Concealed Carry: Advice from a Cop

Large-frame handgun? Small? What caliber? Glock? S&W? It’s all about balancing ‘Comfort vs Lethality,’ says longtime Policeman.

Story and Photos by Nick Perna

One of the best parts about being a cop is HR 218. This law allows officers to carry a firearm in practically every locale in the United States. “Carrying on your badge,” as it’s referred to, is one of the few perks law enforcement still enjoys. In 2020, the job lost a lot of its appeal, but I still appreciate the fact that I can carry concealed to protect others and myself. In a perfect world, these rights would be afforded to every law-abiding citizen. Maybe someday.
I remember as a new copper, excitingly carrying my department- issued Glock 22 in a Desantis black leather holster while off duty. Of course, I was packing an extra mag or two, a pair of cuffs, pepper spray and an incredibly shiny new badge. I had to buy an extra-large shirt to cover all of that gear but, by god, I was armed and prepared for the worst!

The author’s rookie-cop everyday-carry kit. “I had to buy an extra-large shirt to cover all of that gear but, by god, I was armed and prepared for the worst!” he writes.
THAT WAS 20 years ago. A lot has changed since then. For starters, I dumped the Glock 22. I’m not a huge fan of .40 caliber. The recoil is sharper than what I would like it to be and there are better options out there. Now I carry a .45 (Glock 21), the official caliber of old cops. I’d consider switching to a 9mm but I don’t feel like shelling out the dough for a new gun, magazines, duty holster, tactical holster, mag pouches and so on. With the gun and all of the necessary accessories, you’re looking at a few thousand dollars to make the switch, so I’ll stick with the trusty .45.
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Large-frame guns are the way to go while working the streets, but these days I don’t generally walk around with a large-frame handgun while off duty. It’s not practical and, obviously, difficult to conceal.
I am very picky, though, about what I choose to carry for protection. To me it comes down to comfort versus lethality. I want something that conceals well but will still do what it’s designed for if I need to use it. Something that won’t jab me in the ribs every time I sit down. Before I get into my choices for concealed carry, I want to point out some common errors I see.

Perna’s preferred concealed carry trifecta includes the Glock 21, Glock 30 and Glock 43.
  • • Fashionistas: For some, a concealed carry gun is more of a fashion statement than a practical means of defense. “Accessorizing” a weapon to match your outfit is not a good idea. I remember having an instructor in the police academy who wore expensive suits, a Rolex watch and a matching H&K P7. Although a fine gun in its right, the detective wore it because, in his mind, it looked cool. A handgun carried for self-defense should be chosen for tactical reasons. So leave the pearl-handled revolver with satin finish in the safe, even if it matches your shoes.
  • • Gun of the month club: The only thing better than owning one gun is two guns (or three, seven, 15). We all like buying and owning guns, there’s no denying it. But just because you own it does not mean you should carry it. You need to carry the most reliable, deadliest weapon you own. You also need to be hyper-proficient with it. The time that you need to use it will most likely be a very high-stress scenario, so the only thing you should be thinking about is getting off accurate shots to eliminate the threat. You need to choose a weapon system and stick with it. It might be fun to strap on your M1911A1 compact one week, then switch to a Sig P365 for awhile and maybe a Beretta Bearcat after that, but by doing so you are setting yourself up for failure. In times of extreme stress, 10 fingers can quickly turn into 10 thumbs, so you want to stake your life on something you are intimately familiar with. Take all the other guns to the range instead.
  • • Getting too comfortable: If comfort is the biggest concern in terms of what gun to carry, you are making a mistake. A .25-caliber semiauto or a five-shot titanium-frame air-light revolver is like “wearing nothing at all,” but if you have the option to carry a more lethal firearm, you should do it.
The author’s Glock 30 with magazine extension for Glock 21 standard capacity magazine and Kydex holster from Cleveland Kydex.
I RECOMMEND CHOOSING a handgun make and model that comes in small, medium and large frames. Just about every successful handgun on the market today comes in these varieties – the Smith & Wesson M&P series, Springfield XD and so on. Basically, the same gun, just in different sizes.
My preferred carry weapon series is the Glock. I’m not advocating for it over the aforementioned brands or others. On the contrary. I carry Glock weapons because that’s what I was issued many moons ago, so I’m familiar with them.
And that’s the point, really: carrying a weapon system you are comfortable with. In times of stress, like when someone is trying to kill you, you want a gun that you are intimately familiar with. At that moment you don’t want to have a weapon that handles differently and has a different set of controls than what you are used to. For example, if you routinely carry a gun that lacks a manual safety, then you probably don’t want to all of a sudden opt to carry a gun that has one. You need to train extensively with that gun if you plan to have it with you as a way of defending those close to you.

