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Do I need a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) for the class?
No, you don’t. This is an excellent class to take before you apply for your license. Many don’t know that getting a CHL will ONLY acquaint you with the laws of TX for carry.
In addition there will be a shooting “test” required. Depending on who does your training, they may require some accuracy while others couldn’t care less other than can you shoot in the general direction of down range.
After Level I you can walk into the class with confidence either way. Plus, this class will also help you figure out out what kind of equipment you need for CHL daily. You’ll save more in avoiding buying things that won’t work for you well than the class will cost you x10. Trust me on this. I’ve bought and discarded numerous guns and holsters and magazine carriers and… well you get the idea.
Take at least Level I, better yet I&II and then start your CHL quest so you can be set with equipment to begin with.
What caliber of gun is best to buy, carry and bring?
It will always be the gun you can handle, that fits your hand size and that you have the strength to manipulate well. If it doesn’t fit you, you won’t use enough to ever learn to use it well.
As you might guess I can’t tell you about what gun works best for you or what caliber of gun you should use. Also consider a hand cannon won’t conceal all that well under a light blouse.
- If you don’t have a gun already that can be best. Let me know and I can have one available for you for class. I charge a $10 cleaning fee. You’ll need to call me and I’ll quiz you a bit to determine what might best fit your requirements, body type and size. You’ll need to bring your own ammunition, either .380 or 9mm depending on the gun.
- If you have a choice, bring the gun you enjoy shooting the most and are most accurate with. The longer the barrel the better. You will always shoot the most with the one you enjoy shooting the most. Guns come in 3 basic sizes, sub-compact, compact and full size, with many variations along the way. Any of those will work for the class and what you have you might find out you don’t really like that much anymore. You’ll have a chance to try others during class just to experiment if you like. I recommend you bring to class the largest you have that also has a holster and magazines/mag holster. After a few hundred rounds you’ll have a more enjoyable day. A small .38 revolver, not so much. I sold mine, hated that thing.
Tell me more about caliber of gun recommendations.
This question is a sticky wicket. It’s really all about personal preference. Shoot the caliber you shoot best. In Level I&II you may not know what that is yet. What I write next can start a verbal caliber war on many forums and I can’t give you all the evidence behind what I’ll briefly explain here because it would take a book.
What I can share with you is the conclusions I’ve arrived at after much reading, recommendations from LE trainers and FBI reports plus students I’ve worked with and, of course, my own experience.
First let me explain the phrase “stopping power”. “One of the handgunning’s most pressing questions has damned few solid answers.” – David Spaulding. If you want to go into depth on it see his full article “What You Need to Know About Stopping Power”.
Here is the short short answer: No bullet or caliber of bullet has “stopping power” built in. Unless you hit the medulla oblongata located in the brainstem, about the size of a walnut, or sever the spinal column, the attacker may well keep coming. Those are tough shots at any distance. When a bullet enters the body the attacker might not have seen the movies where he has to fall down now.
What normally happens is that the bullet has to hit something that causes him or her to “bleed out” enough to be rendered unconscious. The answer then is based on the size of the round and how many rounds there are that start the bleeding process inside. As you might image, a .22 round can be deadly but it will take longer for the attacker to know he’s dead because he’s bleeding from smaller holes.
- .22 caliber: This is occasionally the caliber of choice for individuals with weak hand strength who are unable to pull the slide back on a larger caliber. “Most of the time” I can show you how to rack a larger caliber than you think you can. If you physically can’t go larger, then go with what you can do and that’s fine. A .22 is a very small bullet. this means that normally it will do the least amount of damage if someone is attacking you with a high level of adrenalin rolling. They might not every know they’re shot. While not as effective in quick stopping, it’s still better than no gun at all. It’s what you will bring with you.
