The last three years have shown that, ultimately, we’re responsible for our safety. Violent crime is on the rise, and in many areas of the country, the legal system is failing victims. Because of this, more people are turning to concealed carry to protect themselves and their families.

I’ve been carrying concealed for about a decade, and I can’t imagine not doing it anymore. It’s a privilege to live in a country with well-trained law enforcement officers, but the reality is that police can’t be everywhere at all times. Concealed carry is one of the best ways to ensure you can be your own first responder.

Whether you’re brand new to firearms or have years of shooting experience, concealed carry is a big decision you should consider seriously. Let’s take a look at the factors you need to consider to begin your journey.

Getting a Permit

Concealed carry permit training materials
I have my permit in multiple states so I can carry while traveling for business. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/

The first step on your concealed carry journey is obtaining a permit or license in your state. Even if your state falls under a constitutional carry law, getting a permit is a good idea. My default motto when it comes to concealed carry is “better safe than sorry.” Also, a permit in your home state could give you reciprocity to carry in other states.

I put the permit as the first step because, in some jurisdictions, it can take months to receive your permit. Apply for it as soon as you decide you want to carry concealed in case you are left waiting a long time. In the meantime, you can work on the rest of the steps. And, of course, if your permit comes fast, that’s a bonus for when you’re ready.

Training & Mindset

Before carrying concealed, you should get professional training. If you’re brand new to firearms, a beginner’s class will teach you the basics. The next step is to take a concealed carry class, which is also a good idea for experienced shooters who are new to carrying.

Self-defense education books
These are some of the books I recommend for working on a defensive mindset. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/

Mindset might very well be the most critical and overlooked aspect of concealed carry. Are you willing to use lethal force if your life feels threatened? Can you exercise good judgment in a stressful situation? Can you commit to carrying every time you leave the house? These are a few of the questions you need to ask yourself and answer honestly.

Being a proficient shooter only goes so far if you don’t have the right mindset. Defensive situations are chaotic, and it’s well-documented that our body works against us under massive amounts of stress. Train your mind at least as much as your train with your firearm.

Find Your ‘Right’ Gun

There are a lot of choices for concealable pistols these days. I love that there are options because when I started there weren’t many that fit my small hands. As a beginner, though, it can make your head spin.

The best way to find your carry pistol is to handle and shoot a variety of options. Most shooting ranges offer rental guns for a small fee. Buying a gun can be expensive, especially if you end up hating it. Many gun owners, including myself, have that one that sits in the safe and never goes to the range. Invest a small amount of money and time into trying a few to see what you like best.

Concealed Carry Handguns
I’ve changed my carry pistol over the years as I’ve gained more knowledge and experience. My current rotation includes a Glock 43 and 48 MOS and a Walther PDP F-Series. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/


Getting professional training, as I mentioned above, is a great way to figure out what you like and don’t like. If you’ve never handled a firearm, you’ll not likely know what “the one” should feel like, which is why I suggest taking a class before buying. Most instructors will bring several options for you to try as well. 

Outside of getting something that fits in your hand so you can control it, your choice is mainly personal preference. Two people with similar-sized hands can swear that two different pistols are their “best” choice. Both are right. If you have zero experience, it’s always a safe bet to stick with a manufacturer with a long record for quality, like Glock or Sig Sauer.

Holsters and Belts

Concealed Carry Holsters
Picking a holster is mostly personal preference once you’ve found a quality manufacturer. Currently, I rotate between minimalist-style options from Blacksmith Tactical and the Phlster Enigma. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/

In my experience, a holster can make or break your desire to carry daily, so don’t be afraid to try a few. I struggled with carrying for a solid year before I found the holster that made it feel easy. Comfort is a factor to consider as well. Although I don’t feel concealed carry is ever truly comfortable, finding a holster you won’t mind wearing is possible. You don’t want to be adjusting it all day, either. So this is an important step. 

To go with your holster, you’ll need a belt designed for concealed carry. These belts are rigid and sturdy so they can hold the weight of your firearm and holster. There are many choices these days. Don’t be afraid to try a few and see what you like best.

Self-Defense Ammo

Federal HST Ammo
Several companies make quality self-defense ammo. I carry this Federal HST as well as Speer Gold Dot. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/

The ammo you shoot at the range for practice and the ammo you carry is going to be different. Don’t make the mistake of trusting cheap ammo in a potentially life-or-death situation. Get yourself some good self-defense ammo from a respected company like Federal, Speer, Hornady, and others. Make sure you shoot some of this ammo at the range to verify it functions well with your firearm. If it doesn’t, try another brand.

Start Carrying

Woman wearing a concealed carry holster
You won't know what carrying your gun is like until you try it. I remember feeling overwhelmed with concealed carry, but I couldn’t imagine not carrying many years later. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/

When I started, my first step was wearing my empty holster around the house for a couple of days. Next, I wore my holster with my unloaded firearm for another few days. I wanted to get the feeling of having it on me before I went out in public. I started to dry fire more and practice clearing my shirt and drawing during this step as well.

I didn’t realize it then, but as I was handling my pistol more, I gained confidence in carrying concealed. My final step was carrying in public, and all the practice helped me to feel comfortable getting there. It takes time to develop confidence, and practice is the only way to do it.

Practice, Practice, and More Practice

Ammo and a gun on a target
Training is a lifelong thing, but the good part is that it can still be a lot of fun no matter how long you do it. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/

Shooting, drawing, and even a defensive mindset are all skills that will get rusty without practice. If you intend to defend your life with a firearm, you must practice consistently and continually. Get to the range and dry fire regularly when you can’t. Practice your draw from concealment regularly. Keep your mindset sharp and continue learning. 

Glock 48 MOS
You don’t need anything extra for dry-fire practice, but I enjoy using the Mantis X10 Elite and Laser Academy to make it more interesting. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/


Starting your concealed carry journey can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from taking this critical step in protecting yourself and your family. Use the above breakdown as a checklist and work through each task. Before you know it, you’ll be carrying daily.

revolver barrel loading graphic