Question of the Day: How Much Gear is Too Much?

[This article originally appeared at usconcealedcarry.com and is reprinted with the author's permission.]

Most times, this discussion devolves into “If you only carry this, you’re an idiot; if you don’t carry what I do, you’re a moron.” That’s not the purpose of this article. What I want to do is widen your world view. Look at it this way: we all make short term and long term goals in life. We put energy into making sure our long term goals come to pass, but keep most of our focus on the short term goal. The problem comes when we focus solely on the short term, while ignoring the long term. The same thing applies to our choices in concealed carry gear . . .

Some folks believe they can get by with a snubby .38 revolver and no spare ammunition, and then there are those who carry more gear than a SWAT officer. The answer really lies in your training and particular situation. What I carry and what you carry are two different things, and neither one of us is right. I carry certain guns and equipment based on my experience, and what I see as a long term goal, so to speak. Others take a more minimalist view, opting for a more convenient way of life, and see the short term goal as being the most important thing to focus on.

Different ways to carry your reloads include spare magazine pouch, Bianchi Speed Strip, cartridge belt slide, and revolver speed loader.

The new CCW carrier is more concerned with making sure their pistol is concealed, that they are legal to carry wherever they go, and that they can hit the target when necessary. They will carry their gun and maybe a reload, since they are still getting used to the weight and feel of a concealed pistol. Their focus, or short term goal, is the immediate protection of themselves and their families. That, in and of itself, is outstanding.

As learning, experience and confidence build, the need for more equipment sometimes rears its head. A flashlight is never a bad thing to have, since it can be used on a daily basis for things other than gunfighting. For the tactically minded, this is usually one of the Surefire lights, but even having a Mini Maglite is better than nothing.

Another example of daily carry gear: Glock 19 9mm in appendix inside the waistband holster, spare magazine, Gerber multi-plier, Spyderco Delica folding knife, and Surefire E2E Executive flashlight.

A folding defensive knife is never a bad choice since it can also be used for things other than chopping off limbs or defensive use. After that, what does one need or think they need? And, do they really need it?

There is the issue of having some form of non-lethal defensive tool with you as a supplement to your gun. This is usually pepper spray of some sort carried in a pocket or on a key ring. There is also the Persuader which is another nonlethal defensive tool that relies primarily on joint locks and nerve points to work effectively.

Another easy to carry setup: A leather fanny pack, Glock 19 9mm with spare magazine, Surefire flashlight, and OC pepper spray.

Sometimes, depending on your work environment, these may be your only means of defense since many businesses don’t allow their employees to carry concealed handguns on the premises. Both of these require proper training to use effectively and if you wish to carry something in the way of a non-lethal defensive tool, you would be wise to get the training – otherwise they become little more than good luck charms.

One item that almost never gets a second glance is a multi-tool such as a Leatherman or a Gerber. These have largely surpassed the Swiss Army knife as the all around tool of choice. With so many shapes and sizes from keychain size to the size of a brick, there is one available for every conceivable situation.

Is it a tool for defensive use? No, but it can fulfill many other daily functions, much like the flashlight. If you can fit one into your daily lifestyle, then go for it. It is also much easier to justify a multi-use tool, such as a knife or a Leatherman, than it is a specific use item, especially if you don’t use it every day.

The Big Questions
What I talked about above is usually not seen as out of the ordinary for most people in general, much less those carrying concealed pistols. What we’re moving into now, however, is territory that will get 100 different opinions from 100 different sources. Remember what I said earlier: your training, experience and situation will determine what you feel you need to carry on a daily basis. So, with that in mind …

ASP Key Defender, shown with its replaceable insert, is a low profile way to carry your OC pepper spray. De-jammer below it can be used for pain compliance holds, or clearing jams from your gun.

Carrying a reload for your daily carry gun is considered mandatory in many training circles and is generally seen to be good advice, not only for reloading during a fight but also having a new ammunition source to load in case of a malfunction. “But,” some will say, “my gun has never had a problem, and I’m not going into combat. I just want to protect myself and my family. I don’t need to carry two boxes of ammo on me!”

