Earlier in the month I posted an article explaining why folks in the U.S. should consider an AK in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington.  Well, the Zastava Arms produced, Century Arms imported PAP M90NP could be the Best of All Worlds.  It’s basically an imported AK chambered in 5.56 NATO /.223 Remington, that accepts AR-15 mags, and has some SPR-spec features.  If you can find one, you’d be hard pressed to do better for the ~$800 price point.


First, what’s an SPR?

SPR is currently accepted to mean “Special Purpose Rifle“, and references the M16/A4 rifle platform modified at SOCOM’s request for vastly improved, longer range accuracy and terminal performance.  The latest incarnation, the MK12 Mod 0, is used by U.S. Army Special Forces / Rangers, U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S.M.C. Force Recon.  While the complete list of MK12 Mod 0 SPR specs is detailed, I’m only going to highlight the 18″, free-floated, heavy-contoured barrel, and 1:7 twist rate for purposes of this post.  Those traits reduce barrel harmonics and stabilize heavier, 69 – 77 grain bullets, enabling the rifle to meet its goals.  Civilian legal (semi-auto) SPR rifles, SPR uppers, and those with ‘SPR-like‘ features are available, but anything AR based with SPR features runs well over a thousand dollars, and goes up very quickly from there.  We’ll come back these specs in a bit, so keep ’em in mind.


The Zastava M90NP:  A high-quality AK, chambered in 5.56 NATO offers SPR-like features for a very reasonable price!


Aside from just being an AK chambered in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington, the M90NP provides a few SPR-spec features at fraction of the price. (I told you we’d come back to those specs.)  Zastava Arms has been producing firearms for 160 years, and currently produces a range of AK pattern, modern small arms for military, hunting and sporting purposes.  Not newcomers by any stretch, many of their offerings are a cut above, with a higher quality fit and finish and a better feature set than the competition.  The M90NP is no exception.  While the title of this post is admittedly a bit tongue-in-cheek (no mass produced AK is going to best a true mil-spec, hand-selected  SPR), the M90NP is loaded (pun intended) with great features, and ‘tics‘ quite a few SPR-spec boxes:

  • The M90NP has an 18.25”, cold hammer forged, heavy-contoured barrel, with a 1:7 twist.  By AK standards, the M90NP actually has a fairly thick barrel, a common trait of Zastava rifles.  That heavier, cold hammer forged, 18.25″ barrel, with a 1:7 twist provides improved longer range accuracy, and terminal ballistics, the same way that heavy, 18″ barrel and 1:7 twist do for an SPR.  Reduced barrel harmonics.  Longer powder burn.  Ability to stabilize heavier, more accurate, harder hitting bullets.  Those are great features for the money, certainly when you compare the M90NP to other 5.56 chambered AKs, and even when compared to entry level ARs in the ~$800 price range.  While AK isn’t traditionally known for match-grade accuracy, what are we really talking about, in practical terms?  Is it the difference between one-hole groups, and  2 – 5” groups at 100 yards?  That might not matter to the average, casual shooter.  It’s certainly not material for normal hunting, or defensive situations, where pie-plate and center of mass accuracy, respectively, are considered good enough.  Top the M90NP with a high-quality scope and, feed it match-grade, 69 – 77-grain ammo, and have the nut behind the trigger properly adjusted :-), and who knows how those groups might just tighten up quite nicely.  (We might just do that in the future.)
  • The M90NP takes ubiquitous, inexpensive M16/A4/AR-15 magazines.  That’s right.  Not only does the M90NP fire the most popular round in the U.S., but it also accepts all variants of the most popular magazine in the land, including GI issue mags and Magpul PMAG mags among others.  AK purists love to hate the polymer magazine adapter, and some have voiced concerns about its reliability, but polymer hasn’t been a problem for GLOCK.  It’s the same adapter used on the popular Zastava M85NP Pistol, and per all reports I’ve seen, it’s been proven rugged and reliable on both guns.  From a form over function perspective, this is actually a great, cost effective solution, especially when compared to other 5.56 AK variants that take proprietary, expensive magazines, which are sometimes as hard to find as the rifles themselves.
  • The M90NP is built like a tank because it’s based off a rifle designed with the ability to launch grenades.  The receiver is stamped from extra-thick, 1.5 mil steel, and it has the bugled front trunnion, so the M90NP is much stronger than the average AK.  While it certainly makes a great SHTF, camp or survival rifle, it’s no lightweight, and wouldn’t be my first if a lot of on-foot miles were on the agenda.  That said, the extra weight isn’t an issue for most recreational shooters or varmint / predator hunters.  If, God forbid, you need the M90NP in a defensive situation, I bet you won’t notice the 2 – 3 extra pounds, and I’m sure you’ll be thankful for the M90NP’s ruggedness and capability.


  • The M90NP has adjustable gas settings.  This is something you won’t even see on most AR’s, and it’s a nice feature.  Setting “1” allows the most amount of gas to escape, thereby driving the bolt rearward with the least amount of force, and having the least felt recoil.  Setting “2” is the middle setting, which is where most M90NP owners tend to leave it.  Setting “3” allows the least amount of gas to escape, thereby driving the bolt rearward with the most force.  I haven’t had the rifle long enough to really test this out, but in theory, setting “3” can come in handy if you’re shooting particularly light loads, or if your rifle is excessively dirty and having trouble cycling the bolt.  Just note setting “3” has the harshest felt recoil, and is harder on parts.


  • The M90NP has a bolt hold open on the safety selector.  This is another nice trait of Zastava produced rifles, and actually a great overall safety feature.  Not only do many ranges require a bolt hold open of some kind, but being able to keep that bolt open can help you ensure your firearm is unloaded during cleaning and maintenance, or otherwise when working with your rifle.


So, who should consider the Zastava PAP M90NP?

Anyone looking for a cost effective, feature rich, modern sporting rifle based on arguably the most rugged, reliable platform in the World, that shoots the most popular round, and accepts the most popular magazines in the U.S.  Again, it’s the Best of All Worlds, with SPR-like features, from a company with a long history of producing high-quality, AK pattern rifles – and it’s relatively cheap.  

  • It’s an absolute blast (pun intended) at the range, and makes an outstanding ranch or truck gun – almost forgotten and basically neglected until needed.
  • If you’re heavily invested in the AR platform and ready for something new or different, the M90NP is a great, relatively low cost option.
  • If you’re AK-curious, the M90NP is the perfect option, without the need to commit to a new caliber, .  No new ammo, magazines or cleaning supplies.
  • If you’re an AK fan concerned about the future availability of cheap 7.62 x 39 ammo, the M90NP is an absolute no-brainer.
  • If you’re concerned about the future availability of such imported-based rifles, get an M90NP while you can.  


Competitive Options? How about, NONE!

Not only is the M90NP feature-wise the best 5.56 AK option available, but as of mid-2016, it’s the ONLY new production option readily available.  Arsenal discontinued their line of Bulgarian based SLR-106 5.56 chambered AK firearms in May 2013, making used SLR-106s very rare, and very expensive.  While supposedly new production, imported models exist, the Polish Beryl Archer is just as elusive, rare and expensive as the out of production SLR-106.  I couldn’t find a new Beryl Archer in-stock anywhere; not locally, nor online.  If you are lucky enough to find an SLR-106 or a Beryl Archer, expect to pay at least $1300, and that’s for a used rifle.

Hell, even if you could get a new SLR-106 or Beryl Archer, the M90NP has the better combination of features, for almost half the price, and may have a nicer fit and finish.  (I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on an SLR-106 or Beryl Archer for comparison purposes.)  The SLR-106 and Beryl Archer have 16.25″ barrels.  I’ll take the extra two inches.  (That’s what she said…)  The SLR-106 and Beryl Archer take proprietary, hard to find, imported, expensive magazines.  Neither has a selectable gas block.  Finally, the Polish Beryl Archer’s barrel has a 1:10 twist rate, which is a bit too restrictive for shooting heavier grain bullets.  So, unless you’re a collector who needs the Arsenal SLR-106 or the Polish Beryl Archer, I can’t think of one logical reason to pay over 50% more for arguably less rifle.  I’ll happily take the new-production, M90NP all day long, every day, with it’s heavier 18.25″, cold hammer forged, 1:7 twist barrel and AR magazines, and I’ll spend the leftover five-hundie on accessories, ammo and magazines.  Century Arms International has exclusive rights as the sole importer of M90NP rifles, and they are in-fact out of stock, with no plans that I’m aware of to get more anytime soon.  Get one SOON if you’re considering one of these fine, high-quality, feature-rich, imported rifles.    


Where to purchase the Zastava PAP M90NP.

