Dan Z. for TTAG
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Thanks to the internet and social media, EDC or everyday carry have become ultra-popular terms. Thousands upon thousands of Instagram users post their EDC photos on a daily basis. Rather than consider the pros and cons of such activity, I would instead pose a couple of serious questions. 

What does it truly mean to carry every day? Or, what items are genuinely the most practical and valuable for the armed citizen when it comes to everyday carry? In the next several paragraphs we will address this in detail. 

The Fundamental Four

For thirty years or so, I have been involved in teaching people how to employ firearms. My students have been active duty military, law enforcement, and armed citizens. As you might imagine, I have fielded innumerable questions regarding guns and gear.

In order to address many of the frequently asked questions, several years ago I came up with a list that I dubbed “The Fundamental Four” of EDC. The Fundamental Four items that every armed citizen should have on their person before they walk out of the front door are; something Lethal, something Sharp, something Bright, and something Medical.

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Lethal

Fortunately, most American citizens will never be called on to use lethal force to stop a lethal threat. However, just like the fire extinguisher in your kitchen, just because you haven’t used it yet, doesn’t mean you should get rid of it. If you had a kitchen fire, you’d have been damned glad you kept that bright red extinguisher under the sink.

In the United States, the most common and practical tool to stop a lethal threat to yourself or your loved ones is the handgun. Yes, a rifle is a better fighting tool, but we don’t want to carry rifles to the grocery store or out to dinner. We carry handguns as emergency tools. I would venture to guess that most folks reading this have already come to that conclusion.

Get training. Buy a quality handgun. Put that gun into a quality holster and go about your business.

The Lethal part of the Fundamental Four is the easiest sell for armed citizens. They get it. Nonetheless, not every problem or emergency you encounter can be fixed with firepower. We need to have balance.

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Sharp

When I was coming up in America, men carried pocket knives. I remember as a kid seeing my grandfathers using their pocket knives for various tasks. My dad had what we used to call a pen knife that had two folding blades. My mother approved my first pocket knife (my parents bought it for me) when I was 12 years old. It was a small Swiss Army tool with a blade, a flat head screwdriver/bottle opener combo, and a sewing awl.

When I put the “something sharp” into the Fundamental Four, I wasn’t thinking about some kind of fighting knife or dagger. The Sharp tool is meant to be a useful utility tool for standard cutting chores or in an emergency.

Years ago I read a news story about a small child whose coat got caught in the moving mechanism of an escalator. Even after hitting the emergency stop button, the child was being choked to death by the coat. His mother clawed at it desperately to free him. Fortunately, a bystander with a pocket knife was able to cut the child free. Lesson learned. 

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Bright

We live in a world of light and darkness and we can’t always rely on external light sources to help us see. While this might seem like a monotonously obvious statement, I’m always baffled by the number of people who never carry or have immediate access to a flashlight.

When I was a kid, flashlights were large, cumbersome affairs. The standard flash light in our house was powered by two D cell batteries and weighed nearly a pound. That’s not something you’re going to carry in your pocket.

Today, thanks to nearly miraculous technological improvements, super-bright, light-weight flashlights are available at very affordable prices. 

For about three years I have been carrying a SureFire Stiletto flashlight every day, all day. I probably pull it out of my pocket and use it three or four times a day. The Stiletto is rechargeable, has an LED output and three brightness settings; high, medium, and low for utility or reading. The Surefire Tactician is also an excellent tactical flashlight.

Many years ago I was in a hotel overseas and the power went out. Walking through the hallway with my flashlight in hand, people kept coming up to me and asking what was going on and what they should do.

I realized that, in the dark, the person with the light is perceived to be in charge. To the average person, the man with the bright light must be a policeman or security or someone in charge.

During another occasion, while walking to my hotel late one night, my friends and I were accosted by an overly aggressive street person. In seconds it became obvious that he wanted money and would not take no for an answer.

