The Psychological Cost to First Time Carrying?
“It is better to have a gun and not need it, than to need a gun and not have it.” @Tacticalphd
Although almost everyone in the concealed carry world would agree more people should carry, we often fail to realize the psychological cost of making that initial decision and how we often inadvertently make it more costly. As the year 2020 has seen an estimated 3 million new gun owners it is worth taking a minute to look at the series of decisions involved in carrying and the realities of a gun’s unlikely defensive use. Most credible attempts to estimate how guns are used in civilian self-defense estimates that just letting an assailant know you’re armed stops the encounter 90+% of the time. This means that just having a gun and making an assailant know you are not an ‘easy victim,’ is the vast majority of defensive use. In this most likely scenario, the type of gun, round count, bullet type, brand, are all irrelevant. Even the how and where of the carry is less important than just carrying in a location where you can get to the gun if it is needed.
I am not discounting that all of these factors become important if you have to use the gun. What I am saying is that the first goal, and the most likely use, is to get someone to just regularly carry. If insisting that they carry a specific size gun, with a certain caliber or larger, or in a specific holster, all result in the decision to carry becoming psychologically too costly. Subsequently, we have done a disservice to that person and our cause of helping people take charge of their own safety. The decision to carry a handgun needs to be made easier, not harder. The more we (gun stores, trainers, advocates, businesses) can do to make the first step easier the better.
The firearms industry needs to recognize that a seven round, .22 caliber with an external safety handgun with no round chambered that can be comfortably carried and accessed will, in 90+% of situations, be just as useful as a seventeen round .40 S&W with a round chambered. Do I hope that the person that just starts carrying will advance their skills and comfort to then refine how and what they carry to better handle situations that may require the gun to be fired? Of course. But, the first huge step for many new gun owners is to carry at all.
All defensive decisions are choices and how we carry includes factors such as concealment, comfort, personally feeling safe, ease of carry, speed of draw, and the tactical flexibility of what we carry. Those who regularly carry tend to focus on the last two factors, not realizing that the new gun owner may well be stopped from carrying at all by any or a combination of the first four factors. Let’s all recognize that for a first time owner considering carrying those initial factors already carry a fair amount of psychological cost. Let’s make those costs smaller. Comfort, concealment, feeling comfortable with the safety of carrying, and ease of carry may initially take precedence over more tactical concerns. But if letting someone making informed choices in their carry free of ‘tactical’ judgment will hopefully result in one more American who does have a gun if they ever need one. And that is a good thing.
Once a new gun owner has chosen the gun that is right for them at this time in their development the next step is to decide how to carry it. Whether that is IWB, pocket, belly band, ankle, or any other method, let them decide what works for them initially and remember that comfort and ease are more important in those initial psychological calculations of cost (is it worth it? Am I willing to do this?). Over time, we can work towards ensuring the new gun carrier’s is comfortable with enhanced tactical decision-making with their choice of firearms and method(s) of carrying.
“It is better to have a gun, ANY GUN, and not need it, than to need a gun and not have it”
Joel T. Nadler
Senior Instructor and Training Director
Indy Arms Company