The Seven Stages of Concealed Carry


New member
I got my CCW when I was 21 and lived in Pennsylvania. At that time, all you needed were the signatures of three reputable citizens on your application attesting to the fact that you were a responsible person. Since I grew up in a small town and knew most of the cops, I got three of them to sign my application.

The approval process took 2 minutes. The police chief approved my application after laughing at the signatures. The waiting time took another 2 minutes as I waited for the secretary to type up my permit.

I moved to Colorado almost 30 years ago. (Yea, go ahead and do the math…)

Over the years, I’ve noticed that most people who get their carry permits go through seven distinct stages:

1. The Wyatt Earp Syndrome:
You walk with a swagger, looking for trouble because you’re the fastest gun in town.

2. The Intimidator Syndrome:
You don’t take crap from anyone; and if someone looks at you wrong, you casually let the wind blow your coat open to expose your “equalizer”.

3. Holy Crap Syndrome:
Sometime during your Intimidator phase, you realize that people aren’t as intimidated as they used to be; in fact, sometimes guys look at you as a good source for their next “piece”. (Maybe they spent a few years in prison practicing disarming techniques with other cons – so to him, you’re fresh meat – he’ll just kick your ass and take your gun.)

4. Slap in the Face Syndrome:
You realize that one-day, you may have to take a life in defense of yourself or someone else. Can I really do it? Will I make all the right moves? Can I handle myself in a life or death confrontation? (It’s at this stage that many people stop carrying altogether or only carry when they feel it’s REALLY necessary. High profile mass shootings usually trigger this stage.)

5. Sheep Dog Syndrome:
OK, you’ve read through the pile of gun magazines that your wife has been nagging you to throw out and you make the decision to get more training. You want to have the proper knowledge, be confident, and do everything correctly if the stuff hits the fan in your presence. (This phase kicks in a month or two after you’ve thought about the high profile mass shooting.)

6. Do I Have The Right Gun Syndrome:
Does my 9mm have enough stopping power? Should I buy a bigger gun? What about a .40 caliber? No, I’ll go with a .45. It has combat-proven stopping power.

7. Just Another Tool Syndrome:
Going shopping with the wife? Grab your keys, slip your gun into your holster, grab your hat, and grab your jacket. You do it so quickly and efficiently, your wife doesn’t even notice that you’re packing every time you leave the house. Nor does she even notice you slipping your gun into the drawer of the stand right next to your easy chair when you return.

Best part is that the sheep at the mall, restaurant, and gas station where you stopped during your outing had no idea that you were one of probably several sheepdogs in their mist that day.

Last edited:
My wife told me one day that I am calmer, less confrontational and more considerate lately with her and others and wondered what had changed. As I thought about it I realized that it has been since I began carrying. Carrying a lethal weapon is an immense responsibility and has caused me to be more aware and more prepared for other peoples actions and therefore I'm less startled and less reactive. Therefore, I don't buy into your stage 1, 2 or 3. As for the rest, once I made the decision to carry there was a concurrent commitment for continuous education and training.
This certainly is not what I experienced. Briefly, it went like this:

Stage One: "Dang, EVERYONE knows I'm armed! Crap! What if they call the cops about an 'armed man?' Why are those two guys looking at me then whispering to each other? Do they see my gun?"

This lasts for about 2 weeks. After which, you realize that no one is paying attention to squat, much less YOU, much less any invisible bumps you thought they saw the first two weeks. (if you do it right, they should never see your gun.)

Stage Two: Do I have the right gun/holster/clothing to do this right? What might work better? Experimentation followed.

Stage Three: The "what if" phase where you run realistic scenario possibilities through your mind and coming up with reasonable, realistic responses to them as they present themselves. IE; you're in the checkout line at the store when a suspicious person comes in and you run the "what if he robs the store by doing this, then that, what would I do?" kind of thing.

Stage Four: I settled into a subtle "Condition Yellow" mindset. Ever watchful and alert, but able to do it casually and effortlessly.

Stage Five: Some make it to this stage, but others do not. I'll call it "burnout," because they decide they don't need the hassle of carrying a gun, since they've never needed it yet, so they stop carrying it altogether, or "in the car" is good enough for them.

