• Spring Challenge 2020

    Take Advantage of Social Distancing and Shelter-In-Place

  • Protect What You Love

    20-Day Challenge Easy Step-by-Step Daily Routine by The Week

    Become the protector you want to be with our free 20-Day Spring Training Challenge. We’ve developed four weeks of online content covering steps you can take to learn more about basic safety, self-defense preparedness and situational awareness.


    Now more than ever, you need to know how to keep your home and family safe. Follow along on our Facebook page, and don’t forget to tag us on our other channels with @USCCA and #BornToProtect.


    Below we’ve included excerpts from five articles covering gun laws, situational awareness, conflict avoidance, legal ramifications of deadly force and how to find the right permitting course. Packed with essential information, these excerpts (link to full articles included) are a great way to introduce you to the concealed carry lifestyle. For those of you already well-versed in concealed carry, use these articles as a refresher. Remember, training should never be static; you always need to refresh your skills. And that includes handling a gun and maintaining firearms knowledge too.

    Week 1

    Day 1: Research the Permit Laws in Your State

    *Excerpt from the blog post “Concealed Carry Map: Know Your Rights” by the USCCA


    Concealed carry legislation is young and constantly evolving.


    Until 1934, guns were unregulated in the United States. That was the year the National Firearms Act made it illegal to possess a machine gun without paying a $200 excise tax to the U.S. Treasury. Why do it that way? Simply because, at that time, few people, including lawyers, judges and legal scholars, questioned that the Second Amendment meant what it said about the right of the people to keep and bear arms not being infringed.


    That changed when the Gun Control Act of 1968 passed in the wake of the John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations. To own a gun today, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident alien.


    Concealed Carry in All 50 States

    With Illinois being the final state in the nation to approve and enact concealed carry legislation, all 50 states now allow some form of concealed carry. Several states allow constitutional carry (concealed carry without a state-issued permit). Some of these states still allow citizens to voluntarily apply for a concealed carry permit.


    Most of the states in our nation are officially shall-issue states. Unfortunately, several states practice may-issue permitting when it comes to concealed carry. Some states are shall-issue in practice but may-issue by law. That being said, legal wrangling in certain areas continues to make it difficult for law-abiding citizens to acquire the proper permits.


    Getting Your Concealed Carry Permit

    If you live in a state that is shall-issue, your task is simple: Find out the legal requirements for a concealed carry permit, meet them, apply for your permit and enjoy your new concealed carry privileges.


    Shall-issue states typically have eligibility requirements pertaining to:

    • Age
    • Residency
    • Substance-abuse history
    • Criminal history (felonies are an automatic disqualifier, as are domestic-violence convictions)
    • Firearms possession
    • Training in the legal use of force, self-defense laws and marksmanship instruction
    • Firearms proficiency

    If you live in a may-issue state, getting a concealed carry permit is more difficult, and the outcome is far from certain. Find out the requirements of your locality, try to meet them and hope you get your permit. If you don’t (and if your jurisdiction has an appeal process), appeal the adverse decision as far as the system (and your resources) allow.

    Find all of the information you need on our Concealed Carry Reciprocity and Gun Laws Map.


    Day 2: Learn Situational Awareness

    *Excerpt from the blog post “Situational Awareness Is Fundamental” by John Caile

    Take a look at the plethora of police-involved-shooting videos on the internet to see how quickly things can go bad (often with deadly results). You seldom have time to carefully consider your options; you have to act — immediately and decisively. Situational awareness can help.


    A Matter of Habit

    Defensive firearms instructors focus so strongly on situational awareness for a reason. If you are paying attention, you can notice warning signs long before things go sideways.

    Whether you are in your car, walking through a mall or traversing a parking garage, you know that you should be paying attention to who else is in your space. Unfortunately, our increasingly busy lifestyles conspire to prevent us from living in the now and paying attention to our surroundings.


    The Technology Trap

    Watch people as they go about their daily routines and you will see that too many of them are utterly oblivious. More often than not, they are absorbed in their cellphones.

    We’ve all seen those videos of people who are so preoccupied with their phones that they walk into light poles or fall into water fountains. Sure, we laugh — until we see someone walk in front of a bus or cause a fatal crash because they were texting while driving.


    Distraction in Many Forms

    If you take situational awareness seriously, you are likely well-disciplined with your electronic devices. But other distractions exist. Being in a hurry and/or being preoccupied are the two most common distractions.


    Rushing around can lead to all sorts of problems, from forgetting your wallet or purse as you bolt out the door to running a red light and getting a ticket … or worse. You can also lose focus and miss serious warning signs.


