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.

The LONG awaited, and hotly anticipated GLOCK single stack 9mm, the G43, is finally here!  It’s certainly late to the extremely popular, highly-concealable, “pocket-9” party, but I’m still excited.  I, for one, tend to shoot Glocks pretty well, and I really like their triggers.  I know I’m not alone!

Since introducing the first, semi-automatic GLOCK service pistol in 1981, with its revolutionary polymer receiver, and the then new “Safe Action” system, GLOCK has attained quite a well-deserved following amongst both law enforcement and civilians in the United States.  In fact, GLOCK reports on their site that, “approximately 65%” of all US Law Enforcement agencies carry GLOCKs.

Will it be enough to make people switch from their S&W Shield’s, Beretta Nano‘s, Springfield XD-S‘s, Ruger LC9‘s, Kahr PM9‘s,  Kel-Tec PF9‘s, or whatever other “pocket-9” they’re already carrying?  Yeah, it’s a crowded market, and many of us, absent a GLOCK offering, may have made other choices.  

Will the late time-to-market, relatively high MSPR ($589.00), and early, but since resolved, issues with last year’s introduction of the GLOCK G42 .380 keep the G43 from becoming as hugely popular as it’s predecessors and brethren?

Will it prompt the .380 crowd to upgrade to the more powerful, yet less expensive 9mm?

If you’ve already made a different “pocket-9” choice, and are unhappy with it, for whatever reason, the G43 may be just what you wanted all along.  The G43 is obviously the perfect, no-brainer backup, or off-duty gun for the men and women in uniform whose duty-gun is a GLOCK.  Likewise, it might be just the ticket for those situations where the double-stack G26 “baby GLOCK” is a bit too wide, or too heavy.

Personally, looking at some of the competitive offerings and the G42, I am surprised the G43 is not a bit shorter in overall length, nor a bit more narrow.  That said, we’re talking fractions of an inch, and I’m confident the team at GLOCK certainly knows what they’re doing.  Many, myself included, are willing to accept a slightly larger gun for better overall handling characteristics, and better shoot-ability.

It is, after all, a GLOCK!! I certainly can’t wait to shoot the G43.  If it shoots as well as other GLOCKS I’ve shot, and meets or exceeds my personal conceal carry criteria better than other options I’ve explored, a G43 will likely get added to the stable.

The G43 is slated to be built at GLOCK USA’s Smyrna, Ga. facility.  Look for it to hit the market soon, hopefully with a lower street price than the MSRP.

Click the links for other great coverage from TheFiearmBlog, The TRUTH About GUNS, and Shooting Illustrated.  Scroll down from some pictures, courtesy of TheFirearmBlog.

What do you think?  Will this make you trade-in your current pocket-9, or upgrade from a small caliber concealed carry / pocket pistol?  Post up some comments.


GLOCK G43 Single Stack 9×19 Picture courtesy of TheFirearmBlog



G43 Dimensions Courtesy of TheFirearmBlog


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.


It was late on a dark, bone-chilling, record setting February night in the Northeast.  The family needed a fire.  After too much time cooped-up in the house, I needed a quick Bushcraft fix.  So out came my trusty BHK (Battle Horse Knives) CanteenShop Woodcrafter, and my BHK Small Workhorse to prep kindling, and practice my feather sticking skills.


Both the are made from O1 tool steel, which means they take a wicked, shaving sharp edge, exhibit good edge retention, and are fairly easy to resharpen.  You DO have to keep them oiled to prevent rust.  (Neither would be my choice for a dedicated in-shore / off-shore fishing knife, nor for any kind of long-term use in a salt-water environment.)

The BHK CanteenShop Woodcrafter, the bigger of the two, has a 4-inch, 5/32-inch thick (new versions are 1/8″ thick, in-line with current trends), spear-point blade, and features the Bushcrafter’s favorite, classic Scandanavian (Scandi) grind, along with a 90* sharpened spine for throwing sparks from a firesteel, like a ferrocerium (ferro) rod.  Built specifically for Bushcraft use, the BHK CanteenShop Woodcrafter excels at tasks like batoning (splitting) wood for kindling, making feather sticks, making bow drill sets and other carving / woodworking tasks, like making tent stakes.  Though they’ll certainly get the job done, Scandi’s generally aren’t the best food prep knives, or slicers.

The BHK Small Workhorse, the smaller of the two, has a 3 1/8-inch, 1/8-inch thick, drop-point blade, and features the more general-use Saber grind.  A scaled-down version of another BHK favorite, the Small Workhorse is specifically designed as a hunting knife, for field dressing small to medium sized game, like whitetail deer.  However, with it’s more general-purpose Saber ground blade, the Small Workhorse also excels as an EDC, utility, camping / campcraft and food prep knife.  Me thinks it’ll make a great bird-n-trout knife.  As long as you respect the limits imposed by blade length, the Small Workhorse also makes a very good Bushcraft knife.  In fact, most people, especially beginners, have an easier time making feather sticks with a Saber ground blade than they do with a Scandi.  Most of those finer, thinner, smaller, tighter curls you see in the pics below came from the Small Workhorse.  The only thing I’d like to see on the Small Workhorse is a 90* sharpened spine, like that on the Woodcrafter and other BHK Bushcraft knives.  I may just add that myself.

