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Knowledge, Skills and Gear—What is Most Important?

From a self defense, everyday carry (EDC) point of view, knowledge, skills and gear are important components to preparedness. What should be your priority, given we have limited time and money?

It may become clear how to balance the priority when we define what we mean by knowledge, skills and gear in the self defense context.

self defense handgun training shooting on the range

What is Knowledge—

Knowledge is a theoretical understanding of a subject, in this case self defense. It is what we’ve learned through education or experiences. If you've attended a basic firearms class, you gain basic knowledge of firearm safety firearm safety rules, how firearms work and state laws. Maybe you have knowledge of the physiological effects that take place during a high-stress, deadly force incident because you've been a victim.

There is no shortage of good, and bad, self-defense, firearm related content available on the internet. We have both in-person and online training courses, and discuss all kinds of topics related to best practices of carrying and using a firearm in self defense. Hopefully, you've found our content useful and have gained knowledge from it.

gun university providing knowledge for concealed carriers

Knowledge is foundational and vitally important. However, without practically applying the knowledge in your head, it is just theoretical. That brings us to the next component.

What are Skills—

Smart people have categories called ‘soft' and ‘hard' skills. I'm a simple person, so I'm simply defining skills as the ability to complete a specific task necessary to, in our case, survive. Some skills are more technical and require physical practice.

Take drawing your handgun from concealment, for example. You could watch our Draw Like a Pro online training course, which teaches how to build a fast and consistent draw stroke. But then, you must start physically applying the what you've learned.

In other words, you need to build the skills to put into practice what you've learned.

There is some debate on if some abilities should be called skills or not. Take the ability to “think on your feet” example. Said another way, can you teach someone how to problem solve under stress, or are some people ‘just born with the ability'? I think we can teach this skill.

Stress inoculation, or performing a desired task under purposeful exposure to stress, is a proven strategy that improves performance.

I think when we talk about skills, there is an aspect that we can't ignore, and that is someone's physical abilities and limitations that place real limitations on our performance. We can overcome some limitations by wearing glasses, or improving cardio with physical conditioning, but not all.

For example, reaction times increase as we age, or if we take certain medications. We can practice the skills we've learned to perform at our peak physical ability, but our draw still may not be as fast as it was 15 years ago. On the other hand, someone may lack stamina to fight for over 30 seconds. A physical disability like asthma may be a limiting factor or it may be just require better physical conditioning. I think you get the point.

The next component is the gear used to accomplish a task.

handgun training

How does Gear Fit Into the Equation—

I understand someone could say “your brain is the most important piece of gear.” While I completely understand the idea behind that thought, and agree our mind/brain is more important than any gear you can buy in a store, for the purpose of this post, let's keep gear to physical items.

Gear is fun, and tangible. The attraction to buying gear is not unique to guns and self defense. It's often joked that fishing lures catch more fishermen than fish, and it's true. For self defense gear, guns, accessories, modifications, and holsters are just some things we spend money on.

We can have an in-depth discussion on what gear is most important, but is outside the scope of this post. However, in general, there are four areas to focus on when considering carrying a gun for everyday carry (EDC). They are:

Select a reliable firearm that is suitable for concealed carry. Finding a carry gun is a process. You may not know exactly what works best right off the bat, but here is some content to help steer you toward something that may work long term.

Choose a good holster. With the vast array of holster types, carry positions and methods, it's impossible to find the ‘one perfect' holster right off the bat. But because I've been on this journey for a while, I have learned and discovered what works and what doesn't. Here are some links to content that can help you in your holster selection process.

Get a belt designed for carrying a gun. Strapping a gun on your waist requires a belt that can support the added weight. After using many gun belts over the years, I've settled on the Foundation Belt from EDC Belt Co. Here is a link to the review where I explain why I think it's a fantastic option.

foundation belt concealed carry gear

Gear for Safety—

Once you start live-fire training, you'll need some eye and ear protection. I prefer to spend a bit more on gear I'll use for a long time, instead of buying something cheap, only to spend more money upgrading to something else. So many times I've thought if I only knew this thing existed, I would have never spent money on the other thing. I would have just bought this to begin with.

One example is hearing protection. I highly recommend electronic hearing protection over passive hearing protection. Here I explain why i prefer over-the-ear, electronic hearing protection, and how to optimize it for comfort.

ear pro upgrade

What is Most Important, Knowledge, Skills or Gear?

In the context we've been discussing, we need to start with knowledge.

First seek knowledge about subjects such as gear, laws and mindset through resources like the ones provided in this post, as well as in-person classes. In this phase, you may have an idea about the type of gun you want to carry. The learning process may help you focus on choosing a semi-auto handgun instead of a revolver or vice versa.

The knowledge aspect becomes even more critical when using a deadly tool like a gun. Familiarity with how the gun operates in a safe environment, using dummy ammo or other dry fire training tools is a great way to learn the basics of weapons handling.

Building skills come next. In this phase, we look to apply the knowledge through physical action. We never stop learning, of course. But now we do it in a safe, systematic way. In-person, live-fire training with a knowledgeable instructor is money well spent.

I know we haven't really discussed gear yet. And the natural thought is, well how am I supposed to attend training and practice if I haven't bought a gun, holster or belt? At some time in the knowledge building phase, of course, you need to purchase some gear. But don't go out and spend a bunch of money before researching topics such as carry positions, gun action types and holsters. That way, you're more likely to get the gear you're actually going to use.

The annual Guardian Conference is an incredible opportunity to train with many of the top instructors in the industry, all at one location.

I place ‘gear' at the end because, provided the gear is serviceable and safe; it has the least impact on your performance, knowledge and skill should come first. The vast majority of shooters won't see performance benefits from things such as trigger upgrades, compensators, extended magazines, paint jobs, etc. The money spent on these upgrades is much better spent on obtaining more knowledge, experience and skill development.

I'm not saying there aren't benefits to aftermarket sights, trigger modifications, enhanced grip or some other modifications. Said another way, most people can't outperform their gear. So just get good at applying fundamentals with the gear you have before trying to fix performance with modifications or expensive gear.

In Closing—

I hope this post and the included resources help you focus on what is most important once you've decided to carry a gun for self defense. If you find it helpful, please consider sharing it with others. There are many things I wish I knew when I started carrying a concealed gun on a daily basis. You can also consider checking out the Concealed Carry Podcast where we discuss a wide variety of topics related to gun ownership, self defense and concealed carry.

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