April 16th, 2018 by asjstaff

Put down the Phillips screwdriver and hammer. Yes, I see you, banging away at your trigger pins and moments away from the inevitable slip-and-gouge across the side of your AR lower. A gouge you’ll either pay to have repaired or, more likely, leave as a permanent, scarred reminder of your penchant for the Wrong Tool for the Job.

I’m the first to admit building up your collection of task-specific firearms-related tools takes time and a not-inconsiderable amount of money. In the past few years I’ve been going through trigger pull gauges like crazy thanks to theft and random, odd breakages.

I’m also no stranger to frantically rushing around town for a uniquely-sized hex key or some bizarrely-shaped bit (the latter of which is typically on a foreign-made optics mount, leaving me cursing and sweating to meet my review deadline). All that said, I have a pair of tool kits that have proven to be invaluable: Brownell’s Magna-Tip Super Set and Gunsmith Master Punch Set.

Brownell’s Magna-Tip Super Set comes with 58 bits and two handles, one short and one long. There are also 22 and 44-bit sets available but I highly recommend the largest. Why? Because the 8-bit set includes flat blades in nine different widths and six thicknesses, a variety of Allen bits, and even a tiny torx.

As the name implies, the bits are magnetized which has been extremely useful for hanging onto tiny screws. To satisfy my OCD side, it comes in a hard plastic case with a carefully-graphed chart showing where each bit should be placed within the many holes. I’ve also found I can store the numerous tiny hex keys that come with aftermarket triggers and optics in the compartment with the shorter handle.

A few favorites: the Magna-Tip Super Set and the nylon/brass hammer from the Gunsmith Master Punch Set.

It made my life – and my job – much simpler last week when I needed to play musical triggers with a few ARs to install a Timney Calvin Elite AR trigger in a DPMS Hunter for a business trip. The pistol grip screws all had different sizes and types of heads and I had bits for all of them.

And when I install an aftermarket hammer spring in one of my hunting revolvers later today I know I’ll have the correct bits for the job. Damaging the side plate of a cherished gun because you don’t bother to use the right screwdriver is no small failure (in my opinion).

Brownell’s Gunsmith Master Punch Set is similarly valuable. I’m not quite as obsessed with it as I am the Magna-Tip Super Set, but it comes in handy on a regular basis.

It includes four starter punches for stuck pins, four hardened-point pin punches, one prick punch, four brass punches, three nylon front-sight drift punches, and one center punch. There’s also a small neoprene mat, a nylon bench block, and a hammer with one nylon and one brass head.

This set comes in a polyethylene case with removable dividers. Having the right punch for various gunsmithing jobs big and small has saved more than a few guns from scratches, gouges, and being thrown out the window in frustration.

The only downside I’ve found to the Magna-Tip Super Set isn’t product-related, it’s human-idiocy related. When the day arrives that you – or someone else, ahem – accidentally spill the box of neatly-organized bits, you’re probably going to lose it (your composure).

The good news is the bits are all engraved with their part number, so if you stick the diagram on the inside of the lid, you can easily figure out where they go. Organizing them is a bit time-consuming – pun intended – but worthwhile. When the bits are arranged by size, finding the specific bit you need happens a lot faster. Just don’t lose them.

Why a nylon hammer head? For many reasons including the non-marring way it helps pop loose the side plate on a revolver once the screws are removed.

As for the Gunsmith Master Punch Set, I have no complaints about the tools themselves. I do wish the compartments were sized differently and the removable dividers were, well, not removable. One of the long dividers with no replacement cracked badly the first week I had the set. In addition, the neoprene mat is too small for the majority of my needs. None of those are terrible flaws, just minor frustrations with nothing to do with the punches or hammer. At some point I’ll buy a different case.

Bottom line? It’s much cheaper to buy the right tools than it is to pay to repair gouges. Ask me how I know. I’ve Dremeled down more than a few screwdrivers from the hardware store to precisely fit various revolvers and far prefer having these sets on hand.

The Magna-Tip Super Set is awesome; I have a gunsmith friend who owns multiples of it and have been seriously considering buying another myself. The punches are necessary tools if you do any work on rifles and Brownell’s set provides the varied types needed for different tasks which I appreciate.