If you’re in Northern NJ, you can find a great selection of Zastava PAP M90NP rifles, with all of the extremely important compliance work already done, as well as many other fantastic firearms and accessories, at RTSP in Randolph.  Of course, RTSP is an FFL, so even if you are not in NJ, they will be more than happy to ship an M90NP to your local FFL, and if you live in another ban state, RTSP is more than capable of completing any compliance work that needs to be done before shipping the rifle.  Just make sure you let them know exactly what needs to be done, since you are responsible for knowing your local laws!

I may do a future range review, but if you are not familiar with them, RTSP is Northern NJ’s premier indoor range, store and training facility.  They’ve earned a Nation Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) 5-Star range rating, which means RTSP demonstrates excellence in all aspects of management and operations, including appearance, customer service, amenities, customer development and community relations.  Their entire staff, including on-site gunsmiths, is extremely knowledgeable and friendly.  Their range facility is fantastic, with a huge selection of rental guns.  Their large retail space is fully stocked with handguns, rifles and shotguns, from the most high-end, semi-custom and custom works of art, to the more common, everyday guns, and they have plenty of popular accessories in stock.  Their state of the art training facility includes classroom, range, shoot house and digital simulation capabilities.

Check out this fantastic video for more info on RTSP:


When selecting the rifle for this review, the extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff at RTSP allowed me to examine their entire inventory of at least a half-dozen M90NP rifles, so I could hand-pick the best one – and they didn’t rush me at all!  Lest anyone think I got special treatment, this was during normal business hours, with plenty of other patrons around.  I almost couldn’t believe it.  That level of customer service is a stark contrast to other places I’ve shopped, where it took effort to get the owner to take even just one rifle down from the wall for me to examine, when I was the only person in the store.  Anyway, I ran down the usual, ‘imported AK QC checklist’ while looking over the M90NPs in RTSP’s inventory, checking for loose rivets on the receiver, canted front sights, canted gas selector hold-downs, or cycling issues.  Honestly, all of RTSP’s M90NPs were good.  Any one of them would have been acceptable.  In fact, I was surprised at how buttery smooth the M90NP’s action cycled, compared to some N-PAP M70 AK’s I’ve handled in the past.

Normally I would field strip, and thoroughly clean any new gun before taking it to the range.  I was already at the range, short on time, and as Brad and I joked, the M90NP is an AK…  So after Brad graciously allowed me perform a basic function check and run a bore snake down the barrel to ensure the rifle was safe to fire, I headed right to RTSP’s 25-yard rifle range…

How does it shoot?  What do I like, or not like?  What’s next?

You’ll just have to wait!  This post is already a monster.  Who knows, it might even be the start of a new series.  I have two different range reports and a bunch of changes in mind I may share in the future.  I mean, it’s already a bastardized, non-purist AK, so it’s the perfect platform to mod!

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.


There are many who believe Mikhail Kalashnikov’s rifle design, itself heavily influenced by John Garand’s M1, is the most rugged and reliable rifle platform in the World.  Since being introduced in 1947, the AK-47 has been involved in every single, major world conflict, and while slightly refined over the last 69 years, the basic, fundamental, operating design remains unchanged.  If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.  The AK-47 has certainly endured the test of time, and proven itself reliable in some of the worst conditions imaginable.  Like it or hate it, you have to agree that even purely as a mechanical device, the AK-47 deserves serious respect!  It can be ridden hard, and put away wet, with minimal maintenance, and just keeps going.  (Not something I recommend you try with an AR.)

GoldenTiger762In case you haven’t noticed (2016 Firearms Industry Predictions & Why You Need to Consider the AK-47), the AK has become extremely popular in the United States over the last few years.  As of this writing, a variety of import based, and 100% U.S. made AK pattern rifles are available to civilians.  Big-name, major accessory manufactures, like Magpul and Geissele, have also started producing AK specific products, highlighting and increasing its continued popularity.  (If you build it, they will come…)  That said, most current AK offerings are chambered in traditional 7.62 x 39.  That’s understandable since 7.62 x 39 is easy to shoot, proven very effective, and for the moment…yes, for the moment…good, non-corrosive, imported ammo is both cheap, and plentiful.  Did I say for the moment?

The Case for an AK in 5.56 NATO!


DCF 1.0

Different 5.56 NATO Rounds

We in the United States of America are a nation of AR-15 fans.  It’s estimated that throughout the U.S., there are between 1.5 – 3.2 million AR-15s owned by civilians, and the great majority of them are chambered in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington.  (As of mid-2016, that’s probably a low estimate, and doesn’t include all of the other semi-automatic and bolt action rifles also chambered for 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington, many of which accept AR-15 magazines.)  That means 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington and AR-15 magazines are ubiquitous.  I’m sure most of you have at least a few hundred rounds of 5.56 / .223 Remington, and at least a handful of AR-15 magazines in your house right now, not counting any secret stash.  Lucky for us, the 5.56 x 45 is a NATO cartridge, so chances are very good 5.56 / .223 ammunition will continue to be readily available and affordable, well into the foreseeable future.  

So 5.56 / .223 is plentiful, affordable, fun and easy to shoot all day long, without developing the dreaded flinch.  It’s a great round for general target shooting / paper punching, competition, varmint hunting, predator control and certainly home defense.  Hey, the 5.56 x 45 is still the intermediate cartridge of choice for all NATO countries.  The same cannot be said for 7.62 x 39.

What happens if the administration decides to ban the import of all 7.62 x 39 ammunition, which can happen in an instant, with the stroke of a pen?  How long would your current supply last?  How easy would it be to find more?  How much could you borrow or barter for from friends and neighbors?  Sure, a few big name U.S. ammo manufacturers have started producing 7.62 x 39, but have you checked prices?? I wouldn’t exactly call it cheap!!  Purists will have a hard time accepting an AK-47 chambered in anything that doesn’t begin with 7.62, and end with 39, but there’s definitely a lot more 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington than 7.62 x 39 out there, and the 5.56 / .223’s long-term future is definitely more secure.  If you live in the U.S., having the most rugged and reliable rifle in the world, chambered in the most common, readily available caliber in the country makes a lot of sense.


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

A while back I did a post highlighting why firearms enthusiasts like myself, who love to talk about guns, sometimes hesitate when asked exactly which gun to buy.  Well, here I present two very specific, phenomenal handgun recommendations.  Whether you’re deliberating over your first handgun purchase, or adding a new pistol to an existing collection, these are excellent recommendations.  You can’t go wrong with the GLOCK 19, nor with the SIG SAUER P320, both of which are compact handguns chambered for the 9X19 NATO.


The GLOCK 19, aka G19.


A Gen4 GLOCK G19 M.O.S.

The GLOCK 19 – EASILY my first recommendation.  Though, technically, they may not have  invented the genre, GLOCK certainly popularized the  polymer-framed, striker-fired handgun.  I actually remember when GLOCK pistols first hit the U.S. market, way back in 1986.  My Dad and I were early adopters of the then revolutionary, “plastic” handguns.  Now, 30 years later, (Happy Birthday GLOCK!), GLOCK polymer-framed, striker-fired, “Safe-Action” pistols dominate the U.S. handgun market.  In fact, the GLOCK 19,  chambered in 9mm, is one of the most popular semi-automatic pistols of all times, used widely by Military & Law Enforcement around the World.  In fact, roughly 2 in 3 law enforcement professionals choose GLOCK pistols as their primary duty gun. 

So, What Makes the GLOCK 19 so Popular?

  • GLOCK Ruggedness, Reliability, Ease of Use, & Ease of Maintenance.  They flat out work. GLOCK is the AK of the pistols in terms of ease of use, maintenance and reliability.  They are ultra-reliable.  They are also very easy to shoot well, even for new shooters, which instills confidence and promotes use.  Finally, GLOCK pistols are simple to field strip and maintain.


  • The outstanding GLOCK Safe-Action Trigger.  Any sharp-shooter will tell you the trigger is key, and GLOCK’s “Safe Action” trigger is a great trigger.  Though odd looking when first introduced, you don’t even feel the center tab, which is actually part of a built-in safety system, when firing the gun.  Instead, you feel very little take-up, the slightest bit of creep, and a great, always consistent pull, that breaks around ~5.5lbs.