    The term “inattentional blindness” is used to describe this phenomenon. When we focus so intently on internal matters, we literally do not see potential threats, such as a truck pulling out from a side road or the suspicious-looking group standing outside the convenience store.

    The only real solution is to constantly monitor our emotional states of mind. If we find ourselves in a hurry or preoccupied, for whatever reason, we can stop for a moment to take a breath and remind ourselves how important it is to slow down and focus on the world around us.


    Control your smartphone. Pay attention to your emotional state. Situational awareness is a habit that requires constant practice until it eventually becomes your default state of mind.


    Find the USCCA’s library of virtual learning here!


    Day 3: Learn Conflict Avoidance

    *Excerpt from the blog post “Conflict Avoidance Will Keep You Safe” by Kevin Michalowski

    You’ve heard us say it before: The best fight is the one you are not in.


    If you can avoid a fight, you should make every effort to do so. But the question is often asked, “How can I avoid a fight while still exercising my rights?”


    You have the right to keep and bear arms. You have the right to travel unmolested within or through a public place. In some states, you even have the right to stand your ground in the face of a threat when you are in a place where you have the right to be.


    None of those rights should encourage you to engage in a fight. Fighting should be your last resort, and here’s why.


    To Fight Is to Risk Death

    Yes, it is a dangerous world, and you may feel you are a dangerous person, ready to handle anything. But the truth of the matter is that during close-quarters engagement, anyone can get lucky. If the person who gets lucky is your assailant, well, that makes you the unlucky one … and suddenly someone is making a death notification to your stunned family.


    Any fight, no matter how minor, could escalate into a deadly force encounter. What if you land that punch and the person with whom you are fighting falls, hitting his head on the curb, and dies? Anything could happen.


    What About the Investigation?

    Are you ready for the investigation that will surely follow any use of deadly force? If you think the “stand your ground” ruling will be made by the responding officer, you are sorely mistaken.


    Any use of force will involve an investigation to see if that use of force was legal. Do you have an attorney? The legal system is complicated, and the end results can be devastating. It would be in your best interest to have representation throughout the investigation.


    Even if you have an attorney, do you want to endure that stress and subject your family to that stress when you could have avoided all of it by simply not engaging in the fight?


    The point of all this is that self-defense is not always active. Passive defense through effective conflict avoidance is an excellent way to stay safe. Fighting is sometimes the right thing to do, but stepping away from the fight ensures you get to walk free another day.


    Day 4: Legal Ramifications of Using Deadly Force

    *Excerpt from the blog post “Deadly Force: Is It Worth It?” by John Caile


    Whether or not to use deadly force is likely the most serious decision that any of us will ever have to make in our lives. Thankfully, it is simply a statistical fact that only a tiny percentage of people will actually be faced with it.


    Some violent encounters happen suddenly, with little time to react, let alone think. However, in many cases where self-defense is claimed, the situation is one that evolves less rapidly. As a result, the jury sees the victim as having more than enough time to make a choice that easily could have allowed him or her to avoid the threatening situation before it became necessary to use deadly force.


    The numerous “road rage” cases we’ve seen over the years are excellent examples. I am always astonished at how anyone who legally carries a gun could possibly let himself or herself get involved in a road rage incident. What positive outcome does he or she actually expect?

    Then there are the recent cases of homeowners leaving the safety of their homes to confront suspected intruders in their garages. These are additional examples of making bad choices long before any threat to them or their loved ones existed.


    Honestly, I don’t care what your state law says about using deadly force to protect property. A hard-nosed veteran criminal attorney once told me, “Before you do anything risky, ask yourself three questions. Is this worth dying for? Is it worth killing for? Is it worth going to prison for?”

    The bad decisions that we make can turn what should have been a simple matter of filling out a police report into a long and expensive criminal trial, with potential prison time as a result.


    So before leaning on your horn or walking out that door, ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”


    Did you know we offer FREE “Ask an Attorney” Webinars to members every month? Watch your email so you don’t miss any.


    Day 5: Find a CCW Class

    *Excerpt from the blog post “How to Find the Right Concealed Carry Class by Tom McHale


    Finding a concealed carry class is easy. Finding a good one? Not so much.


    The internet is full of concealed carry training nightmares. You’ll hear about schools where the instructors have knowledge but no teaching skills. Others claim to have knowledge and experience but don’t. Still others are outright dangerous. So, how do you go about finding a reputable class? Here are some suggestions to get you started.


    Go National

    There are good instructors in most cities, but it takes a bit more research to sort out the great ones. If you want top-notch instruction, you can always go to a name-brand school.


