This is all gear that I have used, abused, and loved over the years, and I wanted to share it with you special ladies out there (or dudes) buying a last minute xmas present for your special dude (or lady). – James
My grandmother used to buy value brand ice cream from the grocery store for the holidays. And my little brother and I were perfectly content with econo-neopolitan UNTIL we tried the the top shelf shit like Ben & Jerry’s or Blue Bell. It was never the same after Chunky Monkey.
I used to use cheapo LED lights from Amazon. They’d cost $3 each and they’d work well enough. I was happy. Consummate torch aficionado, Nick Chen, would give me an extremely hard time about it, so I finally took the plunge into top shelf gear. Boy, was he right. Flashlights have never been the same since.
I’m kicking off with flashlights. They are all Surefire. There’s really no way to go wrong with this one. Even if your significant other has a decent handheld darkness eliminator at home, it isn’t like he’s going to open up a Surefire light, look at that stealthy, matte finish and the fine machining…God, the lumens…and then give you a resigned sigh with a “thanks hon” like he just opened a tactical MRE fruitcake from your mother. Point being, even if he already has the exact same stick you buy him, he’ll be thrilled with any of these:
Wow. Of all of the lights, this one was the most impressive for me. Lindsay and I camp a lot and weight/space comes at a premium. The Minimus is not only small and lightweight but puts out a strong 300 lumens on max. However, its variable settings are one of the best features: While most headlamps have a high and a low setting, but the Minimus has 13 output settings which is important if you only have one set of batteries and need to stretch out your runtime. At the 300 lumen setting, you’re getting a good 1.5 hours of full blast, but at the lowest setting of 5 lumens (great for sorting out the tent interior) you get 75 hours of light. The adjustable angle of the lamp is great, too – you can rotate the beam firmly in about any angle. Adjustments are easy as everything is tactile.
SureFire G2X Tactical
Mildly obese Siamese cat for scale.
This one’s great because it is one of Surefire’s more reasonably priced lights at $70 MSRP. You get 1.5 hours at 600 lumens in a lightweight 4.4 ounce (with batteries) setup. Can’t have too many of these.
Adopt a “special needs” Siamese Cat…
SureFire Fury DFT
The Fury surprised me – it’s hardly larger than the G2X and only 2 ounces heavier, but is good for up to a whopping 1,500 lumens. It will accept either two 123A lithium batteries (topping you off at 1,200 lumens) or a single 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable battery to reach 1,500. There’s a lot of wow factor when you flip the switch.
Good glass is critical for making small far things into bigger and closer things. Here are some of my picks.
Canon IS Binoculars
Having dabbled in photography, I’d always been interested in binoculars that offer image stabilization but never tried them. It wasn’t until I was sitting next to some Polish guy with a crocodile/birdwatching tour on the Rio Tarcolitos in Costa Rica that I realized what I was missing. He had a pair of 10x Canon IS binos and he let me borrow them. When you look through them, they look like good, sharp glass – nothing more. But once you hit the IS button near the focus wheel, it’s a whole new experience. The image in the binoculars becomes stabilized, eliminating your hand shake – just like looking through an optic that’s steadied on a tripod. You see much more detail out of the 10x Canon IS binos than you would through conventional 12x or 14x binos (which would have a more exaggerated shake effect than the 10x without image stabilization anyways). I bought them right after that trip, maybe 3 years ago, and I don’t even know what type of batteries it takes because I have been on the same one(s) this whole time. These go everywhere with us.
Bushnell Engage Optics
Two big caveats: I’m not a long distance or a scope guy and Bushnell is a TFBTV sponsor (but they didn’t ask me to do this – for that matter, they don’t ask me to do a damn thing ever). But I am a glass guy and eye relief and clarity are important to me. I’m not going to tell you that the Bushnell Engage is the ONLY great inexpensive optic on the market because it is a crowded market, but there are also a lot of bad choices out there too and, dollar for dollar, the Engage series is packed out with features on top of sharp, bright, easy to use glass. If you don’t want to believe the shill, check out posts on Sniper’s Hide about it. I like the 3-12x, which I used in the below video to test the accuracy of several 7.62×39 combat rifles.