  • The GLOCK 19 is the Jack of All Trades, & Master of Many.  Though considered a Compact (see NUTNFANCY’s “Compact It Ain’t” video), the GLOCK 19 doesn’t give up much in sight radius, barrel length or magazine capacity when compared to traditional, full-size guns.  The low bore axis of the ~4″ barrel, combined with the ~6″ sight radius and full, three finger grip make the GLOCK 19 very soft-shooting, which, like the excellent trigger, improves accuracy and confidence.  This makes the GLOCK 19 a great choice for new shooters, and overall just perfect for home defense, recreational shooting and even entry level competition use.  However, unlike most full-size pistols, the GLOCK 19 is still compact & light enough to easily carry concealed.  In fact, the GLOCK 19 fulfills so many roles, so well, it could be the only handgun you’d ever truly need.  (ha!  except for all the other ones you want, like something smaller and lighter for summer concealment…or maybe a wheel gun…)  Anyway, there are definite advantages to having one gun that flexes easily into a multitude of roles.  

If that’s not enough of an endorsement, check out who else favors the GLOCK 19:

That’s great company.

Honestly, I’ve shot a lot of different handguns over the last 35+ years, of all different types, of all different calibers, from all different manufacturers.  Some of my best shooting is done with GLOCK pistols.  To me, GLOCK pistols feel great in-hand; they point naturally, the balance feels right & the trigger is great.  It’s ready to go, right out of the box.


A Gen4 GLOCK G19 with most of its trimmings, as it comes from the factory.

So, considering how well I shoot GLOCK pistols, combined with their longstanding, successful track record of ruggedness and reliability, especially knowing who trusts their lives to GLOCK pistols, you can easily understand why the GLOCK 19 is at the top of my list.

Street prices range from just under $600 to around $660, for the base model Gen4 G19, and new-for-2016 Gen4 M.O.S. version, respectively.  Those prices include a lock, three 15 round magazines, unless restricted to 10 rounds in your state, and a set of backstops that enable you to perfectly fit the GLOCK 19 to your hand.  Additional factory GLOCK G19 magazines are available at a very modest cost of ~$25, and Magpul has recently released an extremely affordable line of their famous PMAGs for GLOCK pistols.  (One neat thing with GLOCK pistols is magazine compatibility, which in this case means G17 & G18 magazines will work in your G19.  Just make sure those magazines are legal in your jurisdiction should you decide to pursue increased magazine capacity.)  The M.O.S. version, which I believe is well worth the money, includes four adapter plates that enable you to mount your choice of best of breed reflex / holographic style optics, like your EOTECH, to your GLOCK 19.  That’s right, your AR-15 red dot optic now works on your GLOCK.  Click here to find out more.


GLOCK G19 Backstrap Set


GLOCK G19 MOS Adapter Set

The SIG SAUER P320. 


SIG SAUER P320C-9-FDE, for Compact, 9×19, Flat Dark Earth.

The P320 is SIG SAUER‘s GLOCK inspired, polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol, in a Modular Handgun System (MHS).  Developed as SIG’s entry into the U.S. Army’s XM17 competition for a new sidearm, the P320  was introduced at SHOT Show 2014, and has since been extremely well received by the civilian market.  In fact, the SIG SAUERP320 just received the 2016 Handgun of the Year NRA Golden Bullseye award.

So, Why the SIG SAUER P320?

  • Legendary SIG SAUER Quality and Reliability.  Judging from friends and family on the job, it seems that the U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies not carrying a GLOCK are carrying a SIG.  In fact, SIG SAUER is proud to report that nearly 1 in 3 law enforcement professionals use SIG SAUER firearms,” including U.S. Navy SEALs, Federal Air Marshals, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard.  That’s one hell of an endorsement from agencies that can choose any sidearm they like, and wouldn’t accept something that didn’t work.  As a result of their successful military and law enforcement heritage, SIG SAUER has earned a reputation for producing high-quality, rugged, reliable handguns, with an excellent fit & finish, or attention to detail.  While some may knock GLOCK’s blocky, utilitarian looks, a quick look through some of their different models will show you SIG certainly knows a thing or two about how to build some sexy, high-end looking guns.  Obviously, if you’re a die-hard SIG fan (and there are many), who wants in on the current polymer-framed, striker-fired handgun trend, then the P320 is definitely your gun.  (You had me at, ”polymer-frame, striker-fired SIG!).


  • The SIG P320 Trigger is Amazing.  Right out of the box, the P320 trigger is simply fantastic!  There’s very little take-up, the slightest bit of creep,  then it breaks like glass, that seems to defy it’s 5.5-6.5lb stated weight.  This is high praise  from someone who for a long time believed GLOCK triggers were the best factory trigger for the genre, and they were, for a long, long time.


  •  The P320 Modular Handgun System (MHS) is the rest of the story here. Originally designed as SIG’s entry into the U.S. Army’s XM17 MHS contest for a new sidearm, the SIG SAUER P320 debuted at SHOT Show 2014, and has since been a home run with civilians.  I mentioned the XM17 MHS program, and specifically the SIG P320 in my post on 2016 Firearms Industry Predictions, but in case you missed it, the MHS is great for first time buyers, and for folks who live in more restrictive sates.  Why?  The MHS eliminates the risk of buying the wrong gun, and enables you to flex one gun into a multitude of roles.  Let’s face it, any firearms purchase is a big deal.  I mean, it’s a major responsibility, and buying high-quality, best of breed guns is not an inexpensive proposition.  So, the decision is usually preceded by a lot of research, reflection and analysis.  Depending upon where you live, the process may also involve a lengthy and potentially restrictive permit application process.  It’s a big deal, and there’s nothing worse than  realizing you’ve bought the wrong gun, which believe it or not, happens a lot.  It wrecks your confidence, and takes all the fun out of recreational shooting, which is the last thing you want to do, especially with new shooters. Again, the modular Sig Sauer P320 completely eliminates the risk of being stuck with the wrong gun, and allows you to completely change your gun, or just the COLOR of your gun, as your skills, experience, needs and wants evolve and change.

The SIG P320 Serialized Chassis; this is actually your gun…


…and these are all the P320 compatible components that work with your gun.

I recommend starting with the Compact 9mm, which is essentially the same size as the above recommended GLOCK 19, and therefore provides many of the same benefits.  However, unlike the GLOCK 19, the SIG P320 can be changed into a Subcompact, a Full-size or even made to fire a different caliber without technically having to buy a new gun, and for a little less cost than buying a complete new gun.  It’s almost like having the GLOCK 17,  19 and 26 all in one “gun.”  It may not make sense for everyone, but the modularity of the SIG SAUER P320 is a major advantage for folks who live in states that have lengthy, potentially restrictive handgun application processes, which normally don’t allow you to exchange, or trade-in your new gun for a different model if you discover the gun you just purchased doesn’t work for you.  It’s also incredibly useful for NRA instructors, like myself, who may frequently work with new shooters of all different sizes and statures, or who may want to try shooting a full-size, compact and subcompact before making their own purchase decision.      

Street prices for the Compact 9mm with SIGLITE night sights are around $650, which is a great price for legendary SIG quality, and right in-line with the GLOCK 19.  The price includes a lock, two 15 round magazines, unless restricted to 10 rounds in your state, and a fairly nice, very usable holster.


A SIG SAUER P320C-9-FDE, with most of its trimmings, as it comes from the factory.


The included OWB (outside the waistband) paddle holster is actually quite nice and has decent retention right out of the box, that can also be adjusted if it loosens up over time.

The included holster is a nice touch SIG SAUER, though frankly I would have preferred an additional magazine.  Speaking of which, factory SIG magazines for the P320 are readily available, they just cost ~$50, because SIG is really proud of their magazines… 🙂 Regardless of whether you get the full-size, Carry, Compact, or Subcompact, most guns ship with the Medium size frame, but additional Small and Large grip modules are available in your choice of Black, FDE (Flat Dark Earth) or ODG (Olive Drab Green) for ~$50 so you can perfectly fit the SIG P320 to your hand size and color preferences.  Complete caliber / size conversion kits cost ~$400, and yes, we’re all hoping that number comes down a bit over time.


The GLOCK 19 and SIG SAUER P320: You Can’t Go Wrong with Either.  Get ‘Em Both if You Can’t Decide!

I’ve recently spent time on the firing line with both the GLOCK 19 and SIG P320, and I’ve subsequently field-stripped both, and given them a thorough cleaning.  Both are HIGH-QUALITY, EXTREMELY DEPENDABLE, RELIABLE, EXCELLENT PISTOLS that are easy to shoot well – so long as you do your part – and both will serve you very well, in a multitude of roles; be it home defense, recreational shooting, concealed carry, or even as a way to test your skills at competition.  Whether you’re choosing your first handgun or just expanding the collection, you can’t go wrong with either.  If you want the original, and are heavily influenced by what the NYPD & Navy SEALs carry, then get the GLOCK 19.  If you’re partial to SIG, or like the flexibility and “wrong-gun-risk-mitigation” provided by modularity, then get the P320.  And if you really can’t decide, then get em both!