That’s true, depending on where you live and your situation. If you live in Miller, Missouri, population 700 or so, you’re probably right. If, however, you live in Memphis, Tennessee, having extra ammunition on hand is almost mandatory. A reload or two, plus extra ammunition in the car, can be good insurance at times.

The backup gun or second gun is probably the most controversial item in the gun carrier’s inventory. There seems to be no middle ground. It is either viewed as extreme paranoia to carry more than one gun at a time or it’s the height of true tactical awareness.

Great everyday carry setup: Smith & Wesson Model 642 .38 Special, wearing Barami Hip Grip and Tyler T-Grip adapter. The Hip Grip allows carrying inside the waistband without using a holster. Shown here with a reload of five extra rounds in a Bianchi Speed Strip and a Spyderco Delica folding knife, this combo can be carried with ease.

For many, it’s difficult to carry one gun at a time much less two. Also, some are concerned with the reaction of law enforcement officers if they find out, for whatever reason. There are several valid reasons for carrying a second gun (such as your primary gun running out of ammunition in the middle of a fight or having your gun break at the worst time).

However, if you don’t train with the backup gun, and don’t have it somewhere you can instantly get to it when you need it, it just becomes an extra three pounds you’re toting around every day. If your situation is such that you can honestly see yourself needing one, the best thing you can do is not tell anyone. Besides avoiding the disapproval of some of those you meet, why give up any tactical advantage that having the second gun gives you?

The goal of this piece is to make you think, not tell you what you have to do. At the risk of sounding like a wishy-washy politician, all I can tell you is…it depends. Your choice of equipment is a personal one and isn’t about being popular or politically correct or caring about what other people think about you. Carry what you want, when you want. Look at your end goals, and do what you have to do to achieve them.

Steve Collins owns S & L Training in SW Missouri, teaching concealed carry and defensive firearms and tactics. For more information on training opportunities, contact him at sandltraining2011@gmail.com or visit www.sandltraining.com.

60 Responses to Question of the Day: How Much Gear is Too Much?

  1. avatarChas says:

    I carry 5 guns and at least two reloads for each one of them, because that’s what they said to do on the interwebz….

    • avatarC. Walther says:

      Do they all have night sights, laser grips, flashlights, and a bottle opener?

      If not, you’re still doing it wrong.

    • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

      LOL newb. You also gotta have at least three knives, an asp, pepper spray, a multi-tool, a flashlight, a phone, a tablet, a tactical pen, a taser AND a stun gun, mace, mirror shades, a diving watch, a CamelBak, tweezers, butterfly sutures, smelling salts, iodine, a scalpel, a tent, waterproof matches, spare batteries, toilet paper, fishing line, fish hooks, C4, blasting caps, the last seven episodes of “Glee”, some U-235, two midgets, and a potato. Once you’ve got all that, get back with me and we’ll talk about what to keep in your vehicle.

      • avatarSid says:

        Guys, that is okay if it is attached to your plate carrier. If not, you will bleed out before you ever get the campfire started.

        • avatarBen Eli says:

          All these things are great to have but they just weigh toooo much in order to get around. Thats why I only leave my house in my APC.

      • avatarYdneas says:

        THREE potatoes. One for each midget, and one for you. Think, man, think!

      • avatarGrant says:

        But do you know where your towel is?

    • avatarGS650G says:

      I don’t carry quite as many guns when I’m driving the armor plated Humvee to the grocery store, the wife is in the crows nest on the .50 so I’m covered there.

    • I love it when you guys poke fun at yourselves. You really are funny.

      I carry car and house keys, a wallet, and maybe some cash if I’m lucky. That’s it.

  2. avatarMichael B says:

    Backup guns are great in case, god forbid, a BG shoots your primary carry piece or your strong hand and takes ‘em out of the fight

    In gunfights there are a disproportionate amount of hand and gun hits because typically that’s the danger area that’s being focused on.

