Category: Training

New, First-Time Gun Ownership Requires Training

New, First-Time Gun Ownership Requires Training

It’s My First Gun. Now What?

You are a new, first-time gun owner. You just bought that brand new super-duper magnum thingy handgun, rifle, or shotgun. Now what?

First, Safety First!

Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction (that means do not point it at anything you are not prepared to destroy! It also means that you must know what is behind your target. Pointing at a wall–what’s behind the wall?).

Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

Always keep your firearm unloaded until ready to shoot.

Always keep your ammunition in a separate room when dry firing

Here is a safety video by John Lovell.

Responsible Gun Ownership

Owning a firearm bears a significant responsibility. While that firearm is in your possession, whether on your person or not, you are responsible for how it is used. Firearm training is a necessary step in responsible gun ownership. Seek out a certified firearm instructor to learn how to use it, safely and effectively!

Get Some Training!

It is very important that you seek training for that new firearm. Training for first-time gun owners usually consists of two parts: 1) Learning how firearms (especially yours) work, and 2) practical application (shooting it).

Training is available from LNPDSA through several venues.

On-Line Training

One venue introduces how firearms work through on-line learning. The on-line portion covers the first segment, how firearms work. There is a practical application portion is part of the training, but is conducted in person at a time after the on-line segment is completed. NOTE: This is NOT North Carolina’s Concealed Carry Handgun Training class!

At least one internet big-dog, whom I respect greatly, has created an introductory channel for neophyte gun owners: John Lovell’s “5 Steps for New Gun Owners” is highly recommended!

MrGunsnGear created a video in the same vein, “Brand New Gun Owners: The Basics You Need to Know.”

In-Person Training

Alternatively, you can take an in-person basic course for your handgun, rifle, or shotgun in person, where both parts are taught by a trainer.

At the very least, you should take a familiarization course that teaches you the fundamentals of your handgun, rifle, or shotgun: Parts, functioning, assembly and disassembly.

You got your gun-now get your training!

New: Concealed Carry Prep Class

New: Concealed Carry Prep Class

A New Class: A Concealed Carry Preparatory Class

We begin a new “Concealed Carry Prep” class in March. It is short, and available through our scheduling portal, here.

Why A Concealed Carry Prep Class?

In our experience, there are people who want to obtain a concealed carry permit, but who never (or seldom) handled or fired a handgun. We recommend beginners take a preparatory course before taking the NC Concealed Carry Handgun Training (CCHGT) since there are gun handling expectations in it beginners do not have. This class prepares the applicant to meet that expectation.

This is NOT a concealed carry class! It is a only preparatory class for those who have little to no experience handling or firing a handgun. The purpose of this class is to give the student the gun handling experience necessary for a Concealed Carry Handgun Training course.

How Long Is The Class?

This class is very manageable. It takes two hours, only, and is by appointment, so you can take the class at your convenience.

What Does The Class Cover?

Topics in this non-shooting class include safety rules for firearms, parts of a handgun, shooting positions, field stripping, cleaning, preparation for firing, and clearing minor malfunctions. Also included is a session with laser training devices to introduce you to the fundamentals of sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger press.

What Do I Need For The Class?

All books, training material, and equipment are provided by LNPDSA. Applicants have the option of purchasing a “Basics of Pistol Shooting” handbook on the registration page.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of the class is $40. Payment is due at the beginning of class, and may be paid by cash, check, or credit card.

How Do I Sign Up For It?

You can sign up for the Concealed Carry Prep Class, here. Sign up more than one person by increasing the “Quantity” button on the registration page.

Want More Information?

If you desire more information, use the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page, or call us at 252.497.2965.

 

Range Safety

Range Safety

(Originally posted in March 2018. As we begin a new year, this is an appropriate re-post.)

Range Safety

The paramount concern when conducting firearms training or practice is safety. The central premise of continually observing firearm safety is if we observe the fundamental safety rules in all our dry-fire training, practice, cleaning, and maintenance, then doing so in a live fire environment will be second nature. Range safety is the primary concern in a live fire environment.