Now, put the Phillips down and get some proper tools. Not only will you not regret it, you’ll love it. And your guns will thank you, too.

Rating (out of five stars):

Tool Quality * * * * * / * * * * * (Gunsmith Master Punch Set/Magna-Tip Super Set)
I’ve used these tools hard and they’ve withstood it all. The Magna-Tip Super Set, specifically, has been fantastic. There have not been any issues whatsoever of bending, let alone breaking. These are some of my favorite tools.

Case Quality * */ * * * 
The case the punches came in is all right. I believe the case itself will likely last for some time as long as I do not drop it; the hinges and corners are unlike to survive a fall. The dividers are brittle which would be less of an issue if it came with extras for every piece rather than only the shortest ones. I’ll replace the case.

As for the Magna-Tip Super Set case, it’s made of tougher stuff than the punch set’s. I like the individual slots for each bit. I do wish it closed more securely; the lid is secured by a slight ridge at its center and has been finicky. And, yes, it’s been spilled. So while it’s good, thick plastic, the latch is iffy.

Value * * */ * * * * 
Can you ever really give something five stars for price? It isn’t as though spending money is fun. The Gunsmith Master Punch Set gets three stars because although the tools themselves are great quality, the case is not. At $109.99 I would hope for a slightly better case.

The Magna-Tip Super Set has an MSRP of $129.99 which is pretty fair considering the overall quality of the set. Considering the screwdrivers and hex keys I’ve broken I have to say it’s well worth the price.

Overall: * * * */ * * * *
I highly recommend the Magna-Tip Super Set and recommend the Gunsmith Master Punch Set as well. Between the two the Magna-Tip Super Set is my favorite. It really has proven invaluable (in fact, I have the short handle and various bits with me right now on an out-of-state hunt). Having the right tools makes your work a whole lot easier.

Posted in Gear, Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

September 4th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Hunting Pro Tips – Kirstie Pike

Story and photographs by Kirstie Pike


Hunting season is fast approaching, or maybe not fast enough. There are many different schools of thought on how to pack your day pack for hunting season, and I personally prefer the minimalist approach. Less is more. I do not believe that there is a need to pack 50 pounds of unnecessary weight on my back, so my goal is to pack as light and as smart as possible. For the overpackers out there, answer this question: When was the last time you used even a quarter of the gear you packed each day? 1992? I thought so!


If you are in a water-rich environment, why pack water around? It weighs a ton. I prefer a Lifestraw, which weighs almost nothing and filters 99.99 percent of the impurities from water. I just drink from a stream if I need water. This way I can hydrate all day if necessary and I’m not weighed down. But I fully realize there are many areas that do not have flowing water, and if that is the case, I fully encourage the use of any type of water-bladder system. Most hunting packs have an integrated water bladder, or at the very least, a system that can be used with one. It’s just a matter of finding the pack you prefer.


Kirstie Bag

Pike’s pack demonstrates the minimalist approach by only taking what has been strategically chosen for that day.

Think this through. If you are hunting in the West and are going to really exert yourself, you will need nutritional support. My recommendation is to condense your food and ensure the best possible protein and carb loads for your physical requirements. I pack a handful of protein bars, string cheese and hardboiled eggs. I also take a small bag of nuts, a couple of Power Blocks for extra energy and a few instant coffee packs to fuel my caffeine demon. All of this takes literally no space and weighs ounces. If you are working out of a blind or are doing a more stationary hunt, your physical requirements are less and you can pack accordingly.


If I am bowhunting or packing into the high country on horseback, I always pack a pistol with an extra magazine in the event I have to put an animal down. If I am rifle hunting, the sidearm, in my opinion, is unnecessary.


Whatever your preference, and they have multiple uses.

Wet Wipes

You can use your imagination here. Throw a handful in a plastic bag and you’re good to go! Literally and figuratively.

Hunting Necessities

Bring additional ammunition, but don’t go crazy. You most likely don’t need to tote boxes of ammo with you each day. Personally, I tend to pack additional rounds in the pockets of my pants for easy access. Game calls should also be readily accessible.

