GEAR REVIEW: A Look Back at 2012

Well 2012 has come and gone.  The Mayans missed it.  I’m still hankering for zombies, if only to quell the relative boredom.  While I wait, I’m taking stock of what has come and gone.  Part of what defined 2012 for me was a deluge of guns and gear.  With the new year just around the corner, and new products ready to be launched, I thought I’d take a minute and go through the highlights of 2012.

This is the best of the best gear I’ve reviewed in 2012.  Not all of what follows made it onto the site, but most did.  Some of this is still waiting to be reviewed.  So here it is.  Some flashbacks, some previews.

1. Maxpedition

One of the best all around products I saw for the first time in 2012 was the Jumbo EDC from Maxpedition.  But there backpacks are great, too.  For this installment, I’d like to highlight their Compact Range Bag.  This small bag is ideal for keeping things organized and is made to the same rigorous standards as the rest of Maxpedition’s gear.  The Compact Range Bag has an MSRP of $138.59.

maxpedition compact range bag

2. MultiHolsters

Tony Catner at MultiHolsters is one of those rare craftsmen truly dedicated to what he does.  I own several holsters that he made, and all are perfect.  He’s my go-to for hard to find Kydex, and for new guns.  As a review writer, I see sometimes see guns early and need to have a holster before a gun has hit the market.  Tony is willing to work with my quirky requests, and knows his craft well.

This one below is an IWB for the new Colt Mustang.  Flawless fit and a really subtle sense of style that fits nicely with the Mustang.

colt mustang with magazines sitting next to holster on table

3. Leupold

When Ruger sent us a 10/22 Takedown to review, Leupold upped the ante with one of their fixed power rimfire scopes.  This tiny gem is ideal for the .22LR.  The FX-1 Rimfire doesn’t overpower the look of the Ruger, nor is it unreasonably powerful for the .22LR round.

While the Leupold is pricey (MSRP of $274.99) at least in comparison to typical .22s, it truly brings out the potential of the rifle.

2012 leupold scope

4. Aimpoint

One of the finest precision optics I saw in 2012 belonged to Aimpoint.  Their Patrol Rifle Optic is designed espescially well, and it ideally suited for the fighting AR platform.  The Micro T-1 is a bit bigger than most reflex sights, but it is like a scalpel.  I ran it on everything that had a rail, from shotguns to ARs, and it performed incredibly well.

micro t1 red dot sight

5. Eotech

While the Aimpoint Micro T-1 worked well on a shotgun, it could be considered overkill.  A true reflex sight is faster, which is something, in theory at least, that would recommend the Eotech Mini Red Dot.  This little gem is built like a tank.  Many reflex and red dot sights feel like they should be babied, protected like eggs.  Not the Eotech.  This is the only other optic maker I reviewed this year who makes gear that is solid enough for a life of service.

eotech mini red dot sight in action on grass

6. Pelican Case

If you travel with guns, odds are you’re already aware of Pelican.  They make a wide variety of cases.  They’re waterproof, dustproof, and relatively crushproof.  These are incredibly durable.  The Pelican 1750 Long Gun Case is perfect for flying, and rugged enough to be tossed into the back of a pickup.  The foam inside is customizable to fit a variety of guns.

I was playing with layout below, and think it would be easy enough to get in a long gun and an AR (here an American Rifle, from Ruger and a LE-6920 from Colt).

pelican gun case in use

7. Pro Ears

I’m sold on Pro Ears.  I use them every time I shoot.  I have a pair of passive Pro Ears and a pair of Predators that are active in their noise reduction.  I even have a pair for my son, who sometimes has to suffer through my testing (which can get a bit loud sometimes).  If you don’t have good hearing protection, you should.  And Pro Ears is solid.

proears range ear protectors

8. Mr. Ammo Can

I’ve always liked cottage industry.  And Mr. Ammo Can is exactly that.  This is a great way to recycle.  The foam inserts are precisely cut and designed to hold handguns and magazines.  It is is as simple as that.  They work great, don’t look too conspicuous, and travel very well.  Their website,, is a dead end, which (if they really are defunct) depresses me to no end.

mraammocan carrying case

9. Ka-Bar

A few weeks back, I wrote about the traditional appeal of the Ka-Bar.  But there’s another side to the venerable knife maker’s identity.   Like everyone else, Ka-Bar is milking the zombie thing.  But it isn’t just a gimmick.  The newest Ka-Bar line has a distinctive zombie identity.

