Why I carry a gun and what I carry
Why I carry
Short answer: I made the decision not to outsource my safety.
Long answer: Like a lot of people, a series of undesirable events and circumstances happened to me over a long string of years, and inspired me to think about what safety really means.
The first such event was the mechanical breakdown of my truck on a highway near the Mexican border as I was hauling my horse, alone, in the days before cell phones—need I mention much of the Southwest is still out of cell range?
I had a cheap .380 in my coat pocket that night as I rode my horse up the median, 13 long miles of being blinded by headlights, to the nearest building and a pay phone–at a gas station that had closed for the night. As I looked at the faces of four men who drove up, got out of their vehicle, and stared silently at me as I held the phone receiver, I realized without a doubt that I could and would shoot in self-defense if necessary. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.
There have been other motivating circumstances, but that was the first.
A few years after that (and before my state had a CCW system), I began carrying in my waistband around the ranch—for protection from rattlesnakes as much as anything. I also carried in the glovebox of my vehicle, something I now realize is folly in terms of accessing the firearm when needed. It was stupid, since my insurance and registration were in there too. These days, the automotive documents are clipped to the driver’s side visor and the gun is actually accessible. And I thank the good Lord I live in a state where that’s perfectly legal.
This has evolved over the years, and will continue to evolve. Unlike that scary night in 1993, my sidearm is one I can trust to work, and it’s in a secure holster.
My current every day carry (EDC) setup is usually a Glock 42, outfitted with tritium night sights and a Streamlight TLR-6 light/laser combo. An extra magazine and folding blade are always with me too. On the range or hiking, add a SWAT tourniquet to that load. Otherwise, a SWAT, QuikClot gauze, tactical flashlight, and water are on hand in each of my vehicles and in the safe room of my home. The G42 rides in a Sticky brand holster, usually inside my waistband, appendix location. Whether that’s strong- or support-side appendix depends on what I’m wearing—strong side is preferable and avoids muzzling things on the draw, but support-side carry is more discreet under form-fitting shirts.
Occasionally I’ll use other on-body configurations, depending upon the day’s activities and clothing. Check out my article on how I discovered I could pack AIWB even in drawstring shorts and sweatpants.
For many years after becoming licensed, I carried a Springfield XD40 or a Glock 23, both with tritium sights, in a holster purse. While it’s nice to have a bigger gun on hand, the speed and security of having the gun on-body are incomparable. Purse carry at its best requires intelligent holstering and indexing of the gun for consistent, fast-as-possible, and for me, quiet-as-possible access.
Most life-or-death encounters are over in under five seconds. I no longer will settle for having a system that takes three seconds, at best, to draw and fire. Age has helped me care less than I used to about wearing figure-enhancing clothes. That attitude change helped the transition from purse to IWB.
I have a Kahr CT380, and it’s definitely the easiest gun I own to carry. However, it’s extremely finicky about ammunition and has too many feeding quirks for me to feel confident carrying it as anything but a last resort. Whatever I carry, even if I don’t care for the looks or the trigger quality, it MUST be dependable.
Before I discovered the aforementioned drawstring method, I often packed a Ruger LCR .38 Special revolver in a fanny pack for running. It didn’t make the pack flop on my belly with every step, as the lighter Glock 42 does. It’s preferable to avoid having to undo zippers to deploy a gun when good retention and better speed (drawing and running!) can be achieved with IWB. The non-holster style pack also allowed sweat to touch the gun, forcing me to clean it after every run. Yuck.
Lots of folks will argue with the choice of a relatively small caliber in .380, and I can’t disagree much, except to say that modern hollow point performance for defensive pistol ammo is better than ever. Concealed carry is about compromises, especially around capacity and size, and this is where I’ve made some concessions in order to get the gun out of the purse and onto my body. To me, access and good marksmanship are far more important than caliber.
My co-instructor and I teach a half-day class in which prospective concealed gun carriers can try out different sizes, calibers, and brands of handguns to determine which one will serve them best considering their current skill level and lifestyle. Such a class is a great idea for any new carrier. It’s sad to see a new shooter spend hard-earned money on a gun that a self-appointed expert recommended, only to find that the gun, while it may be perfectly nice, isn’t suited to them. Invest in learning up front so that the gun you buy is one you can carry, and hopefully enjoy.
Let us know your what, why and how of concealed carry in the comments below.