By Guy J. Sagi

It would be inaccurate to use a broad brush and paint everyone a mall ninja who recommends toting around enough gear to put up a stiff resistance in a well-orchestrated terrorist attack. There’s no such thing as too much self-defense/survival gear in an emergency, so the advice—usually tailored for hard-bodied, physically fit concealed-carry permit holders—is often good, but not exactly right for me.

Unfortunately, my gym rat days are behind me and my gray hair seems to limit the load I can comfortably carry, or at least that’s my excuse. As a result, my everyday approach is minimalistic to some, but the reasoning feels sound.

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Clockwise from 9 o’clock, the author’s everyday carry includes a Wilson Combat CQB Elite in .45 ACP secured by a Blackhawk Serpa holster, SureFire L1 LumaMax flashlight, Victorinox Climber knife, keys secured with a strong carabiner, and cell phone. Photo by Guy J. Sagi

First, and foremost, in my mind, we carry for defensive purposes, not offensive. The law requires those with concealed-carry permits to escape or avoid the confrontation if possible, and drawing or firing your gun is only permissible when there’s no other choice but to do so to protect your life, that of your loved ones and in some relatively rare cases, the lives of others. If terrorists launch a well-organized attack down the freezer aisle while I’m shopping for ice cream—and all avenues of exit are blocked—I’m fighting to a hidden or more defensible area to bunker down until authorities ride to the rescue. I’ll let them do the breeching while I enjoy another Klondike Bar.

With that in mind, after nearly a decade of carry, I now carefully monitor my displeasure in kitting up every morning. When it becomes such a burden that I think twice about wearing my gun where it’s legal, it’s time to weigh options. It’s too easy to think “It’s a short trip, so nothing can happen.” Murphy’s Law says that’s when the unthinkable will happen.

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The Blackhawk Serpa holster is a double-retention model, with the polymer gripping the handgun securely, and a mechanism that locks it in at the trigger guard until a the button at the side is depressed during the draw. Photo courtesy of Blackhawk

Excess gear also adds bulk that may be a challenge to keep hidden during the dog days of summer. Stoop to pick up that 50-pound bag of playground sand at a home-improvement store, and the odds are good you’ll be careful about your gun showing, but what about the spare magazines, huge knife and backup gun?

My method of carry has changed in the past few years, too. I drove 60 miles, one way, to work every day for a decade to NRA headquarters in Northern Virginia. Today, my current commute is 40 feet, give or take the number of times I visit the kitchen to replenish my coffee. To say my daily carry kit has evolved would be an understatement, although the main battery remains the same.

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During his daily commute to NRA headquarters in Northern Arizona the author tried a shoulder holster, which provides some advantages during a carjacking or criminal attack from the driver’s side, since he’s right handed. After several weeks, though, he found the setup exhausting, and converted to a different system. Photo by Guy J. Sagi

After all the complaining about weight and bulk, you’ll probably be surprised my handgun of choice remains a Wilson Combat CQB Elite—a full-sized 1911 chambered in venerable .45 ACP. It came with night sights and the most attractive G10 grips I’ve ever owned, although they were quickly replaced with Crimson Trace Lasergrips.

Yes, it’s heavy, but this handgun has churned through more than 5,000 rounds in practice, permit qualification, tactical schools and plinking—all without a single stoppage in my hands or those of people who’ve used it. Life-and-death reliable is the most critical asset in a carry gun. The full-sized grip is comfortable on the range, and even when I’m driving a long road trip—holster position is critical though, so I made sure to mark that “sweet spot” on my belt to index it reliably every morning.

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In more than 5,000 rounds the author’s Wilson Combat CQB Elite has yet to choke on a .45 load, or bullet style. Above all else, a self-defense firearm should be 100-percent reliable, one reason he hasn’t relegated the handgun to safe duty. Photo by Guy J. Sagi

When I was in Virginia my holster of choice was a Milt Sparks IWB, probably one of the most comfortable rigs I own and a great choice when your uniform is a sport coat and tie. Now that I telecommute, I’ve gone to the Blackhawk SERPA. There are plenty of critics of the polymer, double-retention holster, but I’m not in a major rural area, so I picked up some bulk, added retention and like the reassuring “click” it makes, especially now that I’m spending at least half my time bending, kneeling and crawling to get photos. It works for me, and I like it. Add a coat or untucked long shirt and I’m ready for the grocery store.

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The Wilson Combat CQB Elite rides in a Blackhawk Serpa double retention holster, which has an added locking mechanism to keep the relatively weighty 1911 secured during work-related tasks. Photo by Guy J. Sagi

Magazine capacity is eight, plus one round in the chamber—one round more than a traditional 1911. I don’t carry spare magazines, other than one in the glove box. I’m ok with that because of that added cartridge, unpredictable reliability of the gun, reminders for years that I “own every bullet I send downrange” and how annoying putting a mag carrier on my belt before coffee was every morning.

If things get up close and personal enough for a knife fight, I’m in trouble. It’s that gray hair, no-workout thing. I do, however, carry a Victorinox Climber because it has a couple of sharp blades for cutting, a variety of tools and tough enough that I once used its punch to remove the brake drums on an old car so I could limp it out of desert in Arizona. It’s not exactly a fight stopper, but a sentimental favorite of mine—if it’s good enough for McGyver, after all.

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The Victorinox Climber knife is one of the first multi-tools and probably won’t come out atop if things get up close and personal without firearms involved. However, it has a variety of utilitarian purposes that have served the author well. Photo by Guy J. Sagi

You never know when you’ll need to work overtime and the walk to the car will be dark, or the weather Gods cut off power. For those chores I carry a small-but-powerful (and old), single-CR123-powered SureFire L1 LumaMax. It’s short length makes it ideal for pocket stowage, although the all-metal construction has it next in line for replacement.

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The L1 LumaMax has two brightness settings, determined by pressure on the rubberized tailcap switch. It can also be rotated for continuous operation. Photo courtesy of SureFire

A cell phone goes without saying. My Casio G’zOne Commando is pretty much obsolete, but I like the waterproof and shockproof features, along with ability to determine sunrise, sunset, tides, identify stars and a host of pretty useless features in an emergency—sans the compass and GPS capabilities.

The final piece of self-defense gear I carry every day is an aluminum carabiner around which my house keys hang. I tell the family if you punch a perp in the face with the aircraft aluminum climbing gear it’ll leave more than a mark. I’ve used it to join ropes, netting, temporarily tow a vehicle, and when it’s time to bug out it’s easy to find your keys, even on a cluttered desk.

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A climbing carabiner keeps keys easy to locate on a busy desk and provides a variety of utilitarian uses in a pinch. In the right hands, it’ll hurt pretty bad in a fistfight, as well. Photo by Guy J. Sagi

You’re always learning something new when you carry, and as a result your carry gear evolves. I know for a fact I need to find a polymer-bodied flashlight to lighten the load, and have a brand spanking new Springfield XD Mod2 in .45 ACP in the safe I’m going to rotate into daily work…..once it’s gone through at least 500 rounds, that is. Heck, I might even carry a pair of spare mags after all that weigh shaving, too.