I finally acquired my Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) license in my home state of California. For those unaware, California has historically been one of the most difficult states to acquire a CCW license (permit) and by all comparisons California still ranks on the higher end of the difficulty scale in the nation.
5+ years ago it would have been impossible for most Californians to obtain a CCW. Yet in recent years it has become an increased possibility for many Californians and is gradually becoming less difficult for many counties in the state. There are still a few counties such as the Bay Area counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, etc.) where CCW issuance is virtually impossible. But by and large the Sheriff’s Department for most counties are issuing permits based on self-defense and for daily risk.
The key issue is whether or not you can apply with the Sheriff’s Department of your county of residence. In some areas of California, you still have to apply for a CCW with the police department of your city of residence. In these cases it can be hit or miss in terms of how restrictive local police departments are in issuing a CCW. If you are denied at the city police department level, you can then apply for a CCW with the Sheriff.
I applied directly with the Riverside County Sheriff for my CCW and one could say I applied on a whim.
Ever since the previous Riverside County Sheriff indicated he would be streamlining CCW applications and recognize self-defense as a good cause for CCW issuance, I had the intent to submit an application. But the application was still the same application used for the past decade or so which specifically stated self-defense was not good cause, it had letters of character/recommendation requirements, and also included contacting an employer (if I remember correctly).
A new Sheriff who also stressed his support of civilian CCW issuance was elected, yet the application and process remained the same.
Then earlier this year in 2021, I just happen to be at the computer one evening and took a look at the CCW application on the Riverside Sheriff website and realized the application had finally been updated. It also took out the restrictions on citing self-defense as valid good cause, the letters of character, and the employer notification stipulation.
Note: I did not really have a problem with the Sheriff notifying my employer of my CCW application (or issuance). But I feel like that is a completely unnecessary aspect of the whole process.
After seeing the application process was updated, I ended up filling out the application right then and there. I spent about 20 minutes filling out the application, scanning required documents, and composing my good cause statement. I did this in March 2021 and the earliest interview I was able to schedule was in August 2021.
Before my interview in August, I took a local CCW training and qualification course with that was approved by the Riverside Sheriff. During this course I qualified with several firearms that I wanted to be listed on my CCW permit.
I went in for my interview in August 2021 where I was instructed to upload couple of other documents to support my good cause statement and to initiate a Live Scan fingerprint background check. Approximately four (4) weeks after the Live Scan appointment, I received a text message and email notification that my CCW was approved. I paid for the final CCW fee online on a Sunday evening and picked up the CCW permit the following Monday morning.
- Online application submitted and interview scheduled (March 2021)
- CCW Training and Qualification Course taken (April 2021)
- Interview conducted and Live Scan Form provided (August 2021)
- Live Scan appointment scheduled and attended (August 2021)
- CCW Case Handler informed Live Scan done and application pushed through to review (August 2021)
- Background and firearms checks completed and application approved (September 2021)
- Final permit fee paid online (September 2021)
- Picked up CCW Permit in-person (September 2021)
After going through this process, I do have some tips for any California resident who is going to apply for a Concealed Carry Weapon permit with their county Sheriff.
Have a good cause statement prepared before you begin filling out the application.
A good cause statement is essentially your justification in your own words stating why you should be allowed to carry a firearm in public. While self-defense is recognized by many counties, simply stating you want a CCW “for self-defense” is a very poor presentation of your case.
You should prepare a good cause statement ahead of time before beginning filling out the application so you can compose it appropriately and effectively and the simply copy and paste it in the application (when filing online).
Do not do what I did and compose a good cause statement at the time you are filling out the application online. Compose your statement beforehand so you are not under any sort of pressure of time to finish writing one.
I have heard some conflicting advice from various people including CCW instructors and CCW permit holders with regards to a good cause statement.
When composing a good cause statement one should use reasonable reasons for self-defense that can be backed up with either public data or data you can provide.
For example, if you go on off-road trips or camping out in remote areas, integrate that information in your self-defense good cause justification. Then you can back that up with various evidence such as photos of trips, forest use permits, or campsite permits. Or if you have to commute late at night and use public transportation, you can integrate in a self-defense good cause statement with proof of your work schedule and receipts of your transit use.
Ultimately, what I am saying is that self-defense is acceptable good cause, but you should make the effort to cite examples of your life where CCW-backed self-defense is applicable.
It is important to note that from what I have been told, the person processing your application will validate all the claims made in a good cause statement. While many people have indicated long good cause statements will increase your chances for approval, you will need evidence to back all the specific claims.
Make sure your firearms listed on the application are clean and clear.
When I say clean and clear, I am not referring to a gun that isn’t stolen or was used in a crime. That goes without saying.
What I am referring to is that the pistols that you will put on the CCW application are registered with the California Department of Justice in your name and the firearm is correctly identified in the CA DOJ registration database.
To be clear, it is perfectly legal to possess an unregistered pistol in California. Pistols purchased in California from a dealer starting in 1998 and onward were automatically registered as part of the purchase process. Any pistol purchased prior was not automatically registered and likely still is unless it was voluntarily registered or transferred in a transaction where the transfer was reported the CA DOJ.
That being said, any firearm that will be listed on your CCW permit must be registered to you, at least when it comes to Riverside County (and other counties like San Bernardino).
As far as the firearm’s information being correct with the CA DOJ, I specifically refer to the caliber or cartridge chambering of the firearm. This is primarily applicable to off-roster pistols purchased using the older (and defunct) Single-Shot Exemption.
