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.

As you know, I recently completed a review of the FOURSEVENS Mini-123In short, I raved about the Mini-123, concluding that it’s THE BEST EDC Key-Chain flashlight for the Money, Size, Weight and Capability. 

That said, I did point out that after four-plus years of EDC on my key-chain, the split ring mount on three of my four Mini-123’s wore out, though in fairness, everything wears out eventually, and I made a suggestion for improving the Mini-123 in that specific area.

Well, FOURSEVENS happened to see, and really appreciate my honest review, and objective feedback. 

In fact, true to their exceptional customer service model, a representative promptly reached out to let me know:

  • FOURSEVENS is currently working to improve the split-ring attachment point,
  • The newer MX-L puts out 252 lumen and
  • FOURSEVENS wanted to send four replacement Mini-123 bodies to make my Mini-123’s key-chain / lanyard usable again.


I received the replacement Mini-123 bodies not even a week after FOURSEVENS reached out to me, and immediately put the FOURSEVENS Mini-123 back on my key-chain!  It’s so small and light, you won’t even notice it’s there – until you need it – at which point you’ll be extremely happy to have some serious candle-power, and so many great modes!

Customer service doesn’t get any better!  FOURSEVENS is clearly a company that cares about producing extremely high-value, high-quality products AND taking care of its customers.


Look forward to future reviews of other great FOURSEVENS products!


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.

Your EDC system needs a flashlight!



Nutnfancy turned me onto the FOURSEVENS [Quark] Mini-123 almost 5 years ago – thanks Nutn!  After watching his in-depth review – grab a drink, a snack, get comfortable and check this out– I promptly bought four Mini-123’s of the CR123A variety.  I handed three out to family members, and kept one that lived, completely unnoticed, on my key chain as part of my EDC kit.  For a long time, I considered the FOURSEVENS Mini-123 THE PERFECT EDC Key-Chain light.



Capability & Value

Back in 2010, with a street price of around $32, the FOURSEVENS Quark Mini-123, (as it was then called), was hands-down the highest quality, brightest, smallest, lightest flashlights for the money.  You got CREE emitters that threw ~200 lumens, and seven different operating modes in a 2-inch, roughly 1/2 ounce (0.6oz) package – all for $32 dollars?!  If you’ve ever owned the once revered 3-cell D battery, incandescent MAG-LITE, which pushes less than 1/4 of the lumens (~46), at an exponential of the size and weight, for about even money, you’ll realize how, five years ago, that was absolutely incredible.  (No, the Mini-123 doesn’t double as an emergency defensive weapon the way the MAG-LITE does, but there are better tools for that purpose than a flashlight…)

Fast forward 5 years to 2015, and while there are now more competitive options, courtesy of companies like Fenix, ThruNite and EAGTAC, everything stated above about the FOURSEVENS Mini-123 still holds true, even the price point, though their ML-X pushes 252 lumen.


Durability & Use

I value my money, so when it comes to making purchase decisions, I do significant research and tend to buy the best choice I can afford.  I’d rather buy quality once than end up spending more in the long run by replacing cheap alternatives, and I take care of my things.  However, that doesn’t mean I baby my stuff; certainly not the stuff in my EDC, which must be tough and reliable.  My EDC gear has to hold up.  It’s gotta work when it’s needed.  It’s gonna get used often, and used hard, in less than ideal conditions.  If it’s something that goes on my key chain, it’s gonna get thrown around regularly, and probably dropped a number of times.

Of the four Mini-123’s I purchased, one stopped working for no discernible reason, and had to be sent back for replacement, which FOURSEVENS did without issue, and speaks to their excellent customer service.  Honestly, the four Mini-123’s I’ve had for about the last five years have served me, and my family very well.  While there is a shelf-life for LED lights, we’ve certainly all gotten $32 worth from the Mini-123.

However, there is one Fatal Design Flaw with the FOURSEVENS Mini-123.  David Chow please take note.  There’s not enough material supporting the split-ring attachment point, and that split-ring is what keeps the Mini-123 on your lanyard, or key-chain, making it an extremely important component.  Well, after years of Every Day Carry, the very thin and narrow, relatively soft aluminum split-ring attachment point busted on 2 of the lights and is close to breaking on a third.  Luckily, the two that broke were recovered, but they no longer work as an EDC key-chain light, which is where the Mini-123 excels.



What am I replacing it with?  Will it be another Mini-123, or perhaps something different?

Honestly, it took roughly 3-1/2 – 4 years of Every Day Carry, and frequent use for my Mini-123 to break.  Again, it lived on my key chain and certainly wasn’t babied.  I ABSOLUTELY got my money’s worth!  The FOURSEVENS Mini 123 remains an extremely High-Value for the money, especially given the size, weight and capability.  I highly recommend the FOURSEVENS Mini-123 for anyone in my audience looking for a great EDC flashlight.

I would happily get another FOURSEVENS Mini-123 for key-chain EDC.  That said, I’m a gear reviewer.  I’ve “been there, and done that” with the Mini-123.  For me, and largely to help you decide how best to spend your money, it might be time try a different option.

So, what, if any, are the competitive options?

Of all the alternatives I considered, the Eagle Tac D25C Clicky is the one that caught my eye.  The D25C Clicky offers 453 lumens, also from CREE emitters, seven similar modes, a stainless steel bezel (for possible defensive use), and significantly more material supporting the split-ring – but at a price.  The EAGTAC D25C Clicky is almost a full inch longer, almost double the weight (1oz), and at $55, it costs roughly 72% more.


Is the EagelTac D25C Clicky worth the added length, weight, size and money over the FOURSEVENS Mini-123?  Will it integrate as well into my EDC, and live as unnoticed on my key chain? Time will tell, so stay tuned and look for a future update on EDC key chain flashlights.