This one is the Zombie Death Dagger.  A bit dramatic, but a solid knife.  And useful as well, with the well made sheath.  These are a bit over-the-top, but really great for bug-out bags or backpacks.  And if you don’t care for the glowing green handles, the knife comes with an extra set of black scales.

I wonder how many of them are being used and how many are being used as conversation pieces.  I gave one to my 13 year old nephew a year ago, and he’s used it like a 13 year old would, and it has stood up to the abuse admirably.   The MSRP is $79.41, but they sell for less.  And if it can survive a teenager, it can handle a zombie or two.

kabar knife with green handle

10. SOG

This is the knife that’s in my bug-out bag.  It is an SOG Jungle Canopy.  SOG makes some high quality knives, and sells them at reasonable prices.  The Jungle Canopy is a huge chopper.  The rubber handle lacks romantic appeal, but allows for a no nonsense grip.

This is a knife that you won’t mind beating senseless.  It is meant to be used. And with an MSRP of $70, you won’t feel bad doing it.  It has the length of a small machete and the width of a hatchet.  This is the best knife I’ve seen in a while for heavy camp use.

sog knife

11. Ontario Knife Company

But maybe you’re tired of holding your knife in your hand.  Maybe you’d rather put it on the end of your rifle, where it belongs.  If so, Ontario Knife Company has options.  My favorite is the OKC3S.  This is the bayonet the Marines are using currently, and it is evocative of the old Ka-Bar fighting knife, only bigger.  As far as Bayonets go, this one is mean.

ontario knife company knife

12.  Blackhawk

Blackhawk makes some very high quality gear.  You may well have seen Blackhawk’s stuff out and about without even knowing it; they aren’t ones to adorn their gear with gratuitous tags.  Most of the Blackhawk gear I’ve seen this year has been small.  Holsters for the Beretta PX4s.  Load out bags.  Belts.

One of the pieces of gear I use the most is the shotgun sling I have on my Mossberg.  It is a simple strap, but the clasps are solid and it holds 15 shells.  With an MSRP of $21.99, it is a must have.

blackhawk shotgun sling ammo carrying vest

13.  Surefire

After test driving several forend lights, I’m still a fan of the Surefire Forend.  It is solid and easy to use.  While the light hangs forward a bit more than I’d like, I respect the way the light acts as a forward stop for a shooter’s hand.  While it leaves the light uncomfortably close to the shooter (meaning it shows a bad-guy where to shoot), it is the easiest way to use a shotgun in the dark.

surefire forend on rifle

14.  Versacarry

Versacarry holsters are minimalist concealed carry devices.  A simple plastic plug slides up inside the barrel.  It is canted at an angle that holds the gun securely to a frame which connects to your belt, etc.  They are available in different lengths so you can carry deeper or not.

I reviewed three of them, and they worked just as well for a 1911 as they did for a Kel-Tec ..380 P3AT.
kel tec in versacarry holster

15.  ATI Gunstock

Advanced Technology International makes everything you need to customize rifles and shotguns.  I outfitted a Mossberg 590 in ATI gear.  The result was a heavy shotgun, but not unwieldy.  And the collapsible stock made the overall length of the 590 (with a 20″ barrel) shorter than a Mossberg 500 with a traditional stock and an 18″ barrel.

This is their Talon Forend.  It is the epitome of versatility, and allows for anything to be mounted to the forend.  Simple, but useful when you need it.

ati talon forend gunstock


That’s the end for now.  We’ll continue to bring in gear, and are more than happy to take suggestions.  So let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see.

Here’s hoping 2013 is good to you and yours.

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