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was created with the purpose of safeguarding the freedom and security of its members, through political and military means.  As of mid-2016, there are 28 Member Countries across primarily North American and Europe, but also including Turkey, which straddles Europe and Western Asia.

…and Military Means”  NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes, but if diplomatic efforts fail, NATO has the military capacity needed to undertake crisis-management operations.  Such operations can be carried out under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, NATO’s founding treaty, or via UN mandate.  NATO countries may act alone, or in cooperation with other countries and international organizations.

As a result of the Treaty, NATO member countries have standardized use of certain ammunition for certain firearms:

  • 9×19 NATO is the sidearm, or handgun, cartridge of choice.
  • 5.56×45 NATO is the intermediate, or Assault Rifle, cartridge of choice.
  • 7.62×51 NATO is the longer-range rifle, sniper and medium machine gun cartridge of choice.  (Note that in some cases, other rounds are also used for long range sniping, such as the .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Lapua Magnum.)

7.62×51, 5.56×45 & 9×19 NATO


The Benefits of Ammunition Standardization & Alignment for NATO Members.

Standardization and common use of ammunition provides the following, extremely important logistical benefits: 

  • Interoperability & Ammunition Sharing between NATO forces. 
  • Commonality of manufacturing, and reduced manufacturing costs. 
  • Widespread, Global availability, which greatly reduces delivery costs and complexities.

Knowing brave men and women from the United States proudly serve all over the globe, alongside militaries from other NATO member countries, standardization is a key strategy for ensuring ammo is always available, in large quantities, when and where needed, and doing so in a cost effective manner.


Why is this Important to Firearms Enthusiast?

Quite simply, NATO spec ammunition is effective, ubiquitous, and relatively cheap.  Despite what you read in some corners of the InterWeb, and while everything has limitations and tradeoffs, major NATO countries wouldn’t have standardized around these rounds.  Nor would these rounds continue to remain the standard if they weren’t effective.  And since they are the standards, 9×19, 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 can be found just about everywhere in the World; in large quantities, and generally at reasonable prices since “surplus” ammo is often made available to the public.  So, until something drastically changes (like the .300 Blackout supersedes 5.56 as the intermediate round of choice), NATO ammo will continue to be mass produced, and continue to be available at reasonable prices, long into the foreseeable future.  The same cannot necessarily be said for non-NATO imported ammo, and that’s without even getting into the doomsday, SHTF, prepper arguments, which we’ll leave to other corners of the InterWeb.   

Another benefit of guns designed to fire NATO rounds is that they can generally also safely fire the “civilian” version of the NATO round.  Depending upon the actual caliber you choose, this potentially gives you more options, and options are always good.  For example, guns chambered for 5.56 NATO can safely fire .223 Remington rounds, but the reverse is NOT true.  This is because per SAAMI specs, the 5.56 NATO round is loaded to a hire pressure than .223 Remington.  It’s a similar story for 9mm NATO ammo, where true mil-spec 9mm NATO is loaded to a higher pressure than standard 9×19 Luger.  9mm NATO is actually closer to “+P” SAAMI spec commercial ammo.  That said, since there is one in every bunch, it’s important to note that .308 Winchester is the outlier, where the opposite is true.  Civilian .308 ammunition, designed for long-range, big-game hunting, is actually hotter than standard mil-spec 7.62×51 ammo.  Just note that while these are generalities, it is up to YOU, in EACH and EVERY CASE, to ensure you use the proper ammunition for your firearm.  Not using the proper ammunition is dangerous, and could result in personal injury or death. 

So, if you live in a NATO Member country, you can’t go wrong choosing a gun that fires a standard NATO cartridge.

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

Wait, whaaaatt??!!  An AK-47?  Are you serious, Clark?! 


A Type 2 AK-47, the first machined receiver variation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Now listen, I’m as American as Apple Pie, and I truly love this great Country, but I’ve secretly had a thing for the AK-47 for a while.  Yet for a long time, I just couldn’t get past the AK’s traditional stigma.  You know, all the bad guys have one, and that’s what our enemies use.  Well, recently, a few things happened that changed my mind on the civilian version of the AK-47.  First, I heard reports of our guys, the good guys, using AK-47soverseas, and second, I’ve become adept at separating the gun itself from the person pulling the trigger.

In fact, just as I pointed out with the AR-15there are a number of great reasons for civilians to consider an AK-47 based variant, and judging by how popular the AK platform has become in the United States over the last two years or so here, I’m clearly not the only one who sees it.

But before we get to those reasons, let’s first all agree I’m talking about the semi-automatic, modern sporting, or civilian legal, version of the AK.  I’m NOT talking about a fully automatic, military weapon.  Second, and while there are some differences that would be important for other discussions, we’re not going to split hairs between AK variants let’s agree that for purposes of this article.  Whether it’s a Serbian produced Zastava, a Romanian WASR, a Bulgarian based Arsenal, a Chinese Norinco MAK 90 based import, or a 100% U.S. made Century Arms c39v2, DDI variant, or Kalashnikov-USA incarnation, if it’s based on Mikhail Kalashiknov’s long stroke, gas piston operated, rotating bolt design, and fires the 7.62×39, we’re gonna call it an AK, (even though it really might not be for true legalese purposes….)

N NPAP LO-Cap.jpg

A Century Arms imported, 100% new, low capacity N-PAP.

So, without further adieu, here are just a few GREAT Reasons to Consider a Civilian Legal AK-47:

  1. Home Defense / Protection, or “Without Rule of Law, (WROL)” Gun, a Nutnfancy term.  The AK-47 has a very well deserved, long running reputation for being easy to use, ultra reliable and “accurate enough” for conflict resolution.  Those key traits, combined with a large, .30 caliber bullet, make the AK-47, with it’s unmistakable profile, a very efficient, and effective home defense gun.  If you need something to defend your property, your house, campsite or your loved ones from critters, or bad guys, an AK-47 will certainly get the job done. With a roughly 16” barrel, an overall length of 36” and weighing-in around 7-8 lbs, the AK-47 is truly a carbine, making it easy to carry and quick handling.  These traits make it much more acceptable for CQB / home defense situations than a longer, potentially heavier, traditional hunting rifle or scatter gun.  Stand strong with an AK-47, instantly recognizable around the Globe, and everyone will know you mean business.

Wait, what’s “accurate enough” you ask?  The typical AK-47 should be able to produce 2 – 5” groups at 100 yards.  While that won’t win you any trophies, its more than adequate for hunting medium to large sized game, and for deterring bad guys, where anything in a 8-9”, pie-plate circle at 100 yards is considered good.  By way of contrast, a quality AR-15 in the right hands will produce groups you can cover with a quarter, if not same hole, or clover-leaf groups, at the same 100 yards.  (But is the AK’s perceived lack of inherent accuracy really the design of the gun itself, which may lend itself to deflection and springing?  Or is it poorly trained shooters?  What low quality ammo?  As a guy who punches paper and strives for tiny groups, I’d be very interested to see how much more accurate the AK-47 can be with high-quality, match grade ammo.)  Anyway, the AK-47 is generally considered “accurate enough” for serious work. 

2. Recreational Shooting. Thanks to what was a really great friend at the time, I shot my first AK-47 in 2003, and it was a blast!  pun intended.   There’s no denying the AK-47 is just plain FUN, and EASY TO SHOOT, and you know exactly what I mean if you’ve ever shot one.

Rock in the magazine. Slingshot bolt, which makes a ver distinctive sound, that is up there with racking a 12-gauge.  Shoulder the rifle. Pull the Trigger. BANG!

Each shot rewards you with a distinctive pop, but not the loud bark of an AR-15.  There’s enough of a kick to let you know you just shot a gun, but its neither unpleasant, nor painful, like some other .30 cal, and larger rifles. You can literally shoot an AK all day long and not develop the dreaded shooter’s flinch.  Want a really fun way to spend an afternoon in the back forty, or some time at the local range?  Well, the AK-47 is certainly fits the bill, very nicely.

