Rule Two of Concealed Carry

So, you are following Rule One.  You have a gun, concealed, on your person.  So, what’s the next rule?  What’s the next most important thing?

Have the basic knowledge and skill to use it properly.  That’s Rule Two.

Some people are probably scratching their heads and saying “why was ‘Have A Gun’ Rule one when you aren’t requiring anyone to know how to use it?”  Simple—if you don’t have one, what skills you have with it won’t matter.  And more importantly, plenty of people who have no formal training or practice with firearms have nonetheless competently defended themselves using firearms.

So while I’m sure we’d all prefer that everyone was trained to a high level with firearms, oddly enough, for self-defense purposes with a firearm, that’s actually less important than having a firearm in the first place.

But it is true that having at least basic skill and knowledge is the next thing.  Once you are following Rule One religiously, then Rule Two is what you should be making sure you have down solidly.

Note:  In this series of articles, I’m talking about concealed carry of a handgun for self-defense, not self-defense in general.  For a discussion of self-defense in general, we’d be talking about significantly different topics, like awareness, de-escalation, self-discipline, the use of force continuum, etc—in other words, the physical equipment we’d be using for self-defense would actually be pretty low on the priority list.  But that’s not the topic here—this is limited specifically to concealed carry of a lethal-force-level tool for self-defense purposes.

If you followed Rule One, then you have a gun.  If you follow Rule Two, then you’ve practiced sufficiently such that you have a safe, efficient draw, and can put accurate shots on target.  Preferably quickly. AND you know the law sufficiently to realize when the situation merits a lethal-force response, and the constraints on you with respect to that response.

Sure, there is a TON more with respect to knowledge and skills that you can work on developing and learning—but at the very least (again, we are going in priority order here), once you have a gun, Rule Two is that you need to have the ability to 1) recognize when you need to use it to save your life, 2) clearly understand the legal requirements that need to be met prior to using it to save your life, and 3) have the ability to quickly and safely get it out and put accurate shots on target to safe your life.

How quick is “quickly”?  What do we mean by “accurate”?

No one agrees on that, really.  There are all sorts of standards, drills, and tests, written by all sorts of people, with all sorts of different points of view.  And worse yet, there is a HUGE difference between a “minimum standard,” what is considered “basic competency,” and what is considered “good solid skills.”  (Much less “highly skilled” or “advanced.”)  Those terms all mean different things to different people.

How good is “good enough”?  Truthfully, you are going to have to make your own decision on that, because what you hear as “good enough” is completely going to depend on who you are talking to, and what their background is…which may not match your situation or needs at all.

Here’s a place to start, though:  Can you, cold (no warmup, no dryfire), shoot a 100% on your state’s CCW shooting qualification?  (If your state doesn’t have one, use ones from the states around yours.  Someone in there has a state qualification.  If they don’t, use your state’s police firearms qualification.)

That qualification isn’t going to be rating “highly skilled” or necessarily even “competent” level with respect to gun skills.  However, 1) it will give you a place to start, if you can’t do that yet, and 2) if you have someone credible officially witness it and keep track of the target and scores, you ALSO now have a verified demonstration that you meet the basic skill requirements for CCW (or the same standards required of police officers) in your state, in case your skill ever comes into question in court.  (And I was just reminded that this idea originally came from Massad Ayoob, and I think it is a good one–particular if using the state LEO qualification course.)

You don’t want to stop there in your skill development, though.  For example, Nebraska’s CCW firearms qualification is laughably easy.  BUT…again, it gives you a place to start.  Nebraska’s police firearms qualification is also extremely easy (at least to pass it, though a 100% requires decent fundamentals) but it is a step up.  Can you do those?  Then you have a good start on the gun-handling skills.

Should you stop there?  In my opinion, no….but that really isn’t the point of Rule Two.  Rule Two says that you should know enough (and be practiced enough with your carry weapon and gear) to be able to get the gun out safely and efficiently and get accurate shots on target to at least a minimum standard.

Many people can’t.  For example:  If, using your CCW gear, you can’t get a passing score on the Nebraska Law Enforcement Firearms Qualification course of fire, then you aren’t following Rule Two yet.  The NE LEO Qual is straightforward, and if you have decent basic fundamentals, passing is simple.  Matter of fact, scoring a 100% isn’t hard.

(Example:  Ardena Shooting the Nebraska LEO Firearms Qualification  )

For the legal side—take a CCW class that does a GOOD job of covering the laws.  Take Chris Zeeb’s Legal Aspects of Lethal Force class.  Learn about Use of Force laws.

You’ve got to know when you can and cannot defend yourself with lethal force.  Going to prison for the rest of your life is NOT effective self-defense–you’ve got to know the law.

To follow Rule Two, you need to:

  • Have knowledge sufficient to recognize when you need to defend yourself with lethal force
  • Have knowledge sufficient to understand the requirements and constraints of legal use of lethal force
  • Have sufficient skill to safely and efficient draw and put accurate shots on target at speed.

If you don’t, then you still might be able to defend yourself.  But….you aren’t really prepared to do so, and may get yourself into deep legal trouble.  The ability to meet the basic requirements of Rule Two is what makes the separation between “gun owners” and “people prepared to defend themselves.”


Next time:  Rule Three: Choose the appropriate tools for the job.

Rule One of Concealed Carry…

I know that if you read articles or forums posts written by me, you will see phrases like “any caliber from 9mm through .45acp will work equally well” and “at least shoot a 9mm” crop up often.  There is a large, robust set of of research data showing those calibers, through handguns, will be functionally effective in the same manner to the same degree and can, in general, be relied upon to cause self-defense “stops” given adequate accuracy on the part of the shooter.

Does this mean I believe anyone who carries a smaller caliber than that isn’t going to be able to defend themselves?

Not at all.

Plenty of attackers in self-defense situations have been stopped by people with .22s.  And in the majority of self-defense situations involving defensive gun uses (DGUs) the attackers have been stopped without a shot being fired.  As such, the first rule of concealed carry is simply:  HAVE A GUN.

It you don’t….then you’ve failed the “concealed carry” portion of your test.  Hopefully, you’ll manage to pass the “unarmed defense” section, when you are attacked.  (I’ll note that section of the test is normally a LOT harder.)

So if what you carry is a two-shot .22 derringer, I’m not going to say you are wrong.  Do you carry it every day, everywhere?  Good, then you are obeying the first rule of concealed carry.

Does that mean I think you are making good choices regarding your concealed carry?  Well, that’s a separate issue.  While it is true that the vast majority of defensive gun uses end in either no shots fired or one shot fired, it is ALSO true that sometimes more is required.

That’s a different topic, though.  First Rule:  HAVE A GUN.  Carrying it doesn’t mean that magically you will be protected from harm, but having it means that you have the tool that most often ends self-defense situations without harm to you if used properly.*

Have a gun.

(Note:  the “if used properly” part is also important.  Again, that’s a different topic though.)

Next Rule:  Rule Two of Concealed Carry