Safety Rules

There are several versions, or lists of safety rules, but they all revolve around the same premise: keeping the shooter, and bystanders safe. All ranges will have some variation of the following rules:

a. Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
b. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
c. Always keep the action open and the firearm unloaded until ready to shoot.
d. Know your target and what is beyond.
e. Be certain the firearm is safe to operate.
f. Know how to use the firearm safely.
g. Use only the correct ammunition for your firearm.
h. Wear adequate ear and eye protection.
i. Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting.
j. Store firearms securely so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons when they are not in use.

Most ranges post their safety lists conspicuously to remind participants of their responsibility for range safety, and most ranges also post procedures and telephone numbers to call in case of an emergency.

General Range Rules

Every range has some set of range rules to ensure a safe shooting experience. The following list is a minimum set of ranges rules that all shooters should observe, regardless of the range at which they are shooting.

a. Know and obey all range commands.
In many instances, ranges are informally organized. That is, there may be no range officer, and no centralized form of range control that stops all participants from shooting when targets require attention, for example. When there is no centralized range control, all participants must coordinate among themselves when the range is safe.

b. Know where others are at all times, whether they are shooting or not.
Shooters often bring people with them who do not shoot, but simply observe; be aware of where they are as well.

c. Shoot only at authorized targets.
Some ranges have restrictions on the distances at which targets may be engaged. For example, steel, or reactive targets may have a minimum distance from which they may be shot. Other ranges may prohibit “head” shots to prevent shooting into ceilings, or over berms.

d. Unload, open the action, remove the magazine and ground and/or bench all firearms during a cease-fire. Some ranges require a “empty chamber indicator,” a device that is inserted into a firearm’s chamber that prevents a round from being chambered, and is obviously visible, during cease fires.

Empty chamber indicator (ECI)
Pistol with inserted ECI

 

 

 

 

 

 

e. Do NOT handle any firearm or stand at the firing line where firearms are present while others are down range.
Virtually all ranges have a prominently marked safety line (a firing line that is usually painted red) that participants must not cross when firing is under way. Some ranges may have a secondary safety line behind the firing line, behind which non-shooters must stand.

f. Always keep the muzzle pointed at the backstop or bullet trap. Never allow the muzzle to point in any direction whereby an inadvertent discharge would allow the escape of a projectile into an outer area.

Range safety is an individual responsibility. In most cases, disregarding safety or range rules result in ejection from the range, and may result in prolonged temporary, or even permanent, bans.

The Decision to Carry

The Decision to Carry

Decisions, Preparedness, and Consequences

Responsibility: What It Means

North Carolina’s concealed carry training handbook entitled Concealed Carry Handgun Training (the “red book”), published by the North Carolina Justice Academy, opens with the acknowledgement, “With the right under law to carry a concealed handgun, comes a tremendous responsibility.” Carrying a concealed handgun entails the personal assumption of that responsibility. Fundamentally, deciding to carry a concealed handgun means that you, and you alone, choose to personally assume moral, legal, and financial accountability for the actions you may take with that handgun.

If you use your handgun in a defensive force scenario, you are accountable not only for the immediate force-on-force required to stop the threat against you, but also for collateral damage your action may cause. Bullets have no consciousness. They continue on their trajectory until their energy is expended.  One facet of bullet design that aids in expending that energy, thereby slowing it down, and eventually stopping it is its expansion capability. Bullets with full metal jacket (FMJ) construction lack the characteristics to expand appreciably. This feature, alone, weighs against using full metal jacket rounds as part of your defensive carry.

The Decision To Carry

Presuming that you have considered the risk of taking upon yourself the moral, legal, and financial accountability for any action that a defensive force scenario may require, and elected to take that risk, there are other elements you should consider. The most significant is mental preparedness.

