Nowadays, it is at least technically possible to carry a firearm for personal protection in all 50 states. The “free states,” such as my home state of Mississippi, allow concealed carry without a permit. We have relatively low crime rates. Oppressive states, such as California, Illinois and New Jersey, put so many arcane restrictions on the practice that it is nigh impossible. They have breathtaking crime problems.
Draw your own conclusions.
The many-splendored ways a law-abiding American can pack heat for self-protection have spawned quite a few quality magazines. What is remarkable is that there are literally countless solutions to the simple challenge of concealed carry. Body physique, prevailing dangers, budget and local laws all play a part in the ultimate decision.
The classic solution has always been a belt holster and a handgun. This time-tested approach offers convenience and control but can be mightily uncomfortable. Sit on a full-sized 1911 for a long car trip, and I defy you to remain a pleasant conversationalist. Additionally, lamentable though it is to admit, there are now any number of conceivable circumstances wherein a basic concealed-carry handgun might be inadequate to address the threat.Fortunately, ours is the most-refined free market economy in the history of the planet, and American industry has seen this need … and filled it.
THE COMFORT CONUNDRUM
I will admit that the first couple of weeks I carried a concealed weapon for protection back when dinosaurs roamed the plains were fairly exciting. I thought everybody was staring at me, and I was consumed with the thought of keeping my shirttail low and inconspicuous. After a few months, however, this wore off, and it soon became a chore.
More than anything else, this is the reason many concealed-carry holders do not pack more regularly. Guns are almost universally uncomfortable.
Small pistols help to a degree, but they bring along their own set of problems. A .25ACP pocket gun that can get lost in the palm of your hand might be comparably effective—whether you touch it off or just throw it at an assailant. I once met a guy in an urban ER who had been shot with a .25ACP and literally hadn’t noticed. By contrast, a full-sized service pistol might pack 13 .40 S&W hollowpoints onboard; however, it will drag down your pants and wreak unholy misery on your sensitive anatomy.
Fortunately, however, there is an unconventional solution.
Ours is a stuff-intensive society. Laptops and tablet computers pack unprecedented capabilities into ever-smaller packages, so folks are seldom found without them.
This means lots of people carry briefcases or backpacks. We can use this fact to facilitate comfortable off-body carry that remains discreet, even in a crowd.
The Ruger 10/22 is the most popular .22 rifle in the world. Available in dozens, if not hundreds, of configurations, the 10/22 is the ultimate .22-caliber utility gun. Some of the newest factory versions break down at the front of the receiver into a compact package that is easy to tote.
The Ruger 10/22 Takedown Lite comes apart into two major components and includes its own handy nylon carrying case. Your optics will need to have a quick-detach mount that returns to zero, but the case would pass for a ubiquitous document carrier at a glance. The case includes a prominent Ruger logo, but this is attached via hook-and-loop closures and pops right off when stealth is required.
I can reassemble the 10/22 Takedown Lite and have it hot in less time than it takes to describe reassembly. While .22LR would never be your first choice for a true social gun, it is great for pest control and light hunting applications.
For decent improvised off-body carry gear, you really need look no farther than your local department store. The sporting goods section usually offers a number of tactical bags in a variety of sizes. These utility rucks include MOLLE webbing for external accessories and as many pockets of various sizes as you might desire for any application. Small bags will hide a proper service pistol, while larger versions will pack a small carbine. (Here’s an idea: Do your shopping in the school supply section and you can find something truly innocuous that sports images of your favorite superhero.)
For really efficient off-body carry that allows comfort and quick access, you will need something smart, intentional and focused. Flying Circle Gear offers a wide variety of options, both with and without monogramming. This company’s kit is purpose designed for packing guns and offers handy, intuitive access to your firearm. Quality is top-flight throughout.
We live in a weird, old world that gets weirder daily. Despite the fact that we offer, at least for the time being, literally unimaginable levels of individual freedom, opportunistic political and social leaders have fomented class and racial divisions in our great nation that run deeper now than at any point since the pre-Civil Rights era.
The result of this sordid reality is civil disobedience that frequently spills over into outright anarchy. Whereas previously, your primary concern might have been some bottom-feeding thug who tries to separate you from your wallet and cell phone in a dark parking lot, nowadays, we can face problems that are an order of magnitude more serious.
For literally centuries, the fact that we had these two splendid oceans on either side of our country meant that terrorism was always somebody else’s problem. Now, thanks in large part to social media, terrorists, both lone wolf and otherwise, ply their wares with disheartening frequency across much of the heartland. The typical American rugged individualist responds accordingly in the face of such threats.
The particular impetus in this case was, oddly enough, an armed African American being shot by an African-American police officer. Before the violence abated, several innocent bystanders were beaten badly—based solely upon their race—another man was killed, and several police officers were injured. In a refrain becoming more and more familiar, angry mobs took on lives of their own and spilled over onto an interstate highway.