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.

An ‘X Ring’ post on the Bug Out Bag is long overdue. Honestly though, it’s not about the bag! It’s about planning ahead and being prepared, to help you remain calm, cool and collected when disaster strikes.

Call it whatever you want – BOB, Go-Bag, SHTF Bag, GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) Bag, 72 Hour Kit, whatever – the Bug Out Bag is a short-term, transitional solution. Its purpose is to help you get from your home, that you’re leaving unexpectedly & in a hurry, to a safer location.


Courtesy of Preparing For SHTF

Right now, how you would handle a Reverse 911 call telling you to leave your home in the next 10 – 45 minutes? Would you be ready?  Would you be a little freaked out?  What would be the very first thing you’d do?

Let’s face it, most of us are more focused, find things easier, and are generally more thorough when not under the extreme pressures and stresses that accompany a real emergency. That‘s why you think about, and prepare your Bug Out Bag before you need it.

Pay any attention to the news lately and it seems like major, natural, and man-made disasters are occurring more frequently, and with more intensity than ever before. Isn’t it just good sense to plan ahead and be prepared?


Key Bug Out Concepts & Considerations

Rather than jump right to a specific list of items ‘your Bug Out Bag needs’, which is what so many others tend to do, let’s first cover some key concepts and questions to help you identify the right plan, and equipment for your situation.  The Bug Out Bag is not a ‘one-size fits all’ solution.


Redundancy! Two is one. One is none.

It’s a key concept in Spec Ops, Survival Training, and the IT World. Things like knives, fire starting tools, flashlights, batteries and water containers are always better in ‘two’s, and sometimes more. 😉  One will undoubtedly get lost, break or otherwise stop working when you need it. If not, then you have a backup, something to lend out, or use for barter.  That gives you options and advantages.  Two is one. One is none.




What’s your lifestyle?

Are you a swinging-single minimalist with milk crates for furniture and a sleeping bag for regular bedding? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum, with a young family, a petting zoo of pets, and live with your parents and in-laws? Yeah, those Bug Out Bags and plans will be vastly different.


How’s your health? What about those you’re Bugging Out with? What happens to you under stress?

Anyone in your ‘Bug Out Party’ on any special meds? Need that EpiPen or Asthma inhaler? Those better be in your Bug Out Bag! Same for glasses, contacts and related items. Anyone with physical disabilities in your party? What does that mean to your plan, your kit and how you bug out? Do you get the ‘nervous shits’? Do you suffer debilitating migraines? Plan on it happening at the worst possible time.  Make sure your Bug Out Bag takes these into account.


Where do you Live? What are you Buggin’ Out From? Where You Buggin’ Out To?


This is not how most of us are Buggin’ Out…

…and this is where my Bug Out Bag post differs from others you’ll see. Many ‘Bug Out Bag’ posts and vids are better guides for packing to hike the Appalachian Trail than they are realistic guides for bugging out of a metropolitan area. Hey, I get it. We’re gear guys. We love cool gear. We love to show it off. We love to get new gear. We wish we could use it more often.

Honestly, for most of us, very little of that awesome camping and wilderness survival stuff will get used in a real Bug Out situation.  It might even slow you down.


Chances are good most of you live in one of the 381 US Metropolitan areas.  Chances are also good you’re not Bugging Out from an event as widespread and devastating as the Zombie Apocalypse.  So, based on where you likely live, and what you’re likely Bugging Out from, you’re NOT Bugging Out into the wilderness, to suddenly start living off the grid like the Alaskan Bush People.

You’re going to somebody’s house, a hotel, or a public shelter for a few days until you can hopefully get back home.  You’re going to be with other people – maybe lots of them – in the same situation.  Hopefully, though, things are relatively normal at your Bug Out Location, including regular services and operations.  Your Bug Out Bag just needs to help you get there, and sustain you when you hit delays, get stuck, or rerouted.


How are you Bugging Out?

This one’s obviously pretty important, and has a major impact on both your plan, and your Bag. Are you Bugging Out on foot, by bicycle, motorcycle, or in a vehicle? Bugging out by vehicle?  A simple suitcase might make the perfect Bug Out Bag; it would certainly be inconspicuous.  There’s something to be said for things hidden in plain sight.

Staff members try to move a huge trolley case during the 100th Chinese Export Commodities Fair in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province October 15, 2006. This trolley case has been certified as the world's largest by the Guinness World Records and measures 175cm (5ft 9in) by 115cm (3ft 9.3in) by 46cm (1ft 6.1in) thick. Picture taken October 15, 2006. CHINA OUT REUTERS/Alvin Chan (CHINA)

That’s a Big, Orange Suitcase


The Ruger 10/22 Takedown

Protection. Bring it if ya got it!

Everyone has the right to personal protection and self defense.  A firearm is just another high-value, extremely versatile asset in a well rounded toolkit.  It gives you more advantages and options. Don’t forget ammo.  Know the local firearms laws for your bug out location, and for the route you’re taking.  Bugging Out isn’t an excuse for skirting the law.



Levels of Systems, and Multiple Types of Kit

You’re Bug Out Bag is probably just one component of a much more comprehensive disaster survival plan.  You should have some sort of Every Day Carry Kit (knife, flashlight, combustion device, baby wipes??) and a Basic, Level 1 First Aid Kit that accompany you everywhere.  Beyond that, you might also have an Urban Survival Kit (USK) / Get Home Bag, a Shelter In Place / Bug-In Bag, or any combination of these.  While there needs to be some level of overlap, these different levels of kit should also complement one another.  Your Bug Out Bag should make both your home and vehicle based survival kits more robust, depending upon whether you hit the road, or shelter in place.


