Owning a firearm for defending yourself and your family is an extremely personal choice. Whether you are a long time practitioner of concealed carry, or just considering your first defensive firearm, Arnzen Arms is here to support you. Most of us are not military or law enforcement officers. We are armed citizens, and having a “Concealed Carry Permit” (viz. Permit to Carry in MN) does not give us any special duties or powers. In fact, as an armed citizen we must hold ourselves to the highest standards of a civilized society. A firearm is a tool that provides options when all other options fail.
Whether one is aware of it or not, concealed carry and responsible armed citizens are everywhere. As of May 2015, 195,000 permits to carry a pistol have been issued in the state of Minnesota. Of those Minnesota carry permits, over 64,000 of them have been issued in the immediate Twin Cities metro area. It is a fact that if you have been out in public within the last 10 years, you have been in the immediate vicinity of a concealed carry permit holder. In fact, you probably know someone personally who has a carry permit.
The decision to acquire a permit to carry and adopt the concealed carry lifestyle is a significant one and should not be taken lightly. The first step is educational. The most palatable means of gathering the pertinent information about concealed carry is to take a carry permit certification class like the one offered by our affiliate Reilly Defensive Training. The content of such classes is almost entirely on the legalities and responsibilities a prospective concealed carrier should be aware of. While most states (including Minnesota) require the class to contain a live fire shooting module, they often only address very basic handgun marksmanship. Permit to carry classes do not address tactics or the martial art of gun fighting to any significant degree. These classes also address equipment and methods of carry. Even if one has no intention of carrying a concealed handgun, these are good classes to take to gain some elementary understanding of legal use of deadly force, and gun ownership.
Once one has done their research, taken a class, and decided to move forward with applying for a permit to carry…now they are ready to explore guns and equipment. A basic carry system consists of the gun itself, possibly a spare magazine, a holster and a gun belt. One can explore all of these here on our website, or come on down to the store and our friendly sales staff will walk you through the options.
Handguns are the most practical means of exercising one’s second amendment rights outside the home. With the proper licensing, openly carrying a handgun in public is legal in many states (Minnesota included). In spite of being “legal” however, in most places- especially in Minnesota- open carry is not considered socially acceptable and has a high probability of attracting unwanted attention. Realistically the most practical means of being armed to defend one’s self is a more discreet method most commonly referred to as concealed carry. As the name implies, concealed carry encompasses various means of possessing a loaded firearm in a way that it is safe, secure, rapidly deployable and- most importantly- hidden from plain sight. Utilization of concealed carry is a lifestyle choice that empowers an individual to be armed as they go about their day to day in an anonymous fashion. The covert nature of concealed carry has two key benefits: first is the individual privacy of being armed without flaunting it, but second is the psychological effect on predators. The concept is that because anyone and everyone could potentially be armed, the commission of crime carries a higher risk because would-be victims have a means of resistance.
Defensive handguns break down into two key categories which are semi-autos and revolvers. While revolvers are mechanically simple machines and are very tolerant of neglect, the sun is pretty much setting on the age of the wheel gun. Semi-autos tend to be easier to shoot, carry high capacities of ammunition, have better ergonomics, and a flatter concealment profile. Semi-auto pistols are a little more complex to manipulate and some require a bit more attention in regards to lubrication. There are legitimate applications for both, and personal preference is the deciding factor.
Semi-automatic pistols have become the overwhelming favorite for modern permitted carry. Revolutions in handgun design and ammunition quality in the last few decades have created ultra reliable packages and spawned several subsets within the category. While any handgun is better than nothing in a pinch we encourage to read through the following categories before deciding which is the perfect fit for you.
Full Size Pistols
Full size or “service” pistols are an effective self-defense tool. Most folks generally consider them too large for concealed carry although with the right belt and holster many people do. It is fairly common for full size 1911’s to be used as concealed carry handguns due to their flat single stack profile (a few of our staff members carry these on a regular basis). Full sized pistols generally have the largest capacity, are the most reliable, and are the easiest to shoot. These guns are usually easier to manipulate because they are larger and easier to hold on to, which also translates into greater shooting proficiency. They also tend to be sprung lighter which makes the slides easier to rack. Longer sight radius also aids in accurate shooting. Full size guns aren’t necessarily “more accurate” than smaller guns, but because the sights are further apart there is less margin for error in the sight picture. When dedicated to home defense use, they are ideally paired with flashlights such as the Surefire X300 or Streamlight TLR-1. Full size handguns are easier to store in means and places that are rapidly accessible, are highly wieldable, and can be employed with one hand (freeing the other to open doors, corral children, or call 911).
Medium frame semi-auto pistols are perhaps the most versatile. Generally slightly abbreviated versions of their full framed brethren, they still possess decent magazine capacity in lighter weight and more concealable packages. Though they are smaller, they are generally still large enough to be very shootable with a manageable amount of recoil. Medium frame pistols also tend to be more rugged and reliable than sub compact pistols.
