Why Always?

During the Thanksgiving holiday, most of my family will be visiting me in my home. This will be the first time I’ll be around my parents and siblings since I received my concealed handgun license. While they all know I have a CHL, this will be their first experience with it, and my family members are at various places along the spectrum with regards to guns. While I might normally open carry within my home on a normal day, during their entire visit I will carry concealed. Nevertheless, I know one thing likely to cause them to notice:

Hugging, or otherwise touching, me (e.g. taking my arm as we walk).

With a gun on the right and a magazine-flashlight pouch on the left, given how tall I am and how short everyone else is, it’s inevitable someone is going to bump into things. It will be felt, it will be noticed, “What’s that?”, and discussion will ensue. Some family members will have brief discussions, others will likely dwell on it the entire visit and much explanation and justification will have to occur (you open carry advocates that don’t understand why I don’t want to deal with the hassle? you haven’t met my Mom). 😉

That’s what inspired me to write today.

Why always?

I remember when I received my first Leatherman, a Micra. Those of you with small kids may have noticed when you go out to eat, the kid gets a small drink but the straws are all sized for larger drink cups. So now you have small child, with small arms, and a very tall straw that they struggle to get to their lips. Gosh if we just had a pair of scissors! One Father’s Day the Micra was a gift from Wife so I could trim the straws. 🙂  From then on I always carried it on me.

There was also a time, and I don’t recall if this was before or after the Micra but probably before, on Christmas Day. Much opening of presents, which means much battling with packaging. Child comes wanting me to help open something, but there were lots of zip ties. I needed a knife but didn’t have one. My brother-in-law reached into his pocket, pulled out a pocket knife, called Child over and opened things. I felt a little deficient as a father, and vowed that wouldn’t happen again. Currently this role is filled by my Leatherman Wave, which is always in its sheath on my belt.

I never carried any sort of illumination on me, not even a little cheap LED fob on my keychain. Usually I got around OK in the dark, but whenever I really needed light I would go in search of a flashlight. Of course, it was always amusing when the lights would suddenly go out in the house at night, then you make your way to where you think the flashlight should be but someone didn’t put it back in the proper place when they were done with it and now you’re cussing as you try to fumble in the dark looking for a source of light. In speaking with Karl some time ago he told me how he always carries some sort of light on him. I bought a SureFire E2L and have been carrying it ever since. Used to just keep it clipped to a pocket (usually back left), but now I have a dedicated place for it on my belt. You don’t think about how useful a flashlight can be to have on you until you have one on you and can use it when you need it.

That’s the crux of this: tools are useful if you have need for them, then have them handy when you need them.

Tools are devices that facilitate performing a task. I could drive a nail into a board with my hand, but it’d be rather difficult to accomplish. I could use a shoe or a rock or something else as a make-shift tool, and that would facilitate the task more than my bare hand, but nowhere near as well as a proper tool for the job like a hammer.

I am a software developer by trade. Consequently in my daily life I don’t need a hammer. Sometimes I need a hammer, to hang a picture or to repair something, and when I do need a hammer it’s not a big inconvenience to go to the garage and get the hammer out of my toolbox. Certainly going to the garage is more convenient than going to ask a neighbor or having to visit a store to buy or rent one. To always carry a hammer on my person would be very convenient but given how infrequently I need a hammer and how it’s rarely an emergency item, it doesn’t make much sense for me to always carry a hammer. Thus storing the hammer in the garage is handy enough for me. For a professional carpenter, always having to go to the garage would be problematic, thus a carpenter is likely to wear a specialized toolbelt so the hammer can be stored there and thus always at the carpenter’s fingertips while they work their day on the jobsite.

As we can see, tools are good things because they facilitate our performing a task. But for the tool to be useful we need to be performing a relevant task, thus having need for that particular tool. Then what increases the utility of the tool is for it to be handy and present when we need it.

I don’t know when I’m going to have to cut something open, but I do it enough times that my life is made easier by always carrying/wearing my Leatherman Wave. Package comes in the mail, I can instantly cut it open without having to go seek out a knife to cut the packaging tape. A few weeks ago when I was installing shelves in my garage I was up on the ladder working and needed a screwdriver; I could have gotten down off the ladder and went to the toolbox, but instead I just reached onto my belt for my Leatherman and kept right on working. If I need to go outside at night, it’s mostly illuminated but perhaps I have to walk through an area that’s a bit dark and I want to ensure I’m not stepping on a rattlesnake (they occasionally appear in the yard); it’s nice to have that flashlight on me right then and there, not having to go back inside, fetch the light, then resume my work. I’ve been through many experiences were having the Leatherman or the flashlight or some other thing on me at the time opportunity knocked proved to be best. Sure every situation is different, everyone has different needs and tolerance levels. This is what works for me.