Maxpedition SaberCat


Maxpedition DoppleDuffel









Keep it Fresh

It’s pretty easy to make a Bug Out Bag, toss it into the far, back corner of the basement, and forget it, but the Bug Out Bag isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ item.  Break it out every few months.  Review the contents.  Test it. Take it on a day hike.  Take it camping.  Rotate food items. Update your kits as your experience evolves, your skills improve, and your situation changes.


Take Action.  Don’t Wait.

Generally in an emergency situation, the sooner you make a plan and spring into action the better.  Being paralyzed by fear won’t get you anywhere. In the case of Bugging Out, the sooner you get moving, the less likely you are to get stuck, and the more distance you can put between you, and whatever it is you’re bugging out from. That’s a real advantage.


Bugging Out is about transitional survival.  It’s not about being as comfortable as you are in a normal, non-emergency situation. Nor is it about long term wilderness survival, or living off the grid.


Real-World Experiences – You Never Think It’s Going to Happen!


I lived in Hoboken, NJ from February, 1996 through April, 2005.  I was there on September 11, 2001. Thankfully, I wasn’t in the City that day, but I did witness those horrific events first hand.  It’s something I’ll never forget.  I had friends, though lucky enough to survive, displaced from their homes.  In some cases, they were given 30 minutes to get into their apartments, grab necessities, and get out.  Some showed up at my apartment, shaken, scared, exhausted and completely covered in dust & debris, with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs and what was in their pockets.

Hurricane Sandy

We were out of power for 5 days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, “(unofficially known as “Superstorm Sandy”), the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history,” per Wikipedia.  5 days was nothing compared to many I know.  We sheltered in place, which is a topic for another post, but again had friends forced to evacuate, on short notice, and displaced for months, by power outages and flooding.

An Explosive Threat at Local Military Installation

Most recently a suspicious vehicle at a nearby military installation prompted localized evacuations in my area.  Right on the knife-edge of the official evacuation zone, every time the phone rang we thought it might be that Reverse 911 call.  Sometimes your gut just tells you what to do…


Each one of these events got people, myself included, refocused on the whole Bug Out Bag.  While it won’t unfortunately always be enough, it certainly gives you options and advantages.  Those are big wins that increase your odds in any kind of emergency or disaster situation.

Think about it!  Take a crack at it.  Throw something together next time you’re sitting in front of the tube for hours watching the game.  This is clearly one of those things where a not perfect solution is still way better than no solution!

We’ll talk about specific recommended kit contents and gear I like another time.


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.

Earlier this month I was an official media guest of the NRA at the Great American Outdoor Show.  It’s  a big show, with plenty to see and do. The Great American Outdoor Show is open to the public, and open for business!  That’s right, in many cases, you can buy products and book trips right on the spot!



Direct form their site, The Great American Outdoor Show is a nine day event celebrating hunting, fishing and outdoor traditions that are treasured by millions of Americans and their families. The show features over 1,000 exhibitors ranging from shooting manufacturers to outfitters to fishing boats and RV’s, and archery to art covering 650,000 square feet of exhibit hall space! Not to mention a jam packed schedule including country concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events, archery competitions, celebrity appearances, seminars, demonstrations and much more!”

A major highlight for me was ALL of the major firearms and accessory manufacturers in attendance, who brought plenty of guns and products for attendees to handle, and plenty of expert reps to happily answer your questions.

Another personal favorite were the many new, smaller, niche-market vendors I met, some with extremely innovative, exciting new products.  It’s the quintessential, grass-roots American Dream in action. 

I spent the better par of the day and evening at the show, but there were so many manufacturers and vendors to visit, products to see, demos to watch and seminars to attend, I wish I had at least two full days to cover everything!


Highlights, with Specials Thanks To…

Major Firearms & Accessory Manufacturers

Representatives from Mossberg, SIG Sauer, and Winchester Repeating Arms all spent a lot of time with me discussing their products, giving me detailed, hands-on demos, or even just finding product catalogs when they weren’t otherwise available.  I certainly appreciate their attention.

Geissele Automatics
Based in North Wales, PA, Geissele Automatics makes products for “the Competitor, the Warfighter and the Protector.”  In short, their triggers are the best you can put in your firearm!  This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the U.S. Government.  In fact, the DOD tapped Geissele for triggers for semi-automatic sniper rifles, and M4 carbines.  (Now you understand why a Geissele S3G found it’s way into my own AR.)  Geissele brought some great guns to the Great American Outdoor Show, all of which were, of course, fitted with Geissele triggers.  They also had a bunch of trick, innovative trigger housings that let attendees try out the triggers without having to install them in a firearm, and without damaging the trigger mechanism.  I spent a lot of time talking to James about their products, the guns they brought, and my own build.  The forest green AK they brought, with their new ALG AK-47 Trigger was lusted after by many!



Up & Coming Firearms Manufacturers

Bond Arms, makers of the Derringer style Hand Cannon, and  IWI (Israel Weapon Industries), were on hand, and very happy to speak with me at length, about their products.

Since I had already highlighted Bond Arms in my 2015 SHOT Show coverage, it was great to get more hands-on with their product line, and to meet some of the key folks behind this innovative company, including President Gordon Bond.  As I examined all the different models of Hand Cannons, the interchangeable barrels, beautifully crafted grips, holsters and even Buck based knives, the words that kept coming to mind were, functional, overbuilt, high-class, and quality.  I can’t wait to spend some time at the range with a few of these models!