    • avatarJoe S. says:

      When I went paintballing once for my friend’s birthday my hands got all shot up since they were right in front of me the entire time which is where everyone is aiming at.

  3. avatarAharon says:

    “Others take a more minimalist view, opting for a more convenient way of life, and see the short term goal as being the most important thing to focus on.”

    For me, less is more. I prefer the simple over the complex. A revolver over a semi-auto. I do not yet carry openly or concealed when out in public nor do I carry walking around my home. If I do carry, in the future, I would probably carry a .38 snubbie for the simplicity: fast draw, point at attacker, and squeeze the trigger. Repeat. In a fast-moving high-stress assault on me while in an outside scenario I want and need to ‘keep it simple stupid’.

    • avatarMichael B says:

      Glocks are simple too!

      • avatarJeff says:

        I think many people (myself included) have a likely irrational fear that the Glock’s light trigger coupled with no external safety will result in a lot of busted up legs and feet when something snares the trigger.

        I exclusively use XD series pistols for concealed carry because I don’t want to disengage an external safety if I need to shoot and because I do NOT want to shoot myself.

        • avatarMichael B says:

          It shouldn’t get snagged if you’re wearing it in a good holster.

          XDs are nice, by the way, but I read a self-defense story the other day of a guy who carried a 1911 getting his hands shot to hell and back by a BG. In the heat of the moment he had a hard time activating the grip safety due to his injuries. I don’t like that and I especially don’t like that the grip safety is much smaller on the XD than it is on a 1911.

        • avatarCarlosT says:

          I’ve heard those concerns, but I wonder how well he’d be able to handle any gun at that point. It takes almost nothing to disengage the grip safety on an XD or XDm. If your grip is destroyed to the point where you physically can’t, I’m skeptical that you could fire any gun at all.

  4. avatarready, fire,aim says:

    less is more ….i carry a 5 shot j frame with laser grips and a back up 5 shot speed loader and i try to always stay on the beaten path in life….i.e away from trouble

  5. avatarAccur81 says:

    I agree on the “less is more.”

    Fanny packs are not concealed carry. If you see an OFWG with a mustache wearing a fanny pack, it’s pretty obvious what’s inside.

  6. avatarDerek says:

    In my personal opinion, a gun and a reload is sufficient for, probably, 99% of situations. However, I can understand carrying more for the peace of mind from knowing that you’re prepared even for the 1%; multiple drugged up attackers, the violent flash mobs, spree killers in kevlar, full blown terrorist attack/zombie apocalypse. I do so myself.

  7. avatarJason says:

    Carrying that nickel Smith & Wesson concealed is a crime against art.

    • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

      “Carrying that Smith & Wesson is a crime.”
      —–
      Fixed.

      • avatarJason says:

        Guns are tools, they’re meant to be used. From the look of that holster, this one has been. And it’s no less pretty for it. Nickel’s actually a good sturdy finish, if properly applied.

        • avatarIdaho Guy says:

          So…….you’re going to keep punishing S&W for what the previous owners did……. 12 years ago?

          Facepalm…..

          That grain alcohol is tough on the brain cells……

        • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

          [gently removes your palm from your face]

          Not exactly. I find their designs uninspiring, their safety features dubious, and their internal locks downright dangerous. Jumping in bed with the Clintons is just icing on the cake.

          Oh, and I generally avoid posting under the influence.

          [carefully returns your palm to your face]

        • avatarAccur81 says:

          Some of my best posts were after a couple of scotches!

        • avatarIdaho Guy says:

          You linked to the agreement of 2000.

          So the agreement the Brits that owned S&W at the time signed, which became null and void after they sold the company, is a factor for you in not doing business with S&W?

          Guess you’re still punishing dead Bill Ruger too, huh? Don’t buy those Ruger AR’s, high cap magazines, and tiny pistols from the current company, (that’s been donating millions to pro gun causes..) That’ll show old Bill……

          I swear, it’s no wonder we have such a hard time defending the 2nd amendment. Too many folks lacking rational thought in our camp…

  8. avatarduucfho says:

    Count me in with the “less is more” crowd. J-frame with no reload, Spyderco Tenacious.

