So, you’ve made the decision to get your concealed handgun license (CHL). Welcome to the ever-increasing ranks of American women exercising their Second Amendment right! But, if you think the toughest part was leaping that mental hurdle to become an armed citizen, you clearly haven’t gone gun shopping yet. New shooters often neglect essential criteria when selecting the weapon that could mean the difference between life and death. If you think in terms of self-preservation, the questions become more complex than simply, “What fits my price range or looks good in my hand?”

As a CHL instructor, I deal with too many women who choose a gun based solely on the preferences of a husband or a friend or a family member. Selecting a handgun is as personal as buying a car or clothing. Your gun should complement who you are and how you live. With that in mind, here are five essential “musts” for your shopping trip:

1. You MUST buy a gun that you are able and willing to shoot proficiently regularly. If you hate the trigger pull, hate the recoil or simply don’t want to invest the time needed to shoot proficiently, consider purchasing a big dog for personal protection instead.

Remember: In a defensive encounter, you will be scared to death, your fine motor skills will be non-existent and your mental processes will be rattled. The simple act of retrieving your gun from its hiding place will be a challenge, let alone remembering lessons vaguely learned in a classroom months or years before. If you’re going to carry, be sure to buy a gun you enjoy shooting, and shoot it so often that it becomes second nature—because, in a high-stress situation, it needs to be.

Read more at Combat Handguns.

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So, you’ve made the decision to get your concealed handgun license (CHL). Welcome to…