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Testing Your Battle Belt or EDC Gear

MICHAEL JORDAN DIDN’T ARGUE WITH PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET.

And when it comes to gear that could save your life, neither should you.

By E.A. Crow

Sure, professionals are great, but when I want real advice, I turn to the comments section on social media posts.

Social media gets a bad rap. It is actually very entertaining. There are some genuinely funny people on it, usually in the comments sections. Especially the comments section of a 2A gear post. The comedians come out of the woodwork – arguing about every nuance of every piece of gear, and why your EDC setup must be like this or that until their keyboards break. Hilarious.

Hopefully by this point you’ve picked up that I am not being serious. But let’s talk about something that is: carrying a weapon whose purpose it is to take life.

When I strap on a pistol with live ammunition and head out into the world, despite what some prominent politicians might think, I’m not hunting wabbits, Doc. If it comes to it, those bullets are meant to cave bad guy skulls. Don’t lose sight of the fact that if you’re forced to draw, someone might die. Your life might depend on your actions. Your life might depend on your equipment.

Your.

Life.

This begs the question, why wouldn’t you put that same equipment through the wringer before you bet the farm on it? Let me say that again for the people in the back: Why would you not test your own equipment that could save your life or someone’s you love?

So while I look to social media for belly laughs, what I don’t look there for is indisputable rules on my kit setup. I acknowledge there are some good ideas and knowledgeable folks out on the interwebs. But I am judge and jury when it comes to my gear because, ultimately, it’s me who will be the executioner.

Your Gear is Unique to You

This article isn’t meant to disregard true experts and real training. Quite the opposite. For those that lack experience like me, training/coaching/mentoring is the best way to bridge that gap. But again, it’s not my instructors who will be paying the price if me or my equipment fails. Also, from a less dramatic angle, I am not a clone of my instructor. Even if their doctrine and gear setup is perfect, we are different people. Their motor skills are different, so they move different. Their bodies are different, so their gear fits different. What is smooth and seamless for them might be slow and clunky for me just because of basic physics. That is why I always listen to new ideas, but I verify it will work for me through stress testing. Here are some basic thoughts I’ve come up with on how to put your gear to the test:

(Two disclaimers before we begin: I am writing this from the perspective of a private citizen with a CCW. I don’t have an abundance of time to train and it is not my job to carry a gun. Adapt any ideas to fit your needs. If you’re a LEO/MIL, you’ll certainly need to escalate and expand accordingly. Second, this is about stress testing my EDC gear—how I get my weapon and associated gear into and through a fight, NOT how accurately I shoot. So please don’t conflate these ideas with somehow improving marksmanship.)

Incorporate your gear, clothing and “everyday life” into your dryfire

This concept is probably very obvious, but my local flat range doesn’t even allow draws from a holster, so I’m still going to mention it. Dryfire has been a key component in my improvement as a shooter, and this is simply taking it one step further – you’re dressing up in everything you would be for a normal day out (work, play, whatever that means to you.) See which shirts catch on your sights. Do you wear an overcoat in the winter? Throw it on for some reps. I also like to add in “everyday life” factors, the things that will likely complicate a draw or stress your gear in unexpected ways. As a new father, my go-to is the (empty) baby carrier. Maneuvering that thing is difficult as it is, without trying to draw. But if the situation ever called for it, I might not have a choice, so I train with it. Will the carrier snag on my battle belt? Can I still access a torniquet with one hand? A few rounds of dryfire can quickly expose these shortcomings in my setup.

Sprint (in multiple planes) with your gear

Another obvious one, but something that I rarely see folks do because, well, it sucks. But as Jung states, your task lies where your fear is. So strap on your kit and sprint (no, jogging won’t do it) full speed, in multiple planes. In other words, move as fast as you can in multiple directions. To be clear, this isn’t putting on running shorts and lacing up cleats at your local track. Think uneven surfaces. Different directions. With all the gear, clothing, and “everyday life” factors you practiced in dryfire.

