In this guide, I will share our top tips for safe concealed carry. While basic gun safety is important, carrying a concealed gun brings additional risks.
As I discussed in my concealed carry responsibilities guide (go back and read it if you missed it,) safety is one of your main responsibilities after deciding to carry a handgun concealed.
It is important to refresh your knowledge of handgun safety, even as a veteran. You may not realize when you are acting unsafely.
It isn’t possible to be too safe, so keep reading for the most important concealed carry safety tips.
Concealed Carry Gun Safety
As you read these tips, think about how you can incorporate them into your daily life. Since you will be handling a handgun every day, they should become habits and not something you only think about at the range.
Basic Rules of Gun Safety
First and foremost are the basic rules of firearm safety.
- Assume your concealed carry handgun is always loaded.
- Never put your finger on the trigger until you are sure of your target and ready to fire.
- Never point a handgun at anyone or anything that you do not intend to shoot.
- Before pulling the trigger, make sure you understand what is in front of and behind your target.
If your concealed carry gun has a manual safety, do not solely rely on it. Even if it is on, you must still follow these rules. A manual safety is a mechanical device that can fail.
For concealed carry, the fourth rule is one to especially pay attention to. In a self-defense situation, what is in front of and beyond your attacker must be considered. If there is a threat 20 yards away and people 50 yards behind the threat, you can’t take the shot.
This is easy to forget in a stressful situation. To demonstrate this, when I set up a defensive pistol training stage, I like to set a “no shoot” target beyond a threat target. Many shooters will see it on the initial walkthrough. But when they are under the stress of the timer, they tend to rush and forget. Practice these drills, and then practice some more!
Use a Safe Holster
Using a safe holster for your handgun is a must. It should completely cover the trigger, retain the handgun securely, and allow you to get a full grip on the handgun before you draw it.
Carrying a loaded gun in your pocket, purse, or bag without a holster is dangerous. Not only can you accidentally pull the trigger when you grab it, but other items can depress the trigger when you are moving around.
One of the most dangerous places to keep your handgun is in your glove box without a holster. Often, there are other items in the glove box, too (like pens), and the constant vibration and jolts of the car make it likely for one of these objects to depress the trigger.
The last thing anyone wants is for their gun to go off because they slammed on the brakes!
For more on how to select a good holster, see our guide on how to choose a concealed carry holster.
Dry Fire Safety
Dry fire is a great way to practice drawing, gun manipulation, trigger control, and the muscle memory of building a grip and sight picture. We will get into it a lot more in our training chapter.
But how do you do it safely?
First, your gun must obviously be unloaded. I like to do this in a separate area and keep all ammunition away from my dry fire area. Since I practice reloads, I don’t want to be loading a full magazine into my gun unintentionally.
Second, the area that you are firing towards, likely a wall in your home, should not have anyone on the other side of the wall. Even if your gun accidentally goes off, you want to eliminate the chances that a bullet goes through the wall and hits a family member.
I have a basement, and I use the wall that is on the underground section. Even if I fire a .50 BMG at that wall, there is no chance it will hit anyone.
Practice Your Draw
Drawing a loaded gun from a holster quickly is perhaps one of the most tricky and dangerous parts of concealed carry.
It is best to practice this first dry with an unloaded handgun. Start with slow, deliberate movements.
First, make sure you have a good grip on the handgun. I have seen people drop their handguns because they didn’t get a good initial grip and tried to reposition their hands as they brought the gun up. The last thing you want to do is throw your loaded gun on the ground in front of a threat.
As you draw, make sure the muzzle of your gun does not point at any part of your body. I like to bring my support hand up to my chest as I am drawing to make sure it doesn’t get in front of my pistol.
Take a video of yourself drawing and watch it objectively. I find that watching videos is a great way to improve.
When you holster your gun, it should be slow and deliberate. There is no need to holster a gun quickly. Keep your finger away from the trigger, do not point it at your body (or anyone else), and ensure any garments are out of the way. You will be doing this every day, so be precise and don’t be sloppy.
It’s easy to let these things slip, as you’ll be doing them a lot. It’s important to stay disciplined and holster your pistol correctly every time.
No matter if I am at an indoor or outdoor range, there are usually a lot of other people there.
The number one rule to follow at a range is to always keep the muzzle of your handgun pointed down range. Most ranges won’t let anyone draw from a holster except during special circumstances (during a match, for example).
When I come to the range carrying my handgun, I do not draw it until I am at my bay, and I immediately unload it and clear it while keeping it pointed downrange.
All of the basic safety rules still apply at the range. The biggest mistake I see people make is not keeping their finger off the trigger until they have their gun pointed at a target. I have seen people accidentally discharge their handguns as they were drawing because they were in a hurry and started prepping the trigger too early.
Eye and Ear Protection
Anytime you are training at the range, be sure to wear eye and ear protection.
I find that most people wear ear protection, or at least remember to after they fire the first shot. However, eye protection is forgotten.
Even if you are not shooting, wearing proper eye protection at a range is a must. I have been hit in the face by ricocheting fragments, and if I didn’t have my glasses on, I could have lost my eye.
If you wear prescription glasses like I do, look into getting a pair of prescription shooting glasses. The lenses are more durable, and they protect around the side of the face. I simply got my prescription from my eye doctor and ordered them online.
