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Review: Hill People Gear Lever Light Mount

If you were to enter the search terms “lever action light mount” into a search engine, you would find several forum discussions full of jerry-rigged contraptions, comments like “I don’t even know why you would want to mount a light on a lever action”, and various mounts that were too large for their intended purpose. That is why this review of the Hill People Gear Lever Light Mount will be just as much a justification of why something like this should exist as it is a review of the product on its own merits.

Overview

The Hill People Gear (HPG) Lever Light Mount is a 3-slot picatinny rail that clamps onto the magazine tube of .30 caliber lever action rifles. It is designed to be very compact and lightweight (1.24 ounces) so that it has as little effect as possible on the attributes that make lever action rifles so suitable for backcountry use.

The Lever Light Mount consists of two hard anodized, 6016 T6 Aluminum aluminum halves and two screws. One half of the mount has the 4 bar, 3 slot picatinny rail with a machined groove running from front to back on its underside. The other half has a raised ridge that mates with the groove in the first half to create a hinge point. Both halves have opposing curved clamping surfaces that grip the sides of the magazine tube. The screws pass through both halves, drawing them together and hinging the clamping surfaces closed to grip the magazine tube tightly.

Why the Lever Light Mount Exists

The practicality of firearm mounted lights is widely accepted for the purposes of home defense but I rarely see the concept discussed for backcountry use. This is a real shame because they have such obvious utility for the woodsman.

It gets truly, truly dark when you venture out into the backcountry and not just at night. If you are under a stand of Western Red Cedar (or another dense canopy tree), you may have travel limiting darkness an hour or more before sunset. If that same dense stand of timber is shaded by a mountain, you may not be able to see your hand in front of your face long before the official sunset time. The same could be said for tight valleys, slot canyons, the hills and hollows of places like Kentucky or Southern Indiana, during lousy weather, and other common situations for the backcountry traveler.

I live, work, play in an area that is one of eastern most parts of the Pacific Time Zone and you can’t go much further north without crossing a border. That means it gets dark early. The area is characterized by defined mountain ranges with wide valleys and tons of timber. That means it gets dark in some places even earlier! There are areas on our property this time of year that require a flashlight to move through before 3PM (and that will move earlier as we get closer to the winter solstice). I could probably show you moose or bear sign in at least a few of those same spots right now.

Be Sure of Your Target and What is Beyond It

That is the fourth of Cooper’s gun safety rules. It holds true whether you are target shooting, defending a suburban home, or cruising the backcountry. Your obligation to identify your target before you start shooting doesn’t end once you are off city streets.

The use of a firearm mounted white light is one of the most practical ways to accomplish the positive identification of a target. A .30 caliber lever action rifle is one of the most practical firearms for the backcountry travel with its combination of compact size, lightweight, quick follow up shots of a sufficiently powerful cartridge, and affordability. So it stands to reason that a lever action rifle with a light mounted on it would be very practical.

Beyond the safety argument, there are practical reasons to have a really, really bright light on your backcountry rifle. Even the largest ghost ring rear sight or best optics money can buy will fall short in true dark. You will not be able to find your front sight or reticle unless you can silhouette it against a brightly illuminated target. Why even carry a rifle if it won’t accommodate the lighting conditions you are likely to encounter?

Observations from Use

The Lever Light Mount’s two half, hinged construction has some unique advantages. It allows the mount to accommodate slight variations in diameter of magazine tubes. It allows the mount to be installed without disassembling the rifle. It also reduces the overall weight of the mount since it does not have to wrap fully around the magazine tube.

The Lever Light Mount is very compact. That really sets it apart from the other lever action light mounting solutions out there. You barely notice it when it is tucked up against your rifle’s hand guards. That is nice in states like Idaho where you will have to remove your light when you are hunting in order to comply with hunting laws.

Installing the Lever Light Mount is easy. You can figure it out by looking at it though Hill People Gear does wisely caution against over tightening since you could compress the walls of the magazine tube and cause feeding issue with your rifle. I used thread locking compound because, if it has screws… I use thread locker. I think it is especially important in situations like there where you can’t necessarily turn the screws until they bottom out.

