As the old saying goes, if you’re fighting fair when defending yourself, your tactics suck!

But cheating isn’t right, is it? It’s kind of slimy, and the Knights of the Round Table never did it. Politicians do it all the time, and that’s reason enough to drive the rest of us away from a cheating mentality. But when push comes to shove, whether “cheating” will get you expelled from the Augusta National Golf Club or save your life depends on the circumstance.

If most of your life competitions involve polo, dressage, or lawn croquet, then cheating would certainly be considered poor form and you would easily qualify as a Bond movie villain. If your competition is a fight for your life, or that of your loved ones, then cheat like the classic 1960s rough and raw James Bond. You remember that scene in Goldfinger in which Sean Connery scooped up Goldfinger’s lost golf ball, right? Technically he was cheating, but I think it was okay, as he was saving the world in the process.

So when it comes to concealed carry, don’t commit the deadly sin of thinking you have to compete fairly, like dueling patricians or jousting knights. In a self-defense contest, the winners get all the blue chips. The second-place finisher not only fails to get a consolation prize, they don’t even get a certificate of participation. So disregard “fair-fight etiquette.”

Even a pocket-sized gun like this Springfield Armory XD-S can be equipped with a laser, like this LaserMax Mini.
Even a pocket-sized gun like this Springfield Armory XD-S can be equipped with a laser, like this LaserMax Mini.

So how do you become a better cheater? Off the top of my head, I can think of at least four ways you can stack the concealed carry deck in your favor.


The addition of a laser to your carry gun can make a dramatic difference in your ability to put shots on target quickly and accurately in low-light conditions, thereby giving you a potential advantage in a self defense situation. Lasers don’t make you a better shot, but they provide two benefits:

  • Effectively aim your gun while your eyes are focused on the threat.
  • Effectively aim your gun from non-traditional firing positions.

When looking for threats, your eyes are focused exactly on that—the potential dangers nearby. As human eyes can only focus on one plane at a time, your eyes will not be focused on the front sight while you’re busy searching. You’ll need to transition to a front-sight focused picture when a threat is identified. One more thing to note: when your gun is in a proper shooting position, it’s obstructing much of your forward view. Use of a laser, with practice, allows you to aim and shoot, even while your gun is in a low ready position.

Tactical lights

I always thought that a firearm-mounted light was a good thing, but my eyes were opened to their real value in a dramatic way when I competed in the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational Event. Moving, identifying targets, and shooting fast in the pitch dark is a whole new experience—not at all like plinking at soda cans or paper targets in broad daylight and from a stationary position.

If you carry a mid-size or full size gun, you can easily add a light and laser, like this Glock 17 with Crimson Trace Lasergrip and Lightguard.
If you carry a mid-size or full-size gun, you can easily add a light and laser, like this Glock 17 equipped with a Crimson Trace Lasergrip and Lightguard.

Between that competition and subsequent training events in the dark, I’ve learned that if you have the option of using a gun-mounted light, you should take it. Being able to quickly identify your target, see your standard sights in the dark, and maneuver are all benefits with no appreciable downsides. With new products like the Crimson Trace Lightguard, you can now have a firearm-mounted light on your concealed carry gun. The only consideration is choice of holster. A year ago, it was hard to find holsters for carry guns with lights. Now, it’s easy. So for the cost of a light and new holster, your concealed carry gun can be light-equipped. If you have an opportunity to stack the self-defense deck in your favor for less than $150, why wouldn’t you? It’s your life, after all.

Train your butt off

Okay, unless you’re a full-time operator, it’s not feasible to train your butt off, but you can gain far more training than the vast majority of street thugs who might be behind an attack on your or your loved ones. For about the same price as your gun, you can get a multi-day training class at a quality facility near you. There are far too many good training classes to mention here, so search the web for ones near you. Then, and most importantly, carefully check the student reviews of the class. Make sure to read reviews from a broad representation of previous students—men, women, families, and new and experienced shooters alike.

I think the best part of a good training class is the aftershock. More likely than not, you’ll have a number of life-changing epiphanies during your class. This will help you understand which skills need the most practice once the class is finished. Practicing at home is good. Knowing what to practice at home as a result of professional instruction is great.

