Let’s say I wanted a rifle, chambered in 5.56, with a 16-inch barrel, and I wanted it to be about the same size as an SMG.
Well, look no further, the Austrian Steyer AUG fits that need.
Many people associate SHTF gear with doomsday preppers, underground bunkers, and enough ammo to support a small army.
The truth is that everyone should have an emergency supply for when shit really hits the fan – not just people who like to plan hypothetical zombie apocalypse-nuclear winter scenarios.
Speaking of zombies, if you haven’t read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) Zombie Apocalypse Plan you really should – no joke, it’s a great start to SHTF planning.
Setting aside some ammunition, extra weapons, and other survival gear is a great way to ensure the safety of you and your family in the event of an emergency.
Today we’re going to look at some SHTF gear essentials that every survivalist needs to have.
Table of Contents
Above everything else, you want to have a self-defense handgun that’s powerful enough to neutralize any incoming threat.
This will be your primary pistol, so you want to make sure that it’s something you’re comfortable shooting; don’t go purchase that .50 Desert Eagle just yet.
Personally, I believe that the best SHTF gun is a 9mm – and this has nothing to do with the debate over which cartridge is better.
The truth is that the 9mm is one of the most commonly used cartridges in the world, so coming across ammo for it is going to be much easier than a 10mm or .41 mag.
Remember, even the best gun in the most powerful caliber in the world is completely useless if you run out of ammo.
I find the absolute best SHTF gun to be the Glock 17.
Some might argue that there are better guns on the market, but the G17 is built for durability and usability.
And in a survival scenario where you might not have the time to pamper your gun like you normally would, you want a dependable gun that will still shoot accurately and cycle through ammo even with some wear-and-tear.
If you’re like most modern firearms enthusiasts, you’ve probably already got an AR-15 on hand.
If not, it’s a great home-defense weapon that you should consider adding to your arsenal. You can learn more about buying your first AR-15 by checking out our AR-15 Beginner’s Guide.
Depending on what kind of shit hits the fan, you might want to have something a little more versatile (or at least harder hitting) on hand than an AR-15 – especially if you live outside of a major metropolitan area.
Some would say that a Scout Rifle fits that role, and it did…70 years ago. While a scout rifle isn’t a bad idea, there are better options.
The AR-10 is a perfect example, get one chambered in .308 Win with a variable scope and you’ve got a great rifle for taking down game, protecting yourself from two-legged threats, and keeping the whole thing light enough to hike with and giving yourself 20 rounds on tap in case things go really sideways.
The Pew Pew Tactical Complete Buyer’s Guide to AR-10s will help you get started off right.
Remember, part of what makes a good SHTF gun is being able to easily replenish ammo, even in a post-apocalyptic world.
You might also want to get you a .22LR rifle if you don’t already have one.
It won’t protect you against the bad guys, but it’s useful for hunting small game to eat… if need be.
The Henry Survival Rifle is a 3.5-pound .22LR rifle that’s portable, accurate, and perfect for hunting squirrels, rabbits, and other small game.
As the saying goes, “a .380 in your hand is better than a .45 in the glovebox.”
While I recommend keeping your .45 ACP a little closer than the glovebox (or .357 Mag, 9mm, 10mm, .44 Mag, or whatever handgun you prefer), having a backup pocket pistol on hand can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
The idea is to have a compact gun available that you can easily grab in a pinch. I like the .380 ACP because it’s small and lightweight, but still powerful enough to neutralize a threat at close range.
Like most Glock models, the G42 is a functional handgun that’s designed specifically for performance.
In other words, it’s not flashy and it doesn’t come with extra features. But it is durable and extremely dependable, which happen to be the two most important things to look for in a backup handgun.
As the smallest of the Glock models, it should go without saying that the G42 is an incredibly easy gun to carry in your coat pocket or strapped to your ankle.
One more thing…Ammo is everything when it comes to the .380 ACP. Unlike some of the harder-hitting cartridges that’ll stop any threat dead in its tracks, the .380 ACP is only as effective as its ammo.
Using it effectively in a high-stress situation means shooting premium, self-defense ammo – not cheap rounds.
One of the more popular choices is Hornady’s Custom 90-grain XTP Jacketed Hollow-Point .380 rounds. They come highly recommend for self-defense by our friends at Lucky Gunner and they’re reasonably priced.
If the .380 ACP isn’t your style and you’re looking for something a bit more tried and tested in the field, you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned .38 Special.
The Bodyguard 38 is a modern take on a law enforcement classic – the .38 snub nose.
While the Bodyguard 38 (and other .38 specials) may not be popular services pistols in today’s generation, they’ve more than proven themselves to be powerful, dependable, and more than capable of acting as a backup pistol.
Overall, the pocket pistol makes a great addition to your SHTF Kit because it’s small enough to carry on your person at all times. I recommend a .380 APC or a .38 Spl because both of them are small and lightweight, yet powerful enough to take down a threat at close range.
Ideally, the pocket pistol is something you’d only want to use as a last resort – like if your primary gun jammed or it ran out of ammo.
The last thing you want to do is stockpile ammo for an end-of-the-world scenario, only to discover that it’s corroded and functionally obsolete when it comes time to use it.
A lot of people tend to forget that ammunition has a shelf life. However, that shelf life is completely up to you. Store it right and it will last long enough for your grandchildren to use, store it wrong and you’ll kill your stock before the next deer season.
One of the easiest ways to extend the shelf life of your ammo is by storing it in safe, secure containers where it’s protected from dirt and moisture.
You can learn more by reading our guide on long-term ammo storage.
In the meantime, a simple Ammo Can will go a long way towards preserving the life of your ammunition.
Honestly, every SHTF prepper should have at least one Ammo Can lying around. They’re cheap, easy to come across, and are worth their weight in gold if you ever are in a situation where you actually need to use your ammo stockpile.
Keeping a Silica gel packet in your ammo can will help ensure that your ammo lasts almost forever, they are cheap and easy to get – keeping one in every can is SOP for me.
What’s your take on having a good ammo can and moisture stopper?
Ideally, every home and automobile should have a first-aid kit – especially people who’re outdoor enthusiasts. For most situations, the standard first-aid kit found in most workplaces will get the job done.