The mount didn’t move or break through 100 rounds of ammo through my Marlin 336. That isn’t exactly a torture test but it satisfied me (and I am just about out of .30-30 ammo). Those rounds weren’t on the range either. The rifle was shot in field conditions and I learned a lot from it, like why Hill People Gear decided to place the light where they did…

Switching it generally very intuitive with the light mounted at the 6 o’clock position in front of the hand guard. I found that I could easily use the index finger of the support hand to active both momentary and constant on with both of the pistol lights I used.

The 6 o’clock, forward of the hand guard position also makes good sense when the shooter is bracing the rifle on a something for a more stable shot. The light is centered so it doesn’t create a lot of back-splash if you are bracing on a vertical surface like a tree trunk and it is forward of the hand guard so if you are bracing on something like a backpack or shooting sticks, the light is forward of the brace.

The 3 slot rail is completely sufficient for mounting any light I would want to put on my lever action rifle. I tried the Lever Light Mount with two types of pistol lights: Surefire X Series Lights like the X300 and Streamlight TLR Series Lights like the TLR-1 HL. Both worked well but I found the switch on the Streamlights to be a little easier to use in the 6 o’clock position. It is also more than enough rail for use with a flashlight ring or lights that use the Surefire Scout pattern rail mount. The rail is small enough to not be overly large for lights with smaller footprints and large enough to fully support the rails on pistol lights.

Wrap Up

I am familiar with many of the current light mounting solutions for lever action rifles and I think the Lever Light Mount stands out among them for a number of reasons the chief of which is its compact size. Lever action rifles are great for backcountry use because they are slim, slick, lightweight, and compact. You don’t want a large heavy light mount to screw that up.

You can check out the Lever Light Mount at HillPeopleGear.com. It is on sale as of the time of this writing.

Disclosure: Hill People Gear sent me the Lever Light Mount, free of charge, for this review.

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Frontier Axe & Tool

I have a confession to make. I like axes, hatchets, and tomahawks (maybe too much) and I am fortunate to live in a place that lets me put them to good use. I even started an Instagram feed (@thedailyaxe) that shares pictures of them which is how I cope with my vice. It is also how I came across Frontier Axe & Tool.

Frontier Axe & Tool sells axes, hatchets, and tomahawks. There are tons of shops selling new axes and tons selling restored vintage axes but Frontier Axe & Tool sells both. Their site has a variety of restored vintage American axes right along side a line of quality, USA-made, newly manufactured axes.

Those new axes, hatchets, and tomahawks are pretty unique and worth a look. The heads are hand forged by H&B Forge. Then Frontier Axe & Tool hangs each one with their own handles, sharpens them, and fits them with a leather axe mask. The quality appears to be excellent. They even go so far as to coat the leather masks with multiple coats of Sno-Seal. The prices on these axes are lower than their high quality imported counterparts and you are getting some solid value for the price considering the included leather mask and hand worked hafts.

Check out Frontier Axe & Tool.

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ShelterWerks MPS-1 and MPS-2 Welded Aluminum Shovels

The ShelterWerks MPS line of shovels consists is built to be rugged and lightweight. They feature welded aluminum construction and a host of features that make them useful for all kinds of emergency situations.

The MPS-1 is their largest model. It weighs in at 3 pounds and has a welded “T” handle that can be used as a hammer. The “V” nose blade can saw, chop, and dig. It also has a slot cut into that can serve as a bottle opener. It also has an available kydex sheath option and multiple mounting options for trucks or Jeeps.

The MPS-2 is the more compact model and is available in two variations. The MPS-2T has a welded “T” handle and the MPS-2S has a straight handle with a foam grip. Both MPS-2 models are light in weight (S – 15 oz, T – 16 oz) and both are small enough to go in or on your backpack (S – 19″, T – 20″).

All of the MPS models are powder-coated and built right here in the USA. Check them out at ShelterWerks.