For Stages 1 thru 4, I had a quiet confidence, knowing that if something happened, I'd be able to do something about it. Or at least, have a chance to do something about it, if I chose to. Carrying a gun is not a guarantee, it's only an option.

Before and during these stages, I practiced, so I'd be reasonably sure of where my shots would go, should I ever need to fire my gun.

I personally never had a "Wyatt Earp" syndrome or ever used my gun as an intimidation device. NO ONE ever saw my gun by accident. Outside of my LE uniform, no one saw my gun, period.

If you decide to carry a gun BEFORE you have a long, serious discussion with your conscience about your true ability to shoot someone with the full expectation of killing them, then, to be blunt, you're an idiot.

EVERYONE thinking about buying a gun for personal defense, much less carrying one should have that deeply reflective "talk" with yourself.

THEN your answer better be the right one !

Please don't give me the weasel response: "Well, I don't think anyone knows what they'll do until it happens" bullcrap. You should know yourself well enough to dig as deep as you need to for that answer, whatever it is. If you do not, then you should not buy or carry a gun for defense.

This is serious stuff, so be serious about it !!

Great Responses!

OK, I confess... Not everyone goes through every stage.

Those of us who have carried for several years can relate to at least some of the seven stages that I listed - and maybe even a few that I missed. I have to admit that the more mature you are, the less likely you are to go through the the first few stages.

I agree totally with David E's above response. Read his Stage Three. What he's talking about is "mental rehearsal". You must not only be mentally prepared, you must see yourself coming out on top.

It would be great to hear about the experiences of others out there. What happened to you that caused you to move to another stage? What stage were you in? What stage did you move to?
Last edited:
7. Just Another Tool Syndrome:
Going shopping with the wife? Grab your keys, slip your gun into your holster, grab your hat, and grab your jacket. You do it so quickly and efficiently, your wife doesn’t even notice that you’re packing every time you leave the house. Nor does she even notice you slipping your gun into the drawer of the stand right next to your easy chair when you return.

My wife may or may not notice as she may be busy getting her gun. She has no doubt though that I have mine.
By the way Instructor Dennis, I love your part of the country. Untill about 12 years ago my brother and sister-in-law lived in Denver. He was there from the early 1960's until they moved to AZ. She was born there and has a brother that was on the Denver police force. While he was there my family and I spent many a vacation in CO. I know some of the towns better than a lot of my on state. It has been a while but hope to get back up there soon.
pretty cute. Being as I wasn't 21 when I started CCW legally I went from
1. Holy crap they know I'm packing'
2. which gun, which mean I gotta buy new clothes to fit the darn thing??????????
3. OK, so shooting a target standing still is easy, this moving and shooting at moving things is hard.
4. it's a tool and with me, just like my cell phone, wallet.
5. when are those darn phasers coming out. :icon_cheesygrin:
I concur with David E. I've never had "Wyatt Earp Syndrome", because I'm just not that kind of person. The Wyatt Earps of the world give me a headache, and along with small children, should not use guns when unsupervised to begin with.
I concur with David E. I've never had "Wyatt Earp Syndrome", because I'm just not that kind of person.

I've never had the Wyatt Earp Syndrome and as of recently, I catch myself bouncing between the Sheepdog/Do I Have the Right Gun/Just Another Tool syndromes.

My wife and I had a discussion earlier this week about her taking her CHL class next month with a group of females from my car club. While I'm a proponent of CHL/CCW I am also fearful of people carrying for the wrong reason. My wife said, "It boils down to being comfortable with a gun in your hand."