- .380. This is a caliber used by sub-compact guns. It’s a mini 9mm. Slightly smaller in shell casing size, it holds less powder than a 9mm and thus has less velocity than the 9. That means it may not get through heavy winter clothing and such to get into the target deeply enough. Because if it’s lack of penetrating power it is not quite as effective as a 9 or larger. For many hands it might be the limit on what you can rack the slide on. If so, than it’s the caliber of choice for you. I have one that I use and carry when I need to dress in very light summer clothing or am going to be sitting for a long period of time and don’t want a bulkier gun. You may learn that one gun is not enough for all your carry needs. I did.
- 9mm. I’ve concluded that the 9mm is the caliber of choice for most needs. It travels faster than a .380. While it is smaller in diameter than a .40 or .45, you have less recoil than the other two for better handling control. In addition, due to the smaller size you can carry more rounds in your magazine for additional follow up shots or targets. Plus the rounds are lighter. All around the most versatile round for handgun carry. The difference in diameter from the .40 or .45 is like a 1/16 of an inch. Plus the 9mm travels faster for deeper penetration.
- .40-45 Caliber. Both are very effective rounds and punch very hard. Some shooters just like them better and can shoot them better. Both are quite a bit “snappier” on recoil than the 9mm which means it’s a bit tougher to get back on target as quickly for follow up shots. People with smaller body frames may have a hard time handling that for an extended session of shooting. Some say they have more stopping power than the 9mm. Testing and real life results show very little difference.
- .38 Revolver. For years this was the round of choice when police carried revolvers. It’s in the realm of the 9mm and very effective. Carrying extra ammo can be an issue without the use of “moonclips” or special metal disks that allow you to insert reloads into for quick reloading. Also cumbersome to carry as shown in the photo.
What about holsters? Why no soft sided holster?
Soft sided holsters pose problems on the range for classes. Normally they are what is called “In the Waistband” (IWB) holster that clip to your belt. What happens when you draw the gun is the holster then collapses closed? To safely get the gun back into the holster you need to pull it out of your waistband insert the gun again and tuck it back IWB. Time consuming and your pants might fall down. Bad scene over all. To insert it again without removing means it takes two hands, one to hold out the holster opening and then insert the gun as it passes over your hand. This is a violation of the basic 4 rules of gun safety. You might shoot your hand/fingers off.
A solidly built leather Out of the Waistband (OWB) holster or a Kydex (hard plastic) holster for IWB or OWD can also be great choices. I have numerous versions of these I use depending on the way I am dressing and how deep I want to conceal. I go OWB when I’m wearing a cover garment like a sports jacket or IWB if going untucked. Some IWB holsters come in a “tuckable” version if you blouse it out. Google search any of the above.
Also not allowed for classes is what is called appendix carry. Guns must be holstered at 3 or 4 o’clock on the belt for right handed and the opposite for left handed. This way you are not pointing the barrel and your buried treasures or sweeping others as you draw.
Where Can I Buy Holsters, Magazine Carriers and Belt?
What about holsters for women?
Holsters for women present more opportunities than many think. Choices are deciding whether it’s on the body or in the purse.
Many decide to use purse carry because they don’t want to dress in such a way as to support a belt holster. A purse does not make for a good holster or a top choice. Maybe for a back up small gun it’s fine. A couple problems purse holsters present are: a) A snatched purse means gun gone. b) A purse grabber tug of war means zero access to your gun. c) No putting your purse in your shopping cart while you turn your back on it to shop. Baby on board shopping carts give access to your gun. It’s happened, mom’s have been shot accidentally this way, in my neighborhood. d) In a panic attack situation it’s not nearly as fast getting to your gun. It takes 1 second for an attacker to get to you from 5 yards. 3) not allowed on the range to draw from for practice.
There are bra holsters. I don’t allow them in class but it’s an option for many women for everyday. Here are some reviews on different choices. Consider for example a bra holster under the arm as pictured. Getting to it fast without snagging on clothing means you are possibly ripping buttons off or you need to make sure your blouse or shirt will allow for access. Also consider the direction the barrel is aiming and remember the basic rule of gun safety, never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. Enough said.