But if you’re in a situation where you really did have to use your SHTF kit, there’s a greater likelihood that you won’t have easy access to paramedics and hospitals in the event of the emergency. For this type of scenario, you’re really going to want to have a little more than a burn kit, some gauze, and antiseptic ointment.
The Grizzly Series First Aid Kit by Adventure Medical Kits is a heavy-duty kit designed specifically for the survivalist and apocalypse prepper.
It comes with everything you need to treat injuries, including QuickClot, syringes, and a tourniquet so that you can stabilize trauma victims until first responders arrive.
If you’re looking for something a little more extensive and are willing to pay more for its durable design, the Echo-Sigma Trauma Kit is also an excellent choice.
Designed to meet the needs of law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day, the Echo-Sigma kit comes with all of the tools necessary to treat sprains, fractures, and cuts, as well as stabilize people who’ve experienced serious trauma from knife and gunshot wounds.
And as a bonus, it comes in a pouch that’s easy to carry around if you have to walk for extended periods of time.
We cover how to build the ultimate Range Med Kit too if you like customizing.
You’ll be surprised how much use you can get out of a good quality knife.
Not only does your survival knife act as your last line of defense, it can also be used as an important tool – especially if you’re stuck outdoors for an extended period of times.
Food prep, shelter building, making tools, and even first aid (cauterizing wounds and cutting bandages) can all be done with the help of your survival knife.
The KA-BAR is a tried-and-tested survival knife that’s been a long-time favorite among survivalists – partly because it’s also the combat knife issued to members of the US Armed Forces.
Another popular knife for your hunting trip or bugout bag is Survival Knife by Ontario Knife Company.
Functionally, it’s similar to the KA-BAR except that it comes with a gut hook for cleaning game, as well as a sawback – the serration on the top of the blade just past the hook. It’s made out of 1095 steel and has a 5” blade length, with an overall length of 9.26”.
And don’t forget a Whetstone for keeping your blades sharp without damaging them, like some of the other knife sharpening devices on the market.
Some other tools you might want to consider for your survivalist kit include:
If you ever find yourself away from your toolbox, each of these compact tools makes it significantly easier to set up shelter, make fires, and work on anything that needs tinkering.
As you already know, good gun maintenance is essential to ensuring that your gun is accurate and dependable. If you happen to find yourself in a shit-hits-the-fan moment, you want to make sure that you have all the supplies you need on hand.
After all, it’s not guaranteed that you will be able to trek to the nearest outdoors store and buy more equipment.
For this reason, I recommend keeping a few extra cleaning kits around. Preferably one for your SHTF Bag and another for the trunk of your car.
Our favorite M-Pro 7 kit from Best Gun Cleaning Kits is perfect for handling most of you gun maintenance needs on the go, and it’s compact enough to be stowed away without taking up significant space.
I also recommend picking up a few packs of Break Free Weapon Wipes. They will go a long way in keeping your guns, knives, and tools clean, lubricated, and protected against corrosion – especially if you’re ever in a situation where you have to use your weapons and tools daily.
And if you don’t already have one, you should think about getting a CCW holster so that you can carry your handgun on at all times.
You can see some recommendations by reading our concealed carry holster review.
For a survival scenario, I recommend something lightweight and effective, without any of the frills. Concealment Express has a number of lightweight holsters for $35 that are durable and comfortable to carry around.
This really should be self-explanatory. You need food and water. You also need a way to get food and water after your stores have run out.
Getting food is where your firearms will come in handy, but water is a little more complex since you can’t just drink any water you find laying around – that is a quick way to get all kinds of nasty sicknesses.
For water purification, you need two options at least, one for you to get drinking water right now and one method for you to purify a lot of water.
Don’t forget – water isn’t just for drinking. You’ll also need it for cooking, cleaning, and treating injuries.
To get drinking water right away, I love my LifeStraw.
But when it comes to purifying larger amounts of drinking water you’ll need something like the Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System.
Before the apocalypse strikes, you should have stocked up on food and water also.
I know a basement full of MREs is the more classic prepper thing to do but…anyone that has had to eat MREs for an extended period of time can tell you that…almost any other option is preferred.
Each of these pails is a 30-day food supply for one person. That is a lot of food! Throw in the fact that each of these only weighs 23 pounds and what you have is a fairly lightweight option for long-term food supply.
Long-term water storage is a little more complex than food, you’ll need water – obviously, but you’ll also need a water preserver.
Combine these two so that your water supply will last long enough for you to get through whatever has hit the fan!
Prepping for air isn’t something that you may have thought off before – but it should be on your list. If you really want to be prepared then you’ll want to find yourself a full biological suit…
…but for more run-of-the-mill applications, a good respirator will do the trick.
Being stuck in an emergency situation means that you could be forced to pack up and move at a moment’s notice.
For this reason, you need to have a dependable backpack large enough to carry your essentials like water, knives, tools, and first aid kit.
I recommend a 60-liter backpack because it’s large enough to hold your necessary equipment but not too large that it starts getting bulky and in the way.
The Tactical Backpack by Trekking King is a popular 60-liter backpack that’s durable and comfortable enough to withstand long hikes and hunting trips.
Aside from looking cool, the Tactical Backpack has a number of extra compartments for maximizing your storage capabilities. You can load it up with survival material and store it in your trunk, garage, or closet and grab it at a moment’s notice.
Here are a few things that you want to keep in your backpack to keep you prepared for the unexpected:
You should also think about buying a Shemagh from Condor Outdoors.
This traditional Middle Eastern headdress was made popular in the western world by the British SAS. It’s a versatile cloth that can be used for a number of things including:
When you’re building an SHTF bag, your goal should be to anticipate and prepare for any situation – not just the apocalyptical, but also the more common such as an earthquake, tornado, fire, and whatever else is possible to your local area.
Choosing good survival gear isn’t always about maximizing your firepower.
It’s also about making sure that you’ve got clean water, shelter, and enough supplies in the event that you have to gather your things and leave at a moment’s notice.
Are you a prepper? Do you have a store of SHTF gear? Let us know all about it in the comments!
Posted in Gear, Product Reviews Tagged with: adventure medical, Aero Precision, clp, Condor, Echo Sigma, estwing, Gear, Gear Reviews, gerber, GLOCK, Henry Repeating Arms, Hornady, ka-bar, leatherman, micropur, Ontario Knife Company, Prepping, Remington, Review, Smith & Wesson, streamlight, trekking king, zippo
The AR-15 as a platform is upgradeable to an extreme degree.
