Everyone who has embraced the idea of providing for their own protection has gone on a journey of self-discovery before arriving at the decision to carry a firearm. This isn’t a decision to take casually. Carrying a firearm for self-defense, after all, isn’t just empowering, it is also a great responsibility. People who take on this burden need to be safe, mature and vigilant—and they are. Again and again, studies on people who have concealed-carry permits indicate that armed citizens in America are safe, law-abiding people.
And the number of people who choose to carry concealed has been growing fast. Over the past few years, millions more Americans have become gun owners and thus need to learn how to carry effectively. So we reached out to a cross-section of people who carry concealed to find out how they carry and what they carry and to get their advice. Together, they show that the Second Amendment is truly a right for all people.
If you had to imagine what Captain America would look like if he were a real person, you might imagine Matthew Little, owner of the training company Greybeard Actual (greybeardactual.com).
Matt recently retired from not one but two high-risk government careers: He was a full-time law-enforcement officer with the Chicago Police Department and he was a member of 20th Special Forces Group, which is one of two Special Forces groups attached to the U.S. Army National Guard.
As a law-enforcement officer, Matt was on almost every dangerous detail you can imagine; he even wrapped up his career as a SWAT operator. In his various capacities, he has interacted with the worst the world has to offer, from hardened criminals to radical terrorists. His many experiences only reinforced his belief in the right to self-defense. Matt said, “The thing I noticed about criminals, and honestly about terrorists, is that, like every other form of bully, they’re cowards. They don’t want to face armed citizens.”
“The thing I noticed about criminals, and honestly about terrorists, is that, like every other form of bully, they’re cowards. They don’t want to face armed citizens.” –Matthew LittleThis view does help to explain why so many defensive gun uses never involve a shot being fired. Interviews with incarcerated criminals, for example, have shown that most criminals prefer “soft” targets of opportunity. While there certainly are hardened criminals for whom “the action is the juice,” such types are not commonly encountered by the average citizen.
After spending time around hardened, committed types of criminals, both in the U.S. and overseas, Matt said, “The vast majority of the time career criminals, especially the violent types, are basically broken inside. We can argue about whether it’s society’s fault, or their family’s fault, or the educational system, or all these factors combined, but none of that conjecture changes the fact that something in them is broken. I make this point because a lot of people have the idea they can reason with or somehow appease these types of violent criminals. The truth is, they can’t be appeased—at least not with enough certainty to bet your life on. There simply is a percentage of our population, and this is worldwide, that understands and respects only force. They don’t respect societal norms and they don’t have empathy for other people. You have to be ready to meet these violent people with real force.”
What and How Matt Carries:
As he is around 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds, Matt is able to easily conceal a Staccato XC, which is a full-size double-stack in 9 mm. Matt keeps a mounted light on his pistol, as well as a Surefire handheld. Matt also carries a small fixed-blade knife and tops it off with a spare magazine for his Staccato in a NeoMag carrier.
What would happen if you took a fairly new gun owner and downloaded the collective knowledge of multiple high-level competition shooters and defensive firearms and tactics trainers into her brain? You’d probably get Tessah Gabrielle, owner of Armed and Styled (armedandstyled.net). She is a popular influencer for new gun owners. Like many recent gun owners, Tessah didn’t come from a traditional gun-owning household and wasn’t introduced to shooting until she met her husband, who is an Army officer and avid competitive shooter. But when asked why she wanted to start carrying a gun, Tessah said, “I had an epiphany in the grocery store. I saw this guy across the way from me and I made a mental note, this guy’s kind of off. He’s kind of creepy. Not enough to have my alarms go off, but it sent me into this brand-new concealed-carrier thought process. I thought, what would I do if this person did become a lethal threat to myself or someone within my vicinity? And I didn’t have an answer.”
Like so many first-time gun owners, Tessah started off with a revolver. While revolvers can be very useful in certain contexts, they’re often not the best choice for a new shooter. Neither was her holster, which was a “sticky” design meant to be used without a belt. After one range session, she realized that these choices wouldn’t work for her in the real world. She started looking for solutions to her carry situation.
