The type of firearm you choose for concealed carry is determined largely by personal preference, but it can also depend on legal factors handed down by the state in which you reside. Here are a few pointers to help you navigate that process.
State and Local Laws
Firearm laws vary by state, county and individual municipalities. What’s legal to own in one place may not be legal in another. Those who live in areas guided by anti-Second Amendment laws might have extra considerations regarding which firearm they purchase. A local gun store should be able to assist in this stage of firearm ownership, but a little homework before you go shopping can help to make sure that you end up with a firearm that’s not only legal, but one you actually want to own and use.
Step 1. Know Your State and Local Laws.
There are many places to find information on your state’s firearm laws, which can start with an online search. If you don’t find it online, or if any information you discover is unclear, your best bet is to reach out to a local gun shop or a local firearms instructor. Organizations that focus on concealed carry have maps showing reciprocity (whether or not other states honor your concealed carry permit).
Some terms to understand regarding concealed carry:
Shall Issue—The state must issue a permit to a law-abiding citizen who meets all requirements outlined in their state’s CCW application.
May Issue—Currently only two states—Connecticut and Delaware—officially remain “May Issue” states. The state may issue a permit at the discretion of the permitting authority once the applicant submits all required information. However, the 2022 Supreme Court decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen eliminated the requirement that applicants prove they had a sufficient “need” to exercise their fundamental right to self-protection outside their home, which specifically affected the other six "May Issue" states.
Permitless Carry / Constitutional Carry / Unrestricted—All of these terms are variations on not needing a permit, but there are some distinctions.
At the state level, law-abiding citizens might have Constitutional Carry (there are 27 states that fall under this category as of 2023) but what does their state require of its citizens in terms of how they carry? There might be the freedom to carry, yes, but the method is often regulated, i.e. you still might need a permit to conceal, it just might be only open carry that is “permitless.”
So just because you may have had a new Constitutional Carry law pass in your state doesn’t mean you can skip learning about the laws. A great example is Arizona, which has a permitless-carry system, but you need a permit to carry into any place that serves alcohol.
At the local level, be aware that townships, HOAs and other municipalities might have laws that you have to follow, in addition to your state laws. This will likely be centered around items like what public buildings /areas you can carry in or laws governing storage of firearms.
Understanding terms about the use of firearms is also important. Castle Doctrine, Stand your Ground, and Duty to Retreat are all terms to learn about.
Step 2. Determine Which Firearms You Can Legally Own.
Once you’ve determined what you need to do in order to own a firearm (permit required or not), you will likely have an idea of whether your locality has any restrictions on the types of firearms that you can own. Your next step will be to search for the firearm you want to buy.
Start off by test-firing the guns that you are interested in. Don’t blindly purchase something without having shot it first. Try several types of firearms and take a knowledgeable friend or family member along. They often have valuable input. Don’t feel pressured to buy anything without having actually fired it.
Even if your locality has magazine restrictions (i.e., N.Y., California, Washington, Maryland among others), don’t think you are limited to just one type of gun—like a revolver. There are often options with fixed magazines, and others that have special internal components to make them compliant. If your family calls home a place where firearm freedoms are heavily regulated, there are sometimes still options—you just have to look.
When you find the type of firearm that’s legal for your area, that you enjoy shooting, and decide to purchase, you still have options as to where to purchase. If you see a firearm for a good price online, odds are that your local FFL can order that for you. If you purchase from a private seller online, depending on your state and local laws, the seller simply ships to your local FFL (in some places this requires that they go to an FFL to ship it out). The best way to know whether you can do this is to talk to your local FFL, i.e. a gun shop. This is probably where you have looked at or test-fired guns. They should be eager to help you purchase something and make a sale. Employ their knowledge of the process and talk with them. Your local gun shop is one of the best places to make friends—and if they take consignment items, you can also let them know what firearm you are interested in purchasing. They might know someone looking to sell.
After you know what you can legally purchase, and the basics of the laws where you live, and find the gun you want, go get training! Take a class, participate in local events and really learn the ins and outs of YOUR firearm.