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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.

Why?

  • 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.

Why?

  • 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!!
FaliaPhotoConcealed

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.

Why?

  • 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?! 

 

p320-rotate0

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

sig-p320-full-size-compact-and-subcompact

…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.

Why?

  • 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-7.62x39-ak47-iz132l

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.

Why?

  • 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_mepro21_247x157

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!!

 

Camp_King__50761.1447171879.400.527

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.

JWHDCK-Hold1

JWHDCK-Hold2

 

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

JWHDCK-DesignFlaw1

 

JWHDCK-SharpPoint

 

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.

  • JFHDCKvsESEE6

 

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!! 
BMF2

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.

The AR-15 is currently the most popular rifle in United States of America.

ColtAR15

A Colt variant of the AR-15
Photo courtesy of Colt

The AR-15 conversation?  These days you can’t mention the AR without getting one of three responses from the non-gun crowd:

  1. Why does anyone need that?
  2. What are you getting ready for war?, and finally (my favorite)
  3. Isn’t that an assault weapon??!

Without getting political, my quick responses are as follows:

  1. Take a look around.  This isn’t a country of need.  Besides, “need” is a horrible argument against anything. ‘Nuff said on that one…
  2. Not necessarily, but I bet you’ll be knockin’ on my door if [when??] the shit finally does hit the fan.
  3. Invariably the person telling me the AR-15 is an assault weapon is someone with very little, to zero, firearms knowledge or experience.  They’ve typically never had firearms training, don’t hunt, don’t target shoot and don’t even see the value of guns for self defense.  Additionally, most of the folks frowning on civilian ownership of the AR-15 can’t define an assault weapon as outlined by the Federal Ban that became law in 1994 under Bill Clinton.  Firearms safety has been drilled into my head since I was 5 years old.  I’ve been shooting for 35 years.  Now someone who knows nothing about guns is going to tell me what guns I can and can’t own – mostly because of how they look.  Isn’t that completely un-American, against everything this Country was founded upon?!  (Look for a future post to cover pieces of the original “Firearms Assault Weapons Ban” from 1994, with commentary on why many of the provisions were, and remain, completely ridiculous.)  So then, with that out of the way…

Here are some great reasons why the AR-15 has tremendous civilian appeal:

  1. Military & Law Enforcement Heritage – Let’s face it, some folks just like what the military and law enforcement community use.  Why?   Because it’s a known quantity.  The thinking is, hey, if it’s good enough to pass military testing, selection and use, with a proven, successful track record, then it’s definitely good enough for anything I might run into as a civilian. Put another way, Military and LE use of the AR-15 / M16 platform prove it to be an extremely reliable and effective rifle.  They wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t.  Plus, some people just like what is ‘tacticool‘ – the tactical, cool stuff used by military and police.
  2. Historical Significance & Collectability – Per my previous post in this series (click here if you missed it), variants of the M16, all select fire derivatives of the semi-auto only AR-15,have served active duty in the U.S. Military longer than any other rifle in history – and still continue to serve.  Hell, a version of the M16 killed the most wanted terrorist in the World.  That’s quite a track record and claim to fame.  For most, the AR-15 is the closest thing available to owning an M16.  It’s like owning a working part of American History.  The feelings of nostalgia that exists for “The Guns that Won the West” are exactly what the AR-15 will illicit in the not too distant future.  Historical significance & collectability are great reasons to own an AR.

    S&WMP15-Magpul

    A Smith & Wesson M&P15 with Magpul furniture
    Photo courtesy of Shooting Illustrated

  3. Modularity – Just like it’s M16 counterpart, the AR-15 can be configured and adapted to the needs and wants of the shooter.  The joke is it’s “Barbie for men”, and there are even “Build a beAR” workshops you can attend.  The look & feel, the configuration and even the caliber can be quickly, easily and frequently changed.  You can add rail sections, or rail covers or install accessories on those rail sections like sights, optics, forward grips, tactical flashlights or laser pointers.  You can swap complete upper halves to easily change barrel lengths or to perform a complete caliber conversion.  One of the best and most rewarding things is that you can do it all yourself.  There is no need for the time and expense associated with gunsmith performed customizations.  Plus, customizing your AR-15 is downright fun and personally satisfying for the Do-It-Yourselfer.  Additionally, modularity has key advantages from cost and training perspectives.  Buy a basic AR-15 and enhance it as funds allow, or as you grow and evolve as a shooter and have a better idea of what you want, need and will use.  From a training perspective, the modularity of the AR-15 allows you to focus on learning and developing muscle memory for one action, one set of controls and procedures, one trigger squeeze, etc. etc.
  4. Versatility – With modularity comes great versatility.  The AR-15 is simply so good, at so many things.  It’s an extremely capable rifle platform.  Changing uppers let’s you change barrel lengths, handrail sections, accessories and even calibers.  Why is this important?  Well, a short, 14.5 – 16” barrel with a tactical light and a red-dot style optic make it a great CQB, (Close Quarters Battle) or home defense gun.  An AR-15 with a long, 20 – 24” barrel and a high quality, variable powered optic can be a precision rifle.  An AR-15 with a 16 – 18 “barrel, a low powered optic or red dot (or high powered optic and offset iron sights) and a tactical light make it a jack of all trades; akin to the the Navy’s MK12 SPR (Special Purpose Rifle) and the U.S. Navy SEAL’s Recon Rifle.  Caliber conversions are important because they let you completely change the capabilities of the gun.  Downsize to .22lr for even cheaper and less recoiling plinking, or for small game hunting.  Upsize to a 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, one of the increasingly popular .300s or even something bigger, and you’ve got a more effective long range rifle, big game hunter, or truck stopper!  Again, all with one action, one set of controls and procedures, one trigger squeeze, etc. etc.

