I just finished reading Tom Givens’ Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics. This was the first book I read this year, and one that is worth sharing with the audience here. Bottom line up front: I will probably be purchasing a few copies of Concealed Carry Class for a few of my friends and family members…but this review isn’t all praise.
Concealed Carry Class: Software
Concealed Carry Class is broken up into two major themes: software and hardware. The first dozen chapters are decidedly “software” in nature. They cover the mental aspects of carrying a firearm. Chapters include “Why Carry a Concealed Weapon?”, “Appropriate Use of Force,” “Visualization and Mental Imagery,” and “Intelligence Gathering for Personal Safety.”
I found this portion of the book to be the most useful to me personally. The author talked through a lot of concepts that are important to personal safety and security. He discussed becoming more observant, gave his interpretation of Cooper’s Color Codes, and related personal anecdotes that demonstrated concepts well. He talked about victim deselection, training priorities, and the actors that pose a potential threat to you. Training “hard skills” is relatively easy; keeping these soft skills handy and fine-tuned is hard. This was a great reminder not to let those skills atrophy.
Maybe the most interesting chapter of was titled, “Training Priorities.” In this chapter Mr. Givens recounts the statistics of the 60+ gunfights that his former students have famously found themselves in. He also compares this information to a year’s worth of shootouts involving FBI agents. The plainclothes nature of FBI agents’ work relates pretty closely to civilian gunfights – much more so than those of uniformed police. This information is picked apart to determine what our training priorities should be. These, and the many other topics in the “software” part of the book, are an excellent reminder of why we carry a gun, how we should carry ourselves while carrying, and how to prepare for a fight.
My favorite “credo” from this book (and one that I will gladly steal for my own use) is the author’s explanation of when the use deadly force is acceptable. He recalls students asking variations of, “can I shoot him if…” The author contends this is the wrong question. The question should be, “do I have to shoot him if…” I really like this because if forces the listener to completely re-imaging what shooting someone means. You don’t “get” to shoot someone, you’re forced into it. Deadly force is reserved for those occasions when there is no reasonable alternative, and this simple change in verbiage illustrates that masterfully.
Concealed Carry Class: Hardware
Honestly, this is probably the part that a lot of people are more interested in: guns and gear. I admit that when I first received Concealed Carry Class, I began flipping through it. When I hit pages will pretty pictures of guns and mushroomed bullets I lingered…and found myself well into a chapter that was halfway through the book.
The initial chapters in this section cover firearm, ammunition, and holster selection. Givens goes over the major action types and their pros and cons. He discusses the absolutes for a concealed carry firearm, and they relate directly back to the software attitudes in the previous section. Caliber selection is touched on, as is ammunition selection. The section on holsters is one of the longest in the book, and does a good job briefly describing a lot of different styles of holster.
If you’re new to concealed carry, this information offers a fantastic primer into the vastly complex world of carrying a firearm. It touches on just about everything you need to know. If you’re a trained and experienced concealed carrier, you’re probably going to find some minor little things Mr. Givens is “wrong” about in your opinion. I recommend overlooking them and carry on with the book.
The next portion of “hardware” covers technique. It covers drawing a firearm, common malfunctions, and reloading. The author spends a good deal of time discussing training – how to train, training disciplines, competition-as-training, and provides some drills. He also provides recommendations for a number of trainers besides himself, including legal, medical, and extreme close quarters instructors. I was really glad to see that.
For the new concealed carrier – or the individual considering concealed carry – this is extremely valuable information. Having recently attended a CCW class, I can say that I’d much rather than Tom Givens’ “Concealed Carry Class” that my state-mandated class.
Unfortunately, I also found that I had the most problems with the software section of the book. My issues with this section remained problematic throughout the book. The first chapter makes a lot of statistical and numerical claims. I won’t bore you with all of them, but here is one example. In a bullet after the very first paragraph on the first page, the author claims, “The number-one cause of on-the-job deaths in the United States is homicide.” No citation was provided for this statement.
I found this fact so interesting that I read aloud it to my girlfriend who replied, “really? That seems like a lot.” So I went looking to see if I could find it elsewhere, confident that I would. I couldn’t find anything claiming murder is even close to the number one cause of on-the-job death. I did, however, find several reputable sources that directly contradicted it. According to the National Safety Council, violence, including suicide, is only number three (16%), behind traffic accidents (40%) and slips/trips/falls (17%). A late-2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics provided similar numbers up, as well.
Now, I don’t mean to make this a bigger deal than it is. However, the lack of supporting citations became hugely distracting to me in later portions of the book. Every time the author produced a number or statistic, I immediately wondered where it came from and questioned its veracity. This may be less of a problem for most readers, but I found it constantly pulling me out of the book, especially after I was unable to confirm some of the earlier numbers presented.
I really hate to give a book bad press less than a week after announcing my own book. However, in the interest of fully reviewing Concealed Carry Class, it felt necessary to point this out.
The Bottom Line
With the title Concealed Carry Class, this seems like exactly what I would want from my state’s concealed carry class. Having recently taken said class, Givens’ book stands head and shoulders above the state-mandated curriculum. Despite my issues with the book, I think it still has a ton of value and would like to see it, dog-eared and dirty, on the shelves of more concealed carriers.
Breadth is the strength of this book; it doesn’t go into tremendous depth on any topic. If you’re a serious student of self-defense, you’ll probably get less out of this book than a newbie, but you’ll get something. If, on the other hand, you or someone you know needs a primer on all the “stuff” – mental, emotional, physical skills, and equipment – necessary to prevail in a fight, Tom Givens’ Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics is just what you’re looking for.