Everyday Carry: Make Sure You Have the Fundamental Four When You Leave the House

Dan Z. for TTAG

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Thanks to the internet and social media, EDC or everyday carry have become ultra-popular terms. Thousands upon thousands of Instagram users post their EDC photos on a daily basis. Rather than consider the pros and cons of such activity, I would instead pose a couple of serious questions. 

What does it truly mean to carry every day? Or, what items are genuinely the most practical and valuable for the armed citizen when it comes to everyday carry? In the next several paragraphs we will address this in detail. 

The Fundamental Four

For thirty years or so, I have been involved in teaching people how to employ firearms. My students have been active duty military, law enforcement, and armed citizens. As you might imagine, I have fielded innumerable questions regarding guns and gear.

In order to address many of the frequently asked questions, several years ago I came up with a list that I dubbed “The Fundamental Four” of EDC. The Fundamental Four items that every armed citizen should have on their person before they walk out of the front door are; something Lethal, something Sharp, something Bright, and something Medical.

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Lethal

Fortunately, most American citizens will never be called on to use lethal force to stop a lethal threat. However, just like the fire extinguisher in your kitchen, just because you haven’t used it yet, doesn’t mean you should get rid of it. If you had a kitchen fire, you’d have been damned glad you kept that bright red extinguisher under the sink.

In the United States, the most common and practical tool to stop a lethal threat to yourself or your loved ones is the handgun. Yes, a rifle is a better fighting tool, but we don’t want to carry rifles to the grocery store or out to dinner. We carry handguns as emergency tools. I would venture to guess that most folks reading this have already come to that conclusion.

Get training. Buy a quality handgun. Put that gun into a quality holster and go about your business.

The Lethal part of the Fundamental Four is the easiest sell for armed citizens. They get it. Nonetheless, not every problem or emergency you encounter can be fixed with firepower. We need to have balance.

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Sharp

When I was coming up in America, men carried pocket knives. I remember as a kid seeing my grandfathers using their pocket knives for various tasks. My dad had what we used to call a pen knife that had two folding blades. My mother approved my first pocket knife (my parents bought it for me) when I was 12 years old. It was a small Swiss Army tool with a blade, a flat head screwdriver/bottle opener combo, and a sewing awl.

When I put the “something sharp” into the Fundamental Four, I wasn’t thinking about some kind of fighting knife or dagger. The Sharp tool is meant to be a useful utility tool for standard cutting chores or in an emergency.

Years ago I read a news story about a small child whose coat got caught in the moving mechanism of an escalator. Even after hitting the emergency stop button, the child was being choked to death by the coat. His mother clawed at it desperately to free him. Fortunately, a bystander with a pocket knife was able to cut the child free. Lesson learned. 

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Bright

We live in a world of light and darkness and we can’t always rely on external light sources to help us see. While this might seem like a monotonously obvious statement, I’m always baffled by the number of people who never carry or have immediate access to a flashlight.

When I was a kid, flashlights were large, cumbersome affairs. The standard flash light in our house was powered by two D cell batteries and weighed nearly a pound. That’s not something you’re going to carry in your pocket.

Today, thanks to nearly miraculous technological improvements, super-bright, light-weight flashlights are available at very affordable prices. 

For about three years I have been carrying a SureFire Stiletto flashlight every day, all day. I probably pull it out of my pocket and use it three or four times a day. The Stiletto is rechargeable, has an LED output and three brightness settings; high, medium, and low for utility or reading. The Surefire Tactician is also an excellent tactical flashlight.

Many years ago I was in a hotel overseas and the power went out. Walking through the hallway with my flashlight in hand, people kept coming up to me and asking what was going on and what they should do.

I realized that, in the dark, the person with the light is perceived to be in charge. To the average person, the man with the bright light must be a policeman or security or someone in charge.

During another occasion, while walking to my hotel late one night, my friends and I were accosted by an overly aggressive street person. In seconds it became obvious that he wanted money and would not take no for an answer.

In my left hand was a very bright LED light. I shined it directly in his face and said “No!” His demeanor instantly changed. He spun on his heels and disappeared down an alley. That light might have saved his life as he was seemingly prepared to commit a strongarm robbery.   

EDC fundamental four
Courtesy Paul Markel

Something Medical

In my mind, the greatest benefit to come from the global war on terror (GWOT) has been the reexamination of traumatic medical care. Where we once left caring for injured people to the professionals, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that the pros couldn’t be everywhere at once and that we needed to teach our troops to provide immediate care for their buddies while they waited for the pros to arrive.

For several years I taught the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) program to young military troops. It seemed obvious to me that if we could teach 18 and 19-year-old kids to keep their buddies alive on the battlefield, the average American citizen or police officer could be taught the same thing. We — my company — developed the Beyond the Band Aid program to do just that. 

As an armed citizen, you understand that you can’t just dial 911 and wait helplessly for the pros to arrive. Especially in these days of defunded police departments. A lethal attack will be over long before the police have time to arrive.

The same mentality goes for dealing with life-threatening medical emergencies. Sure, we should call 911 and get the pros moving in our direction, but we can also take positive steps to stop the bleeding while we wait for the ambulance.

A major bleeding injury, such as a compromised artery in an arm or leg, will result in the patient going into irreversible shock in minutes…four or five, not twenty. If the ambulance is ten minutes away and you don’t stop an arterial bleed, that person is not going to make it. That’s the simple truth. 

During the GWOT, thousands of troops had their lives saved by commercial/ready-made tourniquets applied to their arms or legs. An open femoral artery in Iraq and an open artery in Indiana result in the same outcome — a dead patient.

In the United States, high-speed car crashes often result in partially or completely amputated limbs. If an imbecile crashes into your car and your child’s right arm is partially amputated with bright red blood pumping out, how are you going to stop the bleeding while you wait for an ambulance to arrive?  

Something Medical includes a basic pocket trauma kit and a ready-made tourniquet. Tourniquet efficacy in the modern age is factually indisputable. Just like your handgun, you need to get training to use medical gear correctly.

Thanks to GWOT experience, good training and gear are available to citizens nationwide. The more training and experience you have, the better decisions you will make and you just might save the life of someone you love.  


About the Author

Paul G. Markel has been a United States Marine, Small Arms & Tactics Instructor, Police Officer and Medical Trainer for some thirty years. Mr. Markel has trained thousands of military, law enforcement, and citizens nationwide in the use of arms. He is the founder and host of the Student of the Gun radio and television show and the author of dozens of books. 

Paul is also the author of Beyond the Boo Boo: Traumatic Medical Care for Citizens.

You can listen to Paul every week on Student of the Gun Radio. The show can be heard on demand on iTunes, iHeartRadio, or your favorite media player. Tune in right now.



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