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Archive | Tactical Gear

More Thoughts on the US Palm AK Magazines

I have had few questions on whether the new US Palm AK magazines that I covered recently are worth the $29.95 asking price, especially when surplus steel mags tend to costs $10-20. They really don’t cost anymore than the European manufactured plastic mags on the market. Only the person buying the magazines can say whether or not they worth the price. I can say that I believe certain aspects of this mag are better than steel mags. And when something is better, it usually costs more.

  1. The design is better – The ridges and waffle pattern give good grip when manipulating a magazine. The body of the mag is essentially fused into one piece (no more loose base plates that spit your rounds all over the floor at the range – yes, I have seen it happen).
  2. The materials are better – Polymer is better than steel for this application. Steel bends on impact and the mag stops working. Polymer bounces back or maybe cracks but the mag will likely continue to work even when cracked. It is also lighter in weight. The days of worrying about polymer magazines are long gone. You WANT plastic mags in many cases. Stop resisting the inevitable!
  3. The follower is better – The follower is a low friction design. This sort of thing revolutionized AR mags.
  4. The weight is better – Like I said above, they are lighter. This is a big deal. This just in… AK mags are heavy!
  5. The spring is better – These mags use a chromium-silicon spring which is rated for 100,000 cycles. Steel mags use whatever springs the communist government that made the mags could get that day (maybe).
  6. The manufacturer is better – These are made in the US by a top tier maker. They will take care of you if you have an issue.

With all that said, I can definitely understand those who want to wait and see. There is definitely something to be said for not being an early adopter. The prices may come down and, more importantly, any bugs will be worked out if you wait to purchase these. We still do not have any real world accounts of usage on these things (no, “I went to the range and slow fired 30 rounds. These mags are awesome!” does not count).

This whole thing reminds me of when the PMAG first came out. You had people who wouldn’t trust any plastic mag and those who wouldn’t pay $15-17 when aluminum mags could be purchased for $10.

I am not in a hurry to buy any of these right now, but my AK is really just a toy. If the AK was my primary weapon, I would be taking a good hard look at these new mags.

NovaTac 120T Review

Why Carry a Light?

If you carry a gun regularly, you should also carry a light. Many shootings happen at night. You may even find yourself in a low-light situation during the day time if you are indoors. Colonel Cooper’s 4th Rule mandates that we are to be sure of our target and what is behind it before we pull the trigger. We must have a light in order to properly identify our target before we shoot.

A bright white light can also give you an advantage by disrupting your attacker’s dark adjusted vision. In some cases this may even temporarily blind your attacker (according to Surefire) – giving you needed fractions of seconds to respond swiftly and violently. Disrupting the night vision of your attacker alone is not a sufficient response to being attacked. You must be ready and willing to follow-up with overwhelming violent response.

Hopefully, we are in agreement that we should all be carrying a light (or two) along with our guns but that is the easy part. The hard part is choosing a light to carry. There are certainly no shortages of manufacturers who would be happy to supply you with a “tactical” light. Many of these manufacturers offer multiple lights. The options can seem limitless and overwhelming.

One of those manufacturers that would be happy to sell you a light is NovaTac. The brand is somewhat new but the people behind it are not new to the tactical light scene. They have used their experience and innovation to bring several lights to market. The one that we will focus on for this review is the 12oT.

NovaTac 120T

The NovaTac 120T is built from the ground up to be a compact tactical light. The specifications, construction materials, and ergonomics leave no question about that. This light is purpose-built.

Specs:

  • 3 Brightness levels (120 lumens, 10 lumens, .3 lumens)
  • Easily accessible disorienting strobe
  • Extended tail cap button and grip ring (allows use of multiple flashlight and handgun control techniques)
  • Momentary or click-on functionality
  • Pocket clip
  • Automatically compensates for weakening battery
  • Runs on a single CR123A battery
  • Waterproof to 66 feet
  • 3.3″ long, 1″ in diameter, 3.1 oz

Materials:

  • Aluminum body
  • Steel bezel ring
  • HAIII hard anodized finish
  • Polycarbonate lens with anti-reflective coatings
  • Steel pocket clip

Runtime:

  • High: 30 Minutes
  • Medium: 14 Hours
  • Low: 240 Hours

More information can be found on the 120T spec sheet(PDF).

How Does it Work?

On paper it sounds somewhat complicated but in use it is actually very simple. The 120T has only one button. The user can access all functions from this button by using a series of clicks and/or presses. It helps if you understand the difference between clicks and presses. The user clicks by quickly depressing and releasing the button – like you would click a mouse button. The user presses by depressing and holding the button.