    Local Gun Stores and Clubs

    Try talking to staff at a retail store that doesn’t operate its own range. They’re likely to know of good training programs and instructors and won’t be motivated to sell their own services. Members of local gun clubs can also provide quality referrals.


    Some ranges will offer training of their own, but that’s precisely what subjected me to the two horror stories mentioned previously. There are plenty of ranges that offer excellent instruction … just be sure to ask around first.


    Ask Your Local Police

    In most places, the local officers on the street aren’t hostile to concealed carry and generally welcome a citizen’s commitment to obtaining quality training. If you don’t know any local officers directly, ask your friends to see if they do. If that doesn’t get you a connection, you can always walk into a local station and ask if anyone has knowledge in that area.


    Look for a USCCA Certified Instructor

    The USCCA operates a certified instructor network. A teacher with USCCA certifications has to attend and pass an instructor class to get those credentials, so you know that experts have vetted the person. You can search for USCCA Certified Instructors in your area.


    References … With a Catch      

    No matter which method you choose to research a concealed carry class, always, always, always check references from previous students. If none of your friends or acquaintances have taken the course, ask the instructor to provide references to you.


    Here’s the catch: When you talk to someone about the quality of the class, be sure to ask him or her what other training he or she has had. Talk to multiple official or unofficial references before making your decision. It’s your life on the line, after all, so you have every right to vet your instructor and the class content carefully.


    The USCCA has a great page for finding training classes near you.

    Week 2

    Carrying a concealed handgun is a great responsibility. You need to conduct more research than if you were purchasing a bicycle but less outlay than if you were purchasing a Harley Davidson. And the effort is worthwhile on every point. If you understand how to use it properly, a handgun might someday help save your life. Choosing a firearm, ammunition, a holster, accessories and less-lethal devices need not be stressful. It only needs to be well-thought-out. Choose quality gear. (The old adage “buy cheap, buy twice” applies here.) Then, obtain training and go through the proper channels to get your concealed carry permit.


    Day 1: Choose Your Handgun

    The default choice seems to be a striker-fired polymer-frame 9mm. That isn’t a bad place to begin. Carried on the belt, under the shirt or in a shoulder holster, the 9mm is light enough, compact enough and generally thin enough for concealed carry. The pistol should be neither too large nor too small. The handgun should offer good hand fit and a good set of sights. Reliability is most important. This means CZ, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Springfield, HK and Walther to many.


    The problem in choosing quality is that beginners will have a difficult time finding quality in an unknown, new or very inexpensive maker. You may end up with a handgun that isn’t reliable and doesn’t suit your needs. Tactically, there is little that may be done with a Springfield XD-S that cannot be done with a Glock 43X or S&W 2.0 9mm. But hand fit and trigger actions differ, and one may suit you more than another.


    Day 2: Choose Your Ammo

    Ammunition should be simple, but some make it complicated. Practice ammunition will be the biggest expense. Look for something on sale! CheaperThanDirt.com and Academy Sports offer good buys. Full metal jacket (FMJ) loads are less expensive. Federal Syntech, Fiocchi FMJ, Remington UMC and Winchester Ready are good choices. A clean powder burn and reasonable accuracy potential are important.


    Personal-defense loads must stress quality. Cartridge integrity is most important. A load that exhibits a balance of expansion and penetration is important. Federal Hydra Shok (HST), Hornady Critical Defense or Critical Duty, Fiocchi Extrema, Speer Gold Dot, Black Hills Ammunition, and Winchester PDX are among the loads I trust.


    Choosing a regional loader or those making wild claims isn’t a good idea. I have tested ammunition that clocked 200 feet per second slower than claimed and others that were really too hot for defense use. A general-purpose loading should penetrate 16-18 inches of water or ballistic gelatin and expand at 1.5 times the original diameter. Use training loads for their intended purpose, proof the pistol with any defense load to the tune of at least 100 rounds and continue to practice.


    Day 3: Choose Your Holster

    You must take an honest appraisal of your wardrobe and weight tolerance. A good quality belt, such as the Bigfoot, will carry the weight comfortably. The holster must be firmly anchored. This isn’t possible with a cheap holster of poor construction. You can get by well with a single handgun and one type of ammunition. But you will probably need two holsters to cover a variety of situations. Cross-draw, strong-side, appendix and inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry each has advantages to be explored. Some suit the endomorph, ectomorph or mesomorph body shape better.