BondArms2  BondArms


IWI US, Inc. was also on-hand with an impressive selection of UZI PRO pistols, GALIL’s and TAVOR bullpups. In case your not familiar, IWI has an 80 year history, dating back to the (IMI) Israel Military Industries, of producing some of, “the most innovative, and legendary firearm brands used by militaries, law enforcement agencies and security personnel around the world.   IWI’s TAVOR SAR, launched in 2013, was the company’s first firearm squarely aimed (pun intended) at the US civilian / commercial market.  New 2015, after an almost 25 year hiatus, the AK-47 based GALIL ACE family of riles and pistols is coming back to the US civilian / commercial market. One of the IWI reps spent a lot of time with me reviewing their products – some of which I had never before seen up close, or wasn’t familiar with at all.  She even took the time to field-strip the TAVOR, right there, in mere seconds, with nothing more than a pen.  (The fact that she probably could have just as easily killed me with the same pen did not escape me…)  I can’t wait to get my hands on a GALIL for a detailed review!





Up and Coming Products

Viper Holsters, LLC.A good holster is like a comfortable pair of jeans.  If you don’t find a good, comfortable holster, you’ll likely start leaving your gun at home.  That’s not a good thing.  Unfortunately, you can’t test holsters until you buy them, and with an overwhelming array of choices out there – from super cheap to luxury items that are more fashion than function – most of us end up with a rather expensive box of “not quite right” holsters.  Well, Joe from Viper Holsters noticed this trend, and has created a line of Kydex and leather products to address the need for economical, high-quality, comfortable holsters.  Joe highlighted some of the product features that set his Viper Holsters apart from existing competitors, and it all makes perfect sense to me.  I did see both  quality and feature improvements in the samples Joe highlighted, when compared to commonly known competitors.  I’m hoping to get my hands on some of Joe’s Viper Holsters for a more in-depth review and  comparison.

TacticalWalls – This company’s “hidden in plain sight” idea is gonna make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”  Let’s face it, if you have guns in the home, it’s a major responsibility to keep those guns out of the wrong hands.  At the same time, if you have guns in the home for protection, quick, easy access to your guns, and probably when you least expect it, is important for all the obvious reasons.  Made right here in the USA of high-quality (real wood), furniture grade components with high-end fit and finish, TacticalWalls has come up with a novel solution to both the security, and quick-access challenges.   I spent a lot of time speaking with Chris, and am really impressed by not only the basic idea, but how well it’s executed, the fit & finish, and the people behind TacticalWalls.  I’ll tell ya, even the Sig Sauer folks, who were right across the isle, couldn’t get enough, and helped make sure the TacticalWalls booth didn’t go unnoticed.  Look for an upcoming, detailed product review.

 TacticalWallsMirror TacticalWallsShelf





Knives, Holsters & Other Gear

Battle Horse Knives – Let’s face it, guns and knives go together like peanut butter and jelly!  If you’re into the shooting scene – be it for recreational, tactical, or hunting reasons –  you’re probably into the broader outdoor scene, to include fishing, camping, hiking and bushcraft.  This means, you’re probably  into knives.  WellBHK makes custom quality knives at production prices, so you won’t be afraid to actually take ’em out and use em in the woods!  Since I already have a couple of their knives and sheaths,  it was great to see them, and the rest of their product line in person, at the Great American Outdoor Show.  Look for some future in-depth reviews, and a special one-off project already in the works with BHK.   In the meantime, you gotta check ’em out: Battle Horse Knives


Ballistol – “The world’s most useful and environmentally friendly lubricant.”  I first learned of Ballistol from fellow firearms enthusiast and product reviewer Hickok45, and his Youtube channel.  (Hickok45 is on a very short-list of video bloggers, or vloggers, I find spot-on in terms of their logic & information, and first-rate in terms of quality.)  Supposedly good for firearms, knives, tools & hardware, leather, home & garden,  marine, road & trail, I’ve been seeking out Ballistol ever since.  I walked away from the Great American Outdoor Show with some product in hand, so look for an upcoming review.


Cold Steel – I’m a big fan of their products, which can easily be summed up as High-Value.  The Cold Steel Recon 1 and Voyager knives, both with the Tri-Ad lock, are regarded by many as two of the best hard-use folders on the market.  Cold Steel was in attendance with product on hand, and some phenominal pricing.  In fact, the Cold Steel Recon 4 and Lawman products I wanted were long gone.

OK Auto 4WD & Tire While guns, knives, related gear, fishing equipment, hunting guides, and taxidermy services dominated that show, there was a section dedicated to ATV’s, RV’s, 4×4’s and boats.  The guys from OK Auto 4WD & Tire spent a lot of time with me showing off tricked out vehicles from their shop and AEV.  If you’re not familiar with OK, click this link for a great, in-depth write-up.


Finally, I’d like to thank the NRA, America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group, for not only such a great event, but also for being such gracious, easy to work with media & press hosts!  I’m certainly looking forward to the next large scale NRA event!


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.


That’s right, this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show just wrapped-up.  I’ve scoured the Web, watched hours of videos, and checked out the latest posts from other blogs.  Here are the trends I noticed, and the products I’m excited about.


The AR-15 craze is slowing, but customizable offerings, 3-Gun ready models & AR-10s are still extremely popular.  


Image courtesy of


Don’t get me wrong, the AR-15 is still the most popular rifle in America, and for great reasons!  (Click here to understand why the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America.)  Make no mistake, AR’s were still hot at SHOT, but they didn’t seem to dominate the show like in recent years.  Colt’s OEM1 & OEM2 bare bones offerings, the four new FN-15‘s and out of the box, 3-gun ready, affordable rifles, like those from Armalite all piqued my interest.  18″ barrels are again popular.  Makes sense to me!  AR-10s continue to gain popularity.  Same familiar, reliable, accurate, quick handling form factor and manageable recoil (at least in semi-auto), just delivering a bigger 7.62×51 payload?!  Yeah, I’m in.  Finally, just Right Carbines also has some cool looking pistol caliber AR based carbines.