Oooh, buddy, it’s a tough ride being a metrosexual internet YouTube commando in this field, but I love finding stuff like the below that seem to work for both your too cool tactidudes and your going haute operators.
Altama OTB Mids
For your tactical hipster boyfriend. I recently did a review of these shoes after Lindsay and I walked and hiked 100 miles through Denali and Katmai (see here for the full review
). If your boyfriend has a Mk18 clone and a set of Chuck Taylors, he’ll love these. Order a size/half size up as these run small.
Blue Alpha Gear Cobra EDC Belt
I approached BAG (https://www.bluealphagear.com) to sponsor TFB after I used a Cobra EDC belt in several pistol classes in 2017 and 2018. It isn’t that I was just impressed with the belt’s performance, which is possibly the best gun belt I’ve ever owned, but because they also look so damn good. If only there were any good pants to use with this belt…
Pro tip: If you have pre-check, you can glide through the metal detector without removing the EDC, even though it has a metal buckle.
UF Pro Pants
Just a pair of shoes on a couch, nothing to see here.
….Ahhhh here they are. Ziga from Polenar Tactical
introduced me to UF Pro and I have been hooked since. Not only does this Slovenian-based outfitter have well designed and constructed gear used by many European military and LE units, but it fits well for those of you who haven’t “cultivated mass” like most of the gun show crowd here in the US. These pants work great at the range on Saturday afternoon and still look good at the local dive bar for Sunday morning beermosa brunch. These are hands down my favorite range pants. Buy them from Polenar here
Here’s a video I did about UF Pro and the Strikers:
I’m not saying I would wear every 5.11 tee that they make, but they have some pretty dope shirts and they tend to fit well. This isn’t your Gildan tee from your college hayride, they are nicely designed and made shirts, and most of the time that I wear one on camera, I’ll get several comments asking what shirt I’m wearing. In the screenshot below, I am wearing the 5.11 Kraken (which, coincidentally, I am also wearing right now). Nice inexpensive pickup that appeals to just about anyone.
The 5.11 Kraken tee at Taran Tactical.
Mechanix Tactical Originals
Back in 2011 when I competed in Maxim Magazine’s “MAXIMum Warrior” (shout out to the MW 2011 crew) my assigned battle buddy, an Army special operations machine named Cody bought me a set of original original Mechanix gloves for the competition. He told me about how Mechanix gloves were the preferred handwear of most of the guys he worked with because they were cheap, durable, and functional. Apparently (and wisely) capitalizing on the enthusiasm for the plain Mechanix glove among active military members, Mechanix got into the tactical glove game and they are superb. I prefer the Original (and have used them for years on TFBTV) because I think they provide a more secure fit than the fastfits, and I also have a weird thing about forcing something smaller than my hand to go over that hand. The M-pact is great I am sure, but it’s too many bells and whistles for me. The OGs are fine.
Alpha Industries M65 or N3B
The N3B Parka near Dettah Ice Road.
I took the Alpha Industries N3B to Yellowknife, Canada – just outside the Arctic Circle – in the middle of January and was snug as a bug in a rug in -40deg temps. I like AI because they make great copies and revisions of military issue apparel, and the gear works for hard use or as plain old streetwear. The M65 is a great example of this:
It’s a classic military coat that would look right on a Mississippian at the range or on a Portlander leaving his Starbucks shift on his fixie.
It costs $13 so if you don’t like it, just throw the sumbitch away. Fortunately, you WILL like it because it’s a Teespring tee sporting a 90s throwback TFBTV logo cooked up by the literal geniuses at Tap Rack Bang Creative.
Also comes in leggins for the leddies.
Tools for Fixin’ and Stickin’:
Can’t have a tactical Xmas list without some pryin’ thangs and some stabby bois. Here are some solid picks:
Glock Survival Knife and E-Tool
Glock makes tools say whaaaaaaa?
Both of these came with me to Alaska also. The Glock e-tool is one of the better e-tools I’ve used. The polymer shaft is lighter than metal and stronger than wood (I’ve broken wooden shafted e-tools before) and the spade head is robust enough to take some serious abuse (I’ve also bent a spade head before – I really treat my e-tools like garbage). A bonus? There’s a saw in the grip handle as well. I don’t know how useful it WOOD be (#dadjokes) but it’s a nice feature to have in a pinch.
