We looked at three subcategories of load-bearing gear â plate...
Photos by Patrick McCarthy
It’s a new year, and a new decade. A time to reflect on successes, shortcomings and what we learned from each. Over the last month or so, I have made some significant changes to my EDC loadout – in some cases, ditching or altering gear that I have been using for most of the last decade. I figured that maybe some of the lessons I’ve learned, and the logic behind my changes, might be useful to some of you. So, without further ado, here’s what I’ll be carrying into the new decade…
Old: Casio G-Shock
New: Same watch, upgraded
Lessons Learned: I saw no need to get a new watch. This particular G-Shock survived 13 deployments to Afghanistan with me as a Private Military Contractor. It has a stopwatch, dual-time-zone function, military time and backlight. That’s pretty much everything I need a watch to do. However, I did bulk it up a little bit with two accessories.
The first is a Suunto Clipper compass. This traditional button compass is a clip-on, no-frills accessory that does…well…compass things. I have always been directionally challenged. (Veterans: insert your favorite jokes about Lieutenants and LandNav) And since my watch does not have a built-in GPS function, I figured I should at least have a way — besides the sun — to orient on the cardinal directions.
The other is the A-K Band, by Gearward. The Anti-Kidnapping band is a length of bike tire innertube that slides over your watch band to conceal a few key escape and evasion tools, which are included as a package. Specifically, a plastic handcuff key, a length of Kevlar line, and a ceramic razorblade. These tools, combined, give you methods to overcome the three most common restraints: handcuffs, zip ties and duct tape. The A-K band is far from invisible, but it’s more discreet than a paracord bracelet.
Lessons Learned: I’ve wanted to carry a small fixed blade for self-defense for years. I’ve tried several, none lasting more than a week or two before being put in the spare gear box in the garage. My two top priorities are a double-edged blade and a grip shape that facilitates both point up (saber) and point down (ice pick) grips. Nothing I came across seemed to do what I wanted while still being comfortable to carry – until I found JB Knife & Tool. Their fixed-blade collaboration with OFFGRID alumni Ed Calderon has turned out to be my Goldilocks knife. It’s slim, lightweight, razor sharp on both edges and comes with a kydex sheath that can be configured for multiple modes of carry. The one you see here was recently “proofed” in one of Ed’s Organic Medium classes, wherein I was able to repeatedly sink this blade into a pig torso wrapped in Level IIIA soft body armor, with no issues except a small ding in the tip and a little discoloration. (Both of which will be remedied shortly.)
Old: SureFire EDCL1-T
Note: The G2X LE and Switchback (pictured above) hadn't arrived at the time our pictures were taken. As a result, the old EDCL1-T is shown in our photos throughout this article.
Lessons Learned: The EDCL1-T is an awesome, dual output single-cell carry light with built-in pocket clip. Output is 500 lumens on high, 5 on low. Refer to our previous review of the light for more info on it. The only gripe I have with this light is the switching. This features SureFire’s “tactical” tail cap arrangement: press halfway for low, press all the way down for high, twist down for constant on. As much as I like the L1-T it seems I could never find that pressure sweet spot to get low mode on quickly. More often than not I end up blinding myself with a blast of high output before easing my thumb off just enough to get low. For this reason, I have always been a huge fan of “clicky” tail caps, which are standard on the G2X line.
The G2X button is press halfway for momentary, press fully for a hard click constant-on. The “LE” version is setup to offer high-output on first click for emergency use. To reach low mode, click off and back on in less than 2 seconds. (The G2X Pro runs the opposite, with low mode being the first output.) I prefer having high-output on tap, which drew me to the LE variant. I also added a Thyrm Switchback 2.0, which allows use of the light while maintaining a two-handed grip on a pistol – much more difficult to do with a traditional pocket clip. The 2.0 update of the Switchback includes a break-away feature which allows the ring to open up and free itself, as opposed to breaking your finger in a grappling match.
Old: Gen 3 Glock 19, modified by TMT Tactical (above left)
Lessons Learned: Our TMT Glock has served a stellar career as an EDC pistol that ran through countless range sessions, multiple thousand-round classes and any other pistol-centric event I’ve attended in the last decade. The modifications to the slide and grip were spec’ed out by me directly with TMT, to deliver exactly what I wanted: enhanced grip traction on the front and back straps with the sides left slick for comfort during AIWB carry. The slide includes textured areas at the front and rear to increase traction during manipulations, regardless of what grip or method is used to run the slide.
But as the years have gone on, two very significant features previously considered boutique have become commonplace on duty and defensive pistols. The first is miniature red dot sights. Long maligned as unreliable and slower to acquire at close range, developments in both technology and training have made these complaints all but fictitious in today’s pistol-slinging market. This slide, milled by Southwest Precision Arms and coated by P4 Coatings, included a cut to accommodate the Holosun 508T which features a 35 MOA ring around a 2 MOA dot for rapid sight picture at even across-the-table distances, as well as titanium housing for lightweight ruggedness.
