By Phillip Nelsen

So, you’re considering purchasing your first firearm, or perhaps you’re part of the 3.2 million new gun owners that purchased their first firearm in 2021. First off, we applaud you for wanting to exercise your rights and having the heart to defend yourself and others. Secondly, we want to assure you that being a firearm owner in America is 100% your right, and something you can do safely and within the limits of the law. We are here to help you with the knowledge you need to do both. Owning a firearm is a big responsibility. That’s why we’ve come up with 10 things you need to consider before you buy, or carry, your first firearm.

Although we touch on 10 important topics in this article, there is much more a new gun owner will want to know. For that reason, we have built a completely free online course for new gun owners. The free online course goes into much more detail on firearm safety, purchasing a firearm, laws related to carrying and transporting your firearm, and several other topics. You can access the free course by clicking here.

What to Know Before Getting Your Concealed Carry Permit

  1. Know the Cost
  2. Local and State Laws
  3. Dressing the Part
  4. Receiving Additional Education
  5. What Weapon You Want to Carry
  6. Making Your Firearm a Secondary Deterrent
  7. The Potential Consequences of Using Your Firearm
  8. Getting Legal Defense
  9. Continually Practicing
  10. Signing Up for a CCW Class

Know the Cost

Owning a firearm, let alone carrying one for self-defense, can seem complicated and daunting at first. There are multiple variables that need to be accounted for. There are also some expenses involved. If you’re a soon-to-be first-time gun owner looking to defend yourself, there are at least 5 main expenses you need to prepare for:

  • The initial purchasing cost of a firearm and ammunition.
  • The accessories needed to carry (belt and holster).
  • The fees associated with concealed carry classes and permits. Costs range from $75 -$250 for the concealed permit training class (depending on your state’s requirements) and $10-$200 for the state application fee.
  • Additional range time and/or training (strongly recommended).
  • Safe storage solution for your home

Regardless, always keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If you skimp out on your belt or holster, odds are they aren’t going to last very long, and they sure aren’t going to serve you well. At the end of the day, no cost is too high when it comes to protecting the lives of your family, friends, and yourself, so don’t skimp out on tools that are vital to your safety. Thankfully, Sportsman’s Warehouse offers everything you need, even including the training to obtain your concealed permit.

Local and State Laws

Understanding state and local laws are extremely important when you’re considering purchasing a firearm or obtaining a license to carry it. First of all, you need to understand the laws of your home state. Does your state require a permit specifically for carrying a concealed weapon? There are only 20 states in the nation that do not require residents to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm, so odds are that you answered yes to that question.

If your state requires a permit, you’ll need to know how often you’ll need to renew your permit and what classes or training are required to reobtain said permit. In California, you need to renew your concealed carry permit every 2 years and must take a 4-hour renewal course. In Illinois, you must renew your concealed carry permit every 5 years and take a 3-hour refresher course. This is just a sampling of the laws you must navigate to legally practice concealed carry.

Another important legal factor to take into consideration, specifically whenever you’re traveling, is permit reciprocity. That is, whether your state’s concealed carry permit is valid in the state you’re visiting. There are several states that do not honor permits issued by any other states, while some other states honor the permits issued by every other state.

Knowing the laws of the state you live in, and any other states you may be traveling to, will save you from a lot of unnecessary headaches and court dates. We’ve compiled and published the comprehensive 50 State Firearms Law Guide so you don’t have to go digging through legal codes or take the word of random websites.

We’ve also released a FREE mobile version of our 50 State Firearms Law Guide; this is the only free app written by attorneys with comprehensive concealed and open carry law summaries. The mobile version also provides you with a reciprocity map so you can see where you’re legally allowed to carry based on the permits given by your home state.

Dressing the Part

Allowing your firearm to physically imprint on your clothing is commonly referred to as “printing.” While there are no laws that explicitly make printing illegal, allowing your gun to print will likely draw the unwanted attention of both police and your fellow citizens. This can open you up to unnecessary interactions with police if someone saw your concealed weapon and decided to call 911.

Other than unwanted attention, allowing your gun to print can mean you forfeit your tactical advantage should a criminal decide to make a move on you or someone in your vicinity. Why? Because if they see you have a gun, and that alone doesn’t stop them from attempting to harm you or others, you’re instantly going to be the first target because they know you’re armed. The advantage of carrying a concealed weapon is that you always have the tactical edge.

This is a relatively easy problem to get around. For instance, investing in a holster that sits inside your waistband (commonly referred to IWB holsters) is an effective way to keep your weapon from printing.

Also, if you normally wear tight, form-fitting clothes, it’s time to throw on something a bit looser. Try finding outfits that allow you to effectively conceal your weapon without printing. Not only will they make carrying more comfortable, but you’ll raise less attention to yourself.