Be a wimp

The best way to win a life and death contest with your concealed carry gun is to forfeit. By this I mean don’t compete. Do anything and everything in your power to avoid a conflict in the first place. You’ll hear lots of web commandos talking trash about their future gun fights. “I hope such and such comes in my house!” and other such nonsense. No way. You really, really, really don’t want to pull your trigger in self-defense if there is any way you can avoid it. Is following through on a macho threat worth ruining your life and draining your bank account? I don’t think so. You can be right and ruined.

Cheat by always being aware of your surroundings. If you feel uncomfortable, leave. Don’t go to high-risk places at high-risk times. Avoid engagement with irritable strangers. You know the drill. Swallow some pride if that helps you avoid drawing your gun.

Images by Tom McHale

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32 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: Not Cheating Enough

  1. Amen on that last point! I’m a former NRA instructor and it saddens and frightens me every time I run into somebody with the commando attitude. This is a point that I think many instructors under-emphasize at the peril of their students future mental, physical, and financial well being. Given the choice, I’d move it to the top of the list in terms of importance as a training subject.

  2. As a bouncer in a bar in Anaheim, CA I quickly learned you can talk your way out of most bad situations. Being aggro starts fights and nobody wins 100% of the time. Be prepared, but remember YOU win every time you avoid a fight.

    1. This is ‘almost’ humorous… But while in the USMC, I had a roommate who got into a fight at least once a week — outside a Base Club or in town someplace. He would come in with his uniform all torn and grass-stained, and tell me once again how he had won a fight with someone! I would respond with, “No, Keith, you simply lost less than the other guy!”
      AND, because I did not get INTO fights, EVER, he assumed that I could not fight nearly so well as he…
      So, one day, while my younger Brother was visiting for a few days, he challenged me to a friendly wrestling match. {WHY I do not know}
      To his GREAT Surprise…I simply “Man-Handled Him”! Even when he DID start to cheat, it was not enough! From that day forward, he completely changed how he dealt with me! He had a “New Respect” for me, and realized he was NOT “The Alpha Dog” after all!

  3. Great post! Like it a lot :)…I found, just today, a place in my area that has a 5 class tactical series that covers all of the situations you mention here and then some. I’m joining the place and shooting TOMORROW. Already have a gun, just need an outside carry holster, which I’m having difficulty finding….I have a GLOCK 27 (.40S&W), and would like to have an open-carry kydex holster with some sort of posi-lock “click” feature so that I know for dang sure when the thing is fully re-holstered.

    Anyway, I’ve been told by an ex-policeman I know, that the vast majority of self-defense gun use happens within three feet of a person. I don’t really know the statistics myself, but if I go by that statement alone, then a light and laser get irrelevant real fast, and the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in….THIS is where training REALLY pays off.

    We need to practice quick draw and fire from concealment as much as we can if we wish to save our rumps, or those of our family, in a “situation.”

    Agree totally that it is best to avoid such things altogether, or try to dissipate anything bad heading toward ya, etc. Last thing I want to carry around is the loss of another’s life. I’ve never killed a civilian, but killing a human in any situation is NOT a feat of manhood, trust me.

    Those macho/commando type guys give us all a bad name in many cases, and they give themselves jail time in the worst of those cases. NRA instructors that spot someone like this need to deal with it aggressively, and make sure the student knows what the potential consequences of unnecessary lethal force are, i.e., felony at a minimum, Federal PRISON at the worst. Not to mention a TON of other bad things.

    okies, just had to get my 2 cents in on this one.

    1. And you certainly gave us our money’s worth! (-;
      That Macho/commando image is thanks to Hollowwood! And those who fall into it are FOOLS and as shallow as a rain puddle in the street!

