How to Improve Your Defensive Skills for Concealed Carry


Knowing how to properly fire a gun in an effective and safe manner will enable you to defend yourself should the situation arise. The better trained you are, the better chance you’ll have to make less mistakes that might land you in trouble with the law. Here are some ways in which you can improve your self-defense skills with a handgun, from the basics to the more advanced.

Take a basic course

In order to acquaint yourself with what you need to know, take a basic pistol course. This will help you know the rules for safety, how to handle your firearm, the fundamentals of shooting, cleaning and maintenance, proper storage and more. Even for experienced gun owners, a basic course is still a good idea for a refresher.

Take the qualification program for NRA marksmanship

To develop your shooting skills, try out the do-it-yourself program from the NRA. This is composed of challenges that get steadily harder, from the basics to sharpshooter level. No cost is required, but you’ll have to provide for fees for the range as well as paper targets.

Get your license for concealed carry

A permit is required in most states for carrying a concealed weapon outside the house. You’ll have to attend classroom instruction to learn about gun laws and spend some time at the shooting range, which is good training for you. Whether or not you want to carry your gun around often, your range time will give you good practice for drawing from a holster for self-defense.

Take lessons for advanced self-defense

Once you’ve patted down the basics, it’s time to move on to the more challenging phase. Take advanced level classes for self-defense, which include shooting moving targets, reloading effectively, drawing your concealed weapon, and firing at multiple targets, among others. Remember to choose a skilled instructor with the right knowledge and experience.

Practice dry firing

Discharging your weapon within the city limits is prohibited, so try dry firing instead when you can’t go down to the range. You just need a paper target and your unloaded firearm. You can also choose to incorporate lasers, targets and other innovative items available in the market that are specifically fitted for dry firing.

Check out local bull’s-eye games

The NRA hosts ‘bull’s-eye’ matches on local ranges, or the Conventional Pistol Shooting. These are comprised of slow, timed, and rapid fire levels in competition for points. Trigger control and accurate shooting are required, which will be good training for you. Indoor matches require minimal equipment and a .22 pistol, while outdoor matches require two different guns, a .45 and a .22, with more gear.

Check out other types of matches

The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) and the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) hold matches for self-defense within a real-world setting. There are different types of situations, such as hostage rescue, shooting from a cover position, and more. For beginners, watch some matches first before entering to get acquainted with the format.

Improving your skills at self-defense with a concealed carry weapon will enable you to better protect yourself in crucial situations. These avenues are just some of the effective training pathways you can pursue to achieve this.


Ethan Robinson is a gun and self-defense enthusiast, hunter, blogger, and online marketing strategist based in Australia. He is currently partnering with IDF Holsters, a top supplier of high-quality holsters, tactical equipment and weapon accessories.


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9 thoughts on “How to Improve Your Defensive Skills for Concealed Carry”

  1. Yup, I have never known anyone who was over trained or decided, post incident, that they should have spent less time at the range. A while back, I purchased a LaserLyte shotgun training laser and a couple packs of Snap Caps for same. The laser goes in the end of the barrel and activates momentarily when the shotty is fired. Great training aid for all those times when I am too busy to get range time in. I think I got all of it for around a hundred bucks from Amazon, which sounds pricey until one thinks about a trip to the range. Range fee 15, gas to and from 20, 12 gauge ammo easily 50-60. So, the whole setup was about the same as one range visit. Oh, and I always make absolutely certain that no live ammo is around when “laser training”.

  2. Having carried concealed for work and afterward for more than four decades and worked with so called trained professionals that also carried for work I learned about men with pistols. The most important thing I learned was qualify (which was 500 rounds a month), clean, and then holster. LEAVE IT HOLSTERED until directly planning on shooting the next time. DO NOT DRY FIRE. The few, and thankfully non-fatal ‘accidental’ discharges almost all happened when intending to dry fire – and these from so called well trained professionals highly proficient with firearms. Before I became one of those so called professionals, I shot high power target and center fire pistol. We dry fired because it is indeed a good way to maintain smooth trigger pull – and then there was the fellow competitor who invariably showed up on the line with the toe cut out of his boot – where the muzzle of his Winchester Model ’52 .22 target rifle habitually invariably rested between rounds off hand. We’d grin and remark, ‘things happen.’

    Well over the decades I observed that almost all of the unintended discharges were due to messing around, including dry firing, with weapons between trips to the range. By the time I was experienced enough to make this observation I could influence policy and that became policy. Shoot, clean, holster, (or store properly) and keep it holstered or stored, until actually intending to shoot again. The accidental discharge rate plummeted.