Some of these pistols where reported as being a different cartridge during the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process by the dealer, since the Single-Shot Exemption sale involved using non-standard barrels to conduct the sale. These non-standard barrels were often .25 ACP. So it was not unheard of to see a 1911 pistol in .45ACP that was purchased using the SSE process and is identified as a .25 ACP (and not a .45 ACP) in the CA DOJ database.
The reason why this is relevant to a CCW is that some Sheriff departments are checking all of the firearms listed on the application to make sure they match what is on the registration data, and that includes the caliber of the firearm.
Pick the most cost effective CCW course that is approved for your county.
I understand that this sounds very controversial. A great course will justify a higher price. But here’s my take on this topic, at least for Riverside County.
Riverside County CCW permit holders can have up to six (6) firearms listed on the permit. When looking into Riverside County Sheriff approved CCW qualification courses, many courses charge additional fees per firearm to be qualified with and depending on the instructor, this can add up significantly. For instance, one course on the list of Riverside County Sheriff approved training vendors charges $35 per gun after the second gun, while another training vendor charges $30 per gun after the first.
I didn’t want to spend more than necessary on a CCW course. I frankly wasn’t expecting much out of a California CCW course other than the formality of the training. I did not expect to learn much on handling and shooting firearms in general and was only expecting to learn about the nuances of CCW carry and how it will integrate with one’s every day routine.
I’m sure all of the authoritative bodies regulating CCW license issuance don’t want to hear me say that, but as someone who has a decent background in firearms handling and operation that is my viewpoint. This viewpoint leads into my next advice.
Know how to operate your CCW firearm(s) before you take the CCW qualification course.
Hardcore Second Amendment and “Right To Bear Arms” advocates will say that you should have the right to carry regardless of training. I agree that the fundamental right to defend one’s self should exist regardless of experience. But if you are going to carry a gun on a daily basis, you are doing yourself, your family, your friends, and anyone around you a complete disservice by not knowing how to properly operate and discharge your firearm.
During the live fire qualification portion of my CCW course, I witnessed a person who was on the firing line next to me who needed lots of instruction on how to properly grip, acquire sight picture and alignment (aim), and reload. From what I could tell, this person acquired their first firearm and decided to get a CCW permit. Can this person utilize their CCW effectively if the situation calls for it? In some situations, I would say yes, but in most I would say no.
I am not saying that you need to be capable of one second times for a draw to shot on target (although that’s a great goal), but you certainly need to be able to handle and manipulate a firearm with a certain level of expertise.
If you are not already an experienced firearms owner, I recommend taking a pistol course to learn all of the fundamentals of pistol shooting and pistol manipulation. This will sound counterintuitive to my previous advice to pick what amounts to be the cheapest CCW course available.
California CCW courses are not there to teach you the basics of shooting and firearms handling. California CCW courses are focused on teaching applicants the acceptable and unacceptable aspects of CCW permits such as where you cannot carry and how to gauge when you will deploy a CCW firearm.
You should already be a capable firearms handler and shooter before going to a CCW class.
Now I have seen a few 2-day courses where they spend a good portion of one day teaching firearms basics. I still think this is too condensed for people who are not already experienced firearms operators to go from first gun purchase to CCW permit. There are plenty of beginner pistol courses that will teach from the ground up starting with the core fundamentals of firearms safety to the mechanics of a pistol to the fundamentals of marksmanship.
One last item I wanted to cover is the cost of obtaining a Concealed Carry Weapon license. There are several incidental fees to take into account when applying for and obtaining your California CCW. Here is a breakdown of my expenditures when I applied in Riverside County.
- $115 – Riverside County Sheriff CCW Application Fee (initiate application)
- $175 – CCW 8-hour course
- $10 – Live Scan Background Check
- $80 – Riverside County Sheriff CCW Permit Issuance Fee (after approval)
- $380 – Total
The costs above do not include taxes and any fees taken by the online CCW service for credit card payments which accounts for another $10-$15. It is also important to understand that different agencies have varying fees.
Based on the above example for Riverside County, obtaining a CCW in the state of California is not exactly cheap especially when you factor in that the permit is generally good for only two years and needs to be renewed at a cost of $77 per year, plus the cost of the CCW (re)qualification class which varies ($100 give or take).
In my case, I am looking at $380 initial for the first two years and approximately $180 (give or take) every two years after that.
This also does not include various other costs such as the pistol(s) being carried, ammunition, magazines, holsters, CCW capable belts, and other gear to support CCW carry and upkeep. Then of course there is the range time (and not just CCW re-qualification time) to learn and/or maintain skills.
One other expenditure that I made, which will be a lengthy topic for a future article, is a prepaid self-defense legal services plan which is often and incorrectly referred to as CCW insurance. In short, membership in a plan for self-defense legal services will provide you legal counsel in the event you use your firearm (or other tool) in a self-defense situation. These plans vary from a couple hundred dollars a year to over $500 per year, which further adds to the total cost of having a CCW license. I selected CCW Safe for my self-defense legal plan.
Hopefully this write-up provided some insights into the California CCW process as of 2021. My experience may vary from yours as you go through the CCW application process, especially if you live in a different county. But the advice above will prove useful for you, particularly if you are a novice firearms owner.
If you wish to pursue acquiring a Concealed Carry Weapon(s) license in California, refer to the CA CCW / LTC Map and Table for information on the difficulty of acquiring in your county. Then check your local police department and your county sheriff websites to see what the CCW processes are and with which agency you will apply to.