    It isn’t that difficult to take a fake gun, toy gun or triple-checked unloaded handgun and try several positions. Place the handgun and holster combo where you plan to carry it and make a few draws. Do a knee bend with the prospective carry. A balance between speed and retention should exist. When you have progressed a few months in carrying a handgun and know more about your needs, you may wish to order a custom-grade holster. Until then, off the rack works if you choose carefully.


    Alien Gear, Blackhawk, Galco and DeSantis may be found in better-stocked shops. These makers offer affordable gear, including some items that rival those from custom makers. If you usually wear a covering garment, a strong-side holster worn over the rear pocket is a good choice. An IWB holster answers most needs for those in warmer climates. Be certain to consider your clothing. Don’t have the holstered handgun buried and inaccessible under heavy layers. On the other hand, be certain the covering garment actually covers the handgun.


    Day 4: Choose Your Accessories

    Accessories are sometimes more necessities than options. You need a minimum of three magazines: one in the gun, one on the belt and one resting. Be certain to figure the cost of additional magazines into your initial purchase. Some magazines are affordable, and others (often for inexpensive handguns) are much more expensive. It’s about volume.


    The best hearing protection you can afford is a must-have. For me, the Champion Vanquish offers excellent performance at a fair price. Targets are not expensive. You will pay double or more purchasing a handful at a time, so consider purchasing a 100-target pack instead. A simple B27 silhouette-type target is fine for most training.


    You’ll need a portable cleaning kit. If your pistol has adjustable sights, be certain to keep up with the sight-adjustment tool. A lock, gun safe or other means of securing the handgun when it is not on your person is also needed. For a gun with a light rail, you should consider a combat light. I use the TruGlo with a combination of light and laser, allowing the use of one or the other or both at the same time.


    Day 5: Choose Less-Lethal Alternatives

    Many tend to ignore less-lethal alternatives. You do so at your own peril. The handgun is a last resort. There are other levels of force that must be available. An impact weapon of some type and an edged tool are important parts of your defensive battery. (Check local laws. Some prohibit any type of knuckle enhancement. Others prohibit carrying a fixed-blade knife, even if you hold a CWP.) The use of the impact weapon is obvious.


    Using the Dempsey Drop Step and other boxing moves may stop a lethal fight before it begins. A Kubotan has ridden on my key ring for 20 years. This device is useful for blunt action, joint locks and other defensive maneuvers.


    An edged tool may be lethal but can also be useful for firearms retention. When a gun-grabber attempts to take your holstered handgun, locking one hand on the handgun as your other hand draws the edged weapon and slashes is the preferred drill. It isn’t that simple to execute and must be practiced. A knife doesn’t jam or run out of bullets and may be a fearsome weapon if you have training.


    Take your own counsel, study the choices and alternatives, and choose quality gear.

    Week 3

    Day 1: Make Your Home a Less Appealing Target

    *Excerpt from “Reducing Criminal Curb Appeal” by Scott W. Wagner

    There are three main things about a home that enhance curb appeal to an intruder. First, is the target worth the risk? Does it appear that the house has a high likelihood of desired property, outweighing the risk of apprehension? Second, would entry take minimal effort? Is there good cover, such as immense greenery that would conceal entry through a window? And third, is there an “absence of capable guardians” on the property who can thwart the attempt to enter?


    Steps to Take
    1. “Desired property” is sometimes the hardest to reduce. After all, if you live in a nice home and drive expensive cars, it’s sort of hard to disguise that you are well-to-do. The most opulent homes are rarely broken into. It is middle-class to upper-middle-class homes that make primary theft targets. Don’t advertise your possessions. If there is a larger-than-necessary TV or fancy computer displayed in the window, you’re asking for trouble. Don’t advertise you are a gun owner. Lose the “trespassers will be shot — survivors will be shot again” kind of signs. They not only advertise you have guns but also make great fodder for a defense attorney later on.
    2. As a police officer, I still encounter homes that have their front doors secured solely with a doorknob lock — no deadbolt in sight. And in small towns, some folks still leave their doors unlocked. That just begs outsiders to come in. Consider doing some crime prevention through environmental design. Improve your locks, increase exterior lighting and remove shrubs that provide cover at windows (replace them with smaller, thornier bushes).
    3. A “capable guardian” can be many things. For several years, three large dogs were our capable guardians. No dogs? Get an alarm system. Think of this: You are a burglar who is deciding on which of two equally appealing homes to break into. One house has a sign from an alarm company, and the other doesn’t. Which house would you break into?
      Day 2: Fortify Points of Entry

    *Excerpt from “4 Holiday Home-Security Tips” by Scott W. Wagner

    The physical security of doors and windows should be step one in any home-defense plan. Do all of your standard opening doors at least have deadbolts? Doorknob locks and chain locks are not adequate.


