Yes, the Gipper carried while serving as the leader of the free world. This story in the New York Daily News by novelist Brad Meltzer notes that Reagan regularly hid a .38 revolver in his briefcase, which he would carry onto Air Force One. Meltzer stumbled on this fact while researching his newest book, “The President’s Shadow.” From the story:
I was in Secret Service headquarters when they told me about former President Ronald Reagan’s biggest secret.
I write fiction for a living, but in my thrillers, I try to get the details right. So what better way to understand how a President lives for my newest thriller than by spending time with the Secret Service agents who spend so much time with him?
So there I was, on my tour of Secret Service headquarters. The agents had taken me into a small museum they have on the premises. It’s a room lined with photos of Presidents and archival exhibit cases filled with Secret Service artifacts. A newspaper with a “Kennedy Dead” headline. A replica of Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle. The pistol used to try to kill President Gerald Ford. They even have the actual car door from the limo when Reagan was shot.
It was an eerie keepsake for sure. But not nearly as eerie as the next detail they told me. We were talking about Reagan and that day he was shot. Then one of the agents offered this secret: When Reagan was President, he carried his own gun. I couldn’t believe it.
Meltzer was not able to determine whether Reagan carried the gun from day one of his Presidency or if he began carrying it after the failed March 30, 1981, attempt on his life, according to Breitbart.com.
Apparently, his two terms as President weren’t the only times Reagan carried a pistol. According to this story on BearingArms.com, in 1933, Reagan pulled a .45 revolver to fend off an armed robber attacking a nursing student. There’s also anecdotal evidence that, in his younger years, Reagan regularly carried a concealed .32 revolver.
It’s something one doesn’t often think about, but what does the President carry on his person while in office? What does he actually need, as far as everyday objects? House keys? A wallet? He doesn’t drive or pay for anything himself, and it takes a little more than a brass Kwikset key to open the White House, I’d wager. Do Presidents even carry ID?
Luckily, the rest of Meltzer’s article details what the four most recent Presidents filled their pockets with while in office.