One of the things I’ve added to my supply of shooting gear is a new shooter bag: It’s pretty common to see safety gear on the prize table of shooting matches, and I’ve been fortunate to win enough to stock a small bag with the stuff I need (besides a gun and ammo) to introduce someone to the world of the shooting sports.
The bag I use is pretty boring: It’s not some über-tactical gear bag that looks like it just got off the plane from Khandahar, it’s a plain ol’ cloth shopping bag (albeit with a 5.11 logo on it) that wouldn’t look out of place at Wal-Mart. Why that bag? If you’ve got a friend who’s nervous about guns but wants to learn, you don’t want to show up looking like you’re a member of Seal Team Six.
Inside the bag is enough stuff for at least three people (and myself) to have fun on the range:
- Eye Protection: I like these Peltors because they fit over eyeglasses, and I try to have a smaller pair of some kind for kids and smaller-sized shooters as well.
- Ear Protection: I have a spare set of inexpensive electronic noise-reducing earmuffs that I keep in the bag because they allow people to hear range commands but still protect your ears, and I back that up with a couple of pairs of regular earmuffs and a whole bunch of in-ear foam plugs as well.
- Targets: Paper plates are great for new shooters because they’re non-threatening and familiar (and the fact they’re about the same size as a center-mass is a good thing, too). Reactive targets like steel plates are good becuase they give instant feedback, however, they’re hard to fit into a shopping bag… 😀
- Miscellaneous Gear: A staple gun, extra staples, sunscreen… add and subtract from this as you see fit. I’ve also tossed in a spare NSSF First Shots book to give them something to read during downtime and some tissues and bottled water to help with thirsty days on an outdoor range.
And one more thing: Make sure you tell your friends to dress for the range before you go shooting. T-shirts and running shoes are great, but avoid scoop-neck shirts and sandals. Trust me, you do NOT want a hot piece brass fresh out of your gun falling in between your toes.
Don’t ask me how I know this. 😀
A few months ago, I mentioned that I carry in my home just like I carry outside of my home. Yes, I have a quick-access gun safe and I use it at night to store my CCW gun, but day in, day out, I keep my carry gun on me except when I’m wrestling with my sons or some other activity.
Why? Because it’s faster to engage a threat with a gun on my hip or in my pocket is faster than any off-body storage method, that’s why.
Before I began my career as a photographer, I worked a few years behind the counter of local camera stores, getting to know the industry and the gear. When someone bought a camera from us, we made sure they bought an “accessory kit” to go with it to help start them off right, and the store made almost as much profit on the kit as we did on the cameras.
And it’s must the same for a self-defense firearm. I’m assuming you’ve purchased some kind of compact or full-size handgun for protecting yourself or your home, and if you’ve just bought a gun like that, there are a few things I’d highly recommend you purchase along with your new gun that will help you enjoy it to its fullest.
A gun without ammo is an expensive and rather unwieldy club. You’ll need two kinds of ammo for your gun; Defensive ammunition and practice ammunition.
Defensive ammunition is something like jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammunition that’s designed to expand and not punch through what it’s being shot into. You want this because if, God forbid, you need to defend your life, you need ammunition that stops the threat, not punches a hole in it and moves along to hurt someone else.
Practice ammunition is usually Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition that’s cheaper and easier to produce than JHP ammo. At a bare minimum, you should purchase three times as many rounds of defensive ammo as your gun holds, so you can be certain your ammo of choice works smoothly in your gun, and purchase at least 100 rounds of practice ammo so you can learn the basics of how your gun operates (and plan on spending a LOT more on ammo after that.).
- A Cleaning Kit
Guns are dirty things. Gunpowder doesn’t burn up 100%, and the oil that makes a gun operate smoothly attracts dust and grime. Get an inexpensive cleaning kit and plan on using it often.
- Some way to safely secure a loaded gun
No, NOT a trigger lock. It’s too easy to make your gun go BANG while fiddling with a trigger lock, and a gun that’s unloaded and under the bed is a pretty useless defensive weapon. Secure your gun with a good locking case, or better yet, a quick-access safe, and will be there when you need it and safely stored when you don’t.
Unless you’re Rob Leatham and were born with a .45 in your hand, shooting a gun accurately is not something we know how to innately accomplish. Getting training as you start your journey with firearms ownership will help eliminate or reduce bad habits done the line.
I’m always amazed when I walk into local gun stores and I don’t see them putting together package deals that offer new gun owners a starter kit that give them everything they need to enjoy their new guns right from the start.
Okay, gun stores: Add-on accessory kits have worked for camera stores for decades. Get on it.
Or, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Concealed Carry, For People Who Aren’t Complete Idiots
You’ve decided you want to take responsibility for your personal safety and carry a firearm with you on a regular basis. This is one of the most adult decisions you can make, because you’ve realized that there WILL NOT be a cop around when you need one. In fact, criminals are really, really good at making sure there’s no cops around when their potential victims need one: That’s why they’re called “criminals” and not “felons”.
This isn’t going to be a post about equipment or training, it’s about getting yourself ready to carry a gun wherever and whenever it’s permitted. I’m going to assume you’re one of thousands and thousands of people out there who own a gun and have recently acquired a concealed carry permit, but you’re not sure if you want to carry your gun all the time.