Eighteen-wheeler trucks were stopped and looted and their contents burned. Otherwise uninvolved motorists had their windows smashed and were threatened by a mob gone wild. Frantic calls to 911 from terrified moms were answered with less-than-helpful advice suggesting they drive to a safe place before exiting their vehicles. Such violence was not found in Aleppo, Kandahar or Fallujah. This was terror perpetrated on Americans by Americans, right here in America.
Although we, as a nation, were profoundly fortunate that this sordid episode did not descend into a full-scale bloodbath, when the rule of law is suspended, primal behavior becomes the lowest common denominator.
For those of us not willing to entrust our safety to the restraint of an angry mob tooled up over politics, something more substantial than a pocket pistol might be in order. For those times when life truly goes sideways, you might want to pack some proper iron.
THE POCKET HOWITZER
I have a home-built AR rifle built around a 7.5-inch barrel, a Cry Havoc take-down kit, a short-barreled rifle-registered AR lower receiver and a compact Troy Tomahawk stock. While the SBR lower requires a little paperwork, a $200 transfer tax and a lot of patience, a pistol-stabilizing brace from SB Tactical renders most of that unnecessary.
A lot of micro AR platforms are either ammo sensitive or just downright finicky. Maybe I just got lucky: My little gun runs flawlessly with half a dozen different loads.
AK and AR pistols can be had in dozens of configurations, both with and without stabilizing braces to make them more controllable. The SIG MPX is the next best thing to a submachine gun; and, when equipped with a pistol-stabilizing brace, it assumes MP5-like proportions. They all accept standard high-capacity magazines while offering substantially more firepower than even the largest conventional handgun. When equipped with some decent tactical glass and a light/laser module, these micro-guns become unrivalled social equalizers.
These weapons can be configured small enough to fit into the center console of your pickup truck. I have an inexpensive aluminum briefcase that will carry my pocket AR, along with plenty of ammunition—all in an inconspicuous package that blends in any place. Trade up to a decent backpack, and a folding stocked carbine remains at finger’s reach.
While I have absolutely no interest in facing down an angry mob, I would rather do that armed with a decent rifle than with foul language and a warm heart.
THE BRAZOS BACKPACK
The Brazos Backpack from Flying Circle Gear is the ultimate tactical pack for military, concealed carry and recreational use. Sporting more than 20 individual pockets, the Brazos pack is built around a hidden “pass-through” back pocket that is ideal for concealed carry of a firearm. Festooned with MOLLE webbing and including hook-and-loop patches for name tapes and “cool guy” stuff, the Brazos pack can be dressed up or down to suit any environment.
The spacious center compartments are adequate for toting a laptop computer … or a tiny carbine. Compression straps keep the bag as small as possible, while padded shoulder straps are mesh lined for comfort and moisture management. The Brazos pack is literally packed with features and comes available in both black and coyote tan. It measures 16.5x19x12 inches when fully expanded and accepts most any standard hydration system.
A great pack such as this can literally be your home away from home. Back when I wore the uniform, I could break down a couple of MREs, arrange a little minimalist gear and live out of such a bag for a couple of days in a pinch.
Plan your loadout, and pack carefully. Include a water filter, some shelf-stable calories, a fire starter, something warm, a decent weapon and some spare magazines to effectively inoculate yourself against the unpleasant realities of life. Put one together for each member of your family, and you can be mobile in a moment’s notice when faced with threats ranging from an angry mob to terrorists to weather gone wild.
True, we live in some of the most discouraging times in American history, but that doesn’t mean you have to just roll over and die. Get some gear, get your mind around the problem, and make a plan.
The Brazos pack from Flying Circle Tactical demands its own unique manual of arms. Slip a soft armor panel from Patriot Armor into the back of the thing, along with your weapon and sundry gear. Nothing will be easy to access with the pack on your back. However, when faced with a threat, you quickly reverse the pack onto your front, and everything becomes handy.
The Brazos pack is comfortable when worn on the chest; and in this configuration (with an armor panel installed), it provides splendid ballistic protection. Your sidearm is instantly accessible from either side, and there is plenty of space for spare ammo. The pack maneuvers quickly and doesn’t get in the way.
I have scads of tactical bags, and you can tell at a glance which ones are “war worthy” and which ones are not. Every joint on the Brazos bag is heavy, reinforced and stout. The components are well reasoned, and the accouterments, such as zippers and pouches, are battleship tough. Wide shoulder straps make the bag easy to tote, and the transformation from book bag to tactical tool takes maybe four seconds.
The Flying Circle Tactical Brazos bag is the good stuff.
Comp-Tac Victory Gear
Cry Havoc Tactical
Flying Circle Gear
Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.
Troy Industries, Inc.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2017 print issue of
American Survival Guide.