If you’re going to go through the process to get your permit to carry, and let’s face it, in some states it’s much harder to do than in others, you might as well be the best concealed carrier you can be. There are plenty of mistakes people make when they first start to carry. There are also a few mistakes that some experienced concealed carriers still make even after years of carrying a gun. 

Here are seven of the worst mistakes you should avoid like the plague and suggestions on how to fix them.

1. Not Carrying a Round in the Chamber

Taurus GX4 pistol with ammo on a table
Carrying a gun without a round in the chamber leaves you at a serious disadvantage. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Imagine trying to put your seatbelt on while the oncoming semi-truck crosses that yellow line and hits you head-on while doing 65 mph. Yeah, it’s most likely not going to happen, is it? So why do you think it’s OK to not carry with a round in the chamber? Will you have time to draw, rack, aim, and fire on an attacker? Odds are that you’re not. Many people don’t carry a round in the chamber because they lack the confidence to properly handle their gun. They’re afraid to do something wrong and have a negligent discharge. 

Well, guess what? If your gun is in a proper holster and on your belt, it’s safe. If confidence is your issue, get training. Seek the help of a certified instructor and train until you’re confident. Hit the range and shoot your gun. If it helps, carry your completely empty, holstered gun while you’re in the house until you get used to how it feels. It’s a learning curve, but just like you learned to drive while wearing your seatbelt, you will become confident carrying with a round in the chamber.

2. Printing

A gun in a leather holster on a belt
Whatever holster you pick, make sure it conceals well without obviously printing. (Photo: Seth Rogers/Guns.com)

We carry concealed for a reason, because the element of surprise may just save your life. If you’re advertising that you’re armed by not properly concealing your gun, you’re giving away your secret. Whether you’re belt carrying with a garment over your holstered gun or you’ve got a nice little inside-the-waistband holster with a tight shirt over it, you don’t want the fact that you’re armed to be public knowledge. If you’re going to carry, and we think you should, you should dress for success. 

A proper gun belt will help support the weight of your holstered gun. If you’re using a cover garment, it shouldn’t be snug against your waistline. It should be long enough to cover the gun and made of a fabric substantial enough to lay nicely over the butt of the grip. Wearing the proper garments will help keep that gun on your hip a secret. 

3. Not Using a Proper Gun Belt and Holster

Pick a belt that is designed to support a holstered gun. (Photo: Seth Rogers/Guns.com)

The old saying, “you get what you pay for,” definitely applies here. You probably spent a fair amount of money on that new gun. So now’s not the time to go cheap on your holster or gun belt. Gun belts are specially designed to properly support the weight of a loaded gun in your holster. Regular belts aren’t, even if they’re made from leather. An improper belt will cause your holster to sag. It may stretch out, and it will make it easier to print. 

Holsters should be specifically crafted for the gun you carry. It should also properly cover the trigger and trigger guard, ensuring nothing can reach or manipulate the trigger to cause a negligent discharge. Holsters are generally made of leather or a polycarbonate/Kydex material. A good holster, fit for your specific model and placed on a proper gun belt, will keep your gun where you put it. Cheap holsters are often poorly fitting and crafted from inferior materials, which can lead to cracking, breaking, or wearing quickly, especially around the trigger guard area. You should periodically inspect your holster to make sure that all of your screws, tension adjustments, belt clips, etc. are free of wear.

4. Checking Yourself/Adjusting/Fingering the Gun

A woman wearing a bellyband holster
Being comfortable with your concealed carry gun is key. (Photo: Jacki Billings/Guns.com)

It’s something every concealed carrier does when we first start carrying. We fidget. We check. We adjust. Constantly. Don’t do it! A properly holstered gun is not going anywhere. Even if you’re slightly printing, 99 percent of the general public would never even notice. People keep many things besides guns on their belts, so having a small bump by your hip could be anything. 

Holster your gun, dress, adjust yourself, cover it, and forget about it. You do not need to constantly fumble, finger, or adjust your holstered gun. Doing so will definitely call attention to yourself.

5. Not Having Enough Training

An instructor teaches a firearms class
Training is key to confidence and effectiveness with a self-defense firearm. (Photo: Don Summers/Guns.com)

Did you have to take a safety class as part of your state’s requirement to obtain your concealed carry permit? What training have you done since then? Have you worked with a certified pistol instructor? Have you gone to the range regularly and worked on drills specific to drawing and shooting from your concealed carry holster? If not, you’d better get on that. Lack of proper training is a huge mistake many concealed carriers make. 

Shooting accurately is a perishable skill. You should be training regularly and build confidence before you start to carry concealed. Many drills help with the fundamentals, all of which make for a better likelihood that you can defend yourself. Range training is great, but you must understand that you’re not going to be used to the adrenaline and stress of a real self-defense scenario. You go to the range with a plan and know you’ll be shooting. Find a trainer who can introduce higher-stress decision-making into your shooting. Train like your life depends on it because it does.

6. Not Carrying All the Time

A concealed carry holster without a gun on a belt
Not carrying at all is one of the biggest mistakes. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

You went through the process of obtaining your concealed carry permit for a reason, so why aren’t you doing it? Most people stop carrying all the time because they’re lazy. The tiny amount of extra effort it takes to add that holster to your belt can mean the difference between life and death. 

Some people say carrying is uncomfortable. Find the body position that suits you best, carry in the right holster, and I promise you’ll barely know it’s there. You can’t be ready for anything if you have to try and remember whether or not you strapped your gun on this morning. If you’re going to do it, do it right. 

7. Not Carrying Extra Ammunition

Bullets by guns
Extra ammo can be the key to self-defense. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

You know how hard it can be to hit that stationary 8.5x11-inch target in a controlled environment at the range. Now add the stress of an actual encounter where your life depends on your shot and you’ll likely be moving while you shoot. Pistols designed for concealed carry generally hold between six and 10 rounds. Even worse, revolvers normally hold only five or six rounds. 

If you’re in a high-stress situation, will you place those five or six rounds accurately enough to stop an attacker? Will 10 rounds work? It’s hard to say, which is why you should always carry an extra magazine (or speed loader if you carry a revolver). Having extra ammunition can increase your odds. Making sure you’re carrying the appropriate self-defense ammunition will increase your odds even more, ensuring that the shots you do get on target won’t go straight through your attacker and hit something else. 

revolver barrel loading graphic