Kirstie Pike

Kirstie Pike is a Colorado resident and an avid hunter. Some would even say she catapulted women’s hunting fashion by creating the industry’s leading clothing line dedicated to huntresses.


I will pack the smallest tube known to mankind with minimal fragrance. I also pack a tube of scent-free lip balm with sunscreen.


A high-quality range finder is a must in all hunting situations. I recommend any product that effectively compensates for uphill and downhill ranging. Additionally, binoculars are as important as your weapon. High-quality glass is a game changer. While it may be spendy, I recommend Swarovski products, but there are many products out there with great quality at lower pricepoints. Also, binoculars should not be kept in your pack. Keep them somewhere where they can readily accessed.


I am a huge proponent of layering, and I will limit what I carry in the field. I prefer a merino-wool base layer. I often opt towards vests for core warming and will choose a jacket based on the temperatures and conditions. If it is cold, I bring a packable down jacket. If it is not, I will bring a lightweight jacket with wind stopping capabilities. If rain gear is necessary, pack the lightest option you have. There is absolutely no need to pack three jackets. Choose the most functional gear for your body type, climate and geography. I will typically have my jacket secured on the outside of my pack or on my saddle. I will not pack a jacket into my day pack; it wastes space and can become a huge nuisance.

Fire Starters

A lighter and some lightweight fire-starting product like Wetfire, a type of tinder, is perfect. I like this because you can light it in the rain. I keep these items in a plastic bag and squirrel them away in that one random and illogical pocket that is in every backpack.

Minimalist First Aid Kit 

You can pack a prefabricated kit or make your own, but think of weight and space. I prefer a SAM splint, Ace wrap, needle and dental floss for emergency sutures, medical tape, gauze pads and iodine tablets to make a disinfectant. Bend the SAM splint and pack supplies in the splint then wrap it all with the Ace wrap. This takes less room and the contents stay secure. I have seen some first aid kits that are loaded. While there is nothing wrong with preparation, you can make due with the supplies I’ve listed for most injuries.

Space Blanket 

Not a bad idea in case you get stranded or weather becomes severe. You can use it as a blanket or a shelter, and it folds up into a tiny weightless packet.

Rope or Cording

I recommend packing a small roll of lightweight nylon cord. You can “Macgyver” just about anything with this.


Depending on the temperatures, I will pack either lightweight merino-wool gloves or, if it is cold, I will bring a heavier, insulated, waterproof pair. Not both.

Hunting License

My tip? Carry all of your licenses, all states and all game at all times. I keep mine in a plastic bag inside an internal pocket of my pack. This way, no matter where I go, I never forget them. This works great for me because I use the same pack for hunting and fishing.

Fishing Line And Hooks

You never know!

Kirstie Pike

Along with her hunting partner Thaddeus and trusted steeds Hava and Blue Eyes, Kirstie Pike poses in the West Elk Wilderness, on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies, with a harvest of ptarmigan while sporting a Weatherby 20-gauge shotgun. 

And that is it. All of this gear has minimal weight and covers most of your needs. Again, consider that what I have described here is for a day pack. Proper planning and packing can truly reduce your energy expenditure when it is needed most! ASJ

Editor’s note: Kirstie Pike is the CEO of Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women. 


Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

July 16th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Mark your calendars!

Survival Kits up to 51% off!

Visit Ready America on July 19th, this Sunday, for the special BUY-OF-THE-DAY deal!

If you have ever wanted or needed anything for your personal or family survival kit, look no further. Be prepared for any emergency with Ready America!

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Thanks so much for helping to spread the word on emergency preparedness.

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1150 Simpson Way

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April 28th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

By Danielle Breteau

After ten years of working overseas in high threat areas and wearing absolutely-not-designed-for-comfort-much-less-womens pants and clothing, I finally found a company that simply makes great stuff. They not only make great gear bags and packs but their clothing rocks.

VERTX PatchI was first turned on to VertX when a team mate who was working on my detail jumped into the suburban in tactical pants that had an emblem which looked like an X but really cooler.