  1. Momentary – Press the button. The light will stay on high until you release the button. This is very natural and lends itself very well to short bursts of light while moving and “slicing the pie”.
  2. Constant or Click-on – Click the button. The light will stay on high until you click the button again.
  3. Medium – Starting from any high mode, click the button twice quickly. The light will stay on medium until you click the button again.
  4. Low – Starting from high or medium mode, click the button three times quickly. The light will stay on low until you click the button again. Any clicks from this mode will put the light back in high mode.
  5. Strobe – Press the button from any constant mode or click-press from off.

Notice that the light always comes on in high mode. This is good news. It means that no matter how you turn on the light, you will immediately have 120 retina searing lumens on tap. This feature is important in a tactical light versus a general use light that may come on in a more battery conservative low mode. The designers of the 120T correctly assume that tactical users would need the most light available at the very instant they turn on the light.

The medium and low modes make this light useful for general use as well. You probably won’t be holding an attacker at gunpoint every time you fire up your flashlight. You may just be trying to find a key or walking the dog. The medium and low modes are well-chosen and very useful. I especially appreciate that the low mode is truly low. It can be used without destroying your dark adjusted vision. The vast majority of lights miss the mark here because they are too busy chasing the biggest lumen numbers to actually make a useful light.

The light carries very well in a pocket using the included pocket clip. The light rides very deep in the pocket and seems very secure. The checkering on the body of the light is somewhat aggressive and may fray your pockets over time. It does, however, make for a very secure grip. A lanyard can be attached to the pocket clip.

The shape of the light lends itself to several handgun/light combination holds. Many people are familiar with the FBI flashlight technique, Harries technique, and the Surefire/Rogers technique.  NovaTac promotes the Thorpe Technique which is specific to their lights. There is a thick o-ring provided with the 120T to aid in acquiring this grip. It is quite simple to use and indexes the light well. I suggest that you practice this technique before using it as you would any new technique.

Worth a Look

I am quite pleased with this light. I believe it offers an excellent set of features to law enforcement, military, and civilian users alike. If you are in the market for a feature rich but still easy to use light, be sure to check out the NovaTac line of lights.

More Information

Gear Geek’s Review of the 120T

Back Door Programming the 120T

Kifaru G1 Sale

Kifaru has redesigned most of their packs and accessories. They are calling the updated designs Generation 2 (G2) packs. The redesign happened at least a year ago but the good news is that there are still G1 packs available. The better news is that they are available at a pretty deep discount.

If you have ever wanted to try out a Kifaru pack to see what the fuss is all about, now is the time.

Kifaru G1 Sale Page

HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch – Build Your Compact Blowout Kit

If you are a shooter, it stands to reason that you should be able to treat a gun shot wound (on yourself or others). This is especially true if you attend training classes where drills can become a little more dynamic than your typical range activities. In order to treat a gun shot wound you need training on how to treat the wound and the gear to treat it. If you haven’t sought training yet, I suggest you do it. All of the gear in the world won’t save you if you don’t have at least some basic knowledge of how to use it. If you are hear to get an idea for a gear solution, I may be able to help.

I took a point of wounding care class recently and it did much to bolster my knowledge and confidence. I am certainly far from being an EMT or Combat Medic, but I now have some basic knowledge that could save a life someday. I also came out of the course with the resolve to build a kit that fit my needs as a Regular Guy.

For my needs this kit must be:

  1. Compact –  If it isn’t, it will be easier to justify leaving it in the truck.
  2. Affordable – This is very subjective. I do not mean cheap. I am willing to spend some money on such important gear.
  3. Modular – I need to be able to move it between pieces of gear relatively easily since I can’t afford to put a blowout kit on every pack, chest rig, and belt rig that I own.
  4. Effective – This is the most important requirement. This kit needs to be able to effectively treat the situations that I am most likely to encounter.

Let’s Deal with my requirements one by one:

Compact
HSGI makes a small pouch called the Bleeder/Blowout Pouch. The manufacturers description is as follows:

The HSGI Improved Bleeder/Blowout Pouch is designed to hold medical gear along with immediate access to medical shears. Medical shears are held securely by strap and snap. There is also a 2″ wide QUICK-PULL strap along the inside of the pocket to aid in one handed removal of contents of the pouch. Pouch measures 3″ x 3″ x 7″ , MOLLE/PALS webbing on sides for additional modular pouches or the attachment of a Tourniquet via rubber bands. Has both hook and loop w/silencer strip and side release closure . MALICE clips supplied . Constructed of 1000 Denier Cordura nylon , sewn with 135/138 bonded nylon threads . Constructed and made totally with products from in the USA . Has HSGI Lifetime Warranty *MEDICAL ITEMS NOT INCLUDED*