With that, Tessah turned to the training industry for answers and took multiple shooting classes. Now, for new shooters, like her, she recommends several good resources for information, including the PHLster Concealment Workshop group on Facebook, and the new project from Langdon Tactical, LTT Discover (which she is a part of). Access to these resources and to others—such as to NRAInstructors.org—helped steer her from knowing very little about guns and concealed carry to someone who can articulate important concealed-carry topics, and also appreciate the freedom that allows her to be on equal standing with anyone.
“When you look at me, and don’t know me, you see a five-foot tall, 100-pound woman and probably assume I’m an easy target, right? I can do all the jiu-jitsu I want, and try to have all the situational awareness, but that doesn’t necessarily change that I can appear to be an easy target. So it’s important to me to have, and to know how to use, not just my gun, but a multitude of self-defense tools, such as pepper spray and a bright flashlight.”
What and How Tessah Carries:
After starting with a .38 Special revolver in a sticky holster, Tessah’s everyday-carry gun (EDC) has come a long way. She now carries a Glock 48 equipped with a Holosun 507k electronic sight. She carries this gun in a PHLster holster attached to PHLster’s Enigma chassis, which allows beltless carry in any type of pants. She also carries POM pepper spray, a handheld flashlight from Modlite and a comprehensive medical kit in her purse.
Alex Sansone, owner of The Suited Shootist, started his concealed-carry journey like a lot of people do, but then he ran into an unexpected social consequence of exercising his Second Amendment rights. Alex was outed as a concealed carrier at his job and terminated. Before that, he had what many of us would think of as a “normal” concealed-carry journey. He had a gun and a carry permit and minimal training.
“Getting fired really made me appreciate the breadth of factors that are truly at risk. For as much as I don’t like to admit it, that gun for me was a talisman, as it made me feel better. And so now I take a more realistic, holistic look at whatever my risk profile is,” said Alex.
Since Alex’s experience with losing his job, he’s taken a different approach to exercising his Second Amendment freedoms.
“The entire idea is that carrying a firearm should be liberating. That means that it should not be the restrictive consideration of somebody’s lifestyle. I’m not even going to tell anybody else that if they found themselves in a similarly professional circumstance to mine, they shouldn’t carry a gun, but if they are at least educated to all the factors at play, and they are willing to objectively weigh the risks, then, you know, however they choose to do it is their business.”
After losing his job, Alex recovered nicely. He no longer carries off-body in a backpack; he’s focused on educating and creating carry solutions for people who don’t want to “dress around the gun.” His company, The Suited Shootist, focuses on educational content for people who want to dress nice and still carry a gun.
What and How Alex Carries:
Echoing the popularity of the PHLster Enigma chassis, Alex carries his Glock 19 in a Dark Star Gear Orion holster that’s attached to the Enigma. His G19 is equipped with a Swamp Fox Optics Liberty Red Dot sight, which shares a mounting footprint with the Trijicon RMR. Alex also carries a handheld white light and a canister of POM pepper spray as a force option between harsh words and a gun.
“My husband asked me if I felt like I could kill someone who was trying to kill me. Could I take a human life? And the moment he asked me that question, I remember thinking of the way that my kidnapper and rapist was strangling me. And I remember seeing my rapist’s face. And I remember thinking very clearly, yes, I could absolutely take a human life to save my own. If I had a firearm at that particular moment, I would have absolutely used it and would not have had a moment of hesitation about the legal or ethical ramifications of that. I would have been one-hundred-percent justified,” said Melody Lauer.
“I remember seeing my rapist’s face. And I remember thinking very clearly, yes, I could absolutely take a human life to save my own.” –Melody Lauer
Melody is part of the team at Citizens Defense Research. She is an accomplished shooter and a firearms instructor. Unlike many other armed professionals who have encountered true violence, her experience with violent people wasn’t as a soldier or a law-enforcement officer, but as a private citizen who was unarmed. But she refuses to let that horrific event define her: “I can’t divorce the fact that that incident absolutely led to who I am and what I’m doing right now. That being said, I don’t plant my flag on the fact that I’m a rape survivor. But the memory of it was so vivid that it triggered a long-term realization that, yes, I am capable of using violence to defend myself. And if this is something I’m capable of morally, I should probably make myself physically capable of it.”
