The two questions that I get asked more often than not as an instructor are: “What do you recommend I carry?” and “What do you carry?” With this post I am going to detail what I usually walk out the door with and why, as well as some things I supplement this standard setup with, depending on the circumstances. Ultimately, your EDC is going to be a personal decision based on your lifestyle and individual needs. I can’t sit here and tell you that my way is the only way. It is important to inform yourself and make wise decisions based on your own research. If your EDC kit looks nothing like mine, that’s not a problem, as long as you know why it looks different and have a good reason for each component you have chosen.
Firearm: Gen 3 Glock 19. This gun is bone stock right now as it is a relatively recent purchase. Upgrades I have in mind are some stippling and different sights, but I haven’t decided the specifics on that yet. The only cosmetic thing I did was black out the U-shape rear site mark because it messes with my sight alignment/sight picture. The G19 is a good compromise between a full size service pistol and a sub-compact. The barrel is 4.02″ long and the entire length of the gun is only 6.85″, which is easily concealable for most people in most attire.
My general advice on a defensive firearm is to choose a Modern, Striker-Fired (MSF) pistol (Glock, Springfield XD/XDM, Smith and Wesson M&P or similar) in a compact or sub-compact size depending on your body type and hand size. You don’t want to have extraneous levers and safeties that you are required to deactivate prior to making the gun go bang when you need it. The MSF pistols mentioned above all have internal and sometimes external safeties that are deactivated passively by using proper grip and trigger manipulation. I believe that passive safeties are the way to go and that most extraneous levers and devices are just crutches for poor training or mental blocks that have no bearing on what actually causes safety issues: negligence. Levers and switches cannot overcome negligence.
Holster: Raven Concealment Vanguard 2. I am a big fan of the appendix carry position because I believe it is the most consistent and efficient place to draw your firearm from. It is more intuitive to reach for things along your center-line than it is to reach back to a 4-5 o’clock position. I am also a minimalist when it comes to holsters and the VG2 is truly as minimal as you can get while still staying safe. The original Vanguard holster that just attached to your belt by a lanyard allowed too much movement of the gun throughout the day and had a higher potential of becoming dislodged. The VG2 improves upon the original design by attaching a strap that snaps around your belt and can be adjusted for cant and ride depth. I carry it at the lowest possible ride depth and cant the muzzle towards my center line. That is the position that I have found to be most efficient for the draw. I’ve seen other variations, and you just have to find what works for you and your body type. Another advantage of this holster is that you can easily take it off and stow it in a glove box or a safe without the bulkiness of a standard holster getting in the way. As I am prohibited from carrying at the office, this is a good option for me when I need to lock it up in my truck. The one drawback on this holster is in regards to training. By yourself, its not that big of a deal; but you must make sure you actually take the holster out of your pants and re-attach it to the firearm before you re-holster it. It would be unsafe in my opinion to jam a loaded gun awkwardly into your pants with the trigger guard exposed, which is the only other re-holstering option with this model. Obviously, the re-holstering described is going to take a few extra seconds, which is a hassle to everyone else on the line in actual training classes. I recommend that you get a standard appendix carry holster that doesn’t have these limitations to take with you to classes.
My general advice on holsters is to go as minimalist as possible while still keeping retention and safety in mind. Any holster should fully cover the trigger guard and the level of retention should be congruent with your normal activities. The more activities you normally do, the more retention you will require. Any holster should retain the pistol such that it doesn’t move around or become dislodge by walking, sitting, bending over, etc. Other holsters I use depending on circumstances are the Crossbreed Super Tuck and the Crossbreed I.C.E. Modular belly band.
Belt: The belt is often overlooked and it isn’t pictured above (I was wearing it at the time); but it is a very important component of the EDC. I wear an Ares Ranger Belt. I like the fact that it is a very rigid nylon woven belt that literally doesn’t move at all. It has a buckle on it that allows you to adjust the tension to hold the holster and firearm as close to your body as you want without having to mess with holes or fixed adjustment points. The drawbacks on this model are that the rigidity can be somewhat uncomfortable if you wear it too tightly and the buckle is a little bit bulky. It’s also not fashionable unless you are some sort of defense contractor; and it sticks out like a sore thumb with a tucked shirt. Since I live and work in a place that doesn’t require me to tuck my shirt in very often, I am not hindered by the cosmetic drawbacks and I have basically just gotten used to the initial discomfort that comes with a very rigid belt.
My general advice is to get a rigid leather or nylon belt that keeps the holster stationary and doesn’t allow it to bounce around during your everyday activities. A cheap store bought belt isn’t going to do the trick and is going to allow the holster and firearm to move around too much, thereby creating discomfort and lowered confidence.
