Do You Really Need Pistol Training To Carry Concealed?


There are a lot of states that require some form of mandatory training prior to issuing a concealed carry permit.  In almost all cases, that training includes as much (if not more) classroom time than it does range time.  And then there are states like Vermont and others which are constitutional carry – permitless concealed carrying of firearms is permitted.

So some are required to undergo formal training prior to receiving a concealed carry permit and others are not?  Does that mean those states know something the rest of them don’t or is it a pointless task?

If you’ve never handled a firearm before in your life and pick one up for the first time, the four basic rules you need to know are:

  1. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
  2. Don’t point your firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.
  3. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  4. Don’t shoot at anything until you know what’s in front and behind it.

Following these four basic safety rules virtually guarantees you will never have a negligent discharge.  A negligent discharge, in this case, being when your firearm discharges not by your direct intent.  Negligent discharges come up often because it’s the first cited reason when a firearm goes off during routine maintenance, in the holster, or if someone has been toying around with a firearm.

The biggest mistake first time concealed carriers make is assuming they understand firearms.  Understanding how firearms work and their safe operation is the very first priority before using one.  Will a trainer be able to fix this?

Train The Basics – Practice To Improve

Most trainers stress the importance of safely operating a firearm.  They also stress the fundamentals of good marksmanship.  However, not every trainer is perfect.  Each one is likely to have his or her own understanding of firearms and that interpretation may, at times, clash.

Outside of understanding applicable Federal and State ordinances surrounding your carriage and use of firearms, the four fundamental safety principles, and the basic principles of marksmanship, the next big boost in a person’s ability to successfully employ a firearm is practice.

Getting out there on the range and applying those skill sets – safety and marksmanship – will eventually produce a competent shooter capable of responding to a life threatening situation in the best way possible.

Training and practice do not guarantee success.  Nothing can.  But they do significantly increase the odds in a life-threatening situation.


Side-by-Side Comparison of Three Imaginary Concealed Carriers

Carrier 1 (“No Training”) has never practiced a single day in his life but carries a concealed firearm on him on a daily basis.  He hasn’t so much as dry fired the pistol.  In fact, he hasn’t read our article about routine maintenance, either.  Just a really “lost-in-the-sauce” type of guy.

Carrier 2 (“Average Joe”) goes to a pistol range once or twice a month.  He keeps a pistol in his glove box sometimes but rarely ever carries on his person.  He understands how the pistol works, basic safety requirements, and has even become proficient with his primary concealed carry pistol.

Carrier 3 (“Superman”) has undergone tactical simulations, practices religiously at the range once a week, keeps a firearm on him at all times and spare magazines.  He lives and breathes the four basic safety principles and switches back and forth between different firearms to suit the occasion.

Which of these three is best prepared to handle a hostile situation?

The truth?  There’s absolutely no way of knowing.  While Carrier 3 obviously seems to have his game together and Carrier 2 describes a lot of concealed carriers out there currently, Carrier 1 is no less capable than the other two.  In fact, oddly enough, we’d bet that Carrier 3 and 1 may actually be the first to respond to a situation.  Carrier 2 leaves his pistol in the car.  So “No Training” and “Superman” are actually in better positions to respond because they have their firearms on them.  “Average Joe”, while capable, is left to the mercy of chance.

No man is invulnerable and no amount of training the world can guarantee success.  If placing bets, certainly Carrier 3 would seem the likely candidate but reality is strange.

If You Carry A Firearm – Practice It

That is truthfully the best middle philosophy in all of this.  The concealed carry firearm that you carry on your person is only as capable as the person using it.  The more familiar you are with its operation, the more psychologically prepared you are to use it.

The concept that most law abiding firearm owners are too stupid to carry a firearm without training is degrading and largely untrue.  Plenty of states have no requirement for training and are still able to have the vast majority of firearm owners (and concealed carriers) avoid injuring themselves or others.  Do the ones who do injure themselves or others make the rest of us look bad?  Sure.  But we’re not them.  And if we obey the basic tenets of firearm safety, practice and familiarize ourselves with the firearm we carry on a daily basis – we are completely capable.

About James England | View all posts by James England

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry…

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry handgun is a Glock 36 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his CZ-75D PCR in an Alien Gear MOD holster.

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  • Busefalis

    James, Thank you for this article. It seems in opposition to others I’ve read on this site. Of course you are from NH too so, that may help a bit :-)

    • James England

      I’m not at all in opposition to training or practice but I do enjoy good dialogue about what role both play in making a good concealed carrier.