3. Hunting Rifle.  If you like venison or bacon, an AK-47, chambered in the traditional 7.62 x 39 cartridge will certainly, legally, put food on the table, where your AR-15 may not.  As you may already know, there are many states where the AR-15’s standard 5.56 / .223 chambering is NOT legal for hunting deer sized game, because the .22 caliber bullet is just considered too small.  That’s one reason that despite their broader popularity, you don’t see many AR-15s in the deer woods.  Sure, you could easily swap-in an AR-15 upper chambered in 6.8SPC, .300 Blackout, 6.5 Grendel or something similar to get you there, but those uppers are expensive, and the ammo for them is really expensive. Enter the AK-47, which only costs a littler more than an low-end bolt gun, and aside from a 5 round magazine, is ready for the deer woods right out of the box.  Just make sure to wear your big boy pants and thick skin if you roll into hunt camp with an AK-47.  I can hear the comments now…

4. Pure Economics.  The AK-47’s Low Cost of Entry, Low Cost of Maintenance, and Low Cost to Shoot make it one of the BEST overall values in firearms today.  Look at the competitive options for a semi-automatic, modern sporting rifle, chambered for a centerfire cartridge.  You’ll see countless AR-15s, the least expensive from well known manufacturers like S&W and Rock River Arms will be ~$800.  (Though honestly, there are very good, less expensive options.)  You’ll also see Browning BARs, FN SCARs, IWI Tavors and Galil’s, Ruger Mini-14s, Sig 556Rs, Springfield M1s, M1As, and M1 Carbines, but almost all of those cost two, three, even FOUR TIMES the price of some, new manufactured AK-47 variant.  Plus, if you like to shoot a lot, and what firearms enthusiast doesn’t, you need to consider the cost of ammunition.  I advise against corrosive ammo, but you can generally be a lot less picky about what you feed your AK-47, than what you feed your AR-15.  So, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot imported, steel or aluminum case, polymer coated ammo through an AK-47, and imported stuff can generally be found on the cheap.  (As of early 2016, you can get decent 7.62 x 39 ammo for ~$0.23 per round, as opposed to ~$0.35 – 0.40 per round for high quality, brass case 5.56 / .223.  It adds up if you shoot a lot.)  Finally, consider the long term cost of maintenance.  The AR-15 needs to be maintained diligently, likes to run wet, and was designed to have certain critical parts replaced after so many thousands of rounds, though most recreational shooters may never hit that threshold.  The AK-47, on the other hand, was made to be ridden hard and put away wet.  With fewer moving parts, looser overall tolerances, and generous areas for dirt and debris to hide before impeding the action, the AK-47 is much more forgiving if you don’t clean your firearms to pass U.S. Marine Corps inspection.  Since you can find good examples in $500 – $600 range, the AK-47 represents unmatched capability for the dollar, and that makes it extremely high value.

5. Historical Significance / Collector Item – While the M16 / M4 is the longest serving rifle in U.S. military history, and while the semi-automatic, civilian AR-15 version is by far the most popular rifle in America, the AK-47 is easily the most popular rifle in the World.  Consider that AK based firearms have been used in just about every military conflict outside of the U.S. over the last ~67 years, since roughly 1949.  The ease and low cost of manufacturing, ease of use / training, ease of maintenance, utter durability, and effectiveness continue to make the Kalashnikov family of firearms extremely popular.  The depth and breadth of just how widely used the AK-47 is, combined with just how long it’s been in service make it one of the most significant, and influential firearms of all time.  That makes it attractive as a collectible.  (If you’re looking for a collectible, I recommend an import, or import based AK-47 as opposed to a 100% U.S. made rifle.  To me, it just seems more authentic coming from a factory in Europe that has produced AK-47s for decades.) 

6. The Impending Ban – It’s no secret that despite actual crime statistics and despite logical reason, AR-15 and AK-47 firearms top every anti-gunner’s “ban” list.  In 2014, when President Obama banned the importation of Russian made Kalashnikov Concern rifles as part of sanctions against Russia, the price of Russian based Saiga’s  went through the roof, and supply dried up, almost overnight.  Well, look for that to possibly happen again, but this time to all other popular AK based imports, as 92 Democratic Senators have allegedly already requested that Obama extend his overreach, and ban the import of ALL AK-47 style rifles through additional Executive Action.  Finally, with a pivotal Presidential Election coming in November, I will tell you that if you’ve ever considered buying the semi-automatic, modern sporting version of the AK-47, you should do it NOW, while you still can.  This is especially true if you want an import based AK.


A Russian based Saiga.

Perhaps the Best Reason to Consider an AK is – ALL OF THEM.  The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts.  

As you can see, there are plenty of individual, legit reasons to own the semi-automatic, modern sporting version of the infamous AK-47, and you could easily justify the purchase with any one of the reasons above.


That said, the best reason, may just be… ALL OF THEM.  Things really come together when you take a step back, and consider the holistic view.  The AK-47 is really the proverbial Jack of All Trades, providing potentially unmatched reliability and capability for the dollar.  Just about any AK variant will be an extremely versatile rifle,  relatively inexpensive rifle to buy and inexpensive to shoot, while being easy learn & use, simple to maintain, forgiving if not kept meticulously clean, and something that can effectively flex into a multitude of useful roles.  If you’re on a tight budget and looking for one rifle that can do it all, you gotta consider the AK-47.  It might just be the perfect one-gun option, or ranch gun, or truck gun, or camp gun, or survival gun, or SHTF gun… 

72L_RI2245-N C39v2.jpg

Century Arms c39v2, with milled receiver. 

So, that’s it.  That’s why I think a civilian legal AK-47 based variant is actually a great, multi-use rifle, and why I think want to get one, sooner rather than later.  Let me know what you think?  Do you already have an AK?  Would you ever consider an AK?  Why or why not?


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.


So, now a month into 2016, and with SHOT Show over, here are my Top 5 Firearms Industry Predictions for 2016.  Take a read and let me know what you think!

1. Firearms Sales will Skyrocket. Again.  Existing gun owners will continue to add to their collections, and there will, again be significant increases in first-time gun buyers, the fastest growing segment of which are women and minorities.


  • Given the current political environment, existing gun owners are going to accelerate purchases they would otherwise put off, and prospective gun owners are going to finally pull the trigger (pun intended) on that purchase they’ve been contemplating.  The gun control movement, currently championed by President Obama, defined by a series of ineffective Executive Actions as he rides out his lame duck session, coupled with the fear of someone even worse, has many afraid that guns on their wish lists might be unavailable in the future.  And we all know nothing sells anything better than the threat of not being able to get it later.  (The worst kept secret in the firearms industry is that Obama’s been Gun Salesman of the Year for the last 8 years running.  Ironic, no?!)
  • More people are going to embrace the idea of having a gun for home defense and personal protection.  Recent terror events in Paris and San Bernardino, CA, ironically two areas with some of the strictest gun control laws, have forced folks to realize that laws don’t always keep people safe, and that those sworn To Serve and Protect can’t be everywhere at once.  Put it all together and you’ll understand why many smart, realistic, logical people exercise their Second Amendment Right.
Microsoft PowerPoint - FBI Violent Crime vs NSSF-Adjusted NICS (

Courtesy of NSSF. Please note the chart is missing  2015 data.

2. Concealed Carry Permits will Continue to Soar. Again.  Inline with an increase in general firearms sales, more people will make the decision to take their firearm outside the home, primarily for personal protection, and pursue their concealed carry license.


  • Personal protection!  Let’s face it, the bad guys are already carrying guns (oh, but why aren’t the laws stopping them??…), so knowing that, more and more Good Guys will make a conscious decision to give themselves an advantage, or at least level the playing field.  “Sometimes the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun” is NOT just a catchy slogan.  It’s a proven fact!  And while such stories rarely make national news, you can find plenty of examples if you take the time to look into it objectively.
  • National Reciprocity.  In addition to getting a carry permit for personal protection, folks will continue to pursue carry licenses to get ahead of the curve in hopes that 2016 will finally bring about a National Concealed Carry Standard.  In terms of concealed carry, the U.S. currently has an overly complex, inherently risky patchwork of state level statutes, comprised of Shall-Issue, May-Issue, No-Issue and Unrestricted States, plus Resident and Non-Resident Permits in some.  Imagine if your Driver’s License was suddenly not valid the second you hit the State Line.  On top of that, imagine that if, for whatever reason, you wandered across state lines, even by accident, and suddenly got arrested for committing a major felony.  That’s just asinine!!  It all too often severely, forever, negatively impacts the lives of otherwise good, law abiding citizens!!

Photo Courtesy of Falia Photography


3. All major handgun makers will offer a Modular Handgun System, like the Sig Sauer P320, Beretta APX, and Ruger American Pistol.  As such, Modular Handgun Systems will all become increasingly popular.  While handgun modularity has been around for a while – interchangeable backstops are nothing new, Glock enabled caliber changes between 9×19 and 40S&W, or .45ACP and 10mm for decades, and chassis based handguns, like the Sig P250 and Beretta Nano, have been around for years – but 2016 will focus on modular, chassis based guns like never before.