It seems like every part can be upgraded to be a little better. But that can often mean costing you an arm and a leg!
One of the smallest and easiest upgrades you can make to your AR-15 is swapping the charging handle.
Like every other AR-15 part in the world, the charging handle has dozens and dozens of different options.
Navigating AR charging handles can be a real challenge, especially when it comes to finding the right one for you. So we want to help you a bit.
If you’re in a rush, here is our quick break down table:
|Strike Industries ARCH||General Purpose||Best Mil-Spec|
|Strike Industries Extended Latch||General Purpose||Best Budget Option|
|Strike Industries Latchless||General Purpose||Best Latchless|
|Radian Raptor – LT||Lightweight||Best Lightweight Build|
|Radian Raptor||General Purpose||The Original Raptor|
|Radian Raptor – SD||Suppressed ARs||Best Suppressed Build|
|Aero Precision Ambidextrous||General Purpose||Best For Scoped ARs|
|BCM Gunfighter Mod 4||General Purpose|
|BCM Gunfighter Mod 4B||General Purpose||Best for Keeping it Simple|
|BCM Gunfighter Mod 4×4||General Purpose|
Here are charging handles from companies far and wide, and through testing and evaluation from other gun enthusiasts, they’ve narrowed it down to 10 on this list.
An upgraded charging handle doesn’t mean an extended charging handle, or a latch-less charging handle, or really anything crazy at all.
Even the most basic Mil-Spec style charging handle can be well made and can stand above other Mil-Spec options (Improving on Mil-Spec is easy when it isn’t being made by the lowest bidder).
If you want an affordable, and Mil-Spec option, then Strike Industries has you covered.
On the outside, this is a pretty standard looking charging handle, but upon closer inspection, you can tell Strike put some work into this simple charging handle.
The SI ARCH is hard anodized and is exceptionally smooth.
This smooth finish allows it to glide rearwards with ease. The most significant difference you’ll see is near the rear of the charging handle.
It’s rounded off at the back but features a sharp straight angle on the inside of the charging handle.
The inside is also textured for a better grip, and the latch is only as large as it needs to be. While the differences are subtle, once you start running the charging handle, they are significant.
A textured grip is excellent for clearing jams when your hands are sweaty or if you are wearing gloves.
The smoother finish makes the charging handle glide backward, it reduces the effort needed to charge the weapon, clear jams, and more.
Plus it just feels nice, really lovely. The SI ARCH isn’t necessarily sexy, or fancy, but it functions and does so well.
Budget is relative to what you are getting for the money. So yes, cheaper charging handles exist, but they don’t deliver as much value as the SI ARCH with the extended latch.
For right around 30 bucks you get an excellent charging handle that takes the best features of the Standard ARCH and makes it a little quicker and easier to grasp.
The extended latch sticks out about an extra half inch that gives the user a little more space to grip the charging handle.
This additional purchase gives you the ability to quickly charge the weapon and clear malfunctions. It also gives you more room to grab the charging handle if you are rocking a variable power optic.
The Strike Industries ARCH is already an outstanding charging handle, we just covered it above, and all the same features there are present here.
One detraction from this design is that the extended portion of the handle is only on the left-hand part of the charging handle. This charging feature is somewhat useless for left-handed shooters.
The Strike Industries ARCH charging handle is a great option and comes in at a low price. It’s a lot like Starbucks, basic, but not bad.
Strike Industries likes to experiment and does so quite well. The latchless charging handle is one such experiment.
The lack of a latch is an interesting idea as it reduces the movements needed to release the latch and manipulate the weapon.
I could charge the weapon with a compromised grip. Compromised means rushed, crappy, and in a hurry.
The lack of a latch allowed to load the gun from either side with ease. If my left arm is out of the fight, I can still find a way to manipulate the charging handle.
This latch-less system uses a cool hidden spring mechanism in the center of the charging handle to make sure it stays put when not in use.
That spring holds it in place entirely, but you don’t even feel it when you charge the weapon.
Like the Strike ARCH, this is 7075 T6 aluminum charging handle and the finish is slick.
The Latchless charging handle can be extended via a simple add-on to the left or right side that makes the handle a little bigger.
If you wanted to, you could purchase two extended handles and have one on the right and the left side. They install quickly and are like ten bucks.
The charging handle also features side gas venting, which is great for my 7.5-inch barrel AR pistol. It tends to be a gassy girl.
AR-15s are getting smaller and lighter. Guns come in at well under 6 pounds these days, and some builders are taking that to the extreme. My friend Rex Nanorum over at the Loadout Room has built his lightweight AR that comes in under 6 pounds when it’s outfitted with a suppressor and optic.
From talking with him I’ve learned that guys taking on these projects are looking to trim ounces, and even half ounces as much as possible.
If you are chasing this kind of build and still looking for a lightweight, but functional charging handle then the Radian LT is an excellent choice.
Coming in at only 1.2 ounces the Radian LT is a functional choice.
It’s got two massive wings on the sides that make the charging handle easy to grip and rip regardless of the situation. This is especially true when it comes to using the charging handle with an optic.
The Radian Raptor LT is made from 7075 aluminum and is hard anodized with a Mil-Spec Type 3 finish.
It is also reinforced with high strength reinforced polymer for saving weight, but maintaining strength.
The Radian Raptor LT is a lightweight, well made, and priced well. It’s a great option for your lightweight build or just a standard build that needs a great charging handle that’s priced affordably.
If we are going to name the lighter weight choice we can’t leave out the classic Radian Raptor. The Radian Raptor was one of the OG modern, extended charging handles.
An ambidextrous design features two extended handles for lots of space to grip.
The extended charging handles are big enough to allow a blading technique for those of us with tough hands. Blading is when you are catching the charging handle with your palm and rapidly pull it rearward.
You need a nice, large charging handle to do this efficiently and quickly. The Radian Raptor allows that to be possible.
It also sports two different independent levers that will enable quick and easy charging and weapon’s manipulation.
The Radian Raptor is made from 7075 aluminum and comes in a multitude of colors.