  • Massolo

    I had to take a class in Oregon in order to get my CHL. I’d had 30 years of prior gun handling experience beforehand, so knew everything and the class was pointless and inane for me. What was scary were the other people in the class, 30-50 year old’s with no prior gun experience at all, given a simplistic and inept 90 minute tutorial on weapons, who will now think that is all the training they need. I just hope some realize that they really need some one on one instruction before they get involved with a potential scenario that they will need to fire in.

    • David

      And your point Massolo? Are you saying they would be better with NO training at all?

  • David

    This is the most sensible post that I have seen on this site. Of course training is needed, for ANYONE wanting to own a gun. Some don’t even know which end the bullet comes out apparently! Others don’t know that you don’t leave a loaded gun laying around where there are kids or there might conceivable be kids. This alone could have saved 150,000 kids from death or injury by gun in the last 10 years – at least 40 kids A DAY are killed or injured EVERY DAY in the US with guns. So obviously training is needed. Especially if we don’t want our kids or someone else’s kids to be on of the 40 A DAY killed or injured in the US. Not to mention the adults too. 108 people A DAY are killed with guns in the US! A DAY!!! I would say that that training was more than essential!
    So I suggest that you try to get training for gun owners instead of pushing for more and more gun ownership with NO background checks, NO permits and NO training.
    Just a suggestion.

    • What is your definition of child – and how many of those killings are the result of legal guns?

      • David

        What difference does it make how old the children are? Is it OK for kids to be killed with guns if they are over 5? Is it OK if the gun is legal? Or OK if it is illegal? I don’t understand your question, or your point.

        • Jesse Beaumont

          I think he is referring to the left’s tendency to include gang related deaths of teenagers in the numbers of “children” killed by guns daily.

  • Hunter Ongun

    Well, obviously firearms training is important (I am more of the carrier 3 kind of guy). However, so is the classroom. State laws differ in justifiable use of deadly force and not knowing when to use one’s firearm can ruin one’s life.

  • David Rosier

    I’m somewhere between 2 and 3. I have taken tactical hand gun courses and shoot / don’t shoot situational large video gallery simulations, but my visits to the range are only every couple of months. I’m not a big “Gun Guy” I carry because I believe it’s the resposible thing to do, but going to the range is a bit of a chore and in my area its kind of expensive. The only range close to me charges quite a lot and makes you buy their ammo at inflated prices. It sucks because I can reload my own for much cheaper.

  • edster48

    Do you “need” training? In short, no. As long as you’re aware of, and abide by the basic rules of firearms handling, chances are you’ll be able to defend yourself should you need to. Remember, this isn’t brain surgery, criminals with room temperature IQ’s manage it all the time. That being said, some training is desirable for a number of reasons. Getting comfortable with the “bang” and manipulating your firearm, learning your strengths and limitations, and most importantly { IMHO } learning to stay calm and fix the problem when you squeeze the trigger, and all you hear is “click”.

  • Lawman45

    Wrong. The biggest danger in a self-defense situation is shooting when not authorized by law to use deadly force. At 6 feet, you are unllikely to miss and the hours spent shooting at a 75 foot bullseye through a target sight won’t add much, although it will be fun. The biggest hinderance to a successful DGU is reluctance to pull the trigger in an incident that won’t last more than 3-5 seconds. Mental prep beats range time 10 to 1.

    A P2C is about carrying in public places to enable the carrier to engage in self-defense. It is about WHEN the law authorizes you to use deadly force. In a course, the student should spend plenty of time analyzing hypothetical assault situations and the proper and legal response.

    States that require an actual shooting exercise often require some form of minimal safety and handling training before the exercise but not a full basic course that teaches a person who has “never touched one” HOW to shoot. Remember that most self-defense shootings occur at 21 feet or less, most often at less than 6 feet.

    If you need practice, get it elsewhere. The same with defensive tactics. The P2C course is the beginning not the end of a carrier’s learning curve.

  • Lawman45

    BTW, neither Pennsylvania nor Washington requires any type of training. This has been so for over 50 years and covers over a million current permit holders. They have had no problems caused by the training lack.

  • Dan Weymouth

    Yes and yes and yes. I am all for the CC class. Newbies, oldbies. Whatever. learning the legal in and outs is really a good thing to know. And its right there info so you don’t miss one part or the other. Teaching everyone firearm handling safety and basics is never a bad idea. Teach those who don’t know. Correct those who are doing it wrong. And being taught by a professional. I consider all that nothing but good things to know.