How to Get a Concealed Carry Permit (CCW) [2020 Guide]

One of the most popular uses (or intended uses) of firearms is for self defense. And why not? Firearms are the BEST tool to defend yourself or loved ones against a violent attack.

Many Americans know this and keep a firearm in their homes for defense but they don’t carry a firearm with them when they are most vulnerable: when they are out and about in the world every day. Carrying a concealed handgun, lawfully, is something that we advocate doing whenever it is possible.

It doesn’t matter how big and tough you think you are, or how much of an expert at martial arts you are, a concealed handgun is the absolute best tool for defense. This is especially true if you realize that you aren’t big and tough – the smallest among us benefit most from carrying a concealed firearm.

If you agree that carrying a concealed weapon is the best method of self defense, then read on because we’re going to cover how to get a concealed carry permit (sometimes called a “ccw” for ‘carry a concealed weapon’).

If you disagree with us, then why are you reading an article about getting a ccw? All this gun talk will likely make you spill your soy latte…. please go search for the best hair ties for your man bun instead.

In this article about how to get a concealed carry permit, we’re going to cover:

First, let’s cover what a CCW is (and whether you need one).

What is a Concealed Carry Permit?

A concealed carry permit, also referred to as a “concealed weapons permit,” a “concealed handgun license,” or just simply “CCW,” is a license issued by the government for carrying a concealed firearm in public.

After getting your concealed carry permit, you can lawfully carry a concealed handgun with you around town but you are not allowed to go just anywhere. For example, you’re not going to be able to take it into a courthouse and some states ban going into places that serve alcohol with a handgun.

Unfortunately, although I am a firearms attorney… I am not YOUR attorney. Therefore you’re going to have to research your own state’s rules and restrictions about where you can carry.  For a great resource of ccw laws by state, please research your state’s rules here:  Concealed Carry Laws by State

Ok, so we know what a concealed weapons permit is. Now, do you even need one?

Do You Need a Concealed Carry Permit?

Getting a concealed weapons permit may not be for you.

First, you might live in a a state that does not require a CCW to carry. These states are called “Constitutional Carry” states. If you live in one of these, congratulations! You don’t need a CCW to carry in that state, however, you may still want a CCW to carry in other states when you travel (this is the number one reason to get an online CCW that may not work in your state but it’ll work in over half the country).

Second, you might live in a state that doesn’t allow any type of concealed carry. We feel bad for you and hope that you make it to free-America soon. Even if you can’t have one at home, the online ccw we mentioned above is still handy.

If neither of those two options apply to you and you live in a state where you can get a CCW, you should get yourself a CCW!

Keep reading.

Heck even if they do apply to you, you should consider getting a CCW from other states because there’s something called “reciprocity” which is the recognition (acceptance of) some states permits in other states!

CCW Reciprocity

CCW Reciprocity refers to the agreement of some states to honor the concealed weapons permits of other states.

This means that if you have a CCW in your home state, it may also be accepted in other states when you visit. However, it may not be accepted in those same states if you move there. This is because CCW reciprocity often depends on residency.

Also, even if you have your own home sate CCW (or even if you don’t), you can get a non-resident CCW from another state that may work in your home state and it may help cover other states that your home state permit does not. By planning carefully, you can get most of our country covered by getting the right permits.

Without a doubt, the first two permits you should get are:

  1. Your home state’s permit (if there is one), and
  2. the Virginia non-Resident permit because it’s available completely online (no in-person class or qualification).

After those two permits, the Utah permit is often a good third choice. But, do your research first to make sure that you’re not wasting time or money by already having those states covered with the two above.

There’s a cool tool called the Permit Reciprocity Map Builder that allows you to see where certain permits are honored (they have reciprocity) and where they’re not.

Here’s an example of what the builder shows if you select the Arizona permit. This is a GREAT example of getting a permit even if you don’t have to. Arizona is a Constitutional carry state so no permit is required. However, if you have one anyway, look at all the other states you can carry in!

Click on the image below to go to the Permit Reciprocity Map Builder

ccw reciprocity
ConcealedCarry.com Permit Reciprocity Map Builder

How to Get a Concealed Carry Permit

Ok. Finally. What you came here for… how to get a CCW!

Getting a concealed weapons permit actually isn’t that difficult (for most states).

The steps for getting a concealed carry permit are typically:

  1. Ensure you meet the prerequisites,
  2. Satisfy the training requirements (if any), and
  3. Apply for your pistol permit.

For each of these, the best resource is the particular state’s website because rules can quickly change.

Meeting the Prerequisites

The first prerequisite you’ll need to meet is to ensure that you’re not a “prohibited person” – a federal class of persons who can not even possess firearms (let alone get a CCW).

After that, there may be some additional requirements by your state. Some of the prerequisites are residency based while others depend on criminal background.

Satisfy Training Requirements

If your state has training requirements (most do), then you’ll need to either take the proscribed training or meet one of the exemptions (sometimes things like military service can exempt you from basic firearms safety).

We’ll cover the training requirements in the next section on Concealed Carry Classes.

Apply for Your Permit

After you’ve satisfied the training requirements (if any), then you’ll need to submit your application. Often, fingerprints and a photo are required to go along with your application but you’ll find this out when you take the training for the CCW.