The different colors make it charming and sexy, and I appreciate a splash of color here and there. As you can see, we went with the FDE Radian Raptor.
The Raptor is a classic extended charging handle that still keeps up with the young ones.
The third and final Radian Raptor is one specifically designed for suppressed guns. The Radian Raptor SD is the same old Raptor grip we know and love but vented explicitly for suppressed ARs.
AR-15s have quite a bit of gas blowback when they are suppressed. This gas blowback hits the shooter in the face and occasionally carries carbon to the shooter’s face.
This gas can be a mild inconvenience that gets worse and worse the more rounds you put downrange.
The Radian Raptor SD is vented extensively down the sides to decrease gas blowback by venting it out the sides. This makes shooting your suppressed AR a much lovelier experience. If you are shooting suppressed, you can stop reading now; this is the charging handle you need.
If you want a massive charging handle, then Aero Precision has you covered. The Aero Precision Ambidextrous charging handle is quite likely one of the most significant charging handles on the market.
This makes it perfect for optic’s equipped AR-15s. Especially when it comes to large variable optics. These handles will clear the eyepiece of any modern scope and is my go to on my budget Recce rifle.
This ambi charging handle sports two massive latches, and it’s simple to blade the weapon, even with an optic on the gun. The Aero Precision charging handle is one of my favorite all around charging handles ever. I like it on any rifle, and its large size works with my massive hands pretty well.
The 7075-T6 aluminum design makes it a rugged and capable charging handle for your build. I love how it glides backward when pulled, and the extra size means extra leverage. This makes blading pretty easy, and not too painful on the hands.
The Aero Precision charging handle is my personal favorite, and it functions as an absolute champ.
BCM redesigned the traditional charging handle to take the force off the roll pin and placing it to the rear of the charging handle.
The GFH MOD 4 features the medium latch on the left-hand side for right-handed shooters. This particular extended model is a little shorter than an inch past the main body of the charging handle.
The BCM GFH MOD 4 is primarily designed to be used with the blading technique and is designed so that the pressure applied via this technique won’t damage the charging handle or latch.
It’s not often that you see a firearms technique incorporated into the design of a part, this is the kind of extra-level of effort that I’ve come to expect from BCM.
It catches the hand perfectly and is perfect if you are new to this technique. The Gunfighter is a thoroughly modern option for your next AR-15 build and Bravo company has an outstanding reputation for producing high-quality AR components and even full rifles.
If you want to keep things simple, the BCM Gunfighter MOD 4B is the option for you. It’s a compact and small charging handle that meets the standard Mil-Spec dimensions. This charging handle is designed for shooters used to the standard manual of arms associated with military training.
While it functions as a standard charging handle, it’s made to last.
It’s made from 7075-T6 aluminum so its strong as hell and outfitted with a type 3 hard anodized finish for long lasting durability. The MOD 4B is available in both a mil-spec design and an ambidextrous model.
This particular model is the mil-spec model, and it excels for those of us who’ve spent a little time in the armed forces. It’s also a great low profile option for those of you who don’t need or want an extended latch system. The MOD 4B is textured for a more comfortable grip and outfitted with BCM’s load eliminating design. This reduces wear on the pivot pin and paces it midline of the rifle.
The 4X4 from BCM is an ambidextrous option for Bravo Company. It’s mil-spec size and dimensions makes it nice and compact, at least compared to the other charging handles on this list. Each side features a latch that releases the charging handle with ease.
The GFH 4X4 is a great option for lefties seeking a mil-spec sized charging handle. It’s straightforward to use and is made from 7075-T6 aluminum.
I’m a right-handed shooter, so maybe I can’t get the full effect of this charging handle, but I get the concept.
Even though it feels unnatural for me to charge the rifle with my right hand, I find it surprisingly easy to do with this charging handle. The MOD 4X4 is a great little charging handle, and it’s priced affordably for a premium grade charging handle.
I’ve gone through a lot of charging handles; I mean a lot of them. So much so that when testing these designs I got a nice case of tennis elbow and a bruised palm. Maybe it’s charging handle elbow?
Whatever you want to call it I got it. I did, however, learn a ton about charging handles, and there is more to learn than I expected. The best thing I learned was I have a ton of options when it comes to AR-15 builds of all kinds.
Interested in more AR-15 upgrades? Check out Best AR-15 Upgrades for everything from triggers to handguards and more.
This is our Top 10 list, but we want to know if you think we missed any? If so let us know what we missed and why it deserves a place on the list!
The 1-6x scope can do almost anything.
Close-up shots at 1x is almost the same speed as a red dot. And 6x allows you to hit targets out at several hundred yards easy.
I’ve bought and used a bunch of 1-6x scopes for competition and plinking over the past few years.
Here’s my favorites across a couple of price ranges. All with real views and videos through the scopes.
I was so happy when the Strike Eagle came out.
I was ready to move up from my 1-4x Burris Tac30 ($240) I used for a year and that was losing me time after my local rifle competition introduced ~400 yard targets.
This is a view of 1-4x for comparison aiming at 100 yard steel plates:
There were some 1-6x scopes out but they were expensive. The Vortex Strike Eagle made it accessible for normal folks at around $300 (just a little step up from 1-4x scopes).
It had everything you needed with decent glass. Very minimal side distortion on the sides at 1x.
And acceptable clarity at 6x.
The illuminated reticle is also not daylight bright. Fine for dusk/dawn but don’t expect it to be a red dot at other times.
I’d knock the reticle a little bit…I prefer a dot or cross for 1x shots. But the bullet drop compensation (BDC) marks did help for the couple hundred yard shots.
It held zero for the 2 years I used it as my primary rifle competition optic. And the magnification ring was easily turned for speed since it has a protruding fin.
Here it is in action (some range sounds):
At the end…my runner-up recommendation for a budget 1-6x scope. With Vortex you also get a transferable lifetime warranty.
My new recommendation for the best budget 1-6x scope is the PA 1-6x with ACSS Reticle.
I’ve always heard of Primary Arms having affordable optics that perform great. Now I’m finally a believer after using their 1-6x and 4-14x scope that they sent me for testing.
It’s the same price range as the Strike Eagle at under $300. But if you purchase directly from Primary Arms you get free rings or a discounted single-piece mount.