    I tried carrying a speedloader for a while, but it was a little too unwieldy IMO, so now it just sits in the car door handle. Might try a speed strip…

  9. avatarBC; MT says:

    That stag-handled wheelgun is so handsome I don’t even care about the gear debate.

    Nice Gen 3 Delica, by the way. Some honest use wear on that blade.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      That’s one fine-looking revolver, like the N-frame that Chuck Norris carried in Walker: Texas Ranger.

    • avatarbobby b says:

      It is a nice looking gun. And I’d never carry it.

      First, a gun that special sends a message to a cop or a prosecutor or a jury that isn’t the message you want to send when you’re defending yourself after a righteous DGU.

      Second, if you ever do need to use it, part of the aftermath is that you’re gonna lose the gun, either temporarily for (maybe) a year, or more likely permanently. (“Your gun? We confiscated it? What color was it?”)

      Not to say I wouldn’t mind owning it, of course. I just wouldn’t carry it.

  10. avatarDon says:

    I usually carry a .22 WMR NAA if I’m going out the the mailbox or a movie or something relatively benign.

    If I’m out and about for real I carry a model 642 and 1 reload OR the NAA and the 642.

    On rare occasion I carry two 642s.

    If I feel like I’m going somewhere risky I carry my 1911 and one reload.

    In the woods I carry a 3″ M629.

    If I someday die because I am under-armed in the lowest crime municipal area in the country with a couple of revolvers or a 1911 then tough nuts on me. I could also someday be struck by a meteor.

    If the zombie thing happens I’ll grab my M1A and a can of ammo off my shelf.

    If the world ends and I need to live off of squirrels for a long period of time I’ll grab my .22 rifle and several thousand rounds off the shelf for the same weight.

    -D

    • avatarBuzzy243 says:

      +1

      If I die in the rural Midwest because 11 rounds in my Glock 26 wasn’t enough it was clearly my time to go. 

      I’m statistically much more likely to die because some idiot is answering a text or trying to download the new album by fun. (sic) while driving than because I’m under armed.

      • avatarkoolaidguzzler says:

        agreed. carry to live, not live to carry. if i do carry, its revolver with reload in car, maybe speedstrip in pocket. . in cold months its speedloader in coat. i always carry clip folder, micro led lite on keychain, which ive used to shoot with to 7 yds. i could use an iphone lite app as a 7 yd shoot lite but prefer not to have my comms so exposed in fight. theoretically the phone video cam with lite could be useful legally. i like small pepper spray when not packing. multitool too burdensome. impact weapon is over the top. one of the reasons i dont carry pistol is because u should always carry spare mag if the pistol mag fails, which they have done.

      • avatarkoolaidguzzler says:

        agreed. carry to live, not live to carry. if i do carry, its revolver with reload in car, maybe speedstrip in pocket. . in cold months its speed-loader in coat. i always carry clip folder, micro led lite on key-chain, which ive used to shoot with to 7 yds. i could use an i-phone lite app as a 7 yd shoot lite but prefer not to have my comms so exposed in fight. theoretically the phone video cam with lite could be useful legally. i like small pepper spray when not packing. multitool too burdensome. impact weapon is over the top. one of the reasons i don’t carry pistol is because u should always carry spare mag if the pistol mag fails, which they have done.

      • avatarkoolaidguzzler says:

        agreed. carry to live, not live to carry. if i do carry, its revolver with reload in car, maybe speedstrip in pocket. . in cold months its speed-loader in coat. i always carry clip folder, micro led lite on key-chain, which i’ve used to shoot with to 7 yds. i could use an i-phone lite app as a 7 yd shoot lite but prefer not to have my comms so exposed in fight. theoretically the phone video cam with lite could be useful legally. i like small pepper spray when not packing. multitool too burdensome. impact weapon is over the top. one of the reasons i don’t carry pistol is because u should always carry spare mag if the pistol mag fails, which they have done.

