The Equipment Challenge

Bullets Both Ways Wristbands

In the last couple of posts, we’ve covered HOW to become an armed defender and the importance of training. Today we’ll take a look at the third leg of the armed defense tripod: equipment.

The importance of good equipment cannot be understated, and it’s more than just the firearm you choose to carry. Caliber, size, stopping power, concealment method, ease of use and comfort are all factors that must be considered and weighed in making equipment choices.

The first consideration is what you are going to carry and where you will carry it. There are trade-offs to consider. A tiny .380 pocket pistol is easily concealed in a pocket or purse, but is limited in the number of rounds it can hold and has less stopping power. Stepping up to a larger 9 MM Luger or 45 ACP gives you better stopping power but can be more challenging to conceal on your person.

This author recommends no less than a 9 MM Luger for your primary carry gun. There are models on the market that are smaller and more easily concealable but hold fewer rounds. My primary carry guns are a Glock 19 Gen 4 or a Glock 43. The latter is more easily concealed and more comfortable to wear. A .380 is fine as a back-up gun in a pocket or an ankle holster and certainly is better than nothing.

The next consideration is platform. When I first started carrying, I had a Smith & Wesson .45 caliber semiautomatic 1911 style pistol. It carried 7+1 rounds and was easy to conceal. However, the choice of how to carry soon presented itself. In order to chamber a round with a 1911-style pistol, the user pulls the slide back, which cocks the hammer. The model I had did not have a “de-cocking” lever, and there was no way to safely de-cock the gun. I was not comfortable carrying with the hammer back even with the safety on. But, in a combat situation when your fine motor control is compromised you don’t want to have to remember to thumb off the safety or chamber a round, so I decided against the 1911 as an everyday carry gun.

I chose the Glock 19/43 because it’s safe to carry chambered, there’s no safety to remember (the safety on the Glock is on the trigger) and it’s easy and reliable.

For on-person carry, there are several choices. Inside the waistband (IWB), outside the waistband (OWB), abdomen, small of back, pocket, and ankle. Using an OWB holster with a light jacket or other cover garment is perfectly fine and is actually the most comfortable method of carrying.  IWB with an untucked shirt or other cover garment is fine too. There are people who say you can carry IWB under a tucked in dress shirt without “printing” (printing is when the gun is visible in outline through your clothes), but I’ve never been successful at that.

Many concealed carriers choose to carry off-body in a backpack or purse. Advantages of this method of carry include comfort, easy access in some cases. Disadvantages include possibly losing your firearm or having it stolen, risks of leaving the backpack or purse unattended, and possible difficulty in accessing the firearm quickly. The ease or difficulty of access depends on where the firearm is. Do you have a “rip and grip” system in your backpack/purse or do you have to unzip multiple zippers before you can reach your firearm?

As a man, I am not tuned in to the considerations that women face in carrying a concealed weapon. For this reason, I recommend checking out the Well Armed Woman website, and has great videos about gear and apparel for women.

Another consideration is destination. If you are going to a location that prohibits firearms and/or is secured with metal detectors, you will have to either leave your firearm behind or plan to securely store it while you are in the prohibited location.

My recommendation is to try various things until you find what works best for you, and one method may not work all the time. I personally have a drawer full of holsters that I have purchased, tried and discarded. When I carry my Glock 19 it is often in an OWB holster with a cover garment. For IWB, I use a Comp-Tac Minotaur or a Vedder holster. In extreme concealment circumstances, a Colt .380 Mustang in a pocket holster fits the bill.

Whatever carry method you decide upon, make sure you use a holster or at the very least a trigger guard. Practice drawing the weapon (unloaded and with all ammunition in another room), remembering the 4 laws of gun safety. When you are out in the world, maintain Condition Yellow and remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Remember a threat can be behind you. If you use earphones, don’t have them so loud you can’t hear what is going on around you.

Another consideration is alcohol consumption. Many states have laws that concealed carriers may not consume alcohol or carry in businesses that serve alcohol. Be aware of the laws of your state to ensure you remain in compliance.

Carrying a gun is an awesome responsibility and those who are Willing and Able to do so should invest the time and money in training and equipment to make it a safe and enjoyable experience.

By Richard D. Turnquist