Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Ed Combs that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 11, Issue 4 May/June 2014 under the title, “The Long Trip Back.”
Whether we work in or outside of the home, whether we punch a clock or pound the pavement for accounts, whether we shower before or after work, Americans outside of a few giant cities often share one thing in common: we drive, and we drive a lot. Be it during a quick jaunt across town for groceries or an hour-long commute every morning and afternoon, we need to be ready to defend ourselves and our loved ones while in our vehicles.
It’s no secret to anyone that more and more responsible Americans are interested in gun ownership and concealed carry than ever before. I am obviously strongly in favor of this, but I’ve noticed another reassuring trend. Sure, I love to see millions of new gun owners and almost as many new concealed carriers, but something else—albeit sometimes misguided—has similarly warmed my heart.
In the wake of the natural and man-made disasters this nation has suffered over the last 20 years, some folks have concerned themselves with “Bug-Out Bags,” medium to large backpacks or duffels filled with gear that they would carry while fleeing their homes in the event of an emergency. This plan is a reasonable one if you live in a flood plain or in a neighborhood that will invariably deteriorate into Mogadishu on a Saturday night the moment the power goes out, but it’s not for everyone. In fact, I would say it’s not even for most, and as a lawman and firearms instructor, I would encourage interested parties to put their energies and resources into a “Get-Home Pack” that augments their Everyday Carry (EDC) gear before assembling anything more elaborate.
Moreover, what are you going to do, just run into the wild? Forever? What about everyone else who planned to do that? What about the supplies and goods you have stored in your home and the physical security provided by four walls, lockable doors, and a roof over your head? For a solid quarter of the year where I live in north central Wisconsin, it’s below freezing—day and night—and often as cold as 20 or 30 below zero. As a lifelong outdoorsman and survivalist, I would not wish an unprepared night out of doors in those conditions on anyone, let alone anyone who has a family with them. In short, not only is fleeing your home not always the best option in the event of an emergency, it is rarely even a viable one.
I draw upon my personal experience as well as the experience of coworkers and friends who have worked in some of the most hostile environments on this planet, often defending themselves from mammalian predators—bipedal and otherwise: the most important equipment during a dire emergency is the equipment you actually have with you. A bunker full of bullets and beans only does you so much good when the fact remains that you spend most of your waking hours in a vehicle or office with little more gear than a few drive-thru napkins.
A Get-Home Pack is just that: a small, easily-maneuvered belt pouch, shoulder bag, or backpack that contains the essentials required to get from your place of work back to your residence and family, possibly being forced to defend yourself while doing so. (Many law enforcement professionals refer to such kits as “Active Shooter” bags: small, highly mobile satchels of loaded magazines and medical gear they carry for when such horrific duty calls.) Regardless of terminology, though, let’s be honest—most of us spend four to eight hours a day sleeping, eight to 14 hours a day working, and the rest of the time somewhere away from home, be it at a child’s event or running errands. As such, we should be concentrating on our top priority: getting our families accounted for and to safety in the event of an emergency.
My Get-Home Pack is quite minimalist and consists of little more than several Israeli Battle Dressings (IBDs) and a few loaded magazines for my carry gun. The IBDs are excellent trauma bandages capable of staunching the flow of blood from serious wounds, and the charged magazines are just common sense. I keep the whole works in a very innocuous-looking blue nylon shaving kit under the front seat of my vehicle and, tucked inside, I have a nylon strap that can be attached for across-the-shoulder carry. In addition to the sidearm, extra magazine, phone, multi-tool, flashlight, OC spray, and folding knife that make up my EDC gear, I feel comfortably prepared.
Were I to expand my GHP—were I to, I don’t know, receive a really neat-o jump bag from a certain Executive Editor for my birthday—I would include the following items to augment my current rather austere selection of mags and rags:
- An actual Trauma Kit. This is not a first-aid kit available at a big box sporting goods store…this is a gunshot-specific set of lifesaving equipment developed through hard-won lessons learned in this nation’s urban emergency rooms and on overseas battlefields. These include a half dozen pairs of quality nitrile gloves, chest seals for open chest wounds, large compresses for heavy bleeding, several QuikClot pads, and a CAT, or Combat Application Tourniquet. As goes without saying, you will require training in the use of these materials if you have not already received it.
- Backup tactical and standard flashlights and batteries. As a rural Sheriff’s Deputy, there are few circumstances I fear more than being caught mid-emergency without a functioning flashlight. That said, a non-tactical flashlight is far preferable when looking for something in a vehicle, reading a map, or anything else where your night vision could be compromised as much as an attacker’s. AA and AAA batteries are a lot friendlier on the wallet than 123As, and you don’t always need a light that can be used to boil water or look through the sides of Christmas presents.
- Glow sticks, Lazerbrite, or some other manner of illuminated marking device. Self-defense shootings and other dire emergencies have a tendency to happen in the dark, and you need to be able to see and mark where everything happened. Along those lines, you’ll also want to be able to identify yourself to law enforcement in the dark, and few things communicate “I am not a threat” like waving a glow stick at a squad car.
I’m going to preemptively head off a few questions I know are running through some readers’ minds. I am not offering recommendations for what to carry when making an assault on an Al Qaeda compound in Yemen or what to pack for your next exchange of gunfire after your bush plane goes down in the Alaskan interior. I am lending my experience as a law enforcement officer to help my fellow citizens better prepare themselves when they rig up with their EDC gear.
With regard to the actual bag itself, I would be looking for something that is not only compact and easily worn either across the shoulder or even like a standard backpack, I would also want something that looked as non-“tactical” as possible. There are some great options available that look no different than a tablet case or sports racquet bag, and when it comes to security, discretion is always better than overtness. I’ve never walked through the lobby of a hotel or across a parking lot with my GHP and worried that I was broadcasting the presence of firearms, and that’s exactly the way I like it.
We feature some great gear in each issue that can help you assemble a kit to keep in a vehicle, purse, or even on your belt to prepare for a, shall we say, hurried trip home. No one’s suggesting you rig out your minivan for battle against hordes of weirdoes dressed like Vikings on motorcycles fighting over gasoline in the desert, but a good Get-Home Pack is definitely something to think about integrating into your personal security plan. (That said, if you do choose to harden your Chrysler Town & Country, please send pictures.)
Stay safe out there and if you do ever have to fight, cheat your tail off.
Discover how you can join nearly 300,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.