The sprint could be a crawl, low crawl, climb, roll, drop to prone, and whatever else your imagination can come up with. If you also want to add realism, do your efforts in 3-5 second bursts (theoretical amount of time an enemy needs to track and fire upon you; “3-5 second rushes” for my .mil folks out there). 

Sprinting accomplishes two things. First, it is an excellent way to see how your gear performs when you are near your physical limits. How does that holster feel going up steep stairs? What gear shakes lose and falls off? What gear jingles with every step like Santa’s sleigh? That combat roll was fine on a dirt, but sure felt a lot different on concrete. Note and fix. Tape or adjust hot spots.

Second, sprinting is fight-like conditioning. After a fight, I never remember feeling like I should’ve done less conditioning. Sprinting is a mirror and will mercilessly expose any “excess gear” you might be carrying—whether that’s on your battle belt or your body.

The good ol’ course

This idea takes sprinting with gear into 3-D with obstacles. Start slow and learn how to move on the new terrain. If you don’t have access to a big boy obstacle course, you can make your own with a ladder, some rope, and a large tree or boulder. Do what you can with what you have. Don’t forget to add in those “everyday life” factors; sure you can scale a ladder Hollywood-style, but are you going to leave that baby carrier behind?

Fighting is fun for the whole family

Sparring opponents is a great way to stress your gear. Here the most intense option is to join a martial arts gym with some like-minded folks. Grab some willing participants after class, throw on an impact suit, and let them go nuts on you while you try to draw a training weapon. 

There is no substitute for intense violence, and at some point, I’d say it is a necessity for someone carrying a gun to push the envelope in training. That said, as an aging dude with increasing miles on my chassis, full-contact sparring is not a good long-term plan. Or even a good short term one – you don’t want your simulated fights to make you less lethal once you limp out of the gym.

The good news is, I’ve found you don’t always need a great deal of intensity here to expose gaps in your gear. Some light resistance can throw a wrench in things, especially as you build speed. Remember, I’m not trying to learn the best way to slip a punch or defend an armbar; my main goal is to see if my gear lets me maneuver to a position to get my pistol out and into the fight. Light resistance also means you don’t need a skilled sparring partner. I’ve found some of my most productive sessions have been when I threw my wife a pair of boxing gloves and told her to “just try to hit me” while I maneuvered for a draw. Despite no prior training, she was surprisingly good at it; almost like she’d been thinking about punching me for a long time…strange…

Lastly, if you want to up the intensity without risking injury or a potential KO from your spouse, add in some sprinting between those bouts of light resistance. Add obstacles and “everyday life” factors, you say? Now you’re starting to get the picture. All these simple pieces can be layered to create some decent training.

Bringing it all together

Remember, the classics are classics for a reason. With technology and training tools evolving, there are many impressive options to bolster your firearms training and test your kit. Virtual reality, video programs, sim munitions, airsoft, the list goes on. All of these can be valuable in their own way, but they are not panaceas. My experience with these tools has been mixed. They are exciting and can address some very specific weak points, but without close control by a skilled instructor, I noticed I was picking up some bad habits. For me, sticking with the fundamentals – physical fitness and dryfire with movement—are the most certain ways to train for uncertain situations. 

All these training ideas won’t tell you decisively what gear works in a gunfight. Nobody is shooting at you, so we’re obviously missing a key ingredient. But I’ve found they can at least let you know what gear won’t work. 

Finally, you’ll see none of the mentioned ideas involved live ammunition. The logical next step would be to apply these scenarios (except the force-on-force, of course) on a live range. It should go without saying that the consequences with live ammo will be infinitely greater than anything dry, so polish as much as you can before you start sending lead downrange. 

In case I haven’t said it enough: test everything. If it works for you, great. If not, don’t use it…and don’t waste your time arguing with strangers on the internet about it. 

You cannot train for every situation. There will be a lot more to worry about if the time comes. But if you prep it right, your gear won’t be one of those worries.

About Blue Alpha

Blue Alpha is based in Newnan, Georgia and we are committed to producing American-made products of the highest quality with the best customer service. We make our products for, and deeply appreciate, all responsible gun owners, law enforcement, military, and others who help make the world a better place. Check out our highly popular battle belt or EDC belt.