Consider things that aren’t necessarily tools but that you might carry with you every day. You carry your wallet, which holds credit cards, drivers license, money. You may not always need those things, but you’re happy to have them there when you do. Doesn’t it suck when you go to pay for something then realize you left your wallet in the car or at home? Maybe you carry a comb or a brush. You want to ensure you look your best, but it’s a bummer when the wind blows your hair and now all you can use is use your fingers in hopes of fixing your do. Maybe you carry breath mints, because making that first impression on the cutie that just appeared across the way goes over better if your breath doesn’t smell like the garlic and onion bagel you just ate. We carry certain things on us because we expect we may need them at some time; we may not know exactly when, but we expect we will and  life is facilitated when we have them on hand at the time of need.

So why do I (almost) always carry a gun?

Because it can be a useful tool. No, I’m not talking useful in a Homer Simpson way. This is one of those situations where there isn’t a daily need. In fact, it’s one of those instances where I actually hope I never have a need for it. But it’s also one of those instances where if I ever do have a need for it, I’m going to need it right now and be rather thankful I have it so handy. As the saying goes, you don’t want it until you need it, but when you need it you need it really really bad. Look at Caleb’s recent experience. He didn’t know he needed it until he needed it, and when he needed it he was thankful it was handy.

I don’t know when I will need to physically defend myself, but I expect some day I might. I may train in empty-hand martial arts, I may train with stick and knives, but I know a gun is a superior tool for the task. I carry these useful tools with me because if I expect I may someday need them, I do know if I ever need it it will only be useful to me if it’s handy when I need it. Being at my side keeps it handy. I cannot predict when that need may come, thus I have to fall back on the old Boy Scout training to Be Prepared.

Breda is often quoted because she’s right: carry your gun — it’s a lighter burden than regret.


12 thoughts on “Why Always?

  1. Hsoi,

    I am dealing with the hugging issue also but a friend taught me a trick.

    Use the low hug position for your arms. Instead of hugging someone’s shoulders, make sure you reach under their arms.

    This puts their arms above your waist and away from your firearm.

    It takes some practice to get used to the idea and execute it well, especially with shorter people hugging it, but it keeps most people from noticing.

    Great post on preparedness and every day carry.

    • I ended up leaving that out because it didn’t flow well with the text, but I do know how to hug. Plus, you have to keep your hands/arms/elbows pinned in. That is, when going in for the hug, likely the receiver will have a hand up and hand down, but if you’re entering in some other position there’s going to be some juggling and awkwardness as they reposition… but that’s what it has to be: you have to force THEM to reposition their arms to suit your positioning, else what’s the point for you? It’s made for some briefly awkward hug moments as the person figures out they need to reposition, but it works out.

      Just that in this case, this is family, and so physical contact rules are different. There’s a good chance for someone to brush up against… e.g. I’m walking, Mom comes and takes my arm at the elbow. You can only do so much. 🙂

  2. Real men don’t hug.

    You can make exceptions for your kids, wife, and mother, but anyone else gets a handshake or a punch in the arm.


    You could always carry the snubby.

  3. I should also add that my plan is to just go about life. I don’t really plan on bringing it up (well, Dad and I have at least one discussion point), and if the whole weekend goes by and nothing comes of it, great. Basically, I’m not going to make a big deal out of it, or a little deal or any deal at all. But given my Mom, I’ve been preparing and planning, just in case.

  4. It’s easy for me, to do the low hug thing, I’m more “people” height, unlike you Hsoi, you’re so freakin’ tall that’s probably tough to pull off.

    For me, this is a non-issue. I started carrying, after my dad had been carrying for years (he got his CHL the first year they started issuing them). At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we usually go with smaller guns around the house, but it’s still an open carry environment, until bed time. At the GF’s parents, things aren’t as easy, but we don’t have a difficult dialogue about it. First, her father is a long time hunter and gun owner, her mom, a strong conservative who believe in individual gun ownership. Her mom did ask me once why I thought it was prudent to carry a gun, my response was, “I like to be prepared, to defend my life and lives of those I love, like your daughter.” That was the end of that…

    I guess I’m not being a big help here. I guess the thing to think about is, it will come out sooner or later, whether someone hugs you and feels it, or sees it by open carry. If you can justify your “reasons” to carry to yourself, just articulate them. You have a family and duty to protect, you know that despite years of martial arts training, a better tool is available. You, adapted, to the environment and have chosen the absolute best tools to protect those lives.


    • Yup. I’m all over this. I guess the hard part to convey here is… my Mom. She’s not against things, but she grew up very differently… different country, during the Korean War. Her attitude towards things is complex and different.

      So, a lot of this well… y’all just have to trust me. I’m with you all the way, I just gotta prepare for Mom to help her understand. 🙂

  5. I’ve been made a couple of times by family when hugging and I usually play it off.

    I’ve joked that I’m so old they don’t make replacement parts for my model so I had to go with something that sticks out.

    Another time I simply said that it was a pill dispenser – not mentioning that it was for dispensing 230 grain pills at 850 feet per second.

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