Owning and Carrying a Handgun 101 Part Three

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

With an up coming “fundamentals” handgun course coming up soon, I decided to step back to the very basics of owning and carrying a handgun for self-defense reasons. Here is a very brief look at the very basics of this very important decision and topic.

This take on these basic concepts are geared toward Nevada state law. Please check the laws in the area that you live.

The Gun and You

The decision to have a gun in the home and the decision to carry a gun should not be entered into lightly.  We have discussed the need to make sure that all unauthorized people do not have access to your firearm.  What we need to do now is to look within ourselves to see if owning and carrying a gun is right for us.  We must understand the responsibility that is involved with such a decision.  You must be mentally and physically competent to use the gun in self-defense.

First we need to know how to use it.  Gun manipulations can be very tough under the stress of a life threatening encounter.  The only way to guarantee doing well under the adrenaline dump that will occur is by practicing and working with the gun until you have all of the manipulations down extremely well.  The gun is not a talisman that wards off evil.  You must have the physical ability to use the tool for its intended purpose.

You also must have the proper mental outlook.  Once again the gun is not a talisman.  You may have to use the tool for its intended purpose.  If you are not willing to use lethal force in protection of yourself or your loved ones it would be best if you did not own or carry a gun.  A less than lethal alternative such as pepper spray may be better choice for you.  The decision to use lethal force can be a very difficult one.  You need to have your head straight before a possible encounter.  You need to have it very clear in your mind at what point you are willing to use lethal force.  Some call it “Your line in the sand.” You need to know exactly where that line is and as soon as it is crossed you must act with zero hesitation.  Hesitation will get you or your loved ones killed.  Get your head straight before you ever strap your gun on.

After one has made the decision to have a gun in the house and to carry concealed, one needs to develop a routine built around the balance of accessibility and safe storage.  Inside of your home, you should keep you gun in the exact same place all of the time.  You do not want to have to search for your gun or try to remember where you put your gun while you are under the pressure of an encounter.  You also want to have a routine where you lock up and unlock your gun inside of the routine that you have tailored to your situation.

The Decision to Carry

Having the ability to protect yourself the vast majority of the time is a very comforting feeling.  The reality of this world is that the police usually show up after the encounter is over.  The only person that you can depend on to protect you, is you.  But with this “comfort” comes great responsibility.

Carrying a gun may mean that you have avoid augmentation type situations so as not to facilitate an escalation of the encounter.  When you carry a gun, you must understand that the gun is in defense of life or grave bodily harm.  It cannot be used or shown in a manner to threaten another person inside of a nonlethal confrontation.   If you know yourself to be somebody that cannot control their anger or use logic and common sense when under pressure, a CCW is not for you.  Carry a gun may require life or death decisions and carry’s huge responsibilities.  Do not jump into these decisions lightly.

Choosing the Best Gun for You

There are a number of things to consider when choosing a carry gun.  The first should be “will I really carry this?” Make sure that the gun is not so big that you never want to carry it or you cannot conceal it.  The second consideration would be “Can I make the hits with this gun?”  Make sure that you buy a gun that fits your hands and is not so powerful that you cannot control it.  The third consideration would be “will this gun go bang when I need it to go bang?”  Reliability in a gun is extremely important, but it does matter if you will not carry it or you cannot make hits with it.  There are many different guns out there and some are simply not reliable.

Be very careful on getting advice from people who have ulterior motives.  Gun stores and gun magazines are not good sources of information due to the fact that they often have ulterior motivations (i.e.: money.) Go to a gun range and rent some guns and shoot them before you buy.  Talk to people who you trust for advice…people that care about you.  In most cases your firearms instructor will care about you.   Advice from an experienced and qualified firearms instructor may be a very good idea.

For a firearm to work safely and reliably, they need regular cleaning/care, and the use of the correct ammunition.  Most well know ammunition manufacturers offer soft or hollow point, expanding bullets that offer the most effective stopping power for self-defense situations.

Manner of Carry

The manner in which you carry is something that you need to give a decent amount of consideration to.  You need to concern yourself with the ability to conceal the gun, that the gun is secure and safe, and that the gun is easily accessible.  Comfort is an important secondary consideration, because if it is painful, you may not carry at all.  You are going to need to find a balance between these five considerations that give the best solution to your personal situation.

As a general rule, guns carried on the waistband are going to be more accessible than other options.   Anything that has “deeper” concealment (ankle carry, smart carry) may conceal better but the accessibility suffers.  Off body carry such as purses, back packs, brief cases, and fanny packs can lead to a liability problem due to the increased chance of losing possession of your gun.  These methods also affect the accessibility of your gun.  Make sure that any holster that you choose offers good protection of the trigger/trigger guard.  Proper consideration for an appropriate holster is imperative in order to help prevent an accidental discharge.

Practicing with your Firearm

Once you have your head straight, the right gun, and a solid means of concealed carry, it is very important that you practice with your gun on a regular basis. Live fire practice is a must! But you can also supplement your live fire practice with “dry-firing” practice. Dry firing practice is an extremely valuable form of practice that will allow you to be the very best that you can be. The expense is minimal and you can pretty much do it anytime that you are at home. You can effectively work on your grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger control. But as in everything with your gun, safety is first and foremost. Make sure that the gun is unloaded, then double-check that your gun is unloaded. Always dry practice in a room where no ammo is present.  Avoid all distractions. Always dry practice in a safe direction, ideally, in a direction that has a back stop that can stop a round (such as a cinder block wall.)

Interaction with the Police

If you are carrying and you are pulled over for a traffic ticket or something of that sort, first of all, keep your hands in plain view.  While it is not a Nevada requirement that you inform the officer that you are a CCW holder, this is something that you may want to consider doing.  When he gets your information and goes back to his car, the fact that you do have a CCW will be made clear to him on his computer screen.  In other words he is going to find out anyways.  Consider whether it may be the wise thing to do, to inform him yourself, before you have even give him your identification.

I personally prefer to inform the officer right from the start.  It shows him that you care about his safety as well as your own.  It is also verifiable proof that you are indeed a “certified good guy.” If he discovers that you are armed and is actually surprised by that fact, you could possibly be drawn down on.  This is a personal decision that you need to make on your own.  But you need to look at it from a number of different angles.

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