What Do We Carry?


This is always an interesting exercise and it dawned on me recently we haven’t done this in some years. I polled our regular staffers to find out what they carry on a daily basis and cautioned them to be honest — no fudging allowed. It’s a bit like doing the “What’s your favorite deer rifle” but covering a more serious topic. I always enjoy actually learning the “what and why” concerning the hardware real people in the real world carry — especially savvy gun-people. I think I see a trend here. It seems the “J-Frame in a pocket” is being replaced (mostly) by small autos. Also, genuine concern about active shooters and terrorists has caused some of us to gun-up.

One thing standing out to me as I assembled these is those with law enforcement and/or military experience often seem to carry a bit more gun. Or at least favor something more serious to be close at-hand if possible. Having said that, it also seems everyone doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed if they ever have to fight. As Mark Moritz said when discussing if there are any rules in a gunfight: “There is one rule: Have a gun.”

S&W 340 M&P .357 with Speer .38 +P 135 grain Gold Dot is Mas’ usual backup.

Massad Ayoob

As a full-time instructor, I change guns every training tour to stay current. This past year, primaries have included Wilson/Beretta 92 Compact, SIG P320 and P229R Legion, HK P30SK, Glock’s in various flavors from new G43 to old G30 and assorted 1911’s. As a part-time cop, backup is normally a J-Frame S&W 340 M&P. I bought it 10 years ago when it came out because it has the best sights S&W ever put on a small-frame revolver.

At home, I’m partial to .357 SIG, but when travelling to teach it’s hard to replenish ammo on the road if you’re not carrying one of the more mainstream calibers. When I was shooting for Team Panteao, I often used a revolver. I didn’t feel especially disadvantaged carrying a GP-100, 686 or even 625 with full-power loads and spare ammo (and spare gun). But, packing L- and N-Frame guns on a K-Frame body got old, so today it’s usually 9mm to .45 auto on hip, and J-Frame for backup.

Jeremy puts his custom Novak to work, training as much as possible.
Here he’s at Thunder Ranch.

Jeremy Clough

I pick carry guns based on fight-stopping potential as opposed to ease of carry. For over seven years, my daily gun has been a Novak-built Colt Government Model in .45, carried in Del Fatti leather and loaded with 230-gr. JHP from Black Hills. Averaging 11/2″ at 25 yards with defensive ammo, it’s monotonously reliable and has been with me to unpleasant places when I served as a prosecutor.

The Novak Colt is my go-to gun because of familiarity, but I also carry a Nighthawk T3 and Falcon. Other guns which occasionally appear are an ivory-handled Caspian/SVI BBQ gun and a Detonics CombatMaster, both in .45. Even though mass shootings are still statistically rare, in a world where the bad guys now start with rifles, the ability to make a 50-yard pistol shot can get very important, very fast.

At right, primary Kahr TP45. On the left, backup SIG P250 Compact in 9mm.

John Connor

My current daily “on-the-body” carry pistol is a relative newcomer to my battery: a stock, off-the-shelf Kahr TP45. Slim, flat, smooth and agile, it packs the same payload as my old 1911’s, eight rounds of fight-stopping .45 ACP — but it’s more than a pound lighter. Outside the waistband, I carry it in a standard horsehide Exodus Gunleather Illusion holster. Inside the waistband, I use a super-comfy N82 Tactical rig. One spare mag on my person provides a total of 15 rounds, and my duty ammo choices for this pistol are Buffalo Bore’s Low Recoil Standard Pressure 185-gr. FMJ-FN for the cold weather/heavy clothing season, and CorBon 160-gr. DPX in warmer weather.

Backing up the Kahr .45, in my OTD (Out-The-Door) bag is a SIG SAUER P250 Compact in 9mm plus two spare magazines, totaling 46 rounds of “when diplomacy fails.” I feed the P250 with SIG V-Crown and Speer Gold Dot, both JHP’s in 124-gr. weights. Some may think I’m “over-gunned,” especially since I live in a gun-rich low-crime area. But in the ancient parable that says “Evil roams the earth relentless,” I’ve learned the operative word is “roams.” Connor OUT

The HK P30SK is short but fat and rides comfortably in an Alien Gear
IWB rig even without a dedicated belt. Other iron is used accordingly.

