Top Personal Defense and Concealed Carry Gear


Personal defense can and should represent a broad cross section of techniques and gear. Life is chock full of opportunities to impact one’s safety, either from criminal activity or just plain circumstance and bad luck. Whether defending against a mugging or getting stuck on the side of a remote road, the safety minded individual will plan accordingly. In the spirit of general preparedness, we’ve included some tools extending beyond the traditional gun, holster and ammo boundaries. If a knife or light helps you navigate the uncertainties of life while offering benefit to your self-defense repertoire, all the better.

Here are some of our recent favorites for self-defense gear that can make a difference.

Speer Gold Dot G2 Carry Gun Self-Defense Ammunition

Size matters.

Expanding self-defense ammo lives on a precarious see-saw of terminal performance results. It’s designed to expand fully while also penetrating to a depth of 12 to 18″ in ballistic gelatin. Oh, and it has to do all that regardless of what type of barrier it penetrates before impacting the soft stuff.

Here’s the problem. Expansion and penetration work against each other. The more rapidly a bullet expands, the less it’s going to penetrate. If it under expands, or expands at too slow a rate, it’ll penetrate too much — also a less than desirable characteristic. Additionally, velocity drives expansion. At a slower than expected speed, a bullet may under expand or not expand at all.

Now back to the point of why size matters. A shorter barrel, as in a compact carry gun, generates lower velocity from any given load. While three trillion variables are at play, you might lose 30 to 50 fps of muzzle velocity for each 1″ reduction in barrel length as a rule of thumb. That’s often enough to make a great load for a 4 or 5″ service pistol fail (from an expansion standpoint) when fired from a 3″-barrel subcompact.

The folks at Speer know this and have created a new optimized version of their law-enforcement G2 ammo tweaked for shorter barrels. The bullets are designed to expand and penetrate properly in the lower expected velocity range. To help facilitate consistent expansion through barriers, the bullet’s cavity is filled with an elastomer material that compresses against internal fissures to initiate expansion.

Speer’s new Carry Gun lineup includes 9mm 135-grain, .40 S&W 165-grain, and.45 Auto +P 200-grain loads.

TOPS 208 Clipper Cigar Cutter

Let’s be clear about this. The TOPS 208 Clipper is not your average cigar cutter. Yes, it’ll certainly trim your stogie with aplomb. It’s also capable of cutting down a Redwood if the need arises. This is a good thing.

I asked designer Leo Espinoza about the inspiration for this unique piece of gear. “I started getting into cigars in the last few years. They’re a great way to unwind after a long day of work, especially at trade shows. And of course, every time I start looking at a cutting tool, I think about how I would make my own. When you look at most cigar cutters out there, they do the job, but they’re usually cheap and it seems like they’re an afterthought. Yet, you can easily find higher end lighters, humidors, ash trays, travel cases and other cigar accessories. It was really inevitable that at some point I would design and start making a cutter for cigars.”

The 208 Clipper is arguably a benign-looking piece of pocket gear. Okay, so it looks slightly more dangerous and scary than those plastic disposable stogie slicers, but it’s not going to cause too much unnecessary “triggering.” The beauty of the design is the rugged construction, and that’s what makes it an elegant and functional defensive accessory. If you have to pull this out to defend self or family or extricate yourself from a jammed-up seatbelt, it’s not going to let you down.

The Clipper features a 1.5″ primary blade area supplemented with an additional 1.1″ section forward of the tanto-style bend. A short “dull” serrated section on top of the blade gives your thumb a slip-free resting place when actually chopping a fat Cuban. The blade opens in similar fashion to an old-fashioned straight razor. The extended lever used for opening also serves as a bottle opener if you’re faced with a different sort of emergency.

The hinge has enough friction to allow safe pocket carry, but you can also use the included leather belt scabbard to keep everything closed up and tidy. The black leather accented with red stitching looks as spiffy as the cutter itself.

Versacarry Rebel Holster

Versacarry is more known for their “one size fits many” strategy. With recent advancements and smart use of rigid interior layers, those products have gotten darned good at mastering challenging objectives like solid retention.

The new Rebel line takes advantage of current design and construction techniques but adds custom molding for your specific firearm. Now, and this is a good thing, the company offers a line of “one size fits one” holsters.

The Rebel is a hybrid design using a leather back panel and Kydex gun shell, but similarities to other hybrids end there. The back panel is layered with a closed-cell padded backing to add comfort, a moisture barrier, and more importantly, rigidity. Most hybrids with a simple leather backing eventually suffer from floppy top syndrome. Over time the leather shield starts to droop and cover the holster mouth. That’s bad mojo as you don’t want anything obstructing a re-holstering maneuver.

