Beginner’s Guide to CCW: Arm yourself with knowledge

Last year I thought I had encountered an all-time high of people looking to buy their first gun or to get a concealed carry permit. World events and political developments have combined to make what I thought was the high water mark look like low tide. It has hit the point where gun sales breaking records is becoming a common phenomenon. In fact, in my email inbox right now there are a couple of emails from people looking to take me to lunch so they can get my input on their first firearm purchase.

Fighting Smarter is the best foundational resource available today, in my opinion.

It is beyond question that a lot of new purchasers are in those record-breaking numbers, and a sizable percentage of them are buying firearms as weapons of personal defense. If that’s you or someone you know, awesome. I’m glad you’ve decided to arm yourself…but having the gun is just part of the personal defense equation. You also need to arm yourself with knowledge. Knowledge about the realities of criminal assault and successful personal defense strategies to hopefully avoid trouble in the first place or prevail over it in the worst case. Knowledge about the responsibilities, legal constraints, and liabilities of owning/carrying a gun and the use of lethal force. Knowledge on how to develop your marksmanship and handling skills so you can effectively and safely use the weapon you bought.

While there is a ton of information out there, unfortunately a lot of it is truly awful. I’ve been studying this topic for my entire adult life and if I had a dollar for every stupid idea I’ve encountered I wouldn’t need to spend 2 bucks on a Powerball ticket to finally buy that private island I’ve had my eye on. My first choice for learning is, of course, high-quality training courses offered by competent instructors. Quality training is something everyone should seek out, but it’s not always possible to get into a good course immediately…and as a beginner you don’t really have the foundation to know the difference between quality training and goofy nonsense. So what I’m going to provide below are resources you can get your hands on right now to start building your personal defense foundation:

Fighting Smarter by Tom Givens: If you are new to this space, you should take the time to read some of my previous articles about Tom Givens. The short version is that after a career working as a police officer in Memphis, TN, (one of the most violent cities in America) Tom opened Rangemaster where he has taught tens of thousands of students from all over the world how to capably defend themselves…and to date dozens of his students have actually had to shoot a criminal aggressor and decisively prevailed. Tom has condensed the results of almost half a century of education and research into Fighting Smarter. It is, in my opinion, the best single resource available for building a reliable foundation in personal defense.

The Law of Self Defense by Andrew Branca is an excellent beginners guide to the laws governing self defense and the use of force.
The Law of Self Defense by Andrew Branca is an excellent beginners guide to the laws governing self defense and the use of force.

The Law of Self Defense by Andrew Branca: When I talk to people about self defense legal questions abound, but unfortunately there are a lot of utter morons out there offering ridiculous “legal advice” who haven’t the foggiest notion of what in blue hell they are talking about. Andrew Branca is an experienced attorney and certified gun guy (his IDPA number is 13) who knows legitimate self defense cases inside and out. (Specious self defense cases are a fairly common gambit among criminals and some attorneys have knowledge of self defense that is either defined entirely by those specious claims or have no experience with such cases at all) Andrew’s book does a splendid job of outlining the general principles of law behind self defense, and his followup seminars and online content offers highly specific information about laws and jurisprudence in your jurisdiction. Andrew’s work will answer just about every legal question you could possibly come up with related to the use of force in self defense…and having that knowledge makes it much more likely that you will manage a situation successfully. When you know the law you understand when you’re faced with a legitimate criminal assault and when you can take extreme action…like drawing your gun…in self defense. You don’t want to learn the limits of lawful use of force the hard way. is a website run by Todd Green…one of the best firearms instructors and coaches on the planet. His site is full of useful information on guns and training, including a number of great drills for building your skills and cheap, easy to use targets that I use at every range session. My personal favorite is the 3-Two-1 target which I use in a number of different drills to help push my ability to deliver accuracy at speed. I’ve also found the Dot Torture drill to be extremely useful in working on fundamental skills with new shooters or on my own. My skill level with a pistol is largely due to Todd’s influence and instruction over the years, so I recommend his site without reservation.

Active Response Training: This site is run by Greg Ellifritz, a full time police officer with training and experience in just about everything related to self defense that’s worth knowing. In addition to producing his own original and highly beneficial content, Greg links to some of the most useful content available on the web on the topics of self defense, fitness, unarmed combat, travel, and even developing useful social skills…meaning you could make Active Response Training your home page and learn something interesting and useful every time you visit Greg’s site. Greg doesn’t do Gawker-style clickbait crap like a lot of other blogs, and beyond that the man does incredible amounts of research before he opens his mouth on something. He’s like the exact opposite of what you expect from the internet and his site reflects that. Forums can be an incredible source of knowledge. I’ve used them extensively over the years to learn more about everything from solving computer operating system problems to installing an aftermarket stereo in my car. Unfortunately forums can also be populated by well-meaning people who really don’t know what they are talking about, and that’s the besetting sin of many gun related forums. does a better job of staying on the “incredible source of knowledge” side of the spectrum than most other forums you will find. The overall quality of the discussion is very good and there are a number of extremely knowledgeable and experienced people who share the benefit of their expertise on the site. If you’re looking for an interactive informational resource where your questions or concerns will be answered by at least half a dozen people who really know their stuff, Pistol-Forum is about as good as it gets. In addition to the online interaction, the forum holds seminars from time to time that provide access to incredible instructors at little or no cost to members of the forum. I’ve helped put on a few of these events and they seem to do folks a lot of good.

This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but the resources above are high quality and can be safely used to create your personal defense foundation. I’ve used them all extensively…and heck, I even helped build the last one specifically because I was interested in having a high quality resource where people could get together to learn instead of being perpetually assailed by idiocy or BS marketing. I’m certain all of them will serve you well, too.

Having a gun is great…but the gun is just a tool. Don’t just get a gun, arm yourself with the knowledge you need to go with it. The resources above will help you do that.


1 Comment

  1. In case any of your colleagues are wondering what they might write about this year, anyone new to CCW needs to consider the matter that might be called
    The Second Phone Call
    (the 1st being 911).
    Any incident that results in drawing a weapon is apt to result in legal consequences. Who ya gonna call?

    An article on this might touch on a quick review of national and regional legal carry coverage insurance, and/or how to locate and vet a local attorney to have on retainer.

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