Sub-compact semi-auto pistols are the most sought after for concealed carry. They are generally trimmed down to the most minimal of dimensions to maximize concealability and minimize weight. This generally comes at the cost of ammunition capacity. Shootability also tends to suffer because the sight radius of these guns is very short and the grips are very small. The guns themselves are very accurate out to intermediate ranges, but applying marksmanship skills to shooting them can be a challenge. Some guns in this category can also be picky about the ammo they like to shoot. The mechanics of making a small pistol function is a delicate balance. Where larger pistols are more tolerant of a wide range of operating conditions, sub compact pistols can be less so. With these limitations in mind, there are many excellent choices in the sub-compact category of pistols. Sub-compacts do fall into one of two categories single stack and double stack. These terms refer to how the ammunition is held in the magazine (single file one on top of another or staggered in two columns.
Single Stack Sub-Compact Pistols
Single stack sub-compacts have the advantage of being the slimmest profile and therefore are the most concealable for inside the waistband and other concealed applications. However, they do have the lowest ammunition capacity because only so many rounds can fit into a tiny gun. By far, our most popular selling concealed carry guns fall into this segment.
The simplicity of the revolver makes it a good choice for some shooters. They are completely self-contained. There are few moving and zero detachable parts (such as magazines with semi-auto pistols). The operator simply opens them up, inserts ammunition, closes them, and pulls the trigger when applicable. While the administrative use of revolvers is very simple, actually shooting them can be challenging and reloading them at speed is very slow and complex in comparison to semi-autos at speed. Since they cycle mechanically instead of automatically, many revolver proponents claim they are more reliable than semi-autos. Revolvers are less popular than pistols for everyday carry, but there are many folks that are very proficient in their use and prefer the classics. Revolvers make better ankle and pocket guns than similar autos and are a little less intimidating for those not comfortable with firearms.
Alright! We have our permit, selected the perfect gun and we are all set. Right? probably not. The decision to carry a firearm openly or concealed with any comfort will require a few basic necessities - chiefly a holster and a quality belt. Even a small single stack pistol (when loaded) will feel like a burden at first and a good holster and belt combination will go a long way to create a comfortable and sustainable system. After a week or 2 of carrying in a quality set up the gun will simply vanish into the ease of every day carry.
Perhaps as important, or more important, than the gun itself, is the holster holding the gun. Holsters completely dictate how comfortable, concealable, and accessible a handgun will be. Holsters are either made out of leather or kydex/injection molded polymer. Leather is the most pliable and comfortable, but also holds moisture and eventually will lose its shape. Polymer is more durable, repels moisture, retains its shape forever, and has the smoothest draw stroke. Its rigid nature can be uncomfortable if formed or worn improperly and some common kydex rigs are more bulking than comparable leather holsters. There are also hybrid holsters that use both materials. All holsters will wear on a pistol’s finish. Any gun that spends any significant amount of time in a holster will show wear…best make peace with it up front. Daily carry holsters come in many shapes, sizes and configurations, but most fit into one of two categories.
Outside the waistband (OWB)
Outside the waistband (OWB) holsters are the typical thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of a holster. They thread through one’s belt and hang at the waist line just as a cell phone or multi-tool would. OWB holsters are the most comfortable and easiest to draw from. The down side of OWB is that there is a lot to cover up for concealed carry applications. OWB holsters are popular for open carry, or concealed carry in climates where heavier clothing is worn.
Inside the waistband (IWB)
Inside the waistband (IWB) are the most popular and practical concealed carry holster option. Instead of hanging outside the pant on the belt, the pouch that holds the firearm of an IWB system rides inside the pant line and then a system of clips or loops attach to the belt. Counterintuitive to what one might think, a properly worn IWB holster is actually quite comfortable and the only part of the gun that is really left to conceal is the butt. Some IWB designs even have provisions to tuck one’s shirt into the waistband while still covering the gun for more formal attire. An IWB system may require one to buy one waist size larger of pants to be comfortable.
An often overlooked, but extremely important aspect of a carry system is the belt. Most folks have a hard time spending a lot of money on a holster and an even harder time spending money on a gun belt. However, an appropriate belt is huge to the comfort of a carry system because the belt has a fair amount of weight to support. What makes a belt a “gun belt” is that they are much stiffer in order to support the added weight of a gun. Gun belts are usually double or triple layered leather or nylon and heavily stitched for rigidity. Some even have polymer spines stitched into them. A good test of a belt for use as a gun belt is to hold it in a loop (as if it were around your waist) and try to hold it perpendicular to the floor. If it is stiff enough not to sag or droop, it is an excellent gun belt. Belts come in various styles to fit any level of attire.