    2. I think you meant to say ‘cover’ instead of concealment… If one tries as best as they can to be aware of their surroundings, then if the situation arises in which deadly force is needed, if one is able with the surroundings, ‘cover’ (protection from incoming bullets) is always preferable if time in the circumstance permits. Since it is impossible to know ahead of time whether the quick shots (to reduce incoming), or racing to get to ‘cover’ is more critical, this emphasizes the criticality for LOTS of practice in a few different scenarios. Obviously, if you are confronted with the need to employ deadly force, or even just to brandish without firing, the perp will know where you are, making ‘concealment’ useless. The military makes use of both ‘cover’ and ‘concealment’ whenever possible. If you are trying to use ‘concealment’ to hide yourself, you are more likely the aggressor, unless in your own home.

      1. There is no point to what I am about to say other than it’s an “interesting” observation, and I would never want to rely on it, but…

        Have you ever seen tapes of gunfights in spaces like convenience stores? Often, one party will duck behind some flimsy thing like a stack of TastyKakes and the opponent is stumped because their target is suddenly gone! Clearly it’s concealment and not cover as a spitball would go right through it, but it’s interesting how the human brain doesn’t seem to be pre-programmed to think, “hey, I can shoot right through that!” They’ll try to shoot around, or over, but rarely through that concealment. From a dispassionate observer point of view, it’s kind of strange to watch.

        Again, no recommendation of any kind (except maybe last resort?), I just think it’s an interesting observation.

    3. Great article! The downside to a weapon mounted light? forcing you to point your muzzle at things that you do not want to destroy! that’s a huge negative.

      imagine searching your house and pointing your firearm at a family member. sure you can have a separate flashlight, but this article does not mention that. it seems to say that you are searching with your firearm. and you could possibly search within the peripheral beam of the flashlight, which isn’t very efficient and wasn’t mentioned either.

  4. I would not use a gun-mounted flashlight for home defense. If I am investigating a noise at night, I would not want to illuminate one of my wandering children by pointing the gun at them.
    Rather a Maglight in my left hand, right wrist over left.

    1. Exactly. A weapon mounted light is still ok, if it’s used with a second light. If the handheld flashlight fails or is dropped, you could still search with the weapon mounted light, by using the peripheral light without pointing the muzzle directly at an object. not quite as efficient but it works. it’s also important to not over use lights, turning them on and off will help to hide your own position. you don’t want to just give away your location as you walk!


    1. The cops persecute anyone who does their job for them? That, patriot preacher, is the silliest, most juvenile statement I have ever seen in a gun forum. You should be ashamed of yourself.



  7. If I’m ever in a life or death confrontation, the only thing I’m going to think about is surviving the confrontation. I’m going to do anything to do it, I’ll cheat in a heart beat.

  8. When I first learned to self defense shoot, as a teen, (and I’m 65 now), we were told never to have a firearm mounted light or to carry the light close to your weapon.

    The reason? If you are in a home defense or other similar situation, the bad guys will be shooting at your light, even before you happen to point it at them. Chances are, they will miss and there is a good chance you will be there to catch the bullet.
    We were told to hold the flashlight as far away from your body as the situation would allow. If the BG misses, there is a small chance of hitting your arm.

    1. My take is that thinking has evolved, hence the fact that most modern tactical folks (LE, military, etc) are using weapon mounted lights in the dark as the benefit of sighting your target seems to outweigh the risk of someone shooting at your light. In that environment, it’s not a big secret that you’re there 🙂

      However, I agree with you 100% on the value of ALSO using a hand held light for searching purposes. Better not to “search” with your weapon light as you are pointing your muzzle all over the place. My preference is both – a hand held light for looking around and a weapon mounted light for shooting. But my use scenario is simply home defense, not chasing bad guys through buildings like the LE folks, so they’ll have to speak to that.

      This remains an inexact science I think as lots of credible folks advocate a hand held light for shooting. Some like the method you describe (the FBI technique), but that limits the shooting to a one-handed grip and makes indexing the light and sight difficult. Other trainers favor Rogers or Harries techniques where the gun and light are close together and you get some bracing benefit as the light and firing hands have some contact.

      And just to confuse issues, you can actually somewhat safely “search” with a weapon light by aiming down at the floor or up at the ceiling. You’ll still light up the room, even better than a direct beam if you have a powerful weapon light. And you’ll have less risk of muzzling something or someone you don’t want to.

