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Whichever acronym your state uses, these all refer to a permit that allows you to conceal a handgun on your person in public.
Knowing how to defend yourself or your family when attacked is an important skill to have, even if you never want to have to exercise this skill.
The most effective self-defense tool is a firearm.
It’s also the tool which requires the most responsibility.
Many states require you to undergo adequate training before you can get your CCL because of how effective handguns are as a tool of violence for self-defense.
This training most often comes in the form of a concealed carry class.
What is this class and why should you take one?
What are Concealed Carry Classes?
Firearm skill courses are commonly offered at most ranges around the nation.
While you may learn nifty skills such as how to use a car as concealment or transition between rifle and pistol, these are not the same as concealed carry classes.
That’s because concealed carry classes are specifically designed to meet legal requirements set forth by the state in which they’re taught.
Taking a concealed carry class may be a method you can use to “prove firearm proficiency” for your state’s CCL requirements. The class itself can be one of those requirements, even if you can prove proficiency otherwise!
These legal mandates are all slightly different but most states’ law regarding concealed carry courses make them include information on the following:
- Firearm handling basics such as loading, unloading, and firing the gun
- Gun storage and transportation
- How to maintain your firearm
- Holster choice and use
- When and where you can or cannot carry your pistol
- When and how you can or cannot use your firearm in self defense
- Other state firearm laws
- Which states reciprocate your state’s concealed carry permit
The fine details differ but this is what you can expect.
For example, Tennessee requires you to fire 50 rounds to prove proficiency while Missouri requires 70 rounds; 50 for practice then 20 during a live-fire test.
Generally, these materials will be covered in a two-day class anywhere from 4 hours to 12 hours long. The first day takes place in the classroom while you’ll visit the range on the second day.
Should You Take a Concealed Carry Class?
If you plan on defending yourself with a firearm then you should take a concealed carry class.
Note that I didn’t say, “If you plan on carrying a handgun.”
That’s because concealed carry classes cover such a wide range of information, specifically covering legal issues, that anybody who wants to defend themselves with a gun will benefit from such a course, even if their gun never leaves their house.
I believe these courses to be beneficial even in states which allow concealed carry.
Sometimes all you get is knowledge. Some states provide small benefits, such as being able to bypass Form 4473 when you buy a gun.
However, this class may be upheld during a court case to prove you truly acted in self defense.
If you own a firearm, it’s a good idea to take a concealed carry class.
What if I Can’t Get a Concealed Carry Permit in My State?
Now, not everybody can get a permit in their state.
It’s notoriously difficult to get a CCL in California, for example.
Thankfully, a handful of states allow nonresidents to get concealed carry permits, such as Arizona, Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire!
Nonresident permits often have more restrictions than resident permits (Colorado, for example, doesn’t allow visitors with any nonresident permit to conceal a handgun) but it’s a good choice for residents of restrictive states to carry while traveling.
Here’s another situation you might be in:
Alaska has constitutional carry. I’m an Alaskan resident. This is fine. I carry in Alaska without a permit.
Except that I frequently visit the lower 48.
Alaska requires you to turn permit application materials in by hand.
This would be awfully difficult to do while I’m in Florida!
I eventually fixed this problem but it wasn’t as smooth as if I’d gotten my CCL before leaving the state.
Take a concealed carry class and get your permit before you travel!
But now, let’s look at the course itself.
What to Expect During The Classroom Portion
The first part of any concealed carry class is going to take place in a classroom, headed by at least one instructor.
First of all, nearly every one of these classes will be tied with the NRA, so be prepared to stare down that eagle.
You’ll be in this classroom for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.
If you’re already a skilled shooter then the first half will be the longest, most boring class you’ll remember.
That’s because lawmakers want concealed carry classes to cover everything about using a firearm.
Prepare to review skills you learned when you were a kid, such as:
- How to insert rounds into a magazine
- How to insert a magazine into a pistol
- How to rack a slide
- How to use handgun sights
- How to pull a trigger
This is good for new people, though! Pay attention if you’ve never handled a gun before.
After the basic typically comes information on firearm storage, how to choose and use a holster, etc.
The meat of the class, in my opinion, is the legal information.
This is the info on how to carry legally, what makes self defense legal or not, whether your state has Castle Doctrine or Duty to Retreat, and all sorts of other legal mumbo jumbo.
If you pay attention to just one part of the class, this portion should be it.
You’ll learn phrases such as “I was in fear of imminent danger of serious injury or death” and when to plead the Fifth amendment when talking with the police.
The day will likely end with a test.
You likely won’t have to get a 100% score to pass (depends on the state and the program), but you should still pay attention so you score well.
What to Expect During The Range Day
While the classroom portion is generally the same between most states’ concealed carry classes, the practical portion varies wildly.
If there is a range day then it’ll take place at a shooting range.
The instructor may demonstrate what you learned yesterday and you’ll have to perform the same handgun handling skills you just learned/reviewed.
That firearm handling extends to shooting live ammunition.
So, if you’re not used to shooting a handgun, get ready for the loud bangs!