One harsh, in-your-face reality of carrying a concealed handgun for self-defense entails the risk of having to use it. This means you may have to point your handgun at another human being, and pull the trigger. A decision you have to make before putting that holster on your belt is, “Am I mentally prepared to take a life?” There are some who propose that “if you do not believe you can kill another human being, you have no business carrying a gun” (Chris Bird, 2019, The concealed handgun manual, 261). Bird couched his proviso in a crass and seemingly aggressive tone to provoke a conscientious assessment of your personal fortitude–“If a self-defense scenario develops, do I have the personal rectitude to potentially destroy my attacker.”

Consequences

If you are ever involved in a defensive force scenario, you will inevitably experience aftershocks. They may merely be the shakes, or they may rise to more severe bodily reactions, such a vomiting or bowel evacuation. It will happen.

And then there is law enforcement. A consequence of using deadly force is that you, at the least, will be interviewed. Your interaction with law enforcement also may result in detainment or arrest with incarceration until the event is investigated.

The good news is that there are organizations that can help reduce the trauma (let alone the financial burden that may ensue) after the use of defensive force. United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), and U.S. Law Shield are two that spring to mind. Remember, when you made the decision to carry a handgun for self-defense, you chose to personally assume moral, legal, and financial accountability for the actions you take with that handgun.

A Personal Decision with Personal Accountability

The decision to carry a concealed handgun mandates critical and conscientious, and highly personal self-assessment at the deepest moral levels. Our final decision, whether we carry or choose not to, is fraught with varying responsibilities and consequences. Hopefully, it will be one we can live with.

Gift Certificates for 2020

Gift Certificates for 2020

Why Not Get A 2020 Concealed Carry Training Class Coupon?

Is a Concealed Carry Permit on your 2020 to-do list? Is a Concealed Carry Permit on the 2020 to-do list of someone you know? Purchase a Concealed Carry Class Coupon for yourself, now, that is good for a certified NC Concealed Carry Training Class in any of our 2020 training sessions! Or purchase one for someone you know who wants to apply for a NC concealed carry permit.

Need more than one seat in a class? Simply increase the certificate quantity to meet the number of seats you desire.

Have more than one person in mind? Simply purchase a certificate for each person on your list.

Click here to purchase a Coupon redeemable for any one of our One-day or Two-day NC Concealed Carry Handgun Training classes in 2020 given by a certified instructor at our location. Once purchased, a certificate can be printed (or emailed) as you desire. Each certificate is good for 415 days, plenty of time to attend a class before the end of 2020.

On successful completion of the training class, participants 21 years old and older receive the NC DOJ Certificate of Completion required to apply for a NC Concealed Carry Handgun Permit.

Training? I don’t need no stinkin’ training

Training? I don’t need no stinkin’ training

What is the difference between training and practice?

As a firearms trainer, one of the first tasks I ask of students is to describe their experience with firearms. Most of them answer something like, “I’ve been shooting since I was X years old,” or “I’ve been shooting for ‘X’ years.” Fill in the “X” with any number you choose. Only rarely do I see references to formal training.

Don’t get me wrong–learning the fundamentals of shooting while relatively young is a great thing. Most of the time, we learned something variation of “Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction,” quickly followed by actually shooting whatever was at hand with a short lesson on how to aim. Very likely, that first experience focused around hunting. For some of us, this is the extent of our “formal” firearms training, other than the hunter safety course required before getting a hunting license.

For some of us, the first formal training we received happened after we joined the military. Most often, training there included safe handling, operation and maintenance, and sighting fundamentals, followed by dry and live fire. Others of us may have sought out formal firearm training for beginners. I suspect most of us tried to apply our training with varying degrees of success. This brings me to the point of the differences between training and practice, and the importance of training. Training is usually where a new skill is introduced, although we may also seek out refresher training, simply to get back to basics. Practice is the continued application of that skill.

The Importance of Training

As stated earlier, training is most often where new skills are introduced. However, training also can be environments for correction of bad habits. In training environments, you have (at least) another pair of eyes watching your technique.