The Glock survival knife is a nice pickup for $30-$40. I’m fairly confident that it’s a 1095 steel blade which makes it easy to sharpen in the field and is a great pick for this type of knife. While it’s a relatively thin blade profile (i.e., edge to spine width), the spine is thick, and I could see this knife handling some medium-duty prying, although nothing like an ESEE RAT-5 could handle. It comes with a nice belt scabbard as well, and in several tacticool colors (I love the gray).
Speaking of the ESEE-5, I’ve had this knife for close to a decade now and absolutely love it. It’s got a quarter-inch-thick blade that I can’t imagine breaking – the ESEE was designed for use by downed airmen and built for – among other things and allegedly – prying open a cockpit.
It’s also made from high carbon 1095 steel and features a saber grind.
Using the ESEE-5 to open provisions in the field. Mentone, Alabama.
High Desert Outdoor Research CRKT Batum
I’ve already put some wear and tear on this bad boy.
Former ace TFB writer and precision rifle wizard Tom Gomez sadly left us to devote more time to his new enterprise, High Desert Outdoor Research
. One of his favorite knives is the CRKT Batum, which is a robust frame locker with a combo black G10 and Stonewash Stainless Steel Handle, and an 8Cr13Mov steel blade that will spark like made when struck against a Ferrocerium rod. A brute of a frame locking knife for $45, and this one comes laser engraved with the High Desert logo.
Benchmade 556 Mini-Griptilian
My mother in law got this blue-clad model for me about 5 years ago. Thanks Ms. Debbie!
The 556 is a little like a Glock: Some people don’t like them because they find them boring and common. The main reason that the 556 (and the Glock) are so mainstream, however, is because they just plain work. The Benchmade 556 is my personal favorite EDC knife. The glass-filled nylon grips are a little chunky, but the blade profile, thickness, and length are great for EDC tasks. The 556 with the drop point plain edge is my favorite because it’s the most versatile of the offerings and is easier to sharpen than a serrated edge. The AXIS lock system is easily deployed but rigid and dependable. Most importantly, if you trash your Grip any time, Benchmade will most likely set you up with a repair or replacement as their CS and warranty service are top notch. Who cares about a $300 boutique blade if you are too scared to use it?
The Wingman is one of Leatherman’s most popular models and it’s easy to see why. Under $50, 14 tools, and just the right size with about anything you’d need.
These are great to have around for fixin’ stuff on the run. The best part about them is that if you totally dick up what you’re trying to repair, you can just smirk and shake your head, incredulous, and say “man, this thing sure is nice, but it’s no substitute for a proper toolbox.” Lookers-on won’t fault you, nor realize that you are just a total asshole with your hands, or that your dad used to tell you the only thing you were good for is holding the flashlight while “a real man” does the work, or that you don’t actually own any tools whatsoever other than a Leatherman Wingman.
I like holsters but I don’t like spending money.
The Active Pro Gear Defender Belly Band
This is my #1 most favorite holster in the entire world. I was using it back when APG was a different company, and have been carry with one for 15 years. I’d tell you why, but it’s better if I just show you with this vid:
The guys at Action Direct were nice enough to send me a kind note after the video aired and sent me a couple of extras. Great product, great company.
Bravo Concealment Holsters
Man, these guys are persistent. Email after email after email asking me to review one of their holsters. I told them I’d do it (I haven’t yet, by the way), but I have been using the one they sent and – without naming names – their holster for the Glock 19 is better than a number of the big-name fullsize kydex holsters I have, and one of the better kydex holsters I’ve used. Give them a look, review forthcoming.
Justified Warfare Solutions “Cloak”
Speaking of great kydex, the homie Darrell at JWS makes kydex that works for guys that don’t wear belts all the time but want an IWB rig that is low profile yet dependable. That’s JWS for you: They use the Ulti-Clip on many of their holsters, which gets a firm grip on your waistband, even without a belt. Code “TFBTV” also gets you 10% off. Read my (very) full review here.
Patagonia 1L Fanny Pack
This is my favorite fanny pack. small, rugged, light, can conceal a subcompact pistol in it. Fashionable. (Yes, fashionable.) (It is fashionable.)