With dimensions of only 3″ x 3″ x 7″, this pouch is not designed to carry a full IFAK, but it will allow you to carry the basic wound treatment items that you will need to tend to yourself (or others) until more suitable care can be given. When determining the items to carry with your limited space, look to the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch has some unique features that help is stay some compact. The most noticeable is the sleeve behind that pouch that retains your EMT shears. Shears can be a great tool for quickly removing clothing from the wound site. This sleeve has a retention strap that snaps into the handles of the shears so that they can not be lost. It also has webbing on both sides that allow you to attach a tourniquet (See this earlier post for ideas on how to attach your tourniquet to the pouch). When dealing with extremity hemorrhaging a tourniquet is your first and best line of defense. Since these two bulky items are attached to the outside of the pouch, you are free to use the space inside the pouch for other life saving items.

Affordable
The HSGI bleeder pouch costs roughly $25 shipped from many great retailers. My favorites are OpTactical and SKD Tactical. The cost of the contents will vary greatly depending on what you choose to put in but they typically won’t be prohibitively expensive. I like to shop for my blowout kit supplies at Chinook Medical.

Modular
Most items that use MOLLE webbing to attach to your gear are somewhat modular already. You simple weave the webbing to attach and undo the weaving to remove the pouch. The HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch is no different. However, I wanted a compact solution that took less time since dealing with webbing can be frustrating and time consuming. I decided to try Blade-Tech Molle-Loks. Molle-Loks are more rigid than typical MOLLE straps or even MALICE clips. They are hinged at the top and lock together tightly when closed. Because of this, they do not need to be threaded. Simple slide them into the webbing on the back of the pouch, then slide the other side of the MOLLE-Lok into the webbing of the item that you are attaching the pouch to, and lock them. The MOLLE-Loks come with instructions on their use. They are much quicker and easier to deal with than regular MOLLE straps for this application.

Effective
The leading cause of preventable death from gunshot wounds on the battle field today is extremity hemorrhaging. Even in the civilian world, most gun shot wounds are to the extremities. Perhaps, we as shooters should learn something from those stats and begin to carry items to deal with extremity hemorrhaging. When building a compact blowout kit, I suggest that you would be well served to concentrate on hemorrhage control items.

I have chosen the following items for my kit.

  1. 4″ Emergency Bandage – These are also know as the Israeli Bandage. The OLAES Bandage from Tactical Medical Solutions would also be an excellent choice. Both of these bandages allow you to treat yourself with some practice. The OLAES has some extra features explained in the video that I linked to that make it very versatile. I may consider changing to one of those soon.
  2. Small package of Kerlix – Kerlix is just a guaze bandage roll.
  3. Celox – Celox or Quikclot are used to promote clotting quickly and stop bleeding. They will even clot arterial bleeding quickly, though your tourniquet may be a better choice. I suggest that you get training or at least research the downsides to products like this.
  4. Tourniquet – This is a must. I use the SOF-T and Cavarms tourniquets. I am hoping to be able to try the SWAT soon. I have generally avoided the CAT due to reports of breakage but it still well liked for it’s compact size and light weight.
  5. Small roll of tape
  6. Latex-free gloves – Infection is bad. Wear gloves!
  7. A glow stick – You may not be shot during the daytime. Have a light source.
  8. EMT Shears

All of the above items fit relatively tightly but there would be more room for other small items. You can really pack the pouch tightly thanks to the ripcord design. You simple lay the webbing strap down inside the pouch so that the D-ring is at the top forward part of the pouch. Now you can pack everything in on top of the strap. When you need to access the items in your pouch you simply pull the D-ring. This forces everything up and out of the pouch for easy access.

No Excuses
This kit only takes up 2 columns of MOLLE space and can also fit in a cargo pocket or utility pouch in a pinch. There is no excuse to be without a life saving blowout kit when it is this compact, affordable, modular, effective. Start building your kit yesterday!

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Button Compasses: Use With Caution!

I learned a lesson today. Thankfully it wasn’t a hard lesson.

I have been wearing a Suunto Clipper on my watch band for a while now. It has generally worked well and the luminous bezel has come in handy when I need a quick direction check in the dark. Everything was fine  until today I glanced down at it while at the office and noticed that it was facing the exact opposite direction that it should be. The north marker was pointed south.

At first I thought that it was just the computer on my desk or perhaps my filing cabinet throwing it off. I stepped away from my desk and it was still way off. When I packed up and left for the day, I checked it outside wondering if there could have been something in the building throwing the compass off. No luck, it was still 180 degrees off outside.