      With all that opinion stated, if you have to pull a trigger, a weapon mounted light gives you the most stable firing platform and best sighting scenario. IMHO.

      1. They may know I am in the area, but I would rather not give them an aiming point/ my exact location. My take is that you should have a laser on the weapon so you don’t have to worry about having enough light to see your sights and getting them lined up.

        I know that charging a shotgun just means you lost a perfectly good shell and you gave away your position; but anyone looking down at their chest and seeing that glowing dot has got to have second thoughts as to what they are doing. In a low light situation, I would try to put the laser dot on their right eye. Even if it is just for a second, it will reduce their ability to see and if I don’t squeeze perfectly, chances are I will hit him in the left eye.

      2. So I have been taught several ways to use a light over the years, I’m 52 so I have had a lot of years to learn & learn a lot of the different recommended ways of using a light. Again I have no experience other than training,, thank god for that. I don’t have any modern guns with pictanny rails. The way of the light,, lol,, that seems to be the most common sense to me is to use a momentary on/off and keep moving if you can until the BG has been located & then blind him & shoot. I have been told by police friends & military that your gun & light should be pointing in the same direction at all times just in case you find the BG in a sweep, then you can engage immediately.

    2. There is truth to that, even now.
      I know many LEO’s were taught that…
      BUT that leaves you firing with one hand, while ‘nervous’, in the dark… and that is not good either!
      I have a laser with a switch on the grip of the firearm, so I can do an “instant on” to verify my target without showing a light for where I am at!
      IF you have a 1000 Lumen light, you can BLIND the intruder long enough to ID them AND Shoot them, if needed! Simply realizing they are “blind” and that you ‘have the drop on them’ may cause them to surrender or RUN! YOU will have to decide, in that split second…

      1. True, but are you willing to bet your life that there is only one intruder and if there is more than one, they will all be close enough together to be blinded by the light? Also, once you turn off the light, you will be blind too, since your night vision is gone.

      2. My take on lights and lasers…

        They will fail when you least expect it and then what? Train without them and use them if you got them, but never depend on them. I have a laser for one of my pistols. The battery gives NO warning before it fails.

    3. I agree with you, and that’s why people make light use unto to an art form. the light does have an on off switch. it’s a good idea to have a handheld light as you said. you want to use it as little as possible. the advantage in a home is in the dark, because you know the layout of your home. the idea of holding your flashlight away from your body is kind of ridiculous to me.. I mean, I see the point, but people are not that precisely accurate with gunfire. if they miss your flashlight they could easily hit your head. I suppose it might give you a slight advantage

  9. This is great advice…I was in the Army and shot a lot but not much with a pistol at all and I just started carrying now that I have my weapons carry license. My husband and I have talked about lasers and lights and me practicing every chance that I get. But the only training that I have to rely on is what I learned in the military so taking classes will be my next move. Thanks!!

  10. I have lighting in my home that can be turned on in any room remotely. An intruder will look to see where the person who turned on the light is and the advantage is all mine. Outside of my home the rules are much different. I’m “prepared” but always remembered what my old man taught me growing up…”It takes a bigger man to walk away from a fight than it does to start one.” My old man was NO wallflower either. He also taught me how to defend myself with both my hands and any one of the many weapons I grew up learning the utmost respect for. I only fear the one dope who claims to be afraid of nothing.

  11. I am a Soldier and cannot agree more with you – good tips ! If it is ever necessary to defend your self or loved ones………………… golden rule …never draw a knife in a gunfight ! Keep safe !

