Where To Start

Welcome to the wonderful world of using a gun for self defense. I know that getting started with carrying for self defense can feel complicated and overwhelming so I’ve broken down the basics into three parts:

  1. Purchasing a Handgun
  2. Selecting a Holster
  3. Getting Training

At the end of each section, I’ve included additional resources to get you up and running with minimal fuss.

 

Purchasing a Gun:

How To Choose A Gun

When it comes to choosing a handgun for concealed carry there are a couple of things to consider.

  1. How it fits your hand.
  2. What caliber are you comfortable shooting and paying for ammunition to practice with.
  3. How easy is it to conceal.

Those statements might cause you to scratch your head. They are often misunderstood or completely overlooked.

Fitting A Gun To Your Hand

When it comes to choosing a handgun for concealed carry there are a couple of things to consider.

  1. How it fits your hand.
  2. What caliber are you comfortable shooting and paying for ammunition to practice with.
  3. How easy is it to conceal.

Those statements might cause you to scratch your head. They are often misunderstood or completely overlooked.

Choosing A Caliber

There are a lot of myths and stories around caliber. If you listen to the gun guys you’ll soon learn this is a topic that can start bar fights. Here’s what you need to know:

In 90% of defense situations, caliber didn’t mean a thing. In the other 10% it meant everything.

So what’s a girl to do?

Choose the caliber that you can get accurate hits with. See, it’s all fun and games for the boys to go out and shoot their .45’s. But often they can’t manage to hit the broadside of a barn because they don’t have good recoil control and follow through. For a new shooter, this can be magnified 10 fold. Shooting a caliber you can be reliably accurate with is essential for self-defense.

Does this mean I think you should shoot a .22? NO! It means you need to try some different guns, and different calibers and see how they feel to shoot and how easily you can control the gun. What you might be surprised to find out is that the smaller guns like a Ruger LCP .380 are actually more difficult to control than a larger gun with a larger caliber. If they’re difficult to control, and hard to shoot, you’ll be less likely to practice with them because it’s not fun.

Next you’ll find that ammunition isn’t cheap. But in order to learn to shoot accurately, you need to take classes and practice. What can you afford to shoot? For me, I’ve chosen a 9mm. I believe it’s the cheapest round with enough stopping power to trust my life to. With good self defense ammunition, they’ve found that there is very little difference between .380, 9mm, .40, and .45 in stopping power.

But what about the 10%? In that study they found that in situations with a dedicated attacker the larger calibers made all the difference in stopping the threat. This means you should carry the largest caliber you can shoot accurately and afford to practice with to gain that accuracy.

Concealability

Finally, after we’ve found a gun that fits our hand, in a caliber we can shoot accurately and afford to practice with, we need to decide if it’s something we can conceal on our body everyday.

The things that will make a gun easier to conceal are:

  • a single stack magazine – will give the gun a thinner profile
  • shorter grip – won’t stick out as much
  • shorter barrel – doesn’t take up as much space on your body
  • smooth, rounded profile – is less likely to look like a gun under your clothes

My favorite gun to shoot is my Sig Sauer P320 – it holds 16 rounds and has a wonderful trigger! I have a concealed carry holster for it, but it’s not something that fits under most of my wardrobe.

Here’s the thing that men don’t usually understand – when it comes to guns, one size does not fit all!

I’m sorry to tell you this, but the gun that follows the first two guidelines above probably won’t work with everything in your wardrobe. Now what?

Buy the best gun that will fit into the largest part of your wardrobe first, then when you can afford it, buy another one, or two, or three. :)

Additional Resources:

Selecting a Holster:

Essentials

There are four essential components to a good holster:

  1. It must cover the trigger guard completely.
  2. It holds the gun securely in place
  3. Concealable, but allows quick, easy access to the gun
  4. It’s comfortable 

Let’s look at each of these components in greater detail

Covers The Trigger Guard

The trigger is what makes your gun go bang. It essential to that your holster cover the trigger guard in a way that makes it impossible for something to press the trigger.