I thought about the situation on my drive home and realized that it could have been my wallet throwing it off. My wallet has a magnetic money clip built in. It is great because it keeps the wallet slim. Sure enough, after passing the compass over the magnet on my wallet, the needle suddenly righted itself. Then I flipped the compass over and ran its face over the magnet. It pointed south again. So simply by varying the way in which I passed the compass over the magnet, I could reliably make my compass point south and then make it point north again.

Lessons Learned:

1. Have a plan B (and maybe even a C, D, E, F, etc). If this had been the only way for me to find direction in my “tool box” in a bad situation, I would have been in trouble. At least learn how to tell rough directions without the aid of a compass so that you can verify that your compass is working properly.

2. Keep your compasses away from magnets!

Spec Ops T.H.E. Pack Review

Spec Ops Brand THE Pack Review

When people are talking about 3 day packs, I generally do not see this one mentioned. I suppose it is probably because it is not a new design. However, it is still a great pack that can be had at a great price if you know where to look. I have been using several of these packs for about 4 years. I recently purchased two more for friends and thought I would take this opportunity to do a review with 2 basically new packs.

Overview
The THE Pack by Spec Ops Brand is a fairly straight forward “3 Day” type pack. It is extremely well made and covered by an excellent warranty. It is made in the USA.

The Stats
Here are the dimensions for the pack and some key features (taken from the Spec Ops Brand website).

  • PACK DIMENSIONS: 19″ high, 13″ wide, 12″ thick at bottom tapering to 9″ at top.
  • MAIN COMPARTMENT: 19″high x 13″ wide x 7″ thick @ 1730 cubic inches.
  • TOP POCKET: 8″ high x 10″ wide x 2.5″ thick @ 250 cubic inches.
  • BOTTOM POCKET: 10″ high x 12″ wide x 3.5″ thick @ 570 cubic inches.
  • TOTAL CAPACITY: 2550 cubic inches.
  • 1000D Cordura® nylon construction
  • YKK #10 zippers on main compartment and large outer pockets.

NOTE: I am not sure if many manufacturers are over stating their capacity or if Spec Ops understates, but the THE Pack, with it’s 2550 cubic inch capacity seems larger than many similar packs with larger stated capacity.

Details
The THE pack has a lot of subtle features that have sold me on this pack even when I have tried newer designs from other manufacturers. One thing that is rarely considered when selecting a bag is the actual shape. The THE Pack is basically a large rectangle with a domed top. This is a very efficient shape for a pack; allowing it to be stuffed efficiently and to stand upright when full.


The THE has a simple and efficient shape.

It also has simple but very effective compression straps. The straps work to compress not only the main compartment, but also both front compartments. They are also mostly out of the way so that you might not even need to release them to access the pockets.


Note the two out of the way compression straps on the side of the pack.

This pack has a lot of MOLLE webbing as you can see in the pictures. It has several areas that have enough rows and columns to be very versatile. Each of the two front pockets are faced with webbing, the sides are covered, and the bottom has a large area as well.


The bottom of the THE is flat so the bag can sit upright and has plenty of MOLLE webbing.

The straps on the THE Pack are extremely comfortable, well padded, and very ruggedly constructed. There is a foam pad that sits in the hydration compartment to pad your back while you are wearing the THE pack. There is also an unpadded, and fairly ineffective waist belt as is the case with most 3 day packs. The pack is not tall enough to put the waist belt on your hips anyway. This pack is very comfortable to wear with moderate loads as is.


Note the well padded straps with quick release buckles, sternum strap, waist belt, and stitched reinforcments where the straps are attached to the pack.

If you need to load the THE Pack a little heavier or just want to make it even more rigid then consider purchasing the frame sheet. It is made from a flexible plastic and has two nylon pockets for bendable aluminum stays. This can be installed in the hydration compartment and works very well to handle heavy loads.

The THE Pack is hydration compatible. You simply direct the hose of your hydration bladder through the one of the ports which are located on either side of the heavy duty grab handle.


Routing your hydration hose is simple with these hook and loop hydration ports.

The interior of the two front pockets is very straight forward. They are simply wide open pockets. The main compartment however, has much more going on. One of my favorite things about the THE Pack is that it is lined with bright yellow nylon. This high visibility lining not only makes finding items easy but also reinforces the exterior 1000D Cordura®. There is also a mesh pocket located at the top front of interior of the bag. The hydration and/or frame sheet compartment is located at the back of the main compartment.


The main compartment is cavernous and features a high viz lining.