For the range to practice the essentials of drawing your holster properly you’ll want to bring a belt mounted holster, hard or leather sided, In the Waist Band (IWB) or Outside (OWD). Consider miholsterco.com.
How should I carry extra magazines?
Just do a web search for “magazine holster” or “pistol magazine carrier” and stand back. Seriously there are choices in abundance. For class and general practice I recommend a double magazine holster because you’ll have more rounds on board and will be able to shoot more before having to stop and reload. At right is one from MiHolsterco.com that does the trick. There are many options. I’ll show you a few more at the range. You need to specify right or left handed and the gun you are using.
Do not consider buying gun AND holster combo on the same mount as pictured. Think! You are holding the pistol with your holster side hand, you need to drop your magazine and reload. How to you get to the second magazine? You have to reach across your body to get to it. Not efficient. Gun on one side, magazine on the other. Even in the picture shown, the magazine is backwards. Sheesh.
The main problem I personally encounter with magazine carriers the they cause the magazines to dig into my waist, and I mean dig uncomfortably. I find them more uncomfortable than the gun. I’ve tried many holsters and have discovered two of my most comfortable options are from 511tactical.com and miholsterco.com.
First, the horizontal magazine carrier from Holster Co. I chuckled at first when he showed it to me. Then the more I though about it I decided to give it a try. Frankly, I like it a lot. I can get to it as fast as the vertical one and it doesn’t dig into my side sitting all day long, or driving in the car. Standing is never a problem with most concepts but this works equally as well standing or sitting. If it’s not comfortable I’ll talk myself out of using it. Simply don’t want the annoyance all day long. This works for me and I don’t know anyone else who make it. You will only find the vertical one on his website but if you ask him to make it horizontal he will.
It also has an adjustable screw tightening feature. This allows you to adjust the tension holding in your mag so it doesn’t slip out and yet easy to pull out.
The other option from 5.11 Tactical are their ingenious pants, tactical or jeans. I have both. They have built in mag carrier pockets that are ideal. Just slide your magazine in (even the jeans) and you are good to go. Can do 1 on each side if you like. In addition, the jeans for $69 are the absolutely most comfortable jeans I’ve ever worn. If I can get away with dressing in jeans or cargo style pants this is the way to go. Yes, they have shorts also.
What is an UpLULA and why should I even care?
An UpLULA is a finger saver at the range. You will kill your fingers filling up your magazine 10-20 times during a range session. This little device allow you to quickly and painlessly reload that magazine with little pain or effort. Spend the day at the range with me and you’ll wish you had one.
Most gun stores have them or you can go Amazon.
Carrying Concealed everyday sounds like a lifestyle change, is it?
You better believe it and plan for it. You’ll never understand it completely until you start. You have to decided if you are going to commit to Every Day Carry (EDC) or just when you feel like it. If you are deciding to carry, are you going to depend on only needing it when you have it?
If you really do plan on carrying everyday you will discover you will be making a huge adjustment in your wardrobe. How much bulk with the gun that day be and how do you keep it concealed? What’s your cover garment? How easy is it to get to the gun in an emergency? What about comfort? If it’s uncomfortable you’ll talk yourself out of it.
You’ll be changing your belts, buying holsters to try, considering your outer garments, how blousy your shirt is to hide it, how you bend over or stoop down so as to not show the gun butt, a lot to consider. Will the holstered gun or magazines dig into your skin requiring an undergarment on a 100 degree day?
When you consider it all, buying a gun may be the least expensive dang part of doing it. Is that OK?
What about belts?
People don’t normally even ask about this until they’ve tried carrying a loaded gun on a skinny belt. Your belt should be able to carry the load. That’s why people sell specialized belts just for the task.
For informal wear, especially the range, a web belt can be just the ticket. 1.5-2″ wide they are sold by gun outfitter 5.11tactical.com. You need a web belt or a double thick leather belt for more formal occasions. For the range I recommend anything like this.