Gear Review Extravaganza: Rio Run n’ Gun shooting accessories

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Unnamed competitor at Rio Run n’ Gun with gear loadout, after finish. (Photo: Team HB)

Last summer, on a muggy June weekend, I made the five-hour trip to Junction, Texas to compete in Rio Run n’ Gun, a biathlon consisting of running and shooting a centerfire rifle and pistol, plus one stage requiring ten hits on steel from an HK MP5 (which was supplied).

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Defcon backpack chairs. (Photo: Team HB)

The course is six miles of rocky Texas Hill Country terrain.  My load out was about 34 pounds of AR-15, a pistol, close to 200 rounds, and water.  Perfect stage for a gear durability test.  Actually, one item didn’t travel with me, but literally supported me during down time.  In no particular order, here are some items that accompanied me on the way—

Defcon Backpack Chair

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Defcon backpack chair is small, but works. (Photo: Team HB)

These events can have their share of waiting, and when it’s hot and you’re about to run six miles, it’s helpful to SIT and wait!  Enter the Defcon Backpack Chair.  What an inventive design — it holds all your stuff and gives you a camp chair on which to rest.

The pack aspect has an array of options, including a handy cell phone pouch right on the padded shoulder strap, where your phone stays in reach when it’s worn as a backpack.  There are three sizable zippered compartments, one with ties and a sealed port for a hydration pouch.  Several side pouches and strategically placed straps offer storage for sundries needed in a hurry.

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Defcon backpack chair at Rio Run N’ Gun. (Photo: Team HB)

The chair feature stays securely strapped in place until it’s time to use the pack.  Its frame rests against the wearer.  Along with chest and belly straps, This little pack looks and feels almost like more like serious camping gear.  Deployed, the sling seat is small.  My first thought, seeing it, had to do with regretting the amount of chocolate I’d consumed in the recent past.  But my fears were allayed when I sat down — it is actually comfortable and very stable, both while sitting upright and straddling the seat.

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LAPG Phantom knife, folded shut. (Photo: Team HB)

The bottom of the pack does touch the ground when the seat is open, but small plastic “feet” on the corners help.  I like the little rectangle of loop material on top for an optional patch and personal flair.

The Defcon Backpack Chair comes only in black, and retails for $64.99.

LA Police Gear folding knife

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LAPG Phantom folder, open. (Photo: Team HB)

Richly-stocked mail order company LA Police Gear scores again with the assisted-opening version of their Phantom folder.

At Run n’ Gun, the high-set clip held the knife securely in a cargo pocket after slicing through Gorilla Tape like nobody’s business. Although I didn’t, fortunately, have use for it on the run, it’s been a companion in the months since. The drop point blade has proven itself handy for a multitude of tasks, nothing very dramatic to date but it’s popped a ton of staples out of target backers with no visible damage to the brushed stainless finish.

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LAPG Phantom fits nicely in a pocket or waistband. (Photo: Team HB)

The knife is 3-7/16 inches closed, and 6.75 inches open. Big enough for most tasks but not so big as to poke the wearer, whether it rides in a pocket or waistband.

LAPG seems to have non-assist design of the Phantom on sale now for $9.99.  This exact model appears to not be available. It feels and works like a much more expensive knife.

Pak-Rat Quick-Clip by Outdoor Innovation and Mossberg

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An off-label but effective use of the Rat Pak clip. (Photo: Team HB)

This little device proved unexpectedly useful.  It’s a hard plastic, V-shaped backer with a rubber loop that hooks onto the crux of the vee.  It weighs next to nothing, and is made to keep a long gun sling, up to three inches wide, attached to a backpack shoulder strap.

I find running with a rifle over my shoulder impossible for any distance, but I was tickled to discover the Pak-Rat Quick-Clip works great to hold earbud wires onto my backpack-style water carrier.  Between prep for the Run n’ Gun and the event itself, I put about 12 miles on the device, all while carrying a rifle slung across my front.  It worked like a charm to keep the wires out of the way yet earbuds ready to wear between stages, including going in and out of prone.

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A friend tries out the Rat Pak Quick Clip with his rifle sling. (Photo: Team HB)

For the tactical purists out there, I’ll add that while it may not be the smartest and definitely not the coolest thing to do, having some tunes on while running makes me forget that my knees hurt.

A hunter and fellow instructor who saw the Rat Pak was curious, and bought one for himself.  He submitted this report: “As someone who is very round-shouldered due to a shoulder injury, this is a very good addition to the pack strap. When wearing a pack it is very difficult to keep my rifle slung on my shoulder. Using the PakRat solves this problem. It keeps the rifle in place and stable.”

HydraPak First Wave reservoir

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HydraPak First Wave reservoir in pack. (Photo: Team HB)

What a joy it was to wear my hydration as a balanced load on my back.  HydraPak turned personal reservoir design on its head with this one.

The rectangular pouch is easy to fill, since it opens up along the length of the top.  It also seals surprisingly well, with a plastic slider that’s attached with a cord to the body of the unit (a great thing for people who misplace parts or for working in the dark).  A high-quality, insulated drinking tube snaps into place on the bottom of the pouch.

HydraPak claims this reservoir was made to not slosh and stay balanced, and it does just that.  In about 12 miles of running time, regardless of whether it was full, nearly empty, or somewhere in between, I could just forget it was there until I got thirsty. Perfect.

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Optimist says: Hydrapak internal bladder. (Photo: Team HB)

In addition to the Run n’ Gun, the First Wave has become my go-to for range day hydration.  It holds three typical trays’ worth of ice cubes, plus liquid.  The pack stays cold for hours, even inside a car on 100-degree days.

One of my favorite things about the First Wave reservoir are that it’s actually easy to clean.  It can be turned inside out and used that way — or safely dry that way without concern for mold.  The tube can be drained almost completely; the open end, when removed from the reservoir, allows air in.

The other thing I love about this setup is that you can put sports drinks in it.  A pouch I used in the past bore warnings that made me believe horrible things would happen if I put Gatorade in the bag.

This most popular, I’m told, two-liter reservoir retails for $36.99 and is well worth the investment.  Keep it clean, and it should last for years.

At day’s end

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Gripping LAPG Phantom folder. (Photo: Team HB)

Run n’ Guns are a great way to test both gear and oneself.  I didn’t shoot very well that day, and ended up close to the bottom of the 120-competitor list, but it is a cherished memory nevertheless, with its fun stages and long shady running paths.  It was also a good reminder to practice what I preach about combat breathing… excitement cost me accuracy until I took control of my breathing and therefore the excess excitement.  Thankfully, I had dependable gear that never added to the stress.