While the law varies with each state, you usually need to pass a test before you can get a "carrying a concealed weapon," or CCW, permit. These tests most often consist of two parts: a written part and a hands-on part in a firing range, so in order to prepare, learn how to handle a gun, ideally with a trained instructor.
Permit and Non-Permit States
Not all states require a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon, however the majority – 39 states at the time of publication – do require that you take a test and apply for a permit. Even if your state does not require that you take a test, taking a firearms training class can help ensure that you can carry a weapon responsibly and increase your self-confidence should you need to use it.
Know the Law
Before taking a course or studying for a CCW permit test, contact the law enforcement agency for your state or county to determine if you are eligible. For example, if you have a felony conviction or have not lived in your county for the required amount of time, you may not qualify for a CCW permit. If you served in the military, you may not need to take a test in order to get a CCW permit. This information is normally available online from your state's attorney general's website or your county sheriff's website. In Florida, you can get this information from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Because laws can change at any time, it's important to use only official government sources.
Understand Firearm Basics
Both the written portion and demonstration portion of a CCW permit test usually focus on your knowledge of firearm basics, including how to safely handle a firearm and ammunition. Before taking the test, you can prepare yourself by reviewing firearm basics, such as learning:
- how to safely carry a handgun and ammunition
- how to properly store a handgun and ammunition
- how to properly handle a gun and shoot it in a safe manner
- where and when you are permitted to carry a concealed weapon in your state
Enroll in a Class
In many states, like Ohio, you cannot take a CCW permit test without first enrolling in a class that has approved instructors, such as those certified by the National Rifle Association or, in the case of Ohio, by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission. These classes are usually eight hours, with at least two hours of live-fire training at a firing range, and they are designed to teach you everything you need to know in order to pass the CCW permit test. In some states, the written portion of the class can be done in person or online.
Your county sheriff's department should be able to direct you to a local, approved instructor, or you can search online. The National Rifle Association also offers resources for finding a local instructor.