I’ve been meaning to address the issue of ‘gear’ for some time now; and recently I’ve had some inquiries, so I figured this is as good a time as any to discuss this very important topic.
I believe that the gear you choose for every day carry is as important as your choice of weapon. Perhaps even more so. It’s the gear that allows you to carry your weapons & tools comfortably and efficiently.
If your gear sucks, or doesn’t do an adequate job for whatever reasons, chances are you’re not going to carry your personal defense weapon as often as you should; or you may carry in such a way that presenting your firearm is hindered rather than enhanced.
Your every day carry gear should be comfortable, functional, and effective; it should not detract from your performance.
Here Are My Choices of Every Day Carry Gear
A Good Folding Knife:
Do yourself a favor, and don’t cheap out on your knife. Really.
There are many great knives available, and these days you no longer need to spend a fortune or mortgage the farm to afford a good quality knife.
Be sure it’s good quality steel. Your blade style can vary: plain edge, serrated edge, or a combination razor and serrated.
And also be sure that if your knife is an assisted-opening model, that the locking mechanism(s) are strong and secure. You don’t want your assisted-opener to also be an easy-closer in mid-use – great way to lose a finger, or worse.
If you want to learn more about the varieties of steel for knives, check out our Article on Knife Blade Steel. There’s a plethora of information there.
Leatherman (or similar) Style Multi-Tool:
I probably use this tool more often than anything else except my phone & my keys. Maybe even more than my phone. But then, and please don’t laugh, it’s a “modern-era flip phone, best in class. $49.95.”
A Good Tactical Flashlight:
A decent flashlight is an absolute necessity in my opinion; I use mine all the time! And of course, I carry it in a pouch on my belt, so I have it with me whenever I may need it. And that seems to be a lot.
These days, you no longer need to spend a fortune for a good quality flashlight. Used to be, you’d spend $80, $100, $150 or more on a decent ‘tactical’ handheld flashlight.
Nowadays, they’re available everywhere, usually around $50-$80 or less … depending on brightness (lumens), intensity (cd), material, battery style & other features.
Modern tactical flashlights are bright: my daily carry lights are about 100 lumens. And some have beam focuses, some have colored LEDs, there’s all kinds of features available.
Be sure your flashlight is made of metal. Not plastic, metal. Steel, or anodized aluminum, or aircraft steel … not plastic. Period. Because a tac-light can be used as a kubaton or striking weapon, and you don’t want it to shatter on impact. Some flashlights even have scalloped bezels to enhance your persuasiveness when needed.
Be sure to consider the size of your flashlight. It should fit your hand – not too big, not too small. Especially not too small: When gripped in your closed fist, as in a tactical grip, the front of the light should protrude beyond your hand for striking, and it should also protrude behind your hand (toward your thumb) for access to the tail-piece thumb switch.
Maybe I’ll post a picture … or, maybe not. Time will tell …
Brightness of the flashlight is a consideration. They make very bright lights these days. 100 lumens is adequate.
Batteries and battery type are a critical factor, in my opinion. Many flashlights use specialty batteries (CR123s, etc), which are ungodly expensive. Additionally, those batteries tend to give no warning when they’re about to die: they just go out. Standard batteries however, will get dimmer as they wear out, so you know to replace them.
I now use only flashlights that run on common standard size batteries. The batteries are readily available, reasonably priced, and you notice when the light is getting dimmer: time to change the batteries.
Of course, rechargeable batteries are also an option; and some flashlights have non-replaceable rechargeable batteries.
Mag Pouches & Holsters:
I carry a 1911 style pistol, with an 8 round magazine. So I have nine rounds in my gun. I have chosen to carry two spare mags, 8 rounds each.
I chose this setup for two reasons: The first reason is the possibility of a firearm stoppage (ie, jam) which requires stripping & replacing the magazine … having an extra magazine is reassuring. And having a second extra mag is doubly reassuring.
