GunMag School: The Mindset of Concealed Carry

It might seem there’s no more to carrying a gun for self-defense than holstering up and going about your day, but there are other factors to consider. We’re not talking about making sure your gun is reliable and accurate, either. This is about the mindset and mentality behind carrying a firearm for personal defense use. Yes, there are things you should think about and take seriously before you start carrying. We’re here to help by going over some of the details and nuances of self-defense. Consider this your primer on things to stop and think about before getting into concealed carry.

concealed carry handgun
Have you given real thought to what it means to carry a handgun for self-defense? (Photo credit: Coolidge)

Why carry a gun for self-defense?

It might seem obvious, but the first thing to ask yourself is why you’re carrying a gun for self-defense. People get into firearms and self-defense for different reasons. Some do because they were influenced by a friend or family member. Others get into it because they’ve already been the victim of an attack. And then, some people have always been interested in guns and decided to finally start using one.

The reason this part matters is because it sets up the foundation for putting serious thought into the realities of concealed carry and self-defense. Are you carrying a handgun because it just seems like the thing to do, or do you actually intend to use it to defend yourself? Are you only carrying it to potentially defend a child or loved one? What about yourself? Carrying a gun is a major responsibility and should be taken seriously. Stop and consider your why, because it’s good to understand and acknowledge your thought process.

Could you use your gun?

This is a detail that’s anything but minor, and it’s one many people fail to consider. If you’re faced with a credible, immediate threat, could you actually draw and use your handgun? Do you believe you’re mentally and physically capable of not only aiming your handgun at another human, but using it to defend your life or the lives of loved ones? It’s essential to hit the pause button and think about this.

drawing a holstered handgun
So you have a handgun. Could you use it? (Photo credit: The Deseret News)

Using your handgun to defend your life is a big deal. It’s not something anyone should take lightly. Some people might be surprised to realize they really don’t want to ever use their gun. That might not seem like a big deal at first, but the issue is that your firearm isn’t a negotiating tool. Your handgun shouldn’t be drawn unless you’re willing to use it and faced with a circumstance that demands it.

If your thinking is that you’ll just draw your gun and your attacker will be magically convinced to flee, be aware that’s not a logical thought process. If you’re unwilling to actually use your handgun, it becomes a tool that can be taken from you and potentially used against you. It becomes a hindrance, not a help. Before you start carrying a handgun for defensive use, take the time to go over the possible scenarios and the reality of what could happen. Could you take the necessary steps to defend yourself from a threat? Are you sure?

Are you properly trained?

You’ll hear some people throwing around comments about how many gun owners who have successfully defended themselves did so with minimal training. It’s certainly accurate to say there are people who manage to defend their lives with a lawfully carried handgun without spending time in classes. It’s also accurate to say it’s your responsibility as a gun owner to be properly trained and that good training goes a long way toward helping you understand self-defense.

handguns for self-defense
Just having a gun isn’t the answer. You need to be trained and prepared to use it. (Photo credit: WAMU)

So, what can handgun classes do for you? The obvious factor is that a good class makes you a better, more mindful shooter. Shots fired will be more accurate and you’ll be less likely to make dangerous mistakes. And because gun skills are perishable, attending classes is something you need to keep doing to maintain those skills (let alone advance them).

But there are other reasons to take classes, too. For example, a solid defensive handgun course doesn’t involve only live fire, it gets into the mindset of self-defense. You’ll learn more about recognizing threats, situational awareness, and how to handle a potential or immediate threat. Some of those classes are lecture only while others combine live fire and lecture. It’s a good idea to educate yourself thoroughly.

Are you prepared for the aftermath of a self-defense shooting?

Something else to consider is whether you’re mentally and financially prepared for what happens after you’re forced to use your firearm in self-defense. The reality is that just because you think it was a good shoot, or even if the general consensus is that it was clean, that doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t find yourself prosecuted. Hiring a criminal attorney to defend you is incredibly expensive. And, there’s no telling how long the process could drag out or what it will entail. That’s the biggest reason it’s smart to have self-defense coverage from one of the many reputable companies offering it. The specifics of coverage depend on the company and plan you choose. The idea is to have a plan that covers the weightiest financial aspects of the legal aftermath of a self-defense event. The monthly or annual fee is a small price to pay when compared to the crushing weight of a legal defense. People have lost their homes and been bankrupted by those costs, even in cases where the self-defense event itself was justified and ended up being ruled as such. Never assume you’ll be okay “just because.”

alien gear holster
Carrying a handgun for self-defense is a serious responsibility. (Photo credit: Alien Gear Holsters)

The mindset of self-defense is something you might have to work on, but it’s worth it. If you stop and think and realize there’s no way you could use your handgun to defend your life, stop and consider the wisdom of carrying it. And if you don’t understand your local laws or how to recognize a threat, that’s something else to work on. There’s more to carrying a handgun than just holstering up. It takes time, thought, training, and awareness. Make sure you give it the consideration it requires.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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