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Flat Face Knives Brewhawks

You’ve seen tomahawks with hammer poles and you’ve seen them with spikes. Flat Face Knives makes tomahawks with something even more useful on the opposite side from the cutting bit… a bottle opener. The Brewhawk is a hand forged tomahawk with a very traditional appearance until you notice the bottle opener.

Flat Face Knives makes these in various sizes and they are most easily available directly from the maker on Instagram. You can also check out their work at Arizona Custom Knives.

H&B Forge and Pine Fire GOShawk

Traditional, hand forged tomahawks haven’t changed much over the years but there is new tomahawk available that manages to teach the old workhorse some new tricks. The GOShawk is the result of a collaboration between Michael Herdson at Pine Fire and H&B Forge. It can do everything that a typical hammer pole tomahawk can do but it also boasts a few features that set it apart.

The GOShawk has a .85 pound hammer pole head on 23″ haft. A longer haft can be used to balance a heavier tomahawk head and adds speed to the swing. The head on the GOShawk a mid-weight compared to most tomahawks and when placed on a long handle, it should hit very hard.

In addition to the typical cutting edge, the GOShawk also features a utility edge on the lower edge of the bit. This edge can be used for scraping a ferro rod, tinder preparation, or other tasks that you might not want to risk damage or dulling to your main cutting edge. It also has a relief cut behind the bit that allows the user to get their hand behind the cutting for fine work and makes the head more comfortable to hold when it is off the haft.

Finally, the GOShawk also features a 3/8″ divet that can be used as a bow drill socket. The socket is usually the hardest part of a bow drill set to manufacture in the woods so having one with you, can be a great advantage if you have the skills to use a bow drill.

Check out the GOShawk at H&B Forge.

Compass Triangulation Doesn’t Always Work, Stop Resisting GPS

I’ve been through various land nav training courses and it is somewhat of a hobby for me with hours spent hiking around orienteering courses. It isn’t long in these types of settings before you meet the guy who tells you all about how GPS units are electronic, they will fail at the worst time, and you are a bad person if you even carry one. All he ever needed was a map and compass to triangulate his position. Lewis and Clark didn’t have GPS!

Triangulation Doesn’t Always Work

Anyone who has had some formal land nav training is likely familiar with how you triangulate your position using a map and compass but… Have you ever actually tried it outside of a training scenerio? It is a useful skill to have in your back pocket but I have been in more scenerios where it would be difficult or impossible than scenarios where it would actually work. It works great when you have clear views to map features that can easily be associated to landmarks. Cruising around in heavy timber, low visibility weather conditions, featureless areas, or areas where there are too many map features that all look similar can all make triangulation difficult or impossible.

Triangulation works great here…

Triangulation may not work so well here with an entire region shrouded in wildfire smoke…

The typical response to this is to tell you that you should never get lost in the first place and there is wisdom in that. We should be terrain associating along the way and tracking our position on the map but what happens when you don’t? What happens when you find yourself traveling through actual wilderness and suddenly you realize that maybe you made a mistake in terrain association a few miles ago and every assumption you have made about navigation since then was likely wrong. What then?

That is where GPS comes in. You should have all the map and compass skills. These skills don’t require batteries and are the bedrock foundation of land navigation but to act like GPS isn’t a proven technology with tremendous application in wilderness travel and preparedness is nuts. A GPS unit and some basic understanding of a simple coordinate system like UTM might be the difference between guessing where you and knowing exactly where you are.

Stop Resisting GPS

Coming to these realizations changed the equipment I carry. It allowed me to downsize and simplify my navigation tools.

I no longer feel the need to carry a sighting compass when a baseplate compass will do. In fact, a good baseplate compassĀ (I like the Suunto M-3 G) generally has more useful features like a larger/longer baseplate for map work, more scales, and UTM roamers. That means I don’t need any other map tools. If you learn how to aim a baseplate compass from the waist, you can remove a lot of parallax when sighting and can actually take very accurate bearings. They are generally smaller and lighter too.