As trainers, we do not watch the target, we watch the shooter. Most often we watch the shooter’s hands. By watching you as you move through your shooting exercises, we often can detect issues of stance, presentation, and shot release, and offer immediate correction that will improve your shooting skills. Another benefit of training is that we may remind you of concepts or techniques you may have forgotten.

Concealed carry training is arguably the firearm training presently in demand the most. However, going through a concealed carry class to satisfy whatever requirements your jurisdiction may have is like graduating from elementary school–it’s an achievement that marks a beginning, not an end. Defensive firearm classes build on the elementary skills that may have been introduced in your concealed carry class.

Defense training often includes presentation drills that concentrate on getting the handgun out of the holster quickly to deliver an accurate shot. Your training may also include situational (should I shoot?) training to help you to correlate your immediate environment, the threat, and your response. Training frequently includes movement drills that help you develop your shooting skills where movement may be required to effectively defend yourself. Whatever the defensive firearm training may include, think of more training as acquiring more advanced skill sets that will aid in your ability to defend yourself.

The Importance of Practice

As we stated earlier, training is where new skills are introduced along with reminders of other factors we may have forgotten. Practice, on the other hand, is trying to replicate the lessons learned in training. However, practice brings on its own challenges–one of which is how to measure, or gauge, our performance.

And, as we stated in an another post, it is also important to practice with a purpose. For example: Suppose your brand new, super duper, Never-Fail handgun has replaceable backstraps. How do you know which backstrap works best for you without quantitatively working that out through practice? Developing a practice session where your purpose is to assess which backstrap gives you the ability to place shots on target most accurately, and most consistently in the least amount of time would probably be a profitable practice. You may be surprised that the most effective backstrap is not necessarily the one you would have picked out of the box.

Skill drills are an excellent way to improve your practices. Nearly all the top competitors have developed skill drills to address and improve shooting weaknesses. Some drills concentrate on first shot delivery, others concentrate on multi-shot delivery, while still others concentrate or magazine changes, or changing shooting hands. One source for skill drills is Burnett Live Fire Drill Cards®.

The Cheapest Practice on the Market

Practicing our shooting skills costs money. Even if we hand load, rounds still cost money. The absolute cheapest, and arguably the most profitable practice in terms of ROI, is dry fire. Virtually every aspect of shooting can be practiced in dry fire: sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, presentation speed and techniques. All without the flash, bang, and recoil that instinctively induce reactions. Adding a shot-activated, light emitting device, such as a LaserLyte®, simply adds to the effectiveness of our dry fire practice. Here again, the most profitable practice is one done with a purpose.

The most important aspect of dry fire is to do it safely. Make certain no live ammunition is in the room where you practice. Make certain your firearm is unloaded. Announce to yourself–out loud–that your firearm is unloaded. A tool that may be useful, especially for handguns that require an inserted magazine to fire, is a BarrelBlok®, a combination empty chamber indicator and dummy round device with magazine adapters that allow slides to be racked without locking them back.

Bottom Line

Shooting well is a perishable skill. That means unless we practice and train consistently, our ability to defend ourselves, and those we care for, quickly, and most importantly, accurately will deteriorate.

To Thumb or Not To Thumb-That is the Question

To Thumb or Not To Thumb-That is the Question

Is The Thumb Safety an Anachronism?

Thumb safeties–one may deservedly ask if the thumb safety on contemporary pistols is an anachronism. We first do well to define what we mean by anachronism. One definition from Webster says, “A person or a thing that is chronologically out of place, especially one that belongs to a former age and is incongruous if found in the present.” This definition is the crux of this post. To put the question another way, “Does the thumb safety belong to a former generation of pistols, and is it incongruous when found on semi-auto pistols as they are currently designed?”

The Thumb Safety Paradigm

We would probably be safe in saying that virtually every pistol shooter is aware of the 1911-style handgun–and its thumb safety.  Interestingly, a precursor to the 1911, the Colt Automatic Pistol of 1900 had no thumb safety.1 The thumb safety offered a mechanism to prevent an inadvertent trigger pull, which would release a cocked hammer, and make the pistol go “bang.” The mere presence of a thumb safety in the “on” position requires that we adapt our manual of arms to disengage it so the trigger can be pulled, causing the hammer to strike the firing pin.

