Web Blast: The 2008 Grunt’s Gift Guide

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Gear For Our Troops At The Tip Of The Spear

John Connor
The January/February 2009 Issue Of American Handgunner

Whether you have friends, family members or loved ones “deployed forward” in the global war against terror, or you’re simply a true-blue American who respects our warriors out there at the tip of the spear, you share a deep desire to let them know how much you value their service – and to make their Christmas, spent thousands of miles from home, a happier one. Our mission here at American Handgunner is to help you make some great gift selections, and offer a few alternative ways to express your support for those who serve in harm’s way while America sleeps.

There are three ways to do this: First, of course, gift packages can go directly to your “giftee,” including any other small gifts he or she can share with friends; things like unscented lotions, hand sanitizer, Sting-Eze insect repellent and sting treatments, paperback books of all kinds, and — naturally — past and current issues of American Handgunner and our sister publication, GUNS Magazine.

Any good reading material is always highly prized, and a book or magazine’s “lifespan” is measured not by days, but by platoons of troops who have read them. From the troops, I frequently hear the only thing better than getting a box of goodies for themselves is getting extra goodies to pass around to their pals.

Second, donations to groups engaged in providing services to our wounded warriors and their families help immeasurably. Just go to www.WoundedWarriors.org, www.FisherHouse.org, and www.UnmetNeeds.org, and you’ll be moved, I assure you.

Third, if you don’t personally know anyone serving, but want to take the role of Santa, visit any American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post, and someone there can usually provide shipping addresses of units deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. You may find them busily putting together Christmas gift packages for our troops already, and you can add your presents to theirs.

CJ Weapons

The MK-16 Combo Tool from CJ Weapons performs eleven maintenance functions on M16’s and M4 carbines – essential gear for keepin’ guns runnin’.

If there were just one MK-16 Combo Tool per infantry platoon, all of their M16’s and M4’s would be runnin’ and gunnin’ more efficiently. Designed by retired Marine Master Sergeant Jon Morgan, this fold-out 4.5 by 2-inch compact tool performs eleven different maintenance functions and includes sight tools, carbon scrapers, a broken shell extractor, pull-thru, punches, a screwdriver, M4 nut wrench and even more. While you’re checking it out at www.cjweapons.com, take a look at their other high-quality weapons maintenance gear too, like the Bore Stay and Chambermaid tools. Gift like these can not only make life happier, they can save a life.


Mission Go Bag from Spec Ops Tech fills a critical need; well-made and versatile.

The Mission Go Bag from Spec Ops Tech has proven itself so versatile and durable in combat it is now official issue to US Special Operations Forces personnel – but it’s needed by troops in other units too. Filling the critical gap between a full-size pack and a big pouch, there’s enough room in this thoughtfully-designed bag for virtually any out-and-back mission. The MGB offers six different carry options and several specialized interior setups to accommodate the needs of snipers, breachers, medics, EOD techs and more. Designed by combat veterans and made in the USA, you can check it out at www.SpecOpsTech.com.


Maxpedition’s Volta Battery Case keeps batteries organized and secure instead of clankin’ around, lost in pocket-rubble.

For those deployed forward, plug-in electric power is a rarity, and just about everything they rely on, from lights to MP3 players and handheld games operates on batteries. When you live out of your pack and pockets, how and where can you store `em? The answer is Maxpedition Hard-Use Gear’s Volta Battery Case. The tough 1000-Denier MOLLE-compatible pouch contains a durable plastic BATUCA battery case which slides apart into two versatile individual sections. The Volta holds up to eight CR-123, AA, or AAA batteries plus memory cards. Be sure and fill one with batteries before shipping, and if they prove not to be the size your trooper uses, don’t worry about it – the “grunt-to-grunt barter program” is stronger than ever in today’s  modern military!

Insight Gear

Insight Tech Gear’s H3X Regulus is the largest and most powerful of a trio of new tough
tactical lights named for bright stars.

Designed by Chad Los Banos to “lighten your load without reducing your options,” these little Boker SubCom F folding knives are tremendously popular with military personnel, especially our heavily-burdened infantry. One side of this frame-lock knife is fiberglass reinforced nylon, and the other is a strong, lightweight metal alloy mounting a reversible pocket clip. It’s just 2.6 inches long closed and weighs 2.5 ounces. The stubby AUS 8 blade opens and locks via dual thumb studs, and it’s surprisingly stable and comfortable in the hand. Plain and combo/serrated versions are available in coyote tan, foliage green and black. The SubCom F is no toy – it’s a serious cutting tool – and a great gift for any grunt. Available through lots of sources including www.actiongear.com.


From Laughing Rabbit Inc., two military-favorite MicroLights: InfraRed and the Scorpion Finder.