With his Glock 43, Perna has leather and Kydex IWB carry options. The leather holster is the LS2 by Outbags USA and the Kydex holster is from Concealed Carry Solutions.
Since I carry a Glock 21 at work, my preferred backup/off-duty carry gun is the Glock 30, the small-frame .45. This is the best-case scenario since my Glock 30 readily accepts Glock 21 magazines. The downside to the Glock 30 is that for a “small-frame” gun, it’s a little on the large side. This means it’s not as concealable as I would like it to be. I generally carry on the belt, in a Kydex holster. Tactically, this makes sense, but it makes it even more difficult to conceal since the holster and weapon tend to protrude out a bit. So when I need something a little smaller to conceal, I opt for the Glock 43, the small-frame 9mm. It’s my preferred IWB, or inside the waistband, gun. It’s not too small for my hands and with 9mm, it packs the necessary punch. With six-plus-one ammo capacity, it meets the basic load requirement; extended magazines are available that do not make a big difference in terms of concealability.

Perna’s one non-Glock carry option, the Ruger LCP, is used when he wears T-shirts and shorts and needs a smaller handgun for concealment purposes.

THE ONLY TIME I deviate from carrying a Glock is when I need an extremely small gun. This would be driven by wardrobe, if I’m wearing a T-shirt and shorts, for example. In law enforcement I’ve also carried smaller guns when working undercover. In those instances, I opt for the Ruger LCP. This .380 is small and is easy to hide IWB, or in a pocket or ankle holster.
This is a bit of a compromise, though (remember comfort vs. lethality?). Although a good round, the .380 isn’t in the same category as a 9mm or .45 in terms of stopability. It has no real sights to speak of, so this is pretty much a point-and-shoot gun. With all that being said, it’s better than no gun at all. In many respects, the fire controls and levers are pretty much the same as a Glock (no safety/decock; just a trigger safety).
The key is to practice routinely with all of the guns you carry and in all of the configurations you carry them in. Whether it’s outside the waistband (OWB), IWB, ankle or pocket holster, make sure you practice often with it. Don’t be a “range robot” going to your favorite shooting venue with your carry guns, firing them from a bench while never practicing drawing from the holster. If your local range does not allow drawing from the holster while firing, make sure you do lots of dry fire practice at home breaking leather (or Kydex). Wear what you would normally be dressed in when practicing getting your weapon out. Your life and the lives of others may depend on it.

Editor’s note: Author Nick Perna is a sergeant with the Redwood City Police Department in northern California. He previously served as a paratrooper in the US Army and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also has a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco. He is a frequent contributor to multiple print and online forums on topics related to law enforcement, firearms, tactics and veterans issues.

Urban EDC

Transforming your Purse or Man Bag into a Life-Saving Kit


More often than not I encounter women who have their concealed-carry permit yet leave their gun at home. During the first six months after receiving my permit I did too. Just like so many, I was almost more fearful of being under prepared to bring the gun than I was about my own safety. I had the gun, holster, belt and more than a few hours spent down range, but had no idea how to transition from the range to carrying every day. What was missing? The tools and the knowledge to address the moments before, during and after the critical seconds when shots are fired. I had never heard of an EDC (every-day carry) kit until the desire to be fully prepared brought me back to the store to accessorize appropriately.