Enter the striker fired semi-automatic. There are some, however, who want the added comfort of a user-operated safety, even on a striker-fired handgun. Quite frankly, the cumulative affect of adding a thumb safety is negligible, and potentially can be a detriment.

Look Ma! No Thumb Safety

With the advent of striker fired semi-autos, the thumb safety disappeared. There was no hammer to release (or block). Since the firing pin strikes the primer, anyway, why not simply manipulate the firing pin. By adding a cocking protrusion on the firing pin, and modifying the fire control mechanism to place it under spring tension as a function of the gun’s inherent action, no hammer is needed. Mechanical trigger blocks, whether lever-style or the pivot style, ensure positive trigger engagement is present before the striker is released. Firing pin blocks ensure the firing pin (now called a “striker”) cannot move forward until positive trigger press is present. Various limitations on striker cocking and/or release also require positive trigger press. The combination of these elements obviate the need for a hammer. (Besides, a cocked hammer on a 1911 has to be dangerous because of the way it looks, right?) All of these positive control features also obviate the need for a thumb safety.

The Danger of the Thumb Safety

Many concealed carry licensees periodically rotate their “every day carry” gun (the wisdom of rotation is a discussion for another day). For some, a 1911, in some form or fashion, is among those in rotation. A problem arises when switching from a striker-fired semi-auto, with no thumb safety, to a 1911 with a thumb safety. Suddenly, another  step is required in the manual of arms, and one that may easily be skipped during a real confrontation, when our brain is least likely to be thinking–at least about our manual of arms, and releasing the thumb safety. The trigger is pulled, and nothing happens! It could be a bad day in black rock.

Two remedies come to mind: For many trainers, the first is never to carry an immediate reaction firearm that has a thumb safety. If you are going to carry a concealed handgun, make certain it is one that does not require, or have, a thumb safety.

Another remedy, if you are among the 1911-style aficionados, (and one that is probably in the minority among trainers) may be to ensure every semi-auto you own has a thumb safety, whether it’s a 1911 or striker-fired. If every handgun you may carry has a thumb safety, then at least your manual of arms is necessarily consistent. There are many competent trainers who argue that properly and consistently training can minimize, and likely eliminate, the probability of failing to disengage the thumb safety if you are ever in a scenario where an immediate action becomes necessary.

If you despise striker-fired handguns that have thumb safeties as options, do not put a 1911 in your rotation.

Of course, this discussion over thumb safeties presupposes there is no mechanical failure. Arguably, thumb safeties on 1911-style handguns may have a higher probability of failure than thumb safeties on striker-fired handguns simply due to the design mechanics involved.

Bottom Line

Carrying a concealed carry handgun is carrying an immediate reaction tool. When you need it, you need it now! Rotating between handguns with and without thumb safeties just puts yourself at risk. In the end, the decision to carry a semi-auto with a thumb safety is yours. But if you do, carry one consistently, and train with it.

Is the thumb safety anachronistic? From a mechanical design standpoint, very likely. From a carry standpoint, if every handgun in your everyday carry rotation lacks a manual safety, it probably is as well.

 

1 Jerry Kuhnhausen, The Colt 45 Automatic: A Shop Manual: Volume 1 In The Kuhnhausen M1911 Pistol Series, ed. Noel Kuhnhausen (McCall, ID: Heritage Gun Books, 1990), 7.

January and February Training

January and February Training

Concealed Carry Handgun Training in January and February

January and February are typically the coldest months of the year, here, in eastern North Carolina (I know–folks used to more severe winters, below freezing temperatures for weeks, and feet of snow scoff at our whining about 30 degree weather, and think our shutting down after a 1-inch snowfall incredulous). We conduct our CCHGT shooting proficiency outdoors, and we know that cold, and rainy days negatively impact proficiency. However, on any given day the temperature may well rise into the 40s or 50s, giving us a reprieve from the cold.  That said, it would be a shame to let those mild days pass without training.

