The classroom portion of the course was about 6 hours, and the instructor did a good job of covering the basics you’d expect: Gun safety, the laws regarding the justifiable use of deadly force, and a very bare-bones overview of some tactics (like the difference between cover and concealment). Honestly, the only part of the classroom program that was new to me was a great DVD the instructor showed during lunch about first aid for gunshot wounds.
After we got done in the the classroom, we moved to the range qualification. And it was here that I harvested some lessons for those of you planning to seek CCW permits.
The normal qualification course required in my county is pretty rudimentary: Nineteen rounds, fire at 5, 10 and 15 yards, with liberal time limits. But one student in the class was applying for a Security Guard Exposed Firearms Permit, so the instructor decided to have us shoot the (not much) more difficult BSIS Qualification Course, a 50-round course of fire. I qualified with a perfect score on my first try (the instructor gave everyone a practice round) so I had a chance to watch my classmates shoot.
Here are a few of the things I took away from the experience:
Make sure you have the basics of gun safety down pat before you think about carrying a firearm. We had at least one instance that I saw of someone pointing the weapon at their leg while re-holstering, and one muzzle pointed in an unsafe direction. It seems to me that, if you’re planning to carry a firearm, mastery of the basic safety rules is the bare minimum that those around you ought to be able to expect. If you’re not 100% solid on basic firearms safety, perhaps you’re not ready yet for a CCW permit. I’m not saying, by the way, that we don’t all have the right to defend ourselves. But we do have a responsibility to exercise that right in a way that is responsible.
Make sure you carry a gun you’re familiar with. One of the other students was qualifying with a Beretta 92. The Beretta is a fine weapon, to be sure. But with a DA/SA action and a decocker/external safety, a Beretta can definitely be more of a challenge than some other pistols to shoot well.Whatever gun you plan to carry, make sure you’re thoroughly comfortable with its operation. The moment when the bad guy is breathing down your neck is not the time to be trying to remember how the safety works.
Make sure the gun you carry is well-suited to concealed carry by you. Among the weapons represented in the class were a Ruger LCR and the Beretta I mentioned earlier. Neither of these is necessarily a bad choice for a concealed carry gun, of course. But the relatively poor sights, small frame and light weight of the LCR were proving a challenge for its owner’s large hands and imperfect eyesight. The Beretta owner was burdened with a lack of familiarity with his gun, and his profession imposed wardrobe requirements that might have made a less bulky gun than the big steel 92FS a better choice. Picking a high quality gun to carry is important, but so is picking a gun that is compatible with your skill level, intended style of carry, and lifestyle. Make sure to take those other considerations into account when deciding on your concealed carry system.
Make sure you have the skills necessary to concealed carry. The LCR’s owner had fired his weapon only once prior to the class, and out of 7 qualifiers shot that day, I was the only student who qualified on the first try. If you’re considering taking on the responsibility of carrying a concealed weapon, you need to make an honest assessment of your skills and abilities. You might not need to be able to engage a 10 inch steel plate at 100 yards with a pistol, but if your basic marksmanship skills aren’t up to snuff, that’s something to make a priority. If, god forbid, you ever have to use your firearm in self-defense, you need to make sure you can shoot well enough to actually stop the threat.
What do you think of these lessons? Or, if you’ve taken a CCW class lately, do you have other lessons from that class which you can add to my list? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.