    Chain locks can be popped with relatively little effort using a palm strike or kick (been there, done that). A deadbolt is better but may not stop a determined attacker on its own. If the door frame isn’t steel or reinforced, it can be defeated by repeated heavy kicks. The deadbolt itself will hold, but the door frame won’t (been there, done that too).


    After researching the best means of door protection, I actually upgraded my own home security. I just ordered a door barricade system called the Door Bull. Designed by three cops who were frustrated by deadbolt-equipped doors failing under criminal attack, the Door Bull is an ingenious, compact and simple barricade system that attaches to the door and frame. It spreads the force directed against it over a wide portion of the frame, helping to keep it intact.

    Rather than my trying to describe it, go to the website and watch the video. The price of the Door Bull on the website is $99. All mounting hardware (and even a properly sized drill bit) is included. It looks like a big improvement over a barricade bar and is easily applied and removed, in case you need to exit in a hurry. The Door Bull appears to solve the main weakness of the deadbolt: a wood frame.


    Day 3: Make a Plan

    *Excerpt from “Creating a Home-Security Plan” by Scott W. Wagner

    Your home-security plan needs to be able to flow as situations change. It must also be workable for your particular abode. We can NEVER predict the actions of another human being. Situational changes may cause you to deviate from your original plan in real time. Sure, you have YOUR plan, but the criminal doesn’t often agree to go along. Make your plan fluid and be prepared to go off-script. Your home-safety plan should also include less-lethal options such as a Taser, OC or an impact device. Not every threat to your safety is a lethal-force threat, at least at the outset.


    Get Everyone on Board

    One of the worst mistakes is to not involve other capable family members in developing the plan. While you may have the expertise, you can’t think of everything. Other family members are the end users, so they should get a say. They need to be fully aware of the plan, help craft the plan and believe in its ability to keep everyone safe.


    Be Prepared for Natural Disasters Too

    During a recent tornado warning, I grabbed an AR-15 and several mags and brought them to the basement with us. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters and plan to shelter in place, make sure your shelter area includes access to defensive rifles or shotguns. Be sure you maintain an emergency food and water supply. You can never know the extent of your stay, the damage in the aftermath or to what lengths others will be willing to go.


    Day 4: Choose the Right Gear

    *Excerpt from “How to Choose a Home-Defense Gun” by Scott W. Wagner

    When choosing your home-defense gun, remember the old real-estate adage: “Location, location, location.” Where you live will determine which type of firearm and caliber is apt to work best. If you live in a multi-family unit — with shared walls, floor or roof — your own personal safety is not the only concern. You must also consider the safety of your neighbors and the gunfire you could unintentionally be sending in their direction. While you certainly have the right to defend your home against intruders, you also have the responsibility to not injure your neighbors.

    What about a long gun? With shotguns and rifles, space can become a concern, as neither is ideal for maneuvering in tight areas. A shotgun can make a great option. The “spray” of pellets makes a miss less likely. And a rifle, though over-penetration is again a concern, makes for great defense in more rural areas, where four-legged threats can often be a consideration.


    Gear Availability

    *Excerpt from “The 6 Essential Parts of a Home-Defense Plan” by Tom McHale

    Home-defense gear shouldn’t be limited to just a firearm. Equally important is a means of communication, preferably a charged cellphone so you can take it with you. Get in the habit of keeping your phone on a charger on your nightstand so that it’s readily available in the event of a fire or breaking-and-entering emergency. Also, make sure you keep a quality hand-held flashlight right next to it. That’s a great tool to have for any nighttime surprise, whether or not it’s a criminal encounter. Likewise, make sure your firearm is accessible either near where you sleep or in between your bed and the safe space you’ve identified.


    Day 5: Practice Your Plan

    Excerpt from “The 6 Essential Parts of a Home-Defense Plan” by Tom McHale

    Nothing works without practice, so as awkward as it might feel, be sure to not only communicate your home-defense plan but also physically run through it. It’s also worthwhile to walk around your home in the dark to learn how to navigate without tripping over the furniture. While you’re doing this, take note of nooks, corners and hiding places you might use to keep out of sight while making your way to a safe room, out of the home or to join your children.

    Home-defense strategies can fill a book, so we’ve only raised some basic ideas and questions here. Be sure to invest some time thinking like an intruder so you can develop a series of meaningful response plans. If you were going to break into your house, where would you do it? Once inside, where would you go first? How much time would that take? If you know any local police officers, get their input too. The key is to think and plan ahead of time while being as realistic as possible about the process.

  • Check Back Next Week