So, during January and February we will keep an eye on the weekly weather forecasts. If the forecasts suggest an upcoming warm(ish) Saturday, then LNPDSA will schedule a Saturday Concealed Carry Handgun Training practicum. Watch the website. When a mild Saturday is forecast, we will publish a post with the particulars for the anticipated training day (certain subscribers get notified by email, as well).

Subscribe through our “Stay in Touch” page to you receive email when the weather forecasts predict weather mild enough to  convene a Saturday Concealed Carry Handgun Training practicum.

The Tuesday/Thursday CCHGT classes will continue every other week since the shooting proficiency is scheduled separately. We will simply have to be diligent about watching for mild days to complete the shooting practicum, and arranging times appropriately.

Practice with Purpose

Practice with Purpose

Infuse Your Practice with Purpose

Shooters often go to a range because we haven’t shot in a while, and simply want to “snap some caps.” I’ve done it. However, while shooting recreationally with no clear objective may satisfy our immediate penchant to shoot, why not combine that with focused practice. Why not infuse your practice with purpose?

Defensive shooting is a complex combination of skills that must be practiced to retain even a modicum of proficiency. Practice, correct practice, helps develop the neural pathways, aka “muscle memory,” necessary when traumatic events stun our higher level thinking into inaction.

Dry Fire Practice: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

An effective practice technique is to break your larger movements into smaller discrete events. One of the discrete events when drawing from a holster is ensuring you grip the handgun firmly prior to drawing it from your holster. Depending on the position of the holster, that may involve making sure your thumb presses into your body to get a firm handhold on the pistol’s grip. Another example may be one where you may have a thumb-break holster, that discrete movement may be to position your hand so that the thumb-break is opened at the same time the web of your hand hits the back of the pistol’s grip.

In the beginning you may have many small events, perhaps as many as eight. Keep it basic. Don’t add cover garments in the beginning. Concentrate on a proper grip, drawing the handgun straight up from the holster, rotating the muzzle from vertical to horizontal, adding your support hand, and moving the handgun to a shooting position, all while ensuring you do not sweep yourself or someone who could be standing next to you with the muzzle. It helps to number each step, and count them off, cadence-like, as you practice them. It’s fine if your beginning practice is somewhat disjointed, like a robot whose timing is off. Slow is OK. You’re building new neural pathways-it’s identical repetitions that count, not speed. Don’t rush. With continued practice, some steps will merge, your movements will become smoother, and the numbers in your cadence will decrease.

When dry firing, do NOT practice in the same room where you keep your ammunition, and triple check your firearm to ensure it’s empty before starting your practice session. You may also consider using dummy rounds, barrel blocks, or laser emitting simulators in your practices.

Range Practice: Keep Records

It’s important to infuse your practice with purpose while on the range, as well. Have a clear goal in mind. For example, part of your range practice may be to concentrate on holding proper sight alignment and sight picture through the moment of firing. It’s helpful in this sequence to shoot at a target with no images or bulls eyes, just blank paper. Remember to follow-through, that is after the recoil, bring the sights back on target, and keep them there for a moment. Later, in defensive pistol exercises, the follow-through becomes part of your scanning for other threats.

Another approach may be to practice specific drills, such as double taps (shooting twice in quick succession). Start slowly, striving for accuracy. Once you are consistently hitting the same spot, only then increase your speed by decreasing the interval between shots.

When practicing with purpose, keep records of your practice sessions. Recording your practice sessions gives you two advantages: The first is that your records hold you accountable for improvement. The second is that your practice sessions are recorded so that improvements are measurable. Don’t worry if some sessions don’t go as well as you had hoped. Some days of shooting are better than others–what you are looking for is improvement trends. Are you improving over the relative long term?