PHOTO 3 TLW_PocketbookReload-minFor many women, having an understanding of what key tools and skills are essential to avoid, survive and thrive past a deadly-force encounter makes the difference in living the concealed-carry lifestyle.

Selecting the essential items for your EDC kit is about choosing purpose-specific, quality, functional items that give you as much advantage in a fight as possible. Tools that help you avoid or evade an attack are a good place to start.

Without proper vision you are compromising your situational awareness and therefore giving your potential attacker a significant advantage. Simply put, what you can’t see can hurt you. This goes for dark places as well as extremely bright ones. A carefully chosen handheld light source and polarized glasses allow you the most visibility and the greatest opportunity to avoid a potential attack.

Selecting a light from the hundreds on the market can be a bit overwhelming. Choose a quality metal light that fits comfortably in your hand and in a coat pocket. How bright does it need to be? The highest lumen output you can afford is the best option to go with. The goal is to simulate high-noon daylight in the darkest of places so you can avoid a problem as far away from it as possible. A handheld light with an aggressive crenulated bezel can also serve as a less-lethal striking tool if things get up close and personal.

PHOTO 2 TLW_EDCHandbag-minSunglasses are an every day item we take for granted. You probably already carry a pair with you, or at least have a pair in your car. Sunglasses maintain your ability to comfortably see your surroundings and prevent limited vision caused by squinting. I wear Rudy Project Rydon glasses. They are stylish, kid-proof, have flexible lenses, are polarized and very comfortable.


Hopefully, you will never have to use your concealed-carry pistol to defend your life. You realize that bad things can happen, and you have chosen to be prepared if they do. Carrying concealed means you have taken responsibility for your own safety regardless of the crime statistics in your hometown. Why then would you carry an extra magazine if the odds are you wouldn’t even have use your gun? For the very same reason you carry in the first place: you’d rather have your gun and not need it than need it and not have it.

I would rather have a spare magazine, especially when carrying a subcompact with limited ammo capacity, than need those additional life-saving rounds and not have them. Whether to stop multiple attackers, if you’re a poor shot under stress or possibly suffer a nasty malfunction, that extra magazine could mean the difference between having a functional gun or a fist full of useless metal in the fight of your life.

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A few simple tools at your fingertips allow you the empowering ability to solve your own problems without having to ask for help from a stranger. A knife that is legal in your state and a multitool are essential EDC items. The knife has a utilitarian function, as well as a last-resort fighting option if you have some training to accompany it.

The multitool is arguably the most overlooked piece of EDC kit you can carry. You can “MacGyver” minor mechanical issues on your own, fix kids toys no matter where you are, and be every Boy Scout’s hero. The best part is they come in all sizes, from as small as a tube of chapstick to the size of your palm, so finding one that fits your needs is a Google search away. The MultiTasker multitool is a gun-specific design, yet versatile enough for every-day use. Carrying this mini toolbox helps eliminate the opportunity for someone to see you as easy prey for a minor fix.

The big “no-kidding” item in your kit is your cell phone. Beware the trap of “phone focus” in public spaces that eliminates your situational awareness and gives an attacker the ultimate advantage of surprise. The phone is your means of letting family know where you are with a quick text and is your lifeline to law enforcement and emergency medical care. Strategically, it needs to be located somewhere in your purse or on your person that you can access quickly, and preferably with your non-firing hand.

Knowing that your phone will likely be taken into evidence when the police arrive, have your attorney’s business card in your wallet. This card can be handed over to the authorities without jeopardizing the investigation if you haven’t committed your lawyer’s number to memory.

What happens after shots have been fired and you are no longer in danger? Your immediate action is to conduct a self check and make sure you aren’t critically hurt. A wound to an artery can be fatal if not treated appropriately and quickly. Having the tools and skills to render aid for different types of injuries is absolutely critical to carrying concealed.