Who woulda guessed an outfit with a name like “Laughing Rabbit Inc.” could be a supplier of important combat gear? It’s true. For years, LRI has made premium miniature keychain lights like the Photon Micro-Light, and more recently, Marine combat veterans played a part in the design of their Proton Pro mini-flashlight. New in 2008, LRI offers an IR (infrared) Micro-Light – because sometimes when you’re using night vision gear, you want to light something up without pointing a weapon with an IR illuminator at it – and another model every infantryman needs: the Photon Freedom Micro Scorpion Finder! While providing soft visible light, it puts out enough UV to make scorpions, camel spiders and other nasty vermin glow like they’ve been nuked! If you’re sending one to a loved one in the Sandbox or the Rockpile, think about sending four; one for backup, and two to give to friends – they’re really needed. www.laughingrabbitinc.com

Columbia River

An adjustable wrench is just one handy tool on the Guppie, from Columbia River Knife & Tool’s I.D. Works.

There are many multi-function tools out there featuring lots of pliers, but sometimes only a true adjustable wrench will do the job. The I.D. Works “Guppie” from Columbia River Knife & Tool is built around a half-inch wrench, and adds a two-inch high carbon stainless knife blade, a bit driver and carrier, an LED light, carabiner clip – even a bottle opener! The Guppie was named the “Best Buy of the Year” at the 2007  Blade Show and International Cutlery Fair in Atlanta, and it just might be the “best Christmas gift of 2008” for your trooper. See it at www.crkt.com.

Steri 1

Steri 2

Steri 3

Steri 4

Lightweight, compact SteriPENis an UltraViolet water purifier ideal for military field use;
kills bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

Especially in third-world countries, intestinal disorders from drinking contaminated water take more soldiers out of combat than wounds, and I can tell you from experience that allegedly “clean” water poisons more troops than visibly polluted water. Many of our warriors are serving in areas where truly safe water is not available at all. SteriPENs the first lightweight, compact battery-operated UV purifier and it’s fast! Completely purifying one liter of water takes just 90 seconds, killing 99.9999 percent of bacteria, 99.99 percent of viruses, and 99.9 percent of protozoa – how’s that? Read the easy operating instructions and get more scientific data at www.steripen.com.


Benchmade 2

Benchmade 3

Benchmade’s 1100 Series Pens are superb writing instruments,
and highly effective defensive weapons as well.

I’m goin’ out on a limb with this suggestion, because I have not personally used, abused and evaluated Zero Tolerance Knives – but a couple of hard-core users whose opinions I respect assure me they are in fact “zero tolerance;” precision-made, tactical-tough and combat-qualified. Specifically named were ZT’s 0301 and 0302 locking folders, and the 0121 fixed blade model. Beefy blades are laser-cut S30V stainless steel with Tungsten DLC coatings, and handles are 3-D machined G-10. Liners of the folders are titanium, and the fixed blade is a full tang design for maximum strength. As you can imagine, they’re not inexpensive, but I’m assured they’re not cheap, either. Check `em out at www.ztknives.com.


SureFire’s EP-3 and EP-4 Sonic Defenders suppress gunshots and
explosions, minimize hearing damage and loss

One condition virtually every combat vet suffers from is hearing damage, me included. When the shootin’ was going on, audio trauma didn’t rank very high on my list of concerns – survival took the top fifty positions. Far more troubling than future loss of hearing was loss of immediate hearing; being able to hear the calls of comrades or the movements of enemies. Different commands take different positions on our troops’ use of devices like SureFire’s soft, hypoallergenic in-the-ear EP-3 and EP-4 Sonic Defenders, but I can tell you I wish I’d had them `way back when…

Keeping in mind that my hearing is already damaged, so they’re not pristine test mechanisms, Sonic Defenders work extremely well for me in significantly reducing the audible assault of gunshots while allowing me to hear normal low-decibel sounds. If I could, I would issue them to our troops. Proper fit is important, but with their low cost, one could send each of the available sizes. One size will surely fit your giftee, and the rest will fit others just as deserving. Read about them at www.surefire.com, paying particular attention to the sizing chart. Coming home with two ears is wonderful enough, but having two that work is even better.

Map 1

Map 2

Map 3

With the SPOT Satellite Messenger, user can pinpoint location and transmit messages to friends and family assuring them “I’m right here and I’m okay.”

I had just finished writing an evaluation of the SPOT Satellite Messenger and its benefits for hunters, hikers, boaters and travelers when a friend told me he had given one to a young family member in Iraq. Like many thousands of other US troops, he was operating out of a remote base camp where there is no cell phone service and access to the internet and e-mail is rare. With his command’s approval and a push of one of SPOT’s buttons, he daily transmits a signal to selected recipients in the States, giving his precise position and the message, “I’m okay and I’m right here.” How much is peace of mind worth?

SPOT is an easy-to-use but electronically sophisticated device which, like a GPS, fixes your position accurately, and unlike GPS, is capable of sending additional pre-set messages to whomever you designate telling them you’re okay, or that you need non-emergency help, or, a 9-1-1 signal which alerts emergency responders in life-threatening situations. Finally, you or your recipient can plot your signals on Google Maps for a permanent record of your movements. SPOT uses GPS and commercial satellites, completely independent of cellular and wireless networks. There’s too much info to print here, so go to www.findmespot.com for all the details. I think SPOT is going to be big – very, very big.

This Christmas, I wish you all warmth, health and safety – and that we all remember to honor those who defend our liberty out there, at the tip of the spear.

Jan/Feb 2009

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