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Choosing a Concealed-Carry Handgun

The subject of personal defense carry handguns is one I could write many pages about, but it all boils down to a few important factors to consider, the first of which is: What will you feel comfortable having strapped to your side or carrying in your handbag?

Concealed carry means CONCEALED. This means no portion of the handgun can be visible, nor can an outline of the weapon be visible under your clothes, as could happen if you were wearing a pair of tight pants.

Obtaining a concealed carry permit in the state of Florida is easy, and the cost is minimal. Take a class, fill out an application, pay a little money, wait a few weeks for the application to be processed, and soon you will be able to legally carry a concealed weapon. Most gun stores now offer classes, and they are also available at most gun shows.

There are also rules as to where you can not carry your concealed carry gun.

The following is a list of places where you are restricted from carrying a weapon or firearm – even if you have a license. Please note this is a simplified list, and areas marked with an asterisk (*) may have exceptions or additional restrictions.

See Section 790.06 (12), Florida Statutes for a complete list.

You are restricted from carrying a weapon or firearm, even if you have a concealed carry permit: any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05 (some place you probably shouldn’t be anyway); any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station; any detention facility, prison, or jail; any courthouse, any courtroom*; any polling place; any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district; any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof; any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms; any school administration building; any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption*; any elementary or secondary school facility; any area technical center; any college or university facility*; inside the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport*; any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law.

Now that we have gone over a few of the rules, let’s get down to which firearm would best suit your needs.

Think about how far away from a threat you might need to fire your concealed carry weapon. The average distance involved in self-defense handgun shooting is 20 feet or less. Most of the time it is much less.

Another consideration is the time you will have to react to a threat. The bad guy is never going to text you and tell you he is coming. If you do need to use your weapon, you will need to have it in your hand and be ready to defend yourself in a split second.

Based on these two factors, let’s now try to decide what we want to carry.

Long-barreled hunting handguns are not practical because they are usually too big. The barrel is too long and will probably get hung up on your clothes as you try to draw, so let’s look at handguns that are shorter and easier to conceal.

Handguns with a big recoil are not usually good for this job, because most people are very recoil sensitive and recoil will be a deterrent during practice.

Based on the above, I am going to eliminate any caliber that has a recoil heavier than that of a .44 magnum and any derringer with a caliber larger than .38 special.

I know some of you are saying, “A .44, .454 Casull and even a .50 AE are good concealed-carry guns,” but I’m writing this for the average person and not for the few who are not recoil sensitive.

For years, both law enforcement and the general public would only consider carrying a wheel gun (revolver) because of the perceived dependability of wheel guns over semi-autos.

In the past few decades, there have been many semi-auto handguns on the market that are just as dependable as the revolver and offer a larger ammunition capacity.

When I first started carrying a concealed handgun, it was a short-barrel (4 inches), 6-shot .357 magnum revolver.

I wore this in an inside-the-pants holster, on my side. It is a dependable, very accurate and powerful gun, but it is heavy. This gun weighs 42 ounces loaded and has a external hammer that was always getting hung up on my shirt or pants.

About 15 years ago, I decided to shop for a replacement for this carry gun. I researched for months, read many handgun ballistics charts and spoke with a few crime scene investigators. After much deliberation, I decided on a .45 ACP with a laser sight.

The reason I decided on this caliber is that it is a “man stopper.”

Sometimes you will hear the term “knock-down power” used in reference to guns. This term means how much energy your gun has in foot pounds when it hits your target and how effective the caliber is in “knocking down” your target.

The .45 caliber fires a slow-moving, heavy bullet that will generally not pass through the threat, therefore all of the energy from the bullet is transferred to the threat.

Meanwhile, some other calibers, like the 9mm, deliver a small bullet that is very fast-moving and most of the time will pass through the target.

When a bullet passes through the target, it has not expended all of its “knock-down energy” into the target and therefore could possibly hit an innocent person.

Here are some of the things I considered when deciding what carry gun would suit me the best.

I wanted a gun with an internal hammer. Almost all of the modern-day, semi-auto handguns have internal hammers, and there are many revolvers that have internal hammers. This was a factor for me, because I did not like the way my old carry gun was hanging up when I tried to get it out of the holster.

I wanted a gun that was lighter than my old carry gun, because most of the time I wear short pants with no belt, and I did not want the weight of the gun to pull my pants down.

Your choice might be different, depending on where you are going to carry your gun. Before you decide on your carry gun, think about what kind of holster you want and where you are going to wear the gun. You might even want a gun you can put in your pocket.