And BTW, DavidE, I don't fully agree with you about the "...weasel response: "Well, I don't think anyone knows what they'll do until it happens" bullcrap." I do agree that one better be serious about it. You can train and train and train, and mentally go thru thousands of senerios; but when it comes down to it and the fecal matter comes in contact with the oscillating-mechanical-wind-circulating-device no one really does know what they will do the first time. Yeah, I'm about 98.6% sure of what I would do in a real BG senerio, but like Bruce Lee said, "Boards don't hit back."
And similarly, paper targets don't shoot back. In that split second before one pulls the trigger, its normal for many thing to run through his/her brain. That causes the 1.4% of uncertainty that I fear. Other than that, I am extremely comfortable with a weapon in my hand...
You can train and train and train, and mentally go thru thousands of senerios; but when it comes down to it, no one really does know what they will do the first time. Yeah, I'm about 98.6% sure of what I would do...

I said this prior to the line you copied:

EVERYONE thinking about buying a gun for personal defense, much less carrying one should have that deeply reflective "talk" with yourself.

What I've noticed over the years is that far too many people try to do one of two things:

1) seek to absolve themselves of any responsibility of having that serious reflective thought of being able to shoot/kill another human being.

2) KNOW they could shoot someone with the expectation of killing them, but don't want to admit that fact, lest someone think they're a cold blooded killer waiting for an excuse.

Responses to both of these categories typically use the 'weasel words' mentioned.

I understand that people may not reach a 100% certainty about what they'll do, but they better have a damn good idea about what they'll do!

I'd say my stages go more along the lines of what David E said in the 3rd post except for stage 5. No burnout for me I always carry.
I took my Basic pistol course with Instuctor Dennis and he did go over some of these stages in the course--and I remember that stuff too.
There is no mention however of the gun stage:
Before I got my CC permit I had a 38 snubby and an old Taurus PT 908.
A few months after I got the permit--I added a couple more and got a small safe (about 2 Cu FT) to store them in. Now it's been almost 3 years and a couple months ago I had to get a big honkin' 23 Cu FT Liberty safe to store them in.
So I guess you can call that stage 8--these darn things are addicting and tend to multiply
Thanks Dennis:icon_razz:
There is one guy, a moderator on another forum, that speaks from his pedestal on high down to us mere mortals about all things gun related, how to carry, what to do in any and every situation, how a 2-shot .22 magnum derringer is enough gun, etc, etc, etc.

Come to find out, this cluck doesn't carry a gun AT ALL anymore, citing reasons pertaining to his further "enlightenment" about the whole deal.

He won't call it what it is: burnout, plain and simple.

That's why I said that some never make it to Stage 5, and others, it seems, can't wait !

I was over 40 years old and had enough experience before CCW was legal in my state (Missouri) that I skipped down to the "Just another tool" syndrome when CCW finally did become legal.

I was normally in Condition Yellow even before becoming intimate with Jeff Cooper.

However, I have definitely known several guys who have gone through several if not all of the stages that Dennis mentions.

One of the problems I have seen is when people who I would classify as non-shooters get a CCW they really aren't proficient and will probably be victims if the SHTF.
I do not disagree that 22 mag is not enough. Just don't leave it home.The keltec 32 goes like my wallet or keys.Yes it's a mouse but it's not at the house.Shorts and tee shirt have been my main dress untle the harley arrived now all has changed. Mouse has become backup to glock 27.
Very well put Instructor Dennis. I'm Sean, aka kaiwarrior, Your steps of concealed carry are right on. I somewhat quickly outgrew my Wyatt Earp, Intimidator stage and quickly realized it was better, as you said, to be a sheep dog moving quietly amost the sheep. Especially since most sheep can't distinguish the sheep dogs from the wolves (or don't care to know the difference). I decided right away; however, that the piece that I wanted to bet my life on (for concealed carry) was .45 ACP. I had long read and heard, either first hand or second hand, of true life stories of 9 mm, 38, 10 mm, and similiar calibers not effectively stopping their targets. Mostly from PD officers or military or from published articles, etc.
I'm pretty much in the just another tool syndrome; however, I do want to take more concealed carry courses (I've taken a few), and real life training courses. Do you know of any good, respected ones in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area?

- Kaiwarrior
Very well thought-out mind-set/post.