The other feature is recoil reduction. This has come primarily in the form of thread-on compensators to divert exhaust gasses from the muzzle in such a way to reduce muzzle flip and felt recoil. There are dozens of these comps on the market in a variety of sizes, shapes and designs. But all add length to the gun, which could require a new holster or changing your method of carry. But Southwest Precision’s Shoot Flat ported barrel package offers aggressive recoil reduction without adding a millimeter of length to the pistol. The package includes this barrel, as well as a stainless steel guide rod and reduced-weight (13-pound) recoil spring for smoother functioning.
The frame work here is from Sonoran Defense, which actually uses lasers to texture frames. This is their Hybrid Atrox package which, again, features a more aggressive texture on the front and back straps with a less aggressive texture on the rest of the frame.
One thing I did not change was the trigger. I started out with an amazing trigger from Johnny Custom Glocks, which I have been running exclusively since about 2014. This trigger is so effective for me that I transplanted it from my TMT Glock into the new Sonoran/Southwest hybrid gun. You will notice that the triggers look different. This is because Johnny recently released flat-faced, branded trigger shoes. When it came time to move the trigger into the new gun, I had this shoe added in. But the internals were unaltered in the move — they were perfect (for me) as-is. While a Johnny Glocks trigger is one of the pricier options on the market, it might also be the last Glock trigger you ever have to buy. To us, it is an overwhelmingly worthwhile investment.
Old: T-Rex Arms Sidecar (above left)
New: LAS Concealment Ronin 3.0 (above right)
Lessons Learned: I have been, and will remain, a fan of appendix carry. It keeps my pistol close to center line, and my body type allows total concealment with a t-shirt. But the LAS Ronin’s design offers some superior design features – primarily the flexible joint between holster and spare mag pouch. This allows the holster to move with my body, making it more comfortable for longer wear. It also is molded to accept red dot optics and suppressor height sights out of the box. The steel belt clips are, admittedly, a bit of a pain to get off at the end of the day. But the flip side of that is the confidence of knowing once your holster is clipped in, it’s not going anywhere for any reason unless you make it.
Old: USPALM AFAK (above left)
New: Live The Creed Pocket IFAK (above right)
Lessons learned: The now-defunct USPALM was one of several companies producing a velcro-and-elastic trauma kit for wear around the ankle. This particular kit worked really well for me awhile. It offers a lot of carry capacity, but did require some wardrobe considerations. It’s not really any good with shorts, which makes it a hassle in Arizona summers. Also, it requires the use of taller, thicker socks than I normally wear. Your mileage may vary on these constrictions, depending on your natural wardrobe trends. But the ankle kit is also a little too bulky to transition well to off-body carry when I choose to do that.
My chosen replacement kit comes from Live The Creed. Their pocket IFAK is barely larger than my wallet, which makes it beautifully convenient to drop into the back pocket of my jeans, or in the admin pocket of a backpack or purse. However, you do lose some load capacity. For me, the biggest downside is not being able to carry a “hard” tourniquet (the CAT is my preferred). In its pre-loaded configuration, the LTC kit comes with a SWAT-T, which functions as both a tourniquet and pressure dressing. This dual-use potential maximizes utility while keeping bulk/weight to a minimum. But I still prefer a dedicated hard tourniquet, and have mitigated this by carrying one in my day pack. In higher-threat situations, a CAT or SOF-T can be carried horizontally on your belt with a rubber band. (I carried like this for several years while contracting overseas.) All in all though, the LTC pocket IFAK is a much leaner, more convenient way to carry trauma medical supplies and I suspect I’ll be sticking with it for the duration.
Finally, I clipped two new accessories on my Tuff Writer carabiner/key ring. One is the Carbon Tactics TiSlice. This well-machined little chunk of titanium and brass is basically a miniature box cutter. This gives me a dedicated “household chores” blade to avoid dulling the blade on my Ditch Pik or defensive folder.
The other accessory is another Gearward gadget – the Ranger Bic lighter holder. The Ranger Bic is specifically designed to hold a mini-Bic lighter, inside a section of bike tire inner tube with a grommet at one end to attach a lanyard or key ring. When you insert the lighter top first, it offers a waterproof seal and the rubber material itself can be cut up and burned as tinder.
The ability to create fire on demand is a primary, immediate-need capability in both bushcraft and urban survival scenarios. While I usually carry a cigar lighter for recreational use, having a dedicated survival lighter, and built-in tinder in a package that dangles from my key ring is a key redundancy to have.