So far both have held zero admirably…although a little heavy. I’d opt for the single-piece over the rings since it’s much easier to take on and off without losing zero.
Now…how does it look through the glass compared to the Strike Eagle.
Less distortion at 1x. And much clearer at 6x.
Here is the Strike Eagle at 6x again:
I also like the ACSS reticle a lot more. It has a single dot for precise work but also the bigger bold circle for hosing targets. The BDC also worked well for several hundred yard shots.
I haven’t shot the PA as much as the Strike Eagle but so far so good. Zero has held for several range trips but I’ll report back if anything changes.
Magnification ring is also easy to manipulate but illumination shown at the beginning of the video is only useful for dusk/dawn.
For under $300 to get decent glass and a free mount (although heavy)…you can’t ask for anything better than that. Plus PA offers a lifetime warranty. I had a damaged red dot and they look care of it quickly & easily (Best Budget Red Dots).
Note that PA’s stock goes in and out since the 1-6x sells like hotcakes.
If you want to spend a little more to get much better glass and a day-time bright red-dot. I would heavily recommend the Vortex Viper PST II. I saw it at SHOT Show 2017 and had to buy it as soon as it was available.
It’s my current competition rifle optic.
Forgiving eyebox (how specific your eye placement needs to be) and little distortion at 1x and 6x. When you’re actually on the rifle it’s like having a thin black circle and a floating reticle.
Hard to replicate that through a cell phone camera!
And here it is at 6x.
I also really like the reticle because of the red dot. I’ll try to get a better picture of it later since it was a super sunny day. It even washed out the reticles in my Best Holographic Sights article when they were fine to my eyes.
Zero has held well in the Aero mount and magnification ring manipulation is fine too. I’ve been putting off on getting a scope lever since my competitions usually require only one change.
My current recommendation for the best bang-for-the-buck higher end 1-6x scope.
There’s a lot of scopes out there…and these honorable mentions are for the higher end ones. These are the ones I’ve shot at ranges or borrowed a fellow competitor’s rifle for use on a stage.
When a slight edge in performance is worth a few hundred (or thousand) more dollars over the PST II…
The highest end Vortex has a much more forgiving eyebox and better glass while still having the daylight bright illumination. My favorite for a future upgrade.
Lightweight and awesome describes the Kahles.
Daylight bright and awesome glass you can expect from the name Swarovski. If money were no object.
Scopes have come a long way in the last few years. Quality glass for plinking and competition doesn’t have to break the bank now (but always can).
My go-to recommendation for a budget 1-6x scope is the Primary Arms.
Runner up is the Strike Eagle 1-6x that has served me well and will still live on in a backup competition upper.
And my best bang-for-the-buck optic is Vortex’s Viper PST II.
Want to protect your auditory organs?
The percussive vibrations of each gunshot actually kill vital little hairs deep in your inner ear. And that can open the door to a high pitch ringing or humming noise that can last forever.
We’ve got the 411 on the best shooting ear protection…from affordable passive ones to the top of the line electronic earmuffs. We’ve tried them all over hundreds of hours at the range as shooters and range officers.
We’ll quickly cover our top picks in each category and budget. Then round it out with our research and more in-depth info on each pick at the end.
Ready? Let’s start with some passive ear protection.
The most affordable of the bunch and really protective at 32dB NRR (noise reduction rating). Remember to compress them before sticking them into your ears.
Big, affordable, and protective at 30 dB NRR. My first set of hearing protection earmuffs/headphones. Great if you don’t like things inside your ear.
Slimmer profile for a good long-gun cheekweld and adequate protection at 24 dB NRR. What I used for many ears (sorry).
Now, let’s dive into electronic ear protection that cuts out harmful shooting sounds but amplifies regular sounds like people talking.
14K reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average. It’s the first pair of electronic earmuffs people get when they are tired of yelling “WHAT?!?” when someone speaks to them at the range.
Affordable, decent protection at 22dB NRR, slim for rifle/shotgun shooting, and reasonably comfortable.
Noisefighters Gel Caps…this upgrade makes the HL’s super comfortable.
These feel like the pads used in my favorite $200+ earmuffs further down the list. AND they have cutouts for eye protection since after a few hours your glasses really dig into the side of your head.
If you’re ready to jump up a notch you get 30 dB of protection and ability to hear people around you and range commands. Note that I would use these with pistol shooting only…they are pretty thick and will mess up your cheekweld.
Plus…since they also fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps!
For most you’ll be well-served with any of the Howard Leights with the possibility of upgrading to gel caps. But if you want better sound quality and shutoff (plus the ability to change it for each ear), I like Pro Ears’ Pro Tac Slim Gold with 28dB NRR.
Most of my fellow competitors wear these bad boys for their comfort and sound quality.
I finally caved after I became range officer for a couple competitions. That meant constant blasts for hours while still needing to hear everything.
They allready has built in gel caps and there’s a couple colors. I of course went with the camo…
It’s ok protection at 22dB NRR which is fine for pistol competitions…but if you have compensated rifles going off around you…they have enough room in them for some lightly put-in earplugs.
Well that’s the quick list of my favorites…check out our research and more in-depth reviews of each.
Everyone always talks about the middle ear. That’s mainly the eardrum and those three little bones with cool names: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.
But what really causes hearing damage though is what happens in the inner ear.
Inside, picture a spiral staircase. Only this passage is just 2 millimeters wide and maybe 30 millimeters long all coiled up.
Sound races along the outside of the staircase, but in the middle are the organ of Corti (yup, sounds ominous) and the basilar membrane. Both are long and thin, with the organ resting on the membrane. All along this little assembly are tiny little hairs. They register sound and transmit it through the auditory nerve to your brain.
But—and here’s the kicker—exposure to an intense sound—that’s 140 dB or more—can make segments of the organ of Corti separate from the basilar membrane. Portions of it actually tear away and float around.
So you end up with an inflamed lesion that causes an accompanying chemical reaction. Hairs die. Scar tissue forms, and even with rest, the tiny hairs typically continue to degenerate. A cascade effect takes over, and the entire auditory central nervous system goes deaf.
Researchers suspect that tinnitus—that high pitch noise inside your head that won’t go away—“begins as a result of the brain trying to regain the ability to hear the sound frequencies it has lost by turning up the signals of neighboring frequencies.”