    In summary, dry firing is indeed an excellent way to maintain trigger consistency. It is also a great way to eventually experience an inadvertent discharge – no matter how well trained your might be. Most of the men I worked with fired more than 50,000 rounds a year in training most serious- yet every year there was at least one reported accidental discharge – and likely more at home or where the discharge would never be reported. So no matter how useful and widespread the practice might be – risky it is and I cannot recommend the practice of dry firing.


  3. DITTO on the Dry Fire .. I do DRY FIRE but at the range as a training function. I’m lucky enough to have bought some acreage and I paid the BullDozer guy when I built (in cold beer BTW ), to push me up a berm for shooting. I still like the range but I can practice whatever scenario I want at home. Our ranges don’t allow draw shoot stuff.. and it is very awkward to try and practice reloads. I shot competitively in IDPA and IPSC. It provides the tension of a timer. It’s not like actually being in the stuff .. but it’s better than nothing and forces mistakes that would be deadly IRL. Moving quickly under observation shows speed mistakes and what needs practice. Reloads were huge ones. Unless practiced almost everyone bobbles the “drop mag, draw mag, insert mag, slide release, fire” sequence. It cost people 5-10 seconds at times. IRL 5-10 seconds is a bad delay right ? Worse, that pressure caused excellent marksmen to become rattled and lose their expertise. I highly recommend competition in the unmodified class to test your equipment and identify weaknesses. Further I recommend night shoots to learn the differences, as well as rain or shine, hot or cold. Stuff happens when it happens and it isn’t likely that it will be in a comfortably air conditioned well lit and obstacle free location. Hot sweaty hands and in the eyes and cold stiff fingers add a whole new dimension to defense. We don’t need to be perfect, just better than our adversary.. like outrunning the bear is only important if there is only one of you 🙂 And 500 rounds is about right .. If you compete monthly, and fires once a week.. maybe more if you include rife and shotgun with pistol. If yo can’t do that .. then do what you can.. “pay me now or pay me later”

  4. I was working with an LEO in Kalifornia who was showing off on the range holding his hand out in front of his muzzle and was shooting above and below his hand, he must have had a mental laps because in a few moments he put a round through his palm. He was a fool, He was fired after that, glad he didn’t cost a fellow LEO his life. I will never forget that.

    I do not believe in dry fire training just me. We didn’t back in my day so as the saying goes “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”

  5. Excellent points! I try to take a course at least once a year…just to freshen up the cobwebs and it’s a good way to make sure you’re not ingraining bad habits.
    Shooting IDPA local matches also helps with some of the defensive skills as well, there are those who “game” it to “win” the matches but I just go to help my gun safety/handling skills under the pressure of the clock and other watchful eyes. Yes there are some rules that you may not like but the experience and friendships one makes out weighs the negatives.

    • roger that on the gaming .. makes me mad when they do … Originally IPSC then later IDPA were to emphasize practical skills the “P”. Just like anything organizational that grows .. politics and scoring position change the reason for it .. they added speed guns and emphasize speed with no scoring for effective use of cover etc ALL clock time. We built a an airplane scenario .. hostages etc and bad guys had guns .. the winners ran through doors standing upright.. what idiot would go through a door upright with unknown number of bad guys with weapons.. all they would need is shoot the door entry. He won over me buy 30-40 seconds .. of course I got dinged for shooting through a hostage shoulder to kill bad guy center chest.. I thought it was a good trade .. IRL not so much I guess .. and definitely cost 10 sec penalty.. The Spec Ops guys approved though..
      and it is fun and you get to know similar people… some good and some a little out there

  6. I must respectfully disagree with the “no on dry practice” crowd. Properly used, dry practice will improve: presentation of your firearm from the holster, grip acquisition, sight picture and alignment, trigger control, and follow through.

    However, just like handling a live firearm, there are rules to safe dry practice. Failure to follow the rules WILL result in a problem. It may take a while but it will happen.

    Your “dry practice” time MUST be dedicated. Say, out loud, “I’m going to dry practice now”, to yourself and or any others that may hear. NO DISTRACTIONS. If the phone rings, somebody’s at the door, wifey calls that dinner is ready, STOP. You can call it quits for that session or restart when the distraction is over. If you restart, start from the beginning, not where you left off.