AK-47’s – American Made AK-47’s!!

72L_RI2245-N C39v2.jpg




So, while the AR-15 continues to be the most popular rifle in America, the AK-47, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov is the most popular rifle in the World!  Why? They’re cheap and easy to produce.  They’re easy to use.  They’re effective.  Finally, they’re reliable.  Unbelievably reliable.  Loose tolerances that negatively impact accuracy, allow the AK to just keep running in the harshest, muddiest, dirtiest, dustiest, sandiest conditions.  Though traditionally seen by some as a “bad guy’s gun“, the AK-47 has always enjoyed some popularity in the United States.  This year the AK’s popularity has increased exponentially.  In part due to current Russian sanctions, which prevents importation, and in part due just to the increase in popularity of the platform, I’ve noted several “American Made” AK-47s, an AR-AK combination, and AK accessories from some of the best in the business.  Century ArmsPalmetto State Armory and former importer RWC Group all plan to produce American made AK-47’s.  Century Arms has incorporated a clever bolt hold-open into the safety selector.  Purely an admin feature, but helpful to those of us who like to comply with range safety practices.  Geissele’s got a new AK-47 trigger. Magpul’s got new AK furniture and magazines.  There’s even a mutant AR-AK combination; late 2014 CMMG released an AR-AK hybrid.  Mossberg also has a new .22 rimfire rifle, called the Blaze-47, styled after – you guessed it – the AK-47.  I shot a friends AK-47 back in 1994, and it was a blast!  (pun intended).  Such a fun gun to shoot, and I just had another friend, and fellow “good guy” pick one up.  Personally, I want one, but can I can get past the “bad guy gun” stigmatism??  (Does knowing some of our brave men and women in the armed forces have allegedly used AK’s as far back as Vietnam, and certainly in more recent conflicts help justify the decision?  Does buying an AK manufactured and assembled completely in the U.S. help?  I guess only time will tell.) 


Concealed Carry Handguns & Pocket Pistols Continue to Reign Supreme

the-all-new-taurus-curveNo surprises here.  People want personal protection.  Yes, even outside the home…  After all, isn’t that a basic right?!  There are still tons of great, and ever increasing options, but unlike the past few years, there was no specific, hotly anticipated new concealed carry gun.  Bond Arms has some new CA legal Hand Cannons amongst other things, S&W introduced ported variants of their very popular M&P line, Ruger increased the size of the LCP with various new offerings, and Taurus introduced the curve.  Still no return of the Remington R51, though I read on Guns, Holsters And Gear that it might be mid-summer.  Nor was there any sign of a single stack Glock 9mm. (Would a G42 in 9mm be any more concealable than the existing, and ever popular G26?  Is the striker fired, polymer framed, 9mm pocket pistol market too saturated?  Are they possibly working on it now?)




Colt Clearly Wants Consumer Business, Our Business!

ColtRailGun_BlackDespite history dating back to a manufacturing plant in Paterson, NJ in 1836, a long, successful history supplying firearms for the military & law enforcement, and one of the most iconic names in the business, I think it’s fair to say it’s been a while since Colt has been an “A” player in the consumer / civilian market.  Technically, they may have re-entered the civilian / off-duty concealed carry market back in 2007, but for the first time in a long while, at least in my opinion, Colt now clearly wants our consumer / civilian business, and this is a great thing!    Just look at their AR-15 and 1911 based product offerings, with features inspired by both the success of their USMC adopted CQBP (Close Quarters Battle Piston), and customer feedback.  Colt’s Rail Gun is 100-plus years of proven performance and historical significance, in the familiar 1911 battery of arms, combined with the modern convenience of a M1913 Picatinny Rail. I have to admit, I want one!


People Like to Customize Their Guns & The Manufacturers Have Noticed!


Customized sights & trigger.

Let’s face it, people like to differentiate themselves from the crowd.  To make their things work better for them, based on their application and use.  To make things distinctly their own.  We do it to our houses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, computers and even our bodies.  Why not customize our guns, either with custom accessories, or even just custom colors & accents!  It’s a growing trend I don’t see slowing down anytime soon.  It’s also a trend that hasn’t been lost on the manufacturers.  While many mainstream firearms manufacturers have traditionally offered “custom shop” variants at significantly higher prices, some – Strum, Ruger & Co., Inc. in particular – now offer many more options than ever before for customizing production guns, either at time of order, or via owner / gunsmith installed accessories.



Double-Taps (aka quick-hit updates):

  • 1911’s, 1911’s & More 1911’s!  Still riding high from it’s 2011 Centennial, John Moses Browning’s timeless classic is as relevant and popular as ever.  Remington R1’s, Colt .45’s, Sig 1911’s, Ruger SR1911‘s, S&W 1911e’s and many, many more.  Though originally seen by die-hards as sacrilege, Full-size and Commander model 1911’s in calibers beyond just .45 ACP, particularly 9mm,  had a strong showing at SHOT 2015.  There was even a polymer 1911 from American Tactical Imports (ATI).  Personally, I’ll stick to classic .45 ACP, in some kind of metal based frame and slide.


  • 10mm Handguns.  Favored by handgun hunters and brown bear backcountry explorers, 10mm fans have two new options in the Glock 40 MOS and Sig 220.


  • Optics on handguns, and factory slides milled for them.  Putting red-dot style optics on handguns is becoming more and more popular.  So it seems natural that certain manufacturers are making this easier than ever, milling attachment points right into the factory slide, while retaining the traditional iron sights.  Glock’s MOS (Modular Optic System) is just one example.