In my left hand was a very bright LED light. I shined it directly in his face and said “No!” His demeanor instantly changed. He spun on his heels and disappeared down an alley. That light might have saved his life as he was seemingly prepared to commit a strongarm robbery.   

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Medical

In my mind, the greatest benefit to come from the global war on terror (GWOT) has been the reexamination of traumatic medical care. Where we once left caring for injured people to the professionals, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that the pros couldn’t be everywhere at once and that we needed to teach our troops to provide immediate care for their buddies while they waited for the pros to arrive.

For several years I taught the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) program to young military troops. It seemed obvious to me that if we could teach 18 and 19-year-old kids to keep their buddies alive on the battlefield, the average American citizen or police officer could be taught the same thing. We — my company — developed the Beyond the Band Aid program to do just that. 

As an armed citizen, you understand that you can’t just dial 911 and wait helplessly for the pros to arrive. Especially in these days of defunded police departments. A lethal attack will be over long before the police have time to arrive.

The same mentality goes for dealing with life-threatening medical emergencies. Sure, we should call 911 and get the pros moving in our direction, but we can also take positive steps to stop the bleeding while we wait for the ambulance.

A major bleeding injury, such as a compromised artery in an arm or leg, will result in the patient going into irreversible shock in minutes…four or five, not twenty. If the ambulance is ten minutes away and you don’t stop an arterial bleed, that person is not going to make it. That’s the simple truth. 

During the GWOT, thousands of troops had their lives saved by commercial/ready-made tourniquets applied to their arms or legs. An open femoral artery in Iraq and an open artery in Indiana result in the same outcome — a dead patient.

In the United States, high-speed car crashes often result in partially or completely amputated limbs. If an imbecile crashes into your car and your child’s right arm is partially amputated with bright red blood pumping out, how are you going to stop the bleeding while you wait for an ambulance to arrive?  

Something Medical includes a basic pocket trauma kit and a ready-made tourniquet. Tourniquet efficacy in the modern age is factually indisputable. Just like your handgun, you need to get training to use medical gear correctly.

Thanks to GWOT experience, good training and gear are available to citizens nationwide. The more training and experience you have, the better decisions you will make and you just might save the life of someone you love.  


About the Author

Paul G. Markel has been a United States Marine, Small Arms & Tactics Instructor, Police Officer and Medical Trainer for some thirty years. Mr. Markel has trained thousands of military, law enforcement, and citizens nationwide in the use of arms. He is the founder and host of the Student of the Gun radio and television show and the author of dozens of books. 

Paul is also the author of Beyond the Boo Boo: Traumatic Medical Care for Citizens.

You can listen to Paul every week on Student of the Gun Radio. The show can be heard on demand on iTunes, iHeartRadio, or your favorite media player. Tune in right now.



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  1. All you need are three things


    You already have a light on your phone and if anything goes wrong, you can dial 911 easily from the phone. In many places like NYC, you can’t carry a gun or knife or even a flashlight with a sharp aggressive front end designed to hurt people.

    • I like to add a knife (Ontario Rat1 folder) and a gun in the pocket (Max9, 642, or bare minimum LCP).

      By the way, that “Rats” tourniquet is not considered very good. Stick with the CAT tourniquet from North American Rescue. 👍

    • I got 3 out of 4 covered. Gotta work on the medical. Is that you little Davey? You need balls & integrity little boy🙄

    • This is normally what I carry:

      Bean & cheese burrito
      Coffee (iced)
      Zippo lighter (non functional usually)
      Convenient store taquitos
      Knife (attached to keys – very dull)
      Wallet (full of credit cards – no cash)
      Black roller ball pen
      Apple Watch (often times dead)

      • Finally, a realistic and believable EDC! Mine also includes pocket lint and a ubiquitous can of Diet Mt. Dew. And five-hundred guns. You never know when 499 guns won’t be enough.

    • I don’t need or carry keys most of the time. I’m always armed but rarely need keys.

