concealed carry mistakes

Concealed Carry Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Forgetting Your CCW Permit At Home

forgetting ccw permit

If you are not carrying your concealed carry license or permit on you, you’re putting yourself at risk whenever you interact with law enforcement. In almost all states, a member of law enforcement can request to see your permit to carry a concealed handgun and you are obliged to show it to him or her. Even though the chance of you using your concealed carry handgun is minimal on any given day, not being able to present that permit may subject you to criminal charges should you have to either encounter law enforcement or use your pistol in a defensive gun use situation.

Neglecting Everyday Carry of Your Pistol

carry every day

Just as bad as not remembering to bring your permit is forgetting to bring your handgun. Your handgun is a tool that you depend upon to protect your life. It is impossible to know when and where we may be called upon to defend ourselves, our family, and our property. We must always be prepared to do so.

Carrying a Pistol Off The Body

purse holster

The absolute best place for your concealed carry pistol to be is in a high retention inside the waistband concealed carry holster. If that isn’t comfortable, consider using an inside the waistband concealed carry holster that uses a neoprene or leather backpad to better accommodate the distribution of that weight along your midsection. Adjusting your holster to fit your particular body style, carry style, and preferences is easy. There are plenty of affordable, comfortable options out there to explore.

Not Carrying Your Pistol On Your Body In The Car

use a car holster

While the center console, glove box, under the seat or on the driver’s side door may appear to be an attractive option for carrying concealed in an automobile, the best place is actually on your body. This guarantees that the pistol cannot be taken out of your control unless you draw it. Use a comfortable holster with a soft backing or install a car holster for quick access to your headgun.

Hiding Your CCW Pistol Under The Seat

gun under car seat

Putting a loaded handgun under the seat isn’t doing you any favors.

  1. It’s not readily accessible when you need it.
  2. It’s not really under your control.

A better place to keep it is on your person, in an inside the waistband concealed carry holster positioned at around a 3 o’clock position if your waistband was a clock and 12 o’clock is your belt buckle.

Putting Your Pistol In The Glovebox While You’re Out And About

gun in glovebox

We may be indeed tempted to throw our handguns into the glovebox prior to getting out and conducting business where we are not otherwise legally allowed to carry. It is tempting. However, it’s also a mistake. Your glovebox is not nearly as secure as you think it is and it’s also one of the first places a thief will check if he breaks into your vehicle while you’re not around. Worse yet, if you catch a thief trying to break into your vehicle, you’re in about the most disadvantaged position possible to do anything about it. After all, he now has your gun.

Ignoring State-Mandated Signs

gun free sign

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs. Some carry the weight of the law and others are just helping inform you. When it comes to private property or a business, most states acknowledge that the property holder has the right to discriminate against law-abiding concealed carry license holders. And that sign, so long as it is visible, is your first and perhaps only warning you’re heading into some place you’re not welcome. If you’re in a state that requires very specific signage, such as the Texas 30.06 signage, you’re risking your permit and potential criminal charges should you choose to violate that sign’s warning.

Not Bringing Extra Magazines

concealed carry magazine

An extra magazine is like carrying around a life line. If you’ve spent significant time at the range, you know how fast those bullets empty out of the magazine. Having a loaded magazine on hand can make the difference between getting caught empty-handed and having a viable opportunity to defend yourself after the initial defensive gun use.

Alcohol And Concealed Carry

gun and alcohol don't mix

A cold glass of suds sure does go down smooth after a long day but carrying a concealed handgun and drinking is always a bad idea. Even when not outright prohibited by state law, you are willingly putting yourself in an altered state of mind and alcohol will affect things like your ability to reason, negotiate, and fight.

Medications And Concealed Carry

concealed carry and medication

When physicians prescribe us medications, they’re doing so with the intention that we read the warning labels and heed them accordingly. Certain medications can affect our mood, the way we perceive our environment, and how we interact with people. Be aware of what medications you’re taking and how they affect you. If a medication makes you less aware of your surroundings or clouds your judgement in any way, carrying concealed may not be the best course of action. And, in some states, it’s illegal to carry a concealed firearm while under the influence of certain prescription medications..

Never Backing Down From A Potential Fight

concealed carry avoid conflict

If you find yourself in a developing situation and you have the option to leave with no real consequences (pride doesn’t count), you should do it. A defensive gun use situation that can be avoided, should be avoided. Your best judgement will be called to account for your actions no matter which way you go. The very worst thing you can do is get yourself involved in a conflagration that could have been avoided through just a bit more common sense.

Never Practicing Your Holster Draw

practice drawing from holster

Practicing your draw and reholstering your firearm are two essential activities that every concealed carrier should do often and in a safe environment. You can unload your pistol, inspect to ensure there is no round in the chamber, and practice to your heart’s delight in the comfort of your home. This is a great development of muscle memory that will serve you well should you ever need it.

