Ammo & Gear Reviews

Gear For Christmas

By Scott Smith

Finding gifts for shooters, hunters, outdoors people is challenging. Hopefully this article will help you with some good ideas.

One of the most essential items that we need as hunters, outdoorsmen, shooters and anyone else is a solid knife. Knives are not something that just high speed low drag SWAT/SpecOps type’s need. Knives are daily use tools that we all need to have. They open packages, cut sandwiches and like it or not they are used as mini-pry bars. Over the years I have come to carry a Spyderco Endura nearly every day. The clip has all the black worn off, the serrations show signs of being sharpened; but it is still my favorite knife.

I realized that my Endura while a fine piece of kit there are times more knife or a more mission specific knife is needed. The folks at Spyderco came through with knives to fit both of those criteria.

If you need a hard use knife it should be a fixed blade. The problem with many of the “tactical/working” knives is they are too bulky and large for field or daily use. If a knife is as large as my issue Phrobis M9, odds are it’s not going to be near unless I have my field pack. On the other hand, the Junction fixed blade will be.

This full tang drop point knife was inspired by Gayle Bradley’s custom knives, but a more affordable price and more readily available. The 4.15” PSF27 steel is highly corrosion resistant, holds an edge and sharpens easily with a stone or one of the many angled sharpening kits on the market. At first blush the G10 grips look too smooth, but I have found them to give a solid purchase in the rain or when sweating.

The sheath of the Junction is as unique as the knife. Spyderco’s proprietary Bolatron is symmetrical so you can mount the knife to fit your preferences. When the 8.45” knife is sheathed, I found it carries well just behind my strong side carried handgun, never know its back there. Like any good tool the Junction is not cheap nor is it expensive; it retails for $309.95.

If you are looking for a handy clip-it knife, the Ouroboros G10 would be a good choice. Spyderco machines the G10 grip so you can choose blade forward or blade rearward carry. While some may scoff at carrying a knife with a 2.84” blade, remember your needs. The curvature of the frame and the finger groove on the blade make it an ideal knife for field dressing game or any application that requires a precise cut. The curvature of the drop point also helps ensure you will not cut into the body cavity of an animal.

This rear frame liner lock style knife is a handy daily carry knife that will make short work of opening mail, cutting a sandwich, slicing cheese and still be tough enough to handle field dressing big game. What sets this knife apart from many other clip-it knives is the clip which is a “U” shaped strand clip so is could be mistaken for a one of those large paper clips used to secure large files. The Ouroboros also fits smaller hands well, something many larger knives do not do. It also conceals better on smaller framed men and women; something that was pointed out to me by Lisa. You have to watch out for those pretty Sicilians, they are dangerous with sharp implements.

With it VG10 steel blade and textured G10 grips, you will find the Ouroboros to be an ideal daily use knife. Closed it is 4.16” and the rounded contours make it comfortable to carry, I have been told even in tight jeans. This knife will set you back $289.95 which is a good price for such a well made blade.

Another item that those who spend time a field need and makes ideal gifts is a quality flashlight. Streamlight has been building lights for military and first responder applications as long as I have been writing. Over the last few years they have been offering more and more lights with that durability and quality at price points that is not a car payment. Since dark colored lights are hard to find in a pack or in a drawer I opted to look at a couple in hi-viz yellow.

First up is the pocket sized Dualie 3AA which retails for $52. This light offers you two separate lights in one; a flood light and a spot light putting out 140 lumens each or 245 when used in combination. The body also has a lanyard loop and a heavy duty clip to keep the light handy and secure. The lights have independent switches so you are not playing games figuring out how many times to push a single button for the desired function.

When used individually each light has a run time of 18 hours or 9 when used together. What I like about this light is it uses three AA batteries in a pack under the light head. These inexpensive batteries have no flight restrictions and can be found virtually anywhere and in bulk. I have used this light when setting up my RV after dark, it makes finding all the utility hook-ups easy even on the darkest wettest nights and I have been in some monsoons this past year. Fear not it is waterproof in 1 meter of water for 20 minutes and in temperatures from -20F to 130F. Hopefully you won’t be in worse conditions than that.

The other light I have grown fond of around my RV is the Siege. This is a true area signal light. So it would secure on the truck, I opted for the magnetic base model. This light is $53 which with its features is a steal.