I wanted a caliber with the power to take the fight out of the bad guy with one or two well-placed shots.

I wanted a gun that would accommodate a laser sight.

I also wanted a gun that shot a bullet that would not pass through the bad guy and hit a bystander.

Now I had to find a handgun I liked, that: I could wear on my side comfortably, would fit my hand, was not too heavy and was dependable.

Handguns chambered in .45 ACP are like colors of the rainbow – there are a pile of companies, shapes, styles and magazine capacities to choose from.

I must have visited every gun shop in my surrounding area to compile a list of which guns fit my hand the best when gripped. When I wrapped my hand around the grip, I wanted it to fill my hand so that all of my fingers were on the grip.

I handled many that left my pinky finger dangling like I was drinking tea in a fancy tea room (and this was not comfortable).

Having a handgun that fits your hand and is comfortable to hold is one of the most important factors in a self defense handgun. If you ever do encounter a life-threatening situation, you will not have time to get out your checklist.

Removing the gun from the holster, acquiring your target (pointing the gun at the threat) and having your finger on the trigger – ready to fire – all have to be second nature.

After compiling this list, I then narrowed it down to the guns that were smooth on the sides. I did not want a gun that had rough edges or an external safety to hang up on my clothes.

This eliminated a few more guns until I was down to a manageable list that I could try shooting. I visited a couple of ranges that rented guns and, after spending a few dollars, I had decided on my next concealed-carry gun.

My research and experience have shown me there are many .45 ACP semi-auto handguns out there, but I chose a Glock as my primary concealed-carry gun.

I then wanted my wife to have a carry gun. After she took the concealed-carry course, we purchased her a .38 Special Smith and Wesson model 442 with a Crimson Trace laser sight grip.

In my opinion, this is one of the best pocket or concealed-carry guns for people who do not want to shoot a gun with a heavy recoil. The .38 is known as a good self-defense weapon and has been used nationwide for generations by law enforcement and civilians for self defense.

The S&W 442 holds five rounds and weighs in at only 15 ounces. With the addition of the laser sight, all you have to do is grip the gun, point and when you pull the trigger the bullet will hit the little red dot on the target.

Like many others out there who have a concealed-carry permit, I own and carry different guns, depending on the clothes I am wearing.

I sometimes find myself wearing loose pants and do not want to carry the Glock, so I slip a smaller gun into my pants pocket, like the small, lightweight Kel Tec P3AT .380 auto. This gun weighs in at only 8 ounces, holds 6 + 1 rounds and, to date, I have run well over 1,000 rounds through it without a misfeed or misfire.

However, this pistol did not fit my hand, so I put a grip extension on it that allowed me to get most of my hand on the grip, thus making the gun easier to shoot and giving me more control.

There are many handguns that will work just fine for your needs as a carry gun. Calibers from .22 rimfire to as large as you can carry concealed and be comfortable with. The .40 S&W, .44 Special, .357 Sig, .32 magnum, .380 auto, .38 special and .22 magnum are just a few calibers that will work as a concealed carry gun.

Of course, some will work better than others, but all will work better than NO gun at all.

After you have chosen your handgun, you MUST practice! This entails running a bunch of ammo through the gun so you will get comfortable with it.

Do not get hung up on what caliber is the most effective in a self-defense situation. Be more concerned with which gun fits your hand the best and is easiest to shoot and hit your target.

In most states it is illegal to hunt big game with a .22 rimfire because the “powers that be” feel this is not a large enough caliber to dispatch the animal humanely, BUT a pile of big game has been killed using a .22 WITH WELL-PLACED SHOTS.

You need to be able to shoot well and be comfortable with your gun. The rest will follow.

If you do need to defend yourself or family, the action you take has to be second nature. Bad guys do not give you a chance to get ready. You have to be prepared, and this takes practice.

I hope you never have to shoot someone that is threatening your life, but one thing to remember is: “I feared for my LIFE!”

Don’t be a victim! Calling 911 is for cleaning up the mess – not to help you! That cell phone you carry will not save your life unless it is loaded with ammo.

Here are two links that might help you decide on your concealed carry gun:

http://licgweb.doacs.state.fl.us/weapons/index.html/

http://www.crimsontrace.com/

Here is a short list of firearm companies that I think make quality products that are moderately priced: Beretta USA, Browning North America, Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Inc., FNH, Glock, HK, Kahr, Kel-Tec, North American Arms (NAA), Ruger, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Taurus USA and Walther.

Remember, if all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings.

Shoot Safe, Shoot Straight!

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Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”