So you want to carry a firearm outside of your home...

An H&K VP9 encased in a StealthGear holster attached to a Magpul Tejas El Burro Belt

It’s one thing to purchase a firearm, take it home, and use it on the range occasionally. It’s quite another thing entirely if you wish to carry it on your person outside of your home…

As of this writing, each and every state in the Union, as well as the District of Columbia, have a path for citizens to carry a firearm outside of the home. 42 states are shall-issue, which basically means that if you meet the qualifying conditions (usually an age requirement, and not being a felon…), you will be issued a carry permit. The remainder, as well as DC, are may-issue, which means that even if you qualify for a permit, you might not be issued one, with no further explanation given. Several states are also “Constitutional Carry”, which means no permit is required to carry a firearm outside the home, provided the carrier is legally allowed to own a firearm.

Since RGG enjoys a wide audience across all states, I’m not going to nitpick the legalities of obtaining a permit, especially considering it’s been done by the wonderful folks over at handgunlaw.us.

What I’ll be discussing here is the generalities, and the realities of carrying a firearm outside of your home.

Why you should carry outside of the home

Simple. Sometimes trouble finds you, and you can’t choose when or where that will happen. It’s a simple matter of preparedness, basically. If you are going to own a firearm, you may as well carry it outside of the home. Yes, I’m aware this is nigh-impossible in New Jersey and New York City - I’ll help fight the good fight on the behalf of the denizens of those areas, though.

What to do before seeking a permit or choosing to carry

First, figure out what firearm you wish to carry. Semi-automatic pistol? Classic revolver? If you are experienced in firearms and just happen to not have your carry permit sorted, this is an elementary question. If you are new to firearms, it gets a little more complicated. My personal recommendations are to stick with a known major manufacturer, such as GLOCK, SIG Sauer, or Smith & Wesson, preferably in the 9mm caliber.

Why a major manufacturer and why 9mm? With a major manufacturer, you’ll enjoy an entire universe of support, either via the manufacturer, or a whole world of online resources such as forums and social media channels. And I recommend 9mm to start, as it is the most forgiving major caliber, and it is easy to find cheap ammunition with which to train with. Also, most qualified instructors will be familiar with a firearm from a major manufacturer, especially GLOCK, if they happened to have served in law enforcement.

What to do when you seek your carry permit or choose to carry

Most states that issue firearms carry permits require some form of training or another to satisfy the permit requirement. Whether it’s up to the government to legislate a barrier to the right to keep and bear arms is for another discussion, but one thing that isn’t really a discussion point is the need for training. Train beyond the legally mandated requirements. Or if there are none, train to a level of proficiency that’s commensurate with what you hope to accomplish. My personal recommendation is to set a goal of at least being as competent as your state’s law enforcement agency officers. Those requirements are available online, and you can download them for study and practice.

As for an instructor, seek out, at the minimum, one who is NRA-certified. The NRA provides a handy listing over at nrainstructors.org. Many of the instructors in here will have law enforcement and military experience, and some don’t. However, the NRA certification ensures the instructors maintain a level of competence to teach the relevant material. In other words, don’t discount civilian instructors. They may just have decades of real-world experience. Your instructor should be able to replicate whatever it is you wish to learn.

The class taught should include live-fire exercises with your own firearm or a comparable one issued by the instructor, and should also spend a significant amount of time going over the legal ins-and-outs of owning and carrying a firearm. You are not truly armed unless you know the law.

The instructor should also help facilitate the permit process if there is one, i.e. help you fill out the paperwork, and so on.

A concealed weapon or firearm license from the State of Florida

Things to consider when you carry

The magic moment arrives. Your permit arrives in the mail, or is issued down at the police station. Or you live in a Constitutional carry state and you just choose to wear your gun today. Congrats.

Your instructor taught you the ins and outs of the law, and the basics of firing your weapon. Hopefully you’ve kept up on the training and sought out more advanced classes as well. But, that’s not all. There’s a few things to consider.

Printing

‘Printing’ is when the outline of your gun is visible through your clothing. In most jurisdictions, this isn’t a crime, but it can cause undue issues, especially in areas where the sight of a firearm on a citizen can cause irrational panic (ahem, Miami Beach, ahem) amongst the population. You’ll have to make some adjustments to your wardrobe. For the guys, ditch the club-attire T-shirts and go a size up. Darker colors or patterns are preferred. It hides the outline better and breaks things up. Same for pants/shorts. 1 size larger to accommodate the firearm and a proper holster. Ladies, same idea, in a way. I have noticed there are fashionable ladies’ shirts which conceal very well. Shop around, ask other ladies who carry. Check out The Well Armed Woman for female-specific advice.

Get a proper holster

Those $10 generic jobs at the gun show? Avoid them. You want a holster that fits your gun, and fits you. Truth be told, you’re gonna blow through a few holsters until you find the right one. For me, I went through 3 until I settled on one produced by StealthGear USA. On average, you’ll probably spend between $50-$100 on a good holster. If you just dumped $500 on a gun, and $200 on some ammo, paying for a holster should be a non-issue. And please don’t just cram it down your waistband and hope for the best.

Be aware of your firearm

At first, you’ll be painfully aware of it. You’ll think everybody knows you are carrying, and you’re gonna cringe when a cop walks by. That’s normal. Simple fact is, you are engaging in the exercise of your Constitutional (and natural) right to keep and bear arms. No one can take that away from you. As for other citizens, most people are too tied up in their phones and personal business to notice what you are doing. You’re just out and about, like they are. As for the police? If they notice and say something, thank them and be on your way. Adjust yourself in the bathroom or your vehicle. Don’t fumble with your gun in public. Also, be aware of exposure. If you stretch up, and your firearm is revealed, there could be an issue. Most states are ‘OK’ with brief exposure, and it’s a non-issue in open-carry states. Again, this is where wardrobe selection comes in handy.

Know where you can and cannot go while under arms

Know your state’s laws on where you can and cannot go while carrying. Typically this involves places like courthouses, bars/nightclubs, schools, and so forth. Know the rules so you don’t risk a fine and/or arrest.

Be aware of your surroundings

You’ve got the means to defend yourself, but those means are useless if you are just pecking away at your phone or staring off into space. Having a good situational awareness is critical, even if you aren’t armed.

Your firearm isn’t a magical forcefield

You’re not the only guy strolling around with a gun. There’s probably other good guys, and bad guys, walking around armed in your vicinity. Your gun is like a fire extinguisher. It isn’t going to prevent the fire, it’s going to help you suppress it before it does any real damage. Don’t take chances and go down that dark alley just because you have a gun, for example. If you stuck to safe neighborhoods before you carried a gun, keep sticking to those neighborhoods. Don’t go looking for trouble. The gun is there in case trouble finds you. The first rule of a gunfight is not to get into one to begin with.

Keep training

Keep training. Your skills can diminish over time. Hit the range monthly at a minimum. Take more advanced classes. Learn to shoot on the move, learn to shoot moving targets (bad guys dont’ stay still), learn how to use a rifle or a shotgun. Learn how to secure and clear your own home. Besides, training with firearms is fun.

I’m always around for advice

While I’m not a certified trainer at this time (working on it though…) I’m always available for any questions or considerations, no matter how small. While I don’t consider my advice binding or ‘expert’, I am more than happy to convey it, or refer you to a true expert. Reach out with any questions. The right to keep and bear arms is secured by us being knowledgable about it from top to bottom.