  • Ruger 10/22 Takedown Bull Barrel & Stock Option.  Honestly, if you don’t have a Ruger 10/22, you need to get one!!  Ruger’s iconic, rotary-magazine-fed 10/22, introduced to the public in 1964, is one of the most popular, and customizable rifles of all time.  Since being announced in March 2012, the Ruger 10/22 takedown, like all other variants, has enjoyed tremendous popularity.  Well, the aftermarket is finally catching up with the takedown.  Popular 10/22 barrel & accessory manufacturer Tactical Solutions teamed up with famous grip and stock manufacturer Hogue to offer this new, very cool looking bull-barrel / stock combination.

Courtesy of Tactical Solutions


Knives & Flashlights… The future’s getting sharper, and looking brighter!

Knives – There are great new offerings from familiar names like Spyderco, Benchmade, Gerber, Kershaw / Zero ToleranceSOG, ESEEBuck, Condor Knife & Tool, CRKT, Emerson, Mora Kniv and Victorinox (Swiss Army).  Across the board, steels, handles, grinds, designs and features continue to get better.  (Honestly, I’m still enamored with some 2014 models; the proven Spyderco Manix 2 in CPM S110V with Dark Blue FRN handles, and Benchmade Hunt Series Grizzly Creek folder are prime examples.) There’s always a place for hard-use, no BS tactical / self defense blades.  They are, and will always be popular, especially with military and law enforcement personnel.  The same can be said for the never-ending need for good, high-quality EDC (Every Day Carry) blades, whether they be Chris Reeve Sabenza style ‘Gentleman’s Folders’ or more basic, utility type blades.  I couldn’t possibly cover all the new models here, but the good news is there’s really an overwhelming array of great choices available, so you almost can’t go wrong.  On the general public, mass-marketing end, focus seems to have shifted away from the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, Doomsday, Rambo Survival Knife, towards more practical, Outdoors, Bushcraft and Hunting knives. The Zombie Apocalypse phase was fun for a bit, but I think this new trend is a good thing.  While not exactly breaking news, ESEE’s Camp-Lore line is a prime example.  That RB3 is something I’m really hoping to get my hands on for a review.


Flashlights – By now, everyone knows LED’s are, no doubt, the way to go!  The lights keep getting smaller, lighter and brighter, while packing in more features.  There are handheld flashlights available today brighter than most automobile headlights.  Think about that… As if the ability to carry the sun in your pocket wasn’t enough, waterproof ratings & USB charging capabilities top the list of 2015 highlights.  Surefire and Streamlight have traditionally topped the list for Military, Law Enforcement and EMS professionals, for good reason, and of course they have new 2015 models.  In my own experience, and while there are some newer players to the game, I’ve found FOURSEVENS and Fenix Lighting to offer, high quality, competitive alternatives – sometimes even at a lower price point for more lumens.  While not exactly new for 2015, take the Fenix UC35; aircraft grade aluminum construction, waterproof, USB rechargeable, 960 lumensall for under $100?!! Seriously, how do you beat that?!!  There are also very interesting options, some at even lower price points, from EagleTac, ThruNite and Nitecore.  Though to-date I’ve no personal experience with those three brands.  (Look for that that to change in the very near future.)


That’s clearly not everything at SHOT 2015.  I didn’t even get into the many new, or improved more traditional, hunting / sporting and tactical marksmanship rifles.  Nor did I get into all the bags, packs, pouches or clothing.  There’s just not enough time in the day!  Anyway, that’s my initial take on this year’s SHOT Show, the products I’m looking for, and a bit on where I think the Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Industry is going.


What caught your eye?  What’s on your 2015 Guns, Knives, Flashlights & Gear Wishlist?  Let me know what you think!


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.

So, I was recently discussing the site with a good friend and faithful reader, who gave me a fantastic bit of feedback.  He asked, “Why don’t you make the site more interactive?”  That’s a hell of a great idea!

Let’s face it, guns can be intimidating.  All that power.  Potentially deadly force.  Little room for mistakes.  Unfortunately, gun safety isn’t taught in schools anymore, (though they teach kids about illegal drugs??).  Likewise, for far too many, gun safety and shooting is unfortunately no longer part of the knowledge, or skills proudly handed down from generation to generation, (though such training it could save your life).

Yet, there are many who still think it’ part of, “the man code.”  Like somehow, all men are supposed to know about guns and gun safety.  (That’s the kind of thinking that will get you in trouble, likely hurt, and possibly worse.) I think we’ve all unfortunately had that bad experience, where we’ve gone into a gun store, or bellied up to the gun counter of a sporting goods store, and been greeted by, “Mr. Just Your Presence is Annoying Me“, or Rambo Himself

Trautman: It’s good to hear your voice Johnny, it’s been a long time. Look John, you’ve done some damage here, they don’t want anymore trouble. That’s why I’ve come. I want to come in there and fly you the hell out. Just you and me. We’ll work this thing out together. Is that fair enough? (First Blood, 1982)

Honestly, who needs that?!  Especially if you’re new to the scene, and already intimidated.  Nobody wants to feel like an ass, especially if you’re trying to better yourself by educating yourself about important life skills topics.  So, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a place you could go to ask all your firearm, shooting, knife and other outdoor related questions, without fear of being ridiculed by the guy behind the counter?  That’s certainly my attitude towards the NRA courses I teach, but let Inside The X Ring be that place!

Want to know the difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition?  The difference between a bullet, a casing, and a round, or what a primer is?  Want to know the difference between controlled round feed, and push feed in bolt action rifles, and why you want controlled round feed when hunting dangerous game?  Want to know whether it’s a magazine or clip, or how to determine the caliber of that old rifle Grandpa gave you?  Ask away.  Just keep it on topic, respectful, and clean!

For now, please email questions to,, and look for a future “Q&A Post.”  If the concept takes off, maybe I’ll make it a “Special Series” and/or add more capability directly to the site to capture your questions.


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!


