By Alexander Castiglione
In light of world events, I know many people are concerned with their own safety and security.
People with legally-purchased firearms and legal concealed carry permits have always been the planning types—the types of people that would rather have a weapon and not need it, than need it and not have it. I would hazard many of the readers of this very article belong to that category.
But the purpose of this article isn’t to say “Go out and buy a gun, and get a carry permit (if your state requires/allows it).”
Not at all.
The purpose of this article is to get those either with a carry permit to practice and plan, or to get those on the cusp to make a decision.
Now, there is research on both sides regarding whether or not responsibly armed citizens with legal weapons stop active shooters or possible terrorist actions.
I’m not going to get into that debate with anybody—there is evidence on both sides—and as an adult, you can make your own call.
If you choose to carry a firearm, first and foremost, know it is a responsibility.
Namely, your responsibility—responsibility to be educated, vigilant, accurate, discerning, and above all, cool-headed.
Whenever you put on your CCW (concealed carry weapon, for those of you unfamiliar or in states that do not permit concealed carry), you are implicitly agreeing to a massive responsibility.
Carrying a concealed weapon is much more than putting on a gun with a holster, and tucking it away; much more than that.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
You need to practice. Practice drawing and firing, yes. But also practice moving.
Anyone can be accurate standing at a firing line and punching holes in paper, but how about when you are moving to cover?
- What about when the adrenaline hits you like a freight train?
- What about when you have a stovepipe (weapon malfunction) and are without cover?
- What if you get hit in your strong arm?
You need to practice, practice, practice.
Know Your Weapon
Having great gear is one thing, but keep it simple. This is why most people I know that have a CCW use Glocks or S&W M&P series weapons.
If not, they use good old fashioned 5-6 shot wheel guns. These weapons have a track record of reliability and not much can go wrong; keep it simple. Having that $1000 1911 or tricked out CZ-clone won’t really matter when you forget about the thumb safety.
Also, this should go without saying, but pick a caliber you are comfortable with.
Most people prefer a 9mm, but anything you can comfortable shoot fast and accurately is good to go with. I’d stay away from .22 calibers though, as you need to be hyper-accurate to stop a threat. Nobody should be carrying a Taurus Judge with .410 shotshells in it.
Yes, I know….you only have to hit them once, but you can’t be quick with follow up shots if you miss, and in a gunfight or life and death struggle, milliseconds count. Home defense, that’s a different story.
That’s when you can use a howitzer, since you know the layout of your house better than any intruder.
If you are uninitiated, get some training from professionals; or link up with someone who knows their stuff
Whether it’s military, LEO, or just a civilian who really knows what they’re doing. I strongly recommend shooting in an IDPA match or two.
Most of the ones I have competed in were filled with very nice, knowledgeable men and women who were more than happy to give you a friendly tip: “Don’t take your eyes off your weapon/ watch your trigger finger/ run the slide not the slide lock.”
Things of that nature.
That being said, not everything works for everyone, you have to find what works for you.
Some trainers teach strict muzzle discipline, others operate under the assertion that you control the weapon, not your surroundings.
Now that I’ve given you all these caveats, here are some drills
(Again these are intended for legally armed and licensed CCW permit holders, and I nor this publication condone illegal weapons or illegal carry. These are also operating under the assumption you are aware of Col. Cooper’s 4 rules of gun safety.)
Draw and Fire
Making sure your weapon is safe and empty, draw from concealed and press the trigger. Uuse snap caps if you have a firing-pin fired weapon, you do not want to damage it. Glocks and most striker fired weapons are OK with an occasional dry fire.
Pay attention to your front sight; do not let it dip or move.
If you find it is, work on pressing the trigger straight back, and using only your trigger finger to do the moving. Make sure you practice how you will fight. In this case, wear the clothes you wear normally, and carry how you carry. Having a IWB rig but practicing with a paddle holster at the range or at home does not help.
When you need to draw your weapon in a life or death situation, it needs to be reflex, muscle memory.
Also, practice in winter garments and summer alike. Drawing from concealed with gloves and a heavy coat on is way different than drawing while wearing a t-shirt.
Once you get your draw down, if you notice you are moving the front sight, place a penny on the top of your weapon (this will only work with Glocks, Sigs, flat top weapons). Press the trigger. If the penny moves, you’re doing it wrong, try again. Only your trigger finger should move.
(This only sounds easy!)
You need to be ready for anything. That includes a jam, FTE, FTF, and everything in-between.
Get yourself some snap caps and practice simulating a jam or hang-up. Have a buddy load a magazine with a snap cap mixed in, but don’t check where it is. Work on engaging multiple targets, and clearing the dummy round, treating it as if it’s a dud or bad round.
Again, muscle memory.
If you hear a click, what do you do? With most platforms: tap, rack, bang.
And like I say above: Move, move, and move–practice moving while firing, if possible. If you don’t have access to a range or area where you can safely; try it at home with a safe and unloaded weapon.
Practice slicing corners, keeping your front sight on target. Kneel, run, walk, duck. This isn’t the movies, so you don’t have to do any front rolls…but nobody just stands there and gets shot at.
Nobody who wants to stay alive, that is.
Cognitive Response Drills
These are crucial in my book if you want to be a responsibly-armed citizen.
Have a training buddy call out areas of a target, or better yet, find targets with different numbers, colors, or shapes, and engage them according to what is called out—ideally with your back turned so you need to make snap decisions, simulating what you would encounter should you need to discharge your weapon in a life or death scenario.
Using the drill I mention above where you use colors, shapes and numbers, your partner would call out “Red, Diamond, Four!” and you need to engage them in that order. Haley Strategic has some good targets for these. But something like “Shoulder, Head, Pelvis” with a silhouette can work too.
These are just a few drills, and there are a bunch out there to augment these. Give these a shot at your next range trip, or just during some downtime at home, and let us know how it goes.
And again: Practice, practice, practice—make it muscle memory.
You’ll be thankful you did if you ever are in a dicey situation. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.
Train hard, train smart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Castiglione lives in Atlanta, and is an avid outdoorsman and competitive shooter. Wher-abouts include getting after it in his garage gym, practicing martial arts, hitting the trails, or running CrossFit and Strongman competitions for his non-profit, Barbells for Bullies, which holds fundraiser fitness competitions dedicated to aiding Bully breed rescues, dog rescues, or other non-profits with similar missions.
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