Suffice it to say, both are GREAT, American-Made, heirloom quality knives, and both are an absolute pleasure to use!

I’ll tell ya, carving some curls isn’t a bad way to relax…

IMG_5356   IMG_5357

IMG_5361  IMG_5363

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!!

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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.

Well, here it is… New Year’s Eve 2014.  A time to be Thankful for all that we have.  A time to reflect.  A time to look forward.

2014 went by a bit fast, but I have to say, it was a pretty good year for us at Inside The X Ring.  We got to the range a bunch of times, shot some cool guns, attended some truly great events, like Gun For Hire’s 1 Year Anniversary Celebration.  We got out for some bird hunting, and spent some good time in a deer stand.  We may have also purchased some news guns, knives and other outdoor equipment.  Finally, we continued to strengthen our brand, expand our network, and increase readers.  Thank You!


Looking forward to 2015… 

  • Look for some long overdue product reviews.
  • Look for a possible guest post or two from some colleagues at other Adventure and firearms related blogs.
  • Look for more some possible trips and/or outdoor experiences.


Inside The X Ring Wishes All Of  You a Happy, Healthy & Safe 2015.


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2014 Inside The X Ring.

I’ve been targeting shooting for well over 35 years.  Yet, I’ve only been hunting for about 10.  To-date, my hunting trips have all been for Pheasant or White-tailed deer.  While it’s something you have taken for granted, or never considered, I’ve had some friends ask me to highlight the differences between target shooting and hunting.  In short, there’s a lot more going on in the woods, so you better be on your game…and not just what you’re hunting. 

First, let’s talk about Safety:

Head to a formal shooting range, and it’s going to be very obvious which way is “downrange.”  There’s generally a very formal set of rules around who can go downrange, when, what exactly everyone else on the range can, and can’t do, and even where they can, and can’t be, when anyone is downrange.  Likewise, there will generally be rules governing how, when and where you can unholster your gun, or remove it from its case, and making sure all guns are pointed downrange at all times.  Finally, most formal ranges will  generally have at least one RSO (Range Safety Officer) making the rounds, observing your every move, and ensuring all safety practices are followed.  Many of these same rules should apply to your informal and even impromptu backyard ranges  – most are easy to apply.   Point being, most range environments are fairly well laid out and controlled. 

Head into the woods, and most of that “controlled atmosphere” disappears.  Certainly the 10 Commandments of Firearms Safety always apply whenever firearms are involved.  However, things just aren’t as black and white, or as obvious in the woods.  There’s a lot more on you, the hunter.

There are trails to navigate.  There are obstacles to contend with, be they creek, river or fence crossings.  There are tree stands to climb and stay in.  All while carrying a loaded gun.  (More hunters get hurt falling out of tree stands than anything else.)   Hikers and dog walkers will walk through your lane.  Other hunters may wander into your line of fire.  Game will flush and come in from the most inopportune angles.

Honestly, when I’m on the hunt, I’m generally more concerned with who’s in the woods with me, who’s on the other side of these blow-downs, or where’s this slug gonna go if I miss than I am with where the birds are or rushing a shot on a deer.



 Shots Fired

A target shooter could easily go through a couple hundred rounds in a a typical trip to the range.  Depending upon the game being hunted, time of year and location, a hunter might be lucky to get off 1 – 3 shots in a typical trip afield.



Maybe you’ve never thought much about it before, and many may take this for granted.  While you need to be focused, and in “high alert” mode when doing both, but there’s a lot more to think about when hunting, and hunting is generally more dangerous than target shooting.


At the Range – whether it’s a formal range with Range Safety Officers, or an informal, impromptu back-yard range there should always be:

1. A certain direction designated as “downrange,” and it should obviously be the same direction for everyone.   This is where your targets go.  This is the direction you’re shooting.  You need to know you’re target, and what’s beyond.  Go to a formal range, and they’ve generally got this laid out for you.

2. A certain set of rules, understood by all on the range, around who goes downrange, when, and what everyone else on the range can and can’t do when anyone is downrange.

3. Rules stating All firearms should stay holstered or cased, until you’re on the firing line.

4. All firearms should be pointed downrange, at all times.  Even when you’re unloading the gun from its case.


Whenever you’re target shooting, whether it be a formal range, or an impromptu back-yard session, a certain direction should always be designated as ‘downrange’, and there should always should be   should always be


In the woods, you’re pretty much on your own.  There’s RSO (Range Safety Officer) watching your behavior.  Downrange isn’t clearly or obviously marked.  There’s obstacles to content with.

For me, there’s generally a lot more going on mentally while I’m hunting.  At least until your comfortably in your stand


There’s a lot more to the “Shoot / Don’t Shoot”


Pull that trigger, and that’s bullet’s going!