Will Dabbs, MD

My daily carry gun is a 9mm HK P30SK in an Alien Gear IWB rig. The gun is fat but it hides nicely underneath my surgical scrubs, even without a belt. Our backyard is a lake so a Remington 870 12-gauge. with a 12″ barrel is always at arm’s reach for counter-snake duty. This NFA-registered, short-barreled shotgun dispatches two to five venomous water moccasins a year. The zombie gun is a selective fire M4A1 Carbine with a Mil-Spec 141/2″ barrel. It sports a Holosight and a SureFire X400 light and laser for those times when the dog just won’t shut up at 2 o’clock in the morning.

The travel gun is a Kimber 1911 Warrior SOC .45 in the center console with several spare magazines. A North American Arms .22 Magnum mini-revolver is in my pocket whenever I’m not asleep or in the shower. Winchester PDX1 Defender rounds stoke everything but the snake gun.

Nighthawk Falcon Commander in .45 ACP. Holster is a Davis “Liberty” model.

Dave Anderson

My primary personal defense handgun will likely always be a steel-frame 1911. A single-stack 1911 fits my hand perfectly. My current favorite is a Nighthawk Falcon Commander in .45 ACP. It has every feature I want and none I don’t. With its black Nitride finish over stainless steel, it’s both rust-resistant and non-reflective. For concealed carry I use a Sparks Summer Special IWB holster; for belt carry a Davis Liberty straight draw.

If weather allows only a light jacket, the same Sparks holster carries my Springfield Armory EMP 9mm. I’m starting to have almost as much confidence in modern 9mm loads as I do in the 230-gr. +P rounds in the .45. Almost.

While the belt pistol sometimes varies, the pocket pistol never does. I consider the S&W Centennial Airweight the perfect pocket revolver. Just index on target and pull the trigger. Mine is the 442 with nickel finish. It’s carried in a Mitch Rosen Pocket Softie holster.

When not carrying a snubbie of some sort, Duke likes this Colt Pocket Pistol
.380, using this IWB holster made by Karla Van Horn of Jasper, Ga.

Mike “Duke” Venturino

I’m probably going to take some flak for this because I don’t pack a full-size, big-bore handgun. I belong to the school thinking “It’s better to have a smaller handgun than to not carry a bigger one because it’s a pain in the butt.” For half the year here in Montana, when I’m outside, it’s with a heavy coat on. The largest handgun in the world is useless if you can’t get to it because your coat is buttoned or zipped. Along the way, I’ve garnered an array of snub-nose .38 Special revolvers such as a Colt Detective Special and several S&W J- and K-Frames. One or another of those rides in an outside coat pocket if I’m just going into town to run errands.

For holster carry I currently favor a Colt Pocket Pistol .380 Auto. Karla Van Horn of Jasper, Ga., made me an IWB holster for the little Colt which can be easily clipped on a waistband or belt and quickly unclipped if need be.

Stuck with issue-iron during the day, off-duty Aimee carries her S&W Shield
or sometimes strays with her Springfield Armory EMP, both in 9mm.

Aimee Grant

During the day I don’t have much choice in what and how I carry. It’s full-size, double-stack and outside the waistband. When I’m not at work, I keep the “Three C’s” in mind — concealment, capacity and caliber. I go from a double stack to a single stack, and I tuck it inside my waistband, but I do stay with the 9mm.

My go-to gun is the S&W Shield. It’s slim on size and high on reliability and usually rides in a Jason Winnie rig. Sometimes due to warm California weather, I visit the Kydex side of things. I just got this Comp-Tac Two O’Clock Kydex holster and really enjoy the adjustable rise — great for a gal!

Sometimes I do “cheat” on my Shield with my Springfield EMP. The Springfield holster included with the EMP is just fine for me. The EMP is the perfect compromise for me since I can’t conceal a full-sized 1911. The weight and precision of the EMP is housed in the handsome Springfield frame. It screams you have arrived — but it’s slim enough to come across as a whisper.

Mark’s classic Para-Ordnance P12-45, in .45 ACP provides solid performance
and is a back-up to his go-to shotgun should the need arise. He thinks of it as insurance.

Mark Hampton

My wife and I live in a very rural portion of south Missouri, where people never locked their doors before going to bed — in the old days. In recent times, we’ve seen some of the most heinous crimes occur in our quiet little neighborhood — including murder. Our thought process has been adjusted accordingly.

Today I carry a firearm and have one within reach most all times. Many years ago I purchased a Para-Ordnance P12-45. It’s compact and easy to carry and with a capacity of 12 .45 ACP rounds, it provides heavy-weight reliable performance. Recoil is manageable even with the short barrel, plus it shoots great. I have confidence in the level of protection it provides, and will at least buy me time to reach the shotgun.