This wouldn’t be much of a review if I didn’t show you what you can do with all that MOLLE webbing. I keep mine covered with Diamondback Tactical (DBT) utility pouches (tall on the sides and short on the bottom front), a Maxpedition flashlight sheath on the clever horizontal webbing between the front pockets, and a DBT abmin pouch on the top front pocket. These pockets easily add around 650 cubic inches of storage. The compression straps are designed in such a way that they can easily reach around side mounted pouches to compress them as well.


Plenty of pouches and room for more!

Conclusion
This is a very straight forward and simple pack but it allows you to add as much complexity as you want with its ample MOLLE webbing. It is certainly big enough for its intended purpose and can easily be expanded. This is an efficient, functional, and well made bag that will work well for the camper, casual shooter, or soldier.

This is more of a true 3 day pack made for wearing with armor and possibly a load bearing belt. For a different style of 3 day pack stay tuned for the Kifaru Molle Express review.

US Palm AK Magazines

I have been looking forward to the release of these magazines for some time now. US Palm has finally brought their US made AK-47 magazine to market and they are in stock at SGC.

This magazine is brought to you by the same folks who make the excellent Tango Down ARC Mags for the M16 family of weapons. In fact, it shares many of the same features like ribs on the front and back for grip, deep waffle texture on the sides for additional grip, low friction follower, and permanently sealed polymer construction. The AK mag also has metal reinforcements in key places.

You can also keep an eye on US Palm for more products built around the venerable AK. They are bringing a great looking AK specific chest rig to market soon and I hear they are working on a grip that will likely be the best thing going in AK grips. Hopefully they will bring a 20 rounds version of this magazine to market. I much prefer the size, weight, and handling characteristics of 20 round mags for the AK-47.

These mags have been tested by a lot of pretty serious AK users during the development stages and passed with flying colors. I very rarely run my AK but I still appreciate a great product when I see one. If you run an AK with any regularity you will want to check out these mags.

If you have these in hand already, I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment.

Girls and Their Bags

I recently picked up a new Kifaru Molle Express. It is a great pack and I have had a few chances to wring it out already so look for an upcoming review. Until then, enjoy these pics of my highly paid fashion model wearing the pack.

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It passed the taste test.

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Tactical Handyman: Tournequit Retention Doohicky

So you need a way to keep your tourniquet at hand? Well the Tactical Handyman has the simple (and cheap) way to build your own Tourniquet Retention Doohicky or TRD (pronounced turd). If you are anything like the Tactical Handyman, you have the stuff to make one laying around already. Why pay $5-12 plus shipping for something you can make on the cheap?

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Necessary Materials:
– Short piece of mil-spec shock cord

Optional Materials:
– Cord End
– Cord Lock

Instructions:
This isn’t rocket science. This is simply a loop of shock cord. The cord ends are nice since shock cord will fray readily but a simple knot will do. You will have to experiment with different lengths in until you find a length small enough to really secure your tourniquet. The cord lock allows you to make your TRD a bit more universal. You can cut it a little bit long and use the cord lock to take up the slack.

Simply thread the TRD behind two rows of webbing like so:
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Now you can stretch the ends over your tourniquet. I found that the cord stayed out of the way well if I twisted it so the ends were to the side like so:
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Or, you can loop the end onto the windlass or other part of the tourniquet:
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I found that spanning 2 rows works best because it allows the cord to be placed toward the center of the tourniquet but still have a couple of inches in between straps for stability. If you get the straps toward the center of the tourniquet and make them tight enough the tourniquet is locked down and isn’t going anywhere. This type of design is common to most tourniquet holders. The ability to loop the small tab onto something like the windlass gives a 3rd contact point and even more confidence that you will not lose your life saving gear. If you felt the need, a third strap could easily be added, but I think it is unnecessary.

To remove the tourniquet quickly, simply pull on the cord end (or knot) which will free the top (or bottom depending how you have it positioned). Once one end is free the tourniquet can be tugged to be released from the remaining loop. This can easily be accomplished with one hand.

This sure beats rubber bands. The Tactical Handyman has your back.

I am using the SOF-T Tourniquet in the pics but this should adapt to just about any model.

PS – This works great on the webbing that is sewn on the side of many blow out kit pouches like the HSGI Bleeder Pouch.

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Clean, Fresh, Water

We all need water to survive. A healthy adult can only live about 3 days in ideal conditions without water. Water should be at the center of your preparedness plans.

A site called Monolithic Marketplace is selling a very simple and inexpensive water filter that really works HERE. This filter can be purchased as an entire kit, ready to assemble, or you can purchase just the filter and fit it to your own containers. With proper maintenance a ceramic gravity filter like this will last a long time.

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