Two items that you may want to acquire for practicing with a purpose are a shot timer and drill cards. Both are available from a variety of sources. Avoid using your cell phone with a shot timer app by itself. Cell phones don’t have the audio discrimination required to accurately track your activity. However, there are attachments available that plug into the headset jack of most phone that do improve the phone’s ability to track shots.

Wrapping Up

Practicing with purpose hones your defensive pistol skills by giving you measurable steps and goals, and by building on the neural pathways (“muscle memory”) that may be needed in a defensive situation.

 

Holsters: The Money Pit of Concealed Carry-Updated

Holsters: The Money Pit of Concealed Carry-Updated

Holsters: The Money Pit of Concealed Carry

Holsters are the veritable money pit of concealed carry. You will spend nearly as much time, effort, and money on finding a good, suitable, comfortable concealed carry holster, and sometimes more, than on the firearm you intend to conceal. There is an adage in the personal defense circles that bears on the comfort and suitability of holsters: “It is better to carry a firearm and not need it than to need a firearm and not carry it.” From this bit of street wisdom one can draw that if a concealed carry holster is not comfortable or suitable you will not carry your firearm, thereby depriving you of the opportunity for self-defense should the need arise. The money pit part comes to bear in finding the concealed carry holster that is safe, comfortable, and suitable for you.

Activity, Weather, Clothing, and Suitability

Among the first elements for determining a holster’s suitability is what you will be doing when carrying, and the activity you plan often dictates what kind of clothing you will be wearing. Add to that that weather is the primary driver in one’s dress. Cold weather means more layers, and a better opportunity to conceal a firearm under those layers. Warm weather means fewer layers and greater potential for exposing or printing the firearm (“Printing” is the where the outline, or general shape, of the firearm can be recognized by an observer even when it is covered). When the weather is warm enough to render a jacket or coat obviously unnecessary, and you ordinarily tuck shirts in, trying to conceal a firearm is even more challenging.

Holster Materials

A popular construction material for holsters is kydex, or its more rugged counterpart, boltaron. Leather is still a classic and very popular construction material, and there are many varieties of holsters that are hybrids–part kydex and part leather, or some other material. A third material often seen on the shelves of sporting goods stores is codura. Codura, because it is a woven material, is often more forgiving when used with handguns, where “forgiving” connotes flexibility and the characteristic simply to print an amorphous bulge should anyone see it. One codura holster style often will fit multiple handguns that are similar in size and shape. Kydex and leather, on the other hand, are molded most often to specific handgun makes and models, making them less interchangeable. With possible exception of pocket holsters, a holster molded specifically for your handgun’s make and model is a better choice in terms of size (i.e., concealability), retention, and positioning (i.e., printing reduction).

Holster Construction

There are certain key points to look for in a concealable holster.

  • The holster material entirely covers the trigger guard. This is safety issue. Entirely covering the trigger guard lessens the possibility of something other than your finger encountering the trigger and firing the handgun.
  • Positive retention. This, also, is a safety issue. Positive retention helps to prevent one’s handgun from inadvertently separating from the holster. Some holsters, especially kydex and polymer styles, have “click” retention, where there is a click that can be heard or felt as the handgun moves past the positive retention point when the firearm is inserted into the holster. Other styles rely on friction and usually have a retention screw to increase or decrease the amount of retention (friction) desired. Still other models have retention straps that hold the handgun in place.
  • Body shield. This is a comfort issue, principally on inside the waistband holsters. The body shield is an extended portion of material on the inboard (body) side of the holster that prevents one’s body from contacting parts of the handgun that are not covered by the holster material that shrouds the barrel, slide, and trigger guard. For example, S&W’s new M&P M2.0 line has an aggressive grip texture. While the texture is well suited for gripping the handgun with the comparatively tough skin of one’s hand, it can feel like extremely course sandpaper when in contact with more sensitive areas on the body.
  • Cant. Cant is the relative tilt of handgun as it normally sits in the holster. The two most common for concealment holsters are a zero cant, which means the holster sits with the slide or barrel in a vertical position, and the commonly (but erroneously) called “FBI” cant that rotates the handgun’s grip about 15 degrees forward around the trigger guard, which arguably offers a more natural grip angle for presentation.
  • Retention clips and belt loops. Depending on the holster’s manufacturer and holster design, retention clips and belt loops may, or may not, be removable. Popular retention clips typically are labelled “J” clips, “C” clips, “O” clips, “V” clips, belt “loops,” what may be identified as “n” clips, or they can simply be spring retention clips. All the clips are designed with three purposes in mind: Keep the holster in place by using the wearer’s belt as retention foundation; keep the firearm in a consistent aspect for presentation, regardless of the wearer’s position, and present a minimal “tell” that may alert bystanders you are wearing a concealed firearm.

