I spent a fair amount of time (off and on for 40 years) going in harm’s way on behalf of others. I often had the need to conceal various tools on or about my person. I’m fortunate to have had the counsel of friends like the late Bruce Nelson, Greg Kramer (when he was still a postman), Tony Kanaly (the first holster he built after starting at Milt Sparks’s shop was a Summer Special for a Sig P220 – for me), and the legendary Andy Arratoonian. Many wise and experienced Elders of the Tribe — Lofty Wiseman, Dennis Martin, David Scott-Donelan, Gary Wistrand, Evan Marshall, Dave Spaulding, Ed Lovette, Ralph Mroz, Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Bob Taubert, Louis Awerbuck — were generous in sharing their hard-earned experience and expertise with me. I’ve benefited from the New Generation as well, men like Craig Douglas, Greg Ellifritz, Shane Gosa, Jeff Bloovman, who’ve all shared their insights, experience and knowledge about the art and science of concealed carry.
I recently had to sort through 40 years worth of old leather and other tactical accouterments (original Bruce Nelson! Old School Milt Sparks! Ken Null SMZ! Andy Arratoonian shoulder holster! Original Jack Ass Rig from MIAMI VICE! A Seven Trees OWB for a Walther PPK!) to find something I could use for research on my most recent writing project, THE ACHY MAN.
In this book/script, the protagonist (a retired intelligence operator) runs afoul of some corrupt cops who pursue him into another state. They throw everything at him: falsely outing him as an informant to drug traffickers, hiring hit men, making several attempts themselves to kill him or intimidate him into silence with a Keystone Cops mélange of crooked cops, crooked private investigators, hired thugs and drug-addled street snitches.
The protagonist has to “gun up” to deal with the daily threats which grow more fervent when the Keystone Cops Gone Bad discover the good guy has had several of his military and intelligence buddies counter-surveil them, document their activities, hack their computers, and tap their phones – and delivered all of this in a keyword locked Iron Key to the top 25 media outlets in the country.
Panic ensues and violence escalates.
So what should the Good Guy wear?
The Ares Gear Ranger or Aegis gun belt rocks socks. It does all the work a good gun belt is supposed to do, and is solid enough to wrap around a log and drag it if need be. Why is that important? A good belt is the most overlooked accessory for a gun-toter. The belt needs to support the weight of the various tools and support items carried, and be rigid enough to lock those items in the same place so that the gear doesn’t shift around. The Ares Gear products do this in spades. The owner is a rock-solid man, and I happen to know that there are several Tier 1 Unit members that wear his belt in harm’s way. Highly recommended.
The Zenith gun belt is an excellent belt as well. It’s slightly wider at 1.75 inches than the Ares Gear, but it’s more flexible while still retaining sufficient rigidity to support multiple weapons etc. due to a kydex insert within the belt. Almost as flexible as a good leather belt. Billy at Boxer is a good guy, and at short notice shipped belt(s) to some Tier One operators rolling into harm’s way. However it’s hard to find his belts right now; the only distributor he was using was Amazon and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen any available on their site.
After much testing, Jon Hauptman’s designs at PHLster take first place.
I was late coming back to the appendix carry, though I did so back in the 70s and 80s with 1911’s and various revolvers. It was Jeff Bloovman of Armed Dynamics and “One Man Army” fame http://www.armeddynamics.com/about-us.html who introduced me to Jon and PHLster. The PHLster is the most easily adjustable and more to the point, comfortable, appendix carry I’ve ever run. The attention to detail in the design contribute to that, as does Jon paying attention to feedback from users and innovations in the field. I just ordered some of his accessories to upgrade the rig I have right now. http://www.officer.com/article/11363743/phlster-and-boxer-tactical
A word on comfort, concealment, and appendix carry: I’m no longer any kind of tactical pundit, but I do have opinions based on a not-insignificant amount of training and operational experience when it comes to carrying tools concealed. If your rig reduces you to tears at the end of an 8 hour day and you can’t wait to get it off, it’s not a good rig. There’s several factors to consider – on one end of a sliding scale is depth of concealment, on the other end is speed of access. A constant that runs alongside that sliding scale is comfort. My test for a rig, back in the day when I carried concealed in business clothes in over a hundred foreign countries and more than a few non-permissive-environments, was to keep the rig on for no less than 72 hours. Three days – on the can, in bed, in off-duty clothing, in on-duty clothing. If you can’t sleep comfortably or go through an entire 3-days worth of normal activities with a rig on, then you need to modify it or get a different one.
So back to the PHLster rig: what I like about it is that you can choose where on the scale of depth of concealment to speed of access you want to be. Properly set up, you can conceal a Glock 19 under a light, tight fitting T-shirt so that only a focused bump frisk will turn it up. Same thing with his concealment pouches. Jon is a fussy artiste when it comes to his work; I appreciate that borderline OCD in a craftsman/artist working on life-saving support gear. It shows in the fine nuances of design and refinement, and his continual evolution with his limited line-up of holsters.
Some other holsters:
http://keepersconcealment.com — Spencer is a rocking dude, and an excellent holster designer. I found his holster to be on the “speed of access” end of the scale for me. Extremely fast, but didn’t conceal well on me. I gave it to a DEVGRU operator who loves it.
http://www.blackcentertactical.com — DISREGARD ALL OF THIS AND SEE THE REAL REVIEW AT: http://wp.me/p2oBbt-eh
http://nsrtactical.com — Ralph Mroz turned me onto these guys. I may order one of their leather/kydex hybrid holsters down the road. In the interim I got several of their concealment pouches for magazines. While reasonably priced and quick to ship, the ready to ship versions I found had way too many sharp edges for an IWB carry and even with significant modifications on my part I couldn’t get the mags to seat deep enough for the level of concealment I wanted. Again, I understand that getting a good grip on a magazine helps to reload faster; however, as I said before, there’s a sliding scale between depth of concealment and speed of access, and I prefer to set my own place with that. Worth looking through his site, especially at the IWB rigs with two struts to firmly seat it inside the waistband while allowing significant adjustment leeway as to cant/depth.
And what does the Good Guy carry as a main tool?
He’s a Marcus Wynne fictional hero, dude – he carries a Glock, customized by Karl Sokol, one of the only remaining Old Skool Gunfighter/Gunsmiths, LOL. A Glock 19 with a grip reduction that duplicates the ergonomics of a Sokol Custom High Power, with a Grip Force Adapter melted in to make a beavertail, and the real “Sokolized” work up on the innards: extractor tuned, trigger job, replacement/fitting of all innards, solid recoil rod, Trijicon HD sights…what sets Karl’s work out from many others is his uncompromising commitment to FIGHTING guns…they are reliable, accurate, unpretentious and in the holsters of gunfighters from Tier One Special Mission Units, FBI, DEA, DOS, CIA, and every other alphabet soup out there, as well as many serious armed civilians.
And since this is a Gear Guy post, yes, he modifies his magazines with Wolff springs: http://www.gunsprings.com/index.cfm?page=items&cID=1&mID=5#148 and Pearce +2 magazine extensions http://www.pearcegrip.com/Products#GLOCK
So that’s the latest – keep an eye out for ACHY MAN!
Ps: I will be re-releasing e-book versions of WARRIOR IN THE SHADOWS and BROTHERS IN ARMS as well as THREE’S WYLDE in the next few weeks…stand by for that. Thanks!