  • The U.S. Army is looking to award a new XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) Contract to replace an aging fleet of Beretta M9 pistols, which have been in U.S. Military service since 1985.   So, why does the U.S. Army want a Modular Handgun System (MHS)?  The research I did indicates that a MHS will allow the gun to be caliber agnostic, easily upgraded without having to replace the entire gun, and easily customized to work well for different sized shooters.  So, the MHS can be configured to specific mission needs, and/or specific shooter needs, as well as upgraded easily to take advantage of component level improvements, without having to buy an entire new gun, which theoretically means less cost.  How will this translate to civilian demand?   Military and LE use generally make it a proven commodity.  If it works well for those guys, it’ll work great for us…

Editor’s Note: It’s a great concept on paper; one “gun” you can change as needed, and/or customize to your hearts content.  Wish, after purchase, you got 9mm instead of the snappier and more costly .40 S&W?  Suddenly need that new Flat Dark Earth frame, or just want to create a cool two-tone, OD frame, black slide combo?  Want to change the grip size so your wife can shoot more comfortably, and more accurately at the range?  None of that is a problem with a MHS (modular handgun system).  Simply order up a new barrel, slide and/or frame and have it shipped right to your house, where you change the parts yourself.  No gunsmith or special tools necessary.  Aside from Military use, the MHS may make a lot of sense for first time gun buyers who aren’t 100% sure of what they want, or who’s needs may evolve.  It may also make some sense in places like Massachusetts, NYC or New Jersey, where it’s not as easy to buy, nor sell and replace a handgun as it is other places.  Ultimately, though, no matter where you live, the cost and availability of components will make or break the design, at least in the civilian market.   I mean, if it’s gonna cost just as much to buy a new gun as it will to change a Sig P320 from a compact to a sub-compact, folks will more often than not simply buy a whole new gun.  And Beretta, where are ya??  The Nano’s been out for 5 years!!  The APX was announced one year ago, yet no public news on the APX since July 2015, and SHOT Show 2016 is over.  What’s the hold-up?! 



The Sig Sauer P320 Chassis. This serialized part is “The Gun”…


…and everything else is interchangeable, with these Sig Sauer P320 Accessories.



4. 2016 Will Be the Year of the AK-47 in the U.S. Civilian Market.  While we Americans are by no means bored with our AR-15’s – pretty much everyone who wants one already has one  – over the last year or so, there’s been a lot of U.S. civilian interested in Mikhail Kalashnikov’s famous AK-47 design, and similar AK pattern rifles, like IWI’s Galil ACE.  So, AK pattern rifles will sell very well in the U.S. in 2016.


  • The AK-47 is a historically significant, notoriously reliable, relatively inexpensive, and a very effective firearms platform.  As the AK platform continues to lose that bad guy image, and instead becomes recognized as just another good, effective firearm, that can be had relatively cheap, that is cheap to shoot, and that can be used for many different, legit, legal purposes, like hunting, recreational shooting and defense, more people will want an AK pattern rifle.
  • Reduced availability of “authentic,” foreign made AKs will drive demand for import based, 922r compliant AKs!  In July of 2014, as part of sanctions against Russia, Obama banned the importation of products from Russian gun maker Kalashnikov Concern (formerly Izhmash), which were then sold in the U.S. under the  extremely popular Saiga brand rifles and shotguns.  (Russian AK’s are considered the best of the best.  Demand, and prices, for Saiga’s instantly went through the roof.  Nothing sets off a good buying spree like a ban.) Anyway, as of January 2016, you can still legally purchase 922r compliant AK’s from Bulgaria, Romania (WAS), Serbia (N-PAP / O-PAP), and potentially a few other European nations.  However, as the Global War on Terror continues to heat up, many of these manufactures will be producing guns for their own military and civilian markets, rather than for export, which may reduce availability.  And finally, 92 Democrats have recently  asked Obama to go further with his Executive Action, and ban the import of all “Assault” style guns.  Get yours while you can!
  • More U.S. companies are making AK pattern rifles, and parts for AK’s right here, which further legitimizes the platform.  Century Arms, Kalashnikov-USA, DDI all produce 100% U.S. made AK-47 variants.  This might be just the ticket for someone who has always wanted an AK pattern rifle, but would rather invest in a U.S. product or company.  Likewise, it might be appealing for those who think U.S. manufactured, milled receivers and U.S. made, nitride treated barrels might make the gun more rigid overall, and improve accuracy of the platform.     And with big name accessory manufacturers like, Magpul and Geissele, making great accessories for the platform – the AK platform will only gain popularity here in the U.S.

Russian Saiga



72L_RI2245-N C39v2.jpg

Century Arms 100% American Made AK-47 Pattern Rifle.



5. Pistol Caliber Carbines and Bullpups will Gain Popularity, and everybody wants an IWI X95-9mm.


  • The pistol caliber, bullpup carbine might just be the Best of All Worlds for Home Defense.  Talk to guys on the job, or who have been on the battlefield, and they’ll all tell you they’d much rather have a rifle than a handgun when things go down.  However, depending upon your situation, a traditional rifle might not be the best choice in a home defense, or CQB situation.  Why? That long, protruding barrel may give you away, and at worst, could give the bad guys something to grab onto as you turn corners or enter rooms.  Second, over-penetration is going to be worse with a traditional rifle round than with a handgun, and over-penetration is certainly something to think about in any home defense / CQB situation.  On the flip side, if you can’t quickly and repeatedly hit your target, under incredibly stressful circumstances, with your home defense handgun, that’s a problem!  And, will that handgun have enough “knock-down“power to end a conflict?  Well, a good pistol caliber bullpup might just be the perfect answer.  Shooting pistol caliber ammo from a rifle is generally a very low recoil event, making it very easy for even new shooters to hit their target, quickly and repeatedly.  Pistol rounds fired from a rifle barrel will come out hotter, and carry more energy, giving them more “knock-down” power, compared to when fired out of a handgun.  Finally, the bullpup design, which locates the action behind the trigger group, leaves much less of the rifle barrel sticking out in front of you, which is better in CQB situations.  More rounds on target.  Faster. Easier.  With more knock-down power, and better CQB handling?  Sounds like the no-brainer home defense winner to me!  (The only thing you probably won’t like about the IWI X95-9mm is the price tag.)

IWI X95-9mm. Photo courtesy of IWI


So that’s it, my Top 5 2016 Firearms Industry Predictions!  Let me know what you think!


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

I’ve been on a knife kick lately.  Why not?!  I carry a knife every single day – everyone should!  While most of the time I carry a small utility, EDC or “gentleman” folder, I do agree with the experts who recommend having a “one tool option” in your collection.  So, with that in mind, but knowing a “one tool option” is something I’ll rarely use, I forced myself to choose a product from the more broadly affordable end of the spectrum, from a lesser known knife maker, instead of going my usual best of breed, high-end, well known route.  I got my hands on the Pathfinder Exclusive, Jeff White Heavy Duty Camp King, which retails for $175 with a leather sheath, but there are MUCH BETTER options!!



Photo courtesy of Self Reliance Outfitters


First, I gotta say the Jeff White HD Camp King is really a great looking knife.  It looks beautiful.  The overall design is based on the classic French Trapper / French Trade knife commonly found on the American frontier throughout the 18th Century, but still today a very useable design.  The rough, blackened bade, complete with hammer strikes and makers marks, the curly maple scales with simple brass pins all combine to give it an authentic, unfinished look.  This knife has gobs of Second Kind of Cool.  

Second, the Jeff White HD Camp King certainly ticks all the boxes, and has the stuff to make it a “one tool option,”  at least on paper:

  • 6-1/4 inch cutting edge (most experts recommend at least a 5″ blade for a one tool option.)


  • 3/16th inch thick (anything thinner than 5/32 is  generally considered too thin for a one tool option because it could bend under hard, heavy use, such as batoning through hard woods.)


  • 1095 high carbon steel (even though they rust easily, O1 and 1095 are considered great one tool option steels, because they take a wicked edge, sharpen relatively easily in the field, and can throw sparks from a flint.)


  • 90* sharpened spine (useful for tasks like throwing sparks from a ferrocerium rod and for general scraping, in any situation you may not want to use your blade.)


  • Full, exposed tang construction (full tang construction is extremely important for overall strength and durability, especially under hard, heavy use, as it significantly reduces the risk that the cutting edge will break away from the handle.)

Third, the convex grind, an inherently strong design, came razor sharp out of the box.


The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Unfortunately, despite my research (there wasn’t much out there in InterWeb land on this particular knife), and despite how good the Jeff White Heavy Duty Camp King looked on paper, I was very disappointed when I finally put the knife in hand.  There are a few fundamental design flaws, one I consider downright dangerous, that ruin an otherwise potentially viable one tool option.


