What’s The Deal With Online CCW Courses?

Here’s What You Need To Know

Deciding to carry a concealed weapon can be a daunting decision for any gunowner, let alone one new to firearms.  The first question most people interested in carrying concealed as is “how do I do this legally?”  The patchwork of state laws regulating concealed carry is enough to make most people’s eyes cross, and make it extremely easy to run afoul of the law and end up in serious trouble just because of an innocent mistake.

So, after you’ve figured out your state’s individual requirements to get your CCW, what now?  Most states require some sort of course to then apply for your CCW, so the next question is which course is best for you, and why?

Online learning has been quietly expanding in popularity for years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has brought it to center stage.  Many states allow a CCW seeker to fulfill their firearms education requirement through an online course, and more and more companies are offering comprehensive online classes that cover everything you need to know to get your CCW (and then some.) 

The Benefits

For the experienced shooter who just wants to get their CCW quickly, an online course may be perfect, precisely because it does allow you to bypass all the range time, and learning how to shoot a gun.  The advanced shooter hopefully knows all the rules of safety, will observe them, and doesn’t need to be refreshed on the basics of firearm handling and function.

The most obvious advantage of an online course is the convenience.  You’re busy, you have a life, and it’s easy to put off scheduling a weekend to go take an in-person course.  A year later it’s still not done, and you’re no closer to getting that CCW.  On the other hand, if you take an online course, it’s there, it’s paid for, and you can complete it at your discretion, on your own schedule.  Suddenly what would take you months to schedule gets done in a few nights. 

Online learning is also an excellent way for lots of people to learn.  You can pause on certain aspects that you’d like to re-watch, going back over them to ensure you understand what you’re watching.  In a classroom setting, you may not have the time to hold up the class while you ask a barrage of questions. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s probably a good idea to find an online course that actually has periodic tests and quizzes on the material covered, just to ensure that you really do have a good grip on the material.  Yes, it’s a self-paced course, but it’s important to ensure that you really do understand the material presented.  A test at the end of each module will actually give you reinforcement that you have in fact understood the material presented before you move on to more advanced concepts. 

The Downside

An online course may not be a good idea for a brand new shooter, or someone who is a total novice with firearms.  In the online environment, there’s no ability for hands on weapon handling, and definitely not for live fire.  Online courses may also not allow any ability to interact one on one with the course instructor.  If you have questions, you may be limited to the materials provided, or have to schedule one on one time with another instructor once you head to the range to practice live fire with your CCW pistol. 

For the new shooter, an online course may also not be good because one fundamental skill most shooters acquire is the ability to be around other shooters who are also handling guns, without being overly afraid.  While it’s important to always be cautious and cognizant of what those around you are doing, a lot of new shooters are terrified that they will get shot when they go on a range.  An online course will not help them overcome that fear.  Had they had a course in person, they would be able to be in a safe environment, with an instructor versed in helping people unfamiliar and scared of firearms feel safe and comfortable with them.  There’s a lot to be said for the human element inherent in face to face interaction, especially over something as potentially dangerous as a firearm.

What’s Best?

For most shooters a blended approach may be best.  That is, take the classroom learning parts of your training online, and then seek out some individual, in person training, even if you don’t have to take it to get your CCW.  It’s important for any individual who plans to carry a gun to be at least versed in safe handling, and how to use their weapon efficiently to lawfully defend themselves and others.  Someone inept with a firearm can be as big a danger to themselves and bystanders as an armed assailant.

Whatever your choice, online classes offer a cost effective, fast, and flexible approach to getting your CCW.  Even if they don’t have the in person feel and advantage of physically holding a gun and getting one on one attention, sometimes just getting your CCW, and then moving on to doing proper training is a good idea.  Having the option to legally carry a firearm is a huge relief for a number of shooters, and that peace of mind means a lot.

What About My State?

Unfortunately, not all states allow online courses, and still mandate that courses must be conducted in person, by a qualified instructor.  For people in those states, online courses are still an option if they are interested in pursuing so called out of state CCWs, that is a license issued by other states to non-residents, allowing the recipient to carry legally in the issuing state, as well as any other state that recognizes reciprocity with the issuing state’s CCW.  In some cases, this may actually open a fairly large swath of states that anyone legally able to get a CCW may carry in. 

The entire process of getting your CCW can be somewhat daunting and laborious, but if you are willing to ensure you take other steps to familiarize yourself with safe handling and shooting, online courses may be an excellent way for shooters of any ability to get a jump on getting their CCW so they may carry legally, and defend themselves in an emergency.

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