London Bridge Tactical Titan
OK, so I haven’t actually used this one yet, but I’m not worried about the quality because London Bridge has been in the game for 30 years now making military-issued packs and gear. I own about 40-50 packs and rucks and this is the one I am most excited about. I bought it during Cyber Monday 2018 for 50% off and, heck yes, it seems top notch. It’s a 3-day bag that seems to be about 32 liters, but it has a number of well thought out compartments and MOLLE placement. A lot of my rucks seem to have excessive MOLLE that doesn’t seem to serve a purpose, or pockets where you wonder “what exactly is supposed to go in this?” The Titan is so far so good. Also neat is that the interior of the pack is wall to wall loop material to make it easily customizable for whatever gear you are hauling: cameras, drones, guns, portable ice cream machine with all the fixins’ and etc.
5.11 RUSH MOAB-6 Sling Pack
OK so this is one of those things that I bought a little apprehensively and a ton of my buddies bought it after seeing mine because it kicks so much ass you’ll probably go blind. I was a little worried about looking like I was carrying a purse, but the MOAB RUSH-6 is actually fantastic. Just the right size for a casual day in Kabul or Disneyland without carrying a big, hot, sweaty backpack (and this looks better than the alternative tiny backpack, believe me). Carries everything you need for a day out and nothing you don’t. I like to take a couple of protein bars, water, my camera, plus batteries and an extra lens, some sunscreen, and sunglasses, and you still have room for your NVGs or your Ariel the Mermaid shirt that you picked up in the gift shop. Oh, shoot, it also has a neat and discreet quick access pocket for your blaster. Pro tip: If you are getting this for a dude, fill it up with a bunch of other gear from this list.
Ventura Tactical Quarter Cases of Ammo:
Ventura Munitions is one of those companies that I would buy from even if they were not a TFB sponsor. Super cool dudes (although I’d look out for Mike “Stinky Fingers” G. if you go to the Vegas location) and great ammo prices. One of my favorite products from VM is the loose quarter case. Is your Pacific Northwest militia group still working on building a Patreon support base and can’t afford a whole case? Are you weekend range warriors tired of buying garbage tier steel ammo to run through your $3,000 Daniel Defense AR15? Then buy a quarter case of brass/copper ammo from Ventura for the price of…a quarter of a case of ammo. Basically, you’re getting quality brass/copper ammunition for the price of most steel without having to drop the paper for a whole case. Great deal.
TTI +1 Glock Mag Extensions:
These bad little plates ain’t cheap but they are hands down my favorite +1s for my Glock 42 and Glock 43. Not only do they fasten securely to the bottom of the mag, but you get an extra round in your Glock 42 or Glock 43 while perhaps adding a tenth of an inch to your mag’s overall length. These are essential for anyone carrying a single stack Glock.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
Beautiful early morning view of Denali.
We travel a lot and many of our trips are waaaaayyy outdoors, so having a good, working GPS (or two, or three) is essential. I’ve owned Suuntos and Garmins, but in my opinion, if you spend the time to master map importing from Garmin’s Basecamp software, the Fenix 5 Plus is the best one yet. Performance and battery life are competitive, but the F5 is a watch you could wear with a suit if you match it up with a metal band. Plus, it comes pre-loaded with topo maps and allows you to import your own waypoints, POIs, and tracks. In my opinion, POI management is much better through Garmin’s Basecamp versus Suunto’s bare-bones interface. This is by far the best Fenix yet.
So this might be a bit of a…bore, but bore snakes are easy stocking stuffers that are perfect for lazy garbage like me who love to shoot but hate to clean. Pick up some CLP, a toothbrush, and a bore snake and you can get your gun 85% clean in less than 60 seconds.
CountyComm Stocking Stuffers
Do women have a CountyComm? Like is there a store you can go to and everything costs less than $20 and it’s awesome? Like a place where you’re like “oh man I came here to get a waterproof battery container but I ended up getting three compasses and hey now that pen/neck stabber looks pretty cool now I just need to spend a little more to get free shipping, oh shit is that glow in the dark 550 paracord?” Next thing you know, you have $300 of crap you don’t need and you just wanted to keep your batteries dry in Costa Rica. Fuck County Comm.
Oh. Forever 21. That’s it. This is Forever 21 for men.
Merry Christmas, everyone.