Receiving Additional Education

We can’t overstate the importance of becoming as educated as possible when it comes to both gun safety and gun laws. Nobody wants unnecessary entanglements with the law, and becoming as educated as possible is the number one way to avoid those situations. Now, we’re not advocating that you take legal or safety advice from your family members or your neighbors, we’re advocating that you spend some time and money to attend one of the many seminars or classes being held both virtually and in person.

There are a wide variety of seminars to choose from. At Legal Heat, we offer hundreds of in-person training courses throughout the United States, as well as a variety of online concealed carry courses tailored to individual states so you can get a good overview of your state’s legal landscape. There are even seminars out there curated to teach you about situational awareness in public and when you’re legally justified in shooting to defend yourself.

What Weapon You Want to Carry

Choosing the right piece as your Everyday Carry (EDC) weapon is essential to being prepared to handle whatever life-threatening situation may occur. You’ll need to decide what caliber ammunition you want to shoot. You also have to consider that a larger caliber usually means that you will be concealing a larger gun, and this can make the fact that you’re carrying more noticeable depending on the clothes you’re wearing.

Handguns that use 9mm ammunition are used more often by police because of their size, magazine capacity, and effectiveness. There are a variety of great 9mm handguns on the market. If you prefer a full-sized handgun, the Glock 19 is a popular choice. If you want something a little more compact, both the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield and the Glock 43 are reliable choices.

The most important factor to consider when choosing your gun is how comfortable you are shooting it. All the comfort and stopping power in the world won’t mean anything if you lack the ability to discharge your weapon with confidence and accuracy.

Making Your Firearm a Secondary Deterrent

Being forced to fire your weapon in self-defense is not a decision you should take lightly. Drawing a firearm should be a matter of last resort. A well-designed training course will discuss the importance of de-escalation techniques, avoiding danger, verbal defense, non-lethal defense, and many similar topics.

Having the tools to non-lethally subdue an assailant, or avoid an attack altogether, could not only save you from the psychological weight of having to take someone’s life but may help you in court should you use lethal force out of necessity. Which leads right into our next topic…

The Potential Consequences of Using Your Firearm

Have you ever heard the saying “no good deed goes unpunished?” Unfortunately, it’s often a fitting phrase for the events that may proceed following a justified self-defense encounter. This may seem counterintuitive since you were the victim, however, the police often don’t know all the details initially. It is important to understand your legal rights and what occurs in the aftermath of a self-defense incident. Remember your Miranda rights and (as we’ve reiterated many times), seek quality training.

Getting Legal Defense

As discussed above, when you become a new gun owner you want to make sure you are prepared for any encounter, in the real world or the courtroom. Just as new drivers will obtain car insurance to reduce their liability if they are involved in an accident, many new gun owners also choose to purchase legal protection plans that cover legal fees, both criminal and civil, resulting from a self-defense incident. We have worked and vetted a number of legal protection companies, and we highly recommend U.S. LawShield. Although I’m an attorney myself, I personally have a LawShield membership.

When you join U.S. LawShield, you’re joining a community of 700,000 like-minded individuals. As a member, you won’t pay a penny in attorneys’ fees, you’ll gain access to their 24/7/365 attorney-answered emergency hotline, and will have access to an attorney, on the line or in person, from the moment police arrive on the scene. Coverage is as cheap as $10 a month.

Continually Practicing

When it comes to firearm safety or defending your life, you can never have too much training. If you plan on getting your concealed carry permit for self-defense, you need to be putting hours in on the range. Shooting a gun is just like any skill: the more you work on it, the better you get.

When the time comes that you need to unholster your weapon to defend yourself, and the adrenaline kicks in, your heart and mind are going to go into overdrive. While you’re never truly trained for a life or death situation, those extra hours at the range are going to help ensure that you have a solid foundation of skills to fall back on. In times of crises, we revert to our baseline level of training. Make your baseline training level as high as possible.

Not to mention, going to the range gives you great opportunities to meet other individuals in the shooting community who are passionate about self-defense. The training is definitely worth the time, and Sportsman’s Warehouse has all the gear you need to get ready. Stop by the gun counter and ask one of the friendly associates for advice on hearing protection, eye protection, holsters, and range bags.

Signing Up for a Class

At Legal Heat, we’ve taught more than 250,000 responsible gun owners just like you the necessary safety measures, regulations, and laws to legally carry a concealed weapon.

We offer more than 200 concealed carry classes each month, at virtually every Sportsman’s Warehouse store in the nation, and each of our classes is designed to maximize the number of states who view your permit as valid. Currently, all of our classes have been specifically designed to qualify you to carry in the most possible places, over 30 different states!

We offer both online and in-person classes so that you can obtain your CCW permit in a way that meets your individual needs.

Our instructors are NRA® Certified and have a working knowledge of both national and local firearm laws.