Not Practicing Your Holster Draw At The Range

draw from holster at range

If all you do is practice your draw at home, you’d likely have a very smooth draw but are unaccustomed to the follow-through of engaging a target judiciously. Just having the opportunity to know how it feels to draw your loaded firearm from your inside the waistband concealed carry holster, engage your target, scan, and then reholster is a reinforcement of the safety practices you’ll need to use should you be caught in a defensive gun use situation.

Failing To Keep Your Hands Visible At All Times During A Traffic Stop

ccw traffic stop

Police are trained to be cautious about a person’s hands. “Hands can hurt you” is a common saying amongst law enforcement. That’s why, during a routine interaction or traffic stop, keep your hands visible at all times. This helps inform the law enforcement officer that you have a respect for your safety as well as his.

Concealed Carrying In A State Or Federally Prohibited Place

restricted places for concealed carry

The Federal government mostly stays out of the concealed carry regulations but they do set some strict requirements for prohibited places. These places can include prisons, military bases, and courthouses. Violating any of the Federal government’s “gun free” designators will earn you a coveted meeting with a Federal judge and a Federal prosecutor -- two people you’d likely never want to meet ever.

Failing To Renew Prior To Concealed Carry Permit Expiration

renew ccw permit

Getting your concealed carry permit is a great feeling. And, likely, if you carry everyday, you’ve grown accustomed to carrying your handgun every day. However, if you don’t plan ahead and plan to renew approximately 90 to 45 days prior to when your concealed carry license expires, you could be hurting your ability to continue to carry concealed. Mark down on your calendar a three month window prior to your CCW permit’s expiration.

Going With An Unreliable Holster or CCW Without A Holster

At the gun store, you probably put a lot of thought into which gun you want to carry concealed. Do you put as much thought into how it’s being carried on your body? Gun stores are filled with cheap and inexpensive holster options designed to earn them a few extra bucks and have you leaving thinking you’re set up for success. Sadly, in many cases, you’re not. A cheap polyester “one size fits all” holster is not going to keep tight retention or protect the trigger guard. Similarly, a holster not molded to your gun specifically means you’re going to have to struggle with comfort and security.

Do yourself a favor and choose a comfortable inside the waistband or outside the waistband concealed carry holster that is form-fitted to your gun and comes with a lifetime guarantee on its parts and equipment. You’ll be amazed at how a great holster will compliment your choice in pistol or revolver.

Not Using Self Defense Rounds

ccw ammo

Full metal jacket is a great, relatively cheap choice for range practice. For everyday concealed carry and open carry purposes, however, it’s not ideal. Full metal jacketed rounds -- bullets that are encased in a solid coating of a brass or copper alloy -- are usually great at penetration but you should be more concerned with creating the sort of wound channel that will neutralize an attacker in his place. Consider jacketed hollow points or frangible munitions that break apart after hitting a hard surface. This will not only cause more soft tissue damage to your attackers (“stopping power”), it will ensure what’s behind your attackers is a lot more secure.

Not Seeking Out Proper Training

training for ccw

Even experienced NRA instructors and state-certified concealed carry instructors continually seek out additional training. This is because we don’t all know everything. In a life-or-death situation, such as a defensive gun use scenario, we’re being hit by a lot of unknown variables. Seeking out proper training in handgun tactics and combat will improve your chances of prevailing in those situations while remaining on the right side of the law.

Not Keeping Up With Your Current Training

In addition to the classroom and instructor-led courses, you should have your own schedule of training that you keep up with. It could be as simple as some drills you do every week or more intensive cardiovascular training designed to keep you strong in the middle of a fight. Whatever you feel compliments your lifestyle and health concerns, do. And keep up with it.

Falling Into Complacency

concealed carry and loud music

For those who have been around firearms their entire lives, they can be lulled into a false sense of security when handling firearms. This is where negligent discharges start to spring up. People forget what they’ve learned or discover they didn’t know as much as they thought when a firearms-related accident pops up. It’s too late once the trigger gets pulled. And it’s also too late if you realize your face was in your phone when it should have been on that guy on the other side of the parking lot. Complacency affects us all and affects us every day. As concealed carriers, we need to continually stir the pot and shake ourselves out of being lulled into complacency.

Having Your Face Buried In Your Phone

situational awareness

Feeding off the previous point, if your face is in the phone, you’ve lost situational awareness. Situational awareness is how we know when a threat is developing before it arrives. When we sacrifice situational awareness for convenience, we’re risking our own lives. Break away from the screen and scan every now and again.

Not Checking Your Employee Handbook

ccw at work

If you carry to work -- which we strongly encourage if you’re able -- you need to know where your company stands on armed employees in the workplace. The last thing you want is to get placed in jeopardy of losing your job over your desire to keep yourself and your coworkers safe. Check your employee handbook and see where the company stands on this issue. If it’s not to your liking, address it in a safe, responsible manner and advocate the advantages of allowing law-abiding concealed carriers to work.

