The course of fire to get your concealed carry permit consists of firing 30 rounds into a standard silhouette target at three, five, and seven yards. There is no time limit, and the target area is generous. Please understand that the CCW course is not designed or intended to create expert combat shooters. It does help demonstrate you have a basic ability to fire your gun safely, and hit a target.

I believe the goal of CCW training is twofold. First, to make sure citizens who carry a concealed firearm understand the laws and legal limitations in place, so they don’t get arrested when they are protecting themselves or others. The second – to make sure these people have a basic understanding of firearms safety and can operate and manipulate their firearm without hurting themselves or others. Both of these are laudable goals.

Even though you have received your concealed carry permit, you need to understand these very, very basic shooting skills are probably not enough to protect yourself or those you care about in an actual self-defense situation. How do I know? Why do I believe you need more training? It’s not just me – it’s those professionals who keep track of actual shootings involving both law enforcement and legally armed citizens.

Many large law enforcement agencies not only keep track of officer involved shooting details, but publish them as well. The Federal Bureau of Investigation through its Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and its Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted reports; The New York Police Department and data through its SOP-9 (Standard Operating Procedure #9 – essentially a firearms discharge report, records go back as far as the 1850’s); Los Angeles County Officer Involved Shooting Report (LASD deputies, and officer involved shootings from smaller agencies in the county); Baltimore County Police Department Officer Involved Shooting Report; and the Metro-Dade (Miami) Police Department report as examples.

Reviewing literally thousands of shootings between bad guys and good guys lets us understand what is most likely to happen in these situations, and correspondingly – what training will be most valuable and necessary should you be involved in a self-defense shooting. Some examples of what the data indicates:

Officer Involved Shooting Statistics (per reports by: FBI, NYPD SOP-9, LA County, etc.)

  • The majority occurred outside
  • The majority occurred at less than 5 yards
  • The majority occurred in dim/reduced lighting conditions
  • About half involved multiple assailants


The Four Primary Police Combat Shooting Skills (as identified by Peter M. Tarley, in the IALEFI Tactical Firearms Handbook)

  • Accurate shot placement at medium to long combat range
  • Speed at close distance
  • Multiple rounds at single target
  • Single or multiple rounds at multiple targets


Self Defense Carry Needs (as noted by Tom Givens, long time CCW instructor)

  • Speed when up close – less than 5 yards
  • Accuracy at distances up to 25 yards
  • Multiple rounds (rarely will a single bullet stop a threat)
  • Multiple targets (bad guys travel with other bad guys)
  • Experience in night time & low light conditions (bad guys tend to be out at night)
  • Use of cover when possible


Additional CCW Training Concerns (based on my own personal training and experience)

  • Have the Gun in Hand ASAP (draws from concealment take longer, you need to practice the draw)
  • Practice Reloading Drills (especially if you have lower capacity firearm – anything less than 10 rounds)
  • Get and Use Night Sights & an LED Flashlight (identify your target, and confirm your aim before firing in low light conditions)


So, to be better prepared and ready to actually defend yourself against a threat, what should you do, what kind of training should you seek, after you shoot the minimal qualification course of fire, and get your CCW permit? Let’s go down the list:

Outside – indoors there is less room for movement, outside there can be many avenues of approach and directions that attacks can come from or where attackers can move away. Train to include movement in your shooting – both moving yourself (left, right, front, back, etc.), and practice engaging threat targets that don’t stay in one place.

Speed Up Close – you need to practice getting your gun in hand, clear of the holster, and pointed at the bad guy as quickly as practical – I say “practical” because a really quick draw is no good if you clear the holster in record time, but don’t have a solid grip on the gun and end up sending it flying as it slips out of your hand (I’ve seen it happen). With an attacker only a few feet away, you won’t have time to get a perfect draw, get into that really pretty shooting stance, or line up the sights in a perfect sight picture – so train and practice to deal with those realities.

Some May be Further Away – Just being quick up close isn’t enough. You may have a threat further away: distance = time, and that extra time might allow, and that extra distance may require –  you actually line up your sights and use them to ensure an accurate shot. Miss the shot, and you might not have a lot of time until they are right upon you.

Low Light – bad guys like surprise, hiding in places with low light give them that advantage. Stay aware, stay alert, and if possible, stay away from places you can’t see well. Otherwise, a bright LED flashlight carried in your secondary hand will illuminate those places, giving you advance warning someone is there. Night sights will allow you to get a good sight picture, and as long as there is enough light to see and identify the threat, you can hit it. Also, find a way to train at least once in low light so you can practice live fire drills using flashlights, night sights, and experience the muzzle flash that will occur when the round goes off.

Multiple Rounds – rarely will a single pistol bullet cause a threat to immediately stop their attack on you. Expect and train that two, three, four, five or more shots might be required to get the attack to stop. If one works – great. If not, you should be ready to immediately continue to fire until the threat ends.

Multiple Bad Guys – more often than not, bad guys will travel in pairs and groups. Shooting one might cause the other to run, or it might cause the second one to continue to assist or begin to join in the attack. Train to shoot multiple rounds into multiple targets. And, if you have a capacity of ten rounds or less in your carry gun, it won’t take a lot of shooting two or more bad guys multiple times for you to run out of ammo. The average number of shots fired in a gunfight might be less than you have in your gun, but remember: averages include those situations where many more than the average were used as well.

As a summary: the CCW class and its qualification course of fire is a start, only a beginning. To be completely capable of defending yourself with a firearm in a self-defense situation, you need to practice the skills demonstrated to be necessary in hundreds or thousands of real world examples.