A membership with the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) provides a variety of benefits for gun owners, the most significant of which is liability insurance and criminal defense protection. USCCA insurance covers self-defense incidents involving handguns or other weapons, whether you are on your own property or practicing open or concealed carry on public property.
The service includes generous amounts of coverage, and it's easy to understand the coverages and limits provided by the company. However, limited reports from people who have made claims keep us from giving the service an outright recommendation.
USCCA insurance: Our thoughts
Among the options for firearm, weapon or self-defense insurance, USCCA Self Defense Shield seems to be a solid choice. The organization provides a substantial level of liability and criminal defense coverage at a reasonable price. Any fees or bills you encounter during a civil or criminal trial are paid immediately, not at the end of your case — some gun insurance companies require you to pay the bill when it's due and to be reimbursed later.
We also found the USCCA's offerings and limits for the coverage provided to be clear and easy to understand, so it's easy to know when you are and are not covered by your policy. Many companies offer services similar to USCCA insurance that provide legal protection from an incident involving a weapon, but comparing what kinds of coverage you are getting can be difficult. Unlike with auto insurance, where services from different insurers function basically identically, there is a wide range of different service options among providers.
USCCA benefits are backed by United Specialty Insurance Co., a reputable insurer with excellent financial stability. United Specialty got an A++ rating from AM Best, meaning there is little risk that a claim would not be paid due to a lack of funds. By contrast, many competing companies do not function as insurers. Instead, they usually offer "unlimited" protection and coverage from their own lawyers. Describing legal protection like this as "unlimited" strikes us as too good to be true. However, whether there are some theoretical limits to the coverage is not well-defined or tested.
The most common complaint we found from USCCA customers is a constant stream of emails, both during the sales process and through the course of membership. But customers also report a responsive, helpful customer service team that can answer any questions that potential or current customers have about USCCA products.
That being said, it's difficult for us to say definitively whether the USCCA's coverage is a good value because there are very few reports from customers who have filed claims with the company. The only ones we found were testimonials highlighted by the company itself. As such, we can't evaluate how reliably the company pays claims — and that's ultimately what you are paying for.
If you are considering purchasing gun liability insurance, the USCCA appears to be one of the best options. It is backed by a reputable insurance company, its offerings are clear and its customer service is highly rated. But the fact that we have very little claims satisfaction information prevents us from definitively recommending the service.
Coverages and legal protections from the USCCA
There are two main categories of protection provided by a USCCA membership: liability protection from a civil suit and criminal defense protection if you are charged with a crime. For both types of protection, you'll also be provided with legal guidance about the right way to resolve the situation.
Civil defense and liability coverage from the USCCA pays for the costs of a lawyer to defend you in court, as well as any financial damages you are required to pay as a result of a lawsuit. You're protected in any incident that's a result of you acting in self-defense, whether it involves a gun, another weapon or no weapons at all. You are also protected in the case of liability due to a lost or stolen weapon.
The amount of coverage you are eligible for varies by plan level but ranges from $250,000 to $2,000,000; see below for the full price breakdown. For civil defense cases, you will be assigned a lawyer employed by the USCCA. You may not elect to use your own lawyer.
Criminal defense protection covers the cost of a criminal defense, including lawyer's fees, investigation costs and court fees. Notably, any fees or retainers are paid immediately by the USCCA. You don't need to spend your own money in order to be reimbursed later. And while the USCCA will cease payments if you're convicted or plead guilty, you also won't be responsible for reimbursing the company for any money it has already paid, including a retainer.
Additionally, the USCCA's criminal defense protection pays bail or bond fees, compensation for lost wages while in court, psychological counseling and other costs as a result of your trial. Each of these subordinate coverages is subject to an individual limit, as well as the overall limit for criminal defense protection on your policy.
For criminal defense cases, you may choose to use your own lawyer or one recommended by the USCCA.