Many of the situations that make triangulation difficult make a sighting compass difficult to use efficiently but there is nothing wrong with a good mirrored sighting compass if you prefer. I use the Suunto MC-2 G. The MC-2 G USGS has tools for common 1:24000 USGS maps.

I have multiple GPS units, most with mapping capability. Mapping can be useful but I always carry a paper map so my most carried GPS is actually a little Garmin Foretrex 401. It spits out a UTM coordinate whenever I need one, runs for a long time on 2 AAA batteries, weighs little, and doesn’t take up much room in my Kit Bag or pack. The Foretrex line has been updated but my 401 still works so I haven’t purchased a new 601. The ability to have a UTM coordinate at my finger tips means the ability to instantly locate myself on a map and a GPS doesn’t have to weigh you down with the existence of compact, proven GPS units like the Foretrex line.

Speaking of maps and UTM, they can’t help you unless you set them up your maps with UTM grids. I generally use CalTopo so I can create my own maps however I want for free. It’s an incredible tool.

GPS isn’t some new technology that is going to get you killed. Modern, purpose built electronics are fairly reliable and spare batteries aren’t hard to carry (you are probably carrying some already). Total reliance on GPS at the expense of map and compass skills is unwise. However, when used as part of a larger land nav skill set, GPS might actually save your bacon in ways that a map and compass can’t. Stop resisting GPS.

Hill People Gear Kit Bag or GunfightersINC Kenai Chest Holster – Get Both!

Our review of the GunfightersINC Kenai Chest Holster is one of the most visited reviews ever posted on this site and we get a number of emails asking questions about it. One of the most common questions I receive regarding the Kenai is how it compares to the Hill People Gear Kit Bag. Well, I happen to be a long time user of both and that sounds like an idea for a post to me!

Links:

Kenai Chest Holster

Hill People Gear Kit Bag

The Same but Different

At the most basic level, the Kenai and Kit Bag are similar. They are both designed to carry a handgun in the most advantageous position for many outdoor pursuits – on the chest. However, the functionality and materials used are drastically different. This leads to different strengths and weaknesses for both, enough that I have purchased and use both depending on the situation.

Both are better than tucking your handgun into your backpack or not carrying it at all!

Background with the Kit Bag

My background with the Hill People Gear Original Kit Bag is fairly long. I’ve owned one since the first or second run. This was before they added a dummy cord loop and Velcro in the handgun compartment. I simply wanted a way to carry a handgun that was comfortable and concealed while backpacking. The Kit Bag worked well for that but I never really completely filled all the carrying capacity offered by the Original Kit Bag. I eventually sold it and replaced it with a Runners Kit Bag.

The Runners Kit Bag is ideal for me. It has the same footprint as the Original Kit Bag but is slimmer overall since the “middle” cargo pocket has been removed. It is large enough to keep my full sized handgun concealed but significantly slimmer while still offering more than enough carrying capacity to carry some basics.

Background with Kenai Chest Holster

I’ve been using a Kenai Chest Holster since late 2015. I find it to be the best interpretation of a “guide holster” available. GunfightersINC used their experience in the outdoors and some modern materials to bring the guide holster concept into the current century. It is slimmer than any traditional leather guide holster could ever hope to be, offers better retention without the need for a strap, creates a better draw stroke, and its modular.

I’ve worn this holster extensively and I find it to be extremely comfortable and extremely easy to draw from. They even designed the harness so none of the adjusters had to be positioned on the back where it could catch on wader shoulder straps or cause hotspots under a backpack. This is the level of thoughtfulness that went into this holster.

Get Both!

For a long time, the Original Kit Bag was the only way I had to carry a handgun on my chest and it worked. When I added the Kenai Chest Holster to my gear bin, I wondered if it would replace my Kit Bag but it hasn’t. It has only highlighted the strengths of both carry methods.

I can’t replace the Kit Bag because it offers three important benefits over the Kenai:

  • It can conceal a handgun without the use of a covering garment.
  • It can carry a huge variety of handguns from small to large.
  • It can carry additional items in a location that is easy to access.

The Kenai is surprisingly concealable under a cover garment but I live in an area that sees triple digit heat in the summer. I can’t always use a covering garment. I’ve used my one Kit Bag to carry everything from a Glock 43 or J-Frame, to a Ruger 22/45 Lite with RDS, to a large frame revolver. Additionally, the Kit Bag is great for carrying items like nav tools (compass, GPS, UTM grid, etc.), basic survival goodies (lighter, some bits of tinder, etc.), and other items you may want close at hand. It may not seem like a big deal but the efficiency of reaching to your chest for gear like chapstick or a GPS unit versus having to stop and remove your pack is not trivial when you are trying to cover ground.

I can’t replace the Kenai Chest Holster because it offers three important benefits over the Kit Bag:

  • It is more compact.
  • It offers a faster, more streamlined draw stroke.
  • It is more concealable.

The Kenai Chest Holster is smaller and slimmer than the Kit Bag that makes it a little easier to dress/pack around. That also means it is cooler to wear and that can be big deal when it is 95+ with less than 15% humidity. The Kenai’s draw stroke is very fast and straightforward. There is nothing between your hand and a full firing grip on your handgun with Kenai. The Kit Bag is fast but the Kenai is faster – how much faster will depend on your specific gear and some training. Finally, if I absolutely need to conceal the fact that I am carrying and the weather permits, the Kenai conceals under a coat easily.

I live in a very rural area that is a destination for outdoor recreation. That means that we have a healthy mix of the NRA crowd and Sierra Club crowd. Our property is on the outskirts of National Forest land that contains Grizzly habitat. My choice for which carry “system” to use often comes down to balancing those factors.

If I am headed to a popular trail, I know I am more likely to encounter the Sierra Club side of the house and prefer to remain discreet in how I carry. I usually reach for the Kit Bag in that case. If I am working or hiking on our own property, I don’t have to worry about concealment and I almost always use the Kenai. If I am going on a very long day hike (or overnighter), I am more likely to reach for the Kit Bag because of the convenience of carrying important items in the outer pocket. If I am going into an area where the grapevine says there was recent bear activity, I am inclined to take the Kenai.

Wrap Up

There are always factors to balance when deciding which gear works for you. If you are knee deep in big coastal brown bears while fishing for salmon you might choose differently than you would if you were knee deep in college kids while hiking the Appalachian Trail. For me, both the Kenai Chest Holster and Hill People Gear Kit Bags have been invaluable and I am glad I have both in my gear box.

Mountain Ridge Gear Duffel Bags Are Back

Mountain Ridge Gear has been making overbuilt duffel bags in a number of sizes for a long time. In fact, we mentioned them here on Jerking the Trigger way back in 2010! They never stopped making them but they were only available under another well known pack maker’s brand name for a last few years. Now the bags are back under the Mountain Ridge Gear name and they are a still a bargain.

The bags are built from 1000D Cordura with #10 YKK zippers andĀ  available in 4 sizes: Extra Small, Small, Medium, and Large.

 

  • XS: 9″ x 4″ x 4″
  • SM: 13″ x 6.5″ x 6″
  • MD: 18″ x 8″ 8″
  • LG: 23″ x 11″ x 11″

Check out Mountain Ridge Gear’s Duffels at MountainRidgeGear.com.

 

Sagewood Gear Mini Spool Card

You may remember the Sagewood Gear Spool Card that we posted recently. That larger model has now been replaced with the new Mini Spool Card. The Mini Spool Card is about the size of a credit card but still holds 30 feet of #36 bank line with which it comes pre-wrapped. The Mini Spool Card has a lanyard loop and cord retainer slot at each end.

Mini Spool Card at Sagewood Gear

Rugged Maps

If you need a lightweight map that resists tearing, the elements, and can stand up to constant folding and unfolding – take a look at Rugged Maps. Their 34″ x 44″ maps are printed on a durable fabric. Rugged Maps goes so far as to call the fabric indestructible. They offer a variety of maps including USGS 7.5 Minute Topos, Game Management Units, nautical maps, and more. They can even work with you to create a custom map.

RuggedMaps.com

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