One more thing: noise exposure is cumulative. Each loud sound is killing ear hairs, so you need to be thinking about total exposure over the course of days, weeks and years.
Ready for some hearing protection yet?
First of all, forget cotton balls, tissue, packing peanuts, or my personal old-shooter favorite, cigarette filters. While they are better than nothing, they are also next to nothing. At best, you’ll get a reduction of maybe 7dB.
Effective choices for hearing protection come down to
There are so many options, there’s no reason not to protect your ear hairs. From neon foam-on-strings to high-tech headphones, there’s something for everyone.
What you should be looking for is a minimum noise reduction of 15dB, but 30dB is preferable. Pair a good set of plugs with muffs and you might shut out another 10 to 15dB or so.
You know the load you like to shoot, but a conservative 140dB is a common figure for an average muzzle blast. A .22 will be less, a magnum more. With quality protection, you can start approaching a range that’s still loud—as in chainsaw- or sandblast-loud—but may be up to 1,000 times quieter.
Traditional earplugs fit inside the ear, forming a seal that blocks sound. They come in a range of sizes, configurations and materials—from foam to hypoallergenic rubber and moldable polymers. Earplugs tend to be more efficient at handling low-frequency noise.
I like these because they are comfortable for a few hours and are 32dB NRR rated.
There’s tons of other foam options but I would stay away from cylindrical ones…those are not very comfy.
Traditional earmuffs come on a headband and have foam pads that cover and form a seal around the entire ear. For those who don’t like the over-the-head fit, a few versions have back-of-the-head wrap designs. Muffs typically are better at screening out higher frequency sounds.
My favorites and what I wore for a long time are the 3M Optime model and Shotgunner model.
The Optime is super protective with 30dB NRR but is also quite bulky. It’s not heavy but it will seriously cramp on your cheekweld situation for rifles and shotguns. Use if you’re shooting handguns…and especially if you’re at an indoor range where the sound reverberates.
For going slim…I really like the Shotgunner. I painted mine over and it served me well for years. It’s less protection at 24dB but you can always double up if it gets really loud with compensated rifles. Comfort is average but I found it to be fine for a few hours if I can take it off my ears during downtime.
High-tech electronics are stepping up the game for earplugs, ear cuffs, ear muffs, and every smart device in between. These focus on screening out the loud booms while letting you still hear conversations and the sounds of the great outdoors.
My go-to recommendation is the Howard Leight Impact Sports. They are super popular for a reason. They are affordable and they work. The only thing I could knock them for was their comfort. But with the newly released gel caps…I have nothing bad to say anymore.
These usually go head to head against Walker’s Razor Slim. But I give the win to Howard Leight because it’s usually cheaper and are super comfortable with the gel cap upgrades.
I’d say get the Howard Leight’s if you want to experience electronic ear protection. See how you feel after a few hours at the range. And you’ll always have the option of having sweet gel on your ears down the line.
If you want to step up a little in the world of electronic earmuffs…there’s the Impact Sports Pro which offers 30db NRR protection and good sound cutoff.
They are large, bulky, but surprisingly light and comfy to wear even for longer range sessions and provide amazing noise reduction. I’d recommend these if you are shooting large caliber handguns or shoot at an indoor range.
And they fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps.
Next up is a bigger jump in price. But with that you get much better cutoff and amplification. Pro Ears has a stellar reputation and I like their Pro Tac Slim Gold edition. They don’t make my Editor’s Pick because they fit a little tight for people and the ears aren’t as comfy as the MSA Sordins.
Ah…the MSA Sordins Supreme Pro X. A mouthful to say…but like a heavenly cloud on your ears.
I simply asked my competition buddies “what are the best electronic ear muffs” and the MSA’s got the majority of votes.
They are comfy for hours with their gel caps, have easily accessible button controls, great sound cutoff and compression, and allow for earplugs if the decent 22db NRR doesn’t cut it.
Plus they can attach to ballistic helmets and comms if that’s your thing.
What I wear when I shoot for hours and my main recommendation for when people want the best.
How did we do? Did you get the Howard Leights or MSA Sordins? Let us know down below. And for our other favorite hands-on-tested guns & gear…check out Editor’s Picks.
The post Best Shooting Ear Protection [Electronic & Passive] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.
Deer seasons in most of the USA doesn’t start until September – but if you’re looking to harvest some whitetail this year you’re probably already planning your hunt now.
Hopefully, you’re planning on shooting and developing your loads for upcoming hunts and maybe spending some time hiking, working out and getting ready for long days in the field and packing that hard-earned venison back to the trailhead. If you haven’t started yet, get going.
This fall some 10 million hunters will go afield in search of the whitetail buck of their dreams. On average, about 6 million deer will be harvested.
Though the numbers seem astronomical, consider this. In 1900 it is estimated that less than 500,000 whitetail deer remained in the US. As of 2013, there were an estimated 32,000,000 whitetails.
A true conservation success story and one that points to the hunter as the true conservationist.
The whitetail deer is the most popular big-game species to hunt. Partly because of the sheer numbers, but also because the whitetail can be found from as far north as the Arctic Circle in Canada to Brazil and Peru in South America.
From the east coast to the west coast whitetails can be found in every state in the Lower 48.
Whitetails live in vastly different habitats. You may find them in the edges around agricultural operations such as beans, corn, and alfalfa. Some you find at high elevation in the aspens in Colorado and Wyoming. Others prefer the tight, close confines of the river bottoms.
Because of the adaptability of whitetails, where you hunt will largely determine the rifle and ammo combination needed to be successful.
The whitetail is the smallest of the deer species in North America. On average a mature buck will weigh about 150 pounds, and a doe about 100 pounds. They are thin-skinned and have a relatively dainty bone structure.
So cleanly killing a whitetail does not take a specialized or heavy rifle and cartridge. A well-placed bullet from nearly any centerfire rifle will allow you to ethically take whitetail deer.
There are a lot of options when it comes to rifle and cartridges, let’s take a look at some good choices for whitetail hunting to get you started down the path to a whitetail hunting career.
You’re kidding, right? With all the fast new and sexy cartridges out there, why do I list the .30-30 first?