    Unload your weapon and check it. Then check it again. Then, one more time. Remove ALL live ammo from the room. Put up a TEMPORARY target in a safe area. (a sticky-note on your gun safe works well) Say you are starting out loud, check your weapon again and proceed to practice. 10 or 15 minutes is usually long enough.

    When you are done, say, out loud, “dry practice is over.” Put your weapon in the condition you like it, take down you temp target, and you are done.

    Do not say, “Oh just one more”, or anything similar. When you are done, you are DONE. If you start again, start from the beginning.

    Using the temp target and taking it down when you are done helps keep you from the “one more time” idea. Using something fixed in the room, light switch, Mom-in-law’s picture, TV, etc. might lead you into the “one more time” thing.

    I and many of my co-workers and friends have dry practiced for years without incident. But the rules are strictly followed.

    An aside, Badger, your LEO in Kalifornia, IDIOT!

    Disclosure: I have had an unintentional discharge. In a night shooting class, working on mal-functions, and I had a case of cerebral flatulence. No excuses and it was safe. I shot the base of the target. I should not have shot at all. My finger should NOT have been on the trigger at that time.

    If you do not want to dry practice, that is your call and I make no judgment. Just adding my take on the subject.


  7. The problem is we so easily become habituated.

    Those with me shot more than most anywhere on the planet and we were so familiar with the weapons. All of the trainees remarked how smooth they become after a 50,000 round year. Yet that familiarity always worked against some unfortunate soul. The first accidental discharge I was around was by an old experienced firearms instructor and mentor to many. He had a sack of custom grips and one day sat in the office changing those grips and modeling how each fit his hand, thankfully pointing the weapon down to the cement floor between his legs. Then came a very loud bang and all of us dove for the floor. It looked like a turkey shoot, one scared eyeball after another poking up above those metal desks. The shooter was the only one in his chair and white as a sheet of untyped paper. He got up and went down the hall to the boss’ office. As he left the area we all jumped up and ran over to his desk. Pulling out the chair we saw the scalding on the floor from the bullet. A quick thinker produced a 10x bull target, poked a skill craft pen in the very center and we carefully taped it over the spalding on the floor, slid the chair back, and went back to work as if chained to the desks. After a while the boss came in followed by the still white shooter. The boss seriously pulled out the chair – and then lost it when he saw the hole in the 10x bull centered over the impact point. I think our humor saved a career that day. As they left, one of the men remarked, “Aww, we should have called up a casualty from the floor below us.” Missed opportunity but there was one operator who never messed with weapons unless actively engaged in shooting or cleaning.

    Dry firing works – but at what expense? Imagine shooting a hole through your wall and killing the wife or kiddos? Are you so certain you will never dry fire, reload, and then have a thought and dry fire again?

    Pilots have a number of really useful pearls of wisdom. Amongst the flying brethren, there are those who have and those who will (land gear up – all of the check lists in the world notwithstanding, it happened to me so am now among the unwashed who have); another pithy saying is that flying machines often give the test first and lesson afterward. Same is true for many complex systems, especially firearms. I could go on and on about flying witticisms and experiences, but just think bad ole things happen even with practiced aviators and good checklists. My gear up was followed by decades of operation of my personally owned high performance, complex (according to FAA lingo) airplanes. I actually authored the check list for that very airframe and decades of use convinced me it was completely memorized. It was a beautiful summer day and I was flying from the ranch to Amarillo to see my kiddos. The wind was about 10kt right down the runway. Then came that grinding of aluminum and a very short landing roll – er slide and I was immediately down about $100k in repairs. The checklist was open to the landing page in the co-pilot seat. I saw it as I flipped off the master electrical buss and then just set there in silence. The FAA inspector reviewed documents for my current medical and recency of check ride and noted that I’d been to Flight Safety in Wichita within the last six months (great simulators and highly experienced instructors). He leafed through the current log book and nodded at the thousands of hours…. and commented I was certainly experienced enough and it was about time for a gear up landing. He admitted to doing the same with about the same flight hours. We sat there and he asked about my airplane. I told him repairs would be in the six figures and as I was such an experienced pilot, I was self insured. After a little silence, he added that the FAA certainly shouldn’t exact any more pain and that as soon as I had a new check ride I would be good to fly again. It was about the best adverse encounter anyone could have with a federal official. He even patted my back on the way out of the interview room.

    Folks bad things happen with habituation. Dry firing does just that. When it happens to you, remember my experiences.



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