Often overlooked, the flashlight is one of the great self defense tools. A flashlight sheds light on potential threats and lets them know that you are aware of your surroundings and prepared to deal with them . A good torch can be deployed in advance of a firearm when the threat level is low and wielding a gun would be ridiculous or in conjunction to verify targets safely in low light conditions.
Our home is our castle. It is where we live, where we provide safety to our love ones and where we store our precious items. It is absolutely our right to defend them. Unlike concealed carry we are not bound to size and weight constraints. This gives us a few more options for home defense firearms like higher capacity handguns, rifles and shotguns. Once we have selected the right firearm it is wise to consider how we store our home defense guns. There are several option and we suggest that all firearms be stored cased and locked at a minimum. This is a personal decision and there are many factors e.g. children in the home.
A few more options are available when selecting a home defense firearm given that you do not have to carry the firearm on your person. Shotguns have long been considered the perfect choice for home defense and it is assuming that everyone that has access is able to handle the recoil. Shotguns pack a wallop, a fact that applies to the shooter as well. Handguns are another longtime favorite. They are easy to store and deploy, have a relatively high capacity and, with a little training, can be very effective. Rifles for home defense are the newcomer but this should not stop you from considering them. Certain rifles are relatively easy to shoot, have very low recoil characteristics and high capacities. Read each of the categories below for more information and feel free to stop by the shop or contact us [email] for further clarifications or a more personal walk through.
Full size or “service” pistols are an effective self-defense tool. Most folks generally consider them too large for concealed carry but for home defense they are a great choice. Full sized pistols generally have the largest capacity, are the most reliable, and are the easiest to shoot. These guns are usually easier to manipulate because they are larger and easier to hold on to, which also translates into greater shooting proficiency. They also tend to be sprung lighter which makes the slides easier to rack. Longer sight radius also aids in accurate shooting. Full size guns aren’t necessarily “more accurate” than smaller guns, but because the sights are further apart there is less margin for error in the sight picture. When dedicated to home defense use, they are ideally paired with flashlights such as the Surefire X300 or Streamlight TLR-1. Full size handguns are easier to store in means and places that are rapidly accessible, are highly wieldable, and can be employed with one hand (freeing the other to open doors, corral children, or call 911).
The simplicity of the revolver makes it a good choice for some shooters. They are completely self-contained. There are few moving and zero detachable parts (such as magazines with semi-auto pistols). The operator simply opens them up, inserts ammunition, closes them, and pulls the trigger when applicable. While the administrative use of revolvers is very simple and potentially less intimidating for those not familiar with firearms, actually shooting them can be challenging. We recommend a heavier steel frame revolver chambered in 357 magnum (which can also shoot the lower recoil 38 special) for the novice shooter. For those that are more familiar with the mighty wheel gun there are several incredibly powerful cartridges available for revolvers. Since they cycle mechanically instead of automatically, many revolver proponents claim they are more reliable than semi-autos.
The shotgun is likely the most versatile and arguably the most devastating defensive weapon available to the average citizen. Modern loadings of slugs and buckshot are simply overwhelming. A center of mass hit of 12GA nine pellet 00 buckshot load is the equivalent of being shot nine times with a 9mm handgun. There are many myths surrounding shotguns though, the most prevalent being that they don’t need to be aimed due to the spreading of the shot. Consider this, the rate of spread from an un-choked shotgun is roughly one inch per yard. This means, at most home defense distances, the pattern will be less than 6 inches in diameter. Shotguns also have the most recoil of common defensive firearms, are the most mechanically complicated to operate, finicky in nature, and the most practice intensive to master. Shotguns also have a low ammunition capacity compared to rifles and pistols. And NO…the audible racking sound of a pump shotgun is not an effective deterrent or defensive tactic. Shotguns are extremely effective tools in the right hands, but they are not our typical recommendation for novice or timid shooters.
Action rifles such as the AR15 or AK-47 are ideal defensive tools. They are the easiest to shoot, have twice the capacity of a typical pistol, low recoil, and compact in size. The typical .223/5.56mm is also very advantageous for home defense because it is the least likely to over penetrate walls and other mediums. This is because they shoot very light bullets moving at very high velocities. Therefore, contact with any medium will cause them to tumble and rapidly lose energy unlike pistol bullets and buckshot pellets (which retain their energy and can penetrate several layers of wood and sheet rock).
Much like a holster and a good belt are key for concealed carry a good gun safe is mandatory for home defense. We highly recommend that guns be stored in a safe or cased with an appropriate locking mechanism. As an armed citizen it is our duty to keep our firearms secured. Having said that we need to have our primary home defense firearm stored in a way that it can easily be deployed. There are several great options for this. Check out our small safes for handguns that feature simple keypads or biometric recognition systems. Long guns can be stored in an “under the bed” safe or with a trigger lock. Safety is paramount and we would like to support you in safely securing your firearms.