Recommended Gear

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Also, we have identified some items below in a sort of gear store format. These are all available from Amazon through our Affiliate link. What these items all have in common is that they are all things that we own and use. We won’t put anything on this page that hasn’t lived up to our expectations. We will continually update this page as we continue to test and evaluate products and we thank you for your support if you choose to shop at Amazon using our link!

Flashlights and Weaponlights

Streamlight ProTac 1L

Despite the fact that I have almost universally owned Surefire products over the past two decades, I discovered the Streamlight ProTac 1L over a year ago and have been carrying one daily ever since. I carry it almost exclusively instead of my more expensive Surefire lights because it is small enough and light enough to fit unobtrusively in my pocket yet is powerful enough to satisfy all my needs for a defensive light. With multiple modes available and 180 lumens, it is hard to beat the value you get for $40! As testament to its durability and water resistance, mine recently survived machine wash and dry cycles when I accidentally left it in my pocket in the laundry basket. I found it still clipped to my pants pocket, fully functional! Robert carries one as well, and I’m pretty sure his survived being dropped into a campfire! – John

Surefire X300 Ultra

Certainly not the cheapest option, but arguably one of the best for a weapon mounted light that is equally at home on either pistols or long guns. My model has the slightly older mounting system, but I have linked to the newer model with the new T-Slot mounting system. My X300 has been on both my pistol and rifle, and I like it a lot on both weapons. For a gun that is a dedicated home defense weapon, a weapon mounted light is virtually mandatory, and the X300 is one of the best.  Robert owns three of these, each mounted to one of his carbines. – John

Fenix PD35

Both Robert and I own the 2014 edition of the Fenix PD35 and have used it in training (the link above takes you to the newest release). I carry mine daily at work, as do several cops that I work alongside. The Fenix lights are solid performers. This is one of the few lights that I like having multiple outputs on, and the switching actually makes sense. In fact, the newest edition has improved the switching in a manner that seems even better, incorporating “tactical” and “outdoor” modes to suit different uses and circumstances. – John

Thyrm Switchback (Large) 2.0

Robert has been using this on his Fenix PD-35 for the last few months with great results. He describes it as perhaps the best $20 he has spent on gear! The ring allows retention of the light on the index finger of the non-shooting hand while performing reloads, reducing malfunctions, etc. A quick flip and a press forward with the thumb against the little nub on the ring forces the tailcap switch into the middle finger, activating the light while allowing a useable two-handed grip on a handgun. A great piece of gear at a great price. You can read Robert’s full review of the Thyrm Switchback here.

Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA

My EDC Streamlight Protac 1L has been dethroned as my preferred EDC light. As much as I love 1L, the new Streamlight Protac 1L-1AA “Dual Fuel” has supplanted it. Advantages of the newer light are a greater lumen rating (350 vs. 180 for the 1L), the ability to run off either a single CR123a or a single AA battery, the superior clip design (which can allow the user to clip the light in either direction, including to the brim of a hat as an expedient headlamp), and the slightly longer length (about the equivalent of the length of the rear cap longer than the 1L), which I like because it can be better used as an impact weapon without being too cumbersome in the pocket. A great effort from Streamlight. I’ve been carrying mine every day since late December, used its beam many times, and so far find it quite good. Only question now is: can it survive a trip into a campfire like my 1L did?! – Robert

Streamlight TLR-1 HL

Years before I bought my first Surefire X300U, my first weapon-mounted light was a Streamlight TLR-1. I have since upgraded to the excellent TLR-1 HL model (800 lumens), and it resides today on my “bump in the night” Glock 17 (as described in this story here). Streamlight does a great job of making duty-grade lights with excellent features at lower costs than Surefire. Though I have been tempted from time to time to replace the Streamlight TLR-1 HL on my Glock with a Surefire, at this point I see no reason to do so. One of my best friends carries the same model on his duty Glock 22, and I know of many others who go in harm’s way for a living who use it as well. The only negative I ever hear of these models is that the remote switch, available separately, does not work as well as the Surefire. However, if you do not plan to use a remote switch, then the issue is moot, and I highly recommend the TLR-1 HL as a cheaper alternative to Surefire or other models. – Robert


Spyderco Manix 2

This is the knife that is clipped in my pocket every day, and has been for the past couple of years. The lock is robust, arguably one of Spyderco’s strongest locking mechanisms, and the clip has held up beyond my expectations. I prefer a plain blade for utility as well as combative purposes. Serrated blades can catch on zippers and are difficult to sharpen. For right at $100, it is a solid value. – John