      I spent nearly four decades on this filthy rock before I ever owned a cell phone. Nobody “needs” a cell phone -it’s a handy tool but definitely not needed like a firearm is.

      • you are correct, no one needs a cell phone. After all the human species cones with the ability to telepathically call for help when we or someone else is shot.

        • If you’re the guy DOING something a cell phone is not what YOU need. Rule #1 is to designate a useless onlooker to “Dial 911” while YOU take action. The PSAP (911 center) will get dozens of call from the “concerned” spectators

        • @neiowa

          “Rule #1 is to designate a useless onlooker to “Dial 911” while YOU take action.”

          You are assuming there is an “onlooker”. That might not always be a thing.

          I’ve been in two situations where it was just me and the bad guy. Yep, in an urban area too where today’s generation first thought is to pull out their cell phone and go “Oh look, someones trying to kill that person so I’ll make a video and post it and get lots of views.” instead of trying to help or call 911. But anyway no one else around to ‘onlook’ in these two. If I had been wounded in the encounters a cell phone might have come in handy to call for help.

          So yeah, at that ‘moment’ a cell phone isn’t going to help. But after, ya might need it.

          You are your own first responder, and sometimes you might need to be be your own ‘medic’ or the ‘medic’ for someone else, and sometimes you might be your own ‘onlooker’. Yeah, I would recommend you carry a cell phone.

    • Your phone’s light is about 50 lumens, at best. I carry a Fenix PD35 tactical light with 1700 lumens and the ability to strobe. I use it routinely at night. In my backyard while I’m grilling, to see what the heck my dog is upset about, to see the idiot that just showed up in my cul-de-sac at 11 PM. In none of these scenarios is that little light on your phone going to do the trick.

      The phone is something to definitely a valuable part of your EDC, but it is no substitute for an actual, handheld, tactical light.

    • You’d last about .15 seconds out here Little brother, (NM)…. How’d you survive Parkland? Oh, that’s right you weren’t even there, thanks for playin’ anyway


    • Wrong………….. in 1855 the US Supreme Court ruled that public servants have no duty to protect anyone from crime.
      SOUTH Vs MARYLAND, 59 US 396. In only 7 pages the court ruled that no crime victim has standing in court to sue law enforcement for any reason regarding the commission of a crime.
      This is the reason why only the Citizens get to form Militias, for government is not responsible for the freedom or safety of anyone.
      Should biden obey his chinese masters and seek to enslaves the American people, how sad would it be if only biden could “create” an armed Militia of Citizens who were seeking to overthrow the corrupt biden regime!!!!
      Only Armed Citizens create Militias.

    • Like your namesake you’re a liar and a danger to society.

      In NYC you can carry a knife under 4” as long as it’s not assisted opening.( If you’re taking a lot of public transportation make it a slip joint. )

      And flashlights are legal, so is pepper spray.

      IMHO if you’re carrying a firearm you should be carrying an additional magazine or speed loader.

      One is none, two are one.

      ps. Get self defense insurance. We like Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network. YMMV.

      And crush the left.

  2. I would also add to the list, small pepper spray. I’m a big fan of Pom pepper spray.

    Give you another option instead of only lethal force.

  3. I’ve got a cell phone with a light as bright as my “tactical” light for all intents and purposes at close range. The number of times I have been out and about and wished I needed more light than my smartphone could provide in the past 10 years is ZERO.

    I don’t carry a LARPing light and I’ve never needed one either.

    • I rarely keep a light or a blade on my person. If I do, I have a tiny one on one of my key chains. I usually just carry one key fob on me though. If I add up all of the times I wished I had a light or knife on me, it comes out to zero as well. I have used lights other than my phone light. I just grab one out of the vehicle. I keep blades and tools in my vehicles as well. Let’s be honest. Gun people tend to also like knives and gear.