© 2014 Inside The X Ring.


There are many great reasons to have an EDC (Every Day Carry) Utility blade – or a collection of them.  Besides being useful for all kinds of daily tasks, a utility blade can also serve as a defensive weapon, emergency response tool, or a last resort survival tool.

While a Chris Reeve Sabenza or something from Lion Steel would be nice, they’re in the $200 – $400+ range.  I’m all for it if you have the coin, but tend to favor high-quality, high-value options in the $35 – $150 range.  That’s a price range with a ton of great choices, and easily with something for everyone.  At that price point, you’ll get something you won’t be afraid to use, and you won’t beat yourself up too badly should it ever get lost.

So, for specifically EDC Utility Blade purposes, and assuming you live in a civilized portion of the World, important factors to consider when buying your knife are outlined below.  (Skip to the end for specific recommendations and links to purchase.)

Overall Design- Get a Locking Folder

Why a folder?  A folder gives you more blade length in an overall smaller and lighter package than a fixed blade.  A folder will be easier to carry, easier to conceal and gives you more options for carry.

Why a lock blade?  Safety!  You don’t ever want that blade closing on your fingers, especially during hard use.  As a general rule, lock backs are stronger and can handle heavier use than liner / frame locks, but either work well for most EDC tasks.  That said, the Cold Steel Tri-Ad and the Benchmade AXIS are two of the toughest locks you’ll find anywhere.


Blade Length?

During the week I roll small and light, often choosing knives with ~3” blades.  That’s plenty long and usable, doesn’t attract too much unwanted attention, and still has some reach for emergency defensive purposes.  Days off and weekends, I carry something bigger, in the 3 ½ – 4” range.  (Regardless of what blade length you choose, make sure it’s legal for where you carry.)


Overall Weight?  Small and Light.

My typical EDC blade is in the 1.3 – 2.6oz range.  Days off and weekends I carry something in the 3.6 – 5.3oz range; the added weight coming from the longer blade and heavier overall construction.  The challenge is always maximizing capability, while still having something you can carry comfortably on daily basis, and almost forget it’s there.  I don’t care how bad-ass it is, if you get something too heavy or bulky, you’ll leave it home more often than not, and that’s exactly where it’ll be right when you need it the most.

A lot also depends on how and where you carry.  Sure you can fit a bigger, heavier blade in a work or EDC bag, but it won’t be as easily accessible or quick into action as something on your person.  Likewise, that 5.3oz, 4” blade that disappears when clipped to a pants pocket or waistband is going to feel heavy and bulky when carried loosely in a pants pocket.


EDC Blade Shape, Grind, Edge and Steel?

Blade Shape: Drop point, modified drop point, leaf, and traditional clip point blades are all excellent choices.  You can’t go wrong with any of them.  Unless you’re looking for a dedicated tactical blade, don’t get one with a sharpened swedge, or a double sided blade.  (Note those double edged blades aren’t legal in many areas so again, know your local laws.)

Blade Edge?  Skip the serrations, and get a plain edge.  Serrations look cool, and their selling point is sawing through rope, seat belts, etc.  The fact of the matter is that a well maintained plain edge will cut just as well, if not better – yes even through rope, seatbelts, etc. The plain edge will also be easier to re-sharpen at home or in the field and is more versatile simply because you aren’t giving up any portion of the blade to serrations.  You can use more of the blade to do more things with a plain edge.

Blade Grind:  Hard to go wrong, but I like Full Flat and Hollow Grinds.  Full Flat Grind (FFG) blades are all the rage these days, and for good reason.  FFG knives are strong, light weight and make phenomenal slicers – perfect for EDC Utility tasks.  That said, there’s a ton of great, high-quality, razor sharp knives with hollow and sabre grinds. For most utility tasks like opening boxes, cutting twine, cutting plastic ties, opening envelopes, slicing food, etc. blade grind won’t make too much of a difference.  (For survival knives, where the abilities to baton through wood and build shelters are more important, or for tactical knives, where tip strength is more important, it’d be a different story.)

Blade Steel?  Again, hard to go wrong; VG-10, VG-1, AUS-8, AUS-8A, 154CM, 1095 and D2 are all great choices.  No matter what you end up with, know that no knife is truly stainless.  All have to be maintained.  Speaking of which, I tend to coat my blades with cooking oil.  It affords additional protection from rust and tastes better than some of the alternatives. 🙂 Non-stainless blades are generally easier to re-sharpen, but will require more frequent maintenance.  Lastly, keep it sharp!  Not only is a dull knife frustrating to use, but it’s actually more dangerous than a sharp one.


Handle Design & Materials: Tons of great options, but I like FRN, G-10 and Aluminum.

Some design factors to consider are that open frame construction doesn’t trap as much debris and is easier to clean; metal liners add strength at the cost of additional weight; and the ability to take the knife apart for maintenance is nice.  That said, none of those are absolute requirements.  Don’t worry about it too much for a light to medium use EDC Utility blade.  When it comes to handles, the modern family of impact, chemical, weather and UV resistant plastics like FRN, G-10, GRN, Valox, Kraton and Zytel are all high-quality materials – as are aluminum and titanium.


Highly Recommended EDC Utility Knives for the Everyman

Spyderco Delica4 Flat Ground (FFG) Could be the perfect EDC Utility Blade.

  • 2-7/8” VG-10 (stainless) full flat ground blade.
  • 2.5oz. total weight.
  • FRN handles with stainless steel liners.
  • ~$60.
  • High-quality, high value that’s difficult to beat for the role.

SOG Flash IUltra light weight, lightening quick blade deployment, very inexpensive.