The timing of your application and whether you’ll be successful depend on a few factors.

First, it depends on whether your state is a shall issue or may issue state. Shall issue states mean that the state must give you a permit if you meet all of the requirements whereas may issue states give the state discretion whether to give you the permit even if you meet all of the CCW requirements.

Next, of course, it depends on whether you pass the background check and satisfied all of the requirements.

Assuming everything is ok, you shouldn’t have to wait too long for your permit!

Concealed Carry Classes

There are three types of training requirements we’ve seen:

  1. Classroom only,
  2. Classroom AND range qualification, and
  3. Online only.

“Classroom only” states only require a certain number of hours (often 8 hours) of classroom instruction to learn the local laws and basic firearm safety.

States that require range qualification in addition to classroom learning want applicants to learn basic firearm handling on the range and also typically to prove their competency with a firearm. Most states allow you to use any firearm while some require that you qualify with the specific firearm you are applying to carry.

There are only two online only options that we know of:

  1. the online non-resident Virginia CCW, and
  2. the online resident Tennessee CCW.

To learn more about how to get the TN CCW online, check out our article: How to Get an Online TN Handgun Carry Permit

To learn about the non-resident Virginia CCW, keep reading:

The Virginia non-resident legal loophole allows you to get a permit to carry a concealed firearm without having to sit in a classroom nor spend any time on the range. Heck, it’s possible to get the non-resident Virginia CCW without ever stepping foot into Virginia.

Here’s one BIG RECOMMENDATION we have regarding CCW training: ONLY get your training from a qualified instructor, with plenty of reviews, and you actually like them!  All three of these are important: there’s plenty of qualified people that other’s give good reviews to and I might think that they’re a pompous ass. I wouldn’t learn too much from them if I don’t like them.

I am going to like an instructor if they have a STRONG focus on safety and they don’t have an attitude that requires them to bolster their ego in front of their students. There are a ton of instructors that are great at teaching, kind, and safe. Please take a course from one of them.

Online CCW Courses

There are a TON of people online who offer training for the Tennessee resident online CCW and the Virginia non-resident online CCW.  I should know, I’m one of them. 🙂

I offer the fastest way to meet the requirements for the Virginia CCW at RocketCCW but I actually recommend the online CCW Course by ConcealedCarry.com for your Virginia CCW.

Online CCW Course
ConcealedCarry.com Online Course

Wait. I actually sell my own course but I recommend someone else’s for Virginia? Why?

Easy – I made may course to be the quickest option to meet the bare minimum requirements whereas the Concealed Carry Online CCW course goes in depth into topics and offers a bunch of extra resources. So, if someone already knows what they are doing and just wants a fast option, sure, I’d love to have you as a customer at RocketCCW, however, I recommend Concealed Carry because most folks want to get a lot more information and resources and I’m more than happy to send you to them.

I’d rather you get the training you need over me making a few bucks (also, they appreciate our support so they give GunUniversity a referral fee, which costs you nothing, but gives us more ammo to give you good gun reviews)

Fastest (but just the basics) Virginia CCW Course: RocketCCW

Most thorough (best) Virginia CCW Course: Concealed Carry

Please be very careful which online ccw course you choose. Many (most?) of the ones I’ve seen are… a bit… well… scammy. Good training matters. Choose wisely.

If you’d like us to do a comparison and see some reviews of various online ccw courses, let us know in the comments.

There you go – you’re all set to get started getting your concealed carry permit! We look forward to having you join our ranks of citizens who take their safety, and the safety of their families, seriously.

Concealed Carry Permit FAQ

Q: What is a Concealed Carry Permit?
A: A concealed carry permit is a government-issued license to carry a concealed firearm out in public.

Q: What is a Concealed Weapons Permit?
A: A concealed weapons permit is the same thing as a concealed carry permit. It is a government-issued license to carry a concealed firearm out in public.

Q: What is a CCW?
A: “CCW” is used as just another name for a concealed weapons permit or a concealed carry permit.

Q: What does CCW stand for?
A: “CCW” stands for “Carry a Concealed Weapon.”

Q: Does a CCW allow me to carry wherever I want?
A: No! You may not cary wherever you want with a concealed carry permit. Your CCW is limited to the jurisdiction which issued it and only those other jurisdictions which have elected to recognize/honor your permit. Also, most states have certain areas that are restriction even with a valid permit (some places that may be off-limits include bars, public buildings, etc.)

Q: What is a “shall issue” state?
A: A shall issue state must give you a CCW if you satisfy all of the other requirements.

Q: What is a “may issue” state?
A: A may issue state is not required to give you a CCW even if you meet the requirements.

Q: What is a “Constitutional Carry” state?
A: A Constitutional carry state does not require its citizens to obtain a CCW before carrying a concealed firearm.

Q: Can you really get a CCW online?
A: Yes, you can get a CCW online through Virginia if you take an authorized course.

Q: What is the fastest online CCW course?
A: RocketCCW is the fastest online CCW course.

Q: What is the best online CCW course?
A: Concealed Carry offers the best online CCW course.

Q: Can a felon get a concealed weapons permit?
A: No, a felon may not legally posses firearms (let alone get a CCW) unless they’ve specifically had their firearm rights restored.

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