In all likelihood, the .30-30 Winchester Centerfire has taken more whitetail than any other cartridge. Often packaged in a compact, light and easy to carry lever-action rifle, the .30-30 makes a lot of sense.
There are a lot of whitetail in the river bottoms and thick forest and swamps. Shots will be short. You’ll likely be on a stand or stalk hunting and catch a glimpse of a whitetail sneaking through the woods.
Traditional open sights or a peep sight are quick to acquire and quite accurate for 50-100 yard shots.
Any good bullet designed for tubular magazines will be fine. My Winchester Model 94’s prefer 150-grain flat-points.
Normally you need to use round nose or flat nose bullets in a tube magazine for safety reasons, however, Hornady now offers a tube magazine safe spitzer cartridge using their FTX bullets. Although these cost a bit more than standard .30-30 rounds, they offer better penetration, better accuracy, longer range, and more reliable feeding.
The .308 was originally designed as a military cartridge. Sportsmen quickly realized that the .308 cartridge design was very accurate and could be housed in short action rifles, making them quite handy in the field.
The .308 gives up very little performance as far as velocity and energy compared to the 30-06. What it doesn’t do is recoil very much. A .308 with good 165 – 180-grain bullets will easily handle all your whitetail hunting from very close cover to 300+ yards with good optics.
Another military cartridge adopted for sporting use. The .30-06 is a do-it-all cartridge.
With the exception of big bears and the dangerous game of Africa, you would be well-served with a quality bolt action rifle in .30-06 to take on virtually any big-game species on the planet.
In fact, in his book “One Man, One Rifle, One Land” JY Jones writes about his quest to take all 43 North American Species with the same .30-06 rifle.
Loaded with bullets from 150-180 grains, the .30-06 is a solid choice for someone who wants to hunt big game and do their hunting with one rifle.
I know, ‘who hunts deer with an AR?’. Truth be told, lots of folks do.
The AR is one of, if not the fastest selling rifle platform available today. The simple fact is the AR is today’s modern sporting rifle.
Light, handy, ammo is stocked in every gun store in the nation and in all different loads, and priced so an AR-15 is within reach of nearly anyone.
However, several states require deer hunting to be done with a cartridge larger than .23cal and/or have magazine restrictions for what can be used in a hunting rifle – check your regulations before deciding on your rifle!
If it is legal and you do choose standard .223/5.56mm as your cartridge you should be aware that although possible, these cartridges limit you greatly. Choose heavy grain, soft tip ammo and keep your range within 150 yards and a standard AR-15 will serve you well.
But if you’re looking to expand your options – you can always choose a new upper for your AR-15 and unlock a whole new world of ballistic possibilities!
Uppers in cartridges such as 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 Remington SPC are fine options – however, the far more popular is the .300 Blackout.
The .300 Blk gets a lot of press for use in AR’s and some specialty handguns. It was designed in part to work well in AR’s as well as for use in suppressed weapons systems.
If you want to hunt with the .300 Blackout, stick with bullets that 150 grains and you will get adequate energy and penetration on deer-sized game out to 200 yards.
While the above cartridges will likely serve the vast majority of whitetails hunters just fine, there are those who may wish to stretch the yardage a bit or pursue bigger game. If you want to stay in the AR platform look closely at the AR-10 platform and move into the .308 Winchester with 150 or 165-grain bullets.
We’ve laid out the differences between the AR-15 and AR-10 and should Help You Decide Between the AR-15 and AR-10.
Now you have a powerful cartridge in a semi-auto package capable of taking game cleanly at extended ranges. You will pay a penalty in weight and cost, but it is a viable option if you plan to hunt in areas where shots may be long.
These are the only 2 bullets I’ve recovered from game shot with a Nosler Partition.
While not at all an exhaustive list, I believe anyone looking to start big game hunting with whitetails will be well served with the above choices.
As for what rifle to buy, you have to decide. My personal experience has been mostly with bolt actions; Remington Model 700, Tikka T3 Lite, Ruger Mod 77, Ruger American Predator and semi-custom Mauser 98’s. All work well. All are accurate. All kill whitetail deer just fine if you place your shots correctly.
If you’re interested in the newest iterations of hunting rifles, check out our Best New Hunting Rifles of 2018.
Now that you have a rifle in hand, what else do you need to have to be able to spend the entire day in the field hunting?
I’m a little over-the-top in what I carry. I grew in the Scouting program and I am a firm believer in Being Prepared.
Also, being from the Northwest I carry more gear than the average hunter because we have wide temperature swings, it will most likely be raining and/or snowing and I want to be sure I am 100% able to function on my own and not be a burden on my partners.
Let’s take a quick look at the very minimum I would have in my pack for a day of whitetail hunting in northeast Washington. I will not go too much into clothing since that is a regional and seasonal variable that everyone needs to deal with on hunt-by-hunt basis.
In the photo below is my gear:
Here’s a quick run-down of what you see and why. Starting in the upper left of the photo:
Again, this is what I have found works for me. Every area and every hunt is different, so adjust your gear accordingly. But you will find after a few trips there are some things that always get used and will go in your pack every time you go hunting.
A note on meat care: I mentioned boning your deer. I am a big proponent of quick and quality field care. I will go out on a limb here and say that most ‘gamey’ meat results from poor care of the animal in the field.
With any animal the number one enemy is heat. Get the animal broken down and cooling immediately. That means skin off, and meat off the bones. There is a tremendous amount of internal heat and the quicker the meat is separated from the bones, better.
Because nearly all of our hunting is done in the backcountry we bone our animals on spot using the ‘gutless method’. Check the link and do some research on your own. I think you will find it’s a quick, clean and easy way to care for deer.
They even have videos taking you step by step as they clean a Bull Elk!
Because whitetails live in such vastly different habitats, tactics must be adjusted depending on the location. However, there are a few things that remain constant that will help you tag a whitetail this year.
Whitetails are creatures of habit. They stay pretty close to one area and tend to use the same trails and routes. My preferred method of hunting is to find an intersection of two or more trails in the timber or edges of food crops. I’ll then find a good place to sit, usually on the ground with a tree or log to my back.
Then I get comfortable and wait. Be sure to situate yourself so you are downwind of the prevailing winds in the area. If you have too much scent blowing across or down the trail you may alert the deer.