    AR-Calibers

    Popular AR-15 Calibers:
    5.56 NATO, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, .458 SOCOM, .50 Beowulf
    Photo courtesy of gunrunnerhell

In short, the AR-15 is reliable, effective, easy to shoot, modular and extremely versatile.  (Those are the same key attributes that have kept the M16 in military service for the past 50+ years!)

So then, How Would a Civilian use an AR-15?

  1. Pleasant Plinker – The low recoiling 5.56 / .223 rounds are pleasant and easy to shoot.  (While often used interchangeably, 5.56 and .223 rounds are NOT the same.  The 5.56 is loaded to a higher chamber pressure than the .223.  So make sure your AR is stamped 5.56 on the barrel before shooting that round in your rifle.)  Either way, you can literally spend a day at the range without physically beating yourself up, and without developing poor shooting habits, like flinching.  (It used to be relatively cheap to shoot…)
  2. Gun For New Shooters – In addition to being very reliable and producing low recoil, the AR-15 has simple, straightforward controls.  The AR-15 is easy to operate.  This combination makes the AR-15 an excellent choice for teaching new shooters the fundamentals of safety and shooting.  You can focus on things like, “Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction”, and, “Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot”.  Then it’s simply manipulate the safety, get your sight picture, align the sights with the target, focus on the trigger squeeze and Bang
  3. Home-Defense– In addition to all those things that make the AR-15 great for teaching new shooters, it is generally shorter and lighter than most shotguns and hunting rifles.  The combination of these features make the AR-15 better suited for CQB than say your 28” bird barreled 12 gauge, or your 22 – 26” barreled bolt-action hunting rig.  Chances are it’s also a lot easier for the Mrs. or smaller statured shooters to handle than a larger, heavier and harder kicking shotgun or rifle.  By “handle” I mean physically moving from room-to-room, shooting on target and getting follow-up shots on target as necessary.  Additionally, the standard .22 centerfire round of the AR-15 is more effective than a 22lr rimfire round, and won’t be as likely to over-penetrate as 00-buckshot or a 30-06.  Over-penetration has to be a consideration whenever you’re thinking about or planning for home defense.  Search the Net and you will find some great articles and TV shows within the gun community that argue why the .223 is a great choice for home defense, especially with some of the newer advancements in ammunition and projectiles.
  4. General Defense – All those things that make the AR-15 a great home defense / CQB gun also make it a good “ranch rifle”, a tool traditionally used for outside the home defense or pest control.  Got a large piece of property, boat or RV to defend?  If you do your part, the AR-15 will do the trick out to about 300 yards.
  5. Hunting – In its standard 5.56 / .223 chambering, the AR-15 is a great varminter for pest control against prairie dogs, ground hogs, foxes and coyotes.  Traditionally it’s not much of a hunter beyond that.  The 5.56 / .223 is too much for use on small game you’d want to harvest, but not quite enough for medium sized game, like deer, or bigger animals.  (There are very few states that allow you to legally hunt deer sized game or larger with a 22 caliber bullet.)  However, with the proliferation of caliber conversions comes capability, in the form of new complete uppers.  You can easily change, you’re 5.56 / .223 chambered AR-15 into a 6.5 Grendel (.264), a 6.8spc (.277), a .300 AAC or .300 Blackout (the .30 cals) or even something bigger and heavier– all of which are large enough, and legal, for taking medium and large game.
  6. Training Aid – The AR-15 is a great gun to bring to any type of rifle or carbine training course.  Whether you are learning precision long range shooting, going through a shoot house in low light or learning anything in between, the AR-15 can be configured specific to the course, and it’ll get the job done.
  7. Competition –3-Gun Nation anyone??   The AR-15 is extremely popular all levels and in all forms of the competition circuit, from the casual to the highly competitive and professional.  Your right out of the box, bone stock, entry level AR-15 is a great way to get into the sport.
  8. “Second Kind of Cool” to use a Nutnfancy’s termYou have to admit the AR-15 is one wicked cool looking gun.  For some folks, that cool factor alone is reason enough.

So there ya have it, a detailed explanation of what makes the AR-15 so appealing to civilians.  It’s easy to understand why almost every gun owner in America wants one.  I’ve also given you plenty of legit, legal reasons for owning one, with a description of how thousands of law abiding civilians across the United States of America are legally and enjoyably using their ARs!  Go get yours while you can.

 

Be aware!  Be Prepared!  Be Safe!

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!