One of the suggestions I received over on my YouTube channel was a series on the theory behind setting up gear. Gear is one of those aspects of preparedness and self-defense that can be a blessing, a curse, or just a source of confusion. I’ve written a little about it previously, but I’ll see if I can do it in a little more of a structured way.
Probably the best thing to remember when setting out on this little journey is that you should think of preparedness as a triangle, or even a building supported by three pillars:
Of these three, I would rank gear as the least important, because no amount of gear can make up for a faulty mindset or a lack of training. Gear can, however, enhance the capabilities of an individual with the proper mindset and training.
When it comes to gear, ask yourself three questions:
- What is my mission?
- What equipment do I need to accomplish that mission?
- How can I best carry that equipment to allow me to access the equipment when needed, thereby enhancing my capability?
With both training and gear, I would encourage the following progression: concealed carry, medical, tactical. I encourage this progression because for the vast majority of us, walking around with an AR-15 in full battle rattle is going to be an extreme exception to the norm. Our norm is going to be concealed carry while attending to our daily lives – working, shopping, entertainment, kids’ activities, etc. Concealed carry generally involves a pistol, and pistols are much harder to deploy and shoot quickly and accurately than rifles. Because of this, a lot of attention needs to be paid to these skills early in the training progression. Medical comes second (a very close second), because medical training can benefit you in both concealed and tactical scenarios, as well as in scenarios where you may not be armed.
At the concealed carry level, get a basic class to introduce you to safety and pistol fundamentals, then seek out a class designed specifically around concealed carry. It should cover legal aspects of carry, post-shooting procedures, mindset, threat recognition, and de-escalation, in addition to drawing and firing from concealment. If your primary purpose is concealed carry, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you do all your classes and practice with an open carry tactical holster. Find an instructor that gives you drills to do at home to maintain skills after the class, because you’re trying to build subconscious manipulation through repetition, and you won’t get enough in a weekend class. Don’t neglect medical and unarmed combatives, either, as these can come in handy when you least expect.
As far as gear goes, start basic. Get a solid holster – I recommend an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. There are a lot of good companies out there, but for value and simplicity, I tend to recommend Priority 1 Holsters. You’ll probably need at least one magazine pouch as well. Once you’ve identified a class that you want to take, look at their gear list and make sure you have what you need. Sometimes they’ll have something very generic like “a way to carry 2 magazines.”
This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a super-tactical mag pouch. It’s possible to run one of these classes with the mags in your pocket – not necessarily ideal, but possible. If you have questions, email the instructor and see if they have recommendations or even loaner gear. Most instructors have at least some, although usually not enough for the entire class. For medical classes, they almost always provide the gear, so get a solid idea of minimum gear while taking the class, then go shopping afterward.
As you advance into more tactical work, things start to get more variable (and expensive). The key here is evaluating your intended mission. Unfortunately, if you aren’t working with a group, you’re probably in a generic “tactical prepper” spot. The default here is usually a plate carrier with mag pouches. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it can be very expensive. If you’re starting out, it may be less expensive to start with either some Kydex mag pouches on your belt with a holster, or even building a “battle belt.” The positive side to starting with a battle belt is that once you have your belt set, you can continue to build a plate carrier on a budget while still maintaining an ability to train and fight if necessary. My battle belts normally have a double pistol pouch, single rifle pouch, dump pouch, med pouch, and holster, assuming there’s no policy to the contrary.
When it comes to carriers or chest rigs, the more modular the better. Now, when I say modular, I don’t necessarily mean MOLLE or hook and loop. Even if you don’t get the latest and greatest modular rig, you can still work your chest rigs and plate carriers in layers to allow you more options. It may not be perfect, but it will be serviceable.
Training at the tactical level can also vary widely. From room clearing to small unit tactics, there are a lot of skills that can be learned. Prioritize these based on your needs. My preference would be starting with room clearing (for home defense), then get together with a group and train on small unit tactics. Other specialty courses like vehicle work can be used to fill identified voids in your training plan. Your kit will change with your mission. A plate carrier might be ideal for CQB, but not for a long-range patrol or even vehicle work (depending on the scenario).
When it comes to competition and gear, as always, ask yourself about your mission/goal. Are you competing to win and rank, or are you competing to sharpen your handling skills under stress? If you’re looking to win and rank, you probably want a dedicated belt with the specialized holster and accessories. If you’re looking to simply hone skills, I recommend using your actual gear. This gives you more repetitions, and hopefully gives you a chance to try your kit out in positions that you may not normally try on the range. While competition alone won’t proof your gear one hundred percent, it will definitely give you a much better idea of capabilities than flat range work.
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Thanks for reading!