The Rebel also features an independent draw tension screw adjustment and forward cant for more discreet inside-the-waistband carry. Unlike other hybrids, this one is pieced together using leather supports and good old-fashioned stitching instead of rivets — a nice touch.
Holsters are a personal thing. If this one doesn’t work for you, Versacarry offers a 30-day return policy.

Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout Knife

New from Benchmade is a smaller sibling of the popular Bugout knife. The Mini Bugout features a pocket-friendly closed length of just 3.7″. Its 2.82″ drop-point blade is plenty big enough for daily chores, and in a pinch, a nice thing to have in pocket for defensive use.

Like all things Benchmade, this knife is rugged for tough use, so don’t feel the need to baby it. Its bright orange body is easy to keep in sight — you’re not likely to inadvertently leave it sitting around your most recent work area.

For carry, it features a deep conceal pocket clip. The “bend” in the clip is positioned at the very edge of the body, so virtually nothing is visible. The clip orients the knife for tip-up carry but is reversible, so it’ll work equally well for righties and lefties. At just 1.5 oz., you won’t know it’s there.

Utility knives might just be the very best example of the proven “buy once, cry once” gear acquisition strategy. Do yourself a favor and invest in a proper knife. A good one won’t let you down through a literal lifetime of use. Besides, if you buy a cheap knockoff convenience store knife, your friends will mock you and with good reason.

FENIX PD36R Rechargeable Flashlight

I take the term “personal defense” very broadly, as in protection and reasonable preparation against bad things happening in my life. Sure, sometimes that looks like defense against violent crime, but the concept can also include more mundane “preparedness” like not falling down the steps at night or finding your way through a dark parking lot.

A light, like a quality pocketknife, falls squarely into the category of “handy tools you need to have that can also help save your life.”

This handheld wonder packs a wallop. Yes, it’s got plenty of free lumens for “tactical” uses like target identification. Or, if you crank it up to its full 1,600 lumen output setting, it might set an attacker’s hair on fire. Don’t rely on this strategy — I’m just theorizing on the combustion part. As a side note, the turbo setting will illuminate a clear path out to near 300 yards.

A brass button up front cycles through the power levels. Eco mode produces an indoor-friendly 30 lumens, Low 150 lumens, Medium 350 and High 800. By holding the selection button for a half second, you can also select a disorienting strobe mode, useful for self-defense applications if you’re into the “distract others and yourself” strategy.

The Fenix PD36R features an internal rechargeable power source, so no batteries are required — ever. The included USB Type C cable connects to most any standard power source: laptops, phone chargers, or 12-volt car systems. Depending on which brightness level you choose, you’ll get between just under three hours to a whopping 115 of continuous use.

For all its power, the PD36R is portable enough for everyday carry. It’s about the same size as a 17-round 9mm magazine but precisely half the weight, according to my kitchen scale. A steel clip offers dual purpose mounting to belts, pants, or pack pockets, but the “S-shaped” design also allows you to mount it to something pointing beam forward. It makes a great car light too. Use the low-power modes for interior use, middle range for roadside repairs, and the Turbo modes to flag down help or send Morse code messages to the International Space Station.

Smith & Wesson Model 642 Performance Center Revolver

Sometimes it’s appropriate for an actual gun to make a “personal defense” gear list. This is one of those times.

Few would argue against the utility of a snubbie revolver for defensive carry. Yes, they’re harder to shoot well than a larger handgun, but no one will have a serious beef with terminal performance and carry convenience. Light, at just 14.4 oz., this classic hammerless snubbie is also comfortably rounded for pocket, IWB and ankle carry. While five rounds of .38 Special isn’t considered high capacity, it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at when you’re in trouble.

So, whether you choose a snubbie as a primary, backup, or convenient “running to the store” companion, you might consider investing a few dollars more for a jazzed-up model.

The Performance Center 642 adds nice, and practical, finishing touches. The grip is minimal and rubberized with wood inserts on both sides. It looks great and feels even better. As you’d expect, the action is Performance Center tuned. The internal work, combined with a polished trigger face, really smooths out the DAO action. The big carry benefit is the moon-clip-cut cylinder. Even compared to a speedloader, the moon clips give you hang-up-free extraction and fast reloading. Do note you can operate the 642 PC without moon clips too. Cartridges seat and extract just fine individually too.

The rest is cosmetic, like the polished cylinder flutes and cylinder release lever, but there’s nothing wrong with buying a gun you can admire and use.

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