Chances are that you’ll have a chance to practice putting holes into paper before you undergo official testing to make sure you aren’t a maniac with that gun.
Go through all the steps in your head and take each shot slow.
Speed doesn’t matter right now.
When it comes to firearms, Slow is Smooth, and Smooth is Fast.
This means you should slow down and focus on getting each step perfect. You’ll naturally speed up once you get this down.
You can’t miss fast enough and, if there’s a test, you’ll need a minimum number of hits to pass.
What to Bring to a Concealed Carry Class
Chances are you’ll get some pre-course materials outlining what you need to bring to the range.
If it’s not obvious, you should inquire before your class to learn if you need to bring a handgun to the live fire shooting range, which handgun you need to bring, or even if there is such a test.
Some states don’t require you to shoot in order to prove competency. Other states just require you to land some hits on paper with any gun. And some require you to qualify with the caliber you plan on carrying.
Keep the gun stored in a case, bag, or holster.
You’ll likely need to bring adequate ammo, too.
I’d bring a couple of extra boxes in case you decide to have an impromptu range day after the class. Extra practice is never bad!
Some instructors bring ammo for you and others require you to buy ammo at the range, though.
Don’t forget to bring at least two magazines to use that ammo, too.
Just as important is to bring eye and ear protection.
Safety glasses are extremely important.
Dedicated shooting glasses are great but impact-resistant glasses are acceptable.
I generally prefer earplugs over earmuffs because of the increased NRR rating and better cheek weld, but that’s because I prefer rifles.
Pistols aren’t as loud as a rifle with a muzzle brake and you’ll need to hear the instructor, so get a pair of earmuffs if you don’t have any hearing protection already.
Avoid Harbor Freight earmuffs; the cushioning fails to seal around your safety glasses’s arms.
A hat is an excellent choice.
Baseball caps will protect your eyes from the sun at outdoor ranges but, more importantly, can help prevent hot brass from falling down your shirt!
My 1911 likes to toss brass at my head. I’ve handled Glocks which did the same, too.
For this same reason, you’ll want to wear a comfortable shirt with sleeves and a high collar (at least t-shirt height).
Ejected casings are hot and can fall into low-cut blouses where they’ll get trapped and leave painful and interesting (but not too dangerous) burn marks!
Gloves are helpful at protecting your hands from heat or lead exposure.
A List of What to Bring to a Concealed Carry Class
- Safety Glasses
- Comfortable and Safe Clothing
- Optional: Lead-Specific Hand Wipes
- Anything Else Your Instructors Says to Bring
- Howard Leight Genesis Sharp-Shooter Shooting Glasses
- Howard Leight Electronic Earmuff (Fancy)
- Caldwell E-Max Earmuff (Budget)
- Hoppes Lead-B-Gone
How Much Does a Concealed Carry Class Cost?
Concealed carry classes, being multi-hour affairs taught by professional firearms instructors, tend to cost more than one Hi-Point.
(That’s a hundred dollars if you didn’t know.)
The price range for in-person courses is generally between $100-$200.
You can save some money by buying an online course, which can be as much as $60 or low as $20, though they only cover the classroom portion.
What’s This About Online Classes?
In this modern age, do you really need to sit in a classroom to get your concealed carry license?
Well, that depends on your state.
Some states require CCL license seekers to go through an offline course.
Some, however, allow for online classes!
Texas, for example, allows you to take the classroom portion online (though you’ll still need to visit a range to get your gun handling skills tested).
Another potential advantage to online courses is that some of them allow you to test out of certain sections.
This is good if you’re already a firearm’s expert and don’t need to learn the difference between a single action and a double action revolver.
It’s still a good idea to use the course to review less-basic information, though!
Online Courses for Nonresident Permits
If you’re going for the nonresident permit option and don’t want to take a traditional concealed carry class then you only have one option:
As of the time of writing, the Commonwealth of Virginia is unique in allowing residents of other states to qualify for a Virginia concealed handgun permit!
Remember how I mentioned being out-of-state and unable to carry without returning to my home?
A solution to that problem would have been to get a Virginia Nonresident Concealed Handgun Permit.
I chose to take a class through concealedcarry.com, which qualified me for a Virginia permit because that state (currently!) allows online courses to fulfill certain requirements and doesn’t require hands-on firearm qualification.
It’s not the cheapest of such classes available but I’m a fan of their mobile app.
It has some nifty features, such as training logs, quick-looks at state firearm laws, and even a map of gun stores, gun ranges, and gun-unfriendly businesses!
Concealed carry classes are a wealth of information available to anybody who intends to use a firearm for self defense, regardless of whether or not you are going to carry your chosen firearm.
You can find a concealed carry course to fit every budget.
You can even take a concealed carry course to get a nonresident permit to carry while traveling if your home state doesn’t normally allow you to get a CCL!
Sure, these classes will cover beginner’s knowledge that can bore an expert.
But the benefits far surpass having to cover stuff you already know.
- Concealed Handgun License, Concealed Carry License, Concealed Weapon License, and License to Carry respectively