Unfortunately, in the never ending frenzy to create a comfortable holster people are cutting corners on this essential safety step. NEVER purchase a holster that would allow the trigger to be pressed accidentally. Some holsters that are bad would be made out of flimsy material, not cover the trigger at all and/or only hang on a clip attached to the grip, or poking up the barrel.

Don’t be fooled by those who say that your finger is your safety. Triggers are pulled by all kinds of things, including sticks, other people’s bodies, pieces of clothing, etc.

Holds The Gun Securely

A holster is designed to help you carry your weapon with you. It needs to stay where you put it. The best holsters will be designed for your specific gun. This will ensure that your holster doesn’t move around on your body making it difficult to conceal, and it will keep the gun in the holster if you should end up in a fight for your life on the ground or upside down.

Jon Hodoway is famous for saying:

If you spent more on your lunch than you did on your holster, you bought a pouch, not a holster.

It’s true. A proper holster is going to cost you a bit. Probably more than $50. But having the gun where you put it when you need it, is worth something… how valuable is your life or that of your loved ones?

Concealable And Ease Of Access

You can have a holster that hides your gun against your body securely, but if you can’t get to it when you need it… well, that’s a problem.

With any holster you need to ask yourself, how will I gain access to this gun and can I do it quickly? 

With each gun and holster combination, and lifestyle there are different answers to this question. Sometimes you’re going to have to compromise and go with a deep concealment option, that won’t be ideal for getting to quickly. This is better than not having a gun at all, but probably shouldn’t be your standard carry option that you bet your life on daily.

As I mentioned above in purchasing a gun, there is no one size fits all option when it comes to guns – this applies to holsters too. Choose an option that allows the quickest, most secure access that works with the majority of your wardrobe, then add different holsters for specialty outfits.

When it comes to wardrobe, don’t panic!

In most situations, you do not need to revamp your wardrobe to carry your gun. You also don’t need to buy dozens of cardigans and tactical vests. There are holster options that will work with almost every wardrobe option, even shorts and tank tops. The biggest secret to concealment, is realizing that the little bumps aren’t as noticeable as you think they are.

Try watching other people with body types similar to you. Do their clothes have bumps and wrinkles? Yep. There are some choices that will camouflage those bumps easier than other options. Try darker clothing, shirts with patterns, layers that fit your style, etc. We have a Pinterest board with outfits we feel like you could conceal a gun under. Check it out for more ideas.

Comfortable

This is the final piece of the puzzle and where many people get in trouble. Never let comfort overrule safety considerations.

As women, I know that we won’t wear our guns if we can’t find a comfortable way to do so. This being said, I believe there are comfortable, safe options for every body type. We’ve listed our pick for the Top 5 Holsters for Women in a guide just for you! Grab your copy at the bottom of this page.

There is an awkwardness that comes when you first start carrying that will go away with time. Don’t mistake this for discomfort. You’re going to notice the gun, it’s going to feel a little weird, but it shouldn’t hurt or rub anything raw. Most holsters are able to be worn in different ways and locations. Experiment to find the position that works best for you.

Common positions that are comfortable for women are:

  • behind the hip
  • infront of the hip, near the appendix
  • in a cross carry position in front of the hip, opposite of your firing hand

Most women, do not like to conceal a gun directly on their hip – especially if we have generous curves.

Additional Resources:

Get Some Training:

(and how to know what to look for in an instructor)

Instructors & Training

Finding the right training and instructors can be a challenge but it’s worth giving some thought and research to, considering you’re going to bet your life on the information you recieve.