Which you do. We’ll get to why you want to do that in a minute. Let’s start off with the how. And please realize that I’m not a lawyer or someone in who’s served in the military or police. What I am, however, is a person who’s gone down the road you’re about to travel.
If you don’t have a holster for your gun, buy one.
Many a pixel has been plotted over which kind of holster works best, but for starters, I’d suggest an Outside The Waistband (OWB) holster from a “name brand” manufacturer like Galco, Bianchi, Comp-Tac or Blade-Tech. And wear something to cover it, like an unbuttoned shirt or light jacket.
Plan on buying another after that one, because holsters are kinda like music: What works for me probably won’t work for you, and I change what I listen to depending on my surroundings and who I’m with. Same thing with how I carry a gun: I change what I carry and how I carry it depending on the circumstances I’m in. In general, though, I listen to 80’s alternative and carry inside the waist (IWB) on my right hip. I carry there consistently because I don’t want to have to think about where my gun is if I need it, and I’ve learned through buying a bunch of holsters that IWB carry is what I like best.
Holsters aren’t an option. You want a holster because it’s just about the only way to carry a gun safely: Not only is sticking a gun into your waistband unsafe for others, you can also lose some things that are very dear to you if an accident occurs. As added bonus, having a holster for your gun is one way cops know you’re on their side if they have to stop and frisk you.
Don’t carry just your gun.
How will you call the cops if don’t have your phone? How will know if what you’re facing is a mugger or grandma on a dark night if you don’t have flashlight? There’s four things you need to carry with you besides your gun and holster and I’ve listed them over here.
Learn the laws of your state first.
It’s up to you to know the circumstances and consequences of carrying a concealed weapon in your state. Can you carry in schools? Churches? What happens if you walk into a business with a “No Guns Allowed” sign? Is there such a thing as businesses that can ban guns in your state? Can you carry a gun into a nuclear power station or military base? (Short answer: No you don’t, that’s a VERY bad idea.).
Alan Korwin is a leading author on gun laws, and he has several books on the gun laws of America that are “must haves” for anyone who owns a gun, much less wants to carry one with them.
Also, I recommend getting to know a lawyer in your area who deals with firearms, and signing up for one of the self-defense insurance programs out there BEFORE you need their services.
Get to know your gun and use it safely.
Chances are, you had to pass a shooting qualification to get your concealed carry permit, but if you can’t remember the last time you practiced, it’s probably time to head to the range. And learn the rules of gun safety as if your life depends on it, because, well, it does.
Think about what you’re getting, and what you’re giving up.
As my friend Caleb said, carrying a firearm means giving up the luxury to be angry. If you carry a sidearm, you have to consider the results of your actions and reactions a whole lot more carefully than if you don’t.
What are you getting in return? You’re getting the ability to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones on the worst day of your lives. If being angry means more to you than that, please, for love of God and everyone around you, don’t carry a gun.
Why carry a gun all the time.
Now we come down to the crux of the matter. The simple fact of the matter is, you don’t get to choose when you’ll need it. If you think you’re going somewhere where you might need a gun, DON”T GO THERE. Cops have SWAT teams to go places where they don’t feel safe, you don’t have that luxury.
Criminals don’t play by your rules. Once you accept that, and learn to see the world how they might see it, you’ll be safer. We call that sort of thing “situational awareness” and it means the difference between having to use your gun and not having to use it.
Think of it this way: Have you been in a car accident? Did that accident happen when you expected it? Do you wear a seat belt only when you expect an accident to happen?
So why carry a gun only when you think there’s danger around?
How to carry a gun all the time.
Step One: Carry a gun with you all the time.
Step Two: There is no Step Two.
I know that’s kinda silly, but that’s about all there is to it. Start by wearing your gun around the house, and carry it loaded, because an unloaded gun is kinda useless, isn’t it? It’s going to feel a bit weird at first to have a gun hanging off your hip. Relax, you’ll get used to it. Then wear it outside the house on something you do everyday.
We call it The WalMart Walk, but what it is doing something you’re used to doing in a way you’re not used to doing it. And don’t worry, your gun isn’t showing and no, no one else besides you is freaking out because you’re carrying a gun. In fact, I can predict right now what will happen the first time you walk outside the store with a concealed handgun on you.
Absolutely nothing at all. So again, relax.
Just be confident that you are now your own first responder. And stay safe. And have fun.
Here’s a simple tip that could save you a great deal of money and heartache. Before you leave for your next trip to the range, make sure you include your contact info in your range bag, rifle case, spotting scope case and any other gear you’ll be taking with you. An index card, sticker or a piece of paper with your name, email address and/or phone number is all you need to include in your case or bag to exponentially increase the chances of recovering your important belongings, should you ever leave something behind.
Even if you’re only taking a couple of items with you, or you believe you will never make the mistake of forgetting something, I would highly recommend doing it anyway. I consider myself a responsible person, but I accidentally left my competition belt out at the range last year. I was VERY fortunate that the match director found it and sent an email blast out to those that shot the match that day.
While there’s no guarantee you’ll get your stuff back, the shooting community is by and large some of the kindest and most honest group you’ll ever be a part of, and I know for a fact that they will go out of there way to try and reunite a lost item with its owner. Let’s all make it easier for each other by adding contact information to anything that’s going out to the range.