This started the conversion…

“What type of pants are those?” and “where did you get them,” and “what did you pay for them?…where do I get them…can I have those…?” The following 10 minutes resulted in this guy practically getting raped, tugged and pulled at to see the material, the strength, the seam, the articulation and most importantly to the tactical world, the pockets.

ROUND 1 This session passed muster for me. I had to have a pair.

ROUND 2 I received my first pair of pants and even though they were a men’s model (I don’t think they were making women’s way back then), they were great albeit a little necessary hemming (I’m kind of short) which was easily accomplished with $1 US dollar and local national.  Womens Pants

I might be a girl but I’m really rough on clothing. Actually Im pretty rough on everything  but I trained, worked, scraped, scrapped and did all sorts of things with this one pair of durable pants and was so comfortable that I vowed to never wear anything else…much to the dismay of my husband so I had to put an addendum onto that statement which was…only while in high threat areas or training, shooting, camping or being outside or near water or breathing. Actually, we agreed that the only caveat was when we go out to a nice dinner, I have to take them off. Damn!

NOTE: American Shooting Journal is offering our readers an exclusive 20% discount on all VertX gear if you use this code—>   VTXASJ20




Posted in Editor's Blog Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

April 17th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Tough Guy Equipment

Review and photographs by Danielle Breteau

Pros:TOPS Knives Tanto (2)-min

The Packaging: I know, I know. Who cares about the packaging? But wait, it comes in a suede and sheepskin-lined zippered pouch. Nice touch!


TOPS Knives Tanto (4)-min


Appearance: Looks great. It’s a tough, sturdy looking knife with a great design and ergonomics.

Finish: Good meaty blade with a magnetized powder coat that is sprayed on and then baked for good measure. This finish is on both their black and tan models. The ergonomics of the handle and blade are very comfortable and feel exceptionally solid but then all the TOPS Knives I have owned or tried have that solid you-can’t-break-this feel. TOPS Knives Tanto (7)-min

Function: I’m not going to cut open a soda can or saw through the tree in my front yard to test this knife because that is not what I would use it for, unlike some kitchen knives. This knife will be carried day in and day out and be used for either self-protection, skinning something I want to eat or opening boxes. I usually assign my knives a job in the beginning and try not to waver. It confuses them.

TOPS Knives Tanto (5)-minThis is not a spring-assist knife. It has a nice sized thumb extractor allowing the user to readily crack open the blade just enough to get that hand-flick-open dynamic for quick and immediate access. I noticed that when I pushed on the thumb extractor, the blade exited the housing and stopped at what felt like a natural safety point, as if it had a hesitation. This, I found out, was intentional because it is a tip-up design. This keeps the blade from falling open when removing it from your pocket. I liked it because I don’t like knives that float freely from the housing, they feel wishy-washy to me. This natural break area is at the perfect point for the transition from thumb pressure to wrist flick moment.

As a woman, this MIL-SPIE 3.5 Tanto is a bit big for me to carry around as a daily pocket carry because I wear fitted pants. My knives need to be a bit slimmer. This would not be a problem for most men whose pants are baggier and have larger pockets.

The handle gets a bit slippery when wet and I’m sure blood would be even worse so if there is a downfall, that might be it. Then again, I don’t swim with my knives and if I have to kill something, I will only need to use this knife once. It’s that tough. ASJ

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March 17th, 2015 by asjstaff

karambitfox599The Karambit knife is becoming more popular in the U.S. thanks to Doug Marcaida as one of the pioneers to spearhead the knife through training law enforcement with various government and local agencies.

In this segment Doug demonstrates the use of the Karambit to control by using the hooking motion to trap and counter with a strike or maintain control. In the Filipino Martial Arts style of training once a technique is learned, it is then applied to a flow drill such as the hubbad.

This drill is used at the close quarter range. This segment Doug highlights the function of using the karambit natural blade curvature to hook (capture), deflect a limb and using the point on the top blade for pressure point in joint locks control. The pressure point control demonstrated in this video is used to temporarily control to get the arms out of the way, its not meant to hold the attacker in their place.

For more info on Doug Marcaida go to Doug Marcaida Facebook

Posted in Knives Tagged with: , ,