    • avatarSig says:

      My neighbor saw that I was carrying while mowing the lawn last week. “Expecting trouble?”

      “No, ma’am. If I expected trouble, I’d have the rifle. And a platoon.”

  11. avatarRalph says:

    I carry a 642 all the time. I might also carry an M&P 40c. I’d prefer to carry a 12 gauge pump because the criss-crossed bandoliers loaded with shot shells just looks so damn cool.

  12. avatarCharlie says:

    Three words: tactical man purse. I won’t leave home without it. Beneath the Che patches are two Glock 21s, a disassembled Stoeger S x S, and an iPad.

  13. avatar230therapy says:

    I never realized choosing gear was so difficult and confusing.

  14. avatarbontai Joe says:

    How much gear is too much? When it takes you longer to “gear up” than it does to get dressed, then for me, it ain’t worth leaving the house. I’m already carrying a cell phone, wallet, keys, pocket knife, mini mag light, ball point pen, coins, eye glasses, and 24 hours back-up supply of medication. Add in a holster, firearm and maybe a spare mag, and that about maxes me out of tolerable weight and pocket space. I would have to live in down town Detroit and work the night shift to justify adding any more stuff.

  15. avatarGS650G says:

    If I carry two hand grenades under my shirt it looks like I’ve just started puberty.

  16. avatarPhydeaux says:

    I carry a Glock 23 and tactical folder (Kershaw, Benchmade or Spyderco) whenever I leave the house – and sometimes in the house if I’m going out again. If it’s dark out and I’m heading into the city, I include my 4Sevens Quark 123 Turbo X (450 lumens).

    When I’m going places I can’t carry I have the tactical folder and 4Sevens Quark.

    The wife carries a tactical folder, Streamlight, and pepper spray.

  17. avatarCarlosT says:

    I guess I’m the mall ninja around here. I carry my XDm compact, two spare mags, and a folding knife, pretty much anywhere I’m allowed to do so. Will I need all that? Probably not. But it’s no big deal to carry it, so why not?

    • avatarMichael B says:

      I carry a Glock 19, a spare mag, and a little folding knife I use to open packages at work with.

      When I’m not in a very Glock mood I’ll carry an HK USP Compact .40 and a spare mag.

      Better to have ‘em and not need ‘em than need ‘em and not have ‘em.

  18. avatarAPBTFan says:

    Another minimalist here. Bersa Thunder 45, one spare mag and a Spyderco Endura. Works great here in Phoenix where our two seasons are hot as hell and mildly cool.

  19. avatarTom says:

    KISS principal applies.

  20. avatarThomasR says:

    Like the article talks about, no one solution for all situations, after I stopped a gang banger from kidnapping and killing his girl friend, while they decided whether to go to trial, I carried aGlock 30 with two 13 rnd. Mags, a S and W nine mm compact with an extra mag and a shot gun with a bullet resistant vest behind the seat of my truck.

    Once the courts decided to not prosecute, some kind of plea deal, while I still lived in that part of town, known as the “war zone” I carried the Glock 30 and two mags a kel-tec 9mm, sure fire lite, shot gun and vest behind the seat and alot of situational awareness.
    I moved a few years later, now I live in a better of town, now I just carry a Glock 30 with two extra mags, a sure fire, leatherman and a kel-tec .380 on an average day.

  21. Thanks for the comments, guys. The article was just meant to get you thinking about what you carry, and more importantly, why. I’ve talked to people that sounded like they were trying to convince themselves more than me about why what they carried was the right way to go.

    The S&W 29 was a gift from my wife, so I thought it appropriate it to dress it up a little. Yes, I have carried it, I don’t have safe queens. Same with my knives.

    Don’t let others tell you that what you carry is wrong, or crazy, or paranoid. You’re literally betting your life on your decision. They won’t be there if and when you need it. So, choose wisely, train hard with your equipment, fight well.

  22. avatareugene says:

    I carry thirty extra pounds

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