Single button operation allows you to switch from 50-200 lumens. To get the red light hold the button in and a double click in red it will signal SOS. Runtime in white ranges from 37 to 7 hours while in signal mode its 288 hours, solid red is 192 hours. Like the Dualie it is waterproof to 1 meter, runs on AA batteries and it floats. If you choose the non-magnetic model there are hangars on both ends of the light.

The light will illuminate my 20’X 12′ garage on its highest setting. When I used it to set-up camp finding the smallest items in the truck bed or RV storage area it was not a problem. The Siege is an ideal light for hunters, campers and because of its versatility in disaster situations.

Streamlight introduced one other light this year perfect 1911 purists, preferring our 1911s be rail free. The TLR6 Non-Rail 1911 Light fits onto the trigger guard of your 1911, giving you a secure white/laser light. Runtime on 2- CR1/3N batteries producing 100 lumens of light is 1 hour, 11 if you use only the laser. There is an ambidextrous dual switch to operate this light. Compared to other light/laser units TLR6 Non-Rail 1911 is a steal at $178.50.

To mount this light, simply remove the three screws, secure the side without the battery compartment lid and then place the other half on tightening the screws. Now install the batteries and your light/laser is ready. You can activate just the light, laser or both. When you shut the light off it will return to the last setting, so if you had the light/laser on that is what will turn on. This is something you will have to play. For my applications as a “house gun” I would leave it set to activate both.

The allen wrench you tighten the set screws also is the adjustment wrench. Adjustments for the laser are on the bottom and left side of the unit. I suggest setting it on a dark day to see the dot. Generally 7-10 yards is about where you can see and actually use the laser.

If you prefer optics or sights as a gift, it is hard to beat Truglo (Phone: 972-774-0300; Online: Truglo.com). Over the last few years I have found Truglo optics and sights to be some of the best on market. You get quality at prices that will not break the bank. I have been using various products from Truglo in three gun and action pistol competitions for the last few years and they have yet to let me down.

Truglo’s TFX Pro sights for Ruger’s American Pistol were one of the first sights on the market. What sets these sights apart from others is the tritium/fiber optic front sight. I have run TFX front sight on my Beretta PX4 since Truglo introduced it and it has survived thousands of rounds. The Pro version has an orange ring which enhances front sight acquisition.

The rear sight of the TFX Pro has a “U” shaped notch and two tritium vials giving you a fast sight picture at close range and precision when required in all light conditions. Combined with all light condition tritium/fiber optic front this is one if not the most versatile set of sets on the market. Numerous folks have shot my American Pistol with the TFX Pros and they all were impressed. These sights are competitively priced at $186. They are precisely machined to fit the front and rear dovetails and can be user installed with care and patience. There are many videos online on how to install pistol sights if you need help.

Where Truglo has really taken the market by storm is with variable power optics. Dollar for dollar, I have found Truglo optics to be hands down the best value on the market today, especially for three gun competition. The last couple of years I have been using the 1-6 TruBrite 30 for three gun. It has survived numerous cross country trips and nearly ten thousand rounds. This year Truglo upped their game with the 1-6 Ominia.

Like the TruBrite the tube is 30mm and the scope ships with lens covers, throw lever and mount. Those would be the only similarities. The new APTUS M1 mount is a heavier duty cantilever style mount. The cantilever gives you a bit more room to mount your scope and because it is longer, it distributes recoil better.

The biggest improvement, in my opinion is the Illuminated All Purpose Tactical Reticle (A.P.T.R.). This reticle is a central horseshoe which is as fast as any red dot on the market at contact to medium distances of 200 yards. I have found that when the horseshoe covers a 15” steel plate at distance you are on target. I have run hundreds rounds at 200 yards on my home range on my Birchwood Casey Mule Kick shooting from supported, kneeling, prone, off a fence rail; anyway I could think of and if I did my part the Ominia/Saint combination ensured a hit. If I really settled in behind the gun, the A.P.T. Reticle ensured solid 2-3” groups on the Mule Kick.

When shooting close range targets (5-10 yards), setting the bottom of the A.T.P.R. on the top of an IDPA “0” zone ensured fast controlled pairs centered on the target. The bottom of the horseshoe compensates pretty well for the barrel/scope offset because this is a second focal plane reticle (reticle size does not change). I found if you follow the sight-in directions and zero for 50/200 with the scope ½ MOA adjustments; you will nearly dead on at 200 yards once zeroed at 50 and as the saying goes close enough for government work at closer distances.

