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

[This article originally appeared at 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 or visit