At the farm, I often carry a Ruger Blackhawk converted to 10mm by Hamilton Bowen. This revolver rides in a Thad Rybka radical cross-draw rig. The

This Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special has been doing yeoman service
in Jeff’s self-defense battery for more than 30 years now.

Jeff John

Driving a truck in the 1970’s and ’80’s for a living didn’t leave me with a lot of jingle after bills, so a self-defense arm needed to be both powerful and reasonably priced. Skeeter Skelton convinced me of the efficacy of the .44 Special, and the 5-shot Charter Arms Bulldog would be my first new gun. I found I could shoot best with Federal 200-gr. lead HP’s. I made a holster for it using materials on-hand, although a Bianchi fanny pack proved ideal for carry in the truck. I carried spare ammo in a 5-round Bianchi dump pouch and an 18-round MTM wallet with 15 ball and three shot loads.

As my station improved, the Bulldog and wallet became hiking companions, adding then-new HKS Speedloaders. Living in Southern California then, when hiking, the shot loads were always the first two up, since snakes were a bigger threat to my dogs and me than people in the Mojave Desert.

I still have my old Bulldog, and it has grown in sentimental value greatly. It’s my occasional outdoor companion here in Nevada, and often on my side when I work in the garage. The CCI 200-gr. Gold Dots trade off with the Federal loads depending on which is available.

The Taurus Curve .380 has worked its way to the top of
Mark’s “Every Day Carry” pile these days.

Mark Kakkuri (FMG OnLine Editor)

When I get to choose a gun just for me, rather than an article, it’s usually a S&W 442, Glock 19 or a Commander-sized 1911. Lately I’ve picked a Taurus Curve as my every day carry gun. This 6+1 .380 is not only reliable, lightweight and accurate but also well equipped with light and laser. A loaded chamber indicator doubles as a sort of trench sight. But the Curve’s most endearing feature is its unique curved frame, making it very comfortable and easy to hide. In a front pocket it looks like a wallet. Inside the waistband it all but disappears. Yes, it can be a chore to draw the Curve from inside the waistband. But it’ll be there.

With the light/laser on, just point and shoot. I also practice with the little trench sight and the crosshairs on the back of the slide. And, despite the short stocks, managing the Curve’s recoil also became easier the more I fired it. I carry it virtually every day now.

Smith & Wesson 66

Payton Miller

I do have a dedicated “house gun.” Since I’m a revolver guy and much of my “me time” at the range is spent shooting them, my handgun choice isn’t surprising. It’s a 2.5″ S&W Model 66 tuned and slicked up by S&W’s Performance Center. I generally keep it loaded with some approximation of the old .38 Special “FBI Load”— a 158-gr. SWC lead HP at Plus-P pressure levels — courtesy of Winchester, Remington or Buffalo Bore.

I left the stock factory grips alone. Fatter ones make it darn near impossible to use my HK speedloaders. My compromise is a Tyler-T grip adapter. It helps me get the right grab the first time. My M66 is short barreled but no less inherently accurate than a longer barreled K-Frame, and a lot easier to shoot well than a J-Frame. I only practice shooting it DA and I use the cheapest 158-gr. standard-pressure loads I can find. But I always finish with a cylinderful or two of those premium Plus-P’s.

And whenever I clean it, I abide by the warnings of a long-ago instructor about over-oiling a revolver. I use just enough to make things spin smooth and free. As they should — particularly in these uncertain times.

Ralph confesses he’s surprised to be carrying a S&W Bodyguard in .380
these days, but does like the small size. Pocket-protector carry, anyone?

Ralph Mroz

I live in a very safe place so I’ve allowed myself to go to smaller carry guns since leaving the law enforcement world. An S&W Shield or my trusty ’70’s vintage Colt Agent are my usual carry guns, but I’ve recently added a third small gun — in a caliber I swore I’d never carry. I recently picked up an S&W Bodyguard .380, and I’m quite impressed!

It shoots a 5″ group to POA at 25 yards off a bag, with 62-year old eyes and iron sights, shooting plain-Jane ammo. It fits comfortably and discreetly in a front pants pocket (in a holster, of course), which a J-Frame never quite did. This gun can truly be with you all the time, even in non-permissive environments. Hey, if you’re the type, you could carry it in a shirt pocket behind your pocket protector! And remember, modern high-performance .380 rounds are in another league from the old stuff.

