A few months ago, Mrs. Untactical and I began this journey with the goal of becoming responsible, qualified gun owners. We think that is a good, solid, achievable goal. Perhaps, someday, we’ll be at least a little tactical, but that day is still somewhere in the future. For one reason, attaining a significant level of tactical ability – at least as I’ve derived from my Internet travels – is expensive. Let’s break down the how and why of it - at least as it pertains to gear .
What does one need in the way of gear to be tactical? I suspect that question has as many answers as their are gun owners. The wisest response I’ve found suggests that it’s not the equipment that is most important – it’s the mind.
Still, this article will focus on the equipment side of things.
Equipment needs are dictated by their specific applications. Are you considering equipment for concealed carry? Home defense? Shooting at the range or in some type of competition?
1. The Gun (or guns): I read an article recently that stated guns were like Lay’s potato chips: you couldn’t have just one. Frankly, I thought it was hogwash because I am very happy with our Ruger 9E. Lately, however, I’ve been eyeing the Canik TP9SA as well as the other TP9 variants.
The Canik TP9SA is a sweet looking pistol and, by all accounts (including this review by the ridiculously popular Hickok45) is a very good shooting gun as well. The Canik tagline on their website reads: Superior Handguns. After some research, I believe it. And the TP9SA can be had for sub-$350.
Still, whether we have one gun or five, weapons alone won’t make us tactical.
2. The Holster(s): I have a state pistol permit, which, where we live, means I can legally carry concealed (aka CCW). Despite our relative newness to the community, I have purchased three – three! – holsters already. Although this is not a product review article, I will definitely give a thumbs up to the Stealth Operator compact holster by Phalanx Defense Systems out of Gainesville, FL (Go Gators!).
Of the three holsters we have, the Stealth Operator compact is the best everyday carry (EDC) option. Per the company’s website, it will fit over 150 guns.
I don’t know exactly what Frame-Lock technology is or how it works, but this holster works a treat for the Ruger 9E whether I’m sitting, standing, walking, or on a 6-hour road trip. Where other holsters have gouged my side while driving, I actually do “forget” that I’m carrying in the car. Naturally, I don’t really forget, but once in and settled, I have no discomfort whatsoever.
The Stealth Operator compact holster will run you in the neighborhood of $34.99 at Academy Sports and Outdoors. In the realm of good, usable holsters, that is pretty inexpensive. And when I say usable, I mean one in which it is practical to carry – and employ – your self-defense firearm.
If you can’t practically use your firearm if and when needed, you need a new holster. For example, the first holster I purchased without any research whatsoever was a Tagua SOFT-350 made for the Ruger SR9 series of pistols (of which the 9E is a member). The Tagua is a pliable IWB (Inside-the-Waistband) holster. Once I figured out how to mount it, I quickly discovered it would not work for me.
Even if I had bought new pants to accommodate the additional width of both the Ruger 9E and the holster inside my waistband, as soon as I drew the gun, it (the holster) collapsed. Now, it achieved one goal: it let me draw my weapon. But, I thought to myself, who wants to stand around holding their pistol after a gunfight? If you can’t re-holster your firearm with relative ease, I call that an equipment failure.
I’ve since learned that, in the event you are required to defend yourself with your pistol, you DO NOT want to be standing around holding the gun in your hand when the police arrive!
So today, our nice, soft, $40 Tagua holster is our nightstand and gun bag holster, used merely to give us something in which to carry the gun around when it’s not in the actual carry holster.
3. The Belt(s): Like guns, holsters are a very personal decision based on application, taste and a lot of other factors. But to what do you connect the holster? Your belt, of course (unless you’re going all James Bond with that shoulder rig thing).
When I started looking at holsters, I quickly discovered that most people follow any commentary on holsters with, “If you’re getting a holster to carry your gun, then you need a flippin’ gun belt designed to handle that.”
I thought to myself, ‘Makes sense.’
Until I started pricing them.
I had already deferred on Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) carry (see above) because it would basically mean the replacement of all my pants. All of them.
Several videos I watched described one of the key features of a good gun belt as something one could not fold in half. In other words, the belt needs to be stiff enough not to collapse under the weight of the gun, or under the repeated pull and pressure of drawing and holstering.
On a lark, I thought I’d apply that test to my very own $10 Walmart dress belt, which many reviewers had used as the perfect “Don’t buy that belt” example. Guess what? I could not fold it over. Sure, I didn’t stand on it or go all Hulk in my efforts, but it seemed plenty stiff to me. One downside is that my Walmart belt is only an inch and a quarter wide. Most OWB holsters are fitted for a belt that is at least an inch and a half in width, if not more.
All that said, I’ve carried comfortably with my cheap Walmart belt. I’ve practiced my draw and holster technique with my cheap Walmart belt (using an unloaded pistol! Remember, safety first). And it works. On the negative side, there is a little too much play because of the narrower belt width, but not enough to render it a completely unusable solution. Did I mention it cost $10?
In summary (assuming you’re all still with me!), it is possible to enter the handgun community and not have to mortgage the farm to do so. Not counting range ammunition and extraneous holsters, our current rig consists of:
- Ruger 9E: $315.00 (includes "out the door" cost of pistol, shipping and FFL fees)
- Additional Ruger 9E magazine (from Gun Mag Warehouse): $30.00
- Stealth Operator Compact holster: $35.00
- “Gun” belt (Walmart dress belt): $10.00
- Ear plugs, ear defenders, gun cleaning kit, safety glasses and other misc. gear: $60.00
NOTE: You can absolutely spend a ton more money on all the doodads, depending on how flashy you want to be. Just sayin‘.
Total outlay to date: $450.00
That amount is more than $50 less than the price we were quoted for a Glock 19 (Gen 5); which was the cost of just the pistol alone.
Hopefully, this article has helped at least one person understand a little bit more about the gear and costs involved with what many would consider entry-level equipment. Had Mrs. Untactical and I wanted to get in the game with a Glock, Heckler and Koch (HK), Sig Sauer, etc. the numbers would be much higher.
Maybe someday we will have an opportunity to purchase one of those fine pistols. For now, we’ll continue to discover, test, and offer our experiences with safe, reliable, but more economical equipment.
Stay safe, thanks for reading, and God bless.