  • Purely for reference purposes, I wear a men’s Large glove, though I’m no gorilla, and I found the length, and shape of the Jeff White Heavy Duty Camp King handle very uncomfortable.  I just couldn’t get a good, comfortable hold on the knife.  As you see in the pictures below, my hand felt cramped between the butt and the blade in what I would consider a normal hold, and gripping the knife further back on the handle, as if for chopping, was no better, as it didn’t feel like I really had control of the blade.




  • More importantly, I believe the design of the Jeff White HD Camp King knife is downright dangerous for any real-World use.





To be fair to Jeff White, my understanding is that he specializes in 18th Century Reproduction Knives and Accessories, primarily for the reenactment crowd, which is a scene I know very little about.  That said, and while I mean no disrespect to anyone, to me, that sounds like more show than go, more bark than bite, more about looking the part and acting, than real-World hard use.


Net-net, I do not recommend choosing the Jeff White Heavy Duty Camp King for a current day, one tool option.  Just like everything else, and while still extremely useable, the original French Trapper / Trade design has evolved for the better over the last three hundred years or so.  Jeff’s version is a little too true to the original – which makes sense when you consider his primary target audience. 


BETTER Competitive Options, for less money!

There are much better competitive options for the same money, or less!  The ESEE-6, KA-BAR Becker 7, Ontario Knife Company RAT-7and Cold Steel Recon Scout all immediately jump to mind as better options, and can all be purchase for ~$100 – 140.



Just note all of those competitive options are coated.  Ya know, industry trends are funny thing.  Some years back, everyone wanted coated high carbon steel blades, to help prevent rusting.  Back then, it wasn’t a real survival knife if it didn’t have coating.  Of late, coatings have fallen out of fashion.  Some folks simply don’t like the look.  Some say it impedes slicing and cutting performance.  Some fear the coating will rub off over time, possibly into whatever you’re cutting.  In my experience, this can happen during batoning, but is not at all likely while processing game or other food.   Some say it could harbor bacteria.  I’ve never let my blades stay dirty enough to test this out.  Anyway, apparently now, in late 2015,  you need an uncoated blade to have a real survival knife…haha.  I call TOTAL BS on that!!  If the coating bothers you that much, simply strip, or sand it off before using.  

Let’s be honest.  If you’re really in a situation that truly requires your one tool option, and if you’re lucky enough to have your one tool option with you at the time, you’re gonna have much more important things to worry about than whether or not your blade is coated!  I strongly suspect a blade coating won’t be the deciding factor in your survival or sustainability.


Spending a bit more gets you a MUCH BETTER semi-custom blade, and puts you on a higher level.

If you must have an uncoated blade from the factory as your one tool option, or just want to take your knife collection to the next level, Battle Horse Knives (BHK), Bark River Knives and Doug Wilson from Yellow Hawk Custom Kydex all make excellent alternatives for your one tool option, all of which, again, are based on the traditional French Trade / Trapper design.  Just expect to pay in the $250 – 400 range for the choices below.

  • Battle Horse (BHK), offers the Scout Knife and the PLSK1, which can be had in exclusive Pathfinder Editions, or directly from BHK, though they might not be called the exact same thing.



  • Doug Wilson, of Yellow Hawk Custom Kydex, offers the BMF2 system.  While I believe his original BMF2 system is still available for immediate purchase on eBayclick here for info on Mike’s newest BMF2 prototype.  After recently working with Mike on a custom sheath for my Jessmuk JX2 (look for upcoming reviews on both that knife, and the YHCK sheath) I can’t wait to get my hands on one of his new BMF2 designs.  Now that I personally know just how kick-ass, and high-quality his sheath systems are, as well as how much the sheath alone can cost, I really don’t think you’ll find a better value than his BMF2 system!! 

Photo courtesy of Doug Wilson’s eBay Listing


There you have it.  My thoughts on French Trade / Trapper influenced knives that could serve as your One Tool Option in a bet-your-life-on-it situation, including why I don’t think the Pathfinder Exclusive Jeff White Heavy Duty Camp King is a realistic option, and what are some better choices.


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.

In short, the Rapid Dominance T302 Rapid 96 is an NTOA approved, full-featured, cavernous 96-Hour (4 day) pack, with a LIFETIME WARRANTY, that sells for ~$125.  It might just be The Best Kept Secret in 3 – 4 Day Tactical Packs!  I mean, with smaller competitive offerings with less features selling for more money – sometimes A LOT more money – how do you not give this pack a try?  Seriously?!


Picture courtesy of Rapid Dominance

Like many of you, I’m constantly on the hunt for cool gear, and recently decided I needed a good 3 – 4 day pack.  I checked out the The Usual Suspects – Maxpedition, 5.11 Tactical, Vanquest, Kifaru, Mystery Ranch, Hill People Gear, Frost River, Duluth, etc. etc., but for a variety of reasons couldn’t get fired-up about any of the current offerings.  Truth be told, I came real close to buying the well known 5.11 Tactical Rush 72, but it seemed a bit small.  I also looked closely at a few Maxpedition offerings as I already have a bunch of their gear – but their stuff can be a bit overly stiff, and likewise, overly priced.  Other offerings were either a bit too old school, didn’t have enough pockets, or just cost more than I wanted to spend for something I’ll use occasionally, and predominantly  on a recreational basis.

I also intentionally wanted to try what might be considered a lesser known brand because like many of you, and while I don’t like cheap things, I sometimes wonder if we have to spend as much as we do for quality gear.

So, what do you get for your money?  The RAPDOM T302 Rapid 96 highlights include the following points, and  since I was severely disappointed with the lack of pictures on the net, I rolled in a bunch of photos to highlight the great features of this very well thought out, organized, high-quality pack.


I sincerely hopes this helps you in your search for a good 3 – 4 day tactical style pack.


  • LOTS of SPACE, 29 POCKETS and MOLLE everywhere!  52L, or 3,151 cubic inches of space, spread across 4 side pockets, a front organizer pocket, a front main pocket, a front top pocket, a huge main compartment with drainage holes, a fleece lined sunglass pouch and a hydration sleeve.  The T302 Rapid 96 provides SIGNIFICANT CAPABILITY!



  • Useful compression straps.  Four on the side with captured ends – a very nice touch, which is great for when using this bag without a full load-out.  You also get compression straps on the bottom / underside of the pack, which is great for securing a sleeping pad, bedroll, or even rain gear.



  • Strong, quality, durable construction thanks to 1000D Kodra water resistant nylon, good buckles, good zippers and quality stitching.   (1000D Kodra is 1000 denier, 100% nylon, similar to 1000D Cordura, but Corder is actually Dupont’s brand name.)  You may find a stray thread, I don’t think the buckles are Fastek, nor do I believe the zippers are YKK, but for the price you pay and with the lifetime warranty, I’m not sweatin’ it…


  • An internal frame sheet with a steel stiffener, plus a padded back, with air channels to reduce sweat and fatigue. I have several packs in the 1600 to 2900 cubic inch range, and the RapDom T302 Rapid 96 is the ONLY ONE with an internal frame and metal stay and I find the frame a very welcome addition in this class of packs, especially when fully loaded up. 


  • A 5.11 style yoke / harness system with padded shoulder straps and a generously padded weight / load bearing hip belt, both of which make the pack very comfortable to carry.  The hip belt can also be stowed when not in use.


  • The RapDom 96 is also NTOA (National Tactical Officers Association) – Tested and Approved.  If you’re not familiar, the NTOA is a nationwide information sharing network of tactical teams serving the law enforcement community.  Yeah, these are the guys that need their gear to work!  If it’s good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for 90% of us. 


Honestly, I’m not only impressed by features of this pack, but also by the attention to detail and level of quality.  It just might be the perfect balance between quality, space, features and price-point. I honestly don’t think you can beat it.  Especially for the price! 


The RAPDOM T302 Rapid 96 is absolutely the perfect Bug Out or Get Home bag.  My only problem with that plan?  I like the bag so much, I don’t want to relegate it to just that role.  The RAPDOM T302 Rapid 96 also makes the perfect 3 – 4 day pack, so I might just have to get a second one, or a similar, slightly smaller offering from RAPDOMThe nice thing is, at it’s current price, that won’t break the bank!


Props to Chris Tanner at PreparedMind101 for turning me on to RAPDOM with his reviews of their T311 Tactical Messenger Bag, which is also on my list.

Sincere thanks to Rapid Dominance for working directly with us at Inside The X Ring on this product review!


Give RAPDOM a look! You’ll be glad you did.

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.


Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel, Recon 1 AUS 8A, Code-4 CTS-XHP, Pendleton Light and Pendleton Hunter


Cold Steel (CS) is known for producing extremely high-value, hard-use knives and other edged tools, like tomahawks, machetes, shovels and swords.  They’re also known for an aggressive, in-your-face marketing style, and hands-down one of the best catalogs in the business.  If you’re looking for some bathroom reading material, definitely sign-up for one of their free catalogs. 

Over the years I’ve purchased quite a few Cold Steel products, and I’ve always been extremely impressed. I mean, everyone should own at least one Special Forces Shovel and Pendleton Light Hunter! Both are so inexpensive and versatile, you just can’t go wrong.


That said, I recently had a real-World experience with my Recon 1, AUS 8A variety, that left me wishing Lynn Thompson and Andrew Demko would pair the Tri-Ad lock with what many would consider a stronger blade grind – like Full Flat, Saber or Convex.


The Cold Steel Tri-Ad Lock – one of the BEST!

Part of Cold Steel’s ‘secret sauce’ is their Cold Steel Tri-Ad lock, designed by Andrew Demko. You can find out more about the Tri-Ad lock by clicking here, but it is arguably the STRONGEST lock in the business, an industry legendary.  Having a folding knife with such a strong locking mechanism empowers the user to do things with a Cold Steel Tri-Ad folding knife that would literally destroy many, lesser quality folders, of any design.

There are videos all over the Internet (some good, some bad) including some great ones from Cold Steel proving the strength of the Tri-Ad lock over and over again.  Now, while a folding knife will never be as strong as a similarly sized, well designed fixed blade knife, a folder with the Tri-Ad lock is about as close as you’re gonna get.  This combination of strength and  versatility, at a common-man affordable price point is what makes Cold Steel folders with the Tri-Ad lock highly desirable.


However, is the Hollow Ground Blade a good match for the Tri-Ad Lock? Is it time for FFG or Saber Grind versions of the Recon 1, AK-47, Lawman and Code-4?

Based on my own personal experience, I suggest a Hollow Ground Blade is NOT a good match for the Tri-Ad lock, and that a Full Flat, Saber or Convex ground blade would be a better match.  

Ok, What makes me say this?

I found the Tri-Ad lock to be stronger than the blade itself. To me, that’s a weak point on otherwise TANK of a knife line-up.  The first weekend of June 2015 I led the annual fishing derby for more than fifty people on a Cub Scout  family campout, when a parent slipped on the wet morning grass, and broke her ankle.

Since the Boy Scouts of America frowns upon fixed blade knives, and since two is one, one is none, I paired my Swiss Army Knife with my Cold Steel Recon 1, which at the time I considered the strongest, most heavy-duty folder I owned.  When the EMT mentioned a splint, I went to work.

My Cold Steel Recon 1 Wheels into Action

Where do you find a splint in the wilderness? You make one of course! The best candidate I found was a 2 ½ – 3 inch diameter piece of freshly fallen pine. I used my Cold Steel Recon 1 to quickly beaver cut my way through the branch into the appropriate length.  I then batoned length-wise to split the branch down the middle, creating the flat surfaces necessary for a splint.

I normally never baton with a folding knife, something almost all knife manufacturers will, rightly, consider abuse.  However, given the emergency situation, and countless videos and reviews I’ve seen, I didn’t think twice.  …and let’s face it, in an emergency, you do what you need to do, with the tools you have available.  The warranty was the last thing on my mind.


So, how’d my CS Recon 1 hold up to this hard-use?  OK, but not great.

  • Cosmetically, it doesn’t look abused at all.  It doesn’t even look “hard-used.”  In fact, I did more cosmetic damage to the blade coating using a Scotch-Brite pad to clean off the sap than I ever did actually using the knife.


  • The Tri-Ad lock held up phenomenally well.  Lock-up remains rock-solid. There is absolutely no play, in any direction.  My CS Recon 1 still locks and unlocks easily with no hang-ups or failures. The Tri-Ad lock still functions flawlessly – good as new.  


  • The spine, or back of the blade, shows no wear from the event. It was fresh, soft pine after all.


  • The cutting edge went through the pine like a hot knife through butter, without rolling or chipping.  It did dull a bit, but can be brought back to hair popping sharp pretty easily.

Honestly, everything stated above is expected.  After all, I  did not baton a supply of firewood, not even a bunch of kindling.  I didn’t chop down a tree.  I sized and batoned one small piece of relatively soft, fresh pine.


What I did NOT expect, is that the blade bent.  There is a wave behind the cutting edge.

Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe it was user error.  My mind was focused on quickly, yet safely crafting a splint (no need for another emergency), with LOTS of wide-eyed Cub Scouts and parents watching. It’s possible I held the knife at just the wrong angle, or hit the spine funny on one of my whacks.



BatonedinHalf Baton




While I realize the Recon 1 is a tactical knife, as opposed to a bushcraft knife, I wonder if the blade bent as function of the grind.  Hollow Grind blades are phenomenal slicers and food prep knives.  However, as illustrated in the picture below, the blade gets almost razor thin as you move from the spine towards the cutting edge, sacrificing lateral rigidity and strength behind the cutting edge.



Representative picture of common knife grinds used on both fixed and folding knives.




This was a great learning experience, and great test for my Cold Steel Recon 1.   I never would have otherwise batoned that knife, but having done it gives me food for thought with regard to what folding knives I take as primary or backup blades, how I use them, and their limits.


Just to be clear, please don’t take any of this as bashing Cold Steel.  The fact is, I used my Cold Steel Recon 1 for something it wasn’t designed for.  While it got the job done, I had an unexpected, disappointing result that affects the blade, a key component of any knife. Like it or not, agree or disagree, that’s just the reality of my experience. Your mileage may vary…


I’m still a huge fan of Cold Steel’s high-value products, especially for the price-point.  Similarly sized, well constructed, “hard-use” competitive options, with comparable blade locks, from companies like Benchmade and Spyderco are usually significantly more money.


The fact is, most average users wanting a large tactical blade, that will hopefully never be used in that role, will be very happy with the current design of the Cold Steel Recon 1, AK-47, Lawman and Code-4 series of knives. I know I sold a bunch of CS knives to many of the Scout parents who saw my Recon 1 that weekend. Hell, I even just bought the newest  versions of the Recon 1 and AK-47,  with U.S. produced Carpenter CTS-XHP blade steel.  From everything I’ve read, CTS-XHP is a significant upgrade from AUS 8A, and I like that it’s made in the U.S.A.



The newest Cold Steel Recon 1 (above) and AK-47 (below), with US produced CTS-XHP Carpenter Steel.


But for those of us who flex our CS blades into hunting, camping or bushcraft roles, I’d like to see Lynn Thompson and Andrew Demko consider this potential product improvement, because as someone constantly looking to improve things, I think FFG, Saber or Convex versions would make already great products that much better.  I’d sure be first in line to buy them, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone!


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.


Old Glory


This weekend, as you gather with friends and family, shop sales and hopefully enjoy fireworks, I ask that you take a conscious moment to reflect on, marvel at, and Thank God (whatever God that is) that if you are lucky enough to live in the United States of America, we enjoy so many freedoms, some of which don’t exist anywhere else in the World.

Now, I know everyone doesn’t always agree on the issues, the salient points, nor the outcomes, but perhaps just for this weekend, let’s put those differences aside, and unite as Americans, realizing that Freedom is what makes our Country such a great place to live. Some of our key freedoms include:

  1. Freedom of Speech
  2. The Right to Bear Arms
  3. Freedom of Religion
  4. The Right to Equal Justice
  5. The Right to Own Private Property
  6. Freedom to travel anywhere within our nation
  7. Freedom to work at any job for which one can qualify
  8. Freedom to marry and raise a family
  9. The Freedom to Vote

Although I sometimes [often?] disagree with the things some people say, I still recognize and respect the right of free speech. With that in mind, I believe everyone should support the Second Amendment – even if you choose not to exercise your 2nd Amendment right.


Well, if the FIRST or SECOND CONSTITUTIONALLY provided RIGHTS are ever infringed upon, or taken away, then it’s just a slippery downward slope towards an America that is no longer truly free, and that’s just plain Un-American! Not to mention something our enemies would like to see.

Finally, as you contemplate our freedoms, please take a moment to Thank God that there have been, and continue to be, very brave men and women who stand up and fight for those freedoms, regardless of whether they fight for freedom in the streets of Everytown USA, in courtrooms, in the Legislative Branch of Government or on the battlefield, in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice.  After all, Freedom isn’t free.


So on this Independence Day Weekend, Let Freedom Reign, and God Bless America!

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.