The time it takes from sustaining the injury, making the 911 call and police rendering the scene safe for EMTs to come find you, can be as little as a few minutes or as long as a few hours. Having a med kit on you and the ability to keep blood in the body no longer makes you seem paranoid. Dark Angel Medical offers the Pocket D.A.R.K. Mini that has everything you need in a small compact package. Whether the injury is yours, a stranger’s or loved ones, you are the first one on scene and it is up to you to take action, stay in the fight and stay alive until the professionals arrive.

Just like your phone, the med kit should be staged in your bag or on your person in a place you can get to quickly and easily. Invest in the training to know how to use the life-saving materials in your med kit. The good news is you don’t have to be a Harvard med grad to learn how to apply a tourniquet or a rocket scientist to know how to identify a wound.


PHOTO 1 TLW_FullKitPackOut-min

Blending the gun and all of its supporting gear into a daily routine discretely, seamlessly and effortlessly is empowering. Unlike our male counterparts, most women don’t wear baggy cargo pants with ample pocket space to hide a pile of gear. We do carry purses, pocketbooks, backpacks and clutches almost every day, however. Just like your gun, you need to access these tools quickly. Combining the Raven Concealment Moduloader Pocket Shield with a Blueforce Gear double pistol mag pouch, for example, makes an efficient and modular carrier.

TLW_FillingBag-minFill the pockets or clip-on items so that they are in the same place every time. Position the kit in an outer pocket that you can get to quickly without having to unbuckle or unzip if possible. Not only does this setup keep your tools at your fingertips, it is easy to move from one bag to the next. Changing out your day bag for an evening bag no longer means having to leave key EDC items at home.

Strategically invest in quality equipment and functional tools. Ultimately, the concealed-carry lifestyle goes beyond the retail investment and requires an ongoing commitment to learn and train. Sure, there are other items that can be incorporated into this kit such as pepper spray and tasers, and there are both on- and off-body carry options in addition to your pocketbook setup. It’s all in the training.

In the moments before, during and after the gun is drawn there are only a few pieces of kit you will be reaching for or wishing you had. AmSJ

Do you Carry a Folding Knife?

Most of us carry folding knives for every day carry (EDC), a question was asked. How good are they for defensive use?

Michael Janich of Martial Blade Concepts goes over the basics of personal defense with a blade. The idea is to give you an understanding of what a 3 inch blade capabilities. How deep will it cut or penetrate? Just viewing this objectively as a tool itself is an eye opener.

Pork Man
In order to visually understand the blade capability without having to cut your own training partner.
A piece of 5 pound pork tender loin is wrapped around a pvc pipe simulating the bone. Strings are twined around the meat to represent the connected tissues. Thirty layers of saran wrap surrounds the meat with a layer of a pair of pants to match real world application of clothing. This training device is called the “pork man“.

The “pork man” allows it to quantify how the blade cuts. This replicates a piece of an actual limb like the arm or leg.

With this in place Michael proceeds to administer a deep downward cut, nothing fancy. The result shows a deep cut to the pvc pipe (bone).

The ideal target would be the arm, if you can cut this then its harder for the assailant to attack you with a weapon, since you’re disabling their ability to hold onto an object.

Michael goes on to demonstrate the application and concepts from “pork man” to a training partner with actual defensive techniques with training blades. See the rest on video below.

Sources: Sig Sauer, Michael Janich, Martial Blade Concepts, OffGrid, Patrick Wong CalmBatives

45 Cal as EDC and Personal Defense Weapon

There are many pros and cons on carrying a 45 cal handgun for your everyday carry as a personal defense weapon. Experts and common Joe’s like us choose brands and models based on afford ability, gender, hand size and functionality. (stopping power) Most of us will agree the 45 has good stopping power and yet there are some school of thoughts a 10mm will have the same effect. Then there are debates on the stopping power versus accuracy, the later being more important to focus on. And yes, last the bullet itself, the reloaders will talk about the best amount of grains for personal defense. Regardless of the arguments here’s an excerpt of this conversation on Reddit and Smith and Wesson Forum.

