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You’ve made the commitment to be ready to defend yourself. Part of that preparation means carrying concealed whenever and wherever you can. But there are plenty of situations when you can’t carry everything you’d like to have with you “just in case” bad things begin to happen. Look at the duty belt of the typical uniformed police officer. It’s filled all the way around with “just-in-case” gear these days.

But as a citizen carrying concealed, you have to be more discreet. You are limited to what you can fit in your pockets, and what you fit on your belt must not print on the outside of that shirt or light jacket. No matter how much you change your wardrobe or lifestyle, there are still going to be times when you have to go bare-bones. If you’re going for a brisk walk or bike ride for some exercise in the morning, you might opt to leave your full-sized 1911 home.

When you roll up your shirt sleeves at work, without a suit jacket, it might alarm your co-workers or customers if you wear your Glock G17 on your belt. Or, the tasks on your schedule for the day might require you to bring other things along that make demands on your pocket space. So, if you’re headed into one of those days, can you go minimalist with your defensive gear and still not be too vulnerable?


Be careful not to go too minimal with your handgun. Remember, handguns aren’t always the instant fight-stoppers we’d like to believe they are; and, they’re less so when you downgrade to a less-effective, smaller model you don’t shoot well. I remember overhearing a conversation when I attended an IDPA competition one time:

“You’re shooting much better now with the full-sized gun,” one guy said. “Remember you tried shooting matches with that pocket pistol when you first started?” “Yeah; I couldn’t hit a thing with that gun,” the other guy said. “So, now, I only use that pistol when I’m carrying concealed.” Think about that.

“…handguns aren’t always the instant fight-stoppers we’d like to believe they are; and, they’re less so when you downgrade to a less-effective, smaller model you don’t shoot well.”


Sometimes, your choice of holster can make a big difference in helping you feel less burdened when carrying concealed. The Q-Series Stealth is one such lightweight, minimalist holster that still provides good comfort and security. This holster is basically a cover for your gun’s trigger guard with an inside-the-waistband clip. Many use it as an appendix holster. I’ve never found appendix carry to be comfortable, but this holster works just as well in other positions around the waistband, including the 3 o’clock position, where I usually carry. (This company also
makes magazine carriers.)

When carrying a small pistol, a pocket holster, such as this Nemesis model from DeSantis Gunhide, can keep the gun oriented properly in your pocket. Additionally, the outline of the gun won’t print on the outside of your pants.

A simple belt slide holster is very unobtrusive. A good one I’ve been using is a leather Homeland Holsters ambidextrous model from Personal Security Products. While most belt slides are strictly for outside-the-waistband carry, this one also includes a metal clip so it can be worn inside the waistband. It can also be used with a number of different handguns. For a small handgun, a simple pocket holster (I use the DeSantis Nemesis) allows for pocket carry without the gun printing on the outside of your pants, and it can help keep the handgun oriented properly.


This North American Arms Sidewinder revolver in .22 WMR is best as a backup
weapon. However, if circumstances require minimalist carry or deep
concealment, it might be an option… if you are aware of its limitations.

An extreme minimalist method to attach a handgun to your waistband is a clip, such as those made by Clip Draw or Techna Clip, that fastens to the gun’s receiver. Great care must be used to ensure nothing contacts the trigger when securing the gun inside your waistband.

Even when carrying minimalist gear, a spare magazine is a good idea. This Q-Series magazine carrier can keep that reload where you won’t have to fumble around for it when it is needed.


If I’m opting for minimalist carry or carrying in a jurisdiction where the blade length of knives is limited, a smaller knife is still able to handle most of my day’s cutting chores. If I’m trying to defend against a gun grab, a small blade can still be effective with slashing strikes. A lightweight knife I’ve been carrying a lot lately is the Spyderco Salt 2 FRN Yellow—a powerful cutter in a small package with the added benefit of extreme corrosion resistance.

There are many small, lightweight knives that can provide good cutting power. Lately, the author has been using this Spyderco Salt 2 FRN Yellow. The flashlight is a Streamlight Pro-Tac 1AAA with two-way pocket clip that can fit on the brim of a cap for hands-free use.

I even downsize my flashlight for minimalist carry. Most of the time, I choose a Streamlight Pro-Tac 1AAA, which provides enough light for most close-quarters situations. It has a two-way pocket clip, so you can attach it to the brim of your hat for hands-free operation.


When I’m opting for minimalist carry, I might leave the pepper spray behind and go with items that have dual practical/defensive purposes instead. One example is a tactical pen. Because I normally carry a pen anyway, it’s an added measure of security to choose one that’s of sturdier construction and can be effective as an impact weapon without shattering to pieces. The writing instruments made by Tuff Writer are excellent examples.

This Tuff Writer titanium pen also doubles as an impact weapon that can be carried in places where other weapons are banned. It’s a good alternative when you leave your pepper spray or other defensive devices at home.


Did you ever see one of those tiny, little survival kits with gear so flimsy and small that it is just about useless? If you opt for minimalist carry, choose quality gear you can depend on when your life is on the line. The principles of concealed carry apply, no matter the size of your carry gear. It has to be effective and readily accessible. So, even when traveling light, that means you can’t leave it home.

This dog bites! “Spike” is a plastic keychain companion from Personal Security Products. Place your fingers in the eye holes, and it becomes an impact weapon.













Steven Paul Barlow is a retired sergeant/station commander and former firearms instructor with the New York State Police. He has been writing on outdoor topics for more than 30 years and has served as the editor for a number of Engaged Media special publications, including Gunslingers.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.