Inside, Outside, or Pocket

Holsters, for the most part, breakdown into five relative locations: Outside the waistband, inside the waistband, shoulder carry, ankle, and pocket carry. There are also other alternatives especially designed for women, such as bra holsters. Here, we will discuss waistband, shoulder, ankle, and pocket holsters.

  • Ankle holsters are the least favored among professional personal defense trainers as a primary carry position. The main reason is that ankle holsters are more difficult to access than other locations since the wearer must first move to a position where the firearm can be grasped. Only then can presentation be initiated. Ankle holsters, however, are suitable for backup firearms.
  • Shoulder holsters require a cover garment to conceal even the smallest of them. Integral to shoulder holsters is a harness that loops around both the right and left shoulders to provide security and stability.
  • Pocket holsters are for smaller firearms, in that these holsters are designed to be concealed in one of the wearer’s pockets. Pocket holsters are often made of codura, however there are pocket holsters made with kydex or boltaron molded for specific handguns. As mentioned above, since pocket holsters print as a function of where they are, they are generally designed so that the print simply is an amorphous blob in the wearer’s pocket. Pocket holsters can also be appropriate for ladies’ off-body carry, such as in a purse. A good pocket holster, preferably one of kydex or boltaron, positively retains the handgun, and covers the trigger guard, making it less likely to be dislodged in a purse. Many pocket holsters also have a thumb ledge, a bend in the kydex where you can push the handgun and the holster apart with your thumb as part of establishing your grip, another desirable feature for an off-body carrier.
  • Waistband holsters come in two different flavors: outside the waistband (OWB) and inside the waistband (IWB), and generally are classified by their location on the waistband, e.g., 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 6 0’clock (9, 8, and 7 for left-handed folks), and appendix carry, where 12 o’clock is the direction in which you are facing. Simply by where they are in relationship to the wearer’s belt, IWB holsters offer better concealment since the bulk of the handgun is covered by the belt and pants. The grip, and a small portion of the frame are the only exposed parts of the firearm that must be concealed by other articles of clothing. An OWB holster, on the other hand, is entirely exposed.

Ladies (New)

For you ladies, selecting a holster is especially problematic. Almost all holsters are made for male physiology and styles of dress. For the most part, women dress differently–your shirts and blouses are more diaphanous, and you may be wearing skirts or dresses rather than pants or jeans. Even so, pants and jeans for women are generally cut differently than men’s, creating other unique challenges for concealing handguns on the body. One of the unique holsters I’ve seen for women is offered by CanCan Concealment. Plus, this holster line comes recommended by a woman, Youtube’s “thepatriotnurse.”

Bottom Line-Safety and Comfort

In the end, safety and comfort are the deciding factors, with suitability for the climate being a strong third. If a holster is unsafe, that is not totally covering the trigger guard, or one from which the handgun falls uncontrollably during normal activities, it is dangerous, and if the holster is uncomfortable over the long term, you will not wear it. Warm climates introduce other distracting factors, such as the issue of covering garments. Unless you have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of holsters over time, I can just about guarantee you will not find your preferred carry holster until about your third or fourth try. They are, therefore, the money pit of concealed carry.

A Smattering of Holster Manufacturers