Veterans and Concealed Carry: How Important is Training?

When it comes to Veterans and Concealed Carry, many states offer them a chance to obtain a permit utilizing their DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty, as proof of firearms training. This is a great benefit for veterans and allows them to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment, however, does military training alone prepare veterans for concealed carry?

Veterans nominally receive training on firearms during basic training. Generally this training consists of familiarity with the manual of arms and use of the current service rifle. Individual service members then qualify with the service rifle. Service members are also required to qualify periodically with the service rifle once they have been assigned to their unit. With the exception of Army, Navy and Marine Corp Military Police or Air Force Security Forces service members rarely use a handgun on a day-to-day basis. Unless the service member is in a unit that requires the carrying of a side arm, pistol marksmanship training is an afterthought at best.

When pistol marksmanship is taught, it is taught from the perspective of offensive military operations. Side arms are considered secondary weapons to be employed in the tactical environment when the primary weapon, the service rifle, malfunctions or is out of ammunition. Unless the service member is in an elite unit, handgun training that is offered is, in general, outdated and has not evolved to employ best practices from the civilian training industry. The U.S. Army training manual, Combat Training with Pistols, FM 3-23.35 actually recommends such varied techniques as the teacup grip and shooting over ones shoulder, one handed, as one “traverses”. I think it is safe to say that this deficit alone would make veterans want to get additional training before carrying a handgun as the primary defensive tool in a public space.

Service members are trained after infiltration to acclimate themselves to the sights and sounds of the battlefield. On this battlefield they operate in highly trained and tight knit units. They work as a group to accomplish the mission objectives within the rules of engagement (ROE). The battlefield and their reactions to it are shaped by this mission and the ROE. This is a different environment than the environment a veteran will encounter as they go about their daily civilian routine. The veteran’s environment is shaped by many things, family, friends, work, and the general public. All of the stimulus may or may not impact the veteran’s ability to react to a defensive situation.

Rarely will the veteran have the ability to work as a group in a highly coordinated environment. The veteran is essentially on his own. Without additional training on awareness, avoidance, and how to interact with the public and law enforcement, the veteran is at a disadvantage. Veterans cannot superimpose the military ROE onto the civilian environment. Doing so undoubtedly will result in legal issues and potential incarceration. As a responsible concealed carrying individual veterans should be familiar with the local laws and ordinances as these laws and ordinances relate to concealed carry. Veterans should be willing to acquire the training necessary to deal with these civilian rules of engagement.

It is often said that soldiers do not fight for any philosophical thoughts of democracy or notion of morality. It is said when the rubber meets the road and pointy bullets are flying, they fight for each other. In this way veterans are prepared to defend themselves and others should they need to. Veterans will generally have the necessary mindset to employ whatever means are necessary in this defense. However, military training alone does not prepare a person to deal with a violent encounter in the parking lot of the local shopping mall. It is incumbent on veterans who have a culture of recurring training and high standards to police themselves. Veterans should be the first in line to acquire training to help them develop as responsible concealed carriers. At a minimum training on local laws, managing unknown contacts, marksmanship in the context of a dynamic critical incident and post incident actions should be acquired. Veterans should not use their honorable service as a trump card to avoid training, putting themselves and others at risk.

-Michael McElmeel
[Mike retired from the US Army, after 22 years of service, as a Senior NCO assigned to a Special Operations Unit.]

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18 Responses to “Veterans and Concealed Carry: How Important is Training?”

  1. Sutton

    Don't agree 100%. Don't like to be grouped. Have watched too many civilian police officers kill when wounding could have saved all lives and taken care of the threat. That is lack of training. Special military training is much better. We are trained to notice a lot very quickly under a lot of pressure. I've been out for quite a while and still today, I have been accused by buddies of being nosey. But I'm just very aware of my surroundings 100% of the time. That is training that will nevergoaway.

  2. John Swartz

    I would like to get a conceal carry permit

  3. Herbert Woodbury

    As a SNCO in the MC I received pistol and rifle training on a regular basis, as a SNCO the pistol was my primary TO weapon, not counting the training I did on my own. I was also trained in the use of deadly force and the training was reinforced on a regular basis. I agree that the Army does not do this but the MC does. Even with 30 years of weapons training in marksmanship, safety, and combat tactics along with the fact that I have a constitutionally guarantee that I have the right to carry a firearm (which does NOT qualify concealed or open carry) I have to prove I can use a pistol to be allowed to carry concealed in my state. I think this article sucks.

  4. Gregory A. Smith

    Although I do not believe in "mandatory" training, any person that carries concealed without significant training is a fool.

  5. Harvey Lyles III

    In South Carolina, your DD214, entitles you to a discounted or free CWP if you are disabled. The CWP is administered through SLED--South Carolina Law Enforcement. You have to attend a training course. As a VietNam vet--not disabled, my cost was $50 for a 5 year permit.

  6. Alex Porter

    I always support training and updates. However, it seems stupid to trust me with protecting myself and my comrades at one point and to say that I can't avail myself of that mentality and training in another instance.

  7. Andrew E. Legge

    You forget Coast Guard as a military service. As a veteran of 24 years, drug enforcement and foreign vessel boarding, the side arm, 45 1911 and the Baretta were the go to firearm. Boarding a vessel involved transferring from one platform to another and then searching close quarters once aboard. I would argue that this is the one service that used a handgun more commonly than than others. I do agree that constant and consistent training is a requirement to conceal or open carry the rest of your life. Skills get rusty and forgotten if not used. A class that requires you to sit for a few hours and then go fire one round does not constitute weapons training. Concealed or otherwise. Florida has that for their permit and it honestly scares me, because that is usually all that anyone does for their training. I carry and range time is critical to me. After 20 years of retirement I feel better now than even 10years ago when it comes to familiarity and carrying. Keep up the great articles and training.

  8. Brian Bursch

    I'm not going to write a long response to the article, but I do agree with it, and I believe that all carry conceal holders should take refresher courses on a periodical basis, regardless of ability, but laws change all the time. Have a great day all.

  9. Phil

    A very good article! Here's my story... I had a career in the Navy that spanned 31 years (starting in the very early Viet Nam days). I was a "Gunners Mate", a PBR "Boat Captain", a weapons instructor in "spec ops", was 9533 (SWCC), and left because they were going to put me behind a desk! Because I was in "Special Warfare" I took the opportunity and jumped to the Army. I transferred into a position as a SSG (3G-Ranger) Squad Leader in the RECON Platoon of an Air Assault battalion and was also the Battalion Armorer and weapons instructor on the .50 cal M2s of the battalion. I also had the opportunity to attend "Sniper School" and retired 5 years later. Total career span, 36 years. I then volunteered for several years with the LA County Sherrifs Dept. in Calif. I still shoot a number of pistols and revolvers, and a wide variety of rifles and shotguns at my local range. I have had my CC permit for a number of years. What would you advise for me to keep up my skills for personal protection and concealed carry?

  10. Bruce 'Pilgrim' Stanton

    I was a naval officer and naval aviator for twenty years. The small arms training provided to aircrew was minimal at best. At most, we only received familiarization training once a year in the form of 50 rounds slow fire at a 15 yard target. For a period of time I held a non-resident CCW from a state that only required a copy of my DD-214 for licensing. It was a good thing that I had much more training than the Navy minimum.