Rpg: In my view, the 45acp in a 1911 is the ultimate edc and home defense handgun. Nothing works as well for the purpose as a 45 acp. The Commander (aluminum frame, 4 1/2″ barrel) is very comfortable for edc.

cmort666: I went from a 5″ Norinco M1911 in .45acp (when I had to sell it to pay the rent) to a Glock 19, to a 3 1/2″ Citadel 3.5CS M1911 in .45acp. There are self-defense handguns almost as good as an M1911 in .45acp. There’s nothing BETTER.

Muss Muggins: Advances in ammunition have been the great equalizer in recent years. Nowadays, pretty much any caliber will suffice. Choose a pistol you shoot well and run with it . . .

quinn: Short, fat & slow does the job. I have one WWI model 1911 in that caliber and about 7 revolvers. However, I will admit that for home security they are not quite up to a nice 10 gauge.

JD Boardman: In reference to the claims of ammunition superiority nowadays, the 9mm MAY expand, but the .45 will NEVER shrink. John Moses Browning got it just about perfect with the 1911, only the sights needed improvement to bring it into its second century.

dben002: I have retired and active duty LEO friends who say they favor the 45. I have other friends who say the 45 is “overkill” and not needed…

For me personally, I want the knock down power as you may not always have the time, advantage, and nerves to make that exact placement shot you need to make…..

Anyway…just wanted to hear other thoughts about the 45 versus all the other edc/personal defense calibers….thanks to all who comment.

Arik: No such thing as knock down power. Plenty of people have been ventilated by a 45 and lived to tell. In some cases even overpowered and killed the other guy. One good example is of a MN cop who was shot 7 times with a 45, including two times in the face only to get up and kill his attacker with a 9mm.

Iggy: Makes a decent hole without nasty recoil and muzzle blast in close quarters situations.

armorer951: Caution….opinion: The .45 makes a large hole, and has the power to reach vital organs. Those facts, coupled with the advancements in the Federal 230 grain HST ammo make it a good, or arguably, the best choise for personal defense.

kthom: You MUST be able to hit consistently well with whatever you carry! With the improvements made in the ammo available today, there is not much difference between calibers suitable for the purpose. But there is always a difference between a good solid hit and a very loud noise!!! That also applies to the second and third round fired immediately after the first one! Whatever you choose, the gun must fit YOUR hand well, not somebody else’s, and you MUST be able to handle and fire it well consistently. Otherwise, you just make a lot of racket! Or hit something or someone that you did not intend to hit …

federali: The .45 ACP: hard to say anything bad about it. Place a contemporary hollow point in the 10-ring and you generally win. Recoil is manageable. Many prefer a slimmer cartridge that offers greater ammunition capacity in a given handgun when compared to the .45 ACP.

Here are some folks on Reddit on their thoughts:

darthrio: I have the XDS .45 and the recoil feels like a 9mm it’s amazing.

coffeenima: XDS .45 If you like it, get it. great platform, Good shooter, ultra reliable, is a Goddamn pocket cannon.

metengineer: I had the XDS in .45acp for a bit. I had a problem with light primer strikes. That turned out to be oil in the striker channel. I cleaned it out and had no further issues. It handled the .45acp round well for such a small gun. However, if I were buying one again, I would get the 4″ 9mm.

exile0514: If it was the XDs 9, then I’d give you a thumbs up. If you really truly shoot better with 45, then go with the 45 but don’t lie to yourself to go with the bigger caliber. 9mm has faster follow up shots and more capacity with similar wound ballistics to 45.

nicadimos: Refer to my post above. 45 doesn’t really give you much of an advantage as far as “stopping power” is concerned.

exile0514: The relative stopping power between 9, 45, 40, and the commercially under-powered 10mm (not full pressure) is nearly identical. Use whatever you shoot better with.

BeforetheRobots: When it comes to handguns, stopping power is a myth. Shot placement is everything.

chaumiester: This is really down to the user and preference. I carry a Government sized 1911, chambered in .45 with 10 round mags, I like it, it’s comfortable, I’m used to the weight, I like the grip, and I’m accurate with it.

So what about you, do you carry a 45 for EDC and your thoughts?