      • I guess it really depends on your lifestyle. I live and work in the outdoors and work with my hands most of the day. Since I am retired I don’t tend to carry much for tools around since I am on foot nearly always and mostly just tinkering with stuff. I used to carry a leatherman but other than the knife the tool I used most was the pliers or the screwdrivers. I found that carrying a tiny Channel-locks is way better than the almost useless needle nose on even the best multi-tools by comparison. A multi screwdriver, Channel-locks and a good sturdy lockblade can do almost anything a multi-tool can and those things they can do they excell at. When I need to carry more than just the knife a multi-screwdriver and mini Channel-locks suits me best. If I have a need a real tool I will bring it along to suit the task or I’ll leave it home.

    • There’s no way your phone’s light is as bright as a real tactical flashlight. That 1-2 led light on your phone does 40-50 lumens. My Fenix PD35 does 1700 lumens. Massive difference.

    • I mean, I’m a handyman and I use a flashlight multiple times a day. I actually need to rotate them. I like those Stilettos because you can clip them to the brim of a baseball cap, so you don’t need a head lamp.

    • Call if what you will, I live in BFE, driveway entrance not in sight of the house, surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods. I use my flashlight all the time. Carry a Benchmade Griptilian, use it every day. Likewise, Leatherman Free.
      If I didn’t need it, I wouldn’t carry it.

  4. My EDC includes a quality tactical light, Leatherman Skeletool (I use the pliers, bottle opener, and screwdriver often), POM pepper spray, CRKT Caligo knife (use that often throughout the day), watch, cellphone, wallet with driver’s license, credit cards, emergency info (I’m allergic to penicillin), concealed pistol license, and some other stuff that makes sense in the wallet. I also carry concealed. In addition, I have a first aid kit on my backpack, in my car, and in my house. It includes tourniquet, sterile individual dressing, scissors, gloves, gauze, tape.

  5. “The Surefire Tactician is also an excellent tactical flashlight.”

    Nice light, but at 180 USD, will it also blow me on a long, cold night?

    My new EDC light is the Fenix TK16 V2.0. It uses the larger 21700 battery, and has a maximum 3,000 lumen output on ultra-high (limited to 2 min, or it ramps down due to overheating).


    • Nice light but imho shop less at Amazon as every $ spent there helps keep the Washington post in business. They work to wipe out the bill of rights.

  6. i always wear a belt
    and it has no connection to my carry method/s
    so my four are:
    sig p365xl w/streamlight tlr8 sub
    kershaw m390 link
    streamlight protac 1l-1aa w/cr123
    cell phone
    extra mag
    2x extra cr123s
    ear plugs

    • “ear plugs”

      If it happens most likely you are not going to have a chance to put in ear plugs. Its not like a planned trip to the firing range or something you can plan for in advance.

      • I carry a pair of foam ear plugs in a tiny dime ziplock baggie tucked into the hidden pocket of my hat. I find a use for them every few weeks. I’ve got significant hearing damage from the service and working construction.

        Loud noises hurt. usually a house band a bar or a DJ at a park that thinks louder = better. I just hear worse ringing issues tomorrow.

      • You may not be able to use it when the fight starts, but if it lasts more than a minute and you can get to cover, earplugs are worth carrying.

  7. Throw that RATS in the trash. So many videos exposing how useless it is. It’s decent for a K9 though. You can’t quote training and then show a pic of a RATS variant TQ. The two do not go hand in hand. You’d be better off carrying a pressure dressing and hemostatic gauze then using your belt instead of that thing. If you are going to carry a TQ, do it right. Get something wider than 1/2 inch. An improvised TQ is better than nothing in most cases, but plenty of studies showing the failure rate of a RATS is just too high. Pair that with the adrenaline, blood loss, etc etc and you have an even higher rate of failure. I think even in the best scenarios that RATS TQ had a 4% average chance of failure. Now do it one handed with a bullet wound while leaking all over the place.

    Can you guess the other average TQ rates of failures? Like the SOF-T? It was zero. They worked every single time. Lastly on the TQ… don’t just carry the fucken thing. Know how to use it. Know how to store it for quick application. Know that it may require you to lift a fucked up limb and some serious pain to apply it. You better test your ability to use it (not for long, don’t be a dumbass).