The trigger is heavy for a pistol, with a fairly long pull stacking a bit at the end, but I’ve gotten used to it. I’m no Jerry Miculek, but like him some of my very first rounds — at a four yards — stayed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper with .25 splits — which is twice as fast as I think any street shooter should shoot, but I was having fun. Who’d a thought?

Sam’s EDC gun is often a .416 Kimber rifle for Africa Duty. He put
it to good use recently on this 50" Cape Buffalo.

Sam Fadala

My own “daily carry” gun might be a bit different than most. I spend a good time of my life in Africa, and a pocket pistol just won’t cut it. My carry .416 was born of long shots for kopjes (hills) and open high veldt, plus heavy-pounding close punches with scope to match both scenes. A Swarovski 2X-12X lighted reticule scope provides a wide field of view for up-close encounters and high magnification for surgical bullet placement “away out yonder.”

While the properly-stocked Caprivi rifle was never brutal, even with stout handloads, the fore-end did leave my hand at recoil. Mag-na-Brake tamed the powerful rifle from tiger to — well, puma — with .30-06 style recoil. At the bench, the rifle cuddles into the V of the Caldwell rest with only minor muzzle jump. My sole Africa carry rifle has now accounted for tiny stembok to ponderous elephant. I enjoy practicing with the easy-handling powerhouse, recently on metallic silhouettes out to 300 yards. And while a stout young lad carried my pack in Africa recently, my do-it-all rifle was always under my control.

In addition to a J-Frame and an NAA mini-revolver (always in John’s vest),
he tosses a Ruger 10/22 Take-Down rifle into the truck when he’s out and about.

John Taffin

I have to admit at this stage of my life I’m a whole lot more interested in being comfortable than having a big gun with me. There are times when I carry a “big” gun, however there are two “always with me” handguns which are so unobtrusive I sometimes have to pat my pocket to see if they’re there. The main gun is a 5-shot S&W J-Frame normally loaded with .38 Special +P’s and carried in my pants pocket in a non-printing holster. There’s also an NAA 5-shot .22 Short in the chest pocket of my denim vest loaded with CCI’s. I want to emphasize Mini-Guns are not first choice but rather for last-ditch resorts.

Folks often talk of a “Bug-Out Bag” in case they have to take off in a hurry. I’m way too old and way too fat to think about bugging out, however I do have a bug-out bag of sorts. This is the bag I take with me anytime I drive out of town. The bag itself is a Ruger zippered bag made for their Take-Down 10/22. In addition to the rifle, I’ve added a quick-release scope and two extra 25-round loaded magazines to go with the original 10-round magazine. This may not be a full-house Bug-Out Bag but I just call it my Survival Bag.

Being a custom gunsmith, Ted has gently massaged this former police
S&W 681 into something typical of his work — minimalist, highly
functional and above all … elegant.

Ted Yost

My current favorite carry gun (and always subject to change, like the weather) is my S&W Model 681. It’s an NYSP retiree, tweaked just a bit with the addition of my sight package with a gold line front and fixed rear, action job, barrel shortened to 31/2″ and re-crowned. All the edges are softened, and a set of handmade Turkish walnut grips made to match the “semi-round butt” configuration I did to it. It lives in an original Alessi holster when it’s not on R&R in a safe. 

It’s just about the perfect revolver, and there’s not much of anything I’d change.

Roy’s primary carry guns tend toward duty-caliber autos these days,
augmented with an NAA back-up and a Model 94 in the truck.

Roy Huntington (Editor, American Handgunner)

With the loons and terrorists out there, I’ve taken to being more seriously armed. Daily carry means a Kimber Solo in 9mm (pocket or belt carry) and at least one back-up mag in a “Snag Mag” pocket carrier. I also always have an NAA Pug .22 Mag. mini-revolver stashed in a Thad Rybka pocket holster, which also holds six spare rounds. On coat-days, I tend toward a Kahr P45 (.45 ACP) in a Haugen Handgun Leather belt rig along with at least one spare mag in a pouch I made.

If I’m driving anywhere, there’s always a cut-down Winchester Model 94 .30-30 with me, augmented with six rounds in a butt cuff, six more in a trap in the underside of the buttstock and five rounds loaded in the mag tube. I cut the barrel down to 16.25″ and took 1″ off the butt too. It’s compact and powerful and doesn’t cause the hysteria and hand-wringing wrought when a black rifle is seen. There’s one at each door at home too, since we live in the country.

I learned, during my police career, when you do need a gun, you need it now — and it needs to be as potent as possible. A back-up gun makes sense too. 

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