Product Review

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.

GLOCK19

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.

GLOCK19-FieldStrip

  • 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.

GLOCK19-Set

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.

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GLOCK G19 Backstrap Set

GLOCK-MOS-Set

GLOCK G19 MOS Adapter Set

The SIG SAUER P320. 

SIGP320-9-FDE

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!).

SIGP320-FieldStripped

  • 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.
p320-rotate0

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

SIG-320-Components

…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.

SIGP320-Set

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

SigP320-Holster

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.

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?!

T302-BAN

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!

T302-TagT302-BackPanelT302_TopsideT302_TopFrontPocketT302_SidePockets3T302_SidePocket2T302_SidePocketT302_LaptopSleeveT302_InternalOrganizationT302_FrontMain2T302_FrontMain

 

  • 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.

T302_SideProfile

 

  • 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. 

T302-Frame

  • 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.

T302-YokeSystem

  • 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.

IMG_6802-2

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.

Branch

BranchwKnife

BatonedinHalf Baton

CS_Recon1-BladeBent

CS_Recon1-BladeBent2

 

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.

 

blade-gridn

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

 

 

Net-Net

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.

 

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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.