Benchmade Griptilian

I have been carrying a Benchmade Griptilian for probably around a year, and I love this knife.  Its best feature is the axis lock, which is the strongest lock a folder can have. The handle/grip is pretty comfortable and has a decent texture to prevent slippage. The Griptilian was originally recommended to me by a friend who works internationally at the pointy end of the spear. I have the combo edge model but plan to replace it with the plain edge version, learning from the class I took with Greg Ellifritz (see here) how a serrated edge can easily get hung up on zippers or other bits of clothing when slashing. – Robert

Shivworks Clinch Pick

This is a knife made for a very specific purpose… Designed to be worn near the center of the body, it is easily concealable and easily accessed with either hand when the fight is up close and personal. Both Robert and I own and carry this knife. For me, it is a last ditch tool that is equally at home in a reverse grip in my left hand or in a traditional grip when drawn with my right hand. I suggest wearing it with the handle down, as it’s easier to draw from under an untucked shirt that way. Good knives have a training version available and you can find the Clinch Pick Trainer here. – John


Ameriglo Defoor Tactical Sights

These are the sights that both Robert and I have had probably the best accuracy with. You can read about their development at this link. For a inexpensive option, they pack a lot of punch. Highly recommended.

XS Standard Dot Tritium for the Ruger LCR

This is the front sight that I reviewed in a blog entry. I have found that it greatly improves my shooting ability with my Ruger LCR, and I consider it a worthwhile upgrade to the revolver for serious defensive use and concealed carry.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Howard Leight Electronic Ear Protection

Another item that both Robert and I have used in almost every class we’ve taken over the past few years and that has accompanied us on countless range trips are the Howard Leight Ear Pro. They’re not fancy, but they work well and they’re affordable, especially when compared to some other options! – John

Surefire EarPro

I’ve used both the EP3 and EP5 over the past few years, occasionally under my electronic ear pro, but mostly just by themselves. For passive ear pro that still allows you to hear normal conversation and ambient noise, the EP3 is hard to beat. For increased hearing protection, the EP5 is an awesome low profile option. Highly recommended! – John

Blue Force Gear Vickers Combat Applications Sling (VCAS)

Without a doubt, my favorite type of sling for assault rifles is of the two-point variety, and my preferred model is the Blue Force Gear Vickers Combat Applications Sling (VCAS). (Those of you who have read John’s post on carbine setup will see that he uses them as well on all his guns.) In overall concept it is similar to the Viking Tactics and S.O.B. Tactical slings (I have both of those models as well), but I like the “rougher”, thicker webbing from which it is made and like that all adjustments (tighter or looser) are made with the same tab (unlike the VTAC and S.O.B. slings). I prefer the unpadded models, as they are less likely to get hung up on clothing or gear, and it’s not like I’m carrying an M240B with it! I currently own three of these slings and always recommend them first to anyone asking what type of sling they should purchase. – Robert

Ballistol Multi-Purpose Lubricant Cleaner Protectant

I am generally not in favor of using CLP, since logic dictates that cleaners should clean and lubricants should lube, and one product generally won’t do both well, but I’ve made an exception for this. I first learned of Ballistol at the Great American Outdoor Show and picked up a couple of wipes as free samples. When I got home and looked at the price online, I will confess a bit of sticker shock. However, I revisited the concept when I was looking for a product to clean my S&W 642-1 without damaging the clear coat finish that S&W applies to the metal of the gun. Since then, I have adopted using Ballistol for all my firearms, since it does a lot of things really well. It’s safe on just about every surface on my guns, cleans bores, and can even be used to clean my black powder muzzle loader. I’ve been quite happy using it, and while there is an initial investment involved, the combo pack I’ve linked to here will last a long time. I use the aerosol for my barrels (I spray some into the barrel from the breech end and then pull a boresnake through), and I use the trigger sprayer with rags and brushes for everything else. The stuff just works, and greatly simplifies my gun cleaning needs. – John

Maglula Ltd. UpLULA Universal Pistol Magazine Loader/Unloader

I took a long time to come around to realizing the value of this magazine loader, but when I did, it made a profound impact. If you shoot a lot, this is an enormous time saver and a thumb saver to boot! I also have the AR version, and it works well on all my AR magazines. – John