Exclusions to USCCA coverages
As with most forms of insurance, there are several exclusions to when the USCCA's liability and criminal defense protection will apply. If you are considering USCCA self-defense coverage, it's crucial that you read the policy yourself and understand exactly when you are covered, but here are a few key scenarios.
- You are not covered during the commission of a crime. Of course, every self-defense incident may or may not end up being considered a crime, and it's not decided until a judge or jury has made a ruling. If you are convicted of a crime, USCCA payments cease. However, the policy pays any necessary bills immediately, and if you're convicted, any money you or your lawyer has received from the USCCA does not need to be returned.
- USCCA coverage only applies during a self-defense scenario. Besides not covering criminal acts, it also excludes things like accidents. So if you accidentally fire on someone while hunting, you won't be protected.
- You're not covered if the incident was a result of war or civil uprising or if it was part of your official duties at your job. For example, private security guards cannot make a claim if they shoot someone while on the job, even if it was in self-defense.
Again, these are only a few of the exceptions that apply to USCCA firearm liability insurance. We strongly recommend you read the policy in detail yourself so you can understand when you are and are not protected.
Other benefits for USCCA members
USCCA members also receive a variety of other fringe benefits for signing up with the company. These include educational and training materials for concealed carry weapons (CCWs), a subscription to the USCCA's Concealed Carry Magazine, free entry to the USCCA's annual conference and a variety of other minor perks such as shopping discounts. While these are largely ancillary to the main coverages provided by a USCCA membership, there's no downside to receiving them, and they may be a valuable resource to gun owners looking to expand their skill set.
Costs of coverage for USCCA
There are four levels of membership, or coverage, you can select from at the USCCA. Higher levels have larger dollar limits on the coverages provided but cost more per month. However, all levels of membership have the same categories of coverage, so you aren't outright missing any of the above protections by opting for a cheaper plan.
Unlike most forms of insurance, USCCA self-defense coverage does not charge different rates to different people based on demographic information like your age or where you live. The only determining factor is the level of coverage. You can also add your spouse, and any dependent minors who live with you, for additional fees.
Self Defense Shield protection level
|Total coverage amount||$300,000||$600,000||$1,150,000||$2,250,000|
|Civil suit defense and damages||$250,000||$500,000||$1,000,000||$2,000,000|
|Criminal defense protection (upfront attorney retainer)||$50,000||$100,000||$150,000||$250,000|
|Upfront bail bond funding||$2,500/$25,000||$5,000/$50,000||$25,000/$250,000||$50,000/$500,000|
|Compensation while in civil court||$250/day||$350/day||$500/day||$750/day|
|Personal hardship coverage||$2,000||$3,000||$4,000||$6,000|
USCCA's lowest plan, the silver membership, is not listed on its website, and the only way to purchase it is by calling the company directly.
USCCA vs. NRA Carry Guard
One of the USCCA's most significant competitors is NRA Carry Guard, available through the National Rifle Association. Unlike many of the other companies offering similar coverages, both were backed by reputable insurance companies and have set dollar-amount coverage limits. A set limit may seem less desirable than unlimited coverage, but we believe it to be a positive thing: No insurance coverage is truly unlimited, and it's better to know what the maximum payout will be than to pretend there isn't one at all.
Until early 2018, NRA Carry Guard insurance was backed by Chubb and Lockton Specialty. However, both companies have since cut ties with the NRA and are no longer providing insurance to the organization. At the time of review, customers still appear to be able to purchase coverage through Carry Guard, but it's not clear what company, if any, is backing Carry Guard. As such, we encourage anyone considering this type of insurance to go with the USCCA over the NRA.
Even disregarding concerns over Carry Guard's reliability, the USCCA offers the better value. The two companies offer similar coverage packages, but the USCCA's rates are more affordable across the board.
USCCA vs. NRA Carry Guard: Rates and coverages
|Coverage per $ spent per year (higher is better)||$2,041||$2,429||$3,314||$4,527|
NRA Carry Guard
|Coverage per $ spent per year (higher is better)||$1,721||$2,326||$3,367||$3,440|