Under the proprietary horseshoe you will notice ballistic compensation for .223, 55 grain bullets. Only having 200 yards, I could test the 100 yard stadia mark and the 50/200. It was dead on. It’s been my experience that the BDC’s from Truglo do function as advertised; as I was slapping steel at the USPSA Multi-gun Nationals at 300-400 yards with the Brite Strike which had a 50/200 zero.

The APTUS M1 mount is an integral part of the Ominia system. Once zeroed, I could switch from the Ominia and Truglo’s TruTec red dot without losing zero. This is a claim that one generally hears from mounts that run as much as the MSRP of $369 for the Ominia/APTR system. If optics and sights are on your wish or gift giving list, Truglo should be at or near the top. You cannot beat the quality and value you will get.

We did want to cover one piece of hunting/field gear for women by one of the companies who is leading the way; L.L. Bean. Bean has been building quality packs for years, this year they wanted to build one for women. Bean’s Women’s Technical Hunting Pack is that pack; built to fit a woman. It is not just a small man’s pack, which we have seen many times. This pack is built with a woman’s proportions and size taken into consideration. It is built for a torso length of 14”-20”, which believe it or not is average across the female back.

The Technical Hunting Pack features a large dual zipper main pouch with a liner and hanger for a hydration bladder; it will hold a 100 ounce unit. On the outside corners that single elastic closure pouches for calls, scent, etc; things you need easy access to. This main pocket will hold a light rain coat and long sleeve shirt with room to spare. The back of the main pouch has raised contours for airflow and to reduce the weight of the pack.

Built-on to the main pocket is another dual zipper pouch. This pocket has a mesh zipper pocket, a bungee pocket, one hook n loop closure pocket and two elastic pockets. This pocket would be a good place to stow your gear you do not want shifting or rattling. There is a cloth lined pocket on this section of the pack to carry glasses, a small optic, camera, etc. At the bottom you will see a hi-viz orange slash pocket that stores a panel to keep you visible when walking in the woods.

To secure larger items there are two tie down straps on each side and the bottom of the pack. You should be able to carry scent lock type coat and pants with ease in these straps.

What sets the L.L. Bean Women’s Technical Hunting Pack apart from others is the shoulder straps. These straps are contoured and tapered to fit the curves and torso of a woman. Not just two padded straps that go from top to bottom of the pack. Even the chest strap has three attachment points for comfort and fit around your bust line. Unlike most men’s packs the waist band is not padded, you should find the 1 ½” belt comfortable and supportive.

At $89.00 L.L.Bean’s Women’s Technical Hunting Pack is a good deal. From being built to fit a woman to the highly water resistant nylon this pack is built to carry your gear for years to come.

Over the last several months I have put all of these items through their paces to ensure they will survive hard use; with the exception of the Women’s Technical Pack. I left my partner in crime Lisa do that on her FEMA deployments.

When you do head out to the field and range during the hunting and holiday seasons; be safe, shoot straight and have fun. As we close out the year, I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year. My best wishes to you all for a prosperous Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas. God bless you, yours, The U.S.A. and our President.

Spyderco’s fixed blade versatile Junctions with its Bolatron polymer sheath, showing all the mounting holes.

 

The Ouroboros is one of Spyderco’s clip-it knives that are big enough for the field and small enough for daily use.

 

This is Streamlight’s Dualie 3-AA light showing the flood light LED.

When you need a light that goes anywhere, The Siege is it; shown here attached to my F250 via its magnetic base.

For the 1911 purist, Streamlight’s TLR6 for Non-rail 1911s. It mounts securely giving you white light and a red laser.

When you want multi-purpose hard use handgun sights, Truglo’s TFX Pro is it; not the “U” notch rear and tritium fiber optic front.

The Ominia scope system from Truglo in the opinion of the author is the best buy on the market for a three gun, duty, range optic.

You can see the locking windage/elevation turrets and the adjusting knob for the APTReticle. They offer ½ MOA adjustment and 11 intensity settings of reticle illumination.

L.L. Bean has built the Women’s Technical Pack to fit a woman and keep all of her field gear easily accessible. It’s not just a downsized man’s pack.

Scott Smith is a Disabled Veteran serving in the Army and USAF Reserve. He has been a federal police officer, is a charter member of IDPA and is actively involved with USPSA and various three gun competitions.