  12. Good article & even better comments, (I see this page has been dormant a while, but still feel that want to chime in). Probably the worst thing (in general as well as in how Gun-Owners are perceived by the rest of society) is, sorry The Village People, the “Macho Macho Man”. The 1 that claims they have no fear and make comments like, “If 1 day I find an intruder in my house, it’ll also be their last day”. The guy (or girl, but am using Guy) that is “Itching for action”, is a menace to society, & if they have a CCW permit, God save us all.
    I’ve learned from a young age that the Hotheads that act like this are usually the most scared & are bragging about what they’ll do to compensate for their real lack of “Machismo”. I remember as a teenager going bowling with a few friends, & when we left & were going to the car, we started getting hassled by a few teenage guys, that were very clearly all talk & had no weapons. We were about evenly numbered & probably a little older, bigger, & stronger then them. What sticks out in mind is the 1 friend that had been taking Karate for a while, & was always claiming to be itching for a fight. But when it came down to it, he was standing in the back of the group, & wasn’t saying anything, (til of course after it was over, luckily without any fighting going on, when he started his whole repertoire about what he would have done if a fight had started), that he was in the back instead of front & center handling the situation, which was a good thing, I think just proves my point that he & most like him are really all talk & more scared then the rest.
    But as so many said, the best fight is the one you avoid! Fast forward a few years & after getting a gun, going to the range a couple times, & compulsively handling & dry firing it at home, the same guy thinks their a sharpshooter & have some sort of mythical powers because they have a gun. They now brag about how (& to them it can’t come soon enough), if 3 BG’s broke into their home, he’d fire 3 quick headshots & it’d be over.
    It reminds me of a great joke about 3 guys that get pulled over, the cop tells the Driver to get out & proceeds to knock him around & tells him, “That’s for not having your license ready”, then he tells the guy in the front passenger seat to get out & also knocks him around & says, “That’s for not having the Registration ready.” When the cop comes back with the ticket he notices the third guy in the back seat & tells him to get out & knocks him around, the guy says, “What was that for? I didnt do anything” & the cop replies, “I know, but I also know that as soon as I left, you would of said, “Man, if that cop would of touched me, I would of kicked his A**”
    The reality is unlike the police, if a private citizen shoots someone (even a BG), they’re generally looked down upon, even if it was justified & charges were never filed. It’s people like these that shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun, as they don’t treat their gun as a weapon of last resort, but it’d be the first thing they’d pull out, & escalate an encounter instead of trying to deescalate it.
    Anyway, I don’t want this to be longer then it already is, so I’ll finish up with;
    While it maybe hard for some people, swallow or pride or check your ego &
    A. Always avoid a fight if you can, even if your right &/or it costs you a few dollars.
    B. Always try to resolve a situation by deescalating it & ending it peacefully.
    C. Realize your probably not as good as you think, & even more so in a high-stress situation.
    & probably the most important,
    D. There are NO winners in a gun fight (ask anyone that’s been in 1), it’s only, who lost less. Even if it’s clearly self-defense & charges are not even filed, do you really want to be picking up brain parts, & replacing your carpet due to the blood stains? Do you thinks the Police will do that for you? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life dealing with the fact that you killed another person, even if it was justified?
    I’m in no way saying you shouldn’t defend yourself or let yourself be severely harmed or killed. But, shooting someone should always be the Last Resort & Not the 1st! In real life there are very few “Professional Criminals” & the chance of one breaking into your house is quite slim. 99% of the time it’ll be a Junkie looking to score some cash to feed their habit, & they usually want a non-violent encounter even more than you do. They see the resident come out with a gun & the 1st & last thing going through their mind is “Get me out of here because there’s a lot easier targets.”
    It reminds me of a story a friend told me, while he was sitting on his front steps smoking a cigarette, a guy came up pointed a gun in his face & demanded his money, watch, phone, etc.. Somehow he kept cool & actually started talking to the guy & said, “Look, you know as well as I do that you really don’t want to shoot me & if your caught, spend decades in a maximum security prison, so how about I give you $40 & you go on your way?” Surprisingly (though not really so much when you think about it), the BG said OK, took the $40 & went on his way. Is it worth $40 to get shot & maybe even killed? I guess my point is, the BG usually wants to shoot you about as much as a responsible gun owner want to shoot anyone.
    So check your “Machismo” at the door, end your bragging, & stop wishing for the day you get to legally shoot someone, & in the big scheme of your life, you’ll be much better off. It might seem cool now, but while luckily I’ve never done it, I have read a lot about it, & after the fact, no matter how justified it was, you’ll quickly grow up, & regret what you did for the rest of your life, especially if you had other avenues you could have persued, that didn’t involve killing another human being.

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