The second reason, of course, is round count. I have nine rounds in my gun, plus two spare mags of eight rounds each. So 25 rounds total.
Some may say that’s too many rounds; some may say that it’s not enough. Truth is, it’s neither. There are no absolutes. But it’s a round count that I am comfortable with, and that I am comfortable carrying on an every-day basis.
If I never need 25 rounds, I’ll be perfectly happy. If I never need one round, I’ll be perfectly happy. But if I ever need 10, and only have 9, I’ll be very very unhappy.
I don’t believe anyone has ever survived a gunfight, and said, “Man, I wish I didn’t have all those extra rounds with me!”
The first rule of holsters: it must fit the gun. Specifically. None of those one-size-fits-all pieces of junk holsters – period. Because those are actually “One Size Fits None.”
The second rule of holsters: It must cover the trigger guard completely.
Your holster must fit & hold the gun firmly & securely. A good quality, properly fitting holster shouldn’t need a thumb-break or flap; it should hold your gun securely just by its fit. (Granted, you LEOs out there will need a holster that complies with your department’s firearm retention policies, so we’re pretty much talking civilian carry here).
Next Question: Leather or Kydex?
There are pros & cons to both. So it’s totally up to you and your personal preference. I prefer leather; my wife loves her BladeTech Kydex …
But something to note: there are more & more holsters, usually Kydex or some synthetic, being offered with ‘retention’ systems integrated into the holster.
Many of these holsters require some sort of manipulation in order to release the firearm from the holster. Often that manipulation is done with your trigger finger. And I think that is a very, very bad idea. Leave your trigger finger out of the draw stroke equation. Its job (IMHO) is solely to press the trigger. Don’t get it confused.
I’ve heard many stories of folks shooting themselves because of manipulating the retention feature of their holster, and when the weapon cleared the holster, their finger went right onto the trigger. Bang. Ouch.
If you’re going to use a leather holster, make sure that the top of the holster is reinforced so that it stays open when the gun is removed. I believe that is called ‘boning.’ And it allows for one-handed re-holstering, which is important. And as I mentioned before, ensure that the holster completely covers the trigger guard.
My two favorite holsters are both leather, and are both Galco brand.
One is a Galco Avenger, Belt Holster, worn outside the wasitband. I probably wear it 75% of the time, maybe more these days now that I am no longer in the corporate world. The Avenger features a wide belt tunnel in addition to the belt loop cutout. This snugs it very securely against my body. The Avenger also features a tensioner … this holster has ‘loosened up’ over time, and the tensioner allows me to keep it snug.
My other favorite is a Galco Summer Comfort IWB: This was my primary mode of carry when I was dressing for the corporate world. It has a slight FBI-style cant, and it’s easy to draw & reholster. Because it’s worn inside the waistband, it will remain tight & snug up against my body for a secure fit as well as maximum concealment.
One feature I really like about the Summer Comfort IWB holster is the ability to remove it without taking off my belt.
A high quality, sturdy belt designed for carrying a firearm is an absolute necessity in my opinion.
The belt’s job is to hold all your carry gear, without sagging or curling, or drooping. A good belt will help ensure your firearm stays snug and secure against your body.
And your holster should remain in the same position all the time: no wobbling or travelling along the belt.
Most days I wear an old Galco leather belt; it’s looking a little worn and beat up, but is still in excellent condition.
And, pardon me very much, but it’s now over twenty years old! And it has served me very well.
My Galco belt cost about $100 when I bought it; they’re probably a bit more than that now.
But if you consider that today a WalMart special may run about $20, won’t hold your gear securely, and will wear out in a year or so … this seemingly ‘expensive’ leather belt is a true value.
I occasionally wear a Galco instructor’s belt. It is made from nylon webbing, and is reinforced for strength. It can be adjusted to fit regardless of whether I’m wearing just a t-shirt, or several layers of clothing tucked in. I’m not limited to the spacing of the holes … very nice, especially after a big meal!