Ammunition: I’m not going to get into a lot of detail about why I prefer the 9mm. It basically comes down to the balance of speed and precision. I haven’t found a round that performs well scientifically that I can maximize my balance of speed and precision with as well as I can with 9mm. I run 135gr Hornady Critical Duty 9mm hollow points. I chose this ammo because it has performed very well in ballistic tests, I verified its accuracy out to plausible distances, and my gun had no issues running the load consistently.
I recommend that whatever ammunition you choose, make sure that you research the scientific data about the round before you purchase it, and then do a good test drive where you run at least 50-100 rounds through your gun. It should group nicely at plausible engagement distances out to about 20 yards and should run perfectly with zero malfunctions. It is a mistake to believe that your gun will run the same way with all different types ammunition, especially hollow points. Make sure that you take the time to actually run the specific ammo you intend to carry before you bet your life on it.
Spare Magazine: I always carry a spare magazine in my back pocket. I’ll hopefully never need it, but there is no reason not to carry it and it doesn’t get in the way in any of the pants I’ve ever worn in public environments. The spare mag is not a must in my opinion, just something that isn’t a bad idea. I don’t carry it in a mag pouch because I have yet to find a mag pouch that conceals well or is comfortable. If you find one, I’m all ears. That being said, I do train to reload from my back pocket since I’m going to carry that way. It would be ridiculous to always practice reloading from mag pouches if you never carry them.
Medical Kit: The importance of carrying a medical kit and getting medical training is something that is rightly gaining emphasis within the firearms community. I carry a Pocket D.A.R.K. from Dark Angel Medical It contains an Israeli bandage, a hemostatic dressing, a swat-t tourniquet, and some latex gloves. It comes with a pouch that can be put in a jacket pocket or attached to a belt, and a resealable plastic bag that can be used in certain wound treatment applications if needed. I have added in some duct tape and sanitizing wipes. This kit pretty much has everything you would need to be able to stop the bleeding resultant from a gunshot wound. Furthermore, it can be applied in any situation where you might need to render aid to someone with a traumatic bleeding injury. Think about how likely you are to be the first person on the scene of a car accident. Our goal as armed citizens should be first and foremost to help people in need. Getting medical training and being ready to apply it in order to potentially save a life is honestly more important than being prepared to shoot. Obviously, in summer months, its going to be tougher to carry this medical kit because you don’t have a jacket on with an available pocket, but you can always at least have it in your car. In summer attire, I usually grab the TQ and the hemostatic bandage and stick them in the plastic bag in a back pocket. That will work in a pinch.
Folding Knife: I carry a standard Gerber folder. It has a nice sharp blade and a serrated portion below the main blade. If I have to tell you what knives are useful for, you are probably on the wrong blog. The sky is the limit on knives. I know nothing about knife fighting, so for me its more of a simple cutting tool, but it could be used as a defensive blade if necessary I suppose. I’m by no means downplaying the importance of knife fighting skills; its just not my thing.
– I keep a flashlight in my console and I throw it in my pocket if I’m going somewhere after dark. I recommend something that is nice and compact but has very high brightness (measured in lumens). I personally prefer the Surefire brand but I’m not tied to it. There are less expensive options. If all that you have is a cheap LED light, you aren’t going to be at too much of a disadvantage if your budget is limited.
-I also keep a glass-shattering device in case I have to bust open a car window to make a water escape or potentially pull someone out of a vehicle. These items are cheap and you can get good folding knives that have these built in. Not a bad tool to have.
-Consider wearing shoes that you can move well with. I would recommend something a little bit more stout and versatile than a department store loafer if you can’t wear tennis shoes or boots. Movement is an important component of self defense that is often overlooked in the name of fashion. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your footwear choice keeps you from moving in a way that could potentially save your life when time is of the essence.
As I said before, this is by no means the end-all, be-all of EDC. Your setup will reflect your personality, physiology, and level of research. I didn’t start out with this setup (I’m embarrassed to even discuss those ugly origins), and I will probably change my mind about something as I continue to evolve. The key is making informed decisions about your EDC setup as opposed to following gun trends, or blog posts from instructors. Take the time to do the research. Another thing to consider is consistency. I see a lot of folks who post pictures of several different EDC setups for any given day of the week. I don’t believe it’s reasonable to believe that you can be well trained and prepared with every gun that you own and carry them at any position on your body. Pick 1 or 2 options that you like, and make sure you develop skills in context with those limited options.
As one final consideration: never leave home without your brain. You can have the best EDC kit in the world and not be mentally prepared for the fight. Read books, take classes, and plan your daily activities. Like GI Joe said: “…Knowing is half the battle.”