    If you are worried about space, you are not saving much by carrying a RATS. A SOF-T takes up generally the same amount of space, it just doesn’t bend as well.

    Lights: Surefire light? Someone overspent – massively. Now if you wanted to take that money and throw it on a good knife then it’s understandable. But even that is scenario based. Nobody NEEDS a hinderer, or a $2-300 ZT, Spyderco, etc etc. You can easily find some sub $50 goodies. And if you know you are going to ruin a knife, or use it hard, why overspend? But Streamlights and even Olights (some – but some are total garbage) are a much better value. Olight Warrior Mini 2 is one of the good ones and Steamlight had many good ones. If you are considering WML’s – NEVER buy an olight. Ever. Shoot yourself before you use an Olight as a WML. Seriously, do some research. They make some decent pocket lights (it’s like 4 out of their entire line up) but their WML’s are garbage across the board. Which is why I mentioned Streamlight. There are no real complaints with Streamlight. Some you don’t get much battery with, but how often do you need a light for more than 4 hours on low? If you do, you better be carrying spare batteries and spare lights anyways (and you should be in your secondary and tertiary packs and vehicle.

    Of course, I’m just going by the pics here. The 4 basics are just that as listed in the article. But this fad of RATS TQ’s has been torn apart many times and it’s pretty obvious those still carrying it, or sharing pics with it in their EDC either have no clue how to use it or they are just negligent and consider their 5 minutes of “training” in their CCW class as enough and are really just carrying it for the picture clout.

    Personally, I don’t carry a TQ on body all the time. If that situation arises, I’m using my belt. Also, another good argument for why that belt you bought with the polymer lining – is a POS. You can get a good thick non lined belt that works just fine and bends with your body. I’ve never tried concealing a desert eagle before, but that’s what those belts are marketed towards. That, and OWB which you still don’t need an inner for.

  8. Also, do you want to get EDC pics in your inbox like a hot girl sharing nudes gets dick pics? Cuz this is how you get EDC pics in your inbox lol. Please don’t bring that crap back. Nobody needs to see how much excess Crimson_Pirate carries in their 18 pocket cargos (shots fired).

  9. 911 and wait for the pros to arrive.
    Thanx for the laugh, whether pros meant prostitutes or professional law enforcement there still both fcking you out of your money.

  10. I live out here on the homestead. A good knife is usually needed a couple times a day. As well as a pliers. Sidearm with a reload. Since I usually carry a revolver or 1911 that means 11 to 14 rounds on me. Only dealing with an immediate threat or critter, not fighting off an army or the zombie apocalypse. Small flashlight. A bit stronger than the faint glow of a cell phone. Light med kit. Most items are mulitaskers. Yes basics for treating major injuries, but most of the time it’s just disinfectant wipes and band-aids needed. The real first aid kit is in the vehicle or the medics bag in the house. Cell phone usually stays on the desk because I forget to grab it. Cell service is not all that dependable out here.
    Always have a couple ways of fire starting on me. Old habit. Usually a lighter and a small match case with water proof matches.

    • Almost exactly same situation. We’re on our own out where I hunker down, and like it that way.

  11. Oh I dont know,but what’s a Muy Thai training camp in ? Thailand and the United States Paratroopers got in common. Trade, Me teach you how to fight, you teach me how to jump out of aeroplanes.
    I think Phillip Pine telling Porcelain to get out of his south see or Philip Pine and U.S. are going to whakurpeepee wasn’t to smart.
    Damn it , if my daughter is going to suit up in battle rattle, she damned well be fighting for the freedom of Persimmonsvilia not some pineapple growing %$#@

  12. I know of some bad guys who needed a tourniquet/trauma-kit very badly. However, some of them had a flashlight and some had a knife. Maybe they should have planned better, like not planning to come to us.

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