  • 2.5” AUS-8 (stainless) full flat ground blade.
  • 1.3oz. total weight.
  • GRN or Aluminum handles.
  • S.A.T. (SOG Assisted Technology) ultra fast blade deployment mechanism.
  • ~$30.
  • If the Spyderco Delica4 above is too much, you’ll be hard pressed to beat this SOG.

Cold Steel New for 2012 “Mini” Series EDC versions of their Legendary Workhorses.

  • Mini Recon 1
  • 3” AUS-8A (stainless) hollow ground blade
  • Tri Ad Lock
  • 3.6oz total weight
  • G-10 non-lined handles
  • ~$60.
  • The Mini AK and Mini Lawman have similar specs but with slightly smaller blades, lighter overall weights and lower prices. (i.e. the Mini AK has 2 ¾ blade and the Lawman 2 ½).

Benchmade Mini Griptilian

  • 2.91” 154CM (Stainless) hollow ground blade
  • AXIS lock
  • 2.6oz total weight
  • Valox stainless steel lined handles.
  • ~$80.




Want something a little bigger, for more heavy duty use, or with more Tactical focus?

Look at the larger version of everything referenced above.  Blade lengths will be ~3 ½ to 4 inches.  Weights will range from 3.25oz (Benchmade Griptilian) to just over 5oz for the Cold Steel Recon 1, or the 581 Benchmade Barrage.

  • Spyderco Endura 4 FFG
  • Cold Steel Recon 1
  • SOG Flash II
  • Benchmade Griptilian
  • Benchmade 580-583 Barrage



What about Emerson, CRKT, Kershaw, Gerber and Buck?!  Honestly, right now is a great time to buy a new knife.  There are so many great options available from many first class, high-quality and high-value manufacturers.  The options I’ve provided certainly aren’t the only ones, but they are definitely some of the best.  Give one a try, you won’t be disappointed.


Thank you for reading!

Maxpedition Sling Packs – Perfect Tactical Bags for EDC and Outdoor Adventures!

Face it, many of us carry a backpack, a messenger bag, a tote or something similar to work on a daily basis.  Likewise, if you have young children you definitely get stuck carrying the diaper bag.  (Yeah, that one you wouldn’t have been caught dead with at 23.)  So, it’s just smart, and makes sense to have the right bag for your own Outdoor Adventures, or Every Day Carry (EDC).

Think about it, even on a day trip or spur of the moment, quick adventure, you’re probably carrying:

  1. A wallet (or at least an ID & some cash)
  2. Keys
  3. Cell phone
  4. Camera and/or video recorder
  5. Hopefully something for hydration, and food or a snack
  6. A good knife and/or a Multitool, like a Leatherman
  7. A good flashlight  (Here’s a link to my previous post on flashlights)
  8. A basic first aid kit
  9. Sunglasses
  10. Sunscreen and/or bug spray
  11. Depending on weather, the destination and who you’re with, you might also have:
    1. Minimalist survival kit item
    2. Binocular
    3. Rain gear or an extra layer
    4. Stuff for whoever else you are travelling with
  12. Lastly, you might be carrying a concealed firearm or survival type knife (the tactical part).


That’s a LOT of stuff!


So, what do ‘ya do?  Where do you put all that gear so you can carry it comfortably, still have it organized, and most importantly access it quickly and easily – especially if you are carrying a concealed weapon?

Your first answer is probably a backpack, right?  Backpacks are great for hauling gear (sometimes lots of gear) from point-A to point-B, but backpacks have a couple of drawbacks:

  1. A backpack might be overkill.  You might not need something as big as a typical backpack or day pack.
  2. Lack of organization.  A typical backpack or day pack might not allow you to organize all your stuff as nicely as you’d like.  You might have to throw it all together in one big pocket.
  3. Finally, the big downside to the “backpack” is just that, it rides on your back.  Generally speaking, access to anything on your back is definitely not quick, or easy.  You usually have to ask somebody else to access your pack, or you have to stop whatever your doing, take off the pack, put it down, possibly unpack a bunch of stuff, get what you need, shoulder the pack and get going again.


Maxpedition Tactical Sling Packs provide a perfect solution!

Sure, these days, lots of people call lots of things “tactical.”  (The term is probably one of the most over-used words out there.)  So what’s actually “tactical” about Maxpedition bags?  Maxpedition builds every bag they make with a specifically designed, easy-to-access concealed-carry weapons pocket.  (That’s not just tactical, but practical!)


If you’re not familiar with the brand, Maxpedition makes high-quality, value-oriented hard-use, tactical gear which is “used by military, police and outdoor professionals around the World.”  Direct from their website, the “company originated as a builder of premium-grade military equipment” and has refined their “design and manufacturing abilities over many years with real life feedback from serious users.”  Construction highlights include:


  • 1000-Denier water and abrasion resistant ballistic nylon fabric (unless noted as 800-Denier)
  • Teflon® fabric protector coating
  • YKK zippers and zipper tacks
  • UTX-Duraflex nylon buckles
  • Triple polyurethane coated surfaces for water resistance
  • Heavy duty, high tensile strength nylon webbing
  • Heavy duty, high tensile strength thread
  • Stitching patterns designed for heavy duty use
  • Paracord zipper pulls to make it easier to find the pulls and for ease of operation – even with gloves.


Bottom-line: This is high-quality gear that will handle whatever you’re gonna throw at it.  My personal recommendation is to get something from their Famous Jumbo Collection.”  Here are some Amazon links for ease of purchase and to give you an idea of street prices:





Look for an upcoming post specifically on the Maxpedition Famous Jumbo Collection.”  I’ll cover the pack in more detail, discuss what I like about it, explain the variants listed above (S-Type, L.E.O., E.D.C., K.I.S.S. etc.) and I’ll provide links to some alternatives if you want something smaller, or need something bigger.  If you can’t wait, check out the company website here: