most part. But it's also some of the most important material you'll need to stay within the confines of the law and be safe.
Tips: Pay attention to the classroom portion. That knowledge might save your life.
No Extra Points Awarded For Showing Off
Note that concealed carry isn't about impressing anyone. Actually, the point of carrying concealed is to give no one an inkling of a notion that you're carrying a gun. So, during the course, it's really not important whatever life skills you've learned about firearms. The other people in the course are there because either a.) they want to learn b.) they're required to take the course or c.) both. Help out your fellow man and keep the bravado and story-telling to a minimum.
Tips: Save your ego for the range.
Training Is A Life-Long Goal
Training never stops. Outside of the classroom, practice what you've learned. Practice situational awareness, observing your surroundings, working through theoreticals (“if I'm going to have a beer, where should I lock up my concealed carry handgun?”), etc.
It's also good to go one step beyond what you learned in the classroom and find appropriate gear. A good IWB concealed carry holster with a high-retention plastic shell can do a lot to keep you riding confident with your soon-to-be legally concealed pistol.
About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter in his final year of studying public relations and apparel at the University of Idaho.