Melody’s journey on the way to becoming one of the most-respected professionals in the self-defense community has included far too many training stops to include them all, but it includes well-noted names like Craig Douglas, the InSights Training Center and Langdon Tactical. Her gear has gone on quite an evolutionary journey as well. Starting with a micro-compact 1911-style .45 ACP pistol, she transitioned to Glock pistols heavily customized by Boresight Solutions. As an instructor, she’s taught thousands of students herself, and even teaches a class specifically for parents who carry called “The Armed Parent/Guardian.”
What and How Melody Carries:
Melody favors Glock. Her pistol is a Glock 48 with extensive customization by Boresight solutions. She also uses a Holosun electronic sight. She switches between carry methods, either using a Dark Star Gear holster attached to her belt, or a PHLster Enigma chassis with a PHLster Skeleton holster. Because of her unique experiences, Melody also carries a fixed-blade knife whenever she is carrying her gun, giving herself a secondary lethal option in a close-quarters grappling situation. She tops this off with POM pepper spray, as well as medical equipment carried in a bag.
Juan’s carry story is about the most-American story you can get. His grandparents fled Cuba during Castro’s communist revolution, seeking the freedom and liberty of the United States. “I’m the son of immigrants who came to a country that accepted them and tried to help them. They came here with nothing; they had to rebuild their lives. You know, my grandfather was in a house filled with not only his wife, but also her four sisters. And then his five daughters. It was a very, very tight fit for them. He made it work.”
By the time Juan entered the picture, his family had built a stable life in the United States, but Juan felt the call to duty to serve the country that had given his family a home and a future. He joined the U.S. Army and served in the airborne infantry during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This reinforced a growing belief that even with the incredible prosperity and freedom in the United States, he had a responsibility to protect himself. After leaving the military, Juan started exploring the firearms industry and discovered the Ballistic Radio podcast. The high level of guests on the show allowed him to circumvent much of the drawer-full-of-holsters-that-don’t-work phase that many gun owners go through, and helped reinforce that desire to protect himself and his family. “Given how strong my family believes in protecting family and making sure that we stick together, I wasn’t going to rest,” he said. “I learned a lot about the different trainers like Ernest Langdon, Craig Douglas and Tom Givens, and I started training with those guys.”
Juan’s belief in the freedom protected by the Second Amendment comes not just from his own experiences as a soldier, but also his family’s experience with tyranny. “Every great atrocity my family has seen has been at the hands of those who are armed against those who are not,” he said.
What and How Juan Carries:
Juan’s EDC is certainly high end. He carries a full-size Wilson Combat EDC X9 with a Holosun 507 red-dot sight. The EDC X9 combines the “shootability” of a 1911 with the capacity of a modern service pistol, making it a great choice for concealed carry when money is no concern. Like everyone else in this article, Juan carries a powerful handheld white light, and also rounds out his EDC with a folding knife and a canister of POM pepper spray.
So, perhaps surprisingly, given their varied backgrounds and experience, these individuals have all come to similar conclusions on what and how to carry. They’ve each chosen to carry their guns at the appendix position. Each carries a handheld white light, and four of the five carry pepper spray. All of them also carry a modern pistol in 9 mm holding the number of rounds they deem necessary for their particular situation, and all of them utilize some type of red-dot sight.
All of these individuals have widely different experiences, yet all have chosen to provide for their own security. There are as many different carry stories as there are gun owners—from everyday citizens to soldiers, from the son of an immigrant to an American “girl next door,” they’re as different as any five people could be. Yet, through different journeys, they’ve all arrived at the same place. They are all a part of a community of Americans who believe in the fundamental freedom to defend themselves with the best tools available. As Melody put it, the freedom to carry a gun is important to all of us because “no one else gets to decide whether you can live or die.”