The first thing to understand is that there are different levels of instruction:

  1. Basic Handgun Safety
  2. Concealed Handgun Permits
  3. Defensive Handgun Instruction
Basic Handgun Safety

All of your NRA classes fall in the first category of instruction. These classes are designed to familiarize you with how guns work and teach you not to shoot yourself or others accidentally. They are the gold standard for handgun safety, but understand that your NRA instructor could have gotten his credentials 20 years ago and not taken any professional training since then. These classes teach basic skills, rarely will they include how to fight for your life with your gun. Depending on your goals with a handgun, this might not be a good place to end your education.

Concealed Handgun Permits

These classes are based on the requirements of your state, or that of the permit you’re looking at acquiring, and they may or may not have a shooting requirement to get a permit to carry concealed.

The goal of this type of training is to make sure you understand the laws pertaining to the use of deadly force in the state your permit is issued. 

We encourage you to get your concealed carry permit. We think this is a wonderful goal, but don’t confuse getting this piece of paper with getting self defense handgun training. At the most, what you get is a basic handgun safety class, and at the worst, you won’t even handle a gun.

Defensive Handgun Instruction

There are some basic handgun skills that you can learn in a NRA class, or other beginning handgun class. Maybe your husband, father, sister, or friend has helped you get to this point. Your concealed handgun permit class might have taught them to you too. Things like loading and unloading a gun, the pieces and parts of a gun, how to stand in front of a target and pull the trigger, etc. Hopefully you learned good safe techniques, and now you’re ready to learn to defend yourself and your loved ones with a gun.

If you haven’t taken any classes at all, most quality self defense instructors will have a basic class you can take. The benefit to this is you can be sure that you haven’t picked up any bad habits.

Finding an instructor:

Ask around for recommendations – ask lots of people, people like yourself. You see, there are different kinds of instructors and what’s a good fit for one person, might not be a good fit for another person.

I’m going to suggest that you look for an instructor that has designed their courses around the types of threats a civilian is most likely to encounter. The edutainment classes (jumping out of flaming helicopters) are fun but will be around after you’ve learned to defend your life.

Ask your instructor when they last took a professional class themselves. Look at their training resume. Do you really want to trust your life to someone who took one 2-3 day class and opened a business as an instructor?

The self defense industry has changed a lot over the years. It’s important, just like in any profession, that instructors continue their own education. Consider the possibility that just because someone is/was law enforcement or military does not automatically give them the knowledge to teach you how to defend your life in a civilian environment. Knowing how to fire a gun in the process of doing their job, does not make someone an instructor.

I need to share my thoughts on women teaching women to shoot. I’m all for it, as long as the instructor is qualified to teach what she’s teaching. Currently there is a lot of emphasis on getting women a basic NRA certification and/or 2-3 day instructor course, then turning them loose to teach other women to defend their lives. This type of education does not qualify anyone to teach other human being to fight for their life with a gun. It qualifies them to teach basic handgun safety. Let’s not confuse the two types of classes. 

After the basic gun handling skills here are some common defensive handgun skills you’ll want to learn:

  • avoiding violence
  • pre attack indicators and situational awareness
  • drawing from a holster when your gun is concealed
  • emergency reloading
  • one handed and weak handed shooting
  • using cover and concealment
  • moving while shooting
  • decision making while shooting
  • defending against multiple targets
  • shooting from compromised positions
  • handgun retention
  • close quarters fighting
  • managing the aftermath of a deadly force incident

As you can see, there’s a lot more to defensive handgun use than loading, unloading, and firing your weapon on a square range at a stationary target.

You don’t have to learn it all from one instructor in one weekend – I maintain, that you can’t. Learning to defend your life with a gun is like taking piano lessons. Your first lesson will just teach you the pieces and parts of the piano. Slowly, you’ll learn to read music, and where to place your fingers on the keys. It’s going to take time, practice, and a good instructor to help you reach a level where you’re confident to perform in front of a crowd.

To help you out, we’ve created a training resource page with instructors we know to be good, quality defensive handgun instructors.

Remember, this is your life you’re betting on. Choose wisely.

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