To Clip, or Not to Clip…

Recently, I’ve changed how I carry and conceal my EDC flashlight, and I thought I might explain how and why.

When I first purchased my Streamlight ProTac 1L, I really liked that it was small enough that it virtually disappeared when clipped in my pocket and didn’t interfere with my overall EDC system. I carry it daily and I have been impressed with its performance to size ratio. Historically, I carried it clipped in my left hand front pants pocket.

When I took Mike Pannone’s Covert Carry Class, I took note of his comment that having both a knife pocket clip and flashlight pocket clip visible was a telltale sign of being armed to those in the know. (Note that Pannone named his class “covert” carry, not “concealed” carry.) Despite being “armed” with this knowledge, I continued to carry my light with the pocket clip exposed, and didn’t worry too much about it.

In the years since, I’ve only been “made” once (sort of) that I know of. While teaching a diving class, an Army Green Beret took note of the fact that I carried both a knife and a flashlight and made a quip about my being prepared for trouble. I have no idea whether he believed I was carrying a gun as well, but his comment did remind me of what Pannone had told us.

What finally got me to change the way I carry my light, without the pocket clip visible, wasn’t actually any of the above. Instead, it was an evolution of thought and EDC philosophy. Specifically, I thought critically about how I actually use or plan to use my flashlight and decided that it isn’t a reactive tool, but rather, a proactive tool.

If suddenly surprised by a threat, my flashlight is not the first thing I’m going to reach for. Instead, depending on the threat, I may elect to move, strike, or draw my handgun.  Yes, I can strike with the bezel of my light, but its primary purpose is to make daylight out of darkness, revealing threats or dissuading selection by a criminal actor. Far more likely, it is simply used to see in the dark, even when there is nothing threatening around. For all of these purposes, I can spare a few seconds to reach inside my pocket, orient the light correctly in my hand, and then deploy the light to see what I need to see.

To take the idea a bit further, much like unobtrusively having the hand on a gun carried in a pocket, so could a flashlight be ready in the other hand in the other pocket, ready to be drawn in concert with the gun.

I’ve also experimented with doing the same with my knife, but I find that the knife I currently carry (Spyderco Manix 2) is a bit too big to really disappear without blatantly printing in my pocket. Granted, I think one pocket clip is much less of a signature than dual pocket clips, and I see a lot of dudes with a folding knife clipped in a pocket that are probably not carrying a gun.

Time will tell whether I transition to carrying a simple slip joint knife such as a Swiss Army Knife for purely utilitarian purposes (which is primarily what I use my Spyderco for anyway) or a fixed blade carried on the waistline (or both), but for now, I still just have a knife clipped in my pocket in most situations. However, I think it’s important to realize that a knife clipped in a pocket is really better considered a proactive tool rather than a reactive weapon. A small fixed blade, carried forward of the hips on the waistline, is a much better example of a knife to be relied upon in a fight. Taking that example further, with an appropriate cover garment, one can very easily carry both a fixed blade and a gun while totally avoiding visible pocket clips!

One other interesting consideration that I recently learned from reading Jerry Wetzel’s “Red Zone Knife Defense” is that drawing a weapon clipped in a pocket telegraphs very differently than reaching into a pocket for a wallet or keys. It doesn’t seem like it should, but pictures and video don’t lie. Try it for yourself in front of a mirror and pay attention to your elbow position. This is yet another valid reason to consider eschewing pocket clips on both flashlights and knives, or really anything that could be used as a weapon.

So there you have it. For the past several months, I’ve just been simply dropping my flashlight into my pocket every morning, sans clip, and I’ve been quite happy carrying it that way. My only problem is that I need more pockets!

Do you notice pocket clips? What immediately comes to mind when you do? Thanks for reading, and feel free to ask questions or comment with your own experience. In the interest of full disclosure, the above post does contain Amazon Affiliate links. As always, we appreciate your support of the blog should you choose to click through to Amazon for your shopping needs.

4 thoughts on “To Clip, or Not to Clip…

    1. Scot, I have thought about it, but haven’t tried it yet. I’m virtually certain I would have to trim it to fit my pocket. I may yet order one to play with. Thanks for your comment!


  1. Whenever I see a paracord bracelet or a Grunt Style t-shirt I usually check to see if he’s printing. A pocket knife will cause the same reaction. I didn’t always associate these things with carrying, but after all the videos I’ve watched and blogs I’ve read I notice these things now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anyone who’s wearing a Grunt Style, 9-Line, Article15, or similar brand shirt might as well be open carrying. Everyone who even notices their shirt will consider them to be carrying a gun, whether they are or not.


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