Dear Dennis,
I read thru your 'Seven Stages of Concealed Carry' & IMHO if all but the (rare) seasoned weapons and CQC experts with decades of legal-trouble free CCW life behind them (they already know what most novices & even range fire pros who only excel in a controlled environment) took what you posted and ran with it as good entry-level exposure/training to the art of evolving into citizens who end up legally & safely carrying a concealed deadly weapon, really thought about what they were getting themselves into, made a conscious decision to follow thru with what you presented @ a speed that suits them, took plenty of time at a range but also many hours in situational training courses, there would be a lot less of the wanna-B good guys wondering WTF they did wrong if they just waltzed into a gun store, slapped the Ben F's on the table and walked out with a hand cannon and HP's, now 'invincible' to any BG or bad situation that normally goes south in seconds the moment the jittery armed citizen pulls, points and shoots. If U don't know how to drive a MAC-truck, your 1st lesson should not be on I-10 @ 75mph hauling gasoline is another analogy I heard and use on new CCW owners if they even want to take the time to listen. Most don't! Shit they now have a gun, a permit to hide and use it, how can that possibly go wrong? IMHO taking a lethal weapon concealed upon your person out of your home/car and into normal situations [like a trip to a store] is an exercise in vigilance and self control that nearly always comes down to reinforcing the comfort/confidence level they finally get after years of responsible carry. On the other end of that spectrum is the untrained and unready 21 y/o who reacts to what appears to be a call for the cavalry to come charging to someone's rescue, and they do at WARP-8, does not figure out much and shoots at the first person who moves in a way he or she deems threatening. :But his cell-phone looked like a snub-nosed S & W!" They almost always end up wrong, dead/wounded & still wrong or sitting in a cell while their life ticks by with multiple felony raps that will change their freedoms & life 4 ever. As a retired Army Medic I have seen WAY too many CPT Kirk's and been to a few of their funerals, visited then in jail, consoled the loved ones of the 'mistakes' they made or cleaned up the human carnage they caused which was the most common 911 response call we got when we heard: 'Shots fired at..' or 'Man/Officer down..' or 'Domestic in progress with reported gunfire @..' came into dispatch and sent us out at Code-3. I applaud you for posting what you did and if it's any consolation it was medics and M.P.'s or civilian LEO's who thought and acted like you train others to do who were the folks I felt the safest around for 17 years. Please try to pass that way of dealing with the CCW growing stages and basic human nature onto those who think a permit to carry is a license to kill all BG's, or some innocent they mistook as a BG, or true innocents who did what fright/flight tells most to do when guns start shooting, bolt for the nearest exit and don't stop to give an explanation to the armed do-gooder, now a VERY confused citizen maybe on their 3rd clip who determines this is 'obviously' a BG trying to flee & he/she better stop them! After the dust settles they inevitably ask a cop, or their attorney why they can't walk away a free man/woman, if they ain't on the ground bleeding out with a GSW from another CCW citizen or a LEO.
Very smart way to conduct CCW business.

Regards and Kudos,


Last edited:
I get your point, though for me it is/was different. I know not all will be the same, but if you look at this with common sense and an open mind you will get the point..

I want to be Wyatt Earp.... or Clint Eastwood ... The good, the bad, the BANG!...lmao
I was a deputy for a few years so I got used to carrying. Later I still carried before the right to carry was passed here in Texas. I operated under the thought that "I would rather be tried by twelve that carried by six". During that time I often felt like eveyone knew I had a gun on. I have now carried for many years and have not had a burn out. I carry everywhere I go. I would no more think of leaviing my gun at home than I would leave the house without putting my pants on. I am not dressed without it.
Last edited:
I can understand the 7 steps listed and appreciate them, Im just not sure how they truely play out.
I was raised around guns, my father was a "mild collector", I went hunting with him, I had a gun in the car after I turned 16; having and being around weapons almost seemed a non-issue. I never understood the empahsis people would put on it when they got a carry permit. could I ever use it.........I remember clearly something my father told me at a VERY young age. if you find yourself in the position where you feel it necesary to pull your weapon, make sure you are 100% prepared to use it, never point that at another humanbeing if you are not prepared to pull the trigger and live with the results. Ive always felt I was well taught and well prepared.......its all part of the responsiblity.

Members online

No members online now.

Forum statistics

Latest member