I prefer Wiley X shooting glasses, and I personally have the WX Saint Prescription Glasses. They offer different lens tints and have transition lenses, so they are clear at indoor ranges and tinted when it is sunny at outdoor ranges.
Storing Your Handgun
When I am not carrying my handgun, what do I do with it? It is my responsibility to make sure it doesn’t fall into unauthorized hands. There are two scenarios that I often face.
In My Vehicle
I often find that there is a business or areas where I can’t carry my handgun. In this case, I need to leave my handgun in my vehicle. This can get complicated, considering all of the other safety rules.
I prefer to never take my gun out of my holster except in my safe area at home. In my vehicle, I prefer to remove my holster with my gun in it. This keeps the trigger protected and keeps me from having to handle a loaded gun in my car.
To do this, my holster must have clips so that I can remove it without taking off my belt.
I can then lock it in my glove box or in a safe like the Vaultek Lifepod.
Remember, an unholstered gun in a glove box can be very dangerous, so I highly recommend leaving your gun in the holster whenever possible.
At home, you must have a safe. You can use the action lock that comes with all handguns (it is required by the Child Safety Lock Act of 2005), but these are cumbersome, and I doubt anyone actually uses them. Plus, if you need to get to your handgun in a hurry, these take forever to take off.
I use a Vaultek nightstand safe for my handgun. It is in my bedroom, and I can face the outside walls when I am loading and holstering my handgun. Plus, I can get to my handgun quickly if I need to.
See our guide on the best gun safes for more on both the lifepod and nightstand safes.
Talk to Your Children
Children are drawn to guns because they are “dangerous” and have been told not to touch them their entire lives.
Talk to your children about your handgun, and explain the four rules that you follow above. Don’t just talk to talk, walk the walk.
Take them to the range with you and show them how to be safe. Get them a .22 rifle or BB gun to shoot, and have them follow the same safety rules. Show them how you clean your handguns safely. Show them how your holster is safe.
Show them how your gun comes apart and let them handle each piece. Teach them that they should never touch a gun without an adult present and that they should always tell an adult if they see a gun lying out. (You may keep your gun in a safe, but you can’t be sure that everyone else does.)
The Eddie Eagle gun program is available online and is free. It teaches children what to do when they see a gun. I recommend watching the video together and reiterating the steps every few months.
I find that if you demystify guns, a child’s curiosity goes elsewhere, and a gun is just another tool that they respect.
Should You Carry a Round in the Chamber?
Is carrying your handgun with a round in the chamber safe?
It is, but you must follow the other rules I have detailed above.
Carrying with a round in the chamber is essential for concealed carry. This was made evident to me at a class I took where the instructor simulated an attacker coming at me with a moving target. He started it 20 yards away, and I did it two ways. One with a round in the chamber and one without.
I found that I could not draw, rack the slide of my handgun, and get off a shot before the target was on me. But, I could hit it if I already had a round in the chamber.
If you are not comfortable carrying your handgun with a round in the chamber, that is OK. But understand it puts you at a big disadvantage and could be more danger when a threat sees you loading your gun.
Practice and get familiar with your handgun so that you become comfortable. Follow our complete concealed carry guide to learn how.
Don’t Consume Alcohol
This should go without saying. If you are going out for drinks, leave your gun at home.
Consuming alcohol impairs your judgment and carrying a firearm while drinking may be illegal. Even if you just have one drink and then are involved in a self-defense incident, it won’t bode well for you in court.
In some states, it is legal to carry in businesses that sell alcohol, but it is illegal to drink while carrying concealed. So, you could choose to be the designated driver and the designated carrier at the same time.
In the end, it is your decision, but you have to choose one or the other.
Check your ammunition
The ammo you use in your concealed carry handgun should be clean, fresh, and of the proper caliber.
Years ago, I got some ammo from someone that must have been old because it was corroded slightly. I cleaned it up and tried to fire it anyway, and the case split around the lip of the casing, jamming my gun. While I wasn’t injured, it was a pain to clear it from my gun.
If you have a few different guns that are different calibers, make sure you are using the correct ammo. Some calibers are very close in size and can be easily confused. For example, .380 and 9mm are close in size. In some cases, firing the wrong caliber in a gun can damage it and injure you as well.
If you are training and you have a round that goes off but doesn’t recoil as much as normal, stop and check your gun. While not as common in factory ammo, it can happen in reloaded ammo. During the reload process, it is possible to misload the powder of a round. This can cause a “squib.”
A squib is where the bullet gets stuck in the barrel from an insufficient charge. If the gun is fired again, the barrel could explode from the pressure. Obviously, you don’t want to be holding a gun with an exploding barrel.
Also, as you continuously load and unload a round from the chamber of your gun, the extractor can damage the casing. I like to rotate my carry ammo and shoot the rounds I have carried in the previous week during my training sessions.
Carry Concealed Safely
Regardless of your experience or situation, you must always handle a handgun safely and with respect. It is easy to become relaxed and forget the basic rules.
Remember, once you commit to carrying concealed, you must commit to safely owning a handgun. This goes beyond when the gun is in your hand.
Next, review our gun-safe guides and how to pick the best safe for you.
Up Next: The Best Gun Safes
Go Back: Concealed Carry Guide