Take another look at my pack list. Once I leave camp I intend to stay out until dark. I have my lunch, a closed-cell foam pad to sit on and appropriate clothing. Yes, I get cold. Yes, I get bored. Yes, I have sat in the pouring rain and wet snow all day.
But here’s the deal. Most hunters go back to camp in early or mid-morning. Most go back when the weather sucks. I have found that whitetails, especially in cold weather tend to get up and mosey around about 11 in the morning. They get stiff and cold too.
They will get up, eat a little, take a leak and maybe look for an area in the open if the sun is out. I have killed the majority of my whitetails mid-morning.
Whitetails like thick stuff. Human eyes are good, but not great. For the most part, we detect motion.
So if a whitetail is moving through heavy timber or brush you may notice the movement, not necessarily the deer. With binoculars, you can pick apart the timber. You see more color. You see shapes.
One of my PH’s in South Africa taught me a lot about thick cover hunting. He always said, “look through the bush.” Meaning, look beyond the stuff on the edges.
Look through the screen. Change the focus on your binoculars so you see through different layers of the cover. You will be surprised how much more is out there than if you just sit and watch.
Whitetail bucks are solitary creatures. However, if you can hunt a late season, your odds go up.
In general terms, the rut begins to crank up in mid to late-November and will run through December and January in many parts of the country. As the rut approaches, the bucks begin to wander more in search of ladies.
As such, they spend more time on the move and are a lot less wary. They are intent on breeding. Not necessarily paying attention. That said, if you are hunting a late season and you have some does or youngsters walk past your stand, get ready.
Often a buck will be following behind to determine if a suitable mate is ahead of him. Be sure you are dressed for the weather this time of year. It will be cold and often wet.
While in your sitting spot keep your rifle across your lap and at the ready.
You will often only have a couple of shooting lanes and even if the deer are just walking you only have a few seconds to make your shot.
If you have to reach for your gun and make noise or sudden movements, you will very likely not get a shot. You must be ready to quickly identify if your buck or deer is legal and then make a very quick decision to either shoot or not shoot the deer.
I shot this buck on cold November day after I had built a fire to warm up and have some coffee. It was 11 am.
How can you not? You are hunting. You are in the woods, with a rifle in your hands, a tag in your pocket and a whitetail somewhere in the neighborhood.
Yeah, you may walk miles. You may freeze on stand. You may get wet.
So what? You’ll likely be in camp or home sometime tonight. You can get dry, warm and fed when you get back.
Take a camera and shoot photos of your gear, your stand, your rifle. Shoot a pic of that pesky squirrel telling the whole basin you are under his tree.
Hunting is about making memories and enjoying your outdoor heritage. Tying your tag on a whitetail and enjoying the pure organic protein the venison provides is a bonus.
What deer have you harvested? Planning your first trip? Let us know in the comments!
What sight combines a red dot and old school irons?
The answer is…SeeAll Open Sights ($99).
I heard about these a few years ago but their initial reviews weren’t that great due to ugly lettering in the sight picture and a weird set screw mount.
They’ve fixed all that AND added tritium for some glow-in-the-dark goodness. Let’s see if that’s enough for redemption.
The SeeAll is electronic free but still offers nearly parallax free targeting like in red dots. That means when you move your head around…the reticle stays on the target.
It does this with a magnifying lens in the front…and a smaller green/tritium section more forward that holds the reticle. In my case…a nice triangle that makes it very easy to figure out the point of impact.
Original versions had some lettering visible in this view so you can see how that would be distracting. There’s still a “R” to the bottom right but it’s barely visible when you’re on target.
SeeAll sent me two versions of their MK2 tritium models for testing.
One for pistols which attaches via a dovetail insert. Make sure you have a pistol sight pusher since it took a little while to go on my Glock slide.
I shot with the pistol version at the range a few times and also once for low-light competition. I figured that way the tritium could help out.
Here’s how the tritium insert looks in a dark closet.
And it with me in action.
Since I was running a TLR-8 flashlight I depended on that more instead of the tritium (see the Best Pistol Flashlights article for more). But it’s as bright as my normal tritium night sights.
I didn’t practice TOO much with the SeeAll on my pistol and I found it took more time to find the triangle.
My best explanation is that when you have a “U” or two-dot rear sight plus the front sight post, you can see how to adjust your handgun to line everything up.
With only the triangle to look for, especially in low-light, I found it more difficult than regular night sights to acquire the sight picture.
Therefore, I suggest pistol use only if you really train with the SeeAll, or if speed isn’t that much of a concern (the triangle system does seem plenty accurate). I can also see it great for beginners that are having some trouble with focusing on the front sight in a traditional rear/front system.
However…it’s different with a rifle.
The rifle version of the SeeAll comes with a good large knob Picatinny mount. No more set screw nonsense.
Note that you’ll need a riser for the AR for a comfortable shooting position.
On a rifle, I can get pretty consistent with my cheekweld and buttstock position. That made it a lot easier to acquire the triangle target.
Hitting 100-yard steel plates became a breeze.
This is where the SeeAll really shined. Now you get something that doesn’t need batteries…but still offers nearly parallax free shooting.
Here’s a video from SeeAll themselves on what it looks like when you’re actually shooting.
However, for both versions of the SeeAll…I wished it didn’t obscure the bottom part of the target as much. For something called the SeeAll…it needs to do better in that department.
Pistol requires some more extensive training to acquire the target at my normal speed…but was easy on a rifle. The sight also cuts off too much of the target…especially when you’re comparing it with red dots.
I didn’t torture test it but it seems pretty robust in a machined metal casing and the lens is really beefy and recessed. Plus tritium has its great half-life of 12 years.
The triangle target is more precise than standard pistol irons. And it was more than enough to hit plates at 25 yards.
Most people have never seen one…so be prepared to get asked what it is. Fit and finish were great. But I do wish that it was a little shorter in profile…especially when on a pistol.
Bang for the Buck: 4/5
The tritium version sells for $99 on SeeAll’s site but it looks like near $200 on Amazon. Not bad for something tritium based. And there’s a lifetime warranty…AND a 30 days no-questions return policy.
Overall Rating: 4/5
If you’re looking at a non-powered optic that gives you nearly parallax-free viewing…AND has tritium for low-light shooting. You should give the SeeAll a try.