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NJ NICS data as of 
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So, you’ve got your NJ PTC…

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A guy in a car holding up a generic license

Now that NJ has finally decided on the course of fire required for Permit To Carry (PTC) candidates, it’s appropriate to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this qualification. It’s also an opportunity to consider the degree which it represents “training” and the steps that might be necessary to become competent with your concealed-carry firearm, in order to be able to use it if we are ever called upon to do so.

When I was learning to drive, my father (who was invested, since I was driving his car) told me that “You don’t start learning to drive until after you pass your driving test.” Well, I’d like to ask you to think about carrying a concealed firearm in the same way; you don’t begin to learn about it until you start doing it.

The now current and likely final course of fire for the New Jersey Permit to Carry a Firearm (the so-called “CCARE Protocol”) has been published and is now in use, it has become more accessible to a wider range of NJ residents than the interim standard of HCQ2. For example, it’s no longer necessary to shoot at 25 yards, nor single-handed. Candidates don’t need to shoot from concealment, nor from a kneeling position and there is no time limit to any of the stages.

So, this is a big improvement from HCQ2. The protocol is much more accessible to individuals with mobility issues, for example, nor does it require shooting at a distance that would likely get one into serious trouble when trying to articulate why shooting at 25 yards was a necessary defensive action as opposed to escaping in some way. All of these are key improvements over HCQ2 and are to be welcomed. The other change from HCQ2 is lack of retention shooting, of which more later.

The current CCARE Protocol requires shooting:

  • 5 rounds at three yards, with one repetition for 10 rounds total;
  • 5 rounds at five yards, with one repetition for 10 rounds total;
  • 5 rounds at seven yards, with one repetition for 10 rounds total;
  • 5 rounds at ten yards, with one repetition for 10 rounds total;
  • 5 rounds at fifteen yards, with one repetition for 10 rounds total.

This is 50 rounds total. The target is the FBI “Q” target, which is a bowling-pin shape target about 30 inches tall and 15 inches across. Candidates must score 80% (40/50) inside the target. It’s pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s 20 holster draws, with a hot firearm, 20 reholsterings of a hot firearm and forty repetitions of clearing a concealment garment. It’s also anything between one and five reloads, but most likely, it’ll be five – one at each distance. OK so let’s look the details:

All shooting is done double-handed after presenting the gun from a holster;

  • The holsters must be concealed beneath a shirt or jacket or some other garment;
  • If using a revolver, every shot must be in double-action mode;
  • If using a hammer-fired semi-automatic pistol, the drawn gun must be hammer-down, that is, the first shot is in double-action mode;
  • Candidates must demonstrate “..safe handing of (the) weapon”;
  • Candidates must demonstrate “..proper loading and unloading..”;
  • Candidates must demonstrate “..proper concealed-carry draw..”;
  • Candidates must demonstrate “..techniques of good marksmanship.”

So, this is an achievable “Core Standard” that is lesser in someways from HCQ2, but definitely more equitable and achievable, and so provides greater accessibility to the PTC for a broader range of people and this is a good thing. However, it presents the PTC holder with a need to get additional training indoor to address the responsibilities this Protocol creates. Let’s consider.

In a previous article I noted that the majority of defensive firearms encounters where regular members of the public are involved take place between 9 and 15 feet. Nine feet is three yards, the closest distance on the qualification. Being able to draw a firearm from concealment with no time pressure and present the gun double-handed in no way prepares us to address an assailant at that distance. They can cover that distance in well under a second. Fifteen feet is five yards. Being able to draw a firearm from concealment with no time pressure and present the gun double-handed in no way prepares us to address an assailant at that distance. They can cover that distance in about one second. How then do we address a threat at such distances?

We need to learn how to move quickly left or right as we are drawing our firearm (aka “moving off the X”). This should be a distance at *least* as big as your body is wide. If we want to regain the initiative in a surprise attack at three or five yards, we simply can’t stand still and hope that the assailant will not successfully press their attack, because they will. Easily. We can also gain time by presenting single-handed, and finally we can gain time by shooting from a retention position, sometimes called shooting “from the hip”. None of these things is in the qualification. How do we get such training in the context of a Nationally-recognized certification?

Dynamic Lateral Movement – moving off the X – is taught in the USCCA Defensive Shooting Fundamentals class. This class is widely accessible in NJ and PA. This class also contains multiple repetitions of drawing and reholstering a hot firearm and multiple repetitions of reloading an empty firearm.

Shooting Single-Handed – this is taught in the NRA Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) class. This class is also widely accessible in NJ and PA and also includes multiple multiple repetitions of drawing and reholstering a hot firearm and multiple repetitions of reloading an empty firearm. It further includes a scored qualification that must be shot from beneath a concealment garment.

Shooting from Retention – neither of these classes includes shooting from retention, although some Instructors may include them. To gain access to this, PTC holders will need to take classes from independent instructors offering their own curricula and of course, do their due diligence on the class. These classes may also include the single-handed shooting and moving off the X, so individual PTC holders should decide how they wish to obtain training in these techniques.

Another option to explore is the Training Schools such a those at Sig Sauer, Gunsight Academy and so on, but these tend to be expensive and of course, we need to travel to them.

There’s a well know exercise known as the Tueller Drill. This drill demonstrates that an assailant can cover 21 feet (seven yards) in approximately two seconds. Having passed the CCARE Protocol and obtained your PTC, how confident are you that you can recognize the attack and respond by revealing your firearm from concealment, draw, present and fire multiple rounds to the center chest area of an assailant in under two seconds?

The new CCARE Protocol does indeed open the door to the NJ Permit to Carry a Firearm for many more New Jerseyans than the old HCQ2 did. However it puts us firmly in the position of having passed the test and needing to learn to *actually* be able to use our defensive firearm. We shouldn’t think we’ll rise to the occasion, because we won’t.

When we exercise our right to carry a defensive firearm, we take on the responsibility to be able to use it effectively, which means getting training to build the skills that the qualification doesn’t give us, and practice those skills that it does.

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