The focus of this blog is the use of the handgun as a personal-protection tool against unexpected criminal assault. With that said, I believe all citizens should be well-armed with the ability to be a combatant, thus the true intention of the Second Amendment.
However, I think too many people in the firearms culture have gone off the reservation with their gear selection. Social media is rife with videos and photos of shooters running around the range, or in a weekend warrior class, dressed in plate carriers, battle belts, helmets, knee pads, and the whole works. I am all for owning this gear and knowing how to use it, but outside of an active duty military deployment, much of this kit is of limited use, even in a worst-case SHTF scenario. I will explain my reasoning:
No matter the circumstances, any violence that occurs outside of an active military deployment to a foreign land, or of a full-blown civil war between two sides that are fielding armies, this gear is limited in use because it makes the wearer too conspicuous. There may be scenarios in which it is appropriate, such as manning a roadblock to keep the roving hoards out of your town, but for most applications, it remains limited. I am not saying don’t have it, I am saying plan your go-to gear according to reality, not according to what is ideal for a deployed soldier.
I have no problem with a plate carrier or a helmet (a helmet can be especially useful for deploying night vision, which is a huge force multiplier). However, I take issue with the increasing popularity of battle belts. As a citizen, a battle belt has no daily utility at all, and even for LEO these typical battle belt setups do not really mimic the professionally used duty belt either. I see guys show up to training classes with decked-out battle belts that hold a large pistol, multiple reloads, a couple rifle magazines, and all kinds of other stuff. When, in real life, is this contraption being used? Guys are practicing with kit that has no role in their actual self-defense or preparedness. Why would somebody take a defensive pistol class in a battle belt? When you get mugged or carjacked, will you be wearing a battle belt?
These shooters train in their tricked-out battle belt, then go home and put it away in the closet, only to put a tiny carry gun in their pocket for their real defensive needs. This approach leads to training with gear that is unlikely to ever be used rather than training with the most likely weapon to be deployed: the concealed handgun.
The issue is this: if you plan on putting on your battle belt when the S hits the F, then you are anticipating switching from what you are carrying daily to this other “just in case” option. Making this switch takes time you may not have, and it also plants the notion in your mind that your concealed carry setup is for “normal” life, but your battle belt setup is for when things get bad. I will let you in on a little secret: the vast majority of violence outside of a theater of war happens quickly and unexpectedly. When the fight comes you will fight with your concealed carry gun, not your battle belt. Even when society completely deteriorates, which at this point is not a stretch to imagine, your concealed handgun will remain “the gun.” You won’t be wearing a battle belt all day no matter what happens with society. You will, however, be wearing your concealed handgun, just like you do (or should do) now.
My suggestion for the armed citizen is to adopt a system of greater capability that does not replace your carry gun, but supplements it, because the concealed handgun will remain your primary tool. Suppose you are caught up in violence in an urban or suburban area, and after the melee you need to turn grey and blend into a crowd; how will you do that with a battle belt? No matter the circumstances, for a citizen in the United States, maintaining a concealed handgun on person is top priority. All other gear should be supplemental based on the mission.
If your reaction is to say “yes, but I only carry a tiny mouse gun for EDC and would want my full-size pistol if the S hits the F,” that admission should lead you to ask yourself why you are not carrying a gun capable of fighting with on a daily basis to begin with. Carry a real gun, with a reload, with a blade and trauma kit on your person, all the time. The 21st Century is turning violent and it is time to carry real fighting equipment on your person on a daily basis.
So, with the concealed pistol as your primary tool for daily life and SHTF alike, how do we supplement it with greater capability? Instead of taking your EDC gear off and putting on a battle belt when the S hits the F, keep your EDC on, as is, and put on other stuff. I think the obvious answer here is a plate carrier and a rifle. A plate carrier with body armor, kept relatively slick, is the way to go. Don’t put too much stuff on the carrier or you will make it too bulky to conceal or to wear for extended periods; a few spare rifle magazines and maybe an additional tourniquet is all you may want to add. If you are already wearing a fighting pistol, which you should be doing all the time, then throwing on a plate carrier and grabbing a rifle, a process accomplished in seconds, now equips you for real trouble.
I advise having a plate carrier that is slick enough (not loaded with too much gear) to be relatively concealable under a coat in the winter, or an extra-large button-up shirt in the summer. Wearing armor while having a long gun nearby, but hidden, is a scenario that may present itself. Concealment should remain an overriding principle even when geared up far beyond your EDC. If in a situation where blending into the crowd, or environment of any kind outside of a battle field, is needed, a battle belt, helmet, and openly displayed body armor are going to draw attention. Instead, moving with a concealed handgun, hidden plate carrier, and a rifle cased in a mundane looking bag or pack, will make your profile exponentially lower, while giving up little capability. A helmet is useful as a means of wearing night vision for scanning the darkness on the homestead, but it is conspicuous when you need to navigate any sort of environment that requires a low profile among other people.
I would rather be able to put on a low-profile plate carrier and grab a rifle than change what I am wearing, remove my EDC, and put on a battle belt. I would rather be in my vehicle dressed in jeans and a jacket, with my carry gun on and a plate carrier hidden under my coat and a rifle stashed close at hand, than to be driving around wearing camo, a helmet, plate carrier, and battle belt. Which do you presume would draw more attention? Which is more applicable to dealing with civil unrest that your future may hold?
That is my advice. The minute man of our contemporary age should be able to quickly don extended capability, but also be able to quickly blend into the society that surrounds him. Choose your gear wisely. Carry a real fighting handgun all the time and have a means of quickly extending that capability in a realistic and useable way.