Forget To Load A Round In The Chamber

one in chamber

People new to carrying a concealed handgun (or firearms in general) may feel apprehensive about dealing with a loaded handgun. This fear will go away with proper education on how to holster your concealed carry handgun and how to deal with it.

Forgetting to load a round in the chamber, though, is placing you at a severe disadvantage from the moment you need that gun to the moment you hopefully neutralize a clear and imminent threat to your life.

In the heat of the moment, you may perfectly draw your handgun from its holster and level it on target, center mass, only to hit that wave of additional panic when you pull the trigger and absolutely nothing happens.

Don’t put yourself in that type of situation -- carry concealed with a round in the chamber. Always.

Forget To Practice Unlocking Your Safety Prior To Firing

practice unlocking safety

Some gun owners swear by a manual safety. Perhaps it’s just one more step before they decide to use deadly force or some psychological reassurance for them when carrying a round in the chamber. Whatever the reason, if you have a manual safety, train regularly in going from “safe” to “fire”. The last thing you want to do is pull your concealed carry handgun and squeeze the trigger and panic because nothing happens.

Failing To Follow The Four Basic Firearm Safety Rules At All Times

You would be amazed with the number of accidents that occur from a simple failure to adhere to the four basic rules of firearm safety. This issue hits both experienced and inexperienced gun owners and concealed carriers alike. Here they are:

  1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  2. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  3. Do not point your gun at anything you do not intend to shoot.
  4. Know what is in front of and directly behind your target.

Where we usually see a failure to adhere to these rules is on all four. People may “flag” or let the barrel of their gun cross over themselves, a part of their own body, or another person unintentionally. They may put their finger on the trigger idly. And the worst offender is simply not treating a gun as loaded until it has been visually confirmed to be unloaded -- and this means inspecting the chamber. Ultimately, just don’t ever make any assumptions about a handgun in yours or anyone else’s possession. If you see someone acting in an unsafe manner, educate them or conversely get some distance from them because they are, indeed, endangering themselves and others by failing to adhere to basic safety.

Not Seeking Out Legal Representation Prior To A Defensive Gun Use

know ccw laws

Once you use your gun to defend your life, it’s not over even if the bad guy is neutralized. That is actually just the beginning. You will have to talk to police. You will have to recall your actions. And you may face criminal or civil charges related to a wrongful death shooting -- even if you know full well that’s not the case.

Do your homework and research your options for legal defense prior to that happening. It’s not just your life you’re looking to save -- it could also be your children’s college funds, your vehicle, and your home.

Hiding Your Guns From Your Kids

teaching kids about gun safety

It’s better to educate your children on the proper use and handling of firearms than it is to trust your ability to successfully hide your guns from your children. Children are naturally inquisitive and will look for any opportunity to seek out that which is forbidden or they know they shouldn’t be messing with.

Not Locking Up Your Unused Guns

lock up guns

If a gun isn’t physically on your body, it should be locked up. This is the easiest way to ensure accountability for all your firearms at all times. Locking up the guns you cannot physically carry in a safe or other secure location is ideal. At a minimum, feel free to use a standard gun lock that loops through the chamber and ensures that the gun cannot be physically fired unless it is unlocked.

Concealed Carry State Reciprocity Laws?

ccw reciprocity laws

When you cross state lines, you need to know that state’s stance on concealed carry. You could be setting yourself up for failure if you don’t know the following:

  • State reciprocity -- does your concealed carry permit ‘count’ in this state? If it doesn’t, you’re gambling your ability to continue to legally carry a concealed handgun.
  • Restricted places, guns, and magazine capacity -- yes, it all does exist and you need to know the details prior to entering into a state with a loaded handgun concealed on your person. While the vast majority of states do not have restrictions on magazine capacity for handguns, it is a thing in places like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and California.
  • Duty to inform -- do you need to let an officer of the law know that you’re armed when interacting with him or her?

Shoot To Kill Your Opponent

Using a gun to neutralize your attacker is already considered ‘deadly force’ by most state’s definitions. Deadly force enables you to legally use force up to and including death as a means of stopping a threat. Saying things like, ‘shoot to kill’ or whatnot only hurts your legal defense when you need to demonstrate in front of a judge that your intentions were purely based out of the desire to protect yourself, your family, and your property and nothing more. Showing an ‘intent to commit murder’ can be misconstrued so many ways regardless of your attacker’s actions. Don’t put yourself at additional risk and shoot to neutralize. Once your opponent stops having the capacity to be a threat to you, deadly force is no longer authorized.

Aiming For Extremities

In a stressful situation, your aim is already going to be much more erratic than in a controlled training environment. Do yourself a favor and always aim center mass. We completely understand if you’re not looking to kill your attacker out of some sense of mercy or morality but you’re doing yourself no favors in aiming for smaller extremities. If you feel so threatened as to need to draw your concealed carry handgun from your inside the waistband holster, you need to be committed to neutralizing your opponent as efficiently as possible.


About The Author

James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.