WRITER SERIES: The 5 Most Important Things I’ve Learned Since Carrying A Firearm – Dan Zimmerman

If you’re reading this, you probably carry a firearm, at least some of the time. There are well over 16 million concealed carry permits issued in the US and lots of people live in states where no permit to carry is necessary. Interest in concealed carry continues to grow as carry guns have been the fastest growing segment of the firearms business for years now.

Still, lots of people who can pack a gun don’t. It’s not always easy, convenient, or advisable to carry (especially if your employer prohibits it). That said, if you’ve been carrying long enough and regularly enough — you’ve done your first Wally Walk, carry more often that not and, hopefully, had some training — you’ve probably come to learn a few things about concealed carry that would be of benefit those who are thinking about taking the leap.

After carrying a concealed handgun almost every day for the last decade or so, here are five tidbits of knowledge I’ve accumulated that may make your life easier.

1. Guns are just tools

“What’s the best concealed carry gun?” Go ahead, Google that phrase and see what comes up. You might as well be debating whether it’s called “pop” or “soda.” There results will be pretty much same and just as valuable.

What gun is best depends on who you are and your particular needs. In other words, there isn’t a “best” concealed carry gun and those of us you who continually debate the question are wasting your time and billions of electrons when you could be out at the range having fun and making yourself a better shooter.

Choose a gun from a reliable maker that fits your hand, goes bang every time and that you shoot reasonably well. Don’t worry about accuracy. Ninety-nine percent of defensive gun uses happen at distances of less than 15 feet. Usually a lot less. Any reliable gun you buy is more than accurate enough for that. If you want to shoot bowling pins, buy another gun.

In short, choose a gun you can afford to buy and afford to shoot. Then, once you’ve found the right gun, don’t worry about it…just carry it. As the old saw goes, the best gun in the world is the one you have with you when you need it. Words to live by.

2. Good equipment makes a BIG difference

Almost every gun owner has a drawer somewhere that’s filled with all manner of holsters they bought and eventually abandoned. Most carriers start out trying to get off cheap. After dropping a bunch of cash for a pistol, we buy an inexpensive, floppy, one-size-fits-most thing that may or may not cover your trigger and provides next to no retention.

The truth is that trying to go cheap usually ends up costing you more money. A good holster (either Kydex or leather) that’s made specifically for your carry gun, that’s attached to an actual gun belt makes a huge difference in the comfort and safety of carrying a gun every day.

If you start out with good equipment from the beginning, you’ll save yourself the expense of buying a bunch of crap you won’t use in the long run. I wish someone had told me that when I started carrying. If they had, I’d have hundreds more in my bank account (or, more likely, another gun or two in my safe) today.

3. You need to know your state’s laws

Not knowing the laws regulating concealed carry where you live — and places where you intend to travel — can get you into trouble. Expensive trouble. There are plenty of on-line resources that are available you should use to make sure you’re familiar with the laws where you intend to carry.

Concealed carry laws vary widely from state to state. Can you carry in church where you live? In a hospital? On public transportation? Ignorance of the laws where you are can mean a night in jail, big legal bills and the loss of your gun rights. It’s just not worth the risk. Educate yourself and act accordingly.

4. Using your gun is expensive

You probably know this, but it bears repeating: using your gun should be the absolute last resort in any situation. It goes without saying that shooting someone, let alone killing another human being, can be emotionally devastating. But in addition to that, drawing your gun and firing can be extremely expensive.

If you discharge your weapon in a defensive gun use, you can assume that it will cost you a minimum of $10,000 in legal fees. If there’s doubt about the appropriateness of the use of your weapon and you’re charged with a crime, that number will multiply by five to ten times.

In short, stay out of situations that can lead to trouble. Avoid stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things. Keep a cool head about you and be slow to react emotionally. And while you may not have a duty to retreat depending on where you live, that may very well be the best option to avoid irreparable physical and financial harm.

5. Know what to do if the worst happens

If you have no choice and have to use your gun in a life-or-death defensive situation, know what to do immediately afterward. The right course of action could keep you out of jail and save you tens of thousands of dollars.

First, make sure that you’re no longer in danger. Then call 911. You don’t want to say too much, but there are a few things you should communicate for your own safety.

First, tell them your name and location. Then tell the operator that you were attacked and that your life was threatened. If your attacker is still on the loose, give the operator a description of him/her.

Next, describe yourself so the responding officers know who to look for when they arrive. Remember, the police won’t know the bad guys from the good guys. They’ll be responding to a report of shots fired and you really want them to know you’re the good guy when they roll up on the scene.

When the police get there, you’ll want to say as little as possible while still being responsive. After identifying yourself, the main point you want to get across when the police question you — and they will…extensively — is that you were in fear for your life. You were attacked.

Go ahead and describe your attacker for them if he’s no longer there. ID any witnesses who may have seen what happened. But beyond that, tell them you want to talk to your attorney. They may ask you where you were standing, where the attacker was standing…all manner of other details. Say nothing. You were attacked and fear for your life.

Tell them, “I’ll be happy to give you a full statement and answer all of your questions after I talk to my lawyer.” Period. End of statement. Keep your